By Clare Baierl | [email protected]
John Choe, arrived on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Main St. with a bike, big smile and a t-shirt that said ‘Flushing.’ If you are looking for the neighborhood’s biggest fan, look no further.
As Director of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce, Choe has spent decades fighting for the rights of his neighborhood. His current work focuses on protecting small businesses, a cause that hits especially close to home.
Growing up in Korea, Choe felt first-hand the importance of investing in citizen-first care.
“I grew up malnourished,” he said. “Housing is a right. Being able to feed your family is a right. That’s what’s motivated me for many years helping this community.”
After living in over 100 countries, Choe eventually made his way to Flushing, a neighborhood he has now called home for over two decades. His work at the Chamber focuses on issues of equity.
“We’re a community organization that helps to boost Flushing,” he said. “To really tell the story of all the people and businesses that make Flushing so unique and amazing as a destination.”
There is a high rate of new development projects entering the neighborhood, Choe explained, causing local businesses to be pushed out. Many residents that have lived here their entire lives are now gone. “We have one of the highest concentrations of bank branches in the entire country,” said Choe. “Probably because they’re the only ones that can afford rent.”
Throughout his time in the Chamber, Choe’s administration has secured over $1.5 million in funding to support the neighborhood. Providing everything from customized marketing consulting for businesses to creating the first ever local Community Supported Agriculture Program in the neighborhood.
Though the Chamber is currently struggling with a loss of resources after the pandemic, Choe isn’t giving up. “Even though I feel like we’ve struggled against the Goliath here, I feel like we’ve built a sense of community,” he said. “This country has given so much to me, that if I can leave it better than I found it, I would say that I was able to achieve a great deal, that’s my legacy.”