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Community partners team up to host Ramadan food distribution

The Astoria Welfare Society and community partners are teaming up to distribute free halal food and groceries during the holy month of Ramadan.

Enough traditional Bangladeshi food to feed nearly 250 families was distributed on Friday, April 1, the day before nearly a quarter of the world’s population ushered in their holiest month by beginning their day-long fasts.

Mohammed Jabed Uddin, the General Secretary of the Astoria Welfare Society, welcomed the Astoria community as well as elected officials to the distribution site at 29-11 36th Avenue.

Other pop-up and drop-off locations will be held this month in surrounding neighborhoods like Jackson Heights, said Uddin. He is also doing drop-off deliveries of halal food throughout the month.

“We continue to stand by our community, it doesn’t matter who they are,” he said.

Community organizations helping with the distribution drive are Queens Together and the Champlain Hudson Power Express and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney’s office. The event was sponsored by Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“If it wasn’t for the help of Queens Together and Blue Shield Blue Cross, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Uddin said.

Locals spoke of what the beginning of Ramadan meant to them while waiting in line for the food distribution.

“All over the world, people can not eat dinner or lunch,” said one local. “A lot of people throw their food away for nothing. We are feeling how other poor people are feeling.”

Elected officials, including Senator Chuck Schumer, helped distribute the groceries and halal food. Representatives from the offices of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Assemblymember Zohran Kwame Mandami and Councilmember Julie Won, as well as Councilmember Tiffany Caban herself, were also on hand for the event.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims break their daily fast with a meal called Iftar, which comes only after sunset each day. The act of fasting during the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. This year’s holiday ends on the evening of Monday, May 2.

“I know it’s been a very tough two years for all of us, and now we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having enough food to eat during the month is very important,” Schumer said. “Ramadan Mubarak!”

‘Momnibus’ aims to improve maternal health among minorities

Calling out a stark discrepancy in nationwide maternal care, Senator Chuck Schumer visited Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn to stress the importance of the Black Maternal Health “Momnibus” Act.
Speaking alongside the Olori Sisterhood, Schumer outlined a two-pronged plan to combat what he calls one of the greatest health crises the country faces.
Black and Native American women in the U.S. are three times more likely to die than white women from pregnancy-related causes, and black babies are twice as likely to die than white babies, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While 700 pregnancy deaths occur per year, two-thirds of them are considered preventable.
In New York City, black women have an eight times greater risk of pregnancy-related death than white women. They were also three times more likely than their white counterparts to experience severe maternal morbidity, which can include blood clots, kidney failure, stroke or heart attack.
“That should make every American hang their head in shame,” said Schumer. “We have to change it.”
Schumer says the Momnibus Act, tucked into the Build Back Better legislation, grows and diversifies the perinatal workforce, aiding hospitals with federally sponsored training on how to reduce maternal mortality.
A handful of community-based organizations will be funded under the legislation as well, Schumer added.
“It will expand on existing health legislation and address impacts of COVID and climate change on maternal health as well,” he said last week.
Additionally, Schumer and elected officials on hand called for permanent enhancements to Medicaid coverage for new mothers, including providing one year of postpartum coverage, up from the current 60 days required by federal law.
A temporary version of this policy was already passed as part of the American Rescue Plan, and Schumer says he hopes the yearlong postpartum coverage iwill be permanent. The senator is also pushing for Medicaid coverage for midwives and doulas.
“The Momnibus will deliberately address the needs of women, especially Black, Hispanic and Native women, who are more likely to live in poor health and die younger,” said Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. “These disparities are not inevitable, there are ways to reduce and even eliminate these disparities.”
Funding for access to no-cost drop-in childcare for pregnant and postpartum women will be included in the legislation, Clarke said. Grant opportunities will also be available to community-based organizations and public health departments to address the needs of each community.
“We must never forget that the time is always now to improve women’s lives, especially those unfairly and historically impacted by neglect and deliberate mistreatment,” she said.
India Sneed, the wife of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, spoke of her own personal birth experience, which she said included being subjected to an unnecessary C-section.
Last summer, Sneed suffered a miscarriage and was told she had cervical cancer. Now five months pregnant, Sneed recalled her emotional experience.
“Being ignored after a miscarriage, when my partner and I needed mental health resources, being pointed towards a hysterectomy after I routinely expressed interest in having more children, and being dismissed with respect to my request for fertility treatments, my story is not a unique one,” said Sneed. “It’s pretty routine to the Black community.”

Schumer joins fight against North Brooklyn Pipeline

National Grid’s plan to build a new natural gas pipeline underneath various neighborhoods in Northern Brooklyn has drawn the ire of locals since its inception.
The energy provider’s fight became much harder this week, however, when Senator Chuck Schumer announced his own opposition to the project. He is the highest-ranking politician to oppose the project, which has already faced opposition from a bevy of local representatives.
“The facts are clear, this pipeline will undermine New York’s climate goals while pumping carbon-based fuel through communities already face high pollution,” Schumer said during a press conference last week.
The North Brooklyn Pipeline project would install a gas pipeline underneath parts of Brownsville, Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Williamsburg. Detractors argue that the pipeline would pollute the ground and water of multiple low-income communities of color.
“When they had to build a highway, when they had to build a pipeline, they didn’t go to the communities where there was power and wealth,” Schumer added. “They went through poor communities, communities of color. That meant more asthma, more particulates in the lungs, it meant more poison in the air. That’s got to stop.”
Just last month, Schumer also spoke up in opposition to a proposed new fracked gas plant in Astoria. Similar to the North Brooklyn Pipeline, the project has been criticized for potentially adding more pollutants into the air of a neighborhood that has already been dubbed “Asthma Alley.”
In addition to the environmental impact of the North Brooklyn Pipeline, local residents are concerned by the increased costs in their monthly bills to pay for it. National Grid hsaid its agreement with the state Department of Public Service would raise their customers’ bills by an average of $5.56 per month in 2021 and then by $4.89 per month in 2022.
The $100 or more price hike added fuels to the flames of an already adamant anti-pipeline movement in North Brooklyn.
Since July 1, over 200 Greenpointers have joined a strike to protest the controversial North Brooklyn Pipeline project by National Grid. The strike asks that residents withhold $66 from their monthly gas bill, and has found support from Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher and State Senator Jabari Brisport.
Lee Ziesche, community engagement coordinator for the grassroots organization Sane Energy Project, offered the following comment about the ongoing strike efforts:
“The state and the city really haven’t stood up to National Grid, it’s really only ever been the community,” Ziesche said. “After almost a year of confidential settlement negotiations that didn’t really involve community members, the plan that National Grid and the state came up with and filed in May just really ignored all the community’s concerns.”
Despite the continued opposition, National Grid defends the pipeline project.
“National Grid shares Senator Schumer’s commitment to transitioning to a sustainable energy future, which we all know will not happen overnight,” a National Grid spokesperson said. “In the meantime, we have an obligation to provide energy to our two million downstate customers until there is a viable, affordable alternative for heating.”

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