Queens College Students Attend Business Breakfast

By Sherica Daley | news@queensledger.com

The chimes of the service bell jingled in the air during the Queens College School of Business’s #QC Business Breakfast, co-sponsored by the QC Blackstone LaunchPad Entrepreneurship Program. The event was held in the Q-Side Lounge and Dining Hall. The service bell alerted the participants to change tables in the speed dating style to meet Queens College’s alumni. Students were able to break the initial awkwardness that can accompany traditional networking events. The event tried a new approach to the traditional seminar with a speed network seminar.

The #QC Breakfast event is a event of socializing student-focused event with the bonus of delicious breakfast. They are free networking opportunities that bring together students of all majors to the business community. The School of Business has invited alumni prestigious firms in the past such as Merrill Lynch, Starwood Property Trust, Structure Tone, Republic Bank, and New York Life Insurance (NYLIC). Since March 2022, post-pandemic, this series of early morning breakfasts, has helped Queens College students meet successful alumni and receive advice on their college experience, and careers,

“We wanted to try something new and give everyone a chance to meet the alumni” explained Schiro Withanachchi, Associate Dean of the Queens College School of Business ”By hosting a free breakfast, the School of Business has strengthened our community, encouraged alumni involvement, and contributed to the professional and personal developments of our students” explained Withanachchi 

The alumni that joined the roundtable event include Brando Castro, Community Liaison for the New York City Department of Small Business Service and recent graduate of the class of 2023, Vincenzo Alomia, Financial Advisor at Prudential Advisors, Gerry Marotta, Client Director of Financial Services at Gartner Empower IT, and Gina R. Fini, Counsel and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens College. These five alumni came to the first business breakfast for 2024. Ambitious students got a chance to dine and meet each of the alumni.

“I love my experience here at Queens College” explained Vincenzo Alomia. “I have seen a lot of new changes here on campus coming here today, like the dorm rooms” explained Alomia. The students rotated and met with each alumnus and gained insightful advice on how to be successful after graduation.

The topic of this seminar was Thriving 101: Mastering Success at the Queens College School of Business where students discussed life in the business world after graduation. Each alumnus offered something different coming from different areas in the business field. “I told them that it’s okay if they want to don’t know what they want yet, that this is the time to explore different opportunities and fields,” explained Marotta. “They should engage in various programs the college offers such as internships, clubs, and other activities,” she said.

Adjunct Assistant Professor Gina Fini, came in early before her regular class to speak to the students.” I love the opportunity to gather with faculty, staff, and alumni to support our wonderful students.” explained Fini.

The participants also gained valuable information on professional networking and resources available on campus such as the Center for Career Engagement and Internships for resume help, and the job board HireQC.

Withananchchi provided information at her table on building resumes with Google Career Certificates. and earning free certificates in topics like Data Analytics and Digital Marketing for in-demand tech skills.

These skills give a competitive edge in the job market and speaking to recruiters. This led to the announcement of the hybrid career and internship fair happening on campus on March 15th, 2024, and March 18th, 2024. Day One is the virtual career with employers like Bloomberg LP, the New York Civilian Complaint Review Board, and New York City Parks & Recreation. Day Two is the in-person fair on campus with employers like the New York Department of Correction, New York Department of Taxation and Finance, and New York Insurance Fund. To RSVP for this event, Queens College students can visit the Center for Career Engagement and Internships site.

The School of Business will be hosting three more Business Breakfasts this Spring. On March 20, 2024, Queen College 2018 graduate Caitlin King will discuss her career as a senior strategy analyst in retail partners like Victoria’s Secret, Ann Taylor, and Burlington Coat Factory. On April 16th, 2023, Assistant Professor of Strategy at Yeshiva University, Peter Perkowski will discuss his professional and research on experience. Lastly, On May 7th, 2023, Darius Dale, Founder & CEO of 42 Macro and on–air contributor to financial media including Bloomberg, CNN Money, CNN Business, and Fox Business will share how his struggles of being homeless in his childhood contributed his success today. For information on RSVP for these events, Queens College community can visit the School of Business site.

NYPD Posthumously Promotes Krystyna Naprawa

By Britney Trachtenberg | news@queensledger.com

Courtesy of @NYPDChiefPatrol on X/Twitter.

On Thurs., Feb. 22, during a ceremony at One Police Plaza, Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban promoted School Crossing Guard Krystyna Naprawa to the title of Community Coordinator after her death.

Naprawa worked as an NYPD School Crossing Guard. On Oct. 20, 2023, Naprawa helped pedestrians cross the intersection at Woodhaven Blvd and Atlantic Ave. during her morning shift. Seconds after, a turning sanitation truck hit and killed her.

Naprawa’s family, friends, and coworkers attended the ceremony, during which NYPD executives announced the distribution of new safety equipment, increased training, and updated policies for the police department’s crossing guards.

Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban described Naprawa as someone who “cherished her job as an NYPD School Crossing Guard” and “loved the familiar faces she saw each day.”

NYPD School Crossing Guards stand at many of NYC’s most populated intersections and seek to protect all pedestrians, specifically, students walking to and from school. NYPD hopes to improve safety standards through an edited training program supervised by the Traffic Enforcement Training Unit. The course now takes seven days instead of six and contains a field-training element. Every School Crossing Guard must take an annual refresher course.

From the NYPD, School Crossing Guards reportedly will receive new whistles, vests, and “stop” paddles. The NYPD seeks to give each patrol borough twelve “stop” signs with detachable poles for use at truck routes and bigger intersections. 

At the Woodhaven Blvd and Atlantic Ave intersection, the NYPD wants to station multiple crossing guards.

 Henry Garrido, Executive Director of District Council 37, thanked Police Commissioner Caban “for this posthumous recognition of a beloved member of the DC 37 family.” Garrido said, “The investment in additional resources for the safety of our School Crossing Guards, and the increased coverage at Krystyna’s former intersection, will ensure that the impact she made – on her colleagues and on our community – will endure for many years to come.”

The city has already made changes to the Woodhaven Blvd and Atlantic Ave intersection. The city’s Department of Transportation recently installed a right-turn signal in the lane where the truck was turning from when the driver hit Naprawa, as reported on by the Queens Ledger earlier this month. The turning signal will not have a green light. Instead, it will have a red light that will turn amber, which tells cars and trucks to drive slowly and carefully.

Queens Lawmakers Rally for SMOKEOUT Act

By Celia Bernhardt | cbernhardt@queensledger.com

Credit: Celia Bernhardt

State Assemblyperson Jenifer Rajkumar held a rally with State Senator Leroy Comrie and about 20 supporters on the steps of City Hall on Friday to call for the SMOKEOUT Act to be included in the State’s enacted budget. 

The SMOKEOUT (Stop Marijuana Overproliferation and Keep Empty Operators of Unlicensed Transactions) Act, first introduced in early January, is Rajkumar’s proposed fix to the state’s bumpy rollout of cannabis legalization and the proliferation of thousands of illegal, unlicensed smoke shops through the five boroughs. Under the proposed rule, local municipalities would have the power to shutter illegal shops and seize all merchandise. Currently, that power is reserved for the State’s Office of Cannabis Management, which has only 14 inspectors statewide. 

“I think all New Yorkers feel right now like they’re high, because they look at the situation and it makes no sense,” Rajkumar said at the rally. “There are 1000 times more illegal shops than there are legal shops. There’s only about 60 legal shops in the whole state. And there’s 36,000 illegal shops. How can this be? Am I high right now?”

A Staten Island community leader displays her sign. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Comrie told the crowd that the issue was consistently top of mind among his constitutents. “Every meeting I attend, everywhere I go, people want to see these places shut down,” he said. “The ones that have been inspected, they found rat feces in the basement. They found other chemicals that are being mixed in with the marijuana. You don’t know what you’re getting. You’re not getting it from a safe supplier.”

Rajkumar’s office estimates there are about 1,500 illegal shops in New York City alone. Previous estimates cited by Council Member Lyn Schulman this past summer put that number much higher, at 8,000. Mayor Eric Adams has claimed that if Rajkumar’s legislation is enacted, the city could shut down every illegal shop in 30 days. 

“The state budget is due on April 1. That’s five and a half weeks from today. On April 1, I don’t want to be standing here saying ‘April Fools,’” Rajumar said. “I want to be standing here saying ‘we have put the SMOKEOUT Act in the state budget.’”

From Legacy to Legal: First Bangladeshi-Owned NY Cannabis Dispensary Opens in Jamaica

By Ana Borruto | news@queensledger.com

Credit: Ana Borruto

Silk Road NYC celebrated multiple milestones at its grand opening at 166-30 Jamaica Ave in Queens, including being the first Bangladeshi-owned cannabis dispensary in New York and the 75th legal adult-use business to open in the state’s cannabis landscape. 

Dozens of family, friends and legal cannabis advocates gathered at 166-30 Jamaica Ave. on Friday, Feb. 23 to show support for owner and Jamaica, Queens native Sohan Bashar.

From sourcing cannabis through underground channels on the dark web to serving an eight-month lockup in Rikers Island Correctional Facility after being arrested in college, the road to success has not been an easy one for Bashar. 

However, the dispensary’s name serves as a reminder of his past in the legacy cannabis market and how far he has come to obtain his legal license. 

“I’ve always been dealt that kind of hand, and this is a restorative justice kind of feeling,” Bashar said. “It is a dream come true and for the laws that were changed, it will bring about a much better society — more accepting of cannabis, not criminalizing it.” 

Bashar said going from a full-time college student to a prison cell was a “brutal” experience. However, over a decade later, now with his wife Marina Gerard, their two-year-old daughter Sophie and another baby on the way, the business owner felt it was a crucial time to pivot to the legal cannabis market. 

The initial step was to begin the application process for a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensaries license — also known as CAURD — which is intended for individuals convicted of marijuana-related offenses before the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act passed in March 2021. These applicants also must have run a successful business for at least two years. 

In November 2022, the first round of approved CAURD licenses for retail dispensaries and at the end of that same year, the first legal sales of cannabis commenced. 

However, securing a CAURD license requires extensive documentation, so the overall process is a lengthy one. Additionally, an injunction imposed by the New York State Supreme Court in August 2023 derailed hundreds of licensees from opening their dispensaries. 

Even with this obstacle, Bashar remained optimistic, and with the help of cannabis attorney Jeffrey Hoffman, the Jamaica resident received his provisional license in January 2023 and his full license just a month ago. 

“The journey [Bashar has] been on over the last year is unparalleled,” said Damion Fagon, chief equity officer for the Office of Cannabis Management. “This is literally what the [Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act] was written for — for guys like Sohan to build stores in their own communities.” 

Since being licensed, Bashar has independently funded Silk Road NYC’s entire operation, negotiated his rent and completed the build out by himself. The dispensary also sells a variety of high-quality products, including pre-rolls, edibles, vapes, flowers and topicals — all of which Bashar said he tested out before putting them on the shelves. 

Both Bashar and his wife were adamant about opening their business in the neighborhood he grew up in. As a member of Jamaica’s Bangladeshi community, Bashar said Silk Road NYC will serve as a representation of his cultural heritage. 

It was also important to Bashar to hire knowledgeable staff and surround himself with like-minded advisors — like Amy Chin, Annette Fernandez and Kassia Graham of the High Exposure Consulting Agency — who believe in proper cannabis education, as well as challenging the negative connotations surrounding cannabis use. 

“We know in the Bangladeshi community, there is still a lot of stigma around cannabis,” Fernandez said. “I think Sohan is here to break that stigma and raise education and awareness around how important this plant is — that it’s medicinal and healing.” 

Gerard emphasized the importance of her and Bashar’s role in the local cannabis industry, not just as entrepreneurs, but as “advocates for diversity, inclusion and social justice.” 

She could not help but feel emotional talking about Bashar’s inspiring story, which she said is a testament to his resilience and hard work to establish a long-lasting legacy for his family. 

“Everyday, he exemplifies what it means to push boundaries, overcome challenges and strive for excellence,” Gerard said, through tears. “This man is literally a force of nature.” 

NYPD and FDNY Face Off in “Battle of the Badges” at Maspeth High School

By Justin Joseph | news@queensledger.com 

Credit: Justin Joseph

On Saturday the NYPD and FDNY gathered together at Maspeth High School, to compete in their third annual “Battle of the Badges” volleyball match aimed to commemorate the fallen heroes lost in the line of duty throughout the years.

This year’s theme was “Fidelity to Duty” which the event’s organizer and FDNY coach Gerry Matacotta explains means a lot to the force.

“We do our work in the community and we also have fidelity to our fellow officers, so this does both of those things,” Matacotta stated about the event.

Matacotta started this event three years ago after he successfully had a Battle of the Badges event with police and fire departments from New England and New York City at the Volleyball Hall of Fame in Massachusetts. He then brought the idea to New York City after seeing the success and the positive turnout of the event and has continued the tradition ever since.

Matacotta loves the aspect of bringing the community together in order to showcase the fun side of the police and fire departments and to let people know that they are humans as well, who can have fun from time to time. For a small fee of $ 10 per person, with kids being free, the community gathers together in order to support their local city heroes.

“This community is very pro police, very pro FDNY because they know the importance of these first responders,” Matacotta said.

The president of the NYPD volleyball team, Officer Malcolm Brissett-Ortiz, also stresses the importance of the event for the officers and fire fighters as well.

Credit: Justin Joseph

“It’s good for the mental health, for the well-being, to take them away from work for a little bit,” Brissett-Ortiz said.

“Work is stressful sometimes and to have something for them to put them off of work is great to see.”

Joe Armenio, Director of the AAU Urban Initiative, helps to sponsor the event and raised money for the game to take place the past three years.

“Anyway we can help we always try to get involved. We would make a donation for them and they would use it how they see fit,” Armenio said.

The NYPD earned another victory for the third straight year beating the FDNY three sets to one by the scores of 25-16, 22-25, 25-16 and 26-24. The crowd was electric throughout the entire night, with sections of people cheering for family members and even strangers who were participating in the event. It was another success for the Battle of the Badges but Matacotta  never wants anyone to lose sight of the true spirit of the event. He never forgets what makes this day so special to all those who attend the event every year.

“We remember our fallen heroes, whether they are police or fire [fighters]… we never forget them. In other words, even though we are playing here, even though this is a happy day, we don’t forget the people that permitted us to be here by giving up their lives.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing