Meet The Man Fighting for Flushing’s Small Businesses

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

By Clare Baierl | [email protected]

John Choe, arrived on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Main St. with a bike, big smile and a t-shirt that said ‘Flushing.’ If you are looking for the neighborhood’s biggest fan, look no further. 

As Director of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce, Choe has spent decades fighting for the rights of his neighborhood. His current work focuses on protecting small businesses, a cause that hits especially close to home. 

Growing up in Korea, Choe felt first-hand the importance of investing in citizen-first care. 

“I grew up malnourished,” he said. “Housing is a right. Being able to feed your family is a right. That’s what’s motivated me for many years helping this community.”

After living in over 100 countries, Choe eventually made his way to Flushing, a neighborhood he has now called home for over two decades. His work at the Chamber focuses on issues of equity.

 “We’re a community organization that helps to boost Flushing,” he said. “To really tell the story of all the people and businesses that make Flushing so unique and amazing as a destination.”

There is a high rate of new development projects entering the neighborhood, Choe explained, causing local businesses to be pushed out. Many residents that have lived here their entire lives are now gone. “We have one of the highest concentrations of bank branches in the entire country,” said Choe. “Probably because they’re the only ones that can afford rent.”

Throughout his time in the Chamber, Choe’s administration has secured over $1.5 million in funding to support the neighborhood. Providing everything from customized marketing consulting for businesses to creating the first ever local Community Supported Agriculture Program in the neighborhood. 

Though the Chamber is currently struggling with a loss of resources after the pandemic, Choe isn’t giving up. “Even though I feel like we’ve struggled against the Goliath here, I feel like we’ve built a sense of community,” he said. “This country has given so much to me, that if I can leave it better than I found it, I would say that I was able to achieve a great deal, that’s my legacy.”

Expecting Queens Mothers Can Now Apply For Unconditional Cash

A family shelter in Brooklyn on Mother’s Day. Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

By Iryna Shkurhan[email protected] 

A philanthropic program that gives unconditional cash to expectant mothers for the first 1,000 days of their child’s life is expanding into Queens. 

The Bridge Project, birthed in June 2021 through the Monarch Foundation, is the first to launch a direct cash allowance program in New York. After an impactful first phase in the Bronx, the program will pivot from pilot status and continue to serve new mothers in all five boroughs, while remaining a research study. 

“It’s the first time that we’re actually opening applications in a borough and then leaving them open,” Megha Agarwal, the Executive Director of The Bridge Project, told the Queens Ledger. “The goal behind this is so that every mother who’s currently pregnant, and potentially could be eligible over the course of their pregnancy to join the Bridge Project, has the opportunity to do so.”

The initiative seeks to eliminate child poverty with a focus on the first three years of a baby’s life, which research shows is the most consequential period for a successful childhood and adulthood. Mothers can spend the cash how they see fit, unlike welfare programs with complicated requirements and restrictions. 

Following the birth, participants will receive $1,000 in cash a month for the first 15 months. And for the last 21 months, they will receive $500 a month, all in biweekly installments. The drawdown creates a recognition that the program will eventually end, and tries to help mothers adjust to that loss of a safety net slowly. 

To qualify, expecting mothers must live in Astoria, Corona, Elmhurst, Flushing, Jackson Heights or Jamaica and have an annual household income of under $52,000. In this third phase, women will also need to be pregnant for the first time, at 23 weeks or less.

The rollout into Queens on July 10 brought specific changes to the payments from past phases. An upfront prenatal allowance of $1,500 was introduced to cover the costs of preparing for the baby such as purchasing a crib, and stocking up on diapers and formula. 

“We just find that cash is the most effective tool to help support children and babies in their earliest years,” said Agarwal, who pointed out that oftentimes, mothers will spend the initial payments catching up on rent or paying off debt. “It’s not until a little bit later into the program, do folks actually feel that they can use the money towards their child. So the prenatal allowance really allows them to do that.”

Aggregate data collected from the first six months of the program showed that 46 percent of spending was taken out as cash, likely for rent and other living expenses. Mothers also spent 18 percent on food and 19 percent went to merchandise. 

The rate of respondents reporting that they have more than $500 in savings went up by 242 percent, and 13 percent more said that they can now pay for a $400 emergency. 

The organization says they focus on “upstream solutions” to address the root issues of inequality instead of attempting to solve its aftereffects. They also want to “eliminate the deeply paternalistic approach the U.S. takes to poverty” with their focus on mothers, regardless of relationship status.

Nearly one in five children in New York experienced poverty in 2021, with them more likely to experience poverty than in 32 other states. In the city, nearly close to one in four children under three live in poverty, disproportionately affecting Black and Latinx youth.

The already high cost associated with having a child is also continuing to climb. According to a report released by Annie. E. Casey Foundation, child care costs have increased by 220% since 1990 with infant care being the most expensive.  

With reliable research remaining a core purpose of the project, a control group is selected to not receive the funds. The initial application acts like a baseline survey. And every six to nine months, participants respond to quantitative surveys and can also be asked to participate in interviews and focus groups, all of which participants are additionally compensated for. 

The concept of universal basic income is not new, and goes back to the 18th century. But widespread unemployment and financial hardships during the pandemic brought new attention to the idea of providing unconditional and periodic cash, especially as a poverty reduction tool. While some see UBI as a radical concept, recent studies indicate that it is successful at lifting people out of poverty and facilitating a better quality of life. 

An MIT research study conducted in Kenya found that UBI decreased food insecurity and improved physical and mental health. But when conditions outlined that the money could only be spent on food, subjective well being was reduced. 

And city officials are taking note. At the State of the City address on March 8, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams expressed support for no strings attached income for communities in need, especially women. 

“Women are the cornerstone of society and the backbones of our families. When women are healthy and have access to opportunity, our children, families and communities thrive,” said Adams in her speech. “We will work with organizations like the Bridge Project, Children’s Defense Fund, and Chapin Hall to support programs that provide monthly financial assistance payments to vulnerable young people and low-income mothers with infants. These efforts have shown great promise in helping people out of poverty and into stability.”

On June 23, the city council enacted a bill that will establish and fund pilot programs to provide unconditional cash for low-income individuals. Research would remain a core aspect, and the funds received would be exempt from being considered income for existing public aid programs. 

“The power of our intervention is that it’s unconditional, and then it’s additionally flexible,” said Agarwal. “That’s completely different than the benefit system that we have in place today in our safety net. And it makes it really challenging and difficult, because it provides a lot of assumptions in terms of what people need at a certain point in time.” 

The federal Child Tax Credit, which brought financial relief to families during the pandemic, expired at the end of 2021. According to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, child poverty rose by 41 percent the following month. The initiative was able to help families meet their basic needs and no negative effects on parental employment were found. 

Agarwal says that the success of the federal program reinforced their own findings about the power of direct cash assistance for those with children. Its disappearance also reinforced their commitment to change policy nationwide.

With SNAP benefits, the monthly payment which averages $121 cannot be used for hot food at the point of sale, hygiene products, medicine and cleaning supplies. The income eligibility for WIC in NYC is also significantly less than the requirement for the Bridge Project, which excludes many low-income mothers. 

“Both the flexibility and the conditionality of the funds is really meant to allow people to take the autonomy and have self determination over what it is that they need, what their family needs and what their baby needs,” said Agarwal. “You know, your life much better than I do, so you should be able to make your own decisions the same way that I’m able to, in order to best serve yourself. It ends up being counterproductive if you place restrictions on top of people’s ability to make their own decisions.”

As of now, all their funding comes from private philanthropy which is made up of high net-worth individuals and private foundations. But with the possible infusion of government funding from NYC, the program can be sustained with both to reach even more mothers. 

“What we’re trying to do here is provide some sort of model for child allowance across the United States,” said Agarwal. “We think this is an effective policy and could be a solution for our nation moving forward.”

Meng Awards 100 Suits With Funding For Youth Employment Program

Community leaders celebrated the funding awarded to 100 Suits. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

Kevin Livingston started 100 Suits for 100 Men in 2011 after seeing underprivileged men in his community lack business attire for job interviews. He believed that for those seeking to transition to permanent employment, a suit and a haircut can go a long way in building confidence and making a good impression on the hiring manager.

In 2015, the organization secured nonprofit status and continued to address social inequality through community involvement and activism across the city. Livingston, 38, who was born and raised in southeast Queens, says that the goal is to achieve economic freedom and reduce recidivism rates. Their motto is: “The men walk in one way and walk out another.”

Outside of the Pomonok Houses on July 6, Livingston accepted a check for $750,000 for 100 Suits to create a workforce opportunity program that will span across generations. Congresswoman Grace Meng, who learned about Livingston’s work in the community during the peak of the pandemic, secured the funding from congress.

“I could not go another day without having 100 Suits and their team do more work in our congressional district,” said Congresswoman Meng among community advocates and business owners. “I’m so proud of the work that they are doing to help so many families and we are so excited to launch this youth employment program right here in the heart of my congressional district.”

Livingston thanked Meng for securing the funding for the employment program. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

The one year initiative, “Empower Queens – Workforce and Entrepreneurship Programming”, will create jobs for young people, while also providing workforce development services such as coaching, mentorship and case management from industry experts. Approximately 40 individuals from 16 to 24, living in the Pomonok Houses and across the borough, will be able to participate in the program.

“We need to infuse Pomonok with some hope, with some opportunity and with a way to lift young people to get them to another level,” said State Senator Leroy Comrie, who recalled working with Livingston when he first started 100 Suits over a decade ago. “He came to us with his passion and his energy and his desire to be able to impact people at every level possible.”

Representatives including, Aaron Amborse, Queens Director for Governor Kathy Hochul, Lorraine Chambers Lewis, Executive Director of Long Island Jewish Forest Hills and Suk Kim, President of the Korean American Association of Greater NY, were also in attendance.

“We are going to not only work with our seniors, we are going to target our youth to make sure that they have the resources that they need, the follow up that they need, but more importantly, the respect that they deserve to do what they need to do,” Livingston said during the event. “The passion and drive for our community starts today.”

Isaiah “Leaky Roof” Brown, a basketball player and social media influencer, and his best friend Cheyenne “Windu” Nettleon grew up in Pomonok Houses. They both attended the conference and shared how Lingston helped them take a community initiative they started to the next level.

The organizers of the basketball tournament shared how Livingston helped them fund their second year. Photo: Iryna Shkurhan

Last summer they organized a basketball tournament, using their own money and resources, after the Pomonok court was remodeled. After seeing it turn into a success, they envisioned it turning into an annual event, where they can continue to recruit the best players in the city. And after connecting with Livingston this past year, he offered to cover all expenses through his organization so that the tournament can have a wider reach than last year and remain free.

This year’s Leaky Roof Day Tournament will be held on July 29.

Today, 100 Suits has prominent supporters including Colin Kapernick, Steve Harvey, and teams such as the NY Knicks and NY Rangers. But for Livingston, hyperlocal connections in the Queens community remain a priority.

What sets this employment program apart from similar existing ones is Livingston’s vision to “reimagine workforce development” through an emphasis on building relationships and entrepreneurship. He says that he wants to address the desire in youth to create something of their own, whether it’s a business or community program.

“It’s the relationship that’s going to change their trajectory, not the job,” said Livingston in an interview with the Queens Ledger. “Anybody can go out and get a job, but when you’re having a hard time at that job, and you’re struggling between making $17 an hour or going back on the street and making way more, the relationship is what intersects that.”

Livingston says that the employment program will  be up and running by the last week of August.

“Young people are the most important investments that we can make for our community,” said Congresswoman Meng. “This will also help boost their confidence, interpersonal communication, and allow them to continue to contribute to our society from right here at home.”

This Emerging Curator Is Bringing Art and Culture to Flushing

By Clare Baierl |  [email protected]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

By Clare Baierl | [email protected]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S Health Secretary Visits Flushing to Discuss Culturally Competent Healthcare

The U.S Secretary of Health joined Congresswoman Meng and local leaders in Flushing for a roundtable discussion. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

By Iryna Shkurhan[email protected] 

The U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, visited Flushing on June 30 to join Congresswoman Grace Meng and immigrant advocates for a roundtable discussion on language access and culture competency in healthcare. 

The dialogue centered around how to better serve immigrant communities, especially those who speak languages of limited diffusion, with physical and mental health resources in their spoken language. Advocates say that current care and availability of public health info for immigrants whose primary language is not English or Spanish falls short, and can be disastrous in emergencies. 

The issue is especially consequential in Queens where immigrants speak over 160 different languages, making it the language capital of the world according to the World Economic Forum. Close to a quarter of New Yorkers, about 1.8 million residents, are also not proficient in English, according to city data.

“80 percent of our patients want their care not in English. And we’re not talking about interpretation or translation, those can be helpful on the edges but what they really want is their care with someone who speaks the languages,” said Kaushal Challa, CEO of Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, which focuses on primary care in various offices across Flushing and Chinatown. “I’m not going to say that you cannot establish trust if you don’t speak the same language, but it’s a major, major component.”

The discussion, held at Flushing’s Glow Cultural Center on 41st Ave, was especially timely, as June’s Immigrant Heritage Month comes to an end. Meng and Becerra were joined by representatives from several community advocacy groups, including South Asian Council for Social Services and Women for Afghan Women.

“I remember growing up and translating for my parents when they needed to see a doctor,” said Secretary Becerra, who was confirmed into Biden’s cabinet in March 2021 as the first Latino to hold the office. “While I am proud to have been able to help, no child should have to feel the weight of translating complex medical terminology. And no parent should have to share their private medical history with their young child.” 

Since stepping into the role, he has worked with state governments to push providers and insurers to increase language access. He says he is no stranger to working with immigrant communities after representing the downtown Los Angeles area as a congressman for over two decades. 

Meng, who represents a significant chunk of northern Queens, which includes Flushing, Fresh Meadows and Forest Hills, previously worked with Becerra to open the city’s largest vaccination site in the center of Elmhurst in 2021. 

Everyone agreed that during the pandemic, immigrants whose primary language is not English had difficulty even getting the most basic information on Covid-19, such as where and how to get tested.

“We found that, especially in the beginning of the pandemic, how limited access to language services really hurt folks,” said Theodore Moore, Vice President of Policy at New York Immigration Coalition. “And even in New York City, where you have one of the best language access policies in the entire country, we couldn’t get information past English or Spanish.”

City data also shows that multilingual immigrant communities in the outer boroughs were hit the hardest by Covid-19. Central Queens neighborhoods such as Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, where more minority and indigenous languages are spoken became the “epicenter of the epicenter” with thousands of cases within the first month of the outbreak. 

Meng’s proposed legislation, COVID-19 Language Access Act, would require federal agencies to translate memos in the top 20 spoken languages during times of emergency. Two language access bills, spearheaded by Councilmember Julie Won, passed in the city late last year. The bills were also born out of an emergency, when warnings about the severity of flooding from Hurricane Ida were distributed in English, resulting in the deaths of eleven Queens residents who died when their basement apartments flooded. 

“We need more authority to be able to tell health care providers, health insurance companies, that they must do a better job of communicating with their patients,” said Becerra. “And with those additional authorities that Congresswoman Meng could provide us, we have more leverage to try to move in that direction.”

Both representatives expressed commitment to increasing accessibility to healthcare for immigrant communities. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan.

Moore also noted that there is rarely accessibility in languages from the African continent. And indigenous languages, which are spoken by many new migrants arriving from Central and South America, are even harder to find translators for. 

To address this inequality, his team created three language access cooperatives: one for African languages, Asian languages and one dedicated to Central and South American indigenous languages. Immigrants who need access to information in a language of limited diffusion, may not be able to get it from city services, but can rely on groups like New York Immigration Coalition to support them with translated resources. 

A big chunk of the discussion was devoted to mental health, which has risen to a level of prominent awareness and resulted in an increase in funding from federal, state and local governments. While Becerra pointed out that the federal government does not control or manage healthcare, it does have the power to work with states in guiding new initiatives. 

He discussed the wide impact that 988, a centralized phone number for mental health crises that connects people with local suicide and crisis hotlines, has had across the country. Over two million people called or texted 988 within its first six months of operation, indicating a significant demand for crisis level mental health assistance, according to officials.

Some call centers have Spanish speaking staff members, but an official Spanish speaking line is still in the process of being established. Becerra said that in the future, he hopes the service will be able to offer more languages. 

“A lot of the times when providers are talking to the patient, they’re talking to translation services, they’re not looking at the patient’s eyes,” said Carmen Garcia, Community Health Worker at Make the Road. “And that is very important because those people want to be seen and we also want to see eye to eye and understand.”

In her experience working with patients who speak a different language, she notices that translators do not always translate in the way that she asks her questions. Garcia says that she will use motivational interviewing techniques and applications to try to get to the root issue of patients’ distress, which get lost in translation. 

Garcia, and other advocates present, shared that expanded recruitment and retention of healthcare staff that speaks the languages of the community members they serve should be prioritized. Besides language, an awareness of cultural backgrounds and circumstances can be just as important when delivering healthcare services. 

Prioritizing and promoting equitable access to language assistance for health services to people with limited English proficiency is crucial for our immigrant neighborhoods, and I am excited to partner with Secretary Becerra on this effort,” said Congresswoman Meng. “I thank the Secretary for returning to Queens to shine a light on the importance of language accessibility in our healthcare system.”

Congresswoman Meng also introduced the bipartisan Mental Health Workforce and Language Access Act in 2021, which would establish a grant program to deliver federal funds to community health centers to recruit and employ bilingual behavioral health specialists. The current retention gap has been attributed to a lack of competitive salaries compared to private hospitals, and high rates of burnout in the healthcare field. 

“It doesn’t matter if you have access to coverage, if the person next to you doesn’t,” said Moore. “Quite frankly, you’re in the same boat as them and we’re all in this together.”

Meet Flushing’s Adult Day Care Owner

By Matthew Fischetti | [email protected]

New Yorkers are getting older. But that’s exactly where Adult Day Care Centers, like Big Apple Adult Day Care Center, can come into play.

Adult Day Care Centers like the one Anna Lo operate in Flushing, helping provide seniors with access to socialization through programming like dancing or helping them get medication or groceries.

“When you’re taking care of patients, It’s also like taking care of seniors, because they have a lot of illnesses, a lot of paperwork, documentation,” said Lo, who used to manage medical offices prior to entering the adult day care industry.

In essence, Adult Day Care centers can serve as a supplement to long-term care placement, which has been projected to be short 1.5 million workers needed to attend to the aging population, according to a report published in Crains New York. Lo said in her interview that social day care works as a package in the state – on days seniors don’t have home health aides they have social day care and vice versa.

“This adult day care program is actually to help the government take care of the seniors that are coming on. There’s, a lot of baby boomers who are going into retirement age. And so, you know, as they get older, they’re going to need more and more assistance with daily living activities, such as bathing, going to see the doctor, cooking and housekeeping,” said Lo.

At Lo’s locations, the adult day care centers offer a variety of services: including computer lessons, mahjong, dance lessons, chinese calligraphy, beadwork, tai chi and much more. Once a month members of the center get together and put on a show.

“They take a lot of pride in that,” Lo said. “They really put on a professional show. And I take pride in that in my center because we just, we actually give them in their golden years. A beautiful place for them to come and to live their best life.”

One thing Lo said she hopes to see in the industry’s future is tighter vetting of adult day care centers, as some are only a fraction of the space and don’t provide the same standard of care that her center does.

Lo said that the Queens Chamber of Commerce was incredibly helpful getting the day care to operate during Covid, when Suzan King from the Chamber helped connect her with different grants and low interest loans to secure her nearly 10,000 square foot space.

Lo also expressed the sheer confusion industries like hers faced during the pandemic, with seniors worried about contracting covid from home health aides.

“So it was a really dangerous time that we’re living in. And a lot of people didn’t know what to do. But social adult daycare has really helped the seniors stay alive and also get groceries,” she said.  “We help seniors, we got groceries for seniors. And we delivered it to seniors’ homes along with their meals.”

Asian-American Advocacy Groups Endorse Grasso for DA

Judge Grasso with Phil Wong, Board of Asian Wave Alliance and President of Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater NY, and Donghui Zang, President of NYC Residents Alliance. (Credit: Grasso for Queens)

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected] 

Two significant Asian-American advocacy groups – New York City Residents Alliance and Asian Wave Alliance – endorsed former Judge George Grasso for Queens District Attorney at a press conference in Flushing on June 16. 

Grasso is running to unseat current District Attorney, Melinda Katz, who is serving her first term in the position after serving as Queens Borough President for two terms. Most recently, Grasso was the Administrative Judge of Queens Supreme Court, but stepped down from the bench two years early to run for Queens DA.  

“Our endorsements come after reviewing completed candidate questionnaires, publicly available news and records, participation in our candidates’ forums, and member deliberation. Judge George Grasso has a solid track record of fighting crime and we are confident that he will protect the Asian communities in Queens,” said Yiatin Chu, Asian Wave Alliance President, in a press release. “We support candidates who are committed to making our communities safer, cleaner and more prosperous for us and our children.” 

New York City Residents Alliance is a coalition of Chinese-American parents working to secure equal opportunities in education, and safer communities through crime reduction. Asian Wave Alliance is a NYC based nonpartisan political advocacy group that works to organize Asian-American voters. 

Judge Grasso with members of the board of New York City Residents Alliance and Asian Wave Alliance. (Credit: Grasso for Queens)

“We believe that Ms. Katz cannot break the shackles of the establishment, and cannot do a good job in the current environment where crimes are condoned, major crimes are reduced to minor crimes, and petty crimes are eliminated,” said Donghui Zang, New York City Residents Alliance President, in a press release. “We urgently need elected officials with a strong sense of justice to fight all crimes and protect the safety of everyone, especially children, the elderly, and women.”

Grasso commended the endorsements and acknowledged crime in predominantly Asian American communities in Queens, specifically a rise in hate crimes and small business burglaries. 

“Running for office in a borough as diverse as Queens and receiving the endorsements of such established and respected groups means so much to me and is a reflection of my abilities as a crime fighter,” said Grasso in a press release. “Communities like Flushing, which function not only as centers of commerce, but also as cultural hubs in our borough, need an experienced criminal justice professional, not another politician.” 

Early voting began on Saturday, June 17 and will run until Sunday, June 25. The election is on Tuesday, June 27.


Queens Leaders Push for Federal Recognition of Diwali

Over a dozen local officials and community leaders expressed their support for the legislation during the Zoom conference.

By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]

Congresswoman Grace Meng was joined by local Queens pols and advocacy leaders on May 26 to announce her introduction of legislation to make Diwali a federal holiday.

If passed, the Diwali Day Act will give students in public schools across the country a day off from school and become the 12th federally recognized holiday in the nation.

“A federal holiday for Diwali would give millions of families the time deserved to celebrate together, as well as educate others about the history and significance of this auspicious day,” said Congresswoman Meng during the virtual press conference on Friday afternoon.

Diwali, which is also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated for five days by South Asians, Southeast Asians, Indo-Caribbeans and by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains. It usually falls sometime in October or November, depending on the Indian calendar and the new moon.

Diwali signifies the spiritual victory of light over darkness and goodness over evil. It is one of the most important festivals for religions prominent in India and also marks the beginning of the fiscal year in the country.

Meng chose to announce the initiative during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, instead of in the fall when Diwali is celebrated, to showcase the diversity of Asian Americans. She also mentioned that the introduction of the bipartisan bill is early enough for it to pass in time for the holiday.

“It is high time to recognize Diwali as a holiday in U.S. public schools,” said Dr. Neeta Jain, Founder and President of the International Ahimsa Foundation. “Our children should be treated equally. As our children celebrate other cultures, others should celebrate and learn about our culture as well. This is the only way we can teach children to have mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual acceptance.”

More than one legislator pointed out that Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. According to Pew Research Center, the Asian population doubled between 2000 and 2019, and is projected to surpass 46 million by 2060.

According to the Asian American Federation, in both Brooklyn and Queens, the Asian population increased by over 120,000 in the past decade.

Meng also mentioned that she is pushing similar acts for Eid, which signifies the end of Ramadan in Islam, and Lunar New Year which is celebrated by several different cultures.

“Today the congresswoman has taken a historic step toward honoring the communities who celebrate Diwali, not only in our city, but all across the country,” said Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, David C. Banks, during the Zoom conference. “I think that’s a huge, huge deal.”

City Councilwoman, Linda Lee who represents swaths of eastern Queens, recently initiated and passed legislation in the council to make Diwali a school holiday in NYC. In the fall of 2023, Diwali will be a holiday for NYC public schools.

“Given the rise in hate crimes that we’ve seen over the years, I’m hoping that bringing these holidays into our schools will really help at a very young age, teach our children the importance of the diversity of the city and how wonderful it is to celebrate all of these different cultures in our schools,” said Councilmember Lee.

So far, 14 members have already signed the legislation. Meng says that at this point in the process she is working to collect as many cosponsors as possible across the political aisle.

“We didn’t get here overnight. Even a few years ago when someone even mentioned the word Diwali. People were confused,” said Assemblyman Ron Kim, who represents Flushing .”But now we are at a point of ‘Oh, It’s not a holiday yet?’ And it’s because of the normalization.”

“Hitchhiking” Lanternfly Makes Early Appearance This Spring

Spotted lanternfly sitting on a purple sandcherry. Photo Credit: Unsplash/ Magi Kern

By Iryna Shkurhan[email protected] 

The invasive spotted lanternfly is back for the season. 

In past years the species emerged from their egg masses in May, but this year the State’s Department of Agriculture received reports of sightings in the city in the middle of April. Officials followed up on sighting reports across all boroughs and confirmed their presence in person. 

According to iNaturalist, a website where naturalists can record their observations, there have been several sightings of lanternflies — in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Queensbridge Park — this past April.

Despite efforts to eradicate them with a public campaign that encouraged residents to kill them on sight, experts anticipate that their population will only continue to grow this year. Lanternflies have been seen at high rates across the boroughs and wider state, but most noticeably in Staten Island where they were first spotted in the state in July 2020. 

“The public in their ability to recognize spotted lanternfly, and in their willingness to report it to us, has really been crucial in our ability to keep track of where this is,” said Chris Logue, Markets Director for the Plant Industry at the New York State Department of Agriculture in a Zoom address to media on April 26. 

In a destructive nature, the species feeds on over 70 species of plants, including crops that are critical to New York’s agricultural economy, such as grapevine, apple trees and hops. New York State is ranked third place for grape production in the country and second in apple production, according to USDA Statistics.

“There’s still a lot that we don’t know about spotted lanternfly,” said Logue. “We don’t want to be caught by surprise in the future if it begins to cause issues on other crops, or natural resources that are important to us.”

Vacuuming the insects into a plastic bag has proved to be the most successful method of reducing the population size so far, according to officials. 

“That has worked really well for us,” said Logue, who mentioned that lanternflies die naturally if they do not feed on something for several hours. 

The state is encouraging homeowners to use cordless vacuums to suck up the pests if they have the desire to take action in their own backyard. At this time, they are not recommending a specific pesticide for use on private property. But officials encouraged residents to inquire with their local Cornell Cooperative to get a list of pesticides that are safe to use. 

Lanternflies tend to follow both commerce and recreational trade routes. In an effort to slow the spread, the state is inspecting shipments of goods for both egg masses and later stage flies.  

“They tend to be very good hitchhikers,” said Logue. “And they can move around in really all of their life stages, which is a challenge.”

If you see a spotted lantern fly, you can report it via an online reporting tool found at NYS Department of Environmental Conservation or email the location and images of the insect, egg masses or infestation signs to [email protected].

The state is encouraging reporting of any sighting, even if you are unsure that it is a spotted lanternfly. They also recommend featuring an object for scale, such as a coin or ruler, in submitted images. 

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