Tag Archives: Flushing Chamber of Commerce

Flushing Chamber of Commerce to launch English language classes for growing immigrant population

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com


The new Flushing Chamber of Commerce is launching a program to address the growing demand for English language classes to help waves of new immigrants in the area who need help learning the language of their adopted country.

“Language is one of the major challenges facing our business community,” said Simon Gerson, co-chair of the chamber, “and we are proud to take a leadership role in addressing this issue.”

The program “English Now!” will begin in April with a 12-week semester. The classes are meant to bridge the gap for immigrants seeking jobs in the American market. While Flushing continues to expand as an economic powerhouse, many of the new residents and businesses are forced into isolation triggered by language barriers, according to the chamber’s spokesman. By teaching the newcomers English, the chamber hopes to integrate Flushing’s residents and businesses into the larger economy of Queens and the city.

Participants must commit to two six-hour classes per week. The class will be held in Monroe College, which is a member of the chamber. The college-level class will be offered for $40.

The chamber created the program in response to a new wave of immigrants who don’t speak English very well. The trend is being seen all across the state, according to the Center for an Urban Future, but funding for English as a second language classes, known as ESL, has lagged behind the explosive demand.

The number of state-funded ESL seats has declined by 32 percent over the last nine years, from approximately 86,000 seats in 2005 to 59,000 in 2013, according to the center.

“We feel there is a need within the immigrant communities of Queens for a quality ESL program geared to professionals seeking to advance their careers,” said Evan Jerome, senior vice president at Monroe College. “This program will be geared to students with an intermediate level of ESL to advance both their written and oral communication skills.”

Class topics will be geared toward students who want to become better at speaking English for the purpose of getting jobs.

The deadline for registration is Friday, March 20. Registration forms are available by calling 914-740-6614 or emailing queens@monroecollege.edu.


This Lunar New Year serves as stage for Flushing’s economic and cultural strength

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

This Lunar New Year is more than just the Year of the Sheep; it’s Flushing’s year to show off the economic and cultural strength of a burgeoning Asian-American community.

“This is an auspicious year for us,” said John Choe, who helped create the new Flushing Chamber of Commerce. “It’s very symbolic and politically significant. We’re stepping toward mainstream recognition.”

This Lunar New Year is on Feb. 19. Celebrations in Flushing have always attracted many people but Choe and organizers are expecting this year’s celebrations to be the biggest because of an increase in Flushing’s population and what Choe sees as America’s acceptance of Asian traditions.

“Our message is that this is an American holiday,” Choe said. “We create jobs. We are spurring the economy. We deserve the recognition other ethnic groups get.”

Flushing has become a cultural hub, through the combined effect of new immigrants settling in the area, the hyper activity of the real estate market and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandate to develop Flushing’s waterfront along the creek. The city also passed a law recently recognizing Lunar New Year as an official holiday that is being observed by public schools.

“Flushing is at the forefront of helping to make a change,” Choe said and compared it to the Harlem Renaissance. “I see the elements of a Flushing Renaissance. People come from around the world helping to contribute to a new sense of what it means to be American.”

And all that the people in the area have to contribute to America will be on display all weekend as exhibitions and workshops will be held to celebrate the holiday. There will be a parade on Feb. 21 and Flushing Town Hall will also be hosting Chinese and Korean performances. The performances include a group of dancers portraying earth, wind and fire elements; two master calligraphers holding workshops open to the public; and the East River Ensemble, a group of dancers and musicians.

The significance of the holiday was also recognized by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which for the first time suspended weekend service disruptions along the 7 train during the week before and week of Lunar New Year. The move was seen as a major victory among Asian-Americans in Flushing, as more visitors can travel there to shop and celebrate the holiday because subways will be running, unlike last year.

The emphasis for this year is also on a joint celebration between the Korean and Chinese communities in Flushing. In previous Lunar New Year celebrations, the two communities didn’t work together because of historical tensions that stretch back to problems between the Korean and Chinese nations.

“We’re bringing in the new year by being together,” said Jamison Moon, a member of the Korean American Association. “And to be able to do this between two historically strained groups is a great victory.”


Flushing’s new chamber of commerce kicks off business unification with party

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo by Lea Kim from Dan & Ellie Photography

Flushing’s new chamber of commerce revved up its operations with a launch party Dec. 11 attended by 250 people from all corners of the fourth largest commercial district in New York City.

“We had a lot of excitement and energy in one place,” said John Choe, the executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. “And we need to channel all of that into a unified force that will be listened to by those in power.”

The launch party, which took place in Flushing Town Hall, was as much a party as it was a chance to bring together the many different players, with all their varied thoughts and interests, into one place. For Choe, the launch party marked the beginning of the long task of gathering the small business owners into one organization with greater clout to City Hall to satisfy the commercial district’s needs, including more city funding for infrastructure.

During the party, Choe said that the new wave of commercial development in Flushing was welcome, but he urged caution when embracing chain stores — like Nike — that are moving into the neighborhood.

“We have to protect the interests of small businesses because they give us economic resilience,” Choe said. “We don’t want to depend on Starbucks and national banks to keep our economy afloat.”

Local politicians and Borough President Melinda Katz also attended the party, showing their support for the chamber.

Choe characterized the work of gaining the support of businesses as a process similar to going door to door from one business to another. But he remained hopeful that Flushing’s various groups could come together for a common goal.

“We have the ability to surpass downtown Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan as the largest commercial districts because we have so much more going for us,” Choe said. “We have to make sure that we support the businesses that have been here for decades and helped make Flushing prosperous in the first place.”


Flushing groups urge city to seek community input on redevelopment plans

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Flushing BOA

Flushing is no stranger to development, but local business owners and community groups are skeptical about Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement of plans to turn an industrial and polluted section of the Queens neighborhood into a residential area.

Flushing was selected, along with other areas in New York City, as possible candidates in the creation of a new residential community along Flushing Creek. The plans are still in the early stages, but if it goes through, the borders of this new community would run from Northern Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue and westward to Prince Street.

“The area is a construction and hardware destination and it makes no sense to create apartments here,” said Terry Wong, who owns a store that sells doors on College Point Boulevard.

Speaking through translator Lisa Zhang, the business owner continued, “Everyone will lose business and it will have a negative impact on the whole economy of Flushing.”

The Department of City Planning launched a study in that section of Flushing to come up with a plan for the city and state. The area is largely commercial, and any plan for residential development would require some of the local businesses in the area to be removed.

Developers have been interested in the area for many years, including The Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation, which received a $1.5 million state grant to clean up the polluted waters of Flushing Creek.

John Choe, the executive director for the new Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said he liked the idea but he was concerned about what the city’s plan  would look like.

“There needs to be a lot more grassroots organizations,” Choe said. “The former mayor was credited with developing and creating a lot of things in this city, but all those changes came from up top. I would hope that the de Blasio administration avoids the mistakes of his predecessor.”


Flushing Chamber of Commerce set to close

| smosco@queenscourier.com

After 80 years of service to the business community, the Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Business Association (FCCBA) announced it would cease all activities and dissolve.

The association’s co-president, Myra Baird Herce, said that the decision was a long time coming as many new business organizations in the downtown Flushing area have emerged in recent years.

“It isn’t like the commercial strip doesn’t have representation in the area, because they do,” said Herce. “It’s the end of an era for this group, but it was time to move on.”

Since 1932, the Chamber has participated in many major projects affecting Flushing, including the restoration of RKO Keith’s on Main Street, the re-purposing of Municipal Parking Lot No. 1, as well as the development of Willets Point. Herce believes that area is very well represented and she is hopeful that these projects will eventually materialize.

Other business organizations in the area include the Flushing Business Improvement District, Korean American Small Business Service Center of New York, Flushing Chinese Business Association, Taiwan Merchants Association, One Flushing and the Flushing Development Center.

Herce sees the plethora of Flushing business advocates as a major asset to the community and she is positive a bright future waits for the area. She called Flushing a “boom town with a rich entrepreneurial spirit,” and she is positive it will thrive.

Before joining the FCCBA more than 20 years ago, Herce was the director of the Downtown Flushing Development Corporation, which encouraged businesses to come to Flushing and set up shop.

After a number of years serving as co-president with Richard Gelman, who moved out of state, and Jack Hogan, who passed away, Herce became the lone voice of the Chamber. And while she relished the opportunity to represent businesses, a point came when she knew it was time to move on.

“We are not unhappy,” she said. “We’ve seen Flushing grow and we know it is still growing.”

While she is proud of what the Chamber was able to accomplish during its run, she said that the system’s slow nature sometimes hampered progress. However, she thinks projects like Willets Point will eventually come to a completion because the power of jobs is too much to deny.

“The developments coming down the road are major opportunities for Flushing,” she said. “We need to get the shovel in the ground and get going. It’s time to shake the money tree.”