Queens Together distributes turkeys to families in need

From Astoria to Far Rockaway, 1,000 turkeys were distributed to families across the borough by Queens Together.
Jonathan Forgash, co-founder and executive director of Queens Together, said that matching grants from ten Queens-based groups made it possible to distribute the turkeys just in time for Thanksgiving.
“Since the start of COVID, we’ve been working with community groups from around the borough giving meals out to neighbors,” said Forgash. “The silver lining of COVID has been working with thousands of donors, volunteers, restaurants, community groups, churches, elected officials and business leaders to raise the money and do the work. It’s really kind of inspiring.”
Between restaurant meals, food pantries and grocery giveaways, Forgash estimates that Queens Together has fed 200,000 people since the beginning of the pandemic.
A chef of 25 years, Forgash said he was astonished at how food insecurity impacted his own stomping grounds of Astoria.
“I thought the food pantry here wouldn’t be as hard hit as Flushing, Corona and East Elmhurst,” he said in the parking lot of the Variety Boys and Girls Club (VBGC) in Astoria. “I was just wrong. We were handing out produce every Thursday to 500 families in Astoria. People were standing here for hours waiting for food.”
The 1,000 turkeys went to Astoria Houses, Sunnyside Community Services, VBGC, Louis Masonic Lodge in Marine Park, and the office of Assemblywoman Jessica Gonzales-Rojas.
“Queens Together has been a great partner,” said VBGC CEO Costa Constantinides. “They were feeding people here in our parking lot during the pandemic. So many families are still struggling from COVID. Being able to give at this time of year is special.”

Contract reneg

Dear Editor,
It is unfathomable what the city is attempting to do to over 250,000 retired city employees, as well as every person who is currently working for New York City by forcing us off of original Medicare and replacing it with a private Advantage program.
No job is perfect. When someone decides to take a city job, they realize they are making a trade-off. Working in the private sector rewards you with a higher salary, but working for the city offers better benefits, especially once you retire and are able to take advantage of the superior health insurance package and pension.
This is the sacrifice we all made when we accepted our jobs. It is unconscionable to remove this important benefit now that it is too late for us to rethink our profession.
If this new “special” Medicare Advantage program is as good as the city claims, then why don’t they allow us the option of opting into it, instead of automatically switching everyone onto it and requiring us to pay almost $200 per month in order to maintain the plan which was in our contract when we took our jobs?
Now we have two options: accept the new health insurance, which limits our choice of doctors, requires pre-authorizations, and costs us additional money for co-payments, or keep the Medicare we already have but spend about $2,300 per person annually.
This would be effectively reduce our pensions. In essence, the city is giving us a choice of which benefit we want reduced.
Needless to say, the secrecy the city utilized is a great cause for concern. This plan has actually been in the works since 2014. That was when the UFT negotiated with the city to get well-deserved raises for teachers.
The problem was the way they did it. First they took over $1 billion out of our health account fund. Next, they made a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Office of Labor Relations to cut the amount of money the city spends on our health care by $600 million per year.
Over the past seven years they secretly discussed ways to do this. Then, in spring 2021 they decided to switch our health coverage from federal Medicare to a privately owned Medicare Advantage Program. There was no discussion or opportunity for us to vote on it.
Now the city is trying to rush everything along. Originally they set a deadline of October 31st to opt out. An amazing group of concerned retirees formed The NYC Organization of Public Service Retirees for Benefit Preservation.
We have over 10,000 members and were able to hire a lawyer to fight this. Our goal is simple: do not change what is in our contract.
The city has been using the tier system for the last 48 years. Periodically, they create a new tier, but current and retired employees are grandfathered into the tier that was in effect when they were hired. This would be the obvious and fair thing to do.
Then, new employees would be able to decide for themselves if they are willing to take a job with these different retirement benefits.
Lee Rottenberg
Middle Village


Dear Editor,
Regarding Evan Triantafilidis’ article about restoring the state and local tax deduction, I disagree with efforts by congressmen Tom Suozzi and Gregory Meeks to
end the $10,000 cap the deductions on federal income tax returns that was set in 2017 as part of the tax code overhaul.
Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says ending the cap is a “gift to billionaires” that will increase income inequality.
Many of those billionaires live in Silicon Valley and are represented in Congress by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wants to raise the cap because it will benefit them and her.
She has a personal net worth of $120 million. Don’t reward one-percenters while screwing average taxpayers.
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

Shoe leather beats money

Dear Editor,
The victory of longtime Republican Party member Joseph Kasper over Democrat Paul Vallone for a judge post in the 3rd Municipal District Court was in many ways, similar to Republican truck driver Edward Durr defeating longtime Democrat New Jersey State Senate president Stephen Sweeney.
Four years earlier, Sweeney was easily reelected by an 18-point margin despite the teachers union spending over $4 million to defeat him. Durr spent less than $10,000 versus Sweeney’s $1,061,957.
Sweeney has served since 2002 and as president of the State Senate since January 2010. This provided him with 19 years of name recognition, all the perks of holding public office and all the pay-to-play special interest groups doing business in Trenton.
It was old-fashioned shoe leather going door to door evenings and weekends by Durr, who knocked on over 20,000 doors, that overcame the tremendous odds against him. Investing in some good walking shoes carried the day for Kasper, too.
Kasper beat a member of the Vallone family dynasty. Inheritance of a famous family name doesn’t always translate to entitlement for promotion to higher public office or a judgeship.
The lesson of Durr and Kasper is one all first-time underdog candidates could learn from.
Larry Penner
Great Neck

Safe holidays

Dear Editor,
This holiday season many more people will gather to celebrate with family and friends. But they have to be sure they are vaccinated and not gather in large groups without masks.
The holidays can be celebrated safely, and we cannot allow COVID to indefinitely stop us from living our lives.
John Amato
Fresh Meadows

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