She was one of the co-founders, in 1993, of the Queens chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and also one of the most beloved mothers in the borough — especially by the LGBTQ community and the Queens political establishment. Now the street where she lived in Jackson Heights has been named in her honor.
On a bright, sunny Sunday August 25, they all turned out on 91st Street south of Northern Boulevard to dedicate it as Mary Audrey Gallagher Way and pay homage to a pioneering activist for civil rights, labor, and education, as bagpipes keened in the morning air in a ceremony presided over by veteran Irish gay activist Brendan Fay.
The most visible advocacy by Gallagher, who died at 85 on January 4, grew out of her love for her gay activist son Daniel Dromm, now the Finance Committee chair of the New York City Council — defending him in his campaigns for justice and public office and involving herself in the larger LGBTQ movement. But she also worked as a New York City teacher and union organizer, was active in Irish culture and causes, and was a devout Catholic.
Congressmember Joseph Crowley said, “I would not have been the public servant I was were it not for Audrey.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer said as the list of luminaries was read out at Queens political events, “When they heard Audrey’s name the room would erupt in applause more than for any elected official.”
Borough President Melinda Katz, who has a gay brother, said, “Audrey got me to join P-FLAG in ’94 and became a big part of my life.”
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said, “Audrey puts us Jewish mothers to shame.”
Queens City Councilmember Francisco Moya said, “Every mortal will taste death, but not everyone will taste life. Audrey tasted life.”
And Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, an out gay Sunnyside resident, said, “Audrey was a mother who loved her gay son fiercely. We would not have been able to accomplish what we did without the love of our mothers.”
Among the other LGBTQ leaders on hand were Melissa Sklarz, running for Assembly from Queens’ 30th District in the September 13 primary, former State Senator Tom Duane, veteran activist Laura Morrison, and a host of activists from the borough.
Dromm’s sister, Marybeth, said, “I’m proud to be my mother’s daughter and the brother of a gay man.” She spoke of her family having gone through “a lot of tragedy,” losing their father early in life. “My mother had to raise five kids by herself and loved us totally and completely.
Before the street name was unveiled, Dromm closed with a moving tribute to his mom with whom he was very close. He spoke of her love for Jackson Heights, which he represents, and for her family — keeping them together through the poverty that befell them after the death of her first husband.
“She loved gay people and really wanted to be a part of the LGBT community,” Dromm said, recalling the way in which she mediated between a gay couple fighting during a Queens Winter Pride event, calming them down. He said she stood up for him when he was under attack — particularly as a public school teacher assailed by social conservatives a quarter century ago — “and for all gay people.”