Ridgewood’s Panther Solidarity Organization; Group devotes itself to serving the people

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Zine designed by Rashid Johnson, founding member of RIBPP and its minister of defense, who is currently incarcerated.

Dedicated to serving the community through empowering people, Ridgewood’s Panther Solidarity Organization (PSO) chapter seeks to further expand their mission and engage local residents.

The PSO essentially formed in 2020 as a result of a split in the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), when it was discovered that two members were counterrevolutionary, and did not align with the group’s mission. The United Panther Movement (UPM) served as their principal mass organization.

The NABPP reconstituted as the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP), as did the UPM to PSO.

Tea Bee, a Ridgewood resident who co-founded the PSO Ridgewood chapter in 2021, explained that the organization’s origins are in Newark, New Jersey, where the first PSO chapter was formed in 2020.

Bee said that one of the group’s primary initiatives is their Serve the People program, which is their vehicle to connect with the people, get to know them and build relationships with the community of Ridgewood.

PSO Ridgewood holds this event every weekend at Rosemary’s Playground, where members distribute free COVID tests, snacks and informational materials as well as have meaningful discussions with those who stop by. They hope to expand the program in a similar model to Newark’s.

“We have really been looking for our niche, what it is exactly that we want to do with our Serve the People program, because we want to do more,” Bee said.

“In Newark right now, they have a free breakfast program every Saturday. They also have a dinner program every week in one of the housing projects there. That’s what we’re building toward, having a set program.”

PSO Ridgewood’s table at their Serve the People Program in Rosemary’s Playground.

As a former abortion nurse and currently transitioning into working in outpatient care, Bee understands firsthand how essential it is for people to take control of their health, and encorporated that into PSO Ridgewood’s course of action.

PSO has worked on developing the People’s Health Education Program, which is a collaboration with New York City Socialist Rifle Association.

“It started off with just first aid training, but then I got involved and said, ‘What if we build beyond this and make it more holistic, more comprehensive, really teach the people and empower people with the skills, knowledge and resources they need — not just to take better care of themselves, but also each other, the community,’” they said.

“It’s especially important in these times of constant crisis and constant trauma, somewhat to the point where we’re all so desensitized,” Bee continued. “How do we better take care of ourselves and each other?”

Through that program, PSO Ridgewood was able to obtain free COVID tests in bulk from the city.

This Saturday, Oct. 29, the People’s Health Education Program will host a free first aid class from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Mayday Space, located at 176 St. Nicholas Avenue in Bushwick.

Guests will have the opportunity to learn CPR, how to stop severe bleeding, how to give narcan and more.

Free COVID tests, masks, first aid supplies, food and drink, childcare and political education and discussion will be offered, as well as a raffle and Halloween party with a DJ.

Bee also strives to share their knowledge and experience from working in reproductive healthcare, as well as spread mental health awareness.

Nat Winn, a social worker and member of PSO Ridgewood, advocated that the community learn how to deal with mental health crises without getting the police involved.

“The goal is to provide these skills so we don’t have to involve the police, and crisis doesn’t lead to imprisonment, because so many people in the prison system have mental health diagnoses or death,” he said.

“People were explaining to me recently that in some poor neighborhoods, there aren’t any clinics anymore. There are hospitals, but most hospitals are bordered along wealthier neighborhoods,” he explained. “This is a way that we, as the community, can address some of those glitches and some of the malfunctioning of the system. As healthcare workers, we feel we can provide these basic skills.”

Another issue PSO seeks to address through their activism is the mistreatment and neglect of Rashid Johnson, one of the founding members RIBPP and its minister of defense, who is currently incarcerated at Sussex 1 State Prison in Virginia.

Johnson was convicted of murder in 1990 and sentenced to life in prison, but maintains his innocence.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July 2022, and was not provided with cancer treatment, or even visits to a radiologist for some time.

Bee has also been informed that Johnson does not have access to any of his personal property, including hygiene supplies, his radio and TV.

PSO encourages all supporters to get involved and take action to help assist Johnson, such as by joining the Kevin Rashid Johnson Defense Committee, making phone calls to the prison in his defense and sharing his story on social media and through word of mouth.

Zine artwork designed by Rashid Johnson.

Johnson is the writer of RIBPP’s Ten Point Program, which are essentially the beliefs one should align with if they plan to get involved in the organization.

“Since the time [he was convicted], he’s turned his life around. Rashid has dedicated his life to the things that he has talked about: serving the people and creating a better world,” Winn said.

“The Ten Point Program talks about healthcare for everyone, decent housing for everyone and the right to not be hungry for everyone,” he continued. “Not only for Black people, but for everyone. And that’s what Rashid has dedicated his life to.”

Bee emphasized that PSO is a voluntary organization, and those who join do not have to be a far leftist to join, but they should be in unity with the Ten Point Program.

“Ultimately, we’re here to do life-affirming work, and to uplift life and to cherish life,” they said.

“Obviously, we focus on the lives that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against violently, but we’re here to uplift life. That’s our mission.”

For more information, visit @psoridgewood on Instagram, @pso_ridgewood on Twitter or email [email protected] with any inquiries.

Jim Regan inducted as Maspeth Kiwanis president

“We’re going to continue to move forward,” he said

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Regan (L) being inducted as president by Lt. Gov. Rodriguez.

Local Kiwanians gathered for an afternoon of celebration at O’Neill’s in Maspeth to welcome a brand new president.

James “Jim” Regan has stepped up to lead the Kiwanis Club of Maspeth — and as the executive director of Martin Luther School, he’s no stranger to leadership.

He will fill the role of Glenn Rudzewick, immediate past president of the club.

Every term, the acting president runs that Kiwanis club for one year. If they don’t renew, another member must take the reins.

“Kiwanis is all about helping children and our communities,” said Victor Rodriguez, lieutenant governor of the Queens West Division. “Changing leadership kind of encourages people to do different things and share different ideas.”

Also an eventful part of the ceremony was the installation of the Board of Directors: Jim O’Kane, Maryanna Zero, Glenn Rudzewick, Tom Rudzewick, Joan Sammon, Michelle Masone, Geri Hughes-Crowe and Barbara Pryor.

The club’s Board of Directors were installed.

Each member promised to serve their community and live up to the Kiwanis motto, “Serving the Children of the World.”

Upon his induction, Regan reflected on the milestones the Maspeth Kiwanis and other local clubs have achieved for their neighborhoods, and expressed his willingness and gratitude for taking on the role of president.

He emphasized how Martin Luther School’s values are based in reaching out and creating opportunities for leadership service to the community, and he plans to set the same example.

“I have to say Kiwanis is all about community and the people we serve in this community. Being a proud member of this community for many years, I’ve been the executive director of Martin Luther for about seven years now, but I’ve been a member of the staff for 42 With that being said, being a resident here and also being in the community, I understand the importance of a group like Kiwanis and how it has an impact on what we do and who we support,” Regan said.

“Maspeth has certainly been generous in that case, and we’re going to continue to move forward,” he continued. “I also want to thank Glenn Rudzewick, who stepped in last year and has held this leadership role several times. Through his mentorship, I’m much looking forward to what he can do in terms of assisting myself and in my position here.”

On Nov. 13, the Kiwanis Club of Maspeth will host their annual Pancake Breakfast, which will be held at Martin Luther School from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

All funds raised will go toward benefitting local children, seniors and the community in general — from medical and sports programs for young people, to anti-graffiti programs to beautify the neighborhood.

Kweller Prep: An educational center with a unique mission

By Michael Perlman

[email protected]

Kweller Prep at the Midway.

Kweller Prep has not only been a major draw for tutoring and educational services, but a beacon in the name of the humanitarian spirit.

With a local center situated above the Midway Theatre at 108-22 Queens Boulevard on the second floor, owner and founder Frances Kweller of Forest Hills and general manager Ben Z. Davidov of Kew Gardens have tirelessly been making a difference for younger generations.

Remarkably, Kweller Prep teaches and mentors an average of over 1,500 students per year, which adds up to over 10,000 students in the past 15 years.

Kweller explained, “Kweller Prep has a very intentional, dedicated mission to help immigrant and minority children advance to higher education, including placement in highly competitive environments that build their careers. We are a targeted program that hires tutors who reflect the students we serve, placing them on track for success.”

As of July 2022, Kweller Prep was recognized by New York Family as among “The 7 best kids afterschool programs in Queens.”

Kweller is an attorney who came from an immigrant family, and graduated from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education and Hofstra University School of Law.

She is regarded as an education news expert, and is a regular when it comes to interviews on national TV.

Davidov, a native of Israel, achieved a BBA in entrepreneurial management from Baruch College in 2019. Backtracking, at Forest Hills High School, he pursued advanced courses, enabling him to complete the high school curriculum at the end of the 11th grade, and take AP and college classes as a 12th grader.

Among his leadership roles, he was president of Hillel at Baruch and also achieved the Henry Wollman Prizes award for outstanding contributions to student life.

Kweller originated a very successful organization as a result of her frustration with the school system.

Throughout high school and college, she felt that the system did not offer her enough beneficial information or guidance.

Davidov said, “Frances launched Kweller Prep to be a community resource and provide insight into the application and testing process, along with teaching students test-taking skills that they would need for their academic careers.”

He proudly joined the Kweller Prep team in 2014 after experiencing the same frustrations.

Part of Kweller Prep team with Frances Kweller, third from left & Ben Davidov, fifth from left.

“Being an immigrant, I had a hard time navigating the NYC Department of Education system, and I learned as much as possible from my mentor, Frances Kweller, so I could also serve as a resource to our community,” he said.

Today, they are both members of the National Association for College Counseling.

In 2015, Kweller Prep was government certified as a 100 percent Women-owned Business Enterprise in NYC and NYS.

Throughout many years, Kweller Prep established community partnerships with Place NYC and the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, in addition to building relationships with diverse educational institutions.

They include Stuyvesant High School and its PTA, Townsend Harris High School and its PTA, Forest Hills High School and its PTA, Brooklyn Tech High School, Bronx High School of Science, York High School, Richmond Hill High School, Arts and Business High School, Academy of Finance and Enterprise, and the First in Family Fund, which is Kweller Prep’s non-profit.

The Kweller Prep approach varies from alternate supplemental educational programs, as it specializes in preparations for competitive junior high schools, high schools, colleges and graduate schools.

Classes are limited to 10 students and are offered in person and via Zoom.

Besides focusing on minority students, Davidov explained, “We resort to customizing groups and ensure that each student leaves our center more prepared for the exam. Our strategy is to over-prepare and offer a bunch of resources, so there are no surprises, come the day of the exam.”

Kweller continued, “We meet with most of our families before the start of a course, to understand the needs of every single student.”

Kweller, Davidov and their colleagues are recognized for their ability to identify early talent and focus on holistic learning approaches.

“Families seek us with hopes that their child will one day attend a top tier school or an Ivy League school. We offer support from the 3rd to 12th grade to assist students every step of the way. We guide students through what is needed each year, in order for them to achieve the results that they envisioned,” Kweller said.

Davidov added, “Families begin planning for Ivy Leagues as early as the 6th grade, and often have meetings with management to create a great college application. At the start of 12th grade, Kweller Prep offers a college application service that assists from A-Z in preparing applications for universities nationwide.”

One may wonder about a typical day at Kweller Prep, which is not so typical after all.

After a full-time security guard opens, 80 students per session attend their daily or weekly class.

“Students come to their assigned classroom, where they generally receive 4 hours of instruction. They are provided with an abundance of resources relating to their exam and the steps that follow, after completing our program,” Davidov said.

“Students receive our tests, homework packets, textbooks, and related materials, as well as snacks to keep them engaged. We order breakfast, lunch, and dinner depending on the session, and order all food from local small businesses to support our surrounding community.”

Students take exams at Kweller Prep every four weeks during the school year, which pertain to weekend fall and spring classes, and each Monday during summer camp classes.

“Once their session is complete, they are escorted by staff and security, and staff meet with parents to let them know about their child’s progress, which is followed by emailing progress reports,” said Kweller.

The management and administrative staff hold daily meetings with parents and families to customize courses, devoted to each student’s needs.

For Kweller and Davidov, running Kweller Prep is a gift.

In a joint statement, they explained that the benefit includes having 10 students or less per class, providing uniforms, materials, syllabi and a safe space to work.

Kweller Prep staff appreciation event.

“We collect some of the brightest minds in NYC who aspire to bigger and better achievements. The friendships created among staff lead to the creation of study groups, new business ventures and access to major-specific opportunities outside of working at the center. We mentor all staff members and help them pursue other opportunities outside Kweller Prep, as we are firm believers in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurship.”

Kweller explained their goals: “Our short-term goal is to help every student that comes to our center achieve their academic goal. Our long-term goals are in the works, and we hope to be sharing good news soon. We foresee in the future that we will be working towards creating a school for students to get ahead of the NYC DOE curriculum, and be able to years ahead upon entering high school and college.”

In the spring, not long after the community’s beloved Chinese food delivery worker and longtime Forest Hills personality Zhiwen Yan was killed, Kweller leaped forward.

She launched a GoFundMe via her First in Family Fund, Inc. non-profit, to support his three children.

Miraculously, over $100,000 was raised within a 24-hour period, which increased to $154,160. It attracted a total of 2,600+ donors.

Exhibiting a good heart for students, parents, staff and the community at large makes Kweller and Davidov true humanitarians, and a mobilizing force in the name of innovative education.

Community Board 5 to meet virtually on Wednesday

Community Board 5 will hold a virtual meeting on November 10 at 7:30 p.m. Members of the public can view the meeting on YouTube.
The meeting will include the review of applications to the Department of City Planning to allow development at 1718 Decatur Street and 1112 Wyckoff Avenue, both of which are located in a M1-4D district.
The agenda will also include the chairperson’s report, district manager’s report, committee reports, and the review of applications for liquor licenses and building demolitions.
Anyone wishing to speak during the Public Forum portion of the meeting is asked to submit a typed statement at [email protected] no later than 2 p.m. on November 10 so that it can be read into the record.

Queens resident shares the joy of reading through community library

“No child should be without a book” believes Kay Menashe, who has been making a difference for people of all ages with a donation-based library service.
The 44-year-old Howard Beach resident and former EMT owns and operates the Free Community Library of Ozone Park.
“During the height of the pandemic when all libraries were shut down, my goal was to make sure every child had a book to read,” said Menashe. “My free library originated when I placed a few of my own books out, and the community began taking them.
“Then we were asked by other community members if they could leave their books as well,” she added. “All of our books come from a different home with a tale to tell.”
The library is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, weather permitting, since the library operates outdoors at locations announced on social media. The books come from community donations.
“We accept all books, as the Queens public libraries no longer take donated books since the pandemic,” Menashe said. “The only supplies we need are books, which we know most of you have at home just sitting around collecting dust.”
Menashe was recently named runner-up of the second annual Sparkling Ice’s “Cheers to Heroes” contest to honor America’s everyday heroes.
The contest received 1,000 nominations from 905 American cities with three finalists. Menashe received $7,500.
“We received such support from the community and from the parties and events we ran,” she said. “We won because the community voted for us and since our library makes a difference.”
Menashe hope to further develop her initiative, hoping the Queens community can help her find a small permanent space in an office or retail establishment.
“The books need to be displayed and stored and stay dry when it rains,” she explained. “We would also like to see a mom-and-pop coffeehouse go into business with us. My vision is to see my community members sitting down with coffee and maybe a slice of pie while reading free books they can take home.”
Menashe believes reading a physical copy is the best way to enjoy a book.
“I feel that e-reading takes away from the magic, including the new book smell,” she said. “As you hold books, it lets you relax. An e-reader is just a computer screen where you feel nothing.”
With titles spanning every genre in the community library, every day becomes a journey filled with surprises. She explained her personal inspiration is not just one person.
“The kids are why I do this mostly,” Menashe said. “Books are expensive for families to buy when you walk into a store, but when you walk into our café, that would never be an issue as your son or daughter would always leave with a free book.”

To donate books or to help the library secure a space, email [email protected] To keep up with the library, follow @communityozpl on Instagram.

CB7 votes overwhelmingly to remove Choe

John Choe is no longer a member of Community Board 7.
Board members voted 39-3 with one abstention on Monday night in favor of removing him from the board over five separate allegations that board leadership said were unethical and, in some cases, violated the City Charter.
“What’s typical and what we are finding here is a defiance, an arrogance,” said board vice chair Chuck Apelian. “Someone who doesn’t want to go with the rules just for the sake of having it his way.”
Choe has been critical of board leadership in the past, especially Apelian, who also chairs the Land Use Committee, for hiring himself out as a consultant to developers with business before the board. Most recently, Apelian recused himself from the full board vote on the Special Flushing Waterfront District because he had worked for the developers behind the project.
Board chair Gene Kelty appointed member Frank Macchio to head a special committee to look into the allegations against Choe and make a recommendation to the board, but at Monday night’s hearing in the basement of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Whitestone, Apelian did most of the talking, outlining for board members why Choe should be removed.
Choe was appointed to a new two-year term by Borough President Donovan Richards earlier this year. Following his appointment, board leadership started the proceedings to have him removed, a highly unusual move for a community board.
The most serious charge against Choe was that he solicited campaign contributions from board members for his City Council run earlier this year. Twenty-three of the 50 board members received the email.
Choe contends that those email addresses were in his 4,000-person contact list because he dealt with them outside of official board business. Indeed, one board member who received the email is Choe’s pastor, another said they had an exchange with him about bike lanes, and another served in a civic association with Choe.
Board leadership filed a complaint with the Conflict of Interests Board (COIB). That letter was rpvided to board members during Monday night’s meeting, but when pressed about a response from COIB, Kelty replied that the board never heard back.
For his part, Choe said that he also reached out to the COIB and did receive a response. He was told the charter provision about soliciting public servants for campaign contributions only applies to people with influence over policy.
“I have not had substantive policy-making decisions on this board,” Choe told board members. “Trust me, I would love to have policy discretion on this board.”
But Apelian noted that community board recommendations to the borough president are made by the local City Council member.
“Ask yourself, ‘gee, what if he won, would he kick me off the board?” he said. “Maybe I should contribute to him.”
Choe, it should be noted, was reappointed to Community Board 7 despite Councilman Peter Koo refusing to give him a recommendation.
Other allegations against Choe are that he had a poor attendance record, that he made a joke about taking a bribe during a hearing, and his criticisms of Apelian amounted to defamation.
But perhaps the charge that resonated most with the board is that Choe created a Community Board 7 Facebook page without the approval of board leadership.
When asked by Kelty if he created the page, Choe initially denied it, but later admitted that he was the administrator. Kelty said they referred the matter to the Department of Investigations (DOI), and when pressed by the board to provide DOI’s response, Kelty said the department told him over the phone that it was illegal for Choe to use the CB7 logo and misrepresent the board.
Kelty and Apelian said Choe used the page to promote the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, of which Choe is the executive director.
“You can not represent the board on behalf of your own opinion,” said Apelian. “If you don’t like what the chair says, you don’t just go ahead and do it anyway.”
Several Choe supporters attended the meeting, which was held far from the downtown Flushing location where the board usually meets and was not broadcast over the Internet, as has been done during the pandemic.
“COVID-isolated individuals” were instead asked to travel to Korean Community Services in Bayside.
Over 100 people signed a petition urging Richards to stop the proceeding and instead investigate Apelian.
Richards has made it a priority during his time in office to diversify the borough’s community boards to more adequately reflect the communities they represent. He said that is why he reappointed Choe to CB7, but acknowledged that the board has the authority to remove him.
“I reappointed John Choe to Community Board 7 because I truly believe our community boards should be diverse, both in identity and thought,” he said in a statement following the vote. “Under the City Charter, however, a community board has the ability to remove a member for cause with a majority vote, and Community Board 7 has decided to exercise this authority.”

CB5 to hold virtual meeting on Wednesday

Community Board 5 will hold a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m.
On the agenda is a public hearing regarding a proposed zoning text change is intended to allow the Metropolitan Transportation to leverage private developments to help create more accessible subway stations.
There will also be a public hearing on a proposed zoning text change requiring City Planning Commission approval for new and enlarged hotels and motels, tourist cabins and boatels in commercial, mixed-use and paired M1/R zoning districts. This proposed special permit requirement would override existing hotel special permit requirements.
There will also be a public forum to review applications for the sale of alcoholic beverages and building demolition notices, and committee reports.
Members of the public can view the meeting at youtu.be/583V8yNxTIg or nyc.gov/qnscb5.
Anyone wishing to offer a statement at the public hearing or during the public forum is asked to submit a typed statement to [email protected] by 2 p.m. on May 12, so that it can be read into the record.
For additional information, call the Board 5 office at (718) 366-1834.

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