Queens Tech Council hosts first networking event

A forecast for thunderstorms didn’t stop members of the tech community from attending the first networking event hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s new Queens Tech Council.
“I’ve built an amazing network for myself just by being at these events,” said Mo Faisal, founder and CEO of The Money Hub and FinGem and co-founder of Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area, who attended the event at ICONYC Brewing in Long Island City. “Every small business owner, entrepreneur or anyone who prospectively wants to build something or be a leader has to go out there and talk to people.”
The Queens Tech Council launched in February with the goal of promoting the tech industry in the borough. Council members include representatives from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Pursuit, LIC Partnership, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, Crown Castle, Cornell Tech, and The Business Incubator Association of New York State.
The council will focus on ensuring Queens is producing the talent companies look for, getting the resources and capital tech companies need, and helping businesses in traditional industries successfully integrate new technologies
“We work with local colleges and businesses who have educational opportunities, whether it’s apprenticeships, upscaling opportunities for the current workforce or anything that can bring more skilled workers into the tech industry,” said Michelle Watson, a technical specialist at the NYC Small Business Resource Network and Queens Tech Council member.
The Queens Tech Council has two working groups. The policy and government group works to highlight the tech industry’s needs to elected officials, while the investment and industry group works to secure both public and private funding.
Chamber president and CEO Tom Grech discussed some of the local tech industry’s recent accomplishments, including the rapid mass production of ventilators during the height of COVID-19 by Boyce Technologies in Long Island City. Borough President Donovan Richards highlighted the role the tech community will play in the future of the borough and, ultimately, the city.
“We want Queens to be the template for where we need to go, but we can only do that with you,” he told the crowd. “That means networking, relationships, and making sure we’re all rowing in the same direction.”
Rachel Loeb, president and CEO at New York City Economic Development Corporation, was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s event. She said EDC and NYC Small Business Resource Network collaborated to ensure the survival and success of local small businesses during unprecedented times.
“We’ve been working together as a partnership so that we could get crucial skills when COVID hit and resources to small businesses so that they can survive, whether it be digitizing their business or just staying open,” she said.
Just last week, Loeb attended a groundbreaking ceremony for Bartlett Dairy’s new headquarters in Queens. Additionally, Hyatt Regency JFK recently celebrated its grand opening at Resorts World New York City, and JetBlue announced that its headquarters will remain in Long Island City.

Queens Tech Council hosts first networking event

A forecast for thunderstorms didn’t stop members of the tech community from attending the first networking event hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s new Queens Tech Council.
“I’ve built an amazing network for myself just by being at these events,” said Mo Faisal, founder and CEO of The Money Hub and FinGem and co-founder of Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area, who attended the event at ICONYC Brewing in Long Island City. “Every small business owner, entrepreneur or anyone who prospectively wants to build something or be a leader has to go out there and talk to people.”
The Queens Tech Council launched in February with the goal of promoting the tech industry in the borough. Council members include representatives from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Pursuit, LIC Partnership, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, Crown Castle, Cornell Tech, and The Business Incubator Association of New York State.
The council will focus on ensuring Queens is producing the talent companies look for, getting the resources and capital tech companies need, and helping businesses in traditional industries successfully integrate new technologies
“We work with local colleges and businesses who have educational opportunities, whether it’s apprenticeships, upscaling opportunities for the current workforce or anything that can bring more skilled workers into the tech industry,” said Michelle Watson, a technical specialist at the NYC Small Business Resource Network and Queens Tech Council member.
The Queens Tech Council has two working groups. The policy and government group works to highlight the tech industry’s needs to elected officials, while the investment and industry group works to secure both public and private funding.
Chamber president and CEO Tom Grech discussed some of the local tech industry’s recent accomplishments, including the rapid mass production of ventilators during the height of COVID-19 by Boyce Technologies in Long Island City. Borough President Donovan Richards highlighted the role the tech community will play in the future of the borough and, ultimately, the city.
“We want Queens to be the template for where we need to go, but we can only do that with you,” he told the crowd. “That means networking, relationships, and making sure we’re all rowing in the same direction.”
Rachel Loeb, president and CEO at New York City Economic Development Corporation, was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s event. She said EDC and NYC Small Business Resource Network collaborated to ensure the survival and success of local small businesses during unprecedented times.
“We’ve been working together as a partnership so that we could get crucial skills when COVID hit and resources to small businesses so that they can survive, whether it be digitizing their business or just staying open,” she said.
Just last week, Loeb attended a groundbreaking ceremony for Bartlett Dairy’s new headquarters in Queens. Additionally, Hyatt Regency JFK recently celebrated its grand opening at Resorts World New York City, and JetBlue announced that its headquarters will remain in Long Island City.

Queens celebrating its comeback with a free celebration

The borough is open for business, and the Queens Economic Development Corporation is celebrating with Queens Comes Back!, a huge party in a unique venue with local vendors selling great food, drinks, and novelty items while artists provide top-notch entertainment.
And everybody is invited!
Kaufman Astoria Studios will host Queens Comes Back! in its Backlot on Saturday, October 9, from noon to 4 p.m. Restaurants are still signing up to participate, but this first-ever banquet has already attracted several dozen vendors of everything from main dishes to desserts to hot sauces.
Alewife Brewing, which is located in Sunnyside, will pour suds, and Jackson Heights-based QNSY Sparkling Cocktails will peddle mixed drinks in cans.
At some spots, members of Made in Queens, a QEDC program that promotes local manufacturers and crafters, will sell their products, which range from shirts to jewelry to handmade soaps and candles.
Representatives from Queensboro FC, a professional soccer team that will begin competing in 2022, will be there with uniforms, soccer balls, and other sports paraphernalia.
It’s not all dining and shopping, though. Queensboro Dance Festival members will perform throughout the day on a mini outdoor stage. A little Salsa. A touch of ballet. Some tap.
There’s no admission charge, but the organizers request that those interested register. More information is at queensny.org.

Early morning fire tears through Queens Blvd. building

An early morning fire on Queens Boulevard on Thursday tore through a row of businesses in Sunnyside.
Hundreds of firefighters and emergency personnel responded to the four-alarm blaze on the south side of the boulevard between 43rd and 44th streets. Three suffered minor injuries.
The fire started in Taiyo Food on 44th Street, and quickly engulfed the four neighboring businesses, Mad for Chicken, Bajeko Sekuwa, Malingo and Mad Cafe. No employees were injured.
In December of 2018, a large fire destroyed several businesses just a few blocks east on the same side of Queens Boulevard. That property is still a large, graffiti-covered vacant lot.
As they did after that fire, the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District has started a fund to help the five businesses. Donations can be made on GoFundMe or by emailing info@sunnysideshines.org.

Redistricting Commission holds hearings in Queens, Brooklyn

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To coordinate such a huge task, the New York Independent Redistricting Commission is holding a series of hearings throughout the state to gather input.
The redistricting process traditionally happens every ten years after the Census count, and has long been subject to the whims of partisan policymakers. This has resulted in oddly shaped districts that divide communities, gerrymandered to favor the candidates of a political party.
However, a referendum was passed by New York State voters in 2014 that created a new Independent Redistricting Commission to replace the partisan process. Composed of five Democrats and five Republicans, the commission will take into account the information gathered from hearings and propose new districts that, in theory, will be less politically motivated.
The commission is expected to propose new district maps before the end of the month.
The commission recently held hearings in Queens and Brooklyn. Lasting multiple hours, the hearings were attended by a large number of New Yorkers who highlighted gerrymandered, problematic, and ineffective districting throughout the boroughs.

QUEENS
The Queens hearing received input from residents from Astoria to the Rockaways, however a few areas were mentioned multiple times because of their clearly poor district maps.
The districts that include Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, and other nearby neighborhoods received the most attention for the way the district lines divide communities.
Speakers discussed the ways that Asian, Black, Indian, and Latinx communities are particularly disenfranchised by the current district maps.
“The area from the Van Wyck Expressway all the way down to Nassau County is not just a road, it is the spine of a community,” explained John P. Albert, who testified at the hearing on behalf of the nonprofit organization Taking Our Seat. “It is home to a significant Indian American population that is split among three assembly districts.”
Maria Calfer, a Taiwanese immigrant and mother from Forest Hills, echoed a similar sentiment.
“There is a very active and vibrant civic community in Central Queens, but my neighbors and I have found it hard and at times disenfranchising to engage in politics,” she said. “We are represented by four different state senators, but only one of them has an office in central Queens.”
After the hearing, some Muslim residents expressed anger that the hearing was held during Eid al-Adha, a major holiday that lasts multiple days. The commission will continue to accept testimony from residents online through the middle of August.

BROOKLYN
Like Queens, the Brooklyn hearing featured testimony from residents throughout the borough but clearly highlighted a few key areas.
Primarily, residents spoke of the need to change districts in the southern half of Brooklyn, an area that at points even shares representation with Staten Island across the Narrows.
For example, the neighborhood of Sunset Park is currently divided among four different state senate districts, dividing the area’s growing Asian population and preventing them from having a cohesive voice in government.
L. Joy Williams, a representative from the Brooklyn branch of the NAACP, explained how similarly poor districting affects Black communities throughout the borough, particularly in and around Flatbush.
“The communities of African descent are diverse in Brooklyn, but well connected,” she said. “Our districts should reflect that.”
Residents testifying during the Brooklyn hearing directly called out partisan gerrymandering as the root of the problem, pointing to obtuse maps that were intended to favor Republican candidates.
“There is a pro-Republican bias in the New York Senate map, especially in Brooklyn,” said Martin Asher, an attorney testifying during the hearing. “This is clear partisan gerrymandering that does not benefit residents.”
State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who represents an oddly drawn southern Brooklyn district that includes parts of Bay Ridge, Gravesend, Gerritsen Beach and Flatbush, offered his own comments separate from the hearing.
“With the population density of Brooklyn being what it is, there’s no reason why my district would extend from the Narrows waterfront all the way to Flatbush Avenue, but cut out about half the population that lives in between that span,” he said.

Richards launches ‘Queens Shop Small’ program

Borough President Donovan Richards will be visiting a local small business every month as part of a new initiative to promote shopping locally.

“I want to keep supporting small businesses in underserved communities because a lot of times the aid that comes doesn’t always assist them,” said Richards.

For his first visit, Richards stopped by The Nourish Spot in Jamaica. Dawn Kelly opened The Nourish Spot in 2017, promoting healthy living with her smoothies, wraps, and salads.

“I would like his help in making sure that we could get more needed service for some of the people in the community that are down and out on their luck,” Kelly said of Richards. “There are quite a few people who need help with homelessness, mental issues, and drug addiction.

“There’s things happening around Queens like Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium that we would like to be a part of,” she added. “We want their help to be a part of that.”

Soon after taking office, Richards worked with the city and New York Mets to create the Queens Small Business Grant program to support businesses in areas hardest-hit by COVID-19. Over $14 million in no-strings-attached grant funding was distributed among 757 approved entities, 613 of which were minority owned.

During Richards’ visit, Kelly’s was busy filling online orders.

“Business is wonderful because during the pandemic every doctor and medical professional was telling people to eat a more balanced, healthy diet,” said Kelly. “We were doing okay at first, but we got a boom of business in 2020 and had to keep up with the demand.”

Before leaving, Richards presented Kelly with a citation recognizing and Kelly for her work supporting the local community, from hiring local young people to opening the shop as a true community space.

“Our small businesses are the livelihood of Queens,” said Richards. “Where can you get a taste of the world besides Queens?” To learn more visit https://www.restaurantji.com/ny/jamaica/the-nourish-spot-/

Richards launches ‘Queens Shop Small’ program

Borough President Donovan Richards will be visiting a local small business every month as part of a new initiative to promote shopping locally.

“I want to keep supporting small businesses in underserved communities because a lot of times the aid that comes doesn’t always assist them,” said Richards.

For his first visit, Richards stopped by The Nourish Spot in Jamaica. Dawn Kelly opened The Nourish Spot in 2017, promoting healthy living with her smoothies, wraps, and salads.

“I would like his help in making sure that we could get more needed service for some of the people in the community that are down and out on their luck,” Kelly said of Richards. “There are quite a few people who need help with homelessness, mental issues, and drug addiction.

“There’s things happening around Queens like Citi Field and Arthur Ashe Stadium that we would like to be a part of,” she added. “We want their help to be a part of that.”

Soon after taking office, Richards worked with the city and New York Mets to create the Queens Small Business Grant program to support businesses in areas hardest-hit by COVID-19. Over $14 million in no-strings-attached grant funding was distributed among 757 approved entities, 613 of which were minority owned.

During Richards’ visit, Kelly’s was busy filling online orders.

“Business is wonderful because during the pandemic every doctor and medical professional was telling people to eat a more balanced, healthy diet,” said Kelly. “We were doing okay at first, but we got a boom of business in 2020 and had to keep up with the demand.”

Before leaving, Richards presented Kelly with a citation recognizing and Kelly for her work supporting the local community, from hiring local young people to opening the shop as a true community space.

“Our small businesses are the livelihood of Queens,” said Richards. “Where can you get a taste of the world besides Queens?”

To learn more visit https://www.restaurantji.com/ny/jamaica/the-nourish-spot-/

Will Queens go all blue this November?

The general election later this year probably won’t excite many voters.
The Republicans won’t be fielding many competitive candidates in the numerous City Council seats that will be open this year thanks to term limits. The Democrats who won their primaries will likely have a cakewalk into office.
As for citywide races, there are Republican candidates for mayor, public advocate and comptroller, with mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa enjoying the greatest name recognition.
However, as we pointed out last week, Eric Adams is basically being treated like the next mayor of New York City already, so it’s unlikely the Guardian Angels founder and radio show host is going to stand much of a chance in November.
Although, perhaps voter apathy will help the GOP. Given the overwhelming advantage Democrats have over Republicans in registered voters, Democratic voters failing to show up to the polls because they think the race is already won might be the Republicans only chance at victory.
Doubtful, but it’s a longshot.
We caught Tony Avella at an event recently during which he referred to Assemblyman Ed Braunstein as his “colleague in government” before rightfully checking himself. Avella only won the Democratic Primary for his old City Council seat in northeast Queens, and as such isn’t in government yet.
Avella actually has a Republican challenger in Vickie Paladino, who knows how to run a competent campaign and has already been engaging with voters because she actually had a challenger in the Republican Primary.
But while Avella was in office, he appealed to voters of both parties because he focused primarily on quality-of-life issues facing his constituents and steered clear of party politics, that is until he joined the Independent Democratic Conference in Albany, a group of renegade state senators who caucused with Republicans.
That decision became part of his downfall when progressive groups campaigned hard against him and helped get John Liu elected.
Now that he has won the primary, he is out there focusing on the issues that always helped him get elected. He recently called on the city to fix the roads in College Point, the LIRR to shut down a noisy Bayside rail yard, and we hear he is going to be calling attention to a controversial land issue soon.
If he sticks to that playbook, it’s going to hard for Paladino to make any headway with voters.
Another race worth paying attention to is in south Queens, where Councilman Eric Ulrich – the lone Republican elected official left in the borough – is term-limited out of office.
Felicia Singh won the Democratic Primary, and she will face off against Joann Ariola, who is also chair of the Queens County Republican Party. The district leans conservative, and some voters, even Democrats, might see Singh as too progressive.
There are pockets across Queens where Democrats have no problem voting for a Republican if they prefer the candidate, and south Queens is one of them. Ariola could benefit from that tendency.
But there is a monkey wrench in the race. Kenichi Wilson was kicked off the ballot in the Democratic Primary after a supporter of fellow candidate Mike Scala challenged his petition signatures.
The Board of Elections validated his signatures and said he could remain on the ballot, but the same supporter filed a peremptory lawsuit with the state before that decision, which kept him off the ballot for good.
During the whole process, Wilson incurred tens of thousands in legal fees, much of which he paid with matching funds from the city. If he didn’t run in either the primary or general election, he would have to pay all of that money back.
So partially to stay out of debt and partially to run for the seat he intended to from the start, he formed his own third party. Wilson will run on the Community First line this November.
Remember when we said conservative Democrats could be persuaded to vote for Ariola? That might not be the case with Wilson on the ballot. Those votes could go to him instead, hurting her chances.
As for Singh, some Democrats who don’t necessarily care for her but would never vote for a Republican, might instead vote for Wilson, which would hurt Singh’s chances.
It’s going to be interesting to see which candidate is effected most by Wilson’s decision to stay in the race.
And if Ariola and Paladino both lose, it means Queens will be all blue.

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