Tag Archives: Congressmember Gregory Meeks

Queens leaders reflect on Mandela’s world-changing life


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Congressmember Gregory Meeks

The death of former South African President and Nobel Prize Peace winner Nelson Mandela at age 95 last week resonated around the world as people reflected on his legacy.

His impact was felt by local leaders in Queens, some of whom met the influential leader.

Congressmember Gregory Meeks traveled to South Africa to attend Mandela’s memorial, which has held on Tuesday at Johannesburg’s FNB stadium.

“I will always cherish having met Nelson Mandela on several occasions — especially the laughter, stories, and insight he shared with me and other members of a congressional delegation during a wonderful lunch at his home,” said Meeks.

Following the memorial service, Meeks said “it was inspiring to see over 101 head of states come to memorialize a man who changed the course of history through his dedication focus and sacrifice. [And] to know that if one stands on high moral ground you can have people from all over the world come to salute you and aspire to achieve a more equal world no matter your race, religion, ethnicity or wealth.”

Reverend Floyd Flake, a former U.S. congressmember and senior pastor at the Greater Allen A. M. E. Cathedral of New York in Jamaica, who also had the opportunity to meet Mandela, said “even in his jail time he stayed a force.”

“I think his legacy will be an empowering legacy and the legacy of a person who could have given up but did not” he said.

“The way his life has gone is of such a nature, people of such [different] persuasions, of all races, of all classes have come to love what he represents.”

 

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Zimmerman verdict reaction felt from Florida to Queens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

From television to the streets to social media, people all over the nation — and the borough — are reacting to the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

The trial against Zimmerman in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin lasted roughly three weeks. In the end, on Saturday, July 13, the defendant was acquitted of second-degree murder based on reasonable doubt.

Last year, Zimmerman, a member of the neighborhood watch in his Florida community, said he saw Martin walking at night acting suspiciously. Zimmerman, who was armed, pursued Martin. After an exchange, the details of which took center stage at the trial, Zimmerman shot Martin in what he said was self-defense.

Congressmember Gregory Meeks, a former prosecutor, said he understands “in detail” how the criminal justice system works and that no matter the case’s circumstances, “neither the presentation of the evidence or the evidence are always accurate predictors of a jury’s decision.”

“Our justice system says we must abide by a jury’s decision,” he said. “But abiding by a jury’s decision does not require that we agree with it.”

Similarly, Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries denounced the verdict.

“Once again, the court system has failed to deliver justice in a racially-tinged matter that involves the killing of an innocent, unarmed African-American male,” he said.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich was one of many who took to Twitter to share their views on the verdict and spoke in favor of the courts.

“[The] Zimmerman verdict is proof that innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is still the cornerstone of the justice system,” he said. “The rights of the accused cannot be compromised by the court of public opinion. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial.”

Ulrich also said he was “extremely disappointed with the amount of race baiting [sic] and political pandering” on the social media site.
Protestors flooded city streets Sunday night following the verdict to express their opposition to the acquittal.

State Senator James Sanders held a panel discussion analyzing legal aspects of the trial and events that led to the murder, including how to move forward to “ensure that an injustice like this does not happen again.”

Jeffries, Meeks and other elected officials held a press conference on Monday, July 15 to request the Department of Justice consider prosecuting Zimmerman for civil rights violations. The NAACP has called for the same measure.

 

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As family mourns teen, community expresses outrage over bus shooting


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

What community leaders are calling a “senseless act of violence” has left a 14-year-old girl dead, a family devastated and a neighborhood outraged.

D’aja “Asia” Robinson was shot and killed on Saturday aboard a Q6 bus near Sutphin Boulevard and Rockaway Boulevard. Robinson was on her way from a sweet 16 birthday party when a shooter allegedly fired multiple times into the bus from the sidewalk, police said.

“That was my only child. My heart. My everything,” Shadia Sands, the teen’s mother, said through tears. “I don’t know how to deal with this.”

Since the incident, there has been an outpouring of grief from the community. Friends and family covered a bulletin board near the bus stop with hundreds of messages to Robinson. They described her as a charismatic, sweet girl who was a gifted singer and dancer.

Her grandmother, Cheryl Sands, stood at the board, stroking pictures of “her baby.”

“I’d die myself for [her] to come back here and live [her] life,” she said. “My heart is bleeding. She was a good girl.”

The southeast Queens community came together on Tuesday to call on the shooter or shooters to come forward. NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said police are looking for a suspect between the ages of 18 and 25 who was last seen wearing a black sweater, according to reports.

“South Jamaica is standing unified behind this family,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.

Wills noted that prior to the shooting, the area went 255 days without a violent incident and said that South Jamaica is “not a hyper-violent community.”

The City Council announced it allocated $4.8 million to initiatives such as Cure Violence to put an end to shootings. Wills said there will be a meeting next month to discuss directing resources to the community.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the city hopes to “make this a summer where we don’t have to ever gather again to talk about the end of a child’s life.”

“What we do know is that we failed [Robinson]. The United States Congress in particular failed to protect her,” said Congressmember Gregory Meeks.

Meeks called on the Congress to “enact meaningful gun control legislation to help stop the carnage in communities and homes and now buses across the nation.”

Students at Robinson’s school, Campus Magnet High School, wore purple, pink and blue earlier this week in memory of their classmate.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to CRIMES (274637) and entering TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Rep Meeks’ DC office closes after receiving suspicious mail, then reopens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Congressmember Gregory Meeks’ Washington, D.C. office was temporarily shut down after a staffer found a suspicious letter.

The letter contained a powdery substance, according to a Meeks staffer, and was found while another worker was sorting the mail. The Congressmember was not there at the time, and was informed of the incident.

The D.C. staff was quarantined, and the Rayburn House office was closed. The staff and other personnel were directed to avoid the area until informed otherwise. After U.S. Capitol Police investigated the matter, they determined the substance was not deadly, said police.

 

 

 

Meeks holds first briefing for new congressional district


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Southeast community leaders and clergy members joined Congressmember Gregory Meeks at the first meeting for the new 5th Congressional District.

Having not met since before Sandy, Meeks and the crowd of over 100 area residents spoke about the devastation brought on by the storm, as well as the Congressmember’s work in Washington, D.C. since reclaiming his House seat after the November election.

“The spirit of hope is among all folks,” he said. “[People] have come together like never before to say, ‘We are going to get back on our feet better than ever.’”

Meeks noted the significance of having a second Obama administration, explained the fiscal cliff, acknowledged the tragedy in Newtown, the looming sequester and federal aid for Sandy victims.

“[Sandy] didn’t just hit Democrats, it didn’t just hit Republicans, it hit and hurt everybody. Politics had no need to be in this game,” he said.

Getting the federal aid to disaster-stricken areas took an “unprecedented” three months, but now roughly $60 billion is allocated, hopefully coming sooner rather than later.

Meeks mentioned a number of “coming battles” this spring, including raising the debt limit, immigration reform, keeping student loan interest rates low, gun control and avoiding the sequester.

The sequester, a legislative tactic that proposes across-the-board cuts on federal spending, was initiated to get a bipartisan agreement on the House budget. The proposed cut, $85 billion annually, will last for 10 years if there is no agreement.

Cuts in New York State will fall heaviest on the city, Nassau and Suffolk Counties, according to Meeks. This includes losing over $40 million in funding for education, nearly $13 million for pollution protection, $108 million for army services and more. It could also affect roughly 750,000 public sector jobs – many filled largely in part by southeast residents.

“We have to make sacrifices on both sides [to come to an] agreement,” said Meeks. “We can’t balance the budget simply on the backs of the middle class and the poor. We have to look and prioritize our spending.”

“We’ve got a lot of serious issues that we have to deal with that are going to have major ramifications on our communities across the board,” he added. “Everyone is going to pay a price.”

 

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Congressmember Meeks in Venezuela for Chavez funeral


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The death of Hugo Chavez could breathe new life into the United States’ relationship with Latin America.

Congressmember Gregory Meeks attended the former Venezuelan president’s funeral to mourn with a nation — and also work with leaders from around the world.

“I hope that we got the door open for better communication,” said Meeks, who said he hopes to improve trade relations. “It was an honor to represent [the U.S.].”

The representative also hopes that the U.S. can secure Latin American cooperation with drug enforcement, airport security and trading for oil, among other things, and he knows that Venezuela represents a powerful sector of Latin America.

While in Venezuela, Meeks met with leaders from the Caribbean, South America and Central America, as well as other delegations from around the world. He also spoke with opposition parties, and with the then-Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

“We had a chance to converse, and hopefully improve our relations,” he said.

Maduro thanked President Barack Obama for sending Meeks on behalf of the U.S., and recognized the fact that he went with intentions to strengthen international relations.

“All in all it was a successful trip, in which we know that Chavez was controversial, but I think the message was relayed and we hope to [move forward],” Meeks said.

 

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Commerce Secretary tours Sandy-damaged Rockaways, promising to get businesses back on their feet


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Matt Erskine promises he will take what he saw in the Rockaways back to Washington, D.C. to ensure south Queens continue to get relief as it still reels from Sandy.

On Thursday, January 30 Erskine, along with elected officials, toured the still-devastated areas of the peninsula — including the Madelaine Chocolate Factory, one of the largest small businesses in Queens with 425 employees, which was heavily damaged by the storm. Erskine and the politicians applauded the staff at Madelaine for its efforts to get back to work.

“The president made clear that this was to be an all hands on deck effort,” Erskine said. “And that he was committed to making sure that we at the federal government are going to be with you every step of the way, and we’re going to look for new ways to work more effectively with our state and local partners to get this job done and get it done correctly.”

The visit came just days after Congress approved the second part of a $60 billion Sandy aid package almost three months after the storm swept through the area. Erskine, speaking before local leaders at Vetro in Howard Beach, which was also damaged in the storm, promised President Barack Obama was committed that everyone, from every agency, work together like never before to ensure the Rockaways get all the relief that’s needed.

Congressmember Gregory Meeks, who toured the area with Erskine, said he too had pressured the president for continued relief.

“Right before we went in for the luncheon on Inauguration Day,” Meeks said. “I mentioned ‘we’re still hurting in the Rockaways.’ And he says ‘I know, and I won’t forget it.’”

About 40 percent of the small businesses in the Rockaways will probably never reopen, said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. The goal of chamber members, along with local leaders, is to help as many businesses as possible get back on their feet.

“We see that same thing happening all over the Rockaway Peninsula, all over Howard Beach,” Friedman said. “Small business people trying to get through the loss of their homes, the loss of their possessions, the loss of their businesses, looking for help and support from government, private industry, from not-for-profits, just so they can go back to do what they do, which is employ a lot of our residents, make this borough work.”

Newly-sworn in Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, who represents Howard Beach, Lindenwood and Ozone Park, said it was a top priority to get as many businesses back up and running.

“I’m particularly pleased that [Erskine]’s here today because essentially this is day one of the rebuilding and recovery process from the standpoint that the legislation was just signed into law,” Jeffries said. “And that should open up a level of resources for the city of New York, and the state of New York that will make its way to people who are in distress.”

 

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Congressmember Steny Hoyer tours Rockaways with Meeks


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Seeing is believing, according to Congressmember Gregory Meeks, and so he called upon fellow Congressmember Steny Hoyer to view Queens’ post-Sandy damage firsthand.

“We need to get more people to come out and see,” said Meeks after he and Hoyer toured the Rockaways on Thursday, December 6.

Hoyer is the Minority Whip, the second highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. The influential Maryland congressmember can pass along the message of what he saw and speed the acquisition of federal aid, according to Meeks.

“Some people think we’re just asking for money, and they don’t know why,” said Meeks. “Once they see, I believe they believe.”

For their Rockaways tour, Hoyer and Meeks joined Colonel Kent Savre and Colonel Trey Jordan, both of the Army Corps of Engineers. Savre and Jordan briefed the congressmembers on the extent of the damage and the recovery efforts.

“I think it’s wonderful that he came out,” said Dolores Orr, Community Board 14 chair. “Seeing it on TV and in pictures doesn’t show the magnitude of the issues.”

Throughout the course of the day, Hoyer and Savre viewed debris disposal at Floyd Bennett Field while traveling to Jacob Riis Park, where they met Meeks and Jordan. Hoyer and Meeks then continued to the Breezy Point fire site, Neponsit, Rockaway Park, Shore Front Parkway and Beach 86th Street.

“As recovery efforts continue, I will be working with the Obama administration and my colleagues in Congress to ensure that Rockaway Peninsula and other affected communities across the East Coast have the resources needed to clean up and recover,” said Hoyer.

Aside from seeing the destruction at face value, Hoyer was able to view damaged home, business and beachside infrastructure. “There are weather incidents with catastrophic consequences,” he said, adding that urgency should to be put into rebuilding, and the coordination in doing so needs to be much better.

Orr, who also heads the Rockaway Beach Civic Association, spoke for all residents when saying that there was a great need for more jetties on multiple points of the beach, and that when the boardwalk is rebuilt, a sea wall that will protect the community should be included.

“The fact that [Hoyer] came up here does give us some hope that we have finally reached the exposure that we have been waiting 40 years for,” she said. “We live here. It’s not new housing stock. It’s been a need.”

Will Turner’s district disappear?


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

DISTRICT MAPw

A federal magistrate’s recent re-drawing of state congressional lines leaves Congressmember Bob Turner as the odd man out.

Magistrate Roanne Mann’s revised maps released on March 6 would eliminate Turner’s Brooklyn-Queens district and may reportedly force him to run for the same seat belonging to Congressmember Gregory Meeks in a Democratic and heavily African-American area.

According to published reports, State Senate GOP officials fought to protect Turner while Assembly Democrats pushed for his district to be eliminated.

“The redistricting plan introduced today by the Special Master is just another step in the process,” said Turner, who won a Special Election last year to fill the seat of disgraced Congressmember Anthony Weiner. “I am prepared to run in whatever district I reside in once the final lines are adopted.”

Mann was appointed by a panel of three federal judges to create a redistricting plan eliminating two of the state’s 29 congressional seats after legislative leaders were unable to come to an agreement. The elimination of the seats was reportedly mandatory due to national population shifts over the past decade.

The magistrate’s proposed map is not final however, as her draft is expected to boost talks between state legislative leaders who are now aware of the court’s direction.

If the legislators are unable to pass their own plan by March 12, Mann’s map will become final, due to the need for congressional candidates to choose what district they will run in before they begin circulating nominating petitions on March 20.

Congressmember Gary Ackerman has already come forward and announced he plans to run for re-election in the new Sixth Congressional District should the magistrate’s lines become final.

“The new Sixth Congressional District is a fantastic district in Queens where I grew up, went to public school and college, and started my family and my business,” Ackerman said. “It contains my political base and longtime roots, and I have had the privilege of representing approximately 90 percent of it during my 34 years in the State Senate and U.S. Congress.”

Assemblymember Rory Lancman, who represents the 25th Assembly District, has also stated he “looks forward to run for Congress when the lines are finalized.”