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Free Summer Concerts coming to Springfield Park

 The Summer Stage concert series of free outdoor entertainment returns to Springfield Park this July.

The series will visit the park the days after the fourth of July with a string of old school, high profile artist performances including the legendary EPMD.  Concerts begin just prior to sunset at 7PM and run from Thursday, July 5 to Sunday, July 8.

The lineup begins Thursday with a Haitian theme featuring Paul Beaubrun. DJ Hard Hittin’ Harry and the band RAM.  Friday, the ladies take center stage.  The Ladies of SKYY perform from their classic chart topping arsenal which includes ‘Call Me’, ‘Real Love’ and many more.  They will be joined by DJ Felix Hernandez from the Rhythm Revue.  Plan for lots of folks and plenty of dancing and singing along.

Saturday its Dancehall featuring Kranium, DJ Polish and Federation Sound.  Think the club sounds of a J’ouvert festival brought to life by some of dancehalls most popular artist including Kranium the artist behind ‘Nobody Has to Know’.

The golden age of hip-hop rounds out the weekend long festival with EPMD, “Erick and Parrish Making Dollars”.  They will be joined by DJ Sylk.  Expect young and old in attendance as young boomers will look to the classics like ‘You Gots to Chill’ while the next generation will want to witness for themselves these key influencers of rap. 

Bring your own chair and plan to party for a string of concert bound to make old souls remember their back-in-the-day glory days.  The upgrade of Springfield Park should make enjoying these concerts a more pleasurable experience with increased area parking, clearly delineated streets and a stronger park infrastructure.  Both Friday and Saturday performances begin with workshops.  See the complete schedule below. 

Springfield Park is located at 147th Avenue and Springfield Blvd.

Thursday 7/5/18

7:00 PM  RAM, Paul Beaubrun, DJ Hard Hittin Harry

Friday 7/6/18

6:00 – 7:00 PM Freestyle Dance Workshop with Theresa Lavington

7:00 – 9:00 PM The Legendary Ladies of SKYY, Rhythm Revue with Felix Hernandez

Saturday 7/7/18

4:00 PM The Big Good Wolf, CityParks Puppet Mobile

4:00 – 7:00 PM Kranium, Federation Sound, DJ Polish

Sunday 7/8/18

5:00 – 7:00 PM EPMD, DJ Sylk

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Police Commissioner Attends Local Council Meeting

Police Commissioner James O’Neill

It’s all about neighborhood policing.

On Monday, April 16, Police Commissioner James O’Neill was the special guest for the 113th Precinct community council board meeting. 

To a packed house of residents, civic leaders and NYPD personnel, the Commissioner shared his thoughts on neighborhood policing, responded to resident concerns, enjoyed the festivities, and stayed after the meeting for a photo opportunities. 

Aside from having the Commissioner as its special guest, the Executive Board of the Council billed the meeting as a Neighborhood Coordination Program refresher.  It had been two years since the precinct adopted the Neighborhood Policing Strategy and since then, there have been some changes and updates the Executive Board wanted to share those with residents.  Chief among those changes was a number of new officers who have entered into the program and an online way for resident to know their sector. 

The NYPDs neighborhood policing strategy is a collaboration between local police officers and community residents.  Precincts are divided into Sectors which are patrolled by the same officers daily. These NCO officers attend community meetings, functions and events and host their own build a block meetings as a means of developing relationships with residents while fighting crime.  Commissioner O’Neill is credited as the policy creator and initiator. 

NCO officers were center stage during the meeting seated by their sector alongside their partner on a stage for all to see.  Officers introduced themselves and shared a fun or interesting fact about themselves. 

Commissioner O’Neill commented that it was the first time he saw officers presented in such a way. 

It was a laid back, comfortable Commissioner that talked community policing and the goals of the neighborhood policing “to serve communities”.  He infused humor into his remarks likening his real life Commissioner role to the one Tom Selleck plays on television.  He shared that the thing he disliked most about his post was not being able to wear the uniform. 

The meeting included a resident Q&A, infotainment games in which NCO officers went head to head with residents in trivia challenges.  The meeting also included awards for Cop of the Month, who turned out to be the precinct’s officers of the year. 

Sergeant Edward Scali Jr and Officer Daniel C. Connors were awarded Cop of the Month by the Council Board and Cop of the Year from the Precinct for their numerous gun arrests and the closings of several cases in the precinct.  The precinct also honored board members with certificates of appreciation.

Community Member of the Month

Mrs. Johnessa Harper became the first ever community member of the month.  The award acknowledges the efforts of a community member as chosen by precinct personnel.

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Women Impart Leadership Lessons to Middle Schoolers

“Leadership is in all of us,” said panelist Nikki Pryce who is an author and speaker to a group of rambunctious school children.
It was an ambitious endeavor to bring a panel discussion of Women in Leadership to middle schoolers on a Friday morning. But the message imparted was that important.

On Friday, March 23, 2018, Council Member Adrienne Adams hosted a Women in Leadership Panel at Catherine & Count Basie Middle School 72. Panel members included the first and only African American NYPD Assistant Chief of a Borough command, Juanita Holmes. Shante Chamblee a representative from SSEU Local 371. Cheree Buggs, a sitting justice on the Queens Supreme Court and Cineus Omotayo, Principal of I.S. 72.

Ms. Pryce had three action items for the youth to assist them in developing their leadership qualities. First to accept the call, second to stand in your truth and know who you are and finally to never tell yourself no. “Affirm. I can. I will. I am,” she said.

All of the panelist had words of wisdom to share about the obstacles they faced and the value of women in leadership.

“The biggest obstacle was myself,” said Ms. Pryce she said of her self-sabotage. “We have to get out of our own way”.

“Stay focused on what you want to achieve,” said Justice Buggs. “Don’t concern yourself with competition and those pushing back”.

Principal Cineus’ revelations about a career filled with obstacles must have been deeply impactful to the students, as she was one of their own. The students gave her a rousing round of applause as she was called to the stage as a panel member. It was that which did the seemingly impossible task of quieting down and focusing middle-schoolers to give proper respect and allow panelist to offer their message. She shared her academic struggles “I was suspended from high school five times. I was kicked out of college…I worked for a principal that tried to fire me,” she said. “I had a college professor that said I was never going to teach. I had a guidance counselor who said I was never going to graduate from a four year college. Yet here I sit.”

“I had to learn to speak up for myself,” said Shante Chamblee that comes from a family of five brothers in which she is the youngest sibling.

“I had to prove that I could do a job most felt was for a man,” said Assistant Chief Holmes. “Hopefully you don’t have to face the same obstacles.”

Principal Cineaus spoke to the importance of education in future goals. “You need as much ammunition as possible to live this life. [With education] you will have your conversations that improve your life. You will have access to more places and spaces,” she said. She also spoke about other types of education which she felt is equally important including “experience, environment, knowing your community…and travel”. She encouraged students to travel outside of Queens and experience other foods, festivals and cultures. “It is important in the development of who you are,” she said. §

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Residents Unite for Stake in JFK Redevelopment

by Karen Clements-Roach

Queens Connection Team

Participants were asked to come to the Friday Night March 17 Town Hall meeting with pen, paper and positive attitude.  The goal was to find a means to approach the upcoming $10 billion dollar re-development of JFK International Airport and to ensure that Southeast Queens, its neighboring community, benefits positively as a result. 

The group at the center of this effort is the Queens Connection Team (QCT).  A self-described first of its kind community based coalition committed to capacity building and goal setting that will empower local leaders, business professionals and the community to overcome obstacles by joining resources through a unified approach.  QCT was first assembled in the summer of 2017.    At the center of organizing this group is Clergy connect, a movement designed to build community through unifying resources, gifts and talents.

While Southeast Queens is home to the country’s largest Black middle class, large scale government economic development within its borders have a history of continually bypassing it in terms of inclusion.  “[We want to] make sure we have a seat at the table,” said Public Advocate Letitia ‘Tish’ James in her introductory remarks.  “One voice, one agenda…not excluded from development in our backyard.” 

One of the goals of the group noted by the Public Advocates is to create a Community Benefits Agreement.  “One that is legally enforceable,” said PA James.

The Town Hall was an opportunity for the Queens Connection Team (QCT) to hear comments and issues from attendees.  It was also a place to share information.  A listing of available jobs was disseminated and information about a website the group created which features resources was given. 

Representatives from civic groups and the three Community Boards of Southeast Queens: 12, 13 and 14, were also in attendance as a show of support and participation. 

“What we need is to complement their leadership,” said Leroy Gadsen, President of the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP.  He spoke to his groups’ concerns regarding the JFK re-development calling for a “vetting process” that includes accountability for contractors.  The group was also concerned about the definition of minority.  “Too often the breakdown is less than double digits,” he said referring to the double digit percentage allocation reported by the city for minority contribution.   “There are contractors that violate the M/WBE (Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises) and are rewarded with another contract,” he said.  He also felt it important that churches, fraternal organizations and civic groups have this item on their agenda and share it with their groups. 

“We should have one goal…We need to be unified for the [empowerment] of the community,” said Rev. Dr. Phil Craig. 

“We have a great opportunity to take advantage of a great economic development coming to our community,” said Phillipa Karteron Queens Connection Member focusing on Economic Development.

NYS Senator Leroy Comrie was the designated representative from the elected officials on the project.  “The airport is here.  We do not derive enough directly benefit.  We want to do this as a group,” he said.  “We should coalesce as never before,” he said and spoke to the community’s coming together in the past on major issues and important projects.  “We have to focus on making sure there is opportunity for all and not some,” he said.  “We are in this for the long haul.”

While most supported the unity and positivity, there was an acknowledgement of the past concerns that inhibited growth.

“We have too much dysfunction and corruption,” said Craig.  “We want to have patience…A rollout plan, not just a Town Hall and talking”.  Craig reminded participants of a time when, during Martin Luther King Jr.’s time, the Black church was the cornerstone in a community which had no representation in government. 

“This is not about me, me, me…this is a new strategic plan…We don’t get to this place because we are too busy, fighting each other,” said Rev. Craig to applause. 

There was a heated example of how anger and fighting can curtail progress with an acrid exchange between Bishop Charles Norris and Rev. Craig which paused the forum’s momentum. 

Norris come to the meeting seemingly prepared for a challenge.  Before the forum was fully off the ground, he stood at his seat questioning the level of participation by clergy. “[I have] a question about this community unity,” said Norris who stated he did not want to wait until to the end of the program to ask questions.  “But there is no clergy in community unity…How can you have community unity in this community without clergy participation.”  When he was told by forum moderator Fred Simmons that unifying was a purpose of the event, his response was “we’ll see”.

While clergy members were not a part of the panel group, Rev. Craig and Rev. Dr. Calvin Rice, Rev. Henry Simmons and Rev. Robert Lowe were noted as being part of a small group of community clergy partnering in the effort.  “Sometimes you have to start on a smaller scale in order to bring additional clergy into the fold,” said Craig who encouraged individuals to visit the QCT website and register to ensure they were part of the effort.

During the Q & A, the forum came to halt a second time as Bishop Norris continued to press for the “who” and the “where” of the clergy on the effort.  This was after the events’ two hour time frame had long passed and several attendees had already exited due to the late hour.  Although there continued to be push back about the uniting efforts of the forum, Norris would not budge from his right to speak or having his question answered.   

Craig responded by noting that the effort was a result of a few churches taking initiative and stating that he was not going to “list all the churches that have not taken initiative [on this effort]”.

“With all due respect, we have too much work to do to be sitting here listening to this,” said Craig to applause.  At which time he explained that, unless he had directed questions, he was going to pass the mike.

There was also an intense exchange after the first question, posed by Anthony Rivers, which addressed the issue of permanency.

“These things that are going to affect us permanently, but when we talk about jobs…60% of the expansion jobs are temporary. Once expansion is complete, there will be no more need for construction. What are we getting back that is going to be permanent and is going to aid us and uplift our community for the future,” he asked to applause. 

That started an exchange with panelist Yvette Dennis about employment and hiring in which Senator Comrie interceded and quickly turned heated.   “We are not here to defend what happened or did not happen…Brother Rivers laid out a list of good ideas, let’s just make that happen,” he said.

“If we do not talk about the needs of the people, it will not work,” added Herlema Owens, Association of Women Construct Workers of America, Inc.

“I don’t want us to be fighting at the first meeting,” said Comrie as he tried to navigate multiple exchanges.

NYS Senator Leroy Comrie

But it was Ruth Hassell-Thompson that became the voice of reason and reassurance.  The former NYS Senator and Gov. Cuomo advisor is viewed as an anchor of the QCT.  She acknowledged the frustrations of participants and saw that as a point to grow and learn how to move forward in the process.  “We are here to hear you,” she said.  “[If not] we won’t accomplish what we want to accomplish.”

The group has plans to meet with the community quarterly.  The next meeting is scheduled for June 22 at Mt. Moriah A.ME.at 7PM.  The group can be found online at www.queensconnectionteam.com.

Members of the QCT are listed below.  Each bring formidable experience or expertise to the group.  What follows is their summary points, background or role on the team.

Ruth Hassell-Thompson saw ground breaking equity partnership “for the first time at LGA”.  “It is what we have the potential for on the JFK redevelopment” she said. 

Queens Regional Representative from Gov. Cuomo’s office, Hersh Parekh reiterated the Governors commitment to 30% M/WBE participation.  “This is just the minimum, we want to surpass that goal,” he said.  “Consider me a resource,” he told participants.

Jim Stevens is the Program Director for JFK Redevelopment, Port Authority of NY and NJ.  Stevens has been with JFK for approximately thirty years and this is not the first time he has been involved with airport expansion.  “The infrastructure is no longer capable of handling it,” he said of its 60 million passenger population which is growing.  “We have good intentions,” he said, but noted that individuals at the Port Authority are “stretched thin doing thousands of different things”. 

Ida Perich is the General Manager of the Office of Business Diversity and Civil Rights, Port Authority of NY and NJ.  The unit ensures there is a diverse pool in terms of workforce and contractors.  “We raised [M/WBE] goals from 17% to 30%,” she said of minority participation.  The unit wants to help local businesses get certified and once they are certified ensure they navigate and have access to opportunities.

Carl Peters, Office of Business Diversity and Civil Rights, considers himself a “foot solider for the office”.  He helps ensure businesses are ready to do business and ensures compliance on the contracts that it receives. 

Danielle Douglas is the M/WBE point person on the team.  “M/WBE is critical”, she said.  “We want to think about programs that address issues of entrepreneurs.  Ensure programs that get you the contracts you need,” she said.  “Ensure successful implementation of 30% M/WBE goals and access to opportunity, access to capacity building,” she said.

Donald Vernon is a lawyer.  His focus in the negative consequences that can happen as a result of the re-development that includes noise mitigation and health.  He is looking to ensure the community benefits agreement contains a portion to address noise and air quality.  He also wants redevelopment to examine a decrease in carbon emission focusing on electrifying passenger gates, cargo areas, hangers and the like.  He is demanding compensation for the damage to property and health.

Stacey Gilbert is the Senior External Relations Representative, Port Authority of NY and NJ. 

Phillipa Karteron will focus on Economic Development.  Yvette Dennis will be focusing on Workforce Development.  Tony Andrews will be focusing on health.  LaToya Benjamin will be focusing on Education.  She gave a brief summary of the statistic of the area in terms of race, income and home ownership. 

 

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Black Panther Shatters Hollywood Myths While Validating Blackness

by Karen Clements
editor@communitiesofcolornyc.com

On what would normally be a quiet morning, people were making their way to area movie theaters. By bus, car and foot, they assembled in the early morning hours to see the movie everyone was talking about, Black Panther.

The Black Panther hype went beyond a blockbuster Hollywood movie, beyond a Superhero adventure. The hype touched nearly every Black Household with murmurs about a movie with a predominately Black cast and a Black director. But it might have been its red carpet premiere that was the call-heard-round-the-world that this movie was the thing to see. Its Black cast arrived at the premiere royally attired. Traditional African prints, slick suits accessorized with tribal print scarfs, royal colors: golds, purples, greens, shimmering orange suits, dashikis and madiba shirts filled the red carpet. For a society which praises Givenchy, Chrisitian Dior and Chanel during Oscar season this ‘Black’ carpet was a sight to behold.
Opening weekend shattered box office records. Black Panther amassed $387 million in global ticket sales becoming the top-grossing film in history by a black director, Ryan Coogler. The previous record holder was “Straight Outta Compton” which collected $214 million worldwide over its entire run (adjusting for inflation). Domestically the movie grossed approximately $218 million its opening weekend. The previous domestic record holder for a February release was “Deadpool” which collected $159 million President’s Weekend 2016.

More than money, it was a movement with theaters scrambling to provide extra showings to accommodate large crowds. Church groups, civic groups, fraternities and sororities attending in groups and provided free tickets to youths. Individuals showed up and out in superhero costumes and African attire for the premiere.
But was all this hubbub worth it? In the end, did the movie deliver? Overwhelming the answer was yes. Black Panther was one of the most positively reviewed films of late. “It isn’t just great for what it is. It’s great for what it says,” wrote Jamelle Bouie in her review on Slate. Jamil Smith writing for Time in a must read article titled ‘The Revolutionary Power of Black Panther’ speaks to the importance of such a film.

Advisor Terese Nemley and NYPD Explorers Post 2241 School Safety Queens South L3

“Those of us who are not white have considerably more trouble not only finding representation of ourselves in mass media and other arenas of public life, but also finding representation that indicates that our humanity is multifaceted,” he writes. “Rather than dodge complicated themes about race and identity, the film grapples head-on with the issues affecting modern-day black life”.

What was refreshing was that the movie was not a collection of scenes with the goal of tackling stereotypes or changing minds. It was a presentation of a people who were smart, sensitive, funny, dynamic, thoughtful, provocative, caring, and, in short, human. The Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, was a King grappling with leadership issues. His relationships with the women: his mother, sister, his presiding general and future Queen, were powerful and revealed authentic partnerships and mutual respect.

There were many Hollywood spoofs handled superbly in the film with the best being the ‘wig’ scene. The beautifully bald general had to wear a wig for an undercover mission. It was the most ill-fitting and unattractive item on her body. It was reminiscent of every bad wig worn by every black actor so they might assume the role of the character they had to portray in a film. Think Samuel L. Jackson’s Jehri Curl wig in Pulp Fiction. Can we talk hair? It was deftly crafted: braided, locked, twisted, natural, wavy, shaved, in its various artistic and creative forms and second in beauty only to the extravagant costuming. Props to the man in the green suit with the matching lip plate.

Not everyone is happy about Black Panther. While Twitter continues to blow up with hashtags of Wakanda trending, trolls have been banned from the popular site for creating fake news of white cinema-goers being attacked and shunned from theaters. There are some that believe the tribal references are demeaning and that there need not be such a pop culture moment surrounding a movie when there are larger more important issues at stake during the year of Trump.

Despite the haters, it is clear that Black Panthers is a win. It shows Black power at the box office, positive representation and increased global awareness of the history and culture of Black folks. These things are sure to lead to black power on voting day, black mobilization for justice and global acceptance of diverse cultures.§

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Lena Horne Receives Black Heritage Stamp

Unveiling of Lena Horne Black Heritage Stamp

The Jamaica Customer Advisory Council hosted an unveiling of the 2018 Black Heritage Series Stamp which honors Lena Horne. Horne is the 41st stamp in the Black Heritage series.
The event was a perfect complement to a beautiful, warm day in a community the legendary actress once called home. Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman was the event’s keynote speaker. She shared the struggles and triumphs of the woman who called herself an accidental actress. Her early history as a Black performer that was unable to use the front door of the establishments she headlined. A history making woman who, after signing a contract with MGM, added the stipulation to never be asked to take stereotypical roles. A woman who “broke down doors…an opened up opportunities,” said Hyndman speaking on how Horne paved the way for women like Beyonce who are household names. It was a journey that many of the attendees, who were primarily African American seniors, were able to attest to with head nods.
The unveiling event included music from Claudette Morgan accompanied by Charles Barlett and Sharp Radway. The trio included Ms. Horne’s most iconic song “Stormy Weather”.
Attendees were treated to a lunch and had the opportunity to pose with the portrait of the heritage stamp. The portrait will be donated to the St. Albans Congregational Church where it will be on display.
The stamp was officially unveiled on January 30, 2018 by Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman. Horne’s daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, was on hand for that unveiling.§

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Black Love All the Rage with Black Comix Expo and Black Panther Premiere

Valentines 2018 has people of color focusing not on eros love, but Super love, namely Black Superheroes.  With the premiere of the movie Marvel Studio’s Black Panther movie days away, Black Comix Expo made its debut in Brooklyn. 

The Expo took place at BAM on a warm and rainy pre Valentine’s Day Saturday. It was first come, first served basis to a capacity of 200 and a long line of visitors hoping to attend.  .

Black Panther anticipation was apparent with action figurines for sale and vendors and attendees alike wearing Panther paraphilia.  While comic book artisans unanimously hoped that the Black Panther movie excels at the box office and with audiences, it will only be affirming what those in the industry have known all along, Superheroes of Color and Comics of Color Rock! 

“I’m excited about it.  I hope it’s good.  It’s a really good step in the right direction,” said Mark Morales a.k.a. Lovelace who produces the series City of Walls.  “I give marvel a lot of credit for having the courage to make a movie in which the main character is black…but almost the entire cast is black.  That is impressive”.

“It is certainly a time when we see a lot more awareness.  The importance and significance of African American characters represented in a positive light that is not so much stereotypical like in the [inner] city and other stereotypes that are not necessarily positive,” said Jerome Walford who produces the comix book series Nowhere Man.

“The awareness is there but we still have to work as independent artist to carve out a niche to success,” said Jerome.  He believes what happens after the movie will be significant. 

“The impact afterwards will be the most telling.  Because we know that Marvel is going to do well.  We hope they do well, if it does well it bears promise for all of us.  What we see afterwards is the reality of that and the future of comic books,” said Jerome. 

The Expo showed the diversity that is Comics of Color.  There were wide array of comic offerings including superhereos, anthology stories, fantasy/magical and historically based.  There were stories of girls with the power to change everyday events and superheroes with prehistoric powers that fight for justice. 

Artisans, who are also entrepreneurs use these Expos as venues to promote their comics and showcase their wares.  Dynamic artwork defined posters, cards, tee shirts and more.  The day long Expo included a panel discussion, a superhero cosplay and children’s art workshops at which they were encouraged to draw their own heroes.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a Comix Expo without attendees getting in on all the fun: dressing in costume, posing for photos, donning masks and holding up action words for selfies. 

 

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Watch Alert! The State of Queens Speech

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz gave the State of the Borough Address on Friday, January 26. Katz spoke out for immigrants and reviewed advances made in the borough during her last term.  It was a bright future the Borough President imagined upon during the latter half of her speech.  First, the Borough President gave a long and impressive list of accomplishments focused on schools, parks, recovery and economic development. Highlights included the restoration of the public confidence in the Queens Library and the completion of several of their capital projects. Read our coverage of the speech here.  
 
If you missed the speech, QPTV will be airing it in its entirely based on the schedule below. 
 

Day                           Date                            Time               Spectrum              RCN           Fios

Thursday         February 15, 2018             6:00 pm              34/1995                  82               34 

Thursday         February 22, 2018             6:00 pm              34/1995                  82               34

Thursday         March 1, 2018                   6:00 pm              34/1995                  82               34

Thursday         March 8, 2018                   6:00 pm              34/1995                  82               34

Thursday         March 15, 2018                 6:00 pm              34/1995                  82               34

Thursday         March 22, 2018                 6:00 pm              34/1995                  82               34

Thursday         March 29, 2018                 6:00 pm              34/1995                  82               34

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Queens…in Great Shape

by Karen Clements
editor@communitiesofcolornyc.com
Queens is in great shape!
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz gave the State of the Borough Address on Friday, January 26 at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria. A spectacular school in close proximity to the famed Kaufman Studios which gives its students a glimpse at a future of possibilities.
It was a bright future the Borough President imagined upon during the latter half of her speech. Katz first spoke out for immigrants then reviewed all the advances made in the borough during her last term.
Queens’ immigrant community was a focal point of the speech. In a borough of 2.3 million people “nearly half of whom were born abroad,” she said. “We still have that much more in common than we do different.”
Her remarks supported Queens’ diversity against the infiltration of federal agents in schools, courthouses and hospitals, defending DREAMers from unjust deportations and denouncing hate in all its forms. The Borough President was dressed in all black in support of the women’s #METOO movement.
The long and impressive list of accomplishments focused on schools, parks, recovery and economic development. Highlights included the restoration of the public confidence in the Queens Library and the completion of several of their capital projects. Revitalization of Downtown Jamaica which is “well underway,” she said. Sandy recovery which is “finally within reach. By this June all 3,600 Queens’s residents affected by the October 2012 storm will return home”.
Seventy-Seven classroom trailers were removed from Queens’ schools and Universal Pre-K grew from 3,600 to 20,000. She allocated funds to upgrade technology in every Queens elementary and junior high school. By 2020, the goal is to create 18,632 additional school seats as its schools are the most overcrowded of all the boroughs.
Parks have been upgraded to the tune of nearly $100 million allocated to 57 parks. Hospitals and healthcare centers also have seen benefits with $22 million in capital upgrades “to increase access to culturally-competent primary care services in medically under served areas”.
She touted an 8.8% increase in jobs since 2013. “We hosted 50 job fairs at Borough Hall…connecting over 1,100 job seekers to real jobs.” There is now a NYC Veterans Affairs satellite office at Borough Hall which prevents the need for a trip into Manhattan. She reported a surge in Queens tourism with $8.5 billion spent by tourist in Queens, second only to Manhattan. The NYC Ferry service has been launched and Queens has four ferry stops.
The Borough President thanked her partners in government, at city agencies, and on community boards for their assistance in those gains.
The future of Queens includes an eye toward tech jobs. This is an industry with better salaries with the goal to have those jobs located in the Borough. Western Queens is targeted for that growth. “By leveraging Western Queens’ ample space for growth and its projected development…we are steering our borough into the competitive lane of the digital age”.
The future also means being counted. Katz will be convening a committee to ensure Queens is counted in the upcoming Census. The Queens Complete Count Committee “will be charged with strategizing and maximizing participating in the Census count in 2020,” she said.
Projecting further out into the future, 2030 was her imagined year, she envisioned two completed and updated airports: JFK and LGA, a revitalized Rockaway and the Mets winning (for levity). She also envisioned a better Queens for veterans with the end of homelessness and heath care at no charge. There will be free Three-K for every toddler, affordable housing for seniors, the new 116th Precinct up and fully operational, a protected bike lane and new housing units in Willets Points that are 100% affordable.
However, attendees weren’t buying into all the dreams. They responded with silence into the dream of a reliable MTA. “By 2030, the LIRR stations of Elmhurst, Long Island City and Willets Point [will be] fully operational and reliable for daily commuters. A reliable MTA,” said Katz to silence followed by soft laughter.
The speech was followed by a reception in the lobby of the plush and modern school with photo opportunities with the Borough President, light refreshments and giveaways. This was a fitting complement of levity and fun to all the great accomplishments in this fine borough. However, it was a stark juxtaposition to the world awaiting those who braved the cold temperatures to travel from Southeast Queens and the Rockaways from their economically abandoned neighborhoods for the speech.
First grader Faatiha Aayat was the show stealer as she led the audience in the pledge of allegiance. Her petite frame graced the stage in a gorgeously attired brightly colored hajib, sweet smile and confidence. Faatiha’s pledge was crisp, clear and resounded brightly throughout the auditorium.§

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Mayor Announces NYCHA Updates to Battle Cold Weather Extremes

Mayor Bill de Blasio

During the New Year’s Cold Snap, a reported 6,000 ‘no heat’ calls were made to the 311.  Many of those callers were residents of NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) complexes that suffered boiler breakdowns and long periods of heating lost.  Including residents of Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway who had been battling heating issues during the Christmas holiday season and into the week that followed due to frozen pipes.

In response to the heating issues, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $13 million investment to help NYCHA respond to heating emergencies and replace failing equipment.  This funding will serve to replace several boiler systems that experience chronic outages, secure mobile boilers for emergencies, seal windows to reduce heat loss and hire temporary staff to assist with these repairs.

“While NYCH has been working around the clock to keep our boilers working, these record cold temperatures are hard on our aging heating systems.  This new investment will help us continue to respond to outages immediately, replace boilers in hardest hit building and keep tenants warm,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The following is the schedule of items be addressed this winter.

-Rent three mobile boilers to have on-hand have them available for heating emergencies.  This will reduce response time to outages from weeks to 24-48 hours.

-Seal and repair 9,600 windows at senior apartments.  (The Mayor’s office has not yet confirmed how this process will be rolled out to residents.)

-Hire repair staff to respond to boiler outages.  This will make a total of 446 staff workers responding to outages.

The following will be performed in preparation for next winter.

-Replace eight boiler plants at Union Avenue and Claremont houses.  These two developments have reported chronic outages.

-Install seven gas-fired, winterized boilers at Patterson, Independence and Pelham Parkway Houses.  These developments have reported recent heating problems.

-Purchase five new mobile boilers to have on-hand to provide emergency heat for major outages. 

Redfern Houses, which houses approximately 1,485 residents, was not on the listing to receive direct relief from this expenditure.  However, it did have use of a mobile boiler after the heating system failed due to frozen pipes. 

The Department of Investigation has launched a probe into how NYCHA responded to massive heat system failures at Redfern Houses during the recent big freeze. 

There have been allegations that NYCHA closes ‘no-heat’ tickets without fixing the problem.  NYCHA officials reportedly responded to the allegation that it does not check every apartment after resetting a boiler.  It reminds residents that it is critical to submit a new ticket if they continue to be without heat.  A recent audit by the City Comptroller’s officer highlighted 39.5% of NYCHA boilers are defective.  This is five times the citywide percentage of defective boilers of 7.9%.