Tag Archives: immigration

New Fresh Meadows hotel expected to house students and immigrants from China


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Cross City Construction

A  new hotel in Fresh Meadows is positioning itself to be the 21st-century Ellis Island of Queens.

The hotel will serve as a stepping stone for Chinese immigrants and students looking to stay in the country or study here, according to several people close to the planning. The 11-story Hilton hotel on 186th Street is set to open in May 2016 and the developers, Mayflower Business Group of Great Neck, are positioning their hotel to serve a mixture of Chinese businesspeople, students and immigrants who can use the hotel as a base while house hunting.

“There’s something happening with the Asian community and, specifically, something happening in China. There’s something going on,” said George Frangoulis, a spokesman for the developer. “They’re bringing in a lot of wealth. They’re enhancing and stimulating the Queens economy. It’s good for America.”

The announcement of the hotel stirred controversy in 2014. Residents complained that the 11-story building is too tall for a neighborhood of mostly one- and two-family homes. They also said that the hotel would cause traffic on local streets and overload the sewer system. But the hotel does not violate any building or zoning codes, which left residents unable to block the project from going forward.

Frangoulis met with concerned neighbors over the year to try to mend community relationships. During one of these meetings between the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Association, state Sen. Tony Avella and the developers, residents learned that part of the hotel would be used by foreign exchange students from China who will be studying in nearby schools like St. John’s University.

“This doesn’t really make any sense to us because Fresh Meadows isn’t exactly close to many schools,” said Jim Gallagher, president of the homeowners association.

But Frangoulis said the hotel will not serve as a dorm and any students who stay there would just be considered as normal hotel customers.

“I comply with every safety code. I’m a good neighbor. I’ll do anything I have to do to accommodate the community,” he said. “I’m doing everything properly. I understand their concern.”

Frangoulis also said that due to Flushing’s overcrowding, Fresh Meadows served as a good place for Chinese immigrants who are coming to the country but don’t have a place to stay in Flushing’s hotels. Unlike the usual image of immigrants as poor and desperate, Frangoulis characterized this new wave of immigrants as affluent and ready to invest in central Queens’ economy.

But Avella remained unconvinced.

“I support the community’s position that these hotels are out of context,” he said. “I’m always concerned about overdevelopment. And the fact that it’s across the street from one-family homes bothers me.”

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Queens film series to focus on immigrant experience of women in New York City


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Zahida Pirani

A new Queens film series is giving foreign-born women a voice and showing what it means to be an immigrant within the five boroughs.

The nonprofit organization New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) will be showcasing the series called Immigrant Women: Sharing Our Voice Through Film starting on Feb. 27 in Maspeth and will continue each month through June in other parts of Queens.

The series, which is put together through funding from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley as part of the Cultural Immigrant Initiative, features works of female immigrants and first-generation American filmmakers. The pieces in the series focus on the immigrant experience within New York City.

“The immigrant experience is something really important and doesn’t really have the representation in mainstream media,” said Elizabeth Estrada, executive assistant at NYWIFT and project manager for the film series. “I think it’s great to know the stories of people that you live around and pass on the street.”

The first screening, scheduled to take place at Maspeth Town Hall at 53-37 72nd St. from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., will focus on the intersection between immigrant women and activism, and will feature three short documentaries.

The documentaries included are “Judith: Portrait of a Street Vendor” directed and produced by Zahida Pirani; “Claiming Our Voice” directed and produced by Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel; and “Living Quechua” directed and produced by Christine Mladic Janney.

Screenshot from the documentary "Claiming Our Voice." (Photo by Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel/Courtesy Fine Grain Films)

Screenshot from the documentary “Claiming Our Voice.” (Photo by Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel/Courtesy Fine Grain Films)

Following the screening, there will be a Q&A reception with the filmmakers and women in the documentaries.

“I want people to walk away more interested or inspired, and with this specific first screening, for them to be involved in something bigger than themselves,” Estrada added.

The following screenings of the series — dates and exact locations are still to be determined —  will take place in the surrounding neighborhoods of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood, each represented by Crowley.

“All of these women and filmmakers have important stories to tell, and I want people to know that,” Estrada said. “Women as a collective, especially immigrant women, have a story to tell and if they are given an opportunity to tell, that might be a way to change the way we think about women and immigrant women.”

NYWIFT is still accepting submissions for the film series and anyone interested can email info@nywift.com.

The first screening, “Immigrant Women Screening Series: Activism,” is free to the public.

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Assembly held to bring Occupy Wall Street to Queens


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Whitey Flagg is aiming to “occupy” the attention of New York’s largest borough.

The 40-year-old Jackson Heights resident, who participated in Occupy Wall Street during the movement’s first month and was arrested while marching on the Brooklyn Bridge, is hoping to bring principles promoted at Zuccotti Park to Queens.

“After spending so much time there, I realized that the future of the movement was going to be when the general assembly started moving into people’s communities,” said Flagg, the founding member of Occupy Queens. “I decided my time was better spent helping start something here in Queens.”

To initiate the Occupy Queens movement, a general assembly was held on November 11 at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, located at 37-06 77th Street. More than 150 people attended the assembly to voice their concerns and opinions regarding the major issues facing the borough.

“I came here because I think that we need to get together and organize for jobs,” said Molly Charboneau, a resident of Sunnyside. “The unemployment rate is too high and we’ve lost too many jobs. In Queens in particular, we have had so many closings and layoffs. We need to band together and fight this. I hope this will put regular people in touch with one another because we are the ones that really have the power. It’s the everyday people who have to organize together and fight back.”

Among the topics discussed at the meeting were housing foreclosures in Queens, prejudice against immigrants, the lack of open spaces in Jackson Heights and public transportation issues in the borough.

During the assembly, a teacher addressed the failures of the public school system.

“I’m tired of seeing our kids falling through the cracks,” he said. “I have kids who can barely read the words ‘the’ and ‘that.’”

In order to facilitate widespread change, the movement organizes working groups, which each tackle specific issues. Any person can start a working group to address a subject they deem important.

The next general assembly will be held on November 18 at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights. Flagg is hoping the movement will spread across Queens and adopt the personalities of each of the borough’s unique communities.

“This is really about the frame of mind that people should be involved in their democracy again,” he said. “Every general assembly will be different, and people are supposed to alter it for their community. It is not about any particular topics. It is about what each community is interested in and what each community wants to change about their environment. I hope people get involved, start to realize that their voices do matter, and if they come together, they can make a change. We want to facilitate change.