Yang talks small business investment in Queens visit

Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang sat down with Thomas Lo, culinary director of Spy C Cuisine, to discuss what the city could do to support minority entrepreneurship.
Part of Yang’s approach is establishing a people’s bank of New York. The proposal would ensure that every New Yorker can access basic financial products and services, like checking accounts, but also support small business lending in underserved communities by guaranteeing loans and loan portfolios.
Spy C Cuisine is one of two Michelin-recognized restaurants in Forest Hills, and is located on Austin Street alongside many other small stores and eateries. It’s an area of Queens where the economic impact of COVID has resulted in numerous vacant storefronts.
“When I see a closed storefront, I see a family that invested years and years of blood, sweat and tears into trying to make that business work,” he said. “I’m very passionate about trying to be a true partner to small business owners and trying to make sure that as many small businesses can survive and reopen their doors as is possible.”
The bank would work closely with small business lenders and existing financial institutions that specialize in community development. By guaranteeing a level of losses, the bank would assume the risk that these institutions face in lending and incentivize them to be more inclusive.
“We have a two-year window to try and get this recovery right before the federal money runs out,” Yang said. To me, small business investment is a very effective way to go.”
Lo was born in Queens and has lived in Forest Hills for five years. In 2000, he was sleeping on his grandmother’s couch when he deferred from medical school to pursue his culinary passion instead.
Two decades later, Lo is a board-certified anesthesiologist, a former “Iron Chef America” contestant, and part-owner of one of Forest Hill’s most distinctive restaurants. He’s built his life around balance and describes himself as a “doctor by day and chef by night.”
“It’s always been my goal to introduce New York to how good Chinese cuisine is,” said Lo. “There’s more to it than beef and broccoli, and we love showing people how delicate and balanced our flavors are.”

Yang discusses public safety following shooting

A New York City mayoral campaign is an entirely different beast than a presidential campaign. However, the former has some perks.
“The food is infinitely better,” Andrew Yang joked while eating an array of authentic Chinese dishes. “When I am campaigning in New York I can just stop and get food somewhere, but when I was running for president it was like ‘well I’m in Iowa, what am I going to eat!’”
This past Sunday, Yang ventured to Spy C Cuisine in Forest Hills for lunch and a conversation with the restaurant’s owner, Thomas Lo. The Democratic candidate discussed the experience of running for mayor in the largest city in the country and detailed his plans for confronting problems that he believes are crucial to New Yorkers.
“The issues are more varied and local, and I like that you see very clearly how we can make people’s lives better here in New York,” Yang explained. “One of the consistent things I’ve heard is that people don’t necessarily feel like they’ve been included in city government. Some communities in Queens say they’re used to local officials showing up to get your vote and then disappearing until they’re up for election again.
“We are underinvesting in certain communities and we should change that,” he added. “And it does, unfortunately at this point, start with public safety.”
The mayoral hopeful referenced Justin Wallace, the 10-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Far Rockaway on Saturday, as an example of the community violence he aims on addressing if elected.
“One of the major problems that is going to keep us from getting shootings under control is that we’re not solving enough of them,” said Yang. “Right now, the solve rate for shootings in Brooklyn is only 25 percent. That means that three out of four shootings go unsolved and the shooters are still out and walking around. In many cases that means they will likely go on again to do something terrible as two thirds of the city’s shootings are gang related.”
Justin Wallace was killed inside his Far Rockaway home after a stray bullet struck him in the torso.
“Sometimes gangsters miss and harm innocent bystanders,” said Yang. “It’s also tragic if they hit the person they are aiming for, but it’s totally unacceptable that a child is getting shot in the Rockaways.”
Yang suggests transferring more officers and detectives into the gun violence and suppression unit in the hopes of doubling solved shootings and reducing the number of guns on the streets. He also discussed at length the need to invest more heavily in mental health resources as a preventative measure against crime. He referenced Alex Wright, the man who punched an Asian woman on the street in Chinatown last week, as an example.

“Alex Wright was arrested 17 times previously, about eight or nine times in the past year for actions like throwing hot coffee at a travel agent, throwing a rock at a window, cutting a man’s eye on the upper east side, and punching someone else,” Yang said.
“These are all things that he did before punching an Asian woman in Chinatown,” Yang continued. “Now one way of looking at this is as an Anti-Asian hate crime, but if you look at Alex Wright’s background he’s attacked all kinds of people.
“So the problem is that we have mentally ill people on the streets of New York who need to be in better, more supportive environments that will get them in the position to be healthier, but also in a position where they won’t be a danger to other New Yorkers,” he added.
Yang proposes increasing the number of available psych beds to confront the intersecting issues of public safety, mental illness, and homelessness. He also hopes to require additional de-escalation training for all NYPD officers, particularly as it pertains to situations involving a mentally ill individual.
“It’s personal to me because one of my sons is autistic, and in some of these cases we have seen autistic individuals who haven’t responded to police commands,” Yang explained. “So if police officers were trained to identify individuals who are autistic or mentally ill, then they would react differently than they currently do.”
Throughout the conversation, Yang also sang the virtues of direct cash relief and easily accessible bank accounts, two measures that he believes will also indirectly address crime and public safety.
Additionally, he suggested multiple direct reforms to the NYPD, including the appointment of a civilian police commissioner and new requirements ensuring that officers live within the five boroughs.
“The goal should be to have a police force that represents the incredible diversity of Queens and the rest of our city,” Yang said. “I was just in Jamaica and the new head of the precinct is Asian American. His name is Captain Chan, and I have to admit that I was a little surprised but it also made me very happy.”
While Yang explicitly stated that he is against defunding the police, he expressed hope that the recruitment of a more diverse and responsive police force would address the recent spike in hate-crimes and other violence.
To that same end, the vibrant candidate is confident that his own identity — as a political outsider and Asian-American — would address long-festering issues in New York City government.
“I think it would send a very powerful message to have a mayor from an immigrant community that hasn’t historically been well represented in our leadership and our city government,” Yang said. “And that is true for any community that feels like they have not been at the table when various decisions have been made, people who are just tired of the bureaucracy and people making excuses.”

Queens College skips in-person graduation

Despite falling case numbers and an ever-growing number of vaccinations, Queens College will host no in-person graduation due to the pandemic. The CUNY school’s decision has generated harsh criticism from parents and students alike.
“For some families, this might be the first kid to ever graduate from college,” explained one distressed parent. “They could plan it in a couple of days. All they need to do is set up a tent and hand out diplomas.”
Last year, Queens College and many other schools cancelled their in-person graduation ceremonies due to the pandemic. At that time, Queens College pledged to offer 2020 graduates a ceremony later in the summer or fall, but that never materialized.
This year, many of New York City’s colleges and universities have returned to in-person graduation ceremonies, including St. John’s, Fordham, and Adelphi. Queens College is currently only planning on screening a graduation video on YouTube in early June.
“I’m a single parent and I’ve put everything towards helping my son graduate,” explained one mother. “Why can’t they organize something just for parents and for the kids to walk and grab their diplomas?”
“While Queens College would love to have an in-person commencement this year, it simply isn’t possible,” explained Maria Matteo, assistant director of Media and College Relations for Queens College. “With approximately 2,500 graduates each year, along with their family members, faculty, alumni, and administrators, we normally exceed 10,000 people on the Quad during graduation. It was not possible to consider an event of that size this year when we factor in the health and safety protocols in place for the benefit of the campus community.
At the end of April and the beginning of May, Queens College held three weekends of photo experiences on campus for both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021,” Matteo added. “Additional photo opportunities are being scheduled on June 28 and 29 for those who were not able to participate during the past sessions. President Wu met student leaders recently to discuss a possible in-person graduation event of some sort in the late summer or early fall. We are considering this, consistent with health and safety factors, and as details are developed it will be shared with the QC community.”
Queens College offered all classes virtually throughout the past school year. Some classes were conducted completely without instructors and relied solely on virtual education modules.
However, the school has organized some in-person events throughout the year, including photoshoots for students and faculty. Some parents are particularly annoyed by the school’s seemingly inconsistent stances.
Determined parents continue to lobby the school into changing its decision, even after the June 3rd virtual ceremony.
“They had an entire year to figure out a contingency plan,” an adamant critic explained. “A graduation can absolutely be put together within two to three days by renting a tent and making an announcement. To not do anything is a mistake, especially since they have plenty of outdoor space.”

All names have been withheld per the request of those interviewed.

A guide to ranked choice voting

The primary election in New York City is less than a month away, and this year marks the first time that New York City will be utilizing ranked choice voting.

What is Ranked Choice Voting?
The concept behind ranked choice voting is relatively simple. On primary day, voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference rather than casting a vote for just one. You can mark your first choice first, your second choice second, and so on and so forth.
Voters can rank as many candidates as they would like, meaning that you can still only vote for one candidate if you prefer (so long as you rank that candidate first).

How does it work?
Ranked choice voting ballots will be counted in a series of rounds. In the first round, only first-choice votes will be counted. If any candidate receives a simple majority of first choice votes (over 50 percent) they immediately win the election.
If no candidate receives a majority, counting will proceed to a second round. The candidate who came in last place during the first round will be eliminated. Anyone who ranked the eliminated candidate first on their ballot will now have their second choice counted. A new tally is conducted that counts first and second choice votes.
This process will continue until a candidate passes the 50 percent mark, thus securing a majority of the vote.

How to mark your ballot?
Like previous elections, this month’s primary will use paper ballots that are then read electronically.
On your paper ballot, fill in the oval next to the name of your favorite candidate under the first column. If you have a second choice candidate, fill in the oval next to their name under the second column. You may rank up to five candidates using the five columns provided.
Note that individuals with disabilities or impaired vision will still be able to AutoMark Ballot Marking devices to cast their votes. Ballots cast on AutoMark devices will also allow for ranked choice voting. The device will prompt users to select their first choice candidate, then their second choice candidate, and so on.

Important Tips
• Do not select the same candidate for multiple choices. If you do, only your first choice vote will be counted.
• Do not select multiple candidates for the same ranking.
• Fill in all ovals completely to make sure they are properly recorded.

Why the change?
In 2019, New York City voters approved ranked choice voting.
First, the new system ensures that candidates must secure 50 percnt of the vote to win. This is designed to prevent instances where a candidate with a minority of the electorate wins the election. For example, Bill de Blasio secured his first Democratic nomination in 2013 with only 40 percent of the vote.
Second, the new system encourages voters to think more about why they should vote for candidates rather than why they shouldn’t vote for them.
Advocates believe ranked choice voting will inspire a similar focus on positivity among candidates that will lead to a decrease in attack ads.
Lastly, ranked choice voting is designed to produce more representation in government. The Bay Area cities that have already implemented the system have seen an increase in candidates of color and women elected to office.

New park opens under Kosciuszko Bridge

Under the K Bridge Park, a new public park built beneath the overpass of the Kosciuszko Bridge, officially opened last week.
The new park is seven acres and comes equipped with bike paths, greenspace, and skate park.
“The Kosciuszko Bridge project continues to reap benefits not only for motorists, pedestrians and the cycling community, but for a North Brooklyn community craving for more open space in the midst of a worldwide pandemic,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Under the K Bridge Park is living proof that the Kosciuszko Bridge project didn’t just connect two New York City boroughs, but is helping to transform an entire community.”
The bike lanes at Under the K connect to North Brooklyn’s growing bike lane network and to Queens via the shared-use path on the Kosciuszko Bridge.
The new Kosciuszko Bridge officially opened in August 2019 and included pedestrian walkways and bike lanes. The project represented the first major bridge crossing built in New York City since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened to traffic in 1964.
Under the K also features more than 20,000 trees and plants, bringing a much needed touch of color to the largely industrial Newtown Creek waterfront.
“With the addition of this truly innovative urban park, DOT is expanding those benefits to further integrate green, open space for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers,”. “The COVID-19 public health emergency underscored the need for outdoor recreational opportunities and that’s exactly what Under the K Bridge Park provides,” said Marie Therese Dominguez, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation. “With expansive walkways, innovative design and landscaping, this bridge truly connects people through infrastructure and greenspace.”
The new park will be open daily from dawn until dusk, with COVID-19 health and safety measures in place to ensure park visitors comply with the state’s guidance on masks, social distancing, and gatherings.
“North Brooklyn has been historically underserved with its amount of parks and open space,” North Brooklyn Parks Alliance founding board member Joseph Vance explained. “Under the K Bridge Park opens the door for innovative transformation of underutilized public land for open space.”

Arts & culture alive and well in Woodhaven

If you’re a fan of arts, culture and music, there’s a lot to look forward to in Woodhaven during the month of June.
On Monday, June 21, starting at 3 p.m., the Woodhaven Business Improvement District (WBID) is partnering with Make Music New York to bring the streets of Woodhaven live with the sound of music.
Held annually on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, Make Music New York sponsors pop-up concerts all over New York City. This year, you will be able to see live music at Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue.
“We are very excited to participate in Make Music New York 2021,” says Raquel Olivares, executive director of the WBID. “After a very challenging year, we feel this event will help us bring some normalcy and much-needed entertainment to Jamaica Avenue.”
There will be a few different musical acts, and the local artists the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has been spotlighting here in the pages of the Leader-Observer and through online events will be there.
We’re hoping some more local talent from Woodhaven will introduce themselves to us and join our growing roster of artists.
Deborah Camp, who is well known around Woodhaven for her window paintings on businesses, will be there, as will Jennifer Lambert Technoquilter showing off some of her collages and designs.
And you can ask Louise Naples all about the interesting process of making and designing quilts.
Other participating artists include Woodhaven poet Christine Barbour, musician Matt “The Reverend Matty F” Faccenda, and Woodhaven artist Mahfuza Shammy Rahman (MSR).
Some big news is that MSR will be holding an art show in Woodhaven at Geordie’s Joint on the corner of 80th Street and Jamaica Avenue (79-19 Jamaica Avenue). The launch of this exhibit will be on Saturday, June 26, at 3 p.m.
There will be a brief ceremony at 4 p.m., and if you attend you will be able to enjoy an “MSR,” a new drink created in honor of the artist and the exhibit. I don’t recall what was in it, but I plan to have three of four of them!
And if you miss the opening, MSR’s work will be on display at Geordie’s Joint through July 3.
When we profiled MSR in this paper in March, we noted her interest in holding a show at Geordie’s.
“I love Geordie’s and think it would be a great venue for a show,” MSR said.
Together, we met with Geordie and Trish, owners of Geordie’s Joint, and planned out the show. Geordie and Trish could not have been more excited or accommodating to us, and it’s going to be really interesting to see Geordie’s interior transformed into an art gallery.
And we hope other business owners around Woodhaven will stop by and see if what we accomplish there can be duplicated in other establishments. We are building a roster of artists and we would love to show off their work.
The Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society has been well known for its promotion of our community’s past. The emphasis on arts and culture is also part of our mission and an embrace of the future.
As life begins a return to normalcy, it will be nice to look for opportunities like this to gather and enjoy each other’s company again.

Yang talks small business investment in Queens visit

Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang sat down with Thomas Lo, culinary director of Spy C Cuisine, to discuss what the city could do to support minority entrepreneurship.
Part of Yang’s approach is establishing a people’s bank of New York. The proposal would ensure that every New Yorker can access basic financial products and services, like checking accounts, but also support small business lending in underserved communities by guaranteeing loans and loan portfolios.
Spy C Cuisine is one of two Michelin-recognized restaurants in Forest Hills, and is located on Austin Street alongside many other small stores and eateries. It’s an area of Queens where the economic impact of COVID has resulted in numerous vacant storefronts.
“When I see a closed storefront, I see a family that invested years and years of blood, sweat and tears into trying to make that business work,” he said. “I’m very passionate about trying to be a true partner to small business owners and trying to make sure that as many small businesses can survive and reopen their doors as is possible.”
The bank would work closely with small business lenders and existing financial institutions that specialize in community development. By guaranteeing a level of losses, the bank would assume the risk that these institutions face in lending and incentivize them to be more inclusive.
“We have a two-year window to try and get this recovery right before the federal money runs out,” Yang said. To me, small business investment is a very effective way to go.”
Lo was born in Queens and has lived in Forest Hills for five years. In 2000, he was sleeping on his grandmother’s couch when he deferred from medical school to pursue his culinary passion instead.
Two decades later, Lo is a board-certified anesthesiologist, a former “Iron Chef America” contestant, and part-owner of one of Forest Hill’s most distinctive restaurants. He’s built his life around balance and describes himself as a “doctor by day and chef by night.”
“It’s always been my goal to introduce New York to how good Chinese cuisine is,” said Lo. “There’s more to it than beef and broccoli, and we love showing people how delicate and balanced our flavors are.”

Local pols urge Cuomo to sign ‘Fred’s Law’

Fred D’Amico loved spending time at Atlas Park, catching a movie and dining at California Pizza. But the Glendale site was the backdrop of a more solemn occasion on Friday, as elected officials and family members gathered in front of D’Amico’s favorite movie theater to urge Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that will bear the late Glendale resident’s name.
“Fred’s Law,” as it will be called if Cuomo enacts the legislation, would require hospitals to allow patients with disabilities to have one caretaker advocate for them in the hospital during a pandemic or other emergency.
On March 27, 2020, Fred D’Amico, who had Asperger’s, was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital on Long Island by his family members. But the D’Amicos were stopped at the door and forced to leave Fred in the hospital, alone.
That was the last time they saw him. Restrictions, imposed as a result of the pandemic, prevented the 30-year-old from having anyone accompany him, despite his inability to communicate. Fred D’Amico passed away from the COVID-19 virus four days later.
“We’ve all heard many stories about COVID, but few are as heartbreaking as the D’Amico’s story, because it’s one that could have been avoided,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., who drafted the bill after hearing about Fred’s death.
Addabbo said he was struck by the tenacity of the family and their strength in the wake of their tragedy.
“The family stayed in the parking lot praying and calling the hospital to check on Fred, because that’s what a caring family does,” the senator stressed. “But you know what they were told? That they were calling too much. Really? We have a lot to learn from this COVID crisis and this law will be a start.”
The bill has already passed both the Senate and Assembly with overwhelming support.
“We are here today to respectfully ask the governor, when it gets to his desk, to sign it as soon as possible so we can help those who cannot communicate and advocate for themselves,” Addabbo added.
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, who sponsored Fred’s Law in the Assembly, said it’s not often that you get the opportunity to bring forth a bill that will change lives.
“This was a no-brainer, not only as an assemblywoman but as a mother,” she said. “It’s simply the right thing to do.”
Pheffer Amato, a former paraprofessional for the Department of Education, said she knows firsthand how important it is for a person with special needs to depend on his or her “person.”
“I’ve had calls from so many parents supporting this bill,” she said. “I’ve had colleagues come up to me one by one to support it, too, and sometimes it’s not easy to get colleagues to support an issue. This was not hard at all.”
“This law makes logical sense,” noted Assemblywoman Jenifer Rakumar. “Research shows that family members can provide information to help health care workers form a medical decision.
“Last March the governor signed an executive order similar to the principle of our bill, which allowed one support person to be in the hospital with a pregnant woman in labor,” she added. “Logic follows that people with special needs need someone also.”
A year after Fred’s death, family members say they still feel the frustration and heartbreak of leaving their loved one alone when he needed them most.
“I will never forget the feeling of trying to call and text and getting no response,” said Fred’s brother, John D’Amico Jr. “We can’t tell you how much we appreciate all of your support.”
Maria D’Amico found it difficult to speak through her tears.
“This bill is going to make the difference so no one has to be alone in the hospital and no family will have to suffer the pain that we are suffering every day,” she said. “Please Governor Cuomo, sign this bill. For every parent, please sign it.”

The Broken Yankees

After the Yankees were humiliated by the Detroit Tigers right before Memorial Day, the entire team stressed the urgency of their most recent home stand.
Four games with the Tampa Bay Rays and three games with the Boston Red Sox.
To say the Yankees failed miserably doesn’t even do justice to what we watched last week at Yankee Stadium.
The performance of the team goes beyond the 2-5 performance over the seven games.
It’s obvious to anyone watching the first two months of the year that there is a simple truth regarding the Yankees: they are broken.
It’s funny to think about the 2021 Yankees being the Vegas frontrunner to win the American League.
Vegas assumed, like I did, that this would be a Yankee team that would be able to score a whole lot of runs and hit the ball out of the park pretty consistently.
But two-plus months into the year, the Yankees are dead last in the American League in runs scored.
Look up and down the lineup, and aside from Aaron Judge, where is the production?
There are plenty of guys underperforming. Who in their wildest dreams could have imagined DJ LeMahieu’s start to this year.?
The Machine has turned into the ground-ball machine and has been a shell of the player he was in 2019 and 2020.
He is not alone though, because the overall construction of the Yankee lineup is flawed. They are too right-handed and too reliant on the home run, which they are not hitting.
This lineup loves to do two things especially well: strikeout and hit into double plays.
They have also been an insanely sloppy team. They lead baseball in getting thrown out on the base paths. They play terrible defense and make way too many mental mistakes.
The sloppy play falls at the feet of manager Aaron Boone. Boone is a likable guy, but sadly his team has reflected his personality, and not in a good way.
The Yankees continue to make the same mental mistakes over and over again, and there is a major lack of accountability from their leader. Boone’s nice-guy act and constant cliche’s postgame have become a tired act.
Meanwhile, the difference in the Boston Red Sox from a year ago was on full display over the weekend.
The biggest reason for the Sox turnaround is Alex Cora returning to manage the team. He’s given them instant credibility, and they are back to playing a winning-brand of baseball since his arrival.
I see the impact that Cora has had on the Red Sox, and it’s the opposite with Boone and the Yankees.
With Boone in the final year of his contract, his seat could not be any hotter going into the summer months.
But the scrutiny shouldn’t stop with Boone. Longtime general manager Brian Cashman must take responsibility for the flaws with this team and the way it has been built.
The Yankees had a championship window starting in 2017 after a feel-good regular season and a surprise trip to Game 7 of the ALCS. Four years later, the Yankees seem further away from a championship.
Sure, there’s a lot of baseball left, and yes things can change.
But the Yankees are in a stage of development where they should be “World Series or Bust” mode.
This was supposed to be a down year for the American League, the Yankees time to capitalize. They’ve done nothing but fizzle and disappoint.
If it’s more of the same over the next four months, wholesale changes up and down the organization are needed.
For now, we’ll see if Cashman, Boone and the Yankees can put the pieces back together.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday night on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

Can I kick out my tenants who aren’t paying rent?

Q. I have an apartment that I rent. The tenants have not been paying their rent. Can I just change the locks? Is there anything COVID-related that affects this?
A. Evicting tenants is a process that must be done through the court system. I strongly recommend contacting an attorney who specializes in landlord/tenant disputes. They will start a process through the court system, and your tenant will have the opportunity to contest it.
Until a judge rules in your favor, the tenants cannot be removed, harassed, or otherwise intimidated into moving. Additionally, as of right now, there continues to be a moratorium on evictions in the City of New York.
You might try negotiating a settlement with your tenants, e.g., offering to let them leave without having to pay the back rent.
Q. We are currently renting and have been considering a purchase. I have been hearing that people are moving out of New York. Should we wait to buy?
A. While it is often difficult to predict future markets, I can tell you from experience that the market continues to be very active.
Additionally, the COVID-19 issue is slowly being overcome with a large percentage of the population at least partially vaccinated. This will bring some “normalcy” back to the market.
The conditions are still very good if you plan to purchase now. Interest rates continue to be very low, although there has been a slight rise recently. If you consider the amount of money that you spend in the space of five years of renting, you will see that purchasing is definitely a good idea.

Send your real estate-related questions directly to [email protected]

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