BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Elected officials, civic leaders, neighbors, friends and family gathered at the corner of Suydam Street and Cypress Avenue on Saturday to honor the legacy of longtime neighborhood activist, teacher and Ridgewood resident Ann Maggio.
Maggio, who died in 2013 at the age of 90, moved to Suydam Street as a teenager with her parents back in 1939, and went on to teach at the former St. Aloysius School from 1967 to 1983. However, Maggio is perhaps best known for her tireless efforts and commitment to improving the neighborhood in which she lived.
In 1984, she partnered with former Borough President Claire Shulman and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan to renovate the Grover Cleveland Park Athletic Field and help rid the area of chronic drug use and illicit activities. She co-founded the former Suydam Street Block Association in 1985, and went on to establish the Citizens for a Better Ridgewood civic group nearly a decade later. Maggio also served on Community Board 5 for many years.
During Saturday’s ceremony, City Council member Antonio Reynoso shared his memories of Maggio as both a community leader and personal hero.
“She was as pure-hearted and as great a person that you could ever find here in the city of New York, but especially in this community. It really breaks my heart that she’s no longer with us,” he said. “She was part of a system of politics here that wasn’t always the greatest. She said, ‘Antonio, don’t let that be who you become. Be better and do well.’”
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan remembered Maggio as a longtime friend, educator and role model. Long before their collaboration on improving the Grover Cleveland Athletic Field, Nolan had Maggio as her fifth-grade teacher at St. Aloysius School.
“She made a great impression on me, and particularly so many women and girls, because she held herself to a very high standard,” Nolan explained. “She was showing us that you could be a mom, a teacher and a wonderful, compassionate person. She never stopped using her education to help other people. She was really a pioneer in many ways. I feel a great personal debt to her.”
“She may have been a petite lady, but she was a giant on the issues that mattered to her,” added Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. “At a time when the country is so divided, people like Ann reminded us that we need to do better. We are a better place, right here in Ridgewood, because of people like Ann Maggio.”
Rev. George Poltorak of St. Aloysius Church offered a blessing shortly before Maggio’s family addressed the crowd, thanking them for the moving tribute. Young children pulled the string to unveil Ann Maggio Way as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played. A random group of butterflies flew over the crowd as a sign, some believed, of Maggio’s presence.
“Our mom, Ann, always gave and did her best and encouraged those around her to do the same,” daughter Joann Maggio said. “She was someone who shaped many lives. She was a compassionate person and woman of integrity. She always put others ahead of herself. All have been made better by knowing her. I’m proud to call her our mom.”