Tag Archives: hearing

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.”



Health commish leaves meeting amid ‘state of emergency;’ offers for Peninsula still on the table

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Former Peninsula Hospital employees, elected officials and residents had only one hour to convince Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to consider the needs of the community before the state’s top health official silently slinked out of the four-hour meeting.

“That’s disrespectful,” said Mary Kampa, 52, a former nurse at Peninsula.

More than 200 people packed the public forum, held on May 10 by the State Department of Health (DOH) at Knights of Columbus Hall, to plead with the DOH to address the “state of emergency” in the area and to relieve the health crisis caused after Peninsula was shuttered last month.

“The Rockaway residents are scared and they are angry,” said Joan Sommermeyer, a labor representative for the New York State Nurses Association.

Resident Bernie Feuer said he fears the approaching beach season at the Rockaways, which sees close to 10,000 visitors each week during the summer. Some residents said the potential drownings, boardwalk injuries and heat wave cases would be too much for St. John’s Episcopal to handle.

“With St. John’s on diversion so often due to the closing of Peninsula Hospital, many of these patients will not make it. They will have to be transferred to facilities off the peninsula. This tragic eventuality is totally inhumane, unacceptable and avoidable,” Kampa said.

St. John’s is now the only hospital on the peninsula, serving more than 100,000 residents. According to a spokesperson, the hospital’s emergency services were briefly diverted last week, but the only other time services were temporarily delayed was for an hour on the day Peninsula permanently closed.

Since Peninsula’s closure, St. John’s has experienced a 35 percent increase in patient visits to its emergency department, while its inpatient volume has increased approximately 11 percent and its regular occupancy rates have risen by 85 percent, the spokesperson said.

Shah directly addressed the sometimes raucous crowd one hour into the meeting, saying their concerns were heard “loud and clear.”

“The reality is we’ve gone far, and we have a lot of work to do. For too long, this community has not gotten what it deserves in terms of the quality of care,” Shah said moments before leaving. “I can’t say that I have all the answers. I wish there was a silver bullet, but it’s not that easy. I wish it were because then we would do it.”

The health commissioner’s sudden and quiet departure placed the burden on three deputy health officials to hear out angered residents and local leaders, who said the early hearing — scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. — was already “set for failure.”

“I’m disappointed that Commissioner Shah didn’t see fit to stay past 5 p.m. Four hours, in my opinion, is not a lot to ask for when you’re a public servant,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich. “He works for us. We don’t work for him.”

Meanwhile, Seth Guterman, president of People’s Choice Hospital — an investor which had expressed interest in saving the hospital — told the panel the company is still willing to sit down with health officials and the community to ink a deal.

“We’re here to help you if you want to do this,” Guterman said. “If there’s a win-win for the creditors, a win-win for the community and a win-win for the hospital, it should be entertained. It shouldn’t just be shut down because a trustee wanted to make money for the creditors.”

The DOH will issue a report within 60 days of the forum, addressing the public’s comments. Shah said “there is work being done as we speak” in terms of increasing primary and acute care in the area.