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Local News July 11, 2013  RSS feed

‘A BIG LOSS’ FOR R’WOOD

Remembering Civic Leader Ann Maggio, 90
by Robert Pozarycki


Ann Maggio Ann Maggio Ann Maggio of Ridgewood, a former school teacher and community activist who worked for decades to improve her neighborhood, died last Friday, July 5, at the age of 90 following a long illness.

Maggio helped organized the Citizens for a Better Ridgewood civic association in 1994 and joined Community Board 5 approximately five years later. She was also president of the Suydam Street Block Association and previously served as secretary of the Onderdonk Civic Organization, which disbanded in 1993.

In her time, Maggio was on the front line in battles to bring a host of improvements to the area of northern Ridgewood near the Brooklyn/Queens border. She advocated for renovations to the Grover Cleveland Park athletic field in the 1980s after the park became a breeding ground for illegal activities ranging from dumping to drug use.

As president of Citizens for a Better Ridgewood, Maggio also helped bring attention to prostitution activity in the vicinity of Cypress Avenue and Starr Street, resulting in increased policing efforts in the area which continue to this day.

Aside from her civic activism, Maggio taught at the defunct St. Aloysius School for 16 years, developing in the process various programs including science fairs, special education classes, guidance counseling and ESL (English as a second language) instruction.

Known for her kind-hearted, caring nature, Maggio made such a profound impact on the lives of children she taught—friends and associates recalled—that her students would recognize and greet her warmly years later.

In addition to her civic activism, Maggio was also involved in a host of other organizations including the presidents advisory board of the Peter Cardella Senior Citizens Center in Ridgewood, the advisory board of Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and the Federazione Italo-Americana di Brooklyn and Queens.

Over the years, she received a host of accolades and awards for her service, including the Queens Heroine Award from Queens Borough President Helen Marshall in 2004. Then-State Sen. Serphin Maltese also sponsored her for the State Senate “Woman of Distinction” honor in 2002.

‘A big loss for the community’

News of her passing brought out expressions of sympathy and gratitude from elected officials, civic advocates, friends and neighbors who had worked with her in the years to improve Ridgewood.

“Ann dedicated her life to the betterment of her neighbors, friends, family and the Ridgewood community at large,” City Council Member Diana Reyna said in a statement on Monday, July 8. “As a teacher at St. Aloysius, as a board member of Community Board 5 and as president of Citizens for a Better Ridgewood, Ann impacted the lives of thousands.”

“As a civic leader and an active member of Community Board 5, Ann Maggio dedicated countless hours fighting for a better Ridgewood,” added City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley. “In our hearts, her relentless civic activism will always be remembered, and I offer my deepest condolences to her family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

“A Ridgewood institution, Ann was active in a wide range of community causes for decades,” stated Rep. Nydia Velázquez. “She played many important roles throughout her life. Some will fondly remember Ann as an educator at St. Aloysius, while others will reflect on her tireless work in local civic affairs. Many of us have lost a dear friend and all of Ridgewood has lost a kind and caring neighbor. My thoughts and prayers are with Ann’s family and all those who knew and loved her.”

“She was just a wonderful person,” Community Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri told the Times Newsweekly. “Besides being a loss for her family, it’s a big loss for the community.”

“Ann Maggio was one of the most courageous, caring and effective civic leaders that I have known for more than 30 years,” stated Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano. “This wonderful lady has been a blessing and treasure for Ridgewood and the neighboring communities. She is an example of goodness turned to greatness.”

“Ann was a power in the community who was loved by all. She had a finger on the pulse of the neighborhood,” said Peggy O’Kane, who worked with Maggio as secretary of Board 5 and Citizens for a Better Ridgewood and was a friend of hers for many years. “Ann is truly irreplaceable; she will be missed.”

Family life

Antoinette Maggio (nee Zambrotta) spent her early years in Williamsburg before her family relocated to a home on Suydam Street in Ridgewood in 1938. At the time, she would tell friends, the family considered the community “suburban” in comparison.

After graduating from Hunter College in 1944, Maggio was employed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. She would be with the company for four years until she married her husband, Anthony, in 1948.

The Maggios had two children, Joann and Anthony, both of whom attended St. Aloysius School. During their time there, Ann Maggio became involved in school activities, working on various projects, contests and programs.

Maggio’s relationship with St. Aloysius School went to a higher level in 1967, when she was hired as a teacher. For the next 16 years, hundreds of children would be educated by Maggio, who was also involved in a host of extracurricular activities at the school.

Her civic duties

Following her retirement in 1983, Maggio increased her involvement in the community and was instrumental in establishing the Suydam Street Block Association in 1985. One of the first issues for which she advocated was improvements to Grover Cleveland Park’s athletic field, which had been long neglected.

Giordano recalled the athletic field—called the “car barns,” as it was previously the storage area for trolley cars—had become a haven for drug users during the 1980s. Maggio and Giordano, along with other members of the Onderdonk Civic Organization, worked for years to not only get criminal activity out of the area, but also renovate the field for recreational use by local schools and sports organizations.

Working alongside Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and then- Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, the city funded improvements to the field, which were completed in 1990. It was equipped with the first artificial turf field in a city park, Giordano added.

Grover Cleveland Park remained a focal point for Maggio for the years that followed. Curbing illegal activities and improving the quality of life in and around the park were issues for which Maggio campaigned as president of Citizens for a Better Ridgewood.

A more pressing matter came in the last decade, when prostitution activities in the area of Cypress Avenue and Starr Street grew out of control. Maggio worked with Reyna, Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and the commanders of the 83rd and 104th precincts to bring increased enforcement activities which have resulted in the arrests of scores of suspected prostitutes and customers in recent years.

The organization, under Maggio’s leadership, also played a role in securing landmark status for the Belgian block-lined segment of Stockholm Street between Woodward and Onderdonk avenues.

Youth was also served by the Citizens for a Better Ridgewood under Maggio’s leadership, as the organization held annual essay and poster contests inviting local schoolchildren to express pride for their neighborhood. The winners received various prizes and certificates of appreciation from local elected officials, and appeared with Maggio in group photos published in this newspaper.

Maggio’s health took a turn for the worse earlier this year, and the Citizens for a Better Ridgewood— its other executive officers unable to carry on the duties of its president— suspended its operations indefinitely last month.

Maggio is survived by her son, Anthony, a retired police officer who is currently an EMT at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital; daughter Joann, a teacher at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville, L.I.; daughterin law Tracy and grandson Anthony. She was preceded in death by her husband Anthony.

* * *

A wake for Maggio was held on Monday, July 8, at Seneca Chapels, located at 494 Seneca Ave. in Ridgewood. A Mass of Christian Burial was offered the following morning, Tuesday, July 9, at St. Aloysius Church, followed by interment at St. John Cemetery, Middle Village.