Rally celebrates guilty verdict in Floyd murder

Floyd in Minneapolis, Borough President Donovan Richards held an event praising the guilty verdict, but added there was “little cause for celebration.”
“While we breathe a sigh of relief, this fight is not over,” Richards told a small gathering at Borough Hall, pledging to “see this fight for accountability through.”
Richards, the first Black man to hold the post of Queens borough president, read the names of victims of police violence in New York City, including Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner and Sean Bell.
He reflected on how the decision to convict Chauvin of murder could easily have gone the other way.
“We’ve always felt that our lives did not matter,” he said. “Every time one of us lost our lives and there was no justice served, we felt devalued.”
Richards urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and said that the Black Lives Matter movement should not be seen as a threat to the police or other communities.
“This is not an indictment of an entire department,” he said. “We want the bad apples held accountable.”
He was joined by District Attorney Melinda Katz, Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, State Senator John Liu, Assembly members Jenifer Rajkumar, Khaleel Anderson and David Weprin, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Katz said she hoped that last week’s verdict was a step toward positive and systemic change, adding that with police accountability comes community trust and “a safer environment for everyone.”
Liu said that when he heard the verdict for the first time he felt elated, but that joy quickly turned to sadness because he realized the work was “not over, with a lot to do.”
Although Van Bramer, who is challenging Richards in the June Democratic Primary, has called for defunding the police, the controversial measure was not mentioned at last week’s event.
Richards told this paper afterwards that defunding the police “means a lot of different things” to people.
“Everybody gets caught on that word,” he said. “I believe we should make sure equitable resources are going into many communities to make sure they are safer.”
Anderson said to truly tackle the issue of systemic racism in the police force there needs to be “clear lines of engagement and accountability” within the police department.
“Not fluff,” he said, “but people losing their jobs.”

Yang promises swifter switch to clean energy

Andrew Yang wants to convert landfills into renewable energy.
Yang announced last week that if elected mayor, his administration would bring solar projects to former landfill sites in New York City, beginning with the Edgemere Landfill located adjacent to Rockaway Community Park on April 22.
Annika Colston, president and founder of AC Power, is working with Yang on his plan. Edgemere Landfill is one of thousands of brownfield sites around New York City that can be repurposed as community solar installations.
“This landfill could accommodate a large project of 12 megawatts, which is enough to power 2,500 homes,” said Colston. “Those homes could be offered solar through the state community solar program.
“This program will offer clean renewable energy to low and moderate-income families at a discount to their current electricity,” she added. “So there are so many benefits to these types of projects, not only environmentally, but also to the community and the city.”
Yang detailed his plan to power New York City with 80 percent clean energy by 2030 by focusing on solar deployment, battery storage permitting and construction, new interconnections to upstate wind and Canadian hydropower sources, and the acceleration of offshore wind assembly and transmission.
Currently, almost 75 percent of the city’s electricity still comes from fossil fuel. Under the city’s current plan to move to renewable energy sources, in a decade more than 50 percent of electricity will still come from power plants.
“We all agree the city needs to embrace the green economy, but the city has moved too slowly for too long,” said Yang. “What we need now is action. Every day we wait is a missed opportunity for our economy, our health, and our future. My administration won’t wait to pursue these important projects and essential goals.”
Yang also wants to put social and racial justice at the center of the city’s climate work and make sure all New Yorkers have the skills to participate in the green economy, as well as educate the next generation on climate change.
“We have to create green jobs,” said Yang. “A lot of the things I just talked about are going to be job creators, such as battery power plants, solar panel installations, and retrofitting municipal buildings, and that’s a win for us all.”

Catholic Charities hosts pop-up food pantry in Cypress Hills

Since the pandemic began last March, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has been organizing pop-up food pantry events throughout the two boroughs.
This past Thursday, they set up a food pantry in the parking lot of Blessed Sacrament Church in Cyprus Hills.
“We have been taking people in since 8:30 a.m.,” explained Debbie Hampson, senior director of Community Health and Wellness Services for Catholic Charities, during the event. “We usually serve about 800 families.”
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens operates 49 food pantries. However, when the pandemic hit last spring, the group saw a 1,000 percent increase in food requests from families in need.
In response, they began organizing the pop-up pantry events, and have since distributed over $3.4 million in food assistance to families experiencing food insecurity as a result of COVID-19.
“At the beginning we were doing this every week,” Hampson explained, “and at that time we were serving close to 1,500 families.”
Each pop-up food pantry event requires a great amount of planning and organization. Members of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens and other volunteers fill bags with prepackaged foods the night before.
During the event, the group distributes the pre-filled bags, as well as fresh produce, dairy, and meat items on a first-come, first-served basis.
“It’s almost like a farmer’s market,” Hampson said as the group distributed food to attendees.
In addition to food, the pop-up event offers free COVID-19 testing and possibly COVID-19 vaccines in the near future. Catholic Charities has also partnered with the insurance provider BlueCross BlueShield, the food assistance program SNAP, and the COVID-19 emotional support helpline NY Project Hope, all of which had a presence at Thursday’s event.
“Besides being able to provide food, we want to let people know that they are not alone,” said Hampson. “We have counseling for folks because we know a lot of people have been depressed and anxious during the pandemic.”
Despite the ongoing challenges the pandemic poses, Thursday’s event very much felt like a celebration, with a DJ playing radio hits and taking requests.
Additionally, a large number of volunteers were also present, including members of the Carpenter’s Union, EJ Electric, and many parishioners from Blessed Sacrament Church.
Former Brooklyn state senator Marty Golden was in attendance as well, assisting with the food distribution and cracking jokes with the other volunteers.
“People were lined up around the corner earlier today,” he said. “We need to be there for people who are struggling during this difficult time.”

While some volunteers continued to man the food line, others went to the Blessed Sacrament Rectory for a special lunch buffet organized by the church. During the meal, the Star caught up with
“Food is a part of the community,” said John Gonzalez, an organizer for Catholic Charities. “We are happy that we can share it with our volunteers and local families.”
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is currently holding pop-up food pantry events every other Thursday, alternating between locations in Brooklyn and Queens. The next event is tentatively scheduled for May 6 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria.

For more information on all of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens food pantries and programming, visit their website at ccbq.org.

Plans to reconstruct Kissena Corridor fields

Community members had the chance to give their input and ideas on a planned $2.7 million reconstruction of the ball fields in Kissena Corridor Park.
“The ballfields in this section of Kissena Corridor Park have long suffered from pockmarked grass and flooding issues,” said Councilman Peter Koo. “Nevertheless, the fields are frequently used by our community due to a lack of other options.”
Koo and Speaker Corey Johnson secured a total of $3 million to fix the fields that sit on 1.5 acres along Utopia Parkway between Peck and Underhill avenues.
James Mituzas, director of Landscape Architecture for Queens NYC Parks, said the project could take over three years.
“We won’t have a shovel in the ground for another two years, and the construction process takes about 12 to 18 months,” he said. “We’ll probably miss a whole baseball season for construction.”
The project will address other issues, as well. Fencing will be repaired and drinking fountinas, security lighting and benches will be added.
Lee Ann Beauchamp, Landscape Architect at City of New York Parks & Recreation presented the issues that will be fixed.
“We will be reconstructing the ballfield, but we’ll also be reconstructing the pathways that lead to and around them,” said Lee Ann Beauchamp, a landscape architect with the Parks Department.
Jennifer Elias, who lives two blocks from the fields, said they are often used as a dog run.
“I can’t recall the last time I saw a ball game being played there,” she said.
Frank Weber, former president of St. Kevin’s Youth Guild, holds permits to use the fields and asked for natural turf to be part of the redesign.
“With the drainage issues, if you notice when you’re doing the surveys, there is an average of one to two steel manhole covers in the outfields, and if a child is running to catch a ball he or she could land on that manhole” he said.
Mituzas said that could be a possibility
“The type of funding we have right now for this project, it would be ideal for us to reconstruct the field as a natural turf ballfield,” said Mituzas. “I think that’s something we can do for this park at this time.”

Art competition to benefit cancer patients

An art contest is uniting diverse artists from Queens and beyond with a mission of bringing hope for cancer patients.

On April 30 at 5:30 p.m., Paddle For The Cure founder Leah Dulce Salmorin and this columnist will co-host an art show on Zoom and Facebook from the landmarked Ridgewood Savings Bank at 107-55 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills.

“Arts For Life” will feature numerous artists competing in the categories of painting, photography, and drawing.

Winning artists will donate their artwork to be displayed at the Hope Pavilion Clinic. Entries will be judged by Mervin David, an artist and nurse practitioner with Elmhurst Hospital.

They will also receive $100 donated by Ridgewood Savings Bank. Artists who enrolled paid $20, which will benefit Elmhurst Hospital’s Hope Pavilion Cancer Clinic and Paddle For The Cure.

“Ridgewood Savings Bank has always been a bank that prides itself on its community.,” said branch manager Nancy Adzemovic. “I want to go out into the community and search for more partnerships.”

Over the years, the bank has funded history murals, sponsored the 112th Precinct’s Night Out Against Crime, organized blood drives, and coordinated a carnival-themed family festival.

The contest was inspired in part by an exhibit at Jade Eatery in Forests Hills Gardens by this columnist titled “Reflections of Historic Forest Hills.” Since 2019, it has been the center of several fundraising events for Paddle For the Cure.

Salmorin is herself a breast cancer survivor. She founded Paddle For The Cure, which supports fellow survivors through recreational opportunities to foster a healthy lifestyle and offer emotional support and team spirit.

“I vowed to give where I can, to help others affected, and I feel that I cannot waste the rest of my life without making an impact on this planet,” said Salmorin.

To maintain a healthy body and state of mind, Salmorin swims, bikes, does yoga and acupuncture. She serves as a lector at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Joan of Arc.

Her story, “Humility & Faith,” discusses her two lessons as a survivor and was featured in “Faces of Inspiration,” a book that spotlights breast cancer stories.

“Giving me the gift of life is also my way of giving back to Elmhurst Hospital, my home away from home where I was treated. I will never forget the first time I stepped into the doors and the entire staff welcomed me with beautiful smiles.

“I also believe that there are many artists who need to be recognized, and this event brings every individual together as one for a great cause,” she added. “Art is the key to healing that can touch one heart to another.” Purchase tickets for the virtual event here.

Queens to remember, mourn those COVID took

As of this week, Queens has lost 9,659 residents to COVID, a tragic loss of life for our borough. That’s 9,659 lives cut short, and 9,659 families dealing with the heartbreak of losing a loved one and being confronted daily with the cause of that pain.
This coming Saturday, May 1, some of those families and their friends will gather in Forest Park to remember all of those that have been lost.
The Queens COVID Remembrance Day will take place at the Forest Park Bandshell and be open to the public from 2 to 8 p.m.
Portraits of many of the victims will be on display, filling the empty benches of the bandshell. The portraits were created by 16-year-old artist Hannah Ernst, who started drawing COVID victims after her grandfather Cal passed away from the virus.
There will be a Floral Heart ceremony by artist Kristina Libby at 4 p.m. and a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m.
One of the faces that will be represented in the empty benches will be Woodhaven’s Jeffrey Cohen. I met Jeff just the one time, at a Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society meeting at the Avenue Diner right before our world turned upside down.
It was nice to meet him. We were friends on Facebook for a while, but hadn’t met in person until that night. He was interested in our neighborhood’s history and enjoyed the presentation. I have a feeling he would have come back to another meeting.
But we never met again. He passed away on April 16, 2020, at the age of 57.
Had I gotten to know Jeff better, I would be able to tell you more. Instead, I asked family and friends of Jeff to tell us a little bit about him. This is from Jeff’s father and his sisters, Rayna and Bari:

Jeffrey Cohen was born March 3, 1963, in Booth Memorial Hospital in Flushing. He grew up in Forest Park Co-ops in Woodhaven and ended up living there with his wife and daughter.
Jeffrey was a loving son, brother, husband, father, uncle and a great friend to all.
Growing up in Woodhaven in the 70’s and 80’s, you could always find Jeff in Forest Park with his friends with his long red rocker hair, which he was famous for and so proud.
As his sisters, we shared hair care products with him and took notes, but we were never allowed to touch his hair.
He made lifelong friends in Woodhaven and loved calling it home.
Jeff always had a smile on his face and was always kind and respectful to others. Everyone that knew him said, “Jeff was just a nice guy.”
“Even during bad times, you would never know because he would still greet you with a smile and without a care in the world.
You can’t plan life, and as his family we are devastated by what COVID took from us. Someone we loved, someone that still had so much life to live, someone we were not done with yet.
The night Jeff passed away, it happened so fast that we are still in disbelief. There is a huge hole our hearts.
Jeff, you are missed so much by all of us and we hope that you are with mommy watching over all of us.
Love,
Daddy, Rayna and Bari

Longtime friend Annette Frank wrote:

Jeff was my friend for 45 years. We grew up together, sharing happy times and sad times and every holiday possible.
Over the years, we became more like family than friends. Often I would describe Jeff as my “brother from another mother.”
It’s rare to have a lifelong friendship like ours. I will always cherish our memories. I miss my friend and brother Jeff.

We have all lost something over the past year due to COVID. But most of our losses and problems seem small when compared to the loss of a loved one.
And since the vast majority of the victims’ families were denied the ability to mourn their losses at wakes or funerals, this weekend’s remembrance ceremony is so very needed.
Needed by the Cohen family, mourning their loss of Jeff, and needed by the 9,658 other families mourning their own losses.
And if you are not one of those families, you are very, very lucky and can count your blessings while saying a prayer for the souls of those that COVID took from us all.

Yang promises swifter switch to clean energy

Andrew Yang wants to convert landfills into renewable energy.
Yang announced last week that if elected mayor, his administration would bring solar projects to former landfill sites in New York City, beginning with the Edgemere Landfill located adjacent to Rockaway Community Park on April 22.
Annika Colston, president and founder of AC Power, is working with Yang on his plan. Edgemere Landfill is one of thousands of brownfield sites around New York City that can be repurposed as community solar installations.
“This landfill could accommodate a large project of 12 megawatts, which is enough to power 2,500 homes,” said Colston. “Those homes could be offered solar through the state community solar program.
“This program will offer clean renewable energy to low and moderate-income families at a discount to their current electricity,” she added. “So there are so many benefits to these types of projects, not only environmentally, but also to the community and the city.”
Yang detailed his plan to power New York City with 80 percent clean energy by 2030 by focusing on solar deployment, battery storage permitting and construction, new interconnections to upstate wind and Canadian hydropower sources, and the acceleration of offshore wind assembly and transmission.
Currently, almost 75 percent of the city’s electricity still comes from fossil fuel. Under the city’s current plan to move to renewable energy sources, in a decade more than 50 percent of electricity will still come from power plants.
“We all agree the city needs to embrace the green economy, but the city has moved too slowly for too long,” said Yang. “What we need now is action. Every day we wait is a missed opportunity for our economy, our health, and our future. My administration won’t wait to pursue these important projects and essential goals.”
Yang also wants to put social and racial justice at the center of the city’s climate work and make sure all New Yorkers have the skills to participate in the green economy, as well as educate the next generation on climate change.
“We have to create green jobs,” said Yang. “A lot of the things I just talked about are going to be job creators, such as battery power plants, solar panel installations, and retrofitting municipal buildings, and that’s a win for us all.”

End the silence

Dear Editor,
As a Kew Gardens Hills resident & former member of the 107th Police Precinct Community Council, I was shocked & saddened over the suicide of Commander Denis Mullaney on April 5.
At age 44, he left behind a wife, young son and a 20-year career of dedication to
public safety. We’ll never know what drove him to this desperate act, but Father Joseph Ponti told mourners at St. Mel’s Catholic Church in Flushing that “people are fragile, they break.”
What was Deputy Inspector Mullaney’s breaking point? The 107th Precinct, which he headed since September, has one of the city’s lowest crime rates, with auto theft as its top problem.
The 107th’s total crime rate dropped substantially under his command. But police in New York City and nationwide face pressure from rising violent crime and anti-cop
crusaders.
More than 30 cops across the U.S. killed themselves during the first three months of 2021.
Mullaney was going through a divorce from his wife, also a cop, which may have
been a catalyst.
But the NYPD’s blue wall of silence regarding mental illness might be another factor. Cops fear losing their badges if they seek therapy or psychiatric help.
As a Chicago wire service reporter in the early 1960s, I saw the pressures facing police. Even a mundane incident like a family quarrel could suddenly explode into violence.
But the pressures today are much greater. Cops deal with heavily armed criminals and felon-friendly lawmakers who want to empty prisons and slash police budgets.
Like all of us, cops are human and sometimes make tragic mistakes. They must be held accountable when that happens, but this doesn’t justify a blanket condemnation of the entire law enforcement profession.
Cops risk their lives daily to protect us and preserve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. They deserve our support.
Sincerely,
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

Cart check

Dear Editor,
I am in total recognition of food carts that don’t have a license, but they must be of a certain size and length. Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang has received much backlash on this, but I have to agree with him – partly.
They should not block subway stairways or create noise and pollution.
Some of these carts serve great food, but they must not be located in front of restaurants.
This counts also for sellers of personal protection equipment, clothes, and other products that block sidewalks. In Flushing, I feel like I am going through a crowded flea market.
There is no enforcement in the area, and I can understand Mr. Yang’s disgust.
Sincerely,
Randy Savitt

Just one step

Dear Editor,
Women Creating Change (WCC) stands in solidarity with George Floyd’s family and the families of countless other Black and Brown people taken from us by police violence.
While the Derek Chauvin verdict demonstrates that some accountability is possible, the urgency for systemic change remains, as evidenced by the numerous police shootings that have taken place since Mr. Floyd’s murder last May.
Reimagining a public safety system that values life and equity above all else will require institutional changes and sustained advocacy.
Last summer, New Yorkers and people around the world from diverse backgrounds took to the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s murder to demand justice.
The verdict is an important milestone, but it is just one step on what we know will be a long road. Working together, we can effect real change and create a more just and equitable nation.
Much work remains, and WCC is committed to supporting and working alongside our peers to fight for equity and justice.
Sincerely,
Deborah Martin Owens
Board Chair
Carole Wacey,
President & CEO

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