CEO of WATCH GUARD 24/7 To Be Honored at This Year’s Catholic Charities Gala

For former NYPD Lieutenant, John Rafferty, to protect and serve means a lot more than simply providing the community with security. He wants to make a difference.

This September, Rafferty, founder and CEO of WATCH GUARD 24/7 will be receiving the Bishop’s Humanitarian Award by Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.

Giving back is something that seems to be ingrained in Rafferty. Even early on in life as the president of a youth club, he was involved in giving back to the community.

Growing up with a strong catholic upbringing, he learned from a young age the impact that giving could have. “I always just try to do good and right by people,” said Rafferty.

Rafferty went through a catholic education program from grade school until graduating from St. John’s University with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. A path that eventually led him to join the NYPD in 1996. Upon his retirement from the NYPD, Rafferty was one of the most decorated Lieutenants, and was the recipient of the second highest honor of the police department; the Combat Cross.

But in 2009, Rafferty retired from the NYPD due to an injury and started WATCH GUARD 24/7. He transcended the hard work and dedication that he developed in the police department into his own company. Rafferty looks at security as an extension of law enforcement and puts his heart and soul into the business.

From focusing on a top-down approach in management, strong mentorship programs, and building a strong culture within the company, WATCH GUARD 24/7 has grown to become one of the largest privately owned security companies in New York, with over a thousand employees.

From WATCH GUARD 24/7’s involvement in the Summer Youth Mentorship Employment Program, charities within the inner cities, running an annual toy-drive, starting the annual Tunnel to Towers New York Golf Classic, to supporting numerous charities, Rafferty uses action to align his company with charities he believes in.

His work eventually attracted the attention of Catholic Charities, who asked for WATCH GUARD 24/7 to propose to be their new security provider on their properties. Rafferty was thrilled to be aligned with a company that had similar values to his own. “Good people surround themselves with good people. And that’s how I look at it with Catholic Charities,” he explained.

The organization, much like Rafferty, is set on making a mark in the community. Since 1899, Catholic Charities has been providing a range of social programs to Brooklyn and Queens. They operate clinics, housing programs, food pantries, and senior living homes, to name just a few.

Each year, Catholic Charities gives out the Bishops Humanitarian Award, awarded to someone recognized for impactful work within the community. When Rafferty learned he would be honored with the award at this year’s Gala, he was thrilled.

“I was absolutely humbled,” he said. “I felt that it was one of the first times since leaving the police department that I felt like I was making a difference. This is truly an honor.”

The 2023 Bishops Humanitarian Award Dinner is being held at Cipriani Wall Street on Thursday, September 28, 2023. For more event details, or to support, visit Catholic Charities’ website here.


Queens Chamber of Commerce Hosts New Member Introduction

By Oona Milliken |

In a packed conference room in the Queens Chamber of Commerce Office, business owners passed their business cards around the room. The monthly event is organized by the Chamber of Commerce for new members to help introduce them to the organization and meet other people in the borough. Jef Gross, Manager of Media Relations for the Chamber, introduced the members to the website, how to post events online and how to submit stories for the monthly Queensborough Magazine. 

According to Gross, benefits of being a member of the Chamber include connecting with other business owners and helping individuals begin the process of growing their business. Gross said other commerce chambers in New York City do not get the same level of benefits as they do in Queens, and that the new members orientation is just one example of that. 

“We provide opportunities in Queens that other boroughs do not provide.” Gross said. “Individuals will join organizations and there isn’t even an orientation. This gives them a little footing, a sense of direction.” 

According to Brendan Leavy, Business Development Manager for the Chamber, Queens has a strong potential for growth in technology, infrastructure and real estate expansion as well as healthcare services. Leavy said that due to the aging population in Queens, a lot of healthcare providers see opportunities to grow their practices. Two business representatives at the event were based in the healthcare sector, Praxis Health Technology and Northwell Health. 

“When you have 2.3 million people, aging, also aging in place and not going to Florida, that has tremendous impacts on the healthcare system,” Leavy said. “In the room was Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in the state, they have over 80,000 employees…That’s bringing new jobs to Queens.” 

Henk Guitjens, Director of Marketing at Corporate Loss Prevention Associates Inc., and attendee of the new member introduction event, said that he appreciated the efforts of the Queens Chamber of Commerce in order to connect businesses in the borough. 

“I found it very well prepared, and I was impressed with the 20 plus people in the room. They covered everything in an hour, and I say, I was impressed, better than the experiences at some other chambers,” Guitjens said. “The opportunity to work with other members, their willingness to make introductions, which of course other chambers have…but [the Queens Chambers] also have a substantial staff.” 

According to Shahriar Hossain, Business Recovery Specialist for the Chamber, Queens is unique because it has a large economic hub while still keeping a calmer, more family-oriented feel that other boroughs do not have. Hossain said he thinks that the technology sector in Queens has the potential to blossom in coming years, and that the Chamber is trying to facilitate that growth via business incubators in order to attract more tech companies. 

“I think tech is going to be huge in terms of development,” Hossian said. “The Chamber actually has five tech incubators that we’ve opened throughout the borough in Jamaica, Far Rockaway, Jackson Heights, and one in Queens College.” 


*Editors Note: BQE Media is the publishing partner of This is Queensborough Magazine

Congresswoman Meng Presents Solutions to Thwart Mail Theft 

Two mail thieves were arrested less than a mile away from Maspeth’s post office. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan | 

To combat a surge in mail theft, Congresswoman Grace Meng was joined by NYPD’s 104th Precinct and the United States Postal Inspection Service in Maspeth to spread tips on how residents can safeguard their mail. 

In June, two mail thieves were arrested on 60th Road and Mount Olivet Crescent for allegedly stealing mail, which was captured on video by a local resident and shared on social media. 

“This issue of mail theft is something that our office, and the NYPD and Postal Inspector, have been constantly hearing about,” said Meng outside of Maspeth’s Post Office on 69th St. last Wednesday. “There have been over 600 cases reported this year just in my congressional district alone. And those are just the cases that we have heard about.”

While Meng’s district, which encompasses much of central Queens, has seen growing mail and identity theft, the issue has been prevalent across the nation. 

Congresswoman Meng is working with the USPIS and the NYPD to combat the issue. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

In February, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network under the U.S Department of Treasury reported that check fraud reports filed by banks nearly doubled to 680,000 from 350,000 in 2021. Some scammers also resort to check washing – erasing the name of the recipient and replacing it with their own name or entity – which allows them to deposit the cash directly into their own bank account. 

Mail theft increased by 161 percent from March 2020 to February 2021, according to complaints received by the United States Postal Inspection Service. And over 1,000 arrests have been made since 2017. 

John Del Giudice, Assistant Inspector in Charge for the New York Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, announced that over $1.2 million has been allocated in New York to purchase and install high security collection boxes. Nationwide, 12,000 of these new boxes will be installed. 

This is not the first time the USPS is having to alter the design of postal boxes to combat mail theft. In 2018, the agency replaced the pull down handle on blue postal boxes with a slender slot with metal teeth after a rise in mail fishing. Meng says that the USPS moved promptly that year to update all the boxes in her congressional district. 

“We’re grateful for the Postal Service for making those necessary changes. However, these thieves are getting smarter, and they are getting more creative,” said Meng. 

The new target is green relay boxes, which postal workers use to store bags of mail during their route. They are more commonly used in urban areas where carriers walk instead of drive. Letter carriers have been targeted for the key that opens these boxes, which can be copied and used to unlock any green box.  

Letter carriers have been targeted for the key which can open any green relay mailbox. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

The Joint Project Safe Delivery initiative will replace 49,000 antiquated aero locks on relay boxes with electronic locks across the country. Meng says that she has requested that Queens be prioritized in the replacement project due to the high rate of cases in the borough.  

In April, Meng also introduced the USPS Subpoena Authority Act with fellow Congresswoman Nicole Maliotakis, who represents Staten Island and a sliver of South Brooklyn. The bipartisan bill seeks to give the USPS more authority to subpoena information about mail theft, including bank records, surveillance videos to build cases against criminal organizations. Currently, the USPS has limited authority to crack down on mail theft syndicates. 

Meng relayed that she has received many complaints from constituents who fell victim to mail theft and had important documents, checks and credit card information stolen. Consequently she said that individuals in her district have been scammed out of thousands of dollars and been impacted by other types of financial fraud. 

“In 2017, postal inspectors started to see an increase in mail theft and we increased our investigative resources and focused on strengthening partnerships with the NYPD, state and federal prosecutors,” said Giudice. “Our next step is working with the postal service engineers to develop a high security collection box to prevent that.”

The USPIS is asking residents to follow their tips to reduce their risk of mail theft. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

The USPIS has also been working to increase public awareness and speed safety tips through social media and neighborhood presentations at community board meetings. 

Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, the Commanding Officer of the NYPD’s 104th Precinct, briefly shared some tips to safeguard mail. He encouraged residents to avoid leaving mail sitting in their mailboxes as it can significantly reduce chances of being victimized. 

Directly depositing mail in blue postal boxes should also be avoided. Instead, he encouraged residents to hand any mail directly to a letter carrier or deliver it inside the post office. If mail must be deposited inside a postal box, it should be dropped as close to the pickup time as possible, which is written on the box. Officials encourage utilizing a permanent ink pen if mailing a check to prevent washing. 

Deputy Inspector Giudice also encouraged signing up for informed delivery, a free service which sends a daily digest email that shows what mail and packages are scheduled to arrive so residents can be aware if mail is missed.

Astoria Bookshop Turns Page on 10 Years 

Guests filled up the shop to celebrate 10 years since the bookshop opened in Astoria. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan |

Astoria Bookshop celebrated their 10 Year Anniversary on Monday, as well as a grand reopening in a new location, with an all day celebration featuring special guests and activities. 

For close to a decade, Astoria’s only bookstore was stationed on 31-29 31st Street. The queer and woman-owned shop opened for business on August 21, 2013 and has generated many bookworm regulars who could browse a wide selection in an intimate space. But earlier this spring, the books moved less than a mile away to their new home at 36-19 30th Street.

“For the past two years we’ve just been bursting at the seams,” said the store’s founder and owner Lexi Beach. “We just didn’t have room to carry everything.”

The new location is 40 percent bigger and has a garden with seating for guests to enjoy their newly purchased reads. Beach says that the bigger location has given her, and the seven other booksellers, the chance to play around with fun new subsections and stock more books in each category. The reaction to the new location has been split down the middle. Some of her regulars complain that she’s further away now, while others are glad that their trip to the shop got shorter. But everyone is happy about the new garden, especially the dog owners. 

The garden has several seats and is dog friendly. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

The party started with a storytime for the kids in the morning, and a station to create their own bookmark afterwards using cut out shapes from advance copy picture books. Meg Jones-Wall, of 3am Tarot and the author of Finding the Fool: A Tarot Journey to Radical Transformation, was also available for tarot readings in the garden in the evening. 

Casey McQuiston, author of the bestselling novel Red, White & Royal Blue, was another popular guest. Their book, which was adapted into a film this year, centers around the son of America’s first female president falling in love with a prince of England, and having to keep it under wraps. Fans of the queer novel had the chance to ask McQuiston their questions about the book, or for new recommendations. 

Even City Councilmember Tiffany Caban, who represents Astoria and other western Queens neighborhoods, briefly stopped by the celebration. 

Since day one, customers have been able to order their books online to be shipped directly to their home, or picked up in store. But since the initial opening, more and more people have ordered their books online, even if they live nearby in Astoria. The shop has even shipped books to all six continents. 

“Still, most of our business comes from here and most of our business is in person. It has not changed. And I don’t think that’s really going to change,” said Beach, who believes that the physical space of a bookstore, especially one that offers community events, cannot be replaced. 

Lexi Beach previously worked in the book publishing industry before taking the leap and starting her own business. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

The shop frequently hosts authors for various readings and meet and greets, as well as storytelling for kids. She says that giving people another reason to visit the bookstore, since most people are not buying a new book every week or even every month, is central to her mission. 

“The first steps that I took trying to open a bookstore were so much easier than I thought they would be. And so much easier than trying to find my next publishing job,” said Beach, who worked a range of roles in the book publishing industry for close to a decade before taking the leap of starting her own business. “I was like, oh, maybe this is the direction that I’m supposed to go in.”

That knowledge of the book world easily transferred over to her current duties of meeting with book representatives, and selecting what titles will fill up the shelves and tables. 

Her liberal arts degree in Spanish literature has also come in handy. She’s able to chat with Spanish speaking visitors and guide them through the growing Spanish speaking section, with books for both adults and kids. 

Visitors browse the shelves. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

“Even on the toughest day, it’s still better than any other job I’ve had,” said Beach, who lives on the Upper East Side with her wife and dog. 

Meng Awards 1 Million for Small Business Legal Desk 

Congresswoman Grace Meng allocated one million dollars for the Queens Chamber of Commerce to start a Small Business Legal Desk. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna 

Small businesses in Queens will soon have access to free legal advice in five different languages through a new pilot program spearheaded by the Queens Chamber of Commerce. 

Congresswoman Grace Meng, who represents much of the borough, awarded the Chamber with a check for $1 million outside the Small Business Development Center at Queens College in Flushing. 

“This will consist of pro-bono, professional support to help small businesses avoid costly issues and mistakes that could impact the force and the strength of our workforce,” said Meng at the event on Thursday. “It will especially help small immigrant owned small businesses and link the small business community that I’m proud to represent.” 

She also pointed out that when business owners run into legal hurdles, they may not know exactly where to turn. Without resources to have a lawyer on retainer, or prior experience dealing with legal issues, they can fall victim to scams and end up in a worse situation than before. 

With the funding, the chamber will bring aboard lawyers, accountants and human resources professionals who can advise business owners in times of need, and in multiple languages – Mandarin, Korean, Bengali, Russian, and Spanish. 

Tom Gretch, President and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, recounted that during the pandemic, many business owners lost out on available government assistance, such as the Paycheck Protection Program loan, due to language barriers and a lack of expert advice. 

“We see the importance, especially in places like downtown Flushing, and other areas of Congresswoman Meng’s district, the importance of outreach, which is why we have people that speak different languages on staff,” said Gretch, who noted that Asian-American communities are growing in size and influence, both locally and across the nation as indicated by the 2020 Census count. 

Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Gretch applauded the initiative. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

The Queens Chamber of Commerce represents over 1,400 businesses that employ over 150,000 Queens based employees in a range of industries. 

As the daughter of small business owners, who went from working in one of Flushing’s first Chinese restaurants to owning their own, Congresswoman Meng says the cause is personal. 

“They are helping to create jobs, they are helping to provide much needed services and goods that otherwise we would lack in our local neighborhoods,” said Meng. “And they provide a source of comfort.”

The Chamber is not the only group helping business owners take off, and stay afloat, in the borough. Several speakers at the event pointed out that the Small Business Development Center has been a key supporter of entrepreneurs and small businesses owners for over two decades.

Since 2001, advisors at SBDC have worked with close to 8,000 businesses, and helped invest over $100 million in the local economy, according to their website. They help business owners navigate a range of actionable steps, including setting up a business plan, marketing, securing funding, exports goods and adhering to regulations. 

“This is news that’s important not only for the Chamber of Commerce, but for everyone who lives and works in the world’s borough,” said Frank H. Wu, President of Queens College, at the gathering. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of this community.”


Mary L. Genova passed away on Monday, August 7, 2023 at the age of 56. Loving mother of Salvatore (Zoe) Genova and Elena Genova, cherished grandmother of Gianni, dearest sister of Theresa, Gina, Joanie and John, and also survived by many loving nieces and nephews. Mass of Christian Burial offered at Our Lady of Hope Church on Friday, August 11, 2023 at 9:45AM. Interment followed at St. John Cemetery, Middle Village, NY under the direction of Papavero Funeral Home 72-27 Grand Avenue, Maspeth NY 11378.


Hermilia Duarte passed away on Tuesday, August 15, 2023 at the age of 98. Beloved wife of the late Angel M. Duarte, loving mother of Mireya Belinda Sardelis, cherished grandmother of Panaviota and Hermilia, and great-grandmother of Adriana, Demetra,Salvatore and Elena. Mass of Christian Burial offered at Our Lady of Hope Church on Friday, August 18, 2023 at 9:45 AM. Interment followed at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, NY under the direction of Papavero Funeral Home, 72-27 Grand Avenue, Maspeth NY 11378.


Robin C. Fleischman passed away onSaturday, August 19, 2023 at the age of 66. Loving mother of Shannon and Alyssa Fleischman, dear sister of Karen Keen, Donna Marino, Ray Keen, Debbie Carroll, Kelly DeQuatro, and Tracey Sellers, and cherished aunt of many loving nieces and nephews. Religious Services were offered at Papavero Funeral Home on Tuesday, August 22, 2023 from 10 – 11 AM. Interment followed at Lutheran All-Faiths Cemetery, Middle Village, NY under the direction of Papavero Funeral Home, 72-27 Grand Avenue, Maspeth NY 11378.

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