Patricia Ferris, a life- long resident of Greenpoint and outstanding community activist died peacefully on November 4th after a long illness.
For over two decades Pat was the “go to” person for residents with local concerns as well as for citizens who needed help from their elected officials or from government agencies. Pat was extremely effective in this role because she began her activism as a wife and mother who saw serious problems in her neighborhood that needed the attention of government agencies.
In the 1970s what motivated Pat to show leadership were negative neighborhood conditions, including drug use in McGolrick Park where her six small children played. Pat’s efforts helped create a strong working relationship with the 94th Police Precinct to clean up the problem, and she soon turned her attention to the frequent severe flooding of homes on Humboldt Street that would occur regularly after heavy rains. The Ferris family lived on Humboldt Street and Pat became the street’s unofficial Mayor.
Her first hand account of her family’s dramatic experience with floodwater pouring into the first floor of their home helped to galvanize the City, which responded with a major capital construction project to run new sewer lines in the area.
Eventually Pat was appointed to Community Board 1 where she served for almost 20 years.
According to her close friend and colleague Marsilia Boyle, it was in her role as a staff person, first to Council Member Abe Gerges, and then to Congressman Stephen Solarz, and finally to State Senate Minority Leader Martin Connor that gave Pat the platform to advance many community causes and resolve personal constituent requests.
Marsilia said, “Because of the extent of her knowledge about the community and the confidence which so many people in the community had in her integrity and fairness, Pat was able to present issues to her elected officials with a full understanding of how their offices could be helpful and how the politics of these issues interacted with the solutions. One might think of it as the simple art of being an excellent communicator to diverse audiences but it is a skill hard to find.”
It was not just big issues that Pat managed for her elected officials, but also the small requests that came from ordinary citizens to help them navigate the baffling bureaucracy they often encountered with Social Security, family services, and agency service delivery. For so many people, her voice and help at the other end of the phone gave them the lifeline they needed to cling to when facing what often seemed like insurmountable obstacles.
“Pat lived her life as an advocate for her family and for the community she lived in,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol. “Even when she worked for elected officials, her loyalty remained with the community. She also made sure her employers worked for the community as hard as she did.”
Pat extended her role to many other organizations but her particular love was the Greenpoint YMCA, which she served as a member of the Board of Managers for many years. After her retirement she took the mission of the YMCA to heart and could be found working out each morning at the gym. Pat was also devoted to her parish church, St. Stanislas Kostka.
Pat is survived by her five daughters, a sister, several grandchildren and great grandchildren, and many community friends and neighbors.
The family asked that contributions in her memory be made to the Greenpoint YMCA.