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Queens GOP activist reaches out to Dems

Mary Anderson has earned accolades as a guardian angel of the Flushing community from her fellow Republicans, but she smiles modestly and immediately digs into another project or cause.

For those who have been involved in the civic and political life of northeast Queens for the past 20 years, the strength of Anderson’s work in her Flushing neighborhood reflects her selflessness and has built her reputation as one of the most important community leaders in northeast Queens.

“I can’t believe that I’ve done that much,” Anderson said with a laugh during a recent interview as she gently handled a large pile of plaques and awards she has collected over the years. “I’m not doing this because that’s what I’m looking for.”

As the first and only president of the East Flushing Civic Association, Anderson has worked tirelessly to protect the quality of life in her neighborhood. But while some civic leaders shy away from the political side of their community Anderson has embraced it.

“You can’t have one without the other,” said the former president of the Bayside Republican Club. “When you need something done, who do you go to? Your elected officials. You hold them responsible.”

Former Republican state Assemblyman Doug Prescott, who helped Anderson co-found the East Flushing Civic Association some 20 years ago, described the civic leader and politically active Republican as a woman of tremendous energy.

“She’s a firebrand,” said Prescott of Anderson. “She will fight hard and vigorously to accomplish the desired results.”

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who has worked closely with Anderson over the years, called her “knowledge, dedication and civic mindedness” impressive.

Having worked with Padavan, Prescott and state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), Anderson said merging her civic and political work has helped her to realize how much change one person can bring to a community.

“I think that’s how I started to say ‘we really can get things done,’” she said.

As president of the Bayside Republican Club in 1998-1999, Anderson helped develop a relationship with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, working on his 1994 campaign for mayor. Anderson, who changed her political party from Democrat to Republican in 1985, has since campaigned for the few Republican politicians in northeast Queens.

Working with Republicans in Queens, a heavily Democratic borough, Anderson has also concentrated on keeping the lines of communication between both parties open.

When McLaughlin was elected to the Assembly, Anderson said she moved to establish a relationship and urged him to work with both Prescott and Padavan.

“You’re not going to do it alone,” she said of the elected officials. “We need both the Assembly, which is a Democratic house, and the Senate, which is basically Republican.”

Anderson certainly has been a catalyst for getting things done in Flushing since she took on the role of civic leader.

The accomplishments of the East Flushing Civic Association include the closing of several troublesome bars and houses of prostitution in the area, stopping illegal construction in the neighborhood and helping to pass an anti-loitering bill in the state Legislature, Anderson said. The civic has recently been working on a bill to limit the number of bars that can open up on a single block, she said.

“You’re involved in everything,” Anderson said of life as a civic leader. “It’s not just only street lights and potholes.”

Anderson began her civic career after Prescott, then one of the state Assembly members covering the area, found the neighborhood needed a civic group.

Prescott, who asked Anderson to head the newly formed East Flushing Civic Association in 1981, said it was her community work that inspired him to get Anderson involved.

“She is now an official guardian angel of the community,” he said. “It was an outlet for her to channel her tremendous energy and commitment.”

Padavan honored Anderson with a state Senate Resolution in 1997.

“I wish more people would work to demonstrate the level of commitment to their community that Mary shows every day,” he said. “She works at the grassroots level to improve the quality of life for all the people of the borough.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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