Community members, elected officials and fellow civic leaders gathered in the Kew Gardens Hills Library on Wednesday, February 15, to honor Patricia Dolan with a plaque bearing her picture exactly three months after her death.
Dolan, longtime civic activist and president of the Queens Civic Congress, was crossing Hillside Avenue on November 15 on her way to a Community Board 8 Transportation Committee Meeting when she was hit by a car. She was 72 years old.
Speakers praised Dolan for the work she did for all of Queens, in addition to the libraries. She was noted for her service to seniors, parks and the many diverse communities the county is comprised of.
“When I think of Pat, I see libraries expanding, serving diverse cultures and age groups,” Borough President Helen Marshall said.
The 150-pound plaque will be mounted on the wall in the expanded Kew Gardens Hills Library, set to open in two years. Dolan was a major player behind the expansion, and speakers were sad to say that she will not see her work come to fruition.
Marshall said Dolan also frequented land use hearings and meetings.
“Nobody understands the nuances and history of every block or real estate within Queens’ borders,” as well as Dolan, Marshall said. “Nobody fought harder to maintain the integrity of the landscape while ensuring progress in our county.”
Dolan’s Kew Gardens Hills neighbor Norma Stegmaier also spoke at the event, and said she is deeply saddened by the loss of her friend.
Her walks with Dolan along Main Street were a near-weekly occurrence, and the two always stopped in the library along the way. As a civic leader, Stegmaier said, Dolan always wanted to know what was happening in her community.
“One of the things we enjoyed doing was rushing in and looking for the brand new books,” she said of the library. “That smell.”
Stegmaier said she and her brother were close with Dolan, and that the three spent a lot of time together.
“Pat is truly missed as a great library buddy, a great buddy in general and, as you know by now, a dear and personal friend,” she said.
Councilman James Gennaro recalled fondly Dolan’s go-getter attitude, saying she’d stop at nothing to meet her goals.
“Pat never asked for anything,” he said as the crowd laughed. “She always walked in and was kind of like, ‘we have to do this.’
“Maybe the secret to getting whatever you want is never to ask for anything, just to sort of declare it, and then just by sheer force of will, make it happen,” he added.
For example, Gennaro has a plan for a street co-naming on Vleigh Street, where the library is located.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who worked for the Queens Library for 10 years and is now chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations Committee, referred to Dolan as a “bulldog.
“She would go through a wall for this library and for this community,” he said. “I loved Pat Dolan.”
Van Bramer said Dolan frequently called him on the phone advocating on behalf of the library’s expansion. He said the cost of the expansion went up “occasionally,” to which the crowd laughed in response, but Dolan was always determined to find the money.
“She believed in Queens and she fought for this borough,” he said. “She watched it all and she cared so deeply.”