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Chamber visits Albany for ‘Queens Day’

On May 10, hundreds of business leaders from Queens visited Albany to meet with state lawmakers during Queens Day in Albany. The event, which gives local business leaders an opportunity to advocate for the interests of commerce, was held in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic more than two years ago.

NYS Sen. Joe Addabbo (center) meets with members of the Queens Chamber of Commerce on “Albany Day” (Photo Dominick Totino)

New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., who chairs the committee on racing, gaming, and wagering, delivered remarks during a luncheon with Chamber members, who later met with dozens of State Senate and Assembly Members. Before returning to Queens, the visitors to The Capitol enjoyed a dinner catered by dozens of Queens restaurants.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of Queens’ diverse neighborhoods, and throughout the pandemic, they have played an essential role in keeping our communities afloat, all while facing unprecedented challenges,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said. “One of the most important things we do as a Chamber is advocate for the interests of our members. It was inspiring to meet with our elected representatives in person, so they could hear from our members first-hand about the challenges they face. I thank all of the business leaders who joined us, as well as Senator Addabbo and his colleagues in the legislature, who listened to their concerns.”

Addabbo, whose district represents the Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth, Ozone Park, Ridgewood, Woodside, and Rockaway communities, said that Queens Day in Albany is one of his favorite days during the legislative session.

“It was great to welcome back Queens Day to Albany, demonstrating that we can overcome a pandemic and make attempts to return to normal life,” Addabbo said. “Queens Day allows us to meet with our constituents, as well as great community organizations and businesses, while we are upstate working on legislative issues. Queens Day reminds us why it’s important to promote our local businesses and to recognize what they’ve been through during COVID and their efforts to help others throughout the pandemic. I am thankful to Tom Grech and the entire Queens Chamber for being there when needed for our businesses and for allowing me to participate in their Queens Day festivities.”

Members of the Chamber speak with legislators on Queens Day in Albany

During their meetings with state lawmakers, members of the Chamber took the opportunity to discuss several issues impacting businesses both in the borough and throughout the state, including:

  • The New York State Film Production Tax Credit – The State budget for the 2023 fiscal year extends the credit for the next three years. Currently, it provides a 25 percent credit for qualified production expenditures. Members of the Chamber advocated for extending and expanding the credit by eliminating the annual cap, eliminating the sunset clause, and increasing the tax credit from 25 percent to 30 percent. Queens is home to several film and television production studios including Silvercup Studios and Kaufman Astoria Studios, and will soon welcome Robert DeNiro’s Wildflower Studios to Astoria.
  • Real Property Tax Law 485-w – The proposal from Gov. Kathy Hochul aims to replace the existing 421-a tax exemption for developers building affordable multi-family housing. It is well established that New York City is in need of affordable housing, but building can be expensive and challenging due to cost, taxes, and increasingly more expensive insurance and utility costs. The Queens Chamber came out in support of the 485-w program proposal, which would create affordable housing through privately-financed development projects in parts of the City where government struggles to build on its own.
  • Making Resorts World New York City a full-scale commercial casino – Since it opened in Ozone Park more than 10 years ago, Resorts World has created good-paying union jobs, employed a strong and diverse workforce, generated much-needed revenue for local schools, supported local nonprofit organizations, and generated economic activity which continues to support local small businesses. Members of the Chamber said that granting RWNYC one of the three remaining casino licenses would allow them to double their workforce by adding over 1,000 union jobs and doing even more to support the local community.

“It was wonderful to have Queens come to Albany to share our great diversity and talents with everyone in New York State,” Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan said. “I enjoyed tasting all the food from our district, particularly the three-generation female-owned restaurant, Ricas Pupusas & Mas, as well as meeting small business owners from across Queens. I am very appreciative that I was honored with my Queens colleagues.”

Outgoing Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan celebrates her retirement on Queens Day in Albany

Nolan, whose district represents the Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Astoria, Long Island City, and Maspeth neighborhoods in Queens, announced earlier this year that she plans to retire after her current term expires this year. She has been a state representative for the district since 1985.

“Queens Day in Albany 2022 was a complete success,” said Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman said. “I was so glad to welcome the best county in the state to our capital once again to showcase our small businesses, culture, food, and customs.”

Hyndman was elected to the State House in 2015 and serves as a representative of the 29th district, which encompasses the Laurelton, Rosedale, St. Albans, Hollis, Springfield Gardens, and Jamaica communities.

“If you want to experience the cultural diversity of our borough, look no further than the small businesses and restaurants that enrich our neighborhoods. I was privileged to sponsor the Senate resolution celebrating Queens Day in New York State. We appreciate the efforts of the Queens Chamber of Commerce as they assist small businesses,” State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said.

Stavisky became the first woman from Queens to be elected to the Senate in 1999 and currently serves as Chairperson of the State Senate Committee on Higher Education.

Members of the Queens Chamber of Commerce visit the State Capitol for Queens Day in Albany (Photo: Dominick Totino)

QCC honors local business heroes

The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted its first-ever Business Heroes of the Year Awards in front of about 400 people at Terrace on the Park last Wednesday night.
President and CEO Tom Grech took the time to introduce and honor the awardees, who come from various industries, such as hospitality and technology, and philanthropic organizations.
District Attorney Melinda Katz spoke at the event, expressing her gratitude for small businesses and all they’ve done for the borough during the height of COVID-19.
“At the end of the day, whether we were dealing with a worldwide pandemic, whether we were dealing with an overdue conversation on policing in the United States, whatever we were working on and dealing with, we had to count on our businesses to continue to thrive and survive,” said Katz.
She presented the first award of the evening to Melva Miller of ABNY, who was also Katz’s former deputy borough president when she served as bBorough president.
Charles Boyce of Boyce Technologies was another honoree, whom Grech commended for saving lives throughout New York State by mass producing ventilators during the depths of the pandemic.
While not everyone can be a frontline healthcare worker themselves, many people view food and hospitality as a way of symbolically healing.
This is especially true for honorees Rachel Kellner of Aigner Chocolates, Nupur Arora of Queens Curry Kitchen, Mark Boccia of Bourbon Street, Patrick Oropeza of Bolivian Llama Party, Frank Russo of Russo’s on the Bay and Declan Morrison of Stacked Sandwich Shop.
As for services and organizations who dedicate their time to help smaller businesses succeed, honorees Jonnel Doris of NYC Small Business Services, Larry Zogby of RDS Same Day Delivery Service, and Michael Peterson of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation fit the bill.
“It was a wonderful evening and it’s a great honor to be given this award by the Queens Chamber,” said Michael Peterson.
“We’ve worked very hard with them along with the other chambers of commerce across the city to help out small businesses,” he continued. “So to be here tonight in person to meet some of the other small business leaders in this community and to be a part of this is a great honor.”
In addition to the businesses being honored for their efforts to the borough, the Queens Chamber of Commerce held a toy drive for children in need that guests could donate to for a chance to win a raffle.

QCC Building Awards celebrates borough’s best

The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted its 110th annual Building Awards and Gala at the TWA Hotel in JFK airport last week, recognizing various development projects throughout the borough for achievements in construction, restoration, interior design, and more.
“I have the best job in the world, it really is my calling,” said chamber president and CEO Thomas Grech. “As a membership organization, 2020 was a terrible year. However, it was our board and our members who stepped up during that difficult time.”
Grech thanked a number of elected officials who helped secure relief money at the federal, local, and city level.
“As we move through the pandemic, private public partnerships will continue to be extremely crucial,” Borough President Donovan Richards said. “There are those who said we should go back to normal after the pandemic, but we know normal was never good enough for Queens county.”
Both Grech and Richards acknowledged the federal infrastructure bill currently stalled in the Senate, expressing hope the bill will pass and fund construction and repair projects for the borough’s roads, trains, and airports.
Carlo Scissura, head of the New York Building Congress, offered the keynote address at this year’s gala. Although he is a native Brooklyn, Scissura discussed Queens’ history of dreaming big and encouraged the borough’s public and private leaders to continue that tradition.
“You have everything in Queens, and you have a future that I think the people in the city and the state need to learn from,” Scissura said. “When people say New York is the center of the world, it’s because of a borough like Queens.
“Think about the vision people have in Queens,” he continued. “One-hundred years ago, Jackson Heights was fields and now it’s home to amazing apartment complexes. We transformed a valley of ashes into a park that hosted two World’s Fairs. Just look at the building we are in right now. It was the pinnacle of the aviation age and made you feel like a king or queen. All of this was built right here in Queens.”
In addition to the keynote address, a number of guest speakers helped distribute awards to the night’s recipients, including Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato and representatives from Maspeth Federal Savings Bank, the gala’s platinum sponsor.
This year’s gala event sold beyond capacity, another sign of recovery as Queens continues to build and grow after the pandemic.
“It’s great to see everyone in person,” said Thomas Santucci, chair of the Chamber’s board. “Nothing beats an event like this.”

10,000 bagels donated to La Jornada Food Pantry

A donation of 10,000 bagels arrived at La Jornada Food Pantry on Monday morning, courtesy of Bagels by Bell, REIL Capital and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
At its peak during the pandemic, La Jornada Food Pantry, located in the Bland Houses Community Center in Flushing, served upwards of 10,000 families a week, about ten times the need than before the pandemic started.
The donation of bagels and bialys was welcomed by Pedro Rodriguez, executive director of La Jornada. The food pantry has been serving the Flushing community and fighting food insecurity for 13 years, and more recently serving the thousands of families who have been impacted by both the pandemic and extreme weather.
“It’s scary,” said Rodriguez. “In the richest city in the world, the richest country in the world, people may have died of hunger.”
Public officials celebrated the donation of bagels that will be distributed out by La Jornada, while speaking to the hardships seen by the business community and the food pantry over the last year and a half.
In addition to being located in the epicenter of the pandemic, La Jornada suffered damage from Hurricane Ida earlier this month when its ground-level pantry was flooded with two feet of water.
“We have seen the inequities that families in Queens face and how our constituents have been detrimentally affected,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “Our families here in Queens have gone through so much. It really means a lot that we have other small businesses in the private sector looking in and stepping up to help our community.”
Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz praised partnership between the chamber, Bagels by Bell of Oceanside, and Manhattan-based REIL Capitol.
“We would not be able to do this if it wasn’t for everyone working together,” said Cruz. “Governing should be something that is done cooperatively.”
After touring the community room, Cruz lent some hope to a community that has seen small businesses and residents suffer due to the pandemic.
“Our beloved neighborhood saw thousands of people get sick and die, thousands of businesses closed and many didn’t reopen,” she said. “Unfortunately, many will probably close before the end of the year
“It’s disheartening, because sometimes you feel like no matter how much you do, it’s never going to help,” she added. “But I’m here to tell you that you can help.”

10,000 bagels donated to La Jornada Food Pantry

A donation of 10,000 bagels arrived at La Jornada Food Pantry on Monday morning, courtesy of Bagels by Bell, REIL Capital and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
At its peak during the pandemic, La Jornada Food Pantry, located in the Bland Houses Community Center in Flushing, served upwards of 10,000 families a week, about ten times the need than before the pandemic started.
The donation of bagels and bialys was welcomed by Pedro Rodriguez, executive director of La Jornada. The food pantry has been serving the Flushing community and fighting food insecurity for 13 years, and more recently serving the thousands of families who have been impacted by both the pandemic and extreme weather.
“It’s scary,” said Rodriguez. “In the richest city in the world, the richest country in the world, people may have died of hunger.”
Public officials celebrated the donation of bagels that will be distributed out by La Jornada, while speaking to the hardships seen by the business community and the food pantry over the last year and a half.
In addition to being located in the epicenter of the pandemic, La Jornada suffered damage from Hurricane Ida earlier this month when its ground-level pantry was flooded with two feet of water.
“We have seen the inequities that families in Queens face and how our constituents have been detrimentally affected,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “Our families here in Queens have gone through so much. It really means a lot that we have other small businesses in the private sector looking in and stepping up to help our community.”
Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz praised partnership between the chamber, Bagels by Bell of Oceanside, and Manhattan-based REIL Capitol.
“We would not be able to do this if it wasn’t for everyone working together,” said Cruz. “Governing should be something that is done cooperatively.”
After touring the community room, Cruz lent some hope to a community that has seen small businesses and residents suffer due to the pandemic.
“Our beloved neighborhood saw thousands of people get sick and die, thousands of businesses closed and many didn’t reopen,” she said. “Unfortunately, many will probably close before the end of the year
“It’s disheartening, because sometimes you feel like no matter how much you do, it’s never going to help,” she added. “But I’m here to tell you that you can help.”

9/11 mural restored on 20th anniversary of attacks

A mural honoring three local residents killed in the 9/11 attacks has been given new life with a fresh coat of paint.
The faces of Marcello Matricciano, Edward Lehman and James Cartier can be seen on the wall of N&R Deli at the corner of 25th Avenue and 77th Street in East Elmhurst.
Originally painted in 2015 by nonprofit group Groundswell, a restoration process was started after funding was secured by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber president and CEO Thomas Grech said he noticed the mural was in need of a touch-up during one of his many breakfast trips to the deli. The chamber’s headquarters is located not far away.
“One day in July, the phone started ringing when I was getting my eggs,” said Grech. “I went out to answer the phone and I looked up at this wall. For those of you who haven’t seen it lately, it was starting to peel.”
Soon after, local artists Benny Guerra and Carlo Nieva began scraping and peeling off the old paint that had been weathered and beaten over the past six years.
“We tried to save as much of the original paint as possible,” said Guerra. “By the time we peeled all of it off, about 60 percent of the mural needed attention.”
The artists referenced photographs taken from the mural’s original dedication, applying a coat of primer and color-matching the old and new paint.
The 16-by-40-foot mural will soon be given another clear coat to extend its life even further.
“My favorite part is the integration of the old World Trade Center towers with the Freedom Tower,” said Nieva. “They are patriots.”
Deputy Chief Kevin Williams of the NYPD extended his thoughts to the families of the 9/11 victims who were in attendance for the rededication of the mural.
“I think this is symbolic of the American spirit and the New York spirit,” said Williams. “Over the years, this mural may have been battered and worn, but same thing as that day. We came back, made it stronger, and made our country better.”
John Cartier, the brother of one of the victims honored in the mural, expressed his gratitude for all those involved in restoring the mural. He remembers his brother, who died at 26 years old, as full of life and always having something funny to say.
“I think it’s important as family members to recognize all of you who have carried us through a time of darkness,” said Cartier. “All of you in this neighborhood were the light. You guys gave us hope to continue forward.”

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