Many of you may know our beloved Forest Park Carousel as, "The Crown Jewel of Queens." But do you know how it came about? Apart from being a rare, master centerpiece of our park, do you know who inspired the words that helped usher in its legacy?
"The Jewel of Forest Park" was coined by long-time community advocate, Maria Thomson, who led the carousel's initiative in becoming a NYC historical landmark despite several set-backs and two decades of resistance from LPC (Landmarks Preservation Commission). "If our priceless carousel is landmarked, it will stay open, and concessionaires can have access to additional funding to preserve it and bring it up to certain standards," said Maria (Queens Ledger)
Yet, as we remember the great history of our carousel, it is with heavy hearts that we now reflect on the legacy that Maria Thomson left her beloved Woodhaven community; Maria passed away last week on January 10th due to complications following a recent stroke (QNS)
Maria was the Executive Director for Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation and Woodhaven Business Improvement District, and had served as a community activist for over 40 years. Her career began as President for the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association for six years and became a founding member of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District. Her long fight to preserve the Forest Park Carousel as a historical landmark is heralded as one of her greatest and most impactful accomplishments within the Woodhaven community (Queens Chronicle):
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. Now it will be cheered for, preserved, and it will be here long after we're not. -Maria Thomson
The Forest Park Carousel is an artifact that bedazzles the eye, and how appropriate to have wildlife-themed figures in a forested setting...It speaks to the importance of Forest Park as a flagship park, and hearkens back to an era when carousels were very much part of a public park experience, emphasizing a happy and care-free experience. -John Krawchuk, Director, Historic Preservation (Queens Ledger)
We at the Forest Park Carousel share our deepest condolences, and echo the words of so many supporters, friends, and family of Maria including those shared by assemblyman, Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven):
She was an iconic leader...She was the unofficial mayor of Woodhaven. Nothing happened, nothing was ever done without talking to Maria Thomson first. She had the pulse of the community. She was Woodhaven.