Tag Archives: Daniel Dromm

20th Annual Queens Pride Parade held in Jackson Heights


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman

Jackson Heights bursted with pride during the 20th annual Queens Pride Parade & Multicultural Festival, hosted by the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee. Allies and members of the gay community came out for the borough’s biggest pride event on Sunday, June 3.

Openly gay Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn welcomed everyone to the joyous occasion. Quinn, who recently married her long-time partner, and Van Bramer, who is set to marry next month, both agreed that events such as this helped successfully achieve marriage equality in New York.

Click here to see all the photos from the parade.

The current cast of “Wicked,” cheerleaders from Cheer New York and members from the Queens Pride Lions Club danced and waved to the crowd as they shuffled down 47th Avenue, cruising past the scene of the grisly Jackson Heights murder of Julio Rivera – a gay Latino man whose death in July of 1990 sparked the event.

The festival, which once saw protesters, now draws a crowd of thousands and garners an immensely positive response from the community. Many area businesses hung rainbow flags in their storefronts, demonstrating their support.

“The parade is the essence of what Jackson Heights has been to me for the last 40 years,” said Dromm. “It’s a multicultural community that you can’t find anywhere else. The parade has become another part of the area’s tremendous diversity, including nationality, ethnicity and sexual orientation.”

Dromm believes the festival is the most important part of the gay rights movement in Queens, mainly for its ability to put a face on the borough’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. He added that the parade and celebration serve as a coming-out vehicle for many people.

Rafiel Rosario has attended the festival since coming out to his friends and family four years ago. Along with two pals and his boyfriend, Louis, the 21-year-old Long Islander watched the various acts as they performed and made their way down the street.

“[The Queens Pride Parade & Multicultural Festival] is about liberation and equality,” said Rosario. “Throughout the years, it’s become easier for gay people to come out to the community. Things like this make it easier.”

Aaron Waltzer, a volunteer from Queens Pride, helped run the organization’s booth during the street fair section of the festival. The Queens native, who said he’s been gay as long as he’s lived in Queens, added that while the festival is a wonderful community event, it does a lot for him as an individual.

“It means a lot to me to come out and show what it means to be a Queens resident and a gay man,” said Waltzer.

Proposal to close Jackson Heights street for food fair


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

parking ticket photo 018

A local farmers market is promoting a fresh idea for Jackson Heights — converting a serene street into a bustling bazaar.

GrowNYC’s Greenmarket, which is the only year-round farmers market in Queens, will present a proposal to Community Board (CB) 3 on January 19, hoping the Jackson Heights community supports the closing of 78th Street between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard every Sunday to hold a food fair.

“We found that when the street is closed, it created a much more user friendly market,” said Michael Hurwitz, director of GrowNYC’s Greenmarket program. “It will create more aisle space, making the market less crowded, and cars will not be coming through, making it safer. This will provide more space for everything, including cooking demonstrations.”

The farmers market is currently on the sidewalk of 34th Avenue between 78th and 77th streets, but Councilmember Daniel Dromm believes the slight shift will do wonders for the neighborhood hotspot.

“The farmers market is an integral part of our community, and shifting it over to 78th Street makes sense,” said the councilmember, who believes the change will ease congestion, both for passing cars and patrons of the fair. “Seventy Eighth Street is longer, and since the street will be closed, it will also be wider. It provides a little more room for expansion and provides a safety net for the people to shop there. If you go there on a Sunday afternoon, it is just a great place to be, with the farmers market and Traverse Park. It has become another landmark of community life in Jackson Heights.”

Edwin Westely, the president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, believes the street switch will also make shopping safer and more convenient.

“Right now it becomes ‘dodge the car’ when you shop there,” said Westley, who fully supports the relocation. “The street where the market is now is much more congested.”

During the summer, the block is closed off from cars and transformed into a play street for neighborhood children. According to Will Sweeney, co-founder of the Green Alliance, which organizes the play street, the market will not interfere with the children’s recreational space.

“We believe that the street makes more sense with more people using it, and more people use it as a farmers market and play street,” said Sweeney, who has worked closely with Greenmarket in developing this plan. “We are hoping to turn it into a public plaza, with the farmers market on some days and games for kids on others.”

Jackson Heights currently has the second least park space in the five boroughs, prompting community leaders to push for the purchase of the yard at the Garden School, also located on 78th Street — across from Travers Park — to create a neighborhood piazza.

The city is currently in talks to procure the space, which is roughly 29,000 square feet, from the cash-strapped private school, but negotiations have been delayed for over a year.

“I’m hopeful an agreement can and will be reached,” Dromm said. “I’m confident the parties are working out the details.”

Jackson Heights schoolyard is 200th to become playground


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy of the Parks Department

One of the city’s most congested communities is getting a little extra room to breathe.

Schoolyards at P.S. 69 and I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights are being transformed into student-designed playgrounds that will be open to the public on weekdays after school until dusk and on weekends from 8 a.m. to dusk.

The renovations aim to provide the neighborhood with more open space, answering the calls from community leaders and local elected officials.

“My council district ranks 50 out of 51 districts in the city with regards to park space,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “Jackson Heights is the second neediest district in terms of park space, according to the New Yorkers for Parks Survey. This transition will create new, open space for people to use for recreational activities, to sit and relax and enjoy a newspaper or just to take in some fresh air, and it provides my constitutions with something they have been telling me they want desperately –  open space and green space.”

The councilmember believes the additional park space will also foster growth in Jackson Heights and encourage youthful visitors and prospective residents to enter the community.

“We have seen an influx of young families moving into the neighborhood, and open park space and good schools are the two things these families are most looking for,” Dromm said. “The open spaces will make this a great place to raise your kids. The added benefit is that parks raise property value and makes the neighborhood more desirable to people looking to purchase a new home. These playgrounds will contribute to the desirability of living in Jackson Heights.”

The renovations were made as part of PlaNYC’s Schoolyards to Playgrounds program, which aims to ensure all New Yorkers live within a 10 minute walk of a park or playground. The city has invested $87.6 million to convert approximately 230 schoolyards into playgrounds by 2013.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was joined by Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Jackson Heights elected officials on November 30 at the recently-completed playground at P.S. 69, located at 77-02 37th Avenue, to announce that the school was the 200th member of the Schoolyards to Playgrounds program.

“Since 2002, our administration has been committed to creating new public parks and new open spaces of every kind,” said Bloomberg. “PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability agenda, identified public schoolyards that could be opened up year-round in neighborhoods most in need of open space. Despite the economic downturn, we’ve maintained our commitment to this innovative program and we are delivering on our promise. In a time of tight budgets, our schoolyards represent a great opportunity for transforming existing, underused resources into something we can all enjoy.”

According to a Parks Department spokesperson, schools selected for the Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative are usually in underserved neighborhoods. I.S. 145’s playground, located at 33-34 80th Street, is scheduled for completion during the summer of 2012. Both the P.S. 69 and I.S. 145 projects cost approximately $300,000, according to the source.

As part of the initiative, representatives from the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit organization and the city’s premier partner in the program, visit the schools to gather the opinions and ideas of community members, faculty and students to incorporate into the designs of the parks.

Dromm says he hopes the city can also complete the purchase of the roughly 29,000-square-feet of  park land beside the Garden School, located at 33-16 79th Street – across the street from Jackson Heights’ Travers Park. According to the councilmember, who has contributed $5 million in funding to the project, the mayor’s office is currently working to acquire the land.

The Jackson Heights Beautification Group is facilitating the discussions between the Garden School and the city, in hopes that the deal can benefit the cash-strapped school by providing an influx of capital.

“This would be a win, win, win for the Garden School, Parks Department and Jackson Heights,” said Edwin Westely, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, who believes the purchase of the land imminent. “Jackson Heights gets more open space, the Parks Department would get more parks land and the school will be helped out with funds.”

Daughter of missing Elmhurst woman demands answers


| amanning@queenscourier.com

A press conference was held on Wednesday, November 2 at the house where Elmhurst resident Lian Fang Feng was last seen nearly 10 years ago.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm, Jena Liang, daughter of Feng, and attorney Stewart Pollak held the conference to demand answers from the NYPD for a botched investigation of the missing woman.

“It may in fact be true that her mother is never coming back, but Ms. Liang should have been shown respect and she should have been treated with dignity by the police department. That did not happen,” said Dromm. “We are here to demand that this be taken out of the cold case file.”

In July of 2002, Liang found bloodstains in the apartment she shared with her mother and stepfather. Police suspected foul play, but after an initial investigation, the original detective assigned to the case retired.

Since then, Liang has been given no information on her mother’s case, despite months of repeated calls to the 110th precinct. When she eventually subpoenaed the NYPD for the records, she was informed that all the evidence had been destroyed during a flood at One Police Plaza.

Scrabble sign reinstalled for ‘triple word score’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Scrabble Sign Photo Courtesy of The Queens Courier

Jackson Heights’ newest street sign is earning a “triple word score” with neighborhood residents.
The sign, which is located on the southeast corner of 81st Street and 35th Avenue, commemorates the birthplace of the beloved board game Scrabble.
It was originally installed in 1995 outside the Community United Methodist Church, where Alfred Butts invented the popular game, but it mysteriously vanished in 2008.
After Councilmember Daniel Dromm introduced legislation to approve its reinstallation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) authorized the creation of a sign that indicates Scrabble point values to each letter in “35th Avenue.”
“The Scrabble sign was ingenious and added a special historical charm to the neighborhood,” said Dromm. “Scrabble is celebrating its 62nd anniversary this year, and Alfred Butts’ achievement in Jackson Heights should be recognized.”
Dromm pushed for the reinstallation of the sign after witnessing how the Jackson Heights community “sorely missed” it. The sign was also noted in guidebooks and maps as a local attraction, spelling success for the neighborhood.
“The Scrabble street sign will again be a point of pride in our community, thanks to the inventive genius of Jackson Heights resident and Community Church congregant Alfred Butts,” said Daniel Karatzas, a Jackson Heights historian. “It always brought a smile to those who bothered to look up at the corner of 81st Street and 35th Avenue.”
After being fired from his job as an architect in 1938 – in the midst of the Great Depression – Butts strove to create something revolutionary. Following countless trials and errors and scrupulous studying, Butts invented Scrabble, which has now sold 150 million sets in 121 countries and 29 different languages.
“This street sign is a creative homage to the game created by Jackson Heights resident Alfred Butts during the Depression,” said John Williams, Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association. “Thanks to Alfred’s ingenuity, generations have enjoyed the game. Scrabble is played all over the world in many different languages, and we hope people will once again travel to Jackson Heights to celebrate our favorite word game.”