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Queens Chronicle

Maria Thomson, Woodhaven leader, dies

Late activist, biz leader was involved in every corner of the community

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Posted: Thursday, January 11, 2018 9:00 am

Maria Thomson, the longtime leader of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp. and an activist in every corner of the community, died Wednesday.

Her death was announced by Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) on Twitter.

“Just received word that legendary Maria Thomson, the embodiment of community service, has passed away,” Ulrich said. “She loved Woodhaven with all her heart and soul and will be sorely missed.”

It was not immediately known what the cause of death was and there was no information on funeral plans available yet.

Thomson was the leader of the GWDC, representing stores on Jamaica Avenue, for more than 30 years and founded the Woodhaven Business Improvement District in 1993.

She also was a member of Community Board 9 for decades.

She became involved with the community more than 40 years ago following a fire at the Woodhaven branch of the Queens Library that was caused by an arsonist.

“I went to the [Woodhaven Residents’] Block Association for help, and the rest is history,” she said in a 2011 interview with the Queens Chronicle.

Thomson was a member of the WRBA for more than 40 years, serving as president for six of those years, before retiring from the group in 2011. She also served as president of the 102nd Precinct Community Council four times and founded a now-defunct civilian patrol.

During her time with the WRBA and the GWDC, Thomson advocated for a number of issues.

She was on the frontline of the charge to landmark the Forest Park Carousel, which was granted historic status in 2013.

“It comes after so many years of hard work. It’s just wonderful that now it’s a reality and now the carousel is saved forever,” she said at the time. “Now it will be cheered for, preserved, and it will be here long after we’re not.”

Thomson also worked to keep Fire Engine Co. 294 open during the Bloomberg administration.

She became involved with the GWDC and Woodhaven BID to keep the avenue lively and help mom-and-pop shops stay in business along the corridor.

Thomson also organized the annual “Wonderful Woodhaven Street Festival” on Jamaica Avenue, and wrote a twice-monthly column, “Woodhaven Developments,” that appeared in the Queens Chronicle.

Recently, she teamed up with Ulrich and the Queens Economic Development Corp. to try to identify ways to revitalize the avenue.

In her GWDC capacity, Thomson vehemently opposed a proposal by the Department of Transportation to ban left turns onto Jamaica from Woodhaven Boulevard as part of the Select Bus Service project, saying it would lead to fewer shoppers on the avenue.

The agency ultimately kept the turns.

Ed Wendell, a Woodhaven activist and former president of the WRBA, said, “What a contribution Maria made to this community over the last four decades. She worked countless hours, nights and days and wrote all kinds of letters on behalf of the residents and businesses of Woodhaven. She leaves some pretty big shoes to fill.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said, “Maria is an irreplaceable loss for our neighborhood and our borough. She certainly has a legacy of protecting the quality-of-life in Woodhaven and I think her family and friends should be proud of her.”

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said, “She was an iconic leader.

“She was the unofficial mayor of Woodhaven,” Miller added. “Nothing happened, nothing was ever done without talking to Maria Thomson first. She had the pulse of the community. She was Woodhaven.”

Welcome to the discussion.