AAFE Hosts Three Kings Day Celebration

By Alicia Venter

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Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) took advantage of Three Kings Day — a holiday predominately celebrated by children — to provide Jackson Heights children a day of entertainment and inform their parents of services in their community.

The nonprofit held their Three Kings Day celebration on Jan. 5 at Blessed Sacrament Church. From 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., children were welcome to get their faces painted, to participate in different crafts, free churros and different gifts.

Three Kings Day is a Christian holiday celebrated on Jan. 6 that celebrates the day in which the three wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. It is also known as the Feast of Epiphany, and in many European and Latin American countries, parents will buy their children gifts on this day.

At any point, the area was packed with locals partaking in holiday festivities. Approximately 75 people could be seen enjoying the free activities or learning about the different Queens services.

Among the organizations distributing information and various gifts included Elmhurst Hospital, Communities Resist, Commonpoint Queens and the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

Council member Shekar Khrishnan, State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly member Catalina Cruz could be seen towards the beginning of the festivities distributing at home Covid-19 tests and greeting their constituents. Speaking primarily in Spanish, each wished the attendees to have a happy holiday and to take advantage of the services provided that day.

Friends, foes of Drag Story Hour show up in Jackson Heights

Proud Boys make appearance outside children’s event

By Jessica Meditz

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Protesters of Drag Story Hour were outnumbered by supporters, about 30 people compared to 200.

In response to a group of people openly against Drag Story Hour and their shared plans to disrupt the children’s event once more, supporters of the initiative showed up to defend it last Thursday, Dec. 29.

Both sides of 81st Street – the site of the Queens Public Library in Jackson Heights – were filled with passionate crowds up and down the block.

One could spot on the left side of the street individuals holding signs that read “Stop Drag Queen Story Hour” and “Groom dogs, not kids,” some donning Proud Boys gear. The right side of the street featured a sea of rainbows along with signs that said “Drag the bigotry away” and “Libraries are for everyone.”

Protesters of Drag Story Hour were outnumbered by supporters – approximately 30 compared to 200 people – as library goers looked over the interaction from a bird’s eye view through the building’s top floor windows.

Back in November, Jackson Heights elected officials held a community rally outside the same library, denouncing hate and expressing their full support of Drag Story Hour – which was also met with backlash from counter protesters.

“There are many parents, myself included, who are choosing to raise their children in Jackson Heights because we want our children immersed in diversity,” State Senator Jessica Ramos said in a statement. “I’ll welcome the joy that Drag Story Hour offers over the bigotry of a loud, select few any day.”

While the Drag Story Hour event took place, LGBTQ+ supporters used their own bodies as shields to prevent the children and parents from being seen by the other side of the street. A performer read “‘Twas the Night Before Pride” outside the library’s doors as children listened and engaged.

Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz poses with a young supporter of Drag Story Hour.

In response to the reaction from counter protesters and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments seen throughout the city, such as Manhattan Councilman Erik Bottcher’s home and district office being vandalized after openly supporting Drag Story Hour, Bottcher, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Councilman Shekar Krishnan and Councilwoman Crystal Hudson released a joint statement condemning homophobic and transphobic actions.

They argue that Drag Story Hour, founded as a nonprofit in 2015, engages children in arts and crafts, as well as imaginative storytelling – while simultaneously teaching acceptance.

“It is particularly disturbing that these anti-LGBTQIA+ protesters have focused their harassment in Jackson Heights and Chelsea, two neighborhoods with historical importance as safe communities and centers of organizing for the LGBTQIA+ movement in New York City,” they said in the statement.

“The harmful, homophobic, and transphobic extremism targeting Drag Story Hour events and the New Yorkers who support them, including Council members, is vile and dangerous. We will not stay silent or accept these shameful attempts to intimidate and spread hate, especially after recent incidents that have devolved into violence and put New Yorkers in harm’s way,” it continued. “This City Council is proud to support children’s programs that promote inclusivity, literacy and joy.”

People on both sides of the issue clashed at last week’s protest, and some interactions did get physical.

Several NYPD officers were at the scene.

One individual was arrested that day, a 32-year-old Forest Hills resident named John Curry.

Police say Curry was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration. It is unclear if he is against or in favor of Drag Story Hour.

After the event began to fizzle out, NYPD officers escorted a group of people in Proud Boys gear to the Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue subway station, where they were permitted to ride for free, a video posted by TikTok creator, @brennalip, revealed.

The videographer questioned, “Proud Boys don’t have to pay for the fare?”

One of the individuals responded, “We’re special, thank you. Appreciate it, from your taxes.”

Before the clip ended, an NYPD officer appeared to motion the videographer and other individuals to back up and pay for the fare themselves, which the creator questioned.

“Is that the situation you’re saying?” they asked, to which the officer replied, “That is correct.”

TikTok creator @brennalip posted a video revealing the NYPD permitting a group of people donning Proud Boys gear not to pay the MTA fare.

Many social media users expressed their angry reactions to the situation, some even calling on Mayor Eric Adams to respond.

State Senator Jessica Ramos shared an update to Twitter on Jan. 2.

“Just spoke to the precinct. They said they had to escort the Proud Boys [because they] were picking fights [with] people on the street like vendors as well as reporters,” Ramos wrote in the tweet.

“Still, this wouldn’t look so hypocritical if [the] NYPD would stop arresting people of color over a $2.75 fare.”

Peter Magnani Way installed on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights

Urban planner honored with street co-naming in Jackson Heights avenue he helped beautify

By Juan Arturo Trillo

Named after former Deputy Queens Borough President, “Peter Magnani Way” now stands tall on 81st St and 34th Avenue.

Magnani, who also served as an urban planner and architect, was honored with a street co-naming in his home of Jackson Heights on the morning of Saturday, June 18, 2022.

At 82 years old, Peter passed away on June 23rd, 2021. The street naming ceremony was attended by Peter’s family, friends, colleagues, and teammates.

A variety of speeches by Peter’s friends and community leaders preceded the unveiling of Peter Magnani Way.

The installation of Peter Magnani Way was spearheaded by former Councilman Danny Dromm along with former judge and community leader Rudy Greco.

“We’re here to honor Peter, but I feel honored to have been numbered among Peter’s friends,” Greco said.

Dromm anticipates that students will see Magnani’s name on the street and will be pushed to learn more about his impact.

Councilman Shekar Krishnan spoke of Magnani’s many contributions to Queens, including the Flushing Meadows Corona Park swimming pool/ice rink, Queens Hall of Science, and conversion of the Towers Co-Op in Jackson Heights.

He propelled a variety of projects, including the Flushing Meadows Corona Park swimming pool/ice rink, Queens Hall of Science, and conversion of Jackson Heights’s Towers Co-Op.

Magnani drove the installation and development of new libraries in Long Island City, Glen Oaks, Elmhurst, Far Rockaway, and Hunters Point.

Magnani helped to protect working class communities from developments which would displace tenants from their homes and communities, Krishnan added.

Krishnan said that Magnani understood how people’s environments affect their daily lives.

“His life, his legacy, has not just literally and physically changed the landscape of Jackson Heights and Queens, but it has left its mark on urban planning, on public space, and on how we think about our communities and our city for generations to come,” Krishnan said.

One of Magnani’s largest projects was the median on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights.

The median now lies in the center of the new 34th Avenue Open Street, where the street is closed to cars from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Krishnan attributed much of its success to Magnani’s median.

Borough President Donovan Richards added that open streets give people an opportunity to build community, learn about each other, and celebrate the borough’s greatest strength: its diversity.

In addition to other initiatives, Magnani’s legacy was cemented through the variety of roles he served within the Queens and New York City communities.

Magnani worked at both the Bronx and Queens Departments of City Planning. He was then appointed as Deputy Borough President under the then-Borough president Claire Shulman. Finally, he became the Director of Capital Program Management for the Queens Borough Public Library.

Former Councilman Barry Grodenchik remembered Magnani as a “voice for his community” in his role as Deputy Borough President.

Former Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer added that Magnani was the “calm in the center of the storm” in his work.

Robert Esnard, former Deputy Mayor under Ed Koch, described Magnani’s career route to his government roles as unique. Esnard attended the City College of New York with Magnani where they played baseball together, and their friendship continued into their later years.

Esnard said that one of Peter’s final dreams was to play half-court basketball with his grandsons.

“[Peter] lived his life with grace, with kindness, and with a concern for his fellow man,” concluded Esnard.

Krishnan, whose district encompasses Jackson Heights, recalled Magnani’s long lasting legacy that will be remembered for generations to come.

“We lead the way as a neighborhood standing on the shoulder of Peter, pushing his work and legacy forward,” Krishnan added. “In changing permanently, a small piece of the landscape of New York City, we are recognizing the incredibly large impact that Peter’s life and work had.”

 

Marching 21 blocks for 21 victims of gun violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Councilman Krishnan leads the charge against gun violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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