By Kenneth Kowald
As my readers know, I have been active in environmental and educational matters for many years. I have served on boards of nonprofits in those areas, including some in Queens. I have waved the flag for them and hope to continue to do so for a long time.
My interest in the work of the city Parks Department became great during the decades Elaine and I lived on Park Lane South in Richmond Hill. We watched Forest Park get better over the years — slowly, but it happened. It is one of the wonderful green oases in our borough.
But when we come down to it, it and Flushing Meadows Corona and Kissena parks and a few others do not make this the greenest borough. And we need to keep working to improve them without letup and to add more greenspaces.
There are too many areas in Queens which do not have enough trees, shrubs or places to sit and enjoy the beauty of nature.
This is not easy to accomplish. We do not have people who can give us a Central Park Conservancy or a Prospect Park Alliance. These organizations have done remarkable work — open to all — in the last quarter century. Try to remember what those places looked like in the 1970s and ’80s.
But in our new scrutiny of what our mayor chooses to call “A Tale of Two Cities,” those who have raised the funds for public-private improvements are now being called into question. Are they elitists? Why can’t they spread their money around so we are one city?
That is an argument I do not want to engage in. I applaud the work these groups have done and I wish we had some things like that in Queens.
But, first, Mr. Mayor, we need a new Parks commissioner and, as I write this, there is none in sight. We need someone with the ability and vision to see that all New Yorkers need as many greenspaces as possible, be they parks, sitting areas, community gardens, etc.
We need a unifying figure who can build on the wonderful work of the department in the past few decades. We need someone who can get people to help keep their environments green.
I will continue my thoughts about greening Queens in the next column. Meanwhile, like all of us, I look for the first signs of spring.
Finally, a kind of “sociological” comment.
Many years ago, when I was a City College student, I wrote a paper about the British General Strike of 1926. It is a fascinating story and includes Winston Churchill — in not the best role of his life — among many others. Look it up.
To do the research, I spent many hours in the newspaper division of the New York Public Library. I was able to read the actual paper copies of the British papers of the day.
One of the things I took away from that research was that, before the strike, the manner of political change in Britain meant that the new leaders of the country did not simply throw out or condemn the work of their predecessors. They did not blame the past for the problems of the day.
In our Tale of Two Cities, I have yet to figure out which is London and which is Paris. Maybe I will understand when I see a guillotine or someone feverishly knitting in its shadow.
Meanwhile, I would hope that all of us want and work for one New York, and that we get greener by the day.