BY LUIS GRONDA
Mary Ann Carey waved goodbye to the Community Board of which she has been a longtime member.
She had her final meeting as District Manager of Community Board 9 last week, bidding farewell to the position she has held for the past 35 years.
Carey, originally from Ozone Park but currently living in Howard Beach, announced her intention to retire from the position last month. Her retirement is effective Oct. 1 and the search is underway to find her replacement.
Carey looked back at her time as District Manager in an interview with the Queens Tribune last week.
She said she very much enjoyed her time as District Manager and they were able to see through many important projects that benefitted the community to its completion.
Among the projects that Carey mentioned were working to revive the Forest Park Carousel, which reopened a few years ago and was also landmarked, and improving the park itself overall. She described the park as a “drug haven” and the community board had a role in turning the public space around.
“The park went from a disaster to a beautiful, lush facility, now with the state-of-the-art carousel as well,” Carey said.
Another memorable project was the reconstruction of Kew Gardens Road, which Carey said was the first project she worked on when she became District Manager. According to Carey, the board, along with the Kew Gardens Civic Association, were able to get a repaved street along with new curbs and sidewalks as well.
As for why she decided to retire now, she said she wanted to go out during a less turbulent time within the board and focus on other groups and projects that she is a part of, including the Kiwanis Club of Ozone Park.
Last year, there was much conflict within the board and also between Carey and former CB9 chairperson Jim Coccovillo.
First, Carey was nearly fired from the District Manager position after some members called for her to be removed for being unreliable and disorganized. The board elected to keep her but was put on six months probation. Then, the board considered removing board member Sam Esposito after he was accused of making anti-semitic remarks to other board members in an email. Carey also lashed out at Coccovillo publicly during a meeting, saying he intimidated some people at its office.
With all of that behind her now, Carey said it is better to walk away.
“I wasn’t going to retire when people were trying to force me out, and I just felt that this is the time,” she said.
Carey said her conflict with Coccovillo is “water under the bridge” and they agreed to work together in a meeting while Coccovillo was still Chair. Now, she said they still talk and he wished her good luck at the end of last week’s meeting.
She also praised the current chairperson, Ralph Gonzalez, saying he’s doing well in the position, and is making changes that will improve CB9, despite some difficulties like getting to know each person on the board as much as possible.
“It’s very rough because you’re dealing with almost 50 people. To get to know 50 people, it’s not an easy thing, but he really is trying,” she said.
As for whoever succeeds her as district manager, Carey said you must have a strong will and not let anything get to you.
“They better be able to take the slings and arrows and let it roll off of you,” she said. “You can’t be too sensitive in this job.”
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, ext. 127, email@example.com or @luisgronda.