Indicted former park administrator Estelle Cooper dies

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File photo
File photo

Estelle Cooper

Estelle Cooper, the longtime administrator of Flushing  Meadows-Corona Park who was  alleged to have stolen $50,000 from an organization she  established, died on Saturday,  December 29. She was a 82.  Cooper, who was accused of  taking money from her conservatory group, Unisphere Inc.,  oversaw the borough’s largest  park for nearly two decades before stepping down in January  2011.

In 2003, she helped establish Unisphere Inc., a 501(c) (3) organization that worked on  sprucing up and restoring the  park. It was through this organization that Cooper was accused  of misspending funds — mainly  through ATM withdrawals that  were not accounted for when  the conservancy’s 2010 taxes were done.

Rumors that Cooper would  be indicted for wrongful spending started swarming in June  of 2012. These were confirmed  when she was arraigned on  Tuesday, July 17 at the Queens Supreme Court. She was charged  with second- and third-degree  counts of grand larceny, and if convicted, she could have faced  up to 15 years in prison. She was  due back in court in February.

Despite the charges and allegations in the last few months  of her life, Cooper will also be  remembered for her dedication  to the park she oversaw since  the 1990s.  Mike Balsamo, speaking for  all of Cooper’s family, said the  late park administrator would  be missed and remembered for the years of service she gave to Flushing Meadows.

“While we mourn the loss of  a barrier-breaker,” he said, “We  also celebrate the life of a dedicated public servant and hope that Estelle’s 50-year legacy to  civic service offers an example  to young people around the  world that hard work can truly  make dreams come true. We ask  that you share in understanding  and kindly respect our privacy,  as we continue through one of  the hardest moments our family  will face.”

The Parks Department issued  a statement that expressed sorrow for Cooper’s passing and  sent its condolences to her

“The Parks Department was  saddened to hear of Estelle  Cooper’s passing,” the statement read. “We extend our deepest sympathies to her family during this difficult time.”