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Botanical Garden unveils new mascot, parking lot

The Queens Botanical Garden celebrated the environment, and water in particular, at its annual kick-off event last Thursday.

The Flushing institution also took occasion to unveil its new mascot Flora, a multi-colored plush flower that will serve as the ambassador for the garden.

Susan Lacerte, the garden’s executive director, said water is crucial to its mission of bringing people together in nature.

“At the Queens Botanical Garden, we’re a place for community,” she said, “so we decided to use water as a unifying resource here at the garden.”

The breezy afternoon came after a night of intermittent rain, and the trees and plants were glowing green with vitality just beyond the terrace where borough dignitaries, officials and horticulturists had gathered to pay tribute to the garden, which sits in a space at 43-50 Main St. that was once a coal ash dump.

“We have taken this area and made it into a place of peace and beauty,” said Frank Mirovsky, chairman of the garden’s board of trustees.

Along with Flora’s introduction to the attendees, speakers focused much of their remarks on the new “parking garden,” which is in use for its first full season this year.

Replacing the old-fashioned parking lot with one made of permeable material, plants creep up between the cars that park there, allowing the garden to blend nicely into its natural environs.

Cruz Russell, director of the Port Authority’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, said the agency gives financial assistance to the garden to help promote environmental awareness, as it wants to support such initiatives in order to help offset the acres of impermeable lots at its two Queens airports.

“We take our hat off to the gardens and to their visionary leadership, as far as being a living workshop, so we can see how these things begin to work,” Russell said. “The idea of educating the community and making sure we do things that are innovative and look to the future become very important with initiatives like this.”

Dorothy Lewandowski, the city Parks Department commissioner for Queens, echoed Russell’s remarks.

“What Susan is doing ... here at the garden is really what people should be doing throughout the city,” she said. “There are efforts throughout the city to plant more and do more things for the environment and Queens Botanical Garden is leading these efforts.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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