Lewandowski served 39 years with the Parks Department, starting in 1979 with a summer job as a ranger in Prospect Park. She has worked in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, ultimately culminating her career with a 14-year stint as borough commissioner of Queens.
She previously worked as a manager, deputy chief of operations and chief of operations in the Bronx, before she was appointed Bronx parks commissioner by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The hardest part for me now, after 39 years, will be letting go,” Lewandowski said. “But you serve a long career, you work hard and it’s now time for others to take that over.”
Lewandowski’s husband, who works for the Transit Authority, will also be retiring.
“We’re both looking forward to the next chapter in our lives,” she said.
The longtime public servant said she’ll miss the park workers, the parks, and above all, all the relationships she has built with community members. Lewandowski said she now looks forward to being a volunteer in city parks.
Lewandowski and her husband own a home in Queens and they’re not selling, so they’ll be around, she said.
When asked to name her favorite park, she couldn’t choose just one.
“It’s like children, you never say who your favorite is,” she said. “But I have to say, I’m always drawn to the water. The Rockaways are always important to me, and all the parks along the East River.”
December 31 will be her last day of city service. The Parks Department is currently interviewing candidates, and Lewandowski said there will be an acting commissioner in the interim until they hire someone permanently.
“We have a really strong team in Queens, and I’ve spent a long time building that,” she said. “So I feel good about the legacy that we’re leaving.”
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said Lewandowski has served the borough well in her tenure.
“She is the gold standard of what a borough commissioner should be,” he said. “I’m truly going to miss her.”