Richards’ Office Distributes Flood Mitigation Supplies

By Charlie Finnerty |

Borough President Donovan Richards’ office distributed flood barriers and water pumps 11 a.m. Oct. 6 at Borough Hall following significant flooding across the city a week earlier Sept. 29 and in preparation of any late storms in New York City’s 2023 hurricane season. 

Residents lined up as early as 10:30 a.m., according to Special Advisor on Strategic Initiatives Katherine Damiani-Brezler, with supplies only lasting roughly 20 minutes. 

Richard’s staff distribute supplies. Photo credit: Charlie Finnerty

Michael Ferraro, a resident of Flushing for over 30 years, received equipment at the distribution event and said he felt the borough president was noticing the needs of Queens communities that live in fear of flooding.

“I think it’s a great start in the right direction. This is something that has been needed,” he said. “I think the borough is realizing that this is a situation that can be harmful to many people and endanger lives. This is something that we need to get done and situated right away.”

Ferraro said that even more moderate storms are often seriously concerning for residents in his neighborhood.

“For us, even a little bit of rain is still going to be major,” Ferraro said. “I’m always on guard. If I know it’s going to be rain or torrential downpours, I know for a fact that I’m not going to be sleeping, I’ll be looking out my window making sure I don’t get any water coming up.”

With limited supplies, Damiani-Brezler said the distribution aimed to serve the communities most at risk of flooding.

“It was directed at folks that I’ve been in contact with since Ida,” Damiani-Brezler said. “So we were sure these were going to home owners that we know regularly have feet of water in their homes.” 

Dinu Ahmed is a resident of East Elmhurst, one of the areas most at risk of flooding where President Joe Biden visited to survey the damage of Hurricane Ida in 2021. The Sept. 29 floods endangered Ahmed’s neighbors, many of whom are elderly and live with chronic illnesses.

“I think people are trying to find ways to mitigate the effects after it happens, but we don’t have anything preventative right now. We want a more robust response.” Ahmed said. “This is New York City in 2023, we can’t live like this.”

Empty boxes of flood equipment after the event. Photo credit: Charlie Finnerty

Ahmed was told the supplies offered at the distribution would not be effective for the sewage waste and extreme flooding in her neighborhood. Damiani-Brezler said the supplies distributed Friday were a bandaid for residents dealing with less severe flash flooding, but that major weather events like the flooding seen Sept. 29 will require large-scale, city-wide investments in flood protection to protect residents of high-risk areas like East Elmhurst.

“This is the bare minimum of mitigation,” Damiani-Brezler said. “[These supplies] will benefit you if you’re getting less than two inches of rain. It will not benefit you in a situation where you’re getting five inches of rain in less than two hours.”

Howard Beach Eagle Scout Replaces Tattered American Flags

By Charlie Finnerty |

16-year-old Eagle Scout Solomon Schneider of America Troop 139 is replacing old American flags for community members throughout Howard Beach, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Glendale for his Eagle Scout project. Reaching out to community members primarily through Facebook, Schneider has worked with residents and business owners to collect old flags in preparation for a retirement ceremony October 29 at the Broad Channel American Legion Post 1404.

“I got the motivation from going down Cross Bay and Metropolitan and noticed people were hanging a lot of old flags,” Schneider said. “And the government has a lot of flags up that they didn’t take down once they were ripped or torn, leaving these flags that are torn on poles on the streets. They didn’t take them down so I thought we should replace it for them.”

Solomon’s father, Scoutmaster Jason Schneider, helped Solomon distribute fliers to the community advertising the project. Howard Beach resident Laura Riley, whose flag the Schneiders replaced, said she was moved by the patriotism of the project.

“I worked in public service for the US government for 32 years and for me it’s important to demonstrate pride in our country by flying an American flag on my house,” Riley said. “The scout project supports that pride.”

Riley was planning to replace her old flag soon and said she was glad for an opportunity to ensure the proper flag retirement ceremony. She also said she was inspired to see a member of a younger generation with national pride.

“It’s a very very good project they’re doing,” Riley said. “It’s nice to see young kids involved in patriotic things for their country.”

Schneider said difficulties emerged in funding the project and communicating the opportunity to the community. 

“Funding was kinda hard, there were not a lot of people to fund it,” Schneider said. “Spreading the word was also hard. Most responses have come from social media.”

For more information, please call Jason Schneider at (917) 929-5438 or email


Courtesy of Jason Schneider

The Woodhaven Beat: Remembering Maria Thomson at Neir’s Tavern

By Ed Wendell |

This past weekend I had the honor of accepting a “Lifetime Ambassador Award” on behalf of Maria Thomson at Neir’s Tavern’s 194th Anniversary Block Party. It says a lot about Maria and her impact on our community that 5 years after her passing she is still remembered and winning awards.

I first met Maria at my first Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meeting, back in March 2009 and within a few months I would be working alongside her, when I joined the WRBA as a board member.

Besides the WRBA, she served as Executive Director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District (WBID), Executive Director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC), and President of the 102nd Precinct Community Council.

She was also a board member on Community Board 9 and served on the board of Jamaica Hospital. And, for many years, she wrote a column in the pages of the very paper you are reading right now, the Leader-Observer. To say she was a busy woman is definitely an understatement!

Maria Thomson, who served on the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association; she was also Executive Director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District (WBID), Executive Director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation (GWDC), and President of the 102nd Precinct Community Council, a board member on Community Board 9 and for many years wrote a column in the pages of the very paper you are reading right now, the Leader-Observer.

We bumped heads a lot, we had different ideas on how to approach some things, but we never lost respect for each other and we always got along well. And when we did work together on a problem we made a formidable team.

One battle we fought together was when the Department of Transportation (DOT) wanted to flip 84th Street around to be a one-way street heading south, which would have made getting into Woodhaven very difficult.

We spoke almost daily as we both worked to our strengths and gathered support. By the time of the first public hearing, we had packed the room with residents who were loud and informed. It was quite a night and was the beginning of the end for DOT’s plan, which was eventually voted down unanimously.

Another battle we fought together was on behalf of the Forest Park Carousel. By the time I got involved, Maria had been fighting to landmark the carousel for over 25 years. When a very reliable source told me that the Parks Department was considering a plan to dismantle and sell the carousel, we had to step up that battle.

We were like a two-headed monster, both of us writing articles about it and raising awareness that there was a very real possibility that Woodhaven could lose what she always called “the jewel of Forest Park.”

Eventually, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed and on October 28th, 2013 (almost 10 years ago) we stood side-by-side at a ceremony at the Forest Park Carousel as it was officially made a landmark.

Something that was so close to being lost forever was suddenly being protected forever and that was a real testament to the power of working together.

Maria could be a giant pain in the neck and I mean that in the most generous way possible. She was a tremendous fighter for Woodhaven; and when she saw something wrong she would be a pain in the neck until it got fixed.

Whenever a new captain came into the 102 Precinct, I think one of the things the outgoing Captain would tell the new one was that you are going to hear from Maria – a lot!

I remember one time I was on the avenue and I saw a situation that needed immediate attention. I called her from my car and let her know and before I had finished my shopping, the police had arrived and the problem was solved.

Maria Thomson and myself on October 28th, 2013 (almost 10 years ago) at the ceremony at the Forest Park Carousel as it was officially made a New York City Landmark.

Maria Thomson had the respect of a lot of people in a lot of positions of power and she was never afraid to wield that power on behalf of the community that she loved. She was always thinking about what was best for Woodhaven. It was what she thought of when she woke up each morning and it was what she was thinking of as she worked late into each night.

And so, I found myself very honored to accept this award from Neir’s Tavern on behalf of Maria Thomson and join all of Woodhaven in letting her husband Bob (one of the nicest men ever to live in Woodhaven) and daughter Alena know that 5 years on, Maria is still remembered and is very much missed.

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