As she got older, she began to volunteer with the Queens Community Center and assisted with many parks in Manhattan. But she felt guilty because she wasn’t giving back to the parks in her borough. So in 2004, she joined the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, a nonprofit group started in 2002 by the late Pat Dolan.
“Once I got involved, I realized that there was a big need here,” Silva said.
The conservancy was created to preserve the natural, historical, cultural and recreational legacy that the park offers the people of New York City.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1939 World’s Fair, and today is home to Queens Museum, New York Hall of Science, Queens Theatre in the Park, Queens Botanical Garden and the Queens Zoo. From 1945 to 1950, the park was the first home of the United Nations, and in 1964 it hosted a second World’s Fair.
Silva said she learned a lot from Dolan, a tireless community activist that was killed in a car accident in 2011. Silva became the new president, and knew she had big shoes to fill.
“I got to know her as a person,” she said. It’s always fun to know that other side of a person.”
Although she has had wonderful experiences working with the conservancy and improving the park, things can still get better, she said. One of the problems is people want to volunteer, but only give tours and not get dirty and clean the park.
“I feel the park has changed in a downward spiral, like all parks,” she said.
Silva said safety is also an issue in the park. With many homeless people living on the Pat Dolan Trail surrounding the park's Willow Lake, there needs to be a larger police presence and security cameras installed.
Silva said members of the conservancy plan to meet with new Borough President Melinda Katz, who recently came out in support of preserving the New York State Pavilion, a crumbling relic of the last World's Fair.
“I think this is such a betterment to Katz,” she said. “She knows the history.”