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UES Community Board Mourns Loss of 'Passionate' 40-Year Member

By Lindsay Armstrong | February 24, 2014 11:40am
 Helen Simon with Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
Helen Simon with Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.
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Barry Schneider

UPPER EAST SIDE — A 40-year member of Community Board 8 who was known for her outspoken community advocacy and die-hard dedication to the Mets died recently at 81.

Helene Simon, who joined the board in 1974, passed away on Feb. 13 due to complications from a stroke, her sister said.

“She was, you could say, an institution on this board,” said CB8 chairman Nick Viest, in an address to the board Wednesday. “She wasn’t reluctant to express her views early or often, but she also had a very big heart. It’s hard to imagine a meeting without her.“

Simon joined the community board in 1974. As co-chair of the Queensboro Bridge Area Committee, she was instrumental in developing a plan to improve open space and access to the waterfront in the southeastern corner of the district, fellow board members said.

The City Planning Commission and City Council adopted the committee’s recommendations in the summer of 2006.

In addition, Simon helped to raise $5.5 million to help implement the plan, which has resulted in improvements to Tramway Park and Andrew Haswell Green Park, board members noted.  

Simon also served on the parks and transportation committees and on a task force overseeing a joint development plan of CUNY and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

She was raised in The Bronx, the oldest of three children, and remained close with her sister Linda Wolfson and brother Allan Simon, her family said. She is survived by her siblings, as well as five nieces and nephews.

Her sister remembered her as a caring daughter who looked after their father and mother until their deaths.

Simon moved to the Upper East Side in 1963 as one of the first residents of 301 East 69th St., and lived in the same building her entire adult life, Wolfson said.

"She loved NY," her sister said. "She felt there was no other place to live in the world besides New York City."

Simon was a paralegal by training and served on the staff of state Attorney General Robert Abrams from 1979 to 1993.

Outside of her community service, friends said Simon had two passions: politics and the Mets. She volunteered on Democratic campaigns, including those for the Kennedys and Clintons, her family said. She regularly attended political events for New York’s Democratic Party, including the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.

When she wasn’t politicking, she could be found cheering on her beloved baseball team, friends said.

“She went to all of the games, didn’t matter what the weather was,” said a fellow CB 8 member. “I’d say to her, ‘It’s so hot. Why don’t you stay home and watch it on TV?’ And she’d say, ‘No, no, no. Go to go.’”

Simon’s dedication was just as evident in her service on behalf of the Upper East Side, colleagues said.

“Helene was smart, vocal and passionate. Above all, she believed strongly in community involvement — as exemplified by her 40 years of service on Community Board 8,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in an email. “That’s quite a record and she will be missed.”

Simon was buried at Wellwood Cemetary in West Babylon on Long Island. Donations in her memory can be made to the Diabetes Research Institute.