Tag Archives: Congressmember Grace Meng

Miss America to judge Rep. Meng’s contest


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Matt Boyd Photography

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U.S. Rep Grace Meng has tapped someone who knows a little something about contests to judge her first-ever science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competition. 

Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri will be a contest judge for Meng’s district as a part of the nationwide “The House Student App Challenge.”

For the contest, high school students in congressional districts around the country will be challenged to create an app for mobile, tablet or computer devices on a platform of their choosing.

The winning app from Meng’s district will be displayed in an exhibit in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., along with winners from other congressional districts.

“Nina is an advocate for STEM education and a role model to those seeking to enter the STEM fields,” Meng said. “Her involvement in our competition will further highlight the outstanding STEM talent that exists here in Queens, and I look forward to her helping to decide the winner.”

Davuluri, 25, who was crowned Miss America in September 2013, is the first person of Indian descent to win the famed contest. She will be a judge alongside Jukay Hsu, founder of tech advocacy group Coalition for Queens.

Davuluri graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science. She aspires to be a physician and has traveled across the country pushing STEM education, hoping to attract more students into the field.

“It’s an honor to be participating as one of the judges in the first annual congressional STEM competition,” Davuluri said. “As Miss America, I am proud to advocate for STEM education, and I am excited to see how creative the students will be in their presentations.”

Students wishing to enter the contest can click here for more information. They are required to provide a video explaining the app they’ve created.

So far, more than a dozen students have entered the contest. The contest will continue to accept entries until May 31, and the winner will be announced in June.

 

 

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Queens Bangladeshi community mourns victims of factory collapse on anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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Gone, but not forgotten.

Congresswoman Grace Meng organized a vigil on Thursday for 1,129 Bangladeshi garment workers, who perished when a faulty building collapsed a year ago, to honor their memory and call for an increase in occupational safety and compensation.

“No one should go to work every day fearing for their life, because the building they work in is not structurally sound,” Meng said.

The Rana Plaza factory collapse occurred near the capital city of Dhaka last year due to safety conditions with the building.

Cracks were discovered in the eight-story building, but were not repaired and employees were ordered to work in the structure. More than 2,500 people were injured after the collapse.

Many other buildings in the garment industry in Bangladesh share safety concerns, according to union representatives. Some of those buildings produce goods for major American retailers, including Walmart and the Gap, just to name a few.

A coalition of politicians and labor union officials that were present at the vigil hope to bring awareness to the issue and want American companies to pledge to increase safety measures.

Little has been done to relieve working conditions, according to union representatives, and they want to prevent another tragedy.

“I think they are more concerned about the bottom line than they are concerned about the workers who have made them so successful,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The way we make change is by increasing public awareness of what happened and why it happened.”

 

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Small business advocates push for new Queens development center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Queens needs another small business development center, but one with flexible hours staffed with “culturally competent” workers, advocates and lawmakers said Tuesday. 

The borough currently has two heavily-used centers, one in Long Island City’s LaGuardia Community College and another in Jamaica’s York College.

Advisers give free consultations and offer low-cost training at the centers, which are partially funded by federal Small Business Administration (SBA) funds.

But minority and immigrant owners struggle too much with language barriers at the existing sites to benefit from the services, small business owners and advocates said. And conflicting work hours are a huge deterrent.

“These centers run regular hours. But when you’re a business, you work 80 hours a week,” said Bill Imada, co-founder of the Asian Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce.

Imada and a panel of small business advocates urged the SBA to fix its outreach to minority owners during a Congressional Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce hearing held at Queens College.

Local shop owners and Congressmember Grace Meng, who held the rare field hearing, said underserved areas like Flushing need help from staff members who speak mostly Chinese, Korean and Spanish.

“The other locations are very inconvenient for us in Flushing,” said Zhejiang Chamber of Commerce President Howard Dai. “It would give small business owners easier access, and information would spread word of mouth.”

Businesses can shut down when its owners, seeking aid, are turned away due to bad translations, said Joyce Moy, the executive director of the Asian and Asian-American Research Institute at CUNY.

“A third center in Queens, particularly with Asian and Hispanic language capacities, is urgently needed,” Moy said. “Without competence in culture, language and technical support, all of this outreach is nothing but false promises.”

The SBA’s acting chief of staff, Michele Chang, said the administration would implement more training and urged business owners to get virtual help using the SBA’s online learning center.

“We understand that being a small business owner is a hard job,” Chang said. “You work all hours of the day. It’s your lifeblood.”

 

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Rep. Meng works to bring family members of teen crash victims to US


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo by Vic Nicastro

Family members of the two teens killed last month in a tragic car crash are working with Congressmember Grace Meng to fly from China to Queens to grieve.

Meng is trying to secure visas for Jiahao Liang’s mother and sister and Jennifer Gao’s grandmother and aunt.

The two died Feb. 18, when their car swerved off the Long Island Expressway, near Kissena Boulevard, and wrapped around a tree.

Their relatives await a March 11 interview from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China. Meng said she intervened with the American Consulate in China after a friend of both families reached out to her for help.

“The death of these two teenagers is a terrible and horrible tragedy, and our hearts go out to their family and friends,” she said. “We will assist them with whatever needs they may have during this difficult time.”

Liang, 19, of Flushing, who drove the car and his passenger Gao, 16, of Oakland Gardens, were cremated about two weeks ago, Meng said.

 

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Rep. Meng wants Flushing gems added to National Park Service


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Federal park officials are supporting a bill by Congressmember Grace Meng that would make historic Flushing sites part of the National Park Service, the legislator said.

The measure would require the Secretary of the Interior, who oversees federal parkland, to look into whether sites connected to the Flushing Remonstrance could be included in the national park system.

The Remonstrance, a historic 1657 petition, was signed by Peter Stuyvesant and 30 citizens to protest a policy that banned Quakers from practicing their religion in the colony of New Netherland.

Other sites mentioned in the bill are Flushing’s John Bowne House, where the Quakers held meetings, and the Old Quaker Meetinghouse, which was built in 1694 by Bowne and other Quakers.

“The story of the Flushing Remonstrance is not for New Yorkers alone,” Meng said. “It was an early struggle to establish the fundamental right to practice one’s religion.”

National Park Service Associate Director Victor Knox said the Department of the Interior supports the bill during a recent hearing held in Washington, according to Meng.

 

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Glendale pols appeal to Mayor de Blasio over proposed homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

A new mayor, but the same old homeless shelter issue.

Representatives for Glendale penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the proposed homeless shelter on 78-16 Cooper Ave.

Assemblymembers Mike Miller and Andrew Hevesi, Congressmember Grace Meng and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley criticized the analysis by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) in the letter and the agencies support for the shelter. The city is seeking a five-year $27 million contract with non-profit Samaritan Village, which would operate the facility.

“The reality is that the vast majority of the arguments made in the letter for building this facility were so generic and broad that they may be used to justify the building of transitional housing facilities anywhere in the City of New York,” the letter said.

Last year, Samaritan Village announced to Community Board 5 that it proposed the site for transitional housing for 125-families.

The letter by public officials points out that city shelter stay lengths have increased within the past year by 16 percent and it also highlights that the building is about 1.3 miles away from the nearest subway train and “not accessible to residents of the facility, who will need public transportation to commute to off-site linkage services, educational institutions, stores, and workplaces.”

The homeless shelter proposal is currently in its second phase of review, an environmental assessment. Some feel that the proposal could lose in that phase, because the building sits on contaminated ground.

The third and final review phase will be conducted in a financial analysis by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

 

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Congressmember Grace Meng robbed, beaten in D.C.


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

Congressmember Grace Meng was robbed and beaten for her handbag Tuesday night in Washington, D.C., her spokesperson said.

Meng was walking towards her Washington apartment, reportedly around 8:30 p.m., when she was struck in the back of the head. As she fell to the ground, the attacker took her handbag and fled on foot, her office said.

However, she said she has resumed regular activity shortly after the incident.

“While this was a frightening ordeal, I fortunately was not seriously injured,” Meng said. “I thank the U.S. Capitol Police and the District of Columbia Police for responding quickly and professionally.”

The congressmember, sworn in at the start of this year, suffered a bruise on her chin and underwent a CAT scan at George Washington University Hospital.

“Obviously, things could have been much worse,” she said.

 

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Furloughs cancel forum for future cadets


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo by Neil Ruiz

Queens high school students looking to serve their country will have to make do without a planned information forum that could have been critical to their military future.

Recruiters from five of the nation’s top military academies were set to meet the borough’s prospective cadets until the government shutdown trickled down and caused its cancellation.

The Forest Hills forum organized by Congressmember Grace Meng was expected to draw at least 100 people, according to Meng’s office. It was called off since most academy representatives were likely furloughed from the shutdown.

A spokesperson for Meng said the event could not be rescheduled even if the shutdown ends soon due to time restraints.

“Canceling this important forum for our local students is extremely disappointing,” Meng said. “It illustrates how our Congressional district continues to feel the effects of the GOP shutdown.”

The event gave students a chance to get key information all at once, including requirements and procedures for applying, from representatives from the prestigious institutions.

Applicants are also short on time and have until November 1 to apply for their required congressional nominations — a competitive process in New York.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy all mandate a nod for appointment from a U.S. representative.

Congressmembers or senators then have until January 31 to review and interview applicants before sending their choices to the academies.

“For the sake of our constituents and the rest of the country,” Meng said, “I once again urge House Republicans to immediately reopen the government.”

The federal stalemate, at least, is not delaying squared-away cadets at Francis Lewis High School, which has one of the country’s largest junior battalions.

The six seniors interested in attending West Point have already submitted their applications and congressional nomination requests, according to Senior Army Instructor retired Lt. Col. Al Lahood.

The school’s JROTC program has sent more than 20 cadets to West Point since 2003, officials said. Five alumni graduated from the prestigious military academy last year.

Five Queens teens from other high schools have also been accepted to the Air Force Academy since last year.

 

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Call to reinstate free parking at Pomonok Community Center


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Visitor parking spots that were once free will now cost a Pomonok community center roughly $2,700, officials said.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), since partnering up in March with Greystone Parking Services, has come under fire for spiking some annual parking rates at 43 citywide developments.

Now it is facing more heat for billing the Pomonok Community Center $272 for 10 visitor spaces that used to be complimentary.

“The new parking fees at the Pomonok Community Center are outrageous and unacceptable, and NYCHA must repeal them immediately,” said Congressmember Grace Meng. “They’re treating this parking lot like it’s their own business, and it’s a business gone bad.”

The Pomonok Community Center at the Queens Community House provides meals, activities and cooling stations during hot weather to more than 50 seniors who visit daily, officials said.

“It’s unconscionable that NYCHA and Greystone are extorting money from senior citizens,” said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Resident Association, said the center is a second home to residents even outside the neighborhood.

Parking is already limited, she said, since Queens College and P.S. 201 are around the corner.

“The nearest senior center is not close nor is there an after-school center that serves children from K-5 grade,” Corbett said. “To ask staff and participants to pay for parking is asinine.”

Local leaders said hundreds of residents have complained to Greystone about a slew of issues — including months-long waits for parking permits and multiple cars being assigned to one spot — to no avail.

“The current policy is extremely shortsighted and threatens the operation of the center,” said Assemblymember Mike Simanowitz.

NYCHA did not immediately comment.

 

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Fed money to help businesses bounce back after Sandy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photos

Small businesses in the borough will get nearly $200,000 in federal aid to bounce back after Sandy.

The two-year grant will be given to the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), representatives from the borough announced late last week.

The package is part of the more than $6 million the Small Business Administration (SBA) gave to the state to support its local business recovery efforts after the superstorm.

“Small businesses are what drive the economy in Queens, New York City and the entire nation,” said Congressmember Grace Meng, who sits on the House’s Small Business Committee. “These critical funds will go a long way towards helping those impacted by Sandy get back on their feet.”

The funds will be used for counseling and training programs for business owners, especially in the Rockaways, who lost customers or who suffered damages to their stores from the storm, said QEDC executive director Seth Bornstein.

The nonprofit also plans to offer disaster relief assistance to “women-owned and disadvantaged small businesses in Queens,” and conduct home improvement contractor training workshops.

“Queens was hit so hard by Sandy, and we lost so many businesses and jobs,” Bornstein said. “We especially look forward to working in the Rockaways, as we see the potential to have a really positive impact there.”

 

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Queens Library leader recognized by White House


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Public Library

A Queens Library leader won a national honor last week for being a “Champion of Change” for cultural institutions in her community.

Jennifer Manley, the vice president of government and community affairs for the Queens Public Library, was one of 12 people in the nation this year to be recognized as an advocate for museums and libraries.

“Manley believes in the power of information and education to improve lives, one at a time, neighborhood by neighborhood,” the White House said in a statement.

The 62 branches of the Queens Public Library circulate more than 13 million items and see more than 13 million visitors a year. It has become a leader in providing services to immigrants, who make up half of the borough’s population, library and White House officials said.

“Jennifer’s work embodies what this program is all about — recognizing leaders who make a difference in their communities,” said Congressmember Steve Israel. “Queens Borough Public Library is fortunate to have leaders like

Jennifer who contribute so much to the excellence of the institution.”
Congressmember Joseph Crowley called Manley a “staunch advocate” for libraries. He said she “works hard to preserve this invaluable resource for the people who need it most.”

The Champions program gives accolades to individuals and groups who do “extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities,” the White House said.

“Jennifer has been a tremendous asset to the Queens Borough Public Library,” said Congressmember Grace Meng, “and this award exemplifies the outstanding work she’s done to make a difference throughout the many communities of Queens.”

 

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FAA to look into JFK, LaGuardia flight patterns


| mchan@queenscourier.com


Queens residents fighting feds over airplane noise that turned some suburban neighborhoods into veritable warzones last summer have won a small battle.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has agreed to form a committee to review the decision-making process it used last December when the agency approved new flight patterns over the borough.

The new routes adhere to a required three-mile separation between planes arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport and planes taking off from LaGuardia Airport’s runway 13 while using a new, precise navigation system, FAA officials said.

But during a six-month trial period last year, some residents said they suffered from a barrage of low-flying airplanes that soared over their homes every minute of two six-hour stretches a day.

Forming the committee “is a move in the right direction,” said Congressmember Grace Meng.

“Although more still needs to be done, this is a positive move that can hopefully have an effect on the increased airplane noise that Queens residents have been forced to endure,” Meng said.

The FAA said there would be fewer planes flying overhead this summer, but there could be times residents will hear the same turbulence they did last summer and fall.

Meng and Congressmember Steve Israel sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in February asking him to consider the borough’s concerns.

A group of elected officials from Queens met with FAA officials in Washington, D.C. to hash out a plan.

“I hope it results in a more balanced plan that will alleviate the noise pollution for our constituents,” Israel said.

FAA officials agreed during a March town hall meeting to involve the community in future decisions and to continue hearing them out.

 

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US Rep. Meng helps family bring body home


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


Congressmember Grace Meng is working on getting emergency visas for the brother and the son of Junwoon Li, whose body was discovered floating in Flushing Creek on Tuesday, February 26, so they can bring her home.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has already approved a visitor’s visa for Li’s brother, according to Meng’s office.

“This terrible loss of life is a horrible tragedy,” said Meng. “We send our thoughts and prayers to the victim’s family and friends, and we’ll do all we can to assist them.”

Li, 46, was a Korean national of Chinese descent, and her brother and son both live in China, according to Meng’s office. Li came to the United States on February 5 for what was expected to be a three-month stay. She was last seen on Friday, February 22, however, leaving a Flushing karaoke bar. Police currently do not believe the death was a homicide, nor was any foul play involved.

Assemblymember Ron Kim was contacted by friends of Li and, because it is a federal issue, reached out to Meng for help.

“This is a terrible and sad tragedy,” he said. “I will assist Congressmember Meng and her staff with any local or state matters that can help alleviate some of the burden facing the victim’s family.”

There is no set time frame on when Li’s brother, and possibly her son, will arrive in New York to bring her body back to China.

 

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Bill to help houses of worship damaged in Sandy


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Houses of worship damaged by Sandy may be getting federal aid thanks to Congressmember Grace Meng and other lawmakers.

Meng and New Jersey Congressmember Chris Smith co-authored the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013, a bill that would allow churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions excluded from FEMA aid to become eligible to receive a portion of the billions of dollars pouring into the tri-state area to rebuild. The Smith-Meng bill, put forth to the House on Wednesday, February 13, would leave houses of worship open for aid money under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which funds FEMA reimbursements.

“The decision to hold a vote on this important legislation is great news for the many houses of worship that desperately need to repair or rebuild their facilities in the wake of Sandy,” Meng said in a statement. “Three-and-a-half months since the storm wreaked havoc on our region, houses of worship – and the millions of Americans who benefit from the social services these institutions provide – continue to be denied the same treatment that is afforded to other non-profit entities. This is unfair, wrong and must change. And it will change if this critical legislation becomes the law of the land. I urge all my colleagues in Congress to support it.”

Our Lady of Grace in Old Howard Beach was one of those churches affected by the storm and is still working its way back to normalcy. The church is currently ineligible for aid, nor is it particularly seeking it out, said Father Anthony M. Rucando.

In the meantime, Rucando said residents and parishioners are doing their part and helping the church they frequent.

“The people have stepped up because it’s the parish they love,” he said. “It’s an ongoing reality.”

 

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