The southern Queens community is mourning the passing of longtime civic leader Mary Ann Carey, who served as Community Board 9 district leader for more than three decades. Carey died after suffering a stroke earlier this month at the age of 81.
The Ozone Park native helped generations of immigrants acclimate to central Queens, guided Jamaica Hospital through its renaissance and ushered in improvements at Forest Park in Woodhaven. Carey began working as a secretary at Community Board 10, which covers Howard Beach, South Ozone Park and parts of Richmond Hill, in 1979 and then migrated to Community Board 9, which covers portions of Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Kew Gardens, when an assistant district manager job opened. She later ascended to the district manager role.
When she retired in 2014, Carey said she was particularly proud of her role in preventing the carousel in Forest Park from being sold in the 1980s. She also assisted the board in fighting for a park administrator.
“It was starting to deteriorate. There were all kinds of bad activities going on in the parking lot. We had police there constantly,” she said. “It’s not anything like that now.”
After growing up in Ozone Park, Carey lived in Howard Beach and watched Community Board 9 welcome waves of newcomers, with Puerto Ricans and Dominicans moving in during the ‘80s and Guyanese, Trinidadians and Asian immigrants coming in later years.
“The neighborhood has changed drastically,” Carey said. “I remember once my mom was sick and I was driving her to the hospital and she yelled, ‘Don’t take me to Jamaica Hospital.’ I was here when Jamaica Hospital was a junkyard. Now, it’s beautiful.”
Community Board 9 established a committee to guide the emergency facility’s remodeling work and then Carey joined the hospital’s advisory board, a position she maintained well into her retirement.
“Mary Ann Carey was a jewel in the crown of Queens County and a beloved member of our community. I am saddened to hear of her passing,” Councilman Eric Ulrich said. “Mary Ann was truly a caring, dedicated and selfless individual. For many years, she served as the district manager of Community Board 9, where she worked tirelessly on behalf of local residents and small businesses.”
Carey’s husband Donald died in 2008. She is survived by two children, Spies and Christine Guardino; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
“Above all else, Mary Ann was a trusted and loyal friend to many, including me,” Ulrich said. “She was always generous with her time and a very kind person, a rare and enviable quality not found much these days in public life. She is reunited with her late husband Donald and now basks in the glow of God’s presence. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. She will be sorely missed.”