Maria Forbes

Maria Forbes

  • National Congress of Neighborhood Women Board Member
  • Clay Avenue Tenant Association, President 1990-Present (2020)
  • NYC Emergency Management CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Chief 2005-Present (2020)
  • Huairou International/National Congress of Neighborhood Women Member 2005-Present (2020)
  • United Nations Habitat Only US Delegate of Public Housing Tenant Association 2016-Present (2020)
  • Maria Forbes INC. CEO 2020

Maria Forbes was born on October 29, 1962 in Manhattan, one in a set of triplets. Her father, William Smith, had immigrated to New York from Belize 15 years earlier and worked as a merchant seaman.  Her mother, Velma Thomas, the great-granddaughter of slaves from North Carolina, grew up to become a mental health therapist.  The family later moved to Highbridge in the Bronx. The youngest of her family of seven, she has always called the Bronx her home. Maria’s mother volunteered as a tenant, civil rights and community advocate. Growing up Maria’s mother worked hard to instill her values of serving the community in her children.  Early on in her life Maria began her community activist career at the age of 13, when she was chosen to represent her school and met the then Mayor of New York City, Abraham Beame, at that time she began speaking out for social change. 

Maria, a single mother of three has served as President of the Clay Avenue Tenants Association in Bronx County since 1990 and in this leadership capacity, she has led Clay Avenue residents to advocate for increased tenant services and community programs.  Maria has worked with several elected officials of various levels in law and government; Borough President, State Senator, City Council, State Assembly, Federal Government, Community Based Organizations, the New York City Housing Authority, etc.  Maria has instilled in the residents of the neighborhood that it takes a group effort to instigate changes, and motivates others to see the same.  Maria has worked to address other issues on Clay Avenue such as improved housing, safe streets, step street maintenance, drug elimination, drug prevention programs for youth, increased youth programs at the Police Athletic League and Stop The Violence forums to mitigate high incidents of crime in the community. She has encouraged our teens and young adults to stay in school and assisted them with employment. 

She is greatly motivated by the fact that there are people in the community who are unable to speak for themselves or to fight for their rights because they lack the knowledge it takes to do so.  She works closely with senior citizens who have sacrificed and given so much in their lifetime, now they need someone to speak for them and that someone is Maria. 

Her most significant achievement was experienced in August of 1995, when her Tenant Association was awarded a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing Urban Development.  This grant funded an opportunity for the Tenant Association to implement a job training readiness and placement program in order to move the tenants from welfare to work.  Subsequent to receiving the grant she was able to incorporate the Tenants Association as a 501C (3) nonprofit organization. Clay Avenue association has been fiscal conduit for the state senate managing over $350,000 for 21 NYCHA developments. Maria is a board member to a gun violence program called Release The Grip (BX Connect), founder of a tenants organization Called Residents Alliance (Community Service Society), A member of the citywide RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration), co-author of the Resident Handbook, and a Community Partner of the 44th PCT.
Maria has been NYC Emergency Management BX Team 4 Chief for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) since 2005 overseeing the evacuation for CB 4 and on call for any citywide events, she is now the only NYCHA TA president for the USA  that has been serving as a delegate for the UN since 2016. Maria has represented the USA in Quito, Ecuador in 2016, Malaysia in 2018, Nairobi, Kenya in 2019 and has attended the UN assembly to discuss the New Urban Agenda to discuss the 17 sustainable goals for 2030 for Abu Dhabi in February 2020.

Maria has been on the frontlines serving the community during the Covid-19 pandemic, assisting community members with responding to the Census2020, and acquiring free health in surance; serving as a beacon for hope to the community. Maria has made sure meals were brought in to the community; essential PPE was distributed, and kept an open safe space so the community could continue to receive help and services. Continuing to work closely with elected officials to make sure our most vulnerable community members were not left behind in the shuffle and were kept informed. Maria has consistently given her time and energy to serving the underserved, and making sure our youth have opportunities to prosper.

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