Woodhaven, boro mourn loss of Frederick Schmidt

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The State Supreme Court judge and former assemblyman from Woodhaven made frequent trips back from Albany to attend special family events in Queens....

By Alex Davidson

Frederick Schmidt was the kind of man who made sure he divided his time equally between work and family.

The State Supreme Court judge and former assemblyman from Woodhaven made frequent trips back from Albany to attend special family events in Queens.

State Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), who knew Schmidt for 40 years, said his late colleague would make the trip often from the capital to his district to run community meetings and visit block parties, and then go back to vote on crucial bills. He was noted for his good attendance record in the Legislature.

It was this equal dedication to being a good judge, assemblyman, father, husband and community member that Maltese and other friends and colleagues said they would miss most following the death of Frederick D. Schmidt on July 18.

Schmidt, 71, died of a heart attack, according to Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey. He was buried last week at St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village.

Members of Schmidt’s family, including his wife Julia, and their nine children could not be reached for comment.

“He was tireless,” Maltese said. “Naturally, we will miss him. There are not many great men like Frederick Schmidt.”

Schmidt, a lifelong Queens resident from Woodhaven, was first elected to represent the 38th Assembly District in 1964 after having lost an election for the same seat two years earlier.

Maltese said Schmidt, a Democrat, was successful in 1964 because he was the first of his party to run as a Democrat-Conservative, something that fellow state assembly members such as Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill) would later emulate.

Maltese said Schmidt was widely known for focusing more on using “shoe leather” and getting to know his constituents than on securing contributions during his several re-election campaigns.

Schmidt, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Marines, served in the state Assembly until 1972, when he left and launched an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate. He was then re-elected to the Assembly in 1974, where he served as majority whip until he decided to seek a seat on the bench of the Queens Civil Court in 1992.

Schmidt served as a judge on the Queens Civil Court until 1996, when he was appointed as an acting Supreme Court judge — a position that became permanent when he was duly elected to the position one year later.

Throughout his career and regardless of his title or position, however, it was Schmidt’s commitment to solving problems and meeting with people face-to-face that earned him the title of Woodhaven “Icon” by Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation.

“Freddy knew all the families and all the children,” she said. “Every quality-of-life issue that affected the homeowners and residents of Woodhaven he fought for. He lived here and he knew what we were going through.”

Thomson, originally from the Bronx, said she first met Schmidt 35 years ago when she was walking along Jamaica Avenue and noticed his district office. She said she poked her head in to ask about an issue her parents were dealing with and Schmidt came up to talk to her.

“It was unusual for me to see that an assemblyman was actually in his office,” Thomson said. “That did not happen too often where I came from.”

Thomson said she will never forget how Schmidt helped both her and her parents, and that his giving nature continued throughout his career in Queens.

Schmidt attended St. Thomas the Apostle School in Woodhaven, Holy Trinity High School in Brooklyn, St. Johns College and Fordham Law school.

In April 1998, then Schmidt was thrust into the limelight as a State Supreme Court judge when he issued a court order to close an adult video store in Elmhurst. The XXX Tristar Video Inc. store on Queens Boulevard was shut down because it violated former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s adult-use zoning regulation that prevents adult establishments from operating within 500 feet of a residential zone.

Schmidt’s order served as a critical victory in Giuliani’s campaign to clean up areas with high concentrations of adult-use businesses like Times Square.

According to Mary Ann Carey, district manager for Community Board 9, Schmidt always made such decisions with the best interests of the public in mind. She said his dedication to community and family were integral in how he lived his life.

“He would go to mass every morning in Albany and he was such a kindly person,” said Carey, as she laughed about her failed bid to oust Schmidt in 1976. “He was such a kind person. You could not ask for a nicer gentleman.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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