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Volunteers must help clean up boro parks as budget cuts loom

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The rain outside the Clinton Democratic Club’s meeting last week pounded violently on the pavement, almost as if it had been summoned to prove a point, as city Parks Department Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski spoke about the challenges the past year’s weather events had imposed on the borough’s parks.

“You are by far the borough of parks,” she said before detailing meteorological calamities such as the mini tornados that hit the city in September and then a winter of relentless snow. “And now it just keeps raining,” she added.

In April, NY Cares organized hundreds of volunteers at sites across the borough, including Cunningham and Little Bay parks, to remove leaves and debris that had been scattered by the storm and then compacted by the snow. With the spectre of budget cuts looming, the commissioner said, the department will be hiring fewer seasonal employees to clean and maintain the parks. She made a call for volunteers and community organizations to take part in the “litter-see” program, whereby park patrons take the initiative in maintaining their spaces and encouraging others to do so as well.

“The bottom line for us in Parks is we want people to get out, to exercise and have a great time. You have great parks here,” Lewandowski said.

Former Borough President Claire Shulman was on hand, and she called Lewandowski “the best parks commissioner we’ve ever had.” Shulman congratulated the Clinton Democratic Club on its upcoming 10-year anniversary and said President Paul Vallone is “the kind of person we really need in government.”

Vallone did not announce his candidacy for any elected position, but Mike Simanowitz said he would run in a special election for the Flushing seat left vacant by the retirement of state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, for whom he had served as chief of staff.

“At this point, we don’t know what’s going to happen with the election,” he said, adding he expected Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce in a few weeks when the election will be held.

Under a new law designed to allow for the completion of military ballots, special elections are held between 70 and 80 days from when the governor announces them, a far longer span than the previous between 30 to 40 days.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 10:52 am, October 12, 2011
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