G-COP Swears in A New Board Committee

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. addresses the G-COP members at the monthly meeting

By Clare Baierl | [email protected]

A large room filled with women and men of the 104 District G-COP group stood together, hands raised to their hearts and said the pledge of allegiance. At the monthly meeting of the largest G-COP force in the city, members gathered together to hear from city officials, discuss changes, and welcome the board members. 

The 104th Precinct Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol has been around since 1976. The group works with the local police department, as their “eyes and ears,” said GCOP President, Elizabeth Delacruz. Without weapons of any kind, the group helps with a variety of tasks from patrolling the neighborhoods, finding suspects, to blocking off intersections during car accidents, natural disasters, parades, and even church processions. 

The monthly meeting started off with a surprise guest in tow, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. of the 15th District. Addabbo spoke to the group with updates on the legislative session. Addabbo spoke about his office’s plans to give money to the MTA, but “not before a forensic audit”, he urged. His department will hire an outside expert to look at their expenses, and “see if we can cut some fat,” Addabbo explained. 

Addabbo also answered an audience member’s question about a new cannabis store opening near his office. While the senator was against it, he emphasized that keeping these stores away from schools and young children is crucial. “Whether you are for or against it, you must think of placement,” said Addabbo. “Placement is essential.” 

Continuing off the night, a representative for Councilman Robert Holden’s office gave a few remarks. The representative started off by thanking the group for all their work and support within the community.

“The councilmen appreciates GCOP,” he said. The representative also gave a few updates on Holden’s current agenda. “We are making sure the NYPD is funded, and funded properly,” he said. “We want to show that the police are good, they are necessary.”

To end off the night, the group held their annual Board of Directors swearing in ceremony. Addabbo had each board member place their right hand in the air and repeat the GCOP pledge. Afterwards, the group president took the stage and expressed her thanks to the community of members and supporters. 

“You are the backbone of this community,” said Delacruz.

Meet The Man Fighting for Flushing’s Small Businesses

John Choe, Director of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce stands on the corner of Northern Blvd in Flushing

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.”

This Emerging Curator Is Bringing Art and Culture to Flushing

By Clare Baierl |  [email protected]

Outside of the opening of the Flushing Green Market, Xinya Li was making the rounds approaching everyone she could to announce her newest art exhibit opening this month. 

She has soft brown eyes, jet-black hair and a warm smile. As Curator and Artistic Director for the Flushing Chamber of Commerce, Li is using her unique worldly perspective to highlight artists throughout Queens. 

Born and raised in China, at the mere age of sixteen, Li moved across the world to Connecticut to complete her high school education. 

All by herself, with her family and friends still in China, Li finished off her education in the US with a degree in Design from the School of Visual Arts in New York. 

“I used to go to the city every weekend,” Li explained. “I knew that if I wanted to pursue my art career, I needed to move.” 

So she set her sights high, grabbing her first job out of school working under John Choe in the Commission on Human Rights. Li worked on Choe’s campaign team, helping to shape his brand personality, a position that would eventually lead her to her current job. 

With a goal of artistic curation, Li moved on to work for The Flushing Chamber of Commerce. Within this position and the unique skills she brought to it, Li found her passion. 

“I’m always having random, creative ideas,” Li said with a laugh. “I’m very energetic.” 

Working as an artistic curator, Li travels throughout Flushing to find and work with emerging artists. Each month, Li works to create original art exhibitions throughout the brough. Often bringing together different cultural perspectives and unique ideas such as her newest project, Museum Without Doors

This exhibit, opening on July 19th at Bowne Park in Flushing, will bring together the work of two artists, Chia Hsuan Kuo and Pin Hsin Chu. The exhibition will be free and open to the public. The concept will be a departure from the traditional gallery experience, as it will be held outside in the park. The goal being, “to bridge the gap between the general public and art,” said Li. 

“I get my inspiration from literally anything,” Li explains. “Everything can be your inspiration, even a coffee shop could be the inspiration for my next exhibit.”

 

New Green Market Now Open In Flushing, Helping To Provide Equitable Access to Local Food

Members of The Flushing Chamber of Commerce Celebrate The Opening Of The New Green Market at Bowne Park

By Clare Baierl | [email protected]

Just off of Main St. in Flushing, one of the busiest areas in all of the city and home to the largest Chinatown neighborhood, sits a lively fresh market on the corner of Sanford Ave. Underneath the tents piles of fresh vegetables sit in the glowing sun. 

There is everything from multi-colored carrots, ripe tomatoes, bright green lettuce, to even baked goods and fresh speckled eggs. This market, a new location made possible by the non-profit GrowNYC, is on a mission to give Flushing residents access to quality food and support, no matter their income level. 

GrowNYC operates over 45 green markets within the city, and yet only four within Queens. In partnership with the Flushing Chamber of Commerce, it became clear for both groups the need for locally produced goods in Flushing. 

This is the operation’s first market to serve Flushing. With their services and markets expanding every year, the fact that this large neighborhood did not have a market yet made it the obvious choice for the new location. And for residents, it couldn’t be more welcome. 

“I’m so excited we are finally getting a new market here,” said Deni Barrios, a local resident. “Finally!” 

GrowNYC operates with the needs of their communities at the forefront. Meaning most locations are requested by community members through their online submission form. With over 3 million residents that participate in their programs, according to the GrowNYC, the requests are always coming. 

Along with the markets, they provide fresh food box pickups, youth markets, food scrap collection sites, free waste reduction training, community gardens and educational programs to name a few. 

Going along with their mission of equal access, all their markets operating within the city accept various types of nutrition support programs such as, SNAP/EBT, WIC and Senior FMNP coupons and Greenmarket Bucks. 

The new market location seeks to bring fresh, local food to Flushing – while only using producers located within 200 miles of the city. There are multiple farms that will provide weekly produce to this location including Breezy Hill Orchard, Knoll Krest Farm Orchard and R+G Produce. 

Multi-colored carrots delivered to the market by R+G Farms

R+G Produce, a family-run business located in Orange County, NY, has been operating since the 1800s. Their farm, originally set on swamp-land, now produces thriving crops in fertile, compost-mixed soil. 

They run a busy operation, with over 800 acres of farmland, and only 50-70 employees. “We are like a big family,” said Rick Miller, a delivery driver, worker on the R+G Farm and retired farmer. 

The market will sell a rotating variety of produce and other goods locally produced. Residents will have access to everything from carrots, tomatoes, onions, baked goods, cider, fruit, eggs to pasta, among much more. 

Miller is one of the many passionate people behind the food. 

“It’s so fertile, so soft, so healthy,” he explained while rifling through the food. Soil makes a big difference for R+G, Miller explained. “Their carrots are sweeter than anything.” 

While R+G Produce still uses pesticides, they are trying to get away from it by using new technology. Miller described one of the new high-tech machines; a laser-weeder, that can kill weeds as fast as an acre an hour. But cost cannot be ignored when trying to go fully organic, Miller explains. 

As a retired farmer, Miller knows the challenges of running a farm, especially an organic one. “Organic is much harder to sell,” he explained. “You lose 70% of your crop.” 

On top of that, farmers, organic or not, face piling costs of operating within the United States. Taxes such as electric, fuel and land are a big factor. Along with insuring their crops in case they lose anything to unexpected weather. The burden of insurance is put upon the farmers to pay monthly. 

“Farmers are the backbone of this country,” said Miller. “But we aren’t taken care of.”

Andrina Sanchez, Communications Director for Grow NYC, explores the market on opening day

This is one of the reasons why GrowNYC is so proactive in their mission, by providing access to quality and fresh produce to residents, they are also helping local farmers thrive.

“Support your regional markets,” said Andrina Sanchez, Communications Director at GrowNYC. “They have the freshest local food you can buy.” 

Tackling Food Insecurity In Queens

Andy Rodriguez, Executive Director at The Variety Boys and Girls Club                                                                   

 

Clare Baierl  |  [email protected]  

Starting in July, the non-profit groups Queens Together and The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, are partnering up in the creation of a new way to think about food insecurity.

Through a modern-take on current food relief, the program will provide a sit-down dining experience in some of the best restaurants in Queens to those in need. The pilot program, run by Queens Together, will run with a progressive mission that seeks to truly listen to the needs of their communities. 

When thinking about needs that are in the forefront of the community, the list can be exhaustive. While New York is often seen as a city with a plethora of resources, access to these resources are where many residents get stuck, Andy Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Variety Boys and Girls club, explains. Not everyone has equal access to grocery stores, or governmental assistance is the same way, and this can be a way in which many residents will suffer.

“We don’t realize that there are some neighborhoods, even within this area, that don’t have a supermarket for 20 blocks,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez noticed through his day-to-day work that many families in the community did not have access to basic daily essentials like hygiene products and food. On top of that, with summer in full swing and schools shut down, some programs that feed children in the neighborhood become unavailable. One in four children across the five boroughs face food insecurity, according to a 2021 analysis by Feeding America, and unfortunately that is just the beginning. Many children that need access to free food programs have families that also would benefit from those same services. But in New York, the need outweighs the demand by a large number.  

This is where the newly developed food relief program took an active approach to address this very issue in the community. Rodriguez, along with Jonathan Forgash of Queens Together are the passionate faces behind this new program. 

Forgash, a chef of thirty years and an enthusiastic community-based leader, initially developed the idea at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020. Realizing the drastic need for food security in his neighborhood during this period, he began working with local volunteers to donate food to its residents through food pantries and drop-off centers. The program was fully hands-on, without a location, or any resources of their own. 

Forgash led distribution of fresh produce through true community based kindness, from restaurants donating their time and space to help make meals, to strangers helping load and unload trucks from neighboring farms. As months went on, people began to notice his work in the community, having raised over 300,000 dollars in support.

The Variety Boys and Girls Club collecting food during the pandemic                                                         

On the other end of the spectrum, sits Rodriguez, who originally noticed through his club the urgent needs of his members and surrounding community. Rodriguez, as director and member for over seven years at The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, said he has always seen the value of community outreach programs, even participating in similar programs as a child growing up in the area. With his over 20 years in the nonprofit industry, it seems as though he truly recognizes the importance of valuing and listening to those directly affected. 

The whole premise of the program is to try a new approach to feeding the community that promotes community and humanity for everyone involved. The program will allow families of four to come into a restaurant and sit down for a free hot meal made by those working within the local restaurants. 

“Restaurants in some ways are the backbone of any small community. We’re a public meeting space. People come for good reasons and bad reasons, some sad reasons and joyous reasons. But who better?” Forgash explained. This idea to use the communal aspect of a sit-down restaurant is at the core of the program. 

Too often, even within other non-profit organizations, people are not given access to spaces that allow them to congregate and eat together with their fellow community members, Forgash explained. This idea of promoting enthusiastic humanity through food is essential to the program experience. 

 “We can actually give these people a place to sit together like human beings, and share a meal… And not only are we going to feed them a good meal, but we’re going to help a small business make money and keep employees working,” Forgash said. This full-circle program promotes human-centered growth at every-level, not only helping those that need food, but also helping the local businesses that are involved. 

The restaurants that will begin working with the program will not only be able to serve their community during their off-hours, earn extra cash flow, but also, gain valuable tools for growth. The program will provide these partnering restaurants with essential business promotion from a grassroots level, through press, community newsletters and an enhanced social media presence. 

“Helping mom and pop businesses survive and thrive is one of the three ways to the middle class,” said Forgash. “We are literally feeding the community engine, with dollars, with food, with resources.” As Forgash emphasizes, helping local restaurants thrive is essential for community building from all levels. 

The Bel Aire Diner, on 21st and Broadway, is at the forefront of this program’s mission and success. A family owned business for decades, currently run by Kal Dellaportas, was enthusiastic to join from the start. While they will get a small profit through participation in Queens Together, it won’t make up for all the labor and space they will provide, he said.

“We are going to provide an american-style meal, maybe meatballs or an open-faced hot turkey sandwich,” said Dellaportas. “We don’t want to do something like burgers and fries, where you could get anywhere,” he explained. The meals will start this July at the diner, Dellaportas noted. “I hope it’s a huge success.”

As both groups involved prepare for the opening of the program, community support will be essential on every level. Even though he is a member of the neighborhood, the program is new, and therefore from the beginning must establish itself as a reliable resource in order to thrive, Forgash said. 

“We want [the community] to trust us,” said Forgash. “This is your organization. We exist for you.”

 

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