Today’s news:

Diverse coalition forms to fight for Queens park

A coalition of more than 10 Queens neighborhood organizations unanimously decided to establish an advocacy group that will promote community involvement in the operation of Flushing Meadows Corona Park at a meeting last week in Kew Gardens.

More than 40 people turned out Nov. 12 to express their support for the idea of the park group, first thought of by the Kew Gardens Hills Homeowners Civic Association and the New Immigrant Community Empowerment.

The partnership received a $1,500 seed grant Aug. 8 from the Citizens Committee of New York’s Neighborhood Partners Program to form the conservancy group.

The award, one of seven given out boroughwide and 22 citywide, is aimed at bringing immigrants and longtime residents together to work on neighborhood improvement projects.

“There was 100 percent support of the idea of creating a conservancy,” said Kew Gardens Hills Homeowners Civic Association President Patricia Dolan. “That was the whole purpose of the meeting. We wanted to determine if there was support for the conservancy.”

Dolan said the group’s main goal is to advocate for the park and its users. “It will work on behalf of the park to enhance it and to protect it for the people of Queens,” she said.

Rich Hellenbrecht, chairman Community Board 13, said the conservancy will work for the maintenance and development of the park. “It’s such an important resource for Queens, it would be a shame not to have it at its maximum all the time, ” he said.

The coalition will focus on outreach and education programs that seek to involve both new immigrants and longtime residents in organizing around issues facing the park.

Hellenbrecht said the group will inevitably examine the city’s 2012 Olympic bid, which he said will have “some good and some harmful” effects on the park.

A former dumping ground labeled a “valley of ashes” by F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Great Gatsby,” Flushing Meadows Corona Park is now a symbol of the city’s diversity. New immigrants have made the third largest park in the city the most heavily used green space in the five boroughs according to the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Citywide, there are tens of thousands of people active in more than 250 similar neighborhood park advocacy programs. But what distinguishes this Queens effort is its emphasis on bringing together a cross section of the borough’s diverse population.

Dolan said members of Queens’ Ecuadoran, Puerto Rican, Colombian and Bukharian communities were represented at the Monday meeting. Other groups were expected to join the effort, she said.

“Everybody’s got to be represented,” said Hellenbrecht. “It’s got to meet the needs of everybody who uses the park.”

The coalition has obtained pro bono legal services and plans to establish a non-profit organization by early next year. Informal talks with Estelle Cooper, assistant commissioner of Queens parks, and Richard Murphy, borough Parks commissioner, were productive, Dolan said.

“The real thing we’re interested in is the public purpose of park,” said Dolan. “We want it to be the people’s park.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 299-0300, Ext. 156.

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