Meet Flushing’s Adult Day Care Owner

By Matthew Fischetti |

New Yorkers are getting older. But that’s exactly where Adult Day Care Centers, like Big Apple Adult Day Care Center, can come into play.

Adult Day Care Centers like the one Anna Lo operate in Flushing, helping provide seniors with access to socialization through programming like dancing or helping them get medication or groceries.

“When you’re taking care of patients, It’s also like taking care of seniors, because they have a lot of illnesses, a lot of paperwork, documentation,” said Lo, who used to manage medical offices prior to entering the adult day care industry.

In essence, Adult Day Care centers can serve as a supplement to long-term care placement, which has been projected to be short 1.5 million workers needed to attend to the aging population, according to a report published in Crains New York. Lo said in her interview that social day care works as a package in the state – on days seniors don’t have home health aides they have social day care and vice versa.

“This adult day care program is actually to help the government take care of the seniors that are coming on. There’s, a lot of baby boomers who are going into retirement age. And so, you know, as they get older, they’re going to need more and more assistance with daily living activities, such as bathing, going to see the doctor, cooking and housekeeping,” said Lo.

At Lo’s locations, the adult day care centers offer a variety of services: including computer lessons, mahjong, dance lessons, chinese calligraphy, beadwork, tai chi and much more. Once a month members of the center get together and put on a show.

“They take a lot of pride in that,” Lo said. “They really put on a professional show. And I take pride in that in my center because we just, we actually give them in their golden years. A beautiful place for them to come and to live their best life.”

One thing Lo said she hopes to see in the industry’s future is tighter vetting of adult day care centers, as some are only a fraction of the space and don’t provide the same standard of care that her center does.

Lo said that the Queens Chamber of Commerce was incredibly helpful getting the day care to operate during Covid, when Suzan King from the Chamber helped connect her with different grants and low interest loans to secure her nearly 10,000 square foot space.

Lo also expressed the sheer confusion industries like hers faced during the pandemic, with seniors worried about contracting covid from home health aides.

“So it was a really dangerous time that we’re living in. And a lot of people didn’t know what to do. But social adult daycare has really helped the seniors stay alive and also get groceries,” she said.  “We help seniors, we got groceries for seniors. And we delivered it to seniors’ homes along with their meals.”

More Protesters Than Kids Show Up to Drag Story Hour

Parents leaving the library were faced with protesters from both sides. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan |

Outside of the Long Island City branch of the Queens Public Library, two antagonistic groups gathered during a drag story hour event on June 26 – one opposing the reading and the other standing in solidarity. 

Right-wing groups have taken issue with Drag Story Hours across the country in what has become a battle over gender and sex education in the name of safeguarding kids. In late February, a drag story hour at the Jackson Heights library drew a large turnout – with supporters greatly outnumbering protestors. 

The organizers of the “Defend Drag Story Hour” event called on supporters of the LGBTQIA+ community to bring signs, rainbow swag and noisemakers to the library on 21st street, an hour ahead of the reading scheduled for noon. The day before, organizers spread word of the defense and handed out fliers during the city’s annual Pride parade which drew over two million attendees despite rainy weather. 

“I feel like when there’s an opportunity to protect our civil rights, queer rights, or human rights it’s critical to show up, regardless of our affiliation,” said Lasara, who wanted to withhold her last name. 

Supporters brought noisemakers to drown out chants from the other side. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

She visited from California with her daughter for Pride festivities and heard about the defense at the parade. “I do identify as a queer person. So that’s part of my motivation,” she said. “But also, even if it weren’t my issue, I would still be out here because our basic rights are at risk.”

One retired couple, Mary and Dan Holzman-Tweed have lived in the LIC area for over two decades and arrived at the library clad in shirts expressing support for the scheduled Drag Story Reading organized for Pride Month. 

Holding a rainbow umbrella, with a shirt that read “Protect Trans Lives,” Dan said that reading held for children too young to attend school is “is a silly thing to have to defend.” Mary’s shirt read “Defend Your Local Library” with a black cat guarding an open book. 

“It’s been happening all over the country, it was only a matter of time before it happened here,” said Dan. “I don’t think the culture has been moving backwards in terms of LGBT rights, I think we’ve been moving steadily forward. We’re just resisting right now.”

Dan Holzman-Tweed has lived in LIC for over two decades and wanted to show solidarity with his local library. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

The 45 minute reading was scheduled to take place at noon, but just before 11 a.m. advocates for the event were waiting outside for the opposition group to arrive. The group, bearing signs claiming that the reading is inappropriate for children, arrived shortly after. 

Protestors stayed for more than two hours, and during that time only a few parents arrived with children in tow – in strollers or in their arms. It was not clear if they came for the scheduled event, or just to visit the library. No other events were scheduled for that day, according to their website. 

“There’s a group of us who try to show up whenever we can to support the storytellers and to support the families and to sort of shield them from the bigots,” said Jamie Bauer, 64, who traveled from the West Village. “There’s nothing sexual about it. And they’ve turned it into, you know, this horror story evil thing, when it’s really darling.”

Bauer traveled from the West Village to support the Drag Story Hour in LIC. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

Close to a dozen NYPD officers were at the site to set up barricades which corralled the two separate groups – both approximately equal in size with a dozen people on each side. 

“Where do you want the bigots to go,” shouted one supporter of the event as police were sectioning off two areas to keep protestors on either side of the library’s entrance. 

“Kids are smarter than we think,” said Chris Austin, an LIC resident who was walking by the gathering and said that both groups were appearing to “out noise” each other. 

While both groups brought speakers with them, the NYPD discouraged them from using them to not disrupt the library’s event. Instead, the supporting group sang children’s songs like the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and the “ABCs” to drown out the opposition’s chants. The right-wing group held signs that said “this is not okay” above pictures of drag queens and “save the kids” among others. 

One opposition protester, with his face covered to disguise his identity, held a poster that read “Julie Lost G.o.d Won” and said that he believed the City Councilwoman Julie Won, who represents LIC, lost the election. Julie Won has previously expressed support for Drag Story Hours in her district. With chalk he wrote out, “RIP Drag Story Hour” along with “Not My Tax Dollars” on the sidewalk. 

One counter protester condemned Councilmember Julie Won for supporting the library’s event. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

“I want them to feel welcome, safe and happy,” said Mary on how she wants the parents bringing their children to the drag story reading to feel. “This is my library. You cannot come to my home and make people feel unsafe because of who they are and how they choose to express themselves.”

“If they choose to view someone in fancy dress, reading children’s books to small children through a sexual filter, that’s on them,” said Mary. 

Cornell and Salvation Army Join Forces to Bring Nutrition to Families 

Bilqis Benu, a children services specialist at the Springfield Gardens Family Center, says the garden exceeded her expectations.

By Iryna Shkurhan |

For the first time ever, the Salvation Army partnered with Cornell and Cornell University Cooperative Extension- New York City (CUCE-NYC) to sprout healthy eating through gardening and nutrition education at a family shelter in Jamaica. 

Over the course of eight weeks, families living at the Springfield Family Center met up every Thursday for various cooking classes, lessons on food safety and even a practical lesson on shopping for healthy food on a budget. Parents and their children, as young as four years old, even helped start and maintain the site’s first produce garden from scratch. 

On June 21, residents and facilitators of the program celebrated its culmination with a catered meal and certificates of appreciation to those who participated and facilitated the program. 

: Program participants and CUCE-NYC nutrition educators celebrated the end of the program with a catered meal.

“The concept was a little garden, so people could feel connected, could still put their hands in some soil and still feel grounded. They could see things grow,” said Bilqis Benu, a children services specialist at the center. 

“And then it blew up,” said Benu in describing how the final result exceeded her initial expectations of the garden. She attributes it to Cornell University, and its various departments  getting involved in the program to be more of service to the community. 

While the program sought to positively impact the lives of participants, data collection conducted by researchers from Cornell was also a crucial element to determine if the program is worth replicating at other shelters in the state and beyond. Paid surveys were distributed to participants at the beginning and end of the program. 

“Because everyone here has children, and generally people are concerned about the health of their children, they have the motivation to change their eating habits in their family for the sake of their children,” said Dr. Zeynab Jouzi, a postdoctoral researcher at Action Research Collaborative at Cornell University, who conducted the surveys.  

After fostering a connection with the residents to build trust, Dr. Jouzi conducted interviews to gauge what kind of services would be beneficial to help residents transition to permanent housing. She received a range of responses from many first time parents who were living in the center’s transitional housing, with one family per room with a small kitchenette to cook.   

Dr. Jouzi’s research focuses on food security and environmental justice with a “leave no one behind” goal.

“My goal in my research is to leave no one behind,” said Dr. Jouzi, whose research focuses on food security and environmental justice. “Generally, vulnerability and being marginalized is going to be a bundle of problems. Many people that are home insecure are also food insecure.”

Kwesi Joseph, an Urban Gardens Specialist at Cornell, said that taking a soil sample at the site was the first step in determining if a garden was possible. He was surprised when a heavy metal test came up negative, a rarity in the city but a clear message that it was safe to grow food. But at that point, they didn’t have enough funds to carry out the program. 

Joseph works to start and advance community gardens across the city in his role as an urban gardens specialist at Cornell.

Joseph confided in Dr. Tashara Leak, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell, about the financial dilemma. That’s when she offered up the help of undergraduate students in her program to apply for grants which would secure money for the garden. The second grant was secured by Benu, who applied on her own. 

About half of participants primarily speak Spanish, but the organizers had Spanish speaking educators who simply split up the two groups to provide the same quality of nutrition education. During the educational lessons, children and their parents were also split up for different lessons and experiences.  

Derick Edwards, 42, was the only father to participate in the program with his two kids – a nine year old son and an eight year old daughter. Their family has been living in the shelter since last November, and Edwards is in the process of searching for permanent housing.

Derick Edwards was the only father to participate in the program, among a fourteen mothers.

“I noticed that I’m reading the labels more,” said Edwards on the impact of the program. “It might take me a little bit longer to shop, but it’s something that ‘s interesting to me now.”

But despite learning how to save money at the grocery store, a lack of resources combined with a rising cost of groceries, especially healthy produce makes it difficult to implement. 

“It’s always been cheaper to go unhealthy. It’s not even like a couple of cents, it’s astronomically more expensive to eat healthy,” he said. “But there are some small ways where you can save money.”

For some parents, the program had an impact on both their eating habits and those of their children. 

“So I started doing collard greens but with them. I started doing brussel sprouts, peas, more broccoli, and carrots. Before this, it was just green beans,” said Khadijah Da Don, a mother who resides in the shelter with her three-year-old son. “And now that I learned how to cook certain vegetables, he eats them with no problem.”

“A healthy lifestyle is an expensive lifestyle, but at least you get to live a little bit longer,” said Khadijah who says that SNAP benefits are not enough to cover the cost of healthy groceries, so she has to supplement it with her own money.

The children of the participants got their hands dirty in the garden on site.

“We can’t actually leave, so I feel like the program was like a little escape that we could look forward to, enjoy ourselves, have fun and learn different things,” said Don, who has been living at the center for almost a year with her son, after living in the Bronx her whole life. 

While the researchers have not published their official findings yet, since the program will enter a second phase with new participants, some parents expressed gratitude to the nutrition education. 

“Changing my meal plan is definitely a plus. So I thank them for that too. Because I didn’t know I like other types of food until now. They made me try something new,” said Don. “And then I ended up liking it.”

Glendale Residents Celebrate Passage of Train Waste Bill


The founder of the Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions celebrated the victory at the press conference. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

By Iryna 

In a victory for local residents who reside by train tracks, a bill requiring waste being transported by rail to be covered passed in both the state senate and assembly. 

The bill, which Glendale residents have been advocating for over a decade, will end the transport of uncovered waste which emits an odor that one resident described as “beyond disgusting.” Train cars will need to be covered by sealed lids or hard tarping to prevent noxious gas emissions and spillage into the community. 

“It’s time to put a lid on the garbage to put a lid on the noxious fumes, to put a lid on the hazardous waste. It’s time to put a lid on the destruction of our health, to put a lid on the destruction of our environment,” said Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, at the celebratory press conference outside the New York and Atlantic Railroad Company tracks in Glendale on June 23. “Just put a lid on it. It is common sense.”

Currently, only a porous mesh tarp covers some of the train cars which allows the odor to roam to nearby homes as trains sit idling. And when it rains, the exposed rainwater seeps through the waste, comes out through drains in the bottoms of cars and leaks into nearby streets and storm drains. 

Waste is one of New York’s biggest exports by rail, yet no regulations on containerizing it currently exist. The industry is also currently expanding by 35% every year. 

Assemblywoman Rajkumar secured unanimous support for the bill in Albany. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

In past years, the bill either passed in the senate or in the assembly, but never both simultaneously for it to be enacted. For the first time it passed in both, with the partnership of State Senator Joe Addabbo and Assemblywoman Rajkumar. 

“We did this for the people of Glendale, Ridgewood, Maspeth and Middle Village who need this legislation to protect their health and welfare,” said Rajkumar, who sponsored the bill and secured a unanimous passage. “This was an enormous victory for our community.”

The Assemblywoman also shared that her constituents in central Queens would frequently complain about unbearable odors that make it difficult to enjoy their outdoor spaces and evolve fears of health issues. Even students at Christ the King High School would complain of headaches and nausea from the waste odor. At monthly Community Board 5 meetings, her representatives would update constituents on the bill’s progress.  

Mary Parisen Lavelle, a former Glendale resident, started the Civics United for Railroad Environmental Solutions organization in her kitchen after being fed up with the odor and noise from waste transporting trains. She says that she spent countless hours creating spreadsheets, and conducting the necessary research, to determine which elected officials had the power to fix the issue. 

“And it has been long overdue to have this issue addressed,” said Lavelle, current CURES President at the press conference. “It’s an environmental issue and a quality of life issue.”

Mary Arnold, cofounder of CURES, said she is fighting for a healthier community for her family. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

For CURES, the next step is dealing with the noise pollution that wakes residents up at night and rattles homes near the tracks. Several residents said that the outdated trains tend to idle for hours past midnight. 

“Legislators all across this state, even the upstate regions have said that this will be transformative for their districts,” said Rajkumar, pointing out that this issue also exists in other corners of the state. 

The bill is now headed to Governor Kathy Hochul’s desk for consideration. 

“I love this bill, because it was born from our constituents,” said Addabbo at the press conference. “Here we are on the cusp of really making an impact for our people. A direct result of constituents complaining.”

Kiwanis Club Celebrates Scholarship Recipients 

Maspeth’s Kiwanis Club celebrated its scholarship recipients at a luncheon. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

By Iryna 

Maspeth’s Kiwanis Club celebrated its annual scholarship recipients, alongside parents and community members, at a luncheon at Maspeth Town Hall on Thursday, June 22. 

Fifteen recent high school graduates, who reside in Maspeth, but attend schools across Queens received a check for $2,000 to assist with any educational expenses before they head off to college in the fall. 

“It’s harder and harder every year to pay for college,” said Michelle Masone, the scholarship program chairman. “This is a little thing that we can do to help them, and support them, in furthering their education.”

The annual scholarship program started in 1947, and has since awarded over $500,000 to local students. The club acknowledged the financial contributions on behalf of the late Susan Scott, a teacher “who held the scholarship program near and dear to her heart” in their program. Now in its 69th year, the fund is supported by donations from community organizations, including the Kiwanis Club and Maspeth Federal Savings Bank. 

Some past scholarship recipients also attended the in person celebration – a comeback following a two year pandemic hiatus. 

Toya Brown, an Executive Assistant to the CEO at Maspeth Federal Savings, was a scholarship recipient in 2014. After spending one year at Johnson & Wales, Brown transferred to Brooklyn College to complete her degree in film production. She says that she was grateful for the scholarship in helping cover costly tuition. 

Toya Brown was a recipient in 2014. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

“It’s great to see that they’re still doing it, and recognizing that the Kiwanis Club is important,” said Brown, who attended the luncheon with other staff members from Maspeth Federal. “It’s a great way, not just to build your portfolio, but to give back and really be a part of the community.”

As part of her role at the bank, she also visits schools to teach college and high school students about financial literacy, including budgeting skills and even how to balance a checkbook. 

Approximately 30-40 students apply to the scholarship each year, and at least fourteen are selected based on merit. Most students said that they heard about the scholarship through their guidance or college counselor, who encouraged them to apply. As part of the application, students submitted an essay outlining their contributions to their school and community, as well as their extracurricular activities and academic achievements. 

“I was very surprised,” said Emma Bogdan, who learned that she was selected at her graduation ceremony at St. Francis Preparatory School. In the fall she is heading to Marist College and to complete a dual Bachelors and Masters program in special education. 

Emma Bogdan will attend Marist College in the fall. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

After a hot lunch, the recipients were called up individually by Maspeth Kiwanis Club President, Jim Regan, to receive their checks. 

Lisa and Mike Terry, two club members in attendance, extended their congratulations to the recipients and shared that their son won the scholarship fifteen years ago. 

In 1971, Michael Falco received the scholarship after graduating from Christ The King High School. He says that the scholarship helped him pay for his textbooks as a student at Queens College, back when college tuition was significantly more affordable than it is today.

Today, he is a practicing lawyer based out of Maspeth and a Kiwanis Club member. He attended the luncheon to celebrate this year’s recipients. 

“And we hope eventually they come back to this community and they join Kiwanis to help us with our service projects,” said Masone, acknowledging that many past recipients already have.  

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