File photo/QNS
Maria A. Thomson, longtime advocate and leader for Woodhaven, has died.

The community of Woodhaven lost one of its warmest personalities and strongest advocates on Wednesday when Maria Thomson died after dedicating the last 40 years of her life to civic activism.

Thomson’s list of achievements is practically endless. As the president of the 102nd Precinct Community Council, she served five terms and was named the first and only 102nd Precinct Honorary Police Officer of the Month.

In her role as executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation, Thomson organized the Wonderful Woodhaven Street Festival and founded the Woodhaven Business Improvement District. Thomson was also a longtime member of Community Board 9.

She also served as president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, she actively reported illegal conversions in the community and prevented the reopening of a bar where two homicides took place.

Thanks, in a large part, to Thomson’s persistent activism, the Forest Park Carousel was named a city landmark; Fire Engine Company 294 reopened; Fire Engine Company 293 was saved from planned closure more than a decade ago; and the Jamaica Avenue elevated train line was repaired and re-painted.

Councilman Eric Ulrich, who worked with Thomson on a number of local issues in the past decade, first announced the news of her passing in a statement on Facebook.

“She was a legend and someone who truly cared,” Ulrich said in the statement. “Maria had a heart of gold and dedicated decades of her life to the betterment of her neighborhood and borough.”

Thomson’s longevity is one of the traits that stood out the most to Senator Joseph Addabbo. He was just a kid when Addabbo first met Thomson during the late 1970s when his father, the late Congressman Joseph Addabbo Sr., interacted with Thomson on the civic scene, he said.

As the younger Addabbo became active in the community, he developed a working relationship with Thomson and went on to collaborate with her while serving as a City Council member in 2003 on the Jamaica Avenue elevated train line.

Senator Addabbo said he was always amazed by Thomson’s drive, and while he described her personality as warm and welcoming, he added that “on the other side of the coin she was tough for what she believed in.”

“She’s the only person on earth that can get me to wear a cowboy hat,” Addabo said with a laugh. “Every street fair on Jamaica Avenue, she nicely suggests that we all wear a Woodhaven cowboy hat. I don’t really like hats, but for Maria, I’ll do it.”

Other local politicians who worked with Thomson throughout the years also expressed their condolences upon hearing the news.

“Maria represents the best of the strong civic life trademark to Queens, and her service spanned across many capacities,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in a statement. “Maria’s ideas and energy are reflected throughout many of Woodhaven’s top initiatives, such as the Wonderful Woodhaven Street Festival and street beautification projects. Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Councilman Robert Holden, a former civic activist whose district includes a sliver of Woodhaven released a statement on Facebook.

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of fellow civic leader Maria Thomson,” Holden said. “She will be missed by many.”

Ed Wendell, who served as president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association while Thomson was on the board of directors, said that once he got to know Thomson he realized that nobody really understands how much work it takes to be as involved as she was.

After hearing the news of her passing last night, Wendell said he was out in the community and saw the Christmas lights on Jamaica Avenue that go up year after year thanks to Thomson wanting to uphold that tradition, and he could think of no better tribute.

“I didn’t have a conversation with her that didn’t involve the community,” Wendell said. “Everyone has something they were born to do, and I think this is what Maria was born to do.”


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