Queens honors life, legacy of Tyre Nichols

“Enough is enough,” attendees say at candlelight vigil

By Jessica Meditz

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On a chilly Monday evening, Queens leaders and community residents gathered at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens to honor the life and legacy of Tyre Nichols with a candlelight vigil.

The 29-year-old father, photographer and FedEx worker had a fatal encounter with police in Memphis, Tennessee on Jan. 7, being brutally beaten by five officers during a traffic stop.

The body camera footage of the incident was just released this past Friday, sparking outrage and calls for justice across the nation.

The fate of Nichols, a Black man, has been compared to that of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – both of whom died at the hands of police.

The five officers involved in the beating of Nichols have been fired and charged with murder. As the investigation continued, additional officers and EMS personnel have been relieved of their duties in relation to his death.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, a Black man and father to a young son, delivered emotional remarks to the people in attendance. He recalled his own stop-and-frisk encounter at the age of 13, when he had guns drawn on him – because he fit the description of a robber.

Richards was moved to tears as he honored Nichols and reflected his own experiences as a Black man with the police.

He thanked all attendees for showing up and commended the diversity seen in the crowd.

“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do this, because we often go through this alone – behind closed doors,” Richards said with tearful eyes.

“I held my son a little tighter trying to prepare myself to watch that video. It weighed heavy.”

Richards said that even as people try to come up with theories as to why Nichols was stopped, it does not matter why – and he did not deserve to die.

“[Nichols’ mother] carried the strength of Emmett Till’s mom as I heard her speak. We’ve been on these steps too many times, and this trauma doesn’t get easier,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Borough President…it doesn’t matter how much legislation we pass, we always live with this.”

He called for the passing of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, restrict the use of certain policing practices, enhance transparency and data collection and establish best practices and training requirements, according to its summary.

Richards also demanded the end to qualified immunity, and denounced the plan of NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell to weaken the department’s disciplinary guidelines.

“This is about one standard. One law that works for everyone,” he said.

Councilman James Gennaro echoed Richards’ sentiments, calling for justice and equity for America’s Black community.

Gennaro, 65, says he remembers Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination “like it was yesterday,” and has seen much injustice throughout his lifetime and years of public service.

“Everyone here is trying to make a little bit of a difference by being here – holding onto one another, recognizing the work that still needs to be done, by joining together in prayer for the Nichols family, and all the Tyre Nichols out there that we don’t know about,” he said. “Every day, right now, somebody’s getting pulled over, something’s happening that shouldn’t happen…I don’t want to stand here at 75 years old saying the same thing.”

Richards opened up the space for members of the community to speak to the crowd, where several mothers, fathers, faith leaders and local advocates took the opportunity to grieve together.

“This is another shameful moment in America, and for all of us. When will this tragedy stop? It can stop when we all say ‘enough is enough,’ when police killings change to police protection, when hearts and minds are changed,” said Ashook Ramsaran, executive vice president at Queens Civic Congress.

“This should not happen again and we must make sure of that,” he continued. “To the Nichols family, we feel, we grieve and we mourn with you.”

Lori Zeno, executive director at Queens Defenders, has worked in the criminal justice system for 35 years. She said that she’s lost count of the amount of times clients have informed her over the years about the beatings, name calling and disrespect by police.

“Lives are being ruined, hearts are being broken and spirits are being broken, for what? Because we have a police department who, not all police, but many of our police are brutal and they think that if they are stopping you, or you are in their way, or you’re Black or Brown, that you don’t have a right to live,” she said.

Zeno is angry and appalled at the delayed response of EMS personnel to aid and transport Nichols to the hospital, as well as the fact that his mother had to see her son’s head swollen to the size of a watermelon.

She called on all those in attendance to reach out to the powers that be, including the police commissioner, Mayor Eric Adams, Gov. Kathy Hochul, all local officials and even President Joe Biden to bring police brutality to a full stop and remove all current officers with previous offenses.

Groups of attendees showed up with signs that read “Your silence is violence” and “If you were peaceful, we wouldn’t have to protest,” adorned with flowers and photos of Nichols’ smiling face.

Saxophonist Steven Salcedo serenaded the audience with familiar, sentimental music, including closing out with “Amazing Grace” in Nichols’ memory.

Pol introduces bill to ban e-bikes, e-scooters

Cites lithium-ion battery fires, traffic violations

By Jessica Meditz

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The 104th Precinct continues to confiscate illegal e-bikes from the streets. (Photo: @NYPD104Pct, Twitter)

While members of the City Council examine ways to regulate e-vehicles and make their lithium-ion batteries safer for New Yorkers, one councilman in particular looks to ban the notorious vehicles entirely.

Councilman Robert Holden, a Democrat representing Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Woodside in District 30, introduced legislation that would repeal regulations that allow e-bikes and e-scooters to be driven in New York City.

The bill would also restore the fines for e-bike and e-scooter violations from the current civil penalty of $250 to the original amount of $500.

Holden cites a disregard of traffic laws, excessive fires caused by lithium-ion batteries and a diminished quality of life as reasons for proposing this legislation. The bill is co-sponsored by Queens Councilmembers James Gennaro and Vickie Paladino, as well as Councilwoman Althea Stevens in the Bronx.

“People are getting killed, and these things are causing accidents,” Holden told the Queens Ledger back in June. “It’s becoming like a third world country, because anything goes in the streets of New York.”

“My goal is to get rid of these illegal scooters. The cops have to cooperate and confiscate them,” he added.

In addition to restoring fines for violations, Holden calls on state legislators to pass laws that would require registration, insurance coverage and licensing for e-vehicles to be permitted back on the road.

On Jan. 21, the 104th Precinct within the district took to Twitter to reveal that its officers confiscated several illegal, unregistered e-bikes from the streets, making arrests for reckless driving and other traffic violations.

In addition to traffic safety, the e-bikes pose a threat to public safety in that the lithium-ion batteries that power them have caused serious fires across Queens.

Attempting to save money, people often purchase batteries that are used. However, if their components are not compatible with one another, it could lead to overheating and fires.

Just recently, two lithium-ion battery fires occurred in Queens, one in East Elmhurst on Jan. 20, and another in Kew Gardens Hills on Jan. 25. In the East Elmhurst fire, one person died and 10 were injured, and the Kew Gardens Hills fire impacted an in-home daycare facility where 18 children were left injured.

In 2022, nearly 200 fires were caused by lithium-ion batteries, according to the FDNY.

Among the proposed City Council bills to regulate the sale of these batteries includes one that would prohibit the sale of batteries for mobility devices, unless such batteries have been listed and labeled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory or other approved organization.

One co-sponsor of the bill is Councilwoman Joann Ariola, a Republican representing District 32. While she feels e-bikes negatively impact the quality of life for her constituents, she doesn’t feel that completely banning them is the answer.

“I’m a realist, so I don’t know if banning them is realistic, but I do know that regulating and requiring them to be registered and insured is much more viable,” she said in an interview.

Holden also co-sponsored this bill.

“The scourge of these devices throughout our city has led to people disregarding traffic laws resulting in injuries or death, lithium ion-based fires that killed several people and injured hundreds, and a feeling of disorder on our streets and sidewalks as well as a diminished quality of life,” Holden said in a statement. “We must ensure that these vehicles are operated safely before allowing them back on our streets.”

Councilwoman, cops burn illegal weed shops

By Jessica Meditz

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Paladino joined NYPD officers to raid two Whitestone smoke shops last week, Photo via @VickieforNYC, Twitter)

Two smoke shops in Whitestone were busted for selling to underaged children, marijuana products while unlicensed, along with illegal substances, the local councilwoman reported on social media.

Vickie Paladino, a Republican representing District 19, shared a video to Twitter saying she worked alongside Mayor Eric Adams’ office and New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda to raid the troublesome joints in the community.

The two smoke shops, Izzy Convenience Shop at 14-05 Parsons Boulevard and Stoney Smoke Shop at 14-03 150th Street got “cleaned out,” according to Paladino, and cops confiscated products that included cannabis and hallucinatory mushrooms

In another tweet, she claimed that these stores were “centers of gang and illegal activity,” as well as the subject of numerous community complaints.

“I look forward to many, many more…my eyes are everywhere; my feet go everywhere,” Paladino said.

She thanked everyone involved in the feat including the sheriff, his officers and Deputy Mayor Phil Banks, and assured her followers that there’d be “more to come.”

“Great news: we killed two shops. They’ll be open, probably, tomorrow, but for now, they were emptied out,” she said upon concluding the video.

New York State first legalized recreational marijuana use in 2021, and the first legal dispensaries opened up in the city over the course of the last month.

It is still illegal to sell marijuana products without a license.

Forest Hills couple to share passion project

‘The Monkey King: A Kung Fu Musical’ coming to Queens Theatre

By Jessica Meditz

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Jonathan and Kimbirdlee Fadner.

Husband and wife team Jonathan and Kimbirdlee Fadner first moved to Forest Hills from California about a decade ago to experience the buzzing musical theater scene that New York City has to offer.

After years of experience and community engagement, the duo looks forward to presenting their passion project, “The Monkey King: A Kung Fu Musical,” for the first time as a fully realized production for young audiences at Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park.

This performance will take place at 3 p.m. on Feb. 11 and 12; however, “The Monkey King” has been a large part of their creative lives since 2018, upon receiving a grant from Queens Council on the Arts.

“That was one of the pinnacle moments for us,” Kimbirdlee said. “At the same time, we both started working with Queens Theatre doing different things like teaching artists’ work, directing, music directing…so that led to us to start to develop ‘The Monkey King.’”

Around the same time, the couple also started working at Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance on Roosevelt Island.

“It’s been really a wonderful, wonderful thing for us and then just growing with that community and helping that community grow,” Jonathan said.

When co-writing “The Monkey King,” the Fadners took inspiration for the main character from “Journey to the West” by Wu Cheng’en, a classic Chinese novel that dates back to the 16th century during the Ming dynasty.

Their production is unique in that it features a big twist: the Monkey King character is female, portrayed by Kimbirdlee.

As an experienced writer, composer and music director, Jonathan said this was a conscious decision as it pays homage to his wife’s Chinese heritage and opens up a window of opportunity for Asian women in theater. “The Monkey King” is also completely powered by Asian cast members.

Throughout the course of her career in musical theater, Kimbirdlee found that there were not many roles written specifically for Asian women such as herself, and wanted to take initiative and change that.

In “The Monkey King,” despite what its title suggests, the lead character is female. Co-writer Kimbirdlee Fadner will portray her.

She said that New York City is the place that allowed her to truly be herself and excel doing what she loves most: performing and entertaining various audiences.

“It’s really here where I discovered that my own Asian female self, it’s kind of a funny thing to say, but I grew up in the Midwest, not being around too much Asian culture and then moved to California where I felt that there was non-traditional casting going on,” she explained. “But it wasn’t seen through the lens of ‘Let’s actually feature the Asian female actor.’ So that’s one of the really profound things that has happened in my career since moving to New York.”

A story of girl power, anti-bullying and representation, “The Monkey King” follows a tribe of monkeys, living on a mountain, under the oppression of the Demon of Havoc.

In hopes of discovering a magical monkey that will come to save them from all their troubles and lead them to the promised land, the Monkey King shows up…and is a girl.

She tries to increase her power in the world – not just for herself, but for her tribe – and conflicts arise throughout the storyline.

“It’s so cool because never has the Monkey King appeared as a girl…ever,” Kimbirdlee said of the role.

Jonathan said that another unique aspect of the show is that since it is a kung fu musical, the choreography (set by Max Erhlich) is based around the martial art form. In addition, “The Monkey King’s” soundtrack features a mix of classical and rock musical elements.

Jonathan and Kimbirdlee thank the cast and crew for making this production possible: Steven Eng, director; I Chen Wang, projection designer; Erin Black, costume designer; Madeline Goddard, set designer; Kelly Ruth Cole, stage manager; Charlotte Fung Miller, artist; Jerry Fadner, graphic designer; Sarah Lam Chiu, Ellis Gage, Brian Jose, Charles Pang, Gage Thomas, Bella Villanueva and Annie Yamamoto – cast members.

As the parents of two young children, the Fadners understand firsthand the importance of sharing arts and culture with youth.

“The Monkey King” was actually staged as a children’s theater production at first, and being able to share that experience with young people has been incredibly powerful, Kimbirdlee said.

“One really special experience I had was teaching it as an in-school residency early on, and the ending showcase was the entire fourth grade performing a version of ‘The Monkey King’ all in unison,” she said. “We were able to teach the lessons that we were so inspired by with girl power, Asian culture, anti-bullying and just this overall empowerment, in a universal way that every child in this fourth grade could comprehend, could get excited about and then could actually perform it together.”

Taryn Sacramone, executive director of Queens Theatre, is proud to have such a great relationship with the Fadners through the dedicated work they’ve done at the institution.

She said that audiences can expect to be completely delighted and to discover an exciting, action-packed musical in a way that hasn’t been done before.

“We knew this was a passion project and that there was a gap that they saw in the world…you don’t see many of these stories with an Asian actress in the lead and taking an important folkloric tale and telling it in a new way, reaching multiple generations with it,” Sacramone said. “They had this really compelling vision, and they’re also just wonderful people and parents themselves, so they really understand young audiences and what people respond to.”

She shared that years ago, they did a reading of an earlier draft of “The Monkey King” at Queens Theatre, which was extremely well-received.

Sacramone also feels that “The Monkey King” as a production truly aligns with the mission of Queens Theatre, which is to reflect and celebrate the diversity of local communities.

The Fadners feel lucky to maintain and grow relationships within the performing arts community, including with Queens Theatre.

“I think that’s one of the beautiful lessons that we’ve learned coming to New York,” Kimbirdlee said while tearing up, “To have an organization like Queens Theatre believe in us and in our work…means so much to us.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: https://queenstheatre.org/event/the-monkey-king/, or call the box office at (718) 760-0064.

New bubble tea shop opens its doors in Ridgewood

Tsaocaa strives to bring quality food and drink to locals

By Jessica Meditz

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Tsaocaa’s menu includes a wide variety of teas.

Earlier this month, residents of Ridgewood extended a warm welcome to Tsaocaa, a brand new bubble tea shop in the community.

Located at 65-07 Fresh Pond Road, the shop sits in a prime location where both longtime locals and passersby alike can stop in and enjoy a cup of bubble tea.

Wendy Lin, owner of the location, first arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong almost 22 years ago, and has lived in Ridgewood ever since.

Loosely translated, “Tsaocaa” means “the holy land of tea,” and the franchise’s website looks at its team members as being on the pilgrimage road. Tsaocaa has over 100 locations across the U.S.

Tsaocaa opened its doors on Jan. 7

Lin feels this sentiment resonates with her own journey in the restaurant industry.

“I really like milk tea; I make myself one every day. But the ones that I make for myself versus the ones at Tsaocaa are totally different, as they use different types of tea, different roasts,” she explained. “Basically what we do is to try to fulfill whatever the Ridgewood area needs, and want to bring something special here.”

Tsaocaa’s menu includes various types of roasts, including sakura, jasmine and green tea. They offer a wide variety of options, including classic and slush style fruit tea, fruit mojitos, milk swirl and milk bubble tea.

Flavors across the menu range from grapefruit, mango, strawberry, kiwi, dragon fruit, lychee, blueberry, peach and many more.

Lin said that Tsaocaa is unique in that its teas not only taste great, but consist solely of pure, natural ingredients. Presentation is also of utmost importance, as their products are also served in an aesthetically pleasing way.

This is not Lin’s first endeavor in food and beverage, as she also owns Sushi Yoshi, which is located at the same site.

Lin’s other food business, Sushi Yoshi, is at the same site as Tsaocaa.

She’s been making sushi at the location for eight years, and its varieties include classic sushi rolls and signature rolls – such as the “Fresh Pond Roll” – which includes salmon, fresh pineapple and crunch topped with avocado and black caviar with mango sauce.

Other options include bowls, burritos, burgers, egg waffles, soups and salads.

Lin said that despite opening up so recently, she already has several regulars who stop by multiple times per week.

She’s thrilled to serve her community.

“I hear so many customers say they’ve been waiting to see this kind of location in the Ridgewood area, and we already have regulars,” Lin said. “That makes me so happy.”

Tsaocaa is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and online ordering options such as UberEats, Grubhub and DoorDash – as well as their own online ordering service: https://www.onlineorder.abcpos.com/sushiyoshiridgewood/88b2a8c6856849daac58da72b81a3553.

Maspeth Federal Savings teaches financial literacy to Molloy High School students

By Jessica Meditz

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Toya Brown gives Molloy High School students a seminar on credit and debt.

Last Thursday, Maspeth Federal Savings Bank (MFS) ventured out into the community to educate students about financial literacy.

Employees of the bank visited Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood as part of their commitment to community involvement and sharing valuable information with youth.

Toya Brown, assistant bank officer and executive assistant to David Daraio, senior vice president and COO, and Michael Corteo, senior credit analyst, gave a slideshow presentation to the students, sharing quintessential talking points about all things savings, budgeting and credit.

Michael Corteo’s portion of the seminar focused on savings and budgeting.

“Maspeth Federal has a very long history of giving back to the community, and one of the things that we recently started in the last couple of years was financial literacy amongst not just high schools, but colleges,” said Akshay Mehandru, vice president and credit manager at MFS. “Our goal for starting this was to educate the younger generation, providing financial literacy to them, that they may not have access to or have conversations about with their peers.”

Although he wasn’t at the most recent presentation, Mehandru has much experience giving these lessons to students.

He said that because they’re usually so busy pursuing other milestones in their lives, students don’t always have the opportunity or time to have these important conversations.

“I genuinely love talking about loans, credit and making smart financial decisions young because I’ve been there. When I was back in high school, I wanted to have something like that – I should have had something like that – but it was never brought up,” he said.

He feels it’s essential to educate young people about things such as how to get a credit card, where to save money, how to get a car loan or what loan options they have.

Brown, whose portion of the presentation included the topics of savings and budgeting, emphasized the key five steps to managing a budget – which are evaluating one’s needs versus wants, setting goals, knowing one’s income and expenses, formulating a spending plan and sticking to that plan.

“Our mission is to get young people aware of their finances: the point of having a savings and checking account, and the importance of credit,” she said. “All of this knowledge is out there, but it’s not always put into an easy way for kids these days to understand.”

Half the battle is getting children and teens to listen to this advice in the first place, and Brown is confident that the Molloy students were actively listening and engaged.

“They had a lot of questions, especially when it comes to credit…but also budgeting for college and how to save up for that,” she said.

MFS aspires to continue sharing these life lessons with Queens youth, and encourages any interested school or business to visit their website and request a seminar on financial literacy. 

Excessive trash near Frank Principe Park affects quality of life

Tractor trailers parked there every day, residents say

By Jessica Meditz

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The trash-filled tractor trailers park along Borden Avenue morning, noon and night. (Photo: Lance Lovejoy)

Residents of Maspeth say their quality of life has been negatively impacted since at least the summer – due to the presence of excessive waste material trucks.

Locals say that tractor trailers filled with waste garbage park along the service road of the Long Island Expressway by Frank Principe Park.

The vehicles usually park on Borden Avenue in the morning and remain there all the way up into the evening hours, leaving the liquids to drip onto the street, smells to waft into the air and parking spaces to be taken away from local drivers.

Lance Lovejoy, a Maspeth resident who lives right up the block from the park, feels that the situation is a lost cause unless the signage along the road is changed to make it no standing for commercial parking.

According to the current signage, vehicles cannot park there from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. There is also a three-hour commercial parking rule, prohibiting commercial vehicles from being parked at one location in a residential area for over three hours.

“The whole park is almost like a garbage dump over there. It stinks, and it was worse during the summer when it was hot, but it’s still going on,” Lovejoy continued.  “They’re waste material trucks, garbage and dripping liquids onto the floor. I guess the drivers, when they do come back, they sit in them for a while and they’re throwing all their garbage on the sidewalk.”

Liquids ooze out of the trucks. (Photo: Lance Lovejoy)

He added that some of the neighbors have even told him that they’ve seen truck drivers publicly urinate in the vicinity.

“Nobody is happy right now, over there,” he said.

Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, Commanding Officer of the 104th Precinct, has sent officers to the site to issue tickets to these vehicles.

However, Lovejoy feels badly that police resources are being used for this issue, and wishes it could be handled in a more direct way, as there are more pressing issues in the community that need to be addressed by police.

“Police could be doing other important things than worrying about a garbage truck,” he said.

Councilman Robert Holden is aware of the issue, and has taken steps to address it – including visiting the site last Friday with multiple agencies and civics. In addition, they visited the location at Cypress Avenue between Cypress Hills Street and Vermont Place in Liberty Park – which is facing a similar quality of life issue.

A task force was convened with the 104th Precinct, NYPD Transportation, The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).

According to Daniel Kurzyna, Holden’s Chief of Staff, the police will increase enforcement of commercial vehicles parked at that stretch.

“Council Member Robert Holden believes that quality of life is paramount, which is why he convened a task force to tackle illegal parking of tractor-trailers and waste haulers in residential areas, particularly a park,” he said. “His constituents deserve a good quality of life, and he is committed to fighting on their behalf to ensure they have that.”

CB5 member booted for racist language

By Jessica Meditz

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Richard Huber, a CB5 board member from Glendale, has been removed by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards after the use of an anti-Asian slur during the most recent public meeting.

A member of Queens Community Board 5 (CB5) has been removed from the board after using racist language at the last monthly public meeting.

Richard Huber, of Glendale, went on a two-minute-long rant during the Jan. 11 meeting — where he doubted the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine, claiming that it alters DNA and that healthy people are dying or becoming ill as a result. Both arguments have been debunked by medical experts.

Amid his declaration, Huber went on to refer to COVID-19 as the “Wu flu,” an improper name for the disease and known racial slur against Chinese people and Asians as a whole.

The unofficial term refers to Wuhan, China, the city in which the virus first appeared, as per the CDC’s reports. However, most of the medical community condemns its use or other forms of it, as it can cause stigma and discrimination against a certain racial group.

The terms are also associated with former president Donald Trump, who came under fire for using labels such as “kung flu” and “Chinese virus” during the height of the pandemic.

“All you ever heard about the so-called vaccine for the Wu flu…it was only safe and effective, and it would prevent transmission and it would prevent you from catching it — yet that seems not exactly to be true,” Huber said at the meeting.

His remarks came as a response to Gary Giordano’s district manager’s report, where he shed light on the recent nurses’ strike, highlighting the shortage of nurses nationwide.

Neither Giordano nor Walter Sanchez, chairman of the meeting, responded to Huber’s statements during the meeting; however, Derek Evers, a board member, condemned the language shortly thereafter.

“Not gonna comment on the unhinged anti-vax rant we just heard, but I would just like to condemn the racist language that was used,” he said. “I don’t think the Community Board is any place for that, so I just want to put that on the record.”

Two days after the meeting, a spokesperson for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards told the Queens Ledger that “The Borough President has removed this individual from Community Board 5 for cause, effective immediately.”

Members of all Community Boards in Queens are required to abide by the centralized Code of Conduct issued by the Borough President, which requires board members to act respectfully and in a non-discriminatory manner.

Back in May of 2021, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden, which was co-sponsored by local Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens), the first and only Asian American member of Congress from New York State.

The bill denounces all discrimination against Asian Americans and formed a new position in the Justice Department to expedite the investigation of potential COVID-19-related hate crimes. It was penned in response to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes that occurred nationwide, including the killings of six Asian women in the Atlanta area in March of 2021.

Many Democrats, including Meng, feel that the inaccurate language, such as referring to COVID-19 by names with a geographic location attached to it, is part of the reason for the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

“The increased use of anti-Asian rhetoric, particularly from our nation’s leaders such as the President [Donald Trump], and their use of terms like ‘Chinese virus,’ ‘Wuhan virus,’ and ‘Kung-flu,’ is not only irresponsible, reckless, and downright disgusting, it threatens the safety of the Asian American community; such language demeans, disparages, and scapegoats Asian Americans,” Meng said in a 2020 statement.

“Asian Americans, like millions of others across the nation, are worried about the coronavirus; however, so many Asian Americans are also living in fear following the dramatic increase of threats and attacks against those of Asian descent. During this time of heightened anxiety and fear surrounding COVID-19, we cannot lose sight of protecting the health and safety of every single person – no matter their race, ethnicity, or background.”

Walter Sanchez, who is also the publisher of this newspaper, said he could have handled the situation differently. 

“As a facilitator of a Community Board meeting I always want to encourage people to speak, but we are not there to hear political views. I felt if I commented on his speech it might have sparked a debate that would have led the meeting down the wrong path. I do respect every member of the board and have respect for their time commitment.  The borough president appoints us for input on local issues affecting our neighborhoods. He has the expectation that we conduct ourselves in a way that reflects the diversity of our borough,” Sanchez said.

“Mr. Huber’s remarks were obviously derogatory towards a certain race and the borough president felt his removal from the board was necessary,” he continued. “His words were quite uncomfortable for me to digest while I was running the meeting. My job was to stop the discussion in its tracks.”

Huber did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Editor’s note: Walter Sanchez is the publisher of this news organization. His recent remarks were made in his capacity while chairing CB5’s public monthly meeting on Jan. 11.

Robbery pattern plagues Ridgewood, Bushwick

Perps targeting intoxicated people, police say

By Jessica Meditz

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As the 104th Precinct prepares for what 2023 will bring, its Ridgewood sector still faces a problem carried over from 2022 – a strong-armed robbery pattern.

At the most recent 104th Precinct Community Council meeting, Deputy Inspector Kevin Coleman, Commanding Officer of the 104, told attendees that the series of robberies spans from the end of November, and consists of about 13 incidents.

They’ve taken place within the confines of both the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood and 83rd Precinct in Bushwick, in the vicinity of Fairview Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, Hart Street and Putnam Avenue.

“This is happening on the midnight shift, really between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.,” Coleman said at the meeting. “People coming out of bars are kind of being targeted, and there’s two or three guys that approach someone from behind and either punch them or put them in a headlock, and then take their wallet, phone, or belongings.”

The 104th Precinct has been working closely with the 83rd Precinct to combat this issue, including setting up cameras to obtain footage of the perpetrators and deploying officers in the robbery zone.

“We have four brand new police officers in field training, and as of [this] week, we’re getting five new officers from this new class that just graduated,” Coleman said in an interview. “They’re out there visible, there’s foot posts out there with them, and they’re a component of the resources I’m putting in Ridgewood to address the problem.”

Coleman added that spreading awareness to locals is an important part of this action plan, and that the 104’s Crime Prevention Officer has visited nearby bars and other establishments to make them aware.

He also wants people in the community to be aware of their surroundings while they’re out late at night, whether it be for nightlife reasons, or simply coming home late from work.

“If you’re going out at night, you should travel with a group of people to ensure that everyone gets home safely, because all of our victims have been alone,” Coleman said. “I’d recommend, as always, to watch your consumption of drinking…because of the robbery pattern we’re concerned about people walking home. If you’re having a lot to drink, that can be dangerous for yourself, but you could also become the victim of a robbery.”

At the 104th Precinct Community Council meeting, he said that the precinct has a person of interest, and hopes to make an arrest as soon as possible.

$21.3M in federal funds secured for Queens projects

Platform to be extended, elevators to be added at LIRR station in Forest Hills; largest project of the bunch

By Jessica Meditz

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The Long Island Rail Road station in Forest Hills is the most expensive project of the bunch, with $7 million allocated. (Photo: Michael Perlman)

Just before Christmas, it was announced that over $21.3 million in federal funds were allocated for 15 critical projects across Queens.

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), New York’s senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, secured the funds in the new 2023 government spending package that passed the House and Senate late last month, and has now been signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Meng obtained a total of $21,317,066 in federal money for the projects, all of which meet many urgent needs throughout Queens.

The largest portion of the funding will go toward upgrades for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station in Forest Hills – approximately $7 million.

Improvements to the station will include the installation of new elevators and the extension the platform length to accommodate more train cars.

Today, the Forest Hills LIRR station accommodates only six of the 12 train cars, meaning that when a train stops at that station, only the first six cars are able to open their doors. The planned extension will be able to accommodate all 12 cars.

Additionally, the implementation of elevators will make the Forest Hills LIRR station fully accessible, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

“The MTA is fully committed to make the entire system accessible, not just subways but the LIRR and Metro-North too,” MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo said in a statement. “With these new elevators spread throughout the subway system and across Long Island, a large number of riders with disabilities, customers with children in strollers and visitors with luggage will benefit from an easier way to access mass transit.”

An MTA spokesperson said that the station’s accessibility upgrades are still in the design phase, and that more information can be shared when there’s a timeline for construction.

The allocated federal funds will also benefit other Queens cornerstones, including Queens College, borough hospitals, local nonprofits and small businesses.

They include $2 million for The City of New York’s District 6 Open Restaurants Dining Kits, $2 million for the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council), over $1.4 million for Queens College’s Small Business Development Initiative,  $1 million for New York City Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst for the renovation of its Infectious Diseases Clinic, $1 million for the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Legal Desk support program, $1 million for Long Island Jewish Forest Hills’ establishment of Robotic Assisted Orthopedic Surgery, $1 million for the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council), $1 million for Commonpoint Queens, $800,000 for LIFE Camp, Inc., $750,000 for 100 Suits for 100 Men, $750,000 for Churches United for Fair Housing, $750,000 for Queens College’s Colden Auditorium, $551,210 for DOROT (which serves older adults) and $250,000 La Jornada Food Pantry.

“As I’ve said, Queens deserves its fair share, and I’m thrilled to bring back more money for critical projects here in our borough,” Meng said in a statement.

“I am especially pleased that I was able to secure more than double the amount of what I obtained in last year’s government spending bill. I am always honored and proud to fight for Queens and I’ll never stop working to ensure that our communities have the resources they need. I thank the President for signing the new spending bill into law, and look forward to this more than $21.3 million benefiting our borough, and the neighborhoods I represent, for many years to come.”

The money that Meng secured is allocated under Congress’ Community Project Funding.

In last year’s government spending bill, Meng obtained nearly $10 million for projects throughout her district.     

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