Solace House raises over $50K at annual walk

LIC nonprofit continues mission to tackle stigma of suicide

By Evan Triantafilidis

[email protected]

The 5:24 a.m. sunrise on the morning of Saturday, June 11 served as a symbolic light at the end of the tunnel for New Yorkers rallying to break the stigma of suicide.

More than 100 people in bright yellow t-shirts walked along the waterfront in Long Island City for the annual Solace Sunrise 5K Walk/Run last weekend. During the event, Solace House, a Queens-based nonprofit organziation that provides free counseling services for people who are in suicidal distress, raised over $50,000 for their cause.

Two years into a global pandemic that has called for residents to social distance and shelter in place, Danielle Gallagher, director of operations at Solace House, says the demand for mental health treatment continues to increase.

“There’s been an increase in clientele,” Gallagher explained. “Isolation and loneliness have always been triggers to mental health issues.”

Solace House 5k participants prepared early in the morning.

She says the nonprofit acts as a resource for people who are not yet ready for hospital care, but are still in need of someone to talk to. Mental health issues have only been exacerbated with stories of COVID-related losses and loss of employment, she adds.

First launched in 2006 in Dublin, Ireland by Irish politician Joan Freeman, the Pieta House has become an Irish household name with 20 locations and over 200 therapists across the European country.

In 2014, Freeman chose the New York Irish Center in Long Island City to house the United State’s first branch of the Pieta House, which has since evolved into the Solace House.

Following a one-year pilot program that saw the need for the nonprofit’s presence in the area, the Solace House has been offering bereavement counseling, family support, and workshops at its national headquarters in LIC and their other New York location in Yonkers.

From what started in 2015 with just one therapist and approximately 15 clients, Solace House now has six therapists who serve about 75 clients.

Several other Solace Sunrise Walks took place this year in the Catskills, the Bronx, Rockland County, as well as San Antonio, Texas and an upcoming walk in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

“Our goal would be to have a Solace House everywhere,” Gallagher said. “We would love to be in every city, because we provide a service that you go to when you’re having suicidal thoughts.”

For Queens resident Tara Mullaney, a bi-weekly bereavement group organized by the Solace House helps her cope with the loss of her husband, James, who took his life in January 2020.

Waking up before 4 a.m. on the morning of the Sunrise Walk/Run 5K, she remembered her husband—an Irishman who she was married to for nearly seven years, who had a passion for welding and World Rally Championship rally car racing.

“It helps to know that there are people who are struggling with the same thing,” Mullaney said. “You always think there’s something you could have done. But when you hear other people tell their story, and they’re like ‘I should have done something,’ and you as an outsider are like ‘no, obviously you couldn’t have done something,’ that really helps you with your own processing… realizing you couldn’t have done something for the person who you’ve lost.”

Tommy DiMisa, founder of Philanthropy in Phocus, a radio and podcast show, was on hand to walk from darkness to light on Sunday morning, while also shining a light on the nonprofit sector. He walked in last year’s Sunrise Walk/Run and continues to advocate for nonprofits in New York City.

“We need to end the stigma,” DiMisa said. “We need to find compassion and love for each other. We all go through dark times.”

DiMisa, who had been up since 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning, says his passion is to amplify the messages of the 36,000 nonprofits in New York City that do special work like the Solace House.

“If we think in terms of how we just have to look out for somebody, and that everybody needs a little support, versus, how much stuff can I gather or how much money can I get… I think the world’s a better place if we do the former versus the latter.”

Queens Rising at the Gantries

A light drizzle couldn’t stop the month-long celebration of arts and culture in the borough, with Queens Rising making its way to Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City last weekend.

Sunday’s day-long event, with a view of midtown Manhattan as the backdrop, featured live performances from R&B group Gentleman of Soul, pioneering Bhangra artist and activist DJ Rekha, jazz vibraphonist Joel Ross and the Cumbia River Band.

With over a dozen food truck vendors lined up for the free event, the weekend’s live entertainment marks the halfway point of the multi-disciplinary arts celebration throughout the month of June.

Upcoming events as part of Queens Rising include a “Dance Day” at the Queens County Farm Museum on Saturday, June 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as an ongoing free outdoor concert series at Culture Lab LIC on Thursdays through Sundays.

For a complete list of events this month, visit Queensrising.nyc.

Some of the live music featured at Queens Rising at Gantry State Park in LIC

Puppy mill pipeline bill awaits signature

The retail sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits will be barred from New York pet stores once the puppy mill pipeline bill becomes law with Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature.

Legislation supported by Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, aims to end the puppy mill to pet store pipeline in New York State, where out-of-state and often inhumane commercial breeding facilities supply stores with different breeds of pets.

A 134-15 vote in the State Assembly last Friday places the bill on the governor’s desk, waiting to be signed.

“With so many good animals in need of rescue, there is no need for abusive puppy mills to supply pet stores,” Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris said. “Our four-legged companions should be treated with respect, not like commodities. I am proud to have authored this important bill and thrilled to see it pass the Legislature. And now I am hopeful Governor Hochul will sign it into law.”

The bill comes with the backing of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of New York State, New York State Animal Protection Federation, Voters for Animal Rights and the New York City Bar Association Animal Welfare section.

Oftentimes, offspring of mill animals have congenital issues resulting from poor breeding and can cost families thousands of dollars in veterinary care.

According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the state agency tasked with regulating pet dealers, there are approximately 80 pet stores licensed throughout the state.

“Puppy mills breed cruelty. Banning the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in New York pet stores will deal with puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline a near-mortal blow,” Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal said. “The cute puppies, kittens and bunnies in pet store windows mask a sad reality: these animals are products of horrific neglect in puppy mills. Puppy, kitty and bunny mills use and abuse animals to churn out pets for sale, which are often riddled with congenital diseases that cost unsuspecting consumers hundreds or thousands of dollars in veterinary bills and incalculable emotional stress. Over the years we have tried to regulate pet stores, but the industry continues to prioritize profits over the welfare of animals. My work with State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris and the advocates will help shut down the pet store-to-puppy mill pipeline once and for all.”

Pet breeders and stores are loosely regulated under the Animal Welfare Act by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In Iowa, Daniel Gingerich was licensed by the USDA in 2019, however the agency didn’t inspect the facility until 2021. Upon inspection, the agency found dead and dying dogs, dogs hidden from inspectors, ongoing disease outbreaks, heat distress, lack of water and food –– totaling up to 190 violations.

Based on veterinarian inspection documents filed with New York State, dogs were sold to over 25 locations in New York, including to Astoria Pets in Astoria and to HeyPets Inc in Flushing. Different breeds of dogs were also sold to a number of locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

In a blog written by ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker, he says the nonprofit has helped rescue over 500 dogs living in conditions at multiple Iowa properties operated by Gingerich.

He also pointed to public documents that show more than one-third of New York’s puppy-selling pet stores, including shops in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Westchester and Long Island, imported Gingerich’s puppies.

“Once signed into law, the puppy mill pipeline bill will finally end the sale of cruelly bred puppy mill dogs in pet shops across New York state, which has one of the country’s highest concentrations of pet stores that sell puppies,” Bershadker said. “Shutting down the puppy mill pipeline will help stop retail sellers and commercial breeders from engaging in—and profiting from—unconscionable brutality. We’re grateful to Assembly Member Rosenthal and Senator Gianaris for championing the passage of the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill and urge Governor Hochul to sign it to signal New York’s determination to reject animal cruelty statewide.”

In March, Gingerich reached a plea agreement, pleading guilty to one count of animal neglect with serious injury or death, and another count of animal neglect with serious injury. Gingerich was sentenced to 30 days in jail and two years of probation.

The legislation also allows for pet stores to collaborate with animal rescue organizations to keep ethical pet adoptions a part of the industry.

Speaking on the State Senate floor last month, Gianaris said stopping the flow of puppy mill pets will not interrupt business for the approximately 80 pet stores throughout the state.

“It’s time to put that part of the industry to rest,” he said. “Ninety eight percent of pet store business is not from selling animals. It’s from selling products, supplies and food. We’re not destroying an industry, we’re saving lives.”

Remembering Woodside’s Daniel Andrews

Councilwoman Julie Won and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards honored the late Queens stalwart Dan Andrews with a street co-naming ceremony last Saturday, June 4, near his former family home in Woodside.

The intersection of 54th Street and 32nd Avenue will forever be known as Daniel Andrews Way.

The event was attended by over 100 people who came to celebrate a man so near and dear to the Woodside community. Friends, family, representatives of the local FDNY firehouse, as well as former Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, Juliet Papa of 1010WINS, Dave Seifman of the New York Post and Alexandra Rosa, longtime Borough President representative and Chief of Staff under two former Borough Presidents.

Born and raised in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, Andrews graduated from St. John’s University in 1970 and began his career in the new business as a photo caption writer at United Press International. He went on to become UPI’s Bureau Chief in New York’s City Hall, joining other members of the Room 9 press corps in covering then-Mayor Ed Koch and the rest of City government.

After leaving UPI, Andrews went on to serve for 23 years as press secretary to Queens Borough President’s Claire Shulman and Helen Marshall. Upon his retirement in 2013, the New York Daily news noted that Andrews, “may well be the longest serving government spokesperson in the city.”

He eventually married his wife, Deirdre, and raised two children in their loving Woodside home, before moving to Bronxville, NY. Dan passed away on October 12, 2020 at the age of 72.

Charges dropped against Prakash Churaman

DA decides not to move forward with case

Prakash Churaman walked out of Queens Criminal Court on the afternoon of Monday, June 6 for what he says will be the last time in his life.

Prakash Churaman walks out of Queens Criminal Court a free man on Monday, June 6.

Churaman, now 22, had all charges against him dropped by the Queens District Attorney’s office. As a 15-year-old kid of Guyanese descent from Queens, Churaman says he was forced to confess to a crime he had nothing to do with.

Initially convicted of the home invasion and murder of Taquane Clark, Churaman has maintained his innocence, even despite being sentenced to nine years to life, before having the Appellate Division court overturn the conviction in June 2020.

When the conviction was overturned, he was offered and later refused a plea deal to plead guilty to assault and be released in a matter of weeks. Instead, Churaman opted to fight for his freedom.

“It took a long time, it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Churaman said outside Queens Criminal Court.

Churaman was incarcerated for six years, one month, and 10 days before being bailed out and serving an additional 16 months in home confinement.

“I just want to utilize this time to heal,” Churaman said. “All of this is internally and externally traumatizing. I want to spend time with my son, my family. I just want to live my life.”

In a letter signed by a group of elected officials and advocates of Churaman, the decision to drop all charges levied against him was met with overdue relief. The letter was signed by Councilwoman Shahana Hanif, Councilman Shekar Krishnan, Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani, former Council candidate Felicia Singh, and Democratic District Leader Mufazzal Hossain.

“Prakash is a Guyanase immigrant who spent over half a decade of his life behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of murder,” the letter reads. “This decision speaks to the power of his community and the movement he built.”

Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar said the case is a victory for Queens and for the entire Indo-Caribbean community.

In a statement, she said she would be conducting an inquiry into what led to Churaman being coerced into a false statement. Rajkumar is the Chair of the State Assembly Subcommittee on Diversity in Law.

“As a civil rights attorney, I have seen firsthand how the justice system can fail defendants and deny them their right to due process,” Rajkumar said in a statement. “I have spent my career fighting to change this, bringing the voices of the vulnerable and disenfranchised into courts of law. Mr. Churaman’s victory was a victory for that cause. Thank you also to District Attorney Melinda Katz for doing the right thing and dropping the charges, showing that the hand of justice is fair in Queens.”

The District Attorney’s office did not immediately respond for comment.

Mets fan makes impressive homerun snag

Ridgewood/Queens dad finds faith in fatherhood, baseball

Alan Alcantara, 31, made the impressive grab during the New York Mets game last week with his one-year-old child in his arms.

Alan Alcantara’s view from center field was a familiar one.

The Dominican-born 31-year-old grew up playing baseball, continuing through high school and even recently playing center field for three years for his job’s softball league.

He grew up watching Sammy Sosa, emulating the batting stance of Ken Griffey Jr., and idolizing his favorite player, Pedro Martinez.

But when the Ridgewood resident found himself in section 140 at Citi Field last week, just beyond the center field wall, he was without a glove and instead holding his one-year-old son, Levi.

The first inning home run hit by the Mets’ own Starling Marte was hit over the wall, and although Alcantara didn’t catch the ball on the fly, he positioned himself to catch the ball off the bounce after it ricocheted off the center field void between the Home Run Apple and his seats.

“I saw the ball coming off the bat,” Alcantara recalls. “It was a split-second decision to get up on the rail.”

The 431-foot moon shot to center field was hit 107.2 miles per hour off Marte’s bat, finding its way into Alcantara’s outreached arm, while he was standing on the side railing of his seats.

He says he’s been asked multiple times why he didn’t put his child down before attempting to catch the ball, but he says everything happened in “about two or three seconds.”

“My first thought was, let me stand up right away to see if I can catch it, so it doesn’t hit my family,” he added.

Alcantara, a church administrator at the Transformation Church in Ridgewood, happened to be at the game as part of an annual tradition with his co-workers. Families, volunteers, directors of ministries and even the church’s senior pastor — who Alcantara says is a huge Mets fan — were in attendance the night of Tuesday, May 31.

The bonding experience became a tradition last year, he says, as a way for the church’s congregation to regroup and celebrate life amid a global pandemic.

Alcantara, a father of two and soon-to-be three, says he received a flood of text messages from relatives and friends in his home country, who later saw the video clip of him catching the home run ball. A friend of his, a Pastor from Colombia, told him that he saw the replay of the catch while he was in the airport.

“I literally couldn’t pay too much attention to the game after [the catch],” Alcantara said.

The Mets would go on to defeat the Washington Nationals that night by a score of 10-0. They currently sit atop the NL East standings and have posted a 38-19 record through the first 57 games of the season. Only the 1986 Mets, who would go on to win the World Series that year, have posted a better club record to start the season.

During the pandemic, the Transformation Church pivoted to streaming their live services online, enabling the church at 16-40 Hancock Street to reach a larger audience than before, Alcantara says. Attending the church since he was 16, and a staff member for the last three years, Alcantara says that the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the church’s local membership.

“We saw a lot of deaths within our members’ families,” he says. “There was a time when our pastor did so many funerals in one week, it was crazy.”

Transformation Church started as a Hispanic church before opening up english-speaking services about a dozen years ago, in an attempt to reach the American-born youth whose parents were also Hispanic.

“They understand Spanish, but not fully,” Alcantara, a graduate of Baruch College, said. “We want them to understand the word of God.”

Migrating from the Dominican Republic at 13-years-old, Alcantara has called Ridgewood his home for nearly two decades now. In addition to preaching the gospel and coordinating Sunday services, Alcantara helps the church hold annual food drives around Thanksgiving to aid local families.

“We want to be able to put our faith into action, not only preach the word, but also live it out and help people because it’s part of the gospel,” he added.

With Father’s Day right around the corner, Alcantara took his brief viral moment to celebrate the dads who are present in their child’s life.

“I want to thank the fathers for all the work you do for your kids,” he said. “I know sometimes we go unseen, but God sees it, and your kids do as well, and they will thank you for it.”

Expanding economic opportunities in Queens

From forming newfound partnerships, investing in e-commerce and even finishing your college education, Queens business owners are adapting to new ways to seize economic opportunities.

Speaking to business owners at the Hyatt Regency JFK at Resorts World NYC, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams was the keynote speaker at the business resource event hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaks at the Hyatt Regency JFK at Resorts World NYC at a business resource event hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

In the city’s lone casino, it was fitting for Speaker Adams to call on former college students to essentially bet on themselves via the CUNY Reconnect Initiative, which aims to return nearly 700,000 students who have earned some college credits but no degree.

“I want you back,” Speaker Adams said. “My baby for now is CUNY Reconnect and I want you back.”

The New York City Council has called upon Mayor Eric Adams to invest $23 million to fund the initiative that was modeled after a statewide program in Tennessee that acts as a “last-dollar grant”, paying the remaining balance towards an associate or technical degree.

The Mayor’s Executive Plan did not include any funding for the initiative, but that could change before the end of the fiscal year later this month.

Nonetheless, Speaker Adams said the program would benefit thousands of minority women who had to leave school early, no matter what life circumstances got in the way of finishing their degree.

“We can help them increase their earning potential, boost their outcomes and strengthen our workforce,” Speaker Adams said. “This will also power our city’s economic recovery and help employers. We believe this initiative is a powerful solution for our city.”

She called for barriers to be broken, particularly for minority and women owned business entrepreneurs, including access to e-commerce and investments to online storefronts.

“These are all critical steps to support and expand economic opportunities across the city. And we will continue to advocate for these investments on a local level,” Speaker Adams said.

She also recognized Aleeia Abraham, founder of the BlaQue Resource Network (BRN), for her role in organizing a network of over 20,000 Black business owners, consumers and community members throughout the borough. Speaker Adams called the community-oriented collective an “essential part” of the community landscape in southeast Queens.

Abraham highlighted her network’s partnership with Queens Together, a network of borough restaurants and community groups, to tackle food insecurity and access during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We distributed anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 boxes of fresh produce every single week in our community,” Abraham said. “Our group grew from about 3000 members to 10,000 members, all because of partnerships.”

Speaker Adams also called for expanding city and state programs that provide technical support for small businesses, particularly legacy and longtime businesses that are considered “community staples”, as well as immigrant-run small businesses.

The City Council is calling for $1.5 million to help businesses launch online storefronts to meet the growing demands for the future economy, Adams said.

“Far too many barriers block businesses and entrepreneurs, particularly in communities of color, from the opportunities needed to thrive,” she said. “But one concrete step the city can take to immediately help underserved businesses is to facilitate access to e-commerce and make them more competitive and resilient in this digital age.”

Marching 21 blocks for 21 victims of gun violence

Residents of Queens lined the 34th Ave Open Street in Jackson Heights this past weekend, angered over gun violence that led to the death of two adults and 19 children in Uvalde, Texas.

The rally-goers marched 21 blocks for the 21 victims, saying a victim’s name out loud after every block walked, and passing by seven city public schools that also line 34th Avenue.

City Councilman Shekar Krishnan said he was sickened and turned nauseous upon hearing the news last Tuesday, as an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 third and fourth grade students in their classroom at Robb Elementary School.

“I know that so many of us here, as parents, neighbors and grandparents, are absolutely angry and fed up with what is happening in this country,” Krishnan said. “This is an utter embarrassment to the rest of the world that our elected leadership does not have the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, to stand up to the NRA, to protect our children and our teachers.”

Krishnan, a parent of two young children, noted that only in America does this level of senseless gun violence seem to happen. Just months before the 10 year mark of Sandy Hook, where 20 school-aged children died by gunfire, parents and their young children plead for action at the federal level to curb gun violence.

Moe Chan, a parent from Elmhurst, pushed one of his two children in a stroller among the pack of marchers. He says he felt numb when hearing the news last week, knowing that kids have been shot and killed in their own classroom before, with little legislative action following it.

“This is beyond horrendous. These leaders are not responsible enough, that’s why we’re out here with our kids,” Chan said. “We don’t know what’s going to come next. It could be in our town, our city, at their school. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. But we want them to be aware of what’s going on.”

Krishnan, along with parents, were visibly upset when details emerged about the timeline of events, with up to 19 police officers in the school’s hallway for over 40 minutes before Border Patrol agents breached the classroom and took out the shooter.

“Especially as more and more stories come forward of what happened in Texas and what was not done by our law enforcement to protect and save the lives of our children,” Krishnan said. “We are failing. We are failing our children.”

Krishnan was also upset that it took a number of mass shooting events for the State of New York to finally consider raising the age on buying the same kind of rifle used in both Sandy Hook and Uvalde, the AR-15.

It would be just days after the latest mass shooting in Uvalde when Governor Kathy Hochul said that she would like to propose legislation to raise the legal purchasing age of an assault rifle to 21.

Councilman Krishnan leads the charge against gun violence.

However, Krishnan was hesitant to say that would change anything.

“How is it possible that only now after Texas are we talking at the state level about raising the age on buying an AR-15, from 18 to 21?,” Krishnan said. “That’s not going to solve anything either. But how is it possible that only now has that conversation started?”

Jackson Heights residents Rich and Candi Lindeman, both in their late 70’s, put on their sneakers and joined the Saturday morning march

The retirees have an American flag hanging on their door, but after hearing about the shooting, have been considering hanging it upside down, to signal distress, according to the U.S. Flag Code.

“We’re sick and tired of Republicans who don’t care,” Rich Lindeman said. “They don’t want to do anything.”

His wife continued, “They just want their position in the job.”

“My husband tells me to calm down, or I’m going to have a heart attack, but it makes you angry,” Candi Lindeman added. “We are in distress, and nothing is being done.”

The couple says they have only turned their American flag upside down only once before, they say, which was after learning the results of the 2016 Presidential election.

“The children are dying and nobody seems to care,” she said.

2022 Election Profile: Assembly Candidate Juan Ardila

Juan Ardila, a Maspeth native and community advocate, announced his bid for the New York State Assembly’s 37th district, currently occupied by outgoing Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

Nolan, whose district whose district encompasses the Hunters Point, Sunnyside, Woodside, Maspeth, and Ridgewood communities in Western Queens, has held the position since 1984. Following the announcement of her retirement, four local candidates have opted to throw their hats into the ring.

Ardila, 28, is a program coordinator at The Legal Aid Society and has formerly worked as a staff member for then-City Councilmember Brad Lander. He has also worked as a consultant for the New York City Department of Education, where he helped oversee the expansion of pre-K, pre-K Dual Language, and 3-K for All.

He previously ran for the City Council’s 30th district and came up just short of unseating incumbent Robert Holden in last year’s Democratic Primary. Ardila garnered 45 percent of the vote, falling just 926 votes short of victory.

Upon announcing his candidacy for the 37th Assembly district in February, Ardila came out with endorsements from State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez. He has since earned the endorsement of Assemblymember Emily Gallagher, Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, Councilmember Tiffany Caban, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, and most recently, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He is also the endorsed candidate for the Working Families Party.

The progressive democrat says he wants to be able to work with people on all sides of the political spectrum — both to his left and to his right — up in Albany.

“It’s a different league, a different ballpark,” Ardila said in a sit-down interview with The Queens Ledger. “You’re just going to have to be someone who can work with both ends of the party.”

Ardila, the youngest and perhaps more progressive candidate of the bunch, identifies the issues of housing, climate, and healthcare as key concerns for constituents within the district.

Ardila is in favor of universal healthcare and a proponent of the New York Health Act, which would create a statewide single-payer health care system. He is also in favor of the “Green New Deal” and the closing of dirty power plants in the borough of Queens.

He is in favor of legalizing accessory dwelling units, which he says could bring an estimated 100,000 new homes into the city with correct compliance and safety standards, and providing real affordable housing for lower-income residents.

He’s also a supporter of the proposed “good cause eviction” bill, which would expand tenant protection rights against rent hikes in certain circumstances. He admits he’s “a little bit on the radical side” of the issue, maintaining his progressive stance that there is no good reason for an eviction of a tenant.

The first-generation American saw his mother, Lesly, be unjustly denied her residency when he was 17. When her Temporary Protected Status expired, Ardila recalled, she was at risk of being deported. When he came of age and met the criteria to become a sponsor for his mother, Ardila started the process of petitioning for her permanent residency.

It would be years later when both Ardila and his mother would find themselves at the Maspeth Post Office for monumental moments in both of their lives. As Ardila filed and finalized notarized paperwork with the Board of Elections for his first run at public office, his mother would receive her permanent residency in the mail during the same post office visit. Following the good news, the two went to the Georgia Diner on Queens Boulevard to celebrate with some hamburgers.

As the Maspeth native spoke about expanding tenant protections and true affordable housing in his sit down interview with The Queens Ledger, an unexpected visit and an exchange of keys from Ardila’s mother showed a glimpse into the reason why he got involved in politics.

“I think that’s the exciting part,” Ardila said. “We are now getting people from non-traditional backgrounds and people coming from the same life experiences as many immigrant and diverse populations are coming from, who are now getting into [politics]. I think that’s what excited people, even in the City Council race.”

Ardila said he consistently heard he had no shot at competing or winning last year’s City Council race, where he earned 45 percent of the vote. This time around, Ardila is prioritizing constituent accessibility in the leadup to the Tuesday, June 28 election. Ardila can be seen at the Sunnyside Farmers’ Market every Saturdary, making himself accessible to eligible voters and constituents.

It was ultimately some advice from former Councilmember and current President/CEO of the Variety Boys and Girls Club Costa Constantinides, that led Ardila to be even more within reach for constituents of the district.

“He told me just to be yourself, and even if you don’t agree with someone, always be accessible,” Ardila said. “If they want to email you, text you, DM you on social media, respond. There’s going to be a lot of people who don’t agree with you, but just be accessible.”

Ardila will appear first on the ballot against candidates Brent O’Leary, Johanna Carmona and Jim Magee in the Tuesday, June 28 Democratic Primary.. Stay tuned to The Queens Ledger for more election coverage.

Sikh community shaken again in Richmond Hill

Woman kidnapped and robbed, yet another press conference

A 51-year-old Sikh woman was thrown in a van, rendered unconscious, and robbed of thousands of dollars of jewelry last week outside a popular place of worship in South Richmond Hill.

The attack marks the fourth incident against the local Sikh community within the past few weeks, with the latest victim hearing the words “mom” before being kidnapped and robbed just steps from a gurdwara.

Last month, a 19-year-old Brooklyn man was charged in a spree of hate attacks, and is accused of targeting three men of the Sikh community. A second man, a 20-year-old from Brooklyn, was also charged in connection in one of the attacks. If convicted, both could face 25 years to life in prison.

The latest press conference to denounce the attacks in the Southeast Queens neighborhood came from gubernatorial candidate Rep. Tom Suozzi, and later at Queens Borough Hall led by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

Speaking outside of the Gurdwara Sikh Temple last week, Suozzi and community leaders called for peace just steps away from where the latest attack took place.

“Not only has the Sikh community been attacked, but it has been some of our most vulnerable members,” said Tejkaren Kaur Bains, a licensed state attorney from Long Island. “They’ve been beaten up while they have come here to worship.”

The self-proclaimed “common sense” democratic candidate for Governor says it will take someone like himself to change state laws pertaining to bail reform. He also touted that he was one of the first state politicians to hire a turban-wearing Sikh to his office.

“My Sikh brothers and sisters are easily recognized because they’re wearing turbans,” Suozzi said. “The fact that people can’t feel safe in their neighborhoods is just wrong.”

Suozzi hinted at negative rhetoric that was seen in the previous presidential administration, where it “became common for people to attack each other based upon their differences,” he said. Suozzi also cited the latest mass shooting which took the lives of 10 in Buffalo, calling it a “racist massacre.”

“We have to remember the basic fundamental American principle that all men and women are created equal,” Suozzi said.

Tejinder Singh, a former attorney at The Legal Aid Society of New York, said that law enforcement and the district attorney’s office eventually listened to the community in the past when some collective noise was made.

He added that police come across people from the community and frequently don’t take them seriously, “because they don’t look like people who can communicate effectively in English,” Singh said.

“Our community has to get politically involved,” Singh pleaded.

Pressed on his “fund the police” stance, Suozzi said that elected officials are needed to enforce laws, pointing to his 15-point plan to tackle crime.

“I don’t think it’s that they don’t take it seriously,” Suozzi said. “I think it’s that we have to fund the police to make people feel safe, and that we as a community need to bring attention to those crimes that we want to see enforced.”

Japneet Singh, a democratic candidate for the 15th State Senate District, said that he hopes to soon be working towards an actual plan, rather than just keep talking about a solution.

“We’re sick and tired of press conferences,” Singh said. “However, we have seen no action. We are not doing proper jobs in our city, our state and our country.”

“One misconception that a lot of people have is that immigrant communities don’t want laws and don’t want rules. We left our respective countries to escape lawlessness. For us to say we don’t want laws here in the city of New York, the most diverse city, that’s absurd,” Singh said. “I’ve been here since the age of 8, and it’s never been this bad.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing