Tag Archives: NAACP

Residents focus on affordable housing during Flushing West rezoning meeting

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Community stakeholders attended an open house Wednesday night focused on the ongoing Department of City Planning rezoning study of the Flushing West area.

This was the second open house event held by the Department of City Planning for the Flushing West planning study. For most of the participating community members, the hottest topic of the night was affordable housing and how much of it would be available with an increase of residential development.

Hyun-Jung Kim — an engagement coordinator at the MinKwon Action Center, a Korean-American community-based organization — said the center’s biggest priority is to fight for the affordability of housing for the most vulnerable populations. This includes senior citizens struggling to remain in their homes, low-income families being priced out of the neighborhood and community members with limited English skills.

“I think the communities here in Queens are sometimes forgotten in conversations about the need for affordable housing. There are a lot of very vulnerable populations here,” Kim said. “We’re concerned when those folks might get swept under the carpet when Queens is just seen as a hot market, the next Brooklyn.”

John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said that he believes changes in Flushing West are long overdue. According to Choe, many issues in the area — from transportation upgrades to affordable housing — have not been adequately addressed over the past two decades.

“Affordable housing, for example, that could have been addressed in many different ways much earlier by the city,” he said. “To me, the demand far outweighs the investment that the city has put in over the past 20 years of affordable housing, and that’s just one area.”

Ken Cohen, president of the NAACP’s Northeast Queens division, added that although the Flushing West planning study has shown that 71 percent of the target area is of Asian descent, there are still issues which concern his organization.

“Flushing is a diverse place where people of all colors and ethnic backgrounds live,” Cohen said. “Affordable residential housing is much needed, jobs are much needed, so there is a call for a number of things that we would like to see as the NAACP.”

While affordable housing is a priority for many of the forum’s attendees, there are also environmental factors involved in the Flushing West Planning Study.

Alexandra Rosa, consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, was there to talk to representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about increasing efforts to clean up Flushing Creek. According to Rosa, one billion gallons of raw sewage and stormwater runoff is dumped into the creek each year — and the group takes issue with a DEP plan that would continue the practice of releasing sewer overflows into the creek.

“Friends of Flushing Creek is committed to help publicize the need for and to get projects that will actually make Flushing Creek a recreation destination, and to clean up the pollutants,” Rosa said.

Information on the study’s progress can be found on the Department of City Planning website. The next open forum on the Flushing West study will reveal the results of public feedback received by Department of City Planning from previous open house events, and is planned for Aug. 20.


March on Washington remembered on 50th anniversary

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jamiah Adams

The NAACP and Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network co-hosted a March on Washington on August 24, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The event, which paid tribute to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the struggle for equal rights, was headlined by speeches from various minority leaders at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The crowd at the event stretched from the Lincoln Memorial to the length of the reflecting pool, much like it had a half-century ago. Speakers emphasized that the struggle is not over.

“This is not the time for a nostalgic commemoration, nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration, the task is not done, the journey is not complete, we can and we must do more,” said Martin Luther King III, an activist and the eldest of Dr. King’s children. “Sadly the tears of Trayvon Martin’s mother and father remind us that far too frequently, the color of one’s skin remains a license to profile, to arrest and to even murder with no regard for the content of one’s character.”

Archie Spigner, who was the councilmember of District 27 in Queens until 2001, said the event reflects that we still have to fight for an equal world.

As a labor activist 50 years ago, Spigner attended the original March on Washington, but couldn’t make the march this year.

“I think that Martin Luther King (Jr.) was a gifted orator,” Spigner said. “It was a masterful speech. That’s why that speech still holds to day.”

The speeches were made on Saturday, but the true anniversary is on Wednesday, August 28. There will be another March on Washington then as well, highlighted by a speech by President Barack Obama.



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.



This Morning’s Headlines

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Ex-NAACP big rips Al & Jesse for handling of Trayvon Martin shooting

The furor over the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin is being “exploited” by the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to “racially divide the country,” a civil-rights leader charged yesterday. Martin’s “family should be outraged at the fact that they’re using this child as the bait to inflame racial passions,” the Rev. C.L. Bryant, a former NAACP leader, said of the 17-year-old hoodie-wearing black youth who was shot dead by a mixed white-Latino neighborhood-watch volunteer. Read More: New York Post

Shooter’s claim to police: Trayvon Martin pounced on me

Trayvon Martin was the real aggressor in his deadly encounter with George Zimmerman — punching the neighborhood-watch volunteer, slamming his head on the sidewalk and grabbing for his gun, according to Zimmerman’s account to detectives. The 28-year-old cop wannabe painted himself as the victim in the fatal brawl, telling investigators he was returning to his SUV and trying to call 911 when the unarmed 17-year-old approached him from behind and threw the first punch, according to published reports. Read More: New York Post

Bell cop duo out — but get to keep pensions

Two veteran cops ousted from the NYPD for their roles in the Sean Bell killing turned in their retirement papers yesterday. Detectives Marc Cooper and Michael Oliver walked into One Police Plaza to sign their paperwork. They left without comment — but with their lucrative pensions still in place. The forced retirements came after an internal NYPD trial determined the detectives acted improperly when they and fellow officers gunned down the unarmed Bell in a 50-bullet fusillade the night before his wedding in 2006. Read More: New York Post


Intruders shoot man in UWS apartment

An Upper West Side man was shot yesterday during an attempted robbery in his apartment, cops said. The 20-year-old victim said in a 911 call that he let two men into his building on West 100th Street near Riverside Drive believing they were deliverymen, and they attempted to rob him in his fifth-floor, blasting him in the leg, according to an FDNY spokesperson and police sources. Police are investigating his claims. Read More: New York Post

DOE Releases List Of Schools With PCB Leaks, Critics Want Better Clean-Up Efforts

Hundreds of city schools in the five boroughs are contaminated with PCB, a toxic material that can cause serious health problems, and hundreds more school may also have the substance. Department of Education officials say they are working as hard as it can to fix the problem but critics say it’s not hard enough. NY1’s Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following exclusive report. Read More: NY1


State Health Department To Shut Down Queens’ Peninsula Hospital

Peninsula Hospital Center will close for good, following months of efforts to keep the failing hospital in Queens open. The State Department of Health said Monday that Peninsula Hospital officials will be required to submit a closure plan. According to the Queens borough president, up to 1,000 jobs are on the way out. Its closure will leave the 100,000 residents of the Rockaways with only one hospital. Health officials shut down Peninsula’s laboratory last month after it failed an inspection. The hospital in Edgemere was also barred from admitting new patients until issues were resolved. Without revenue from patients, the hospital is unable to run daily operations. Read More: NY1



Dawa Lama, mom who dumped newborn in trash, pleads guilty to manslaughter

A Queens mom who dumped her newborn daughter in a hospital trash can out of fear her mother would learn of her pregnancy pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge Monday. Dawa Lama, 23, faces 10 years in prison as part of a plea deal worked out with Queens prosecutors. During a court appearance, Queens Supreme Court Justice Lenora Gerald told Lama that she’ll be deported to her native Nepal once she finishes her sentence. Read More: Daily News


Down the Drain? Flushing High School fights to remain

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco

After more than 100 years of reading, writing and arithmetic, Flushing High School now faces its toughest test of all.

Legislators and education advocates gathered in front of the school to protest a possible Turnaround, which would effectively eliminate Flushing High School as it is currently constituted.

“Over the past few years, Flushing High School has improved,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky at the protest on February 24. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but closing the school and replacing the principal and staff with multiple layers of educational bureaucracy is not the solution.”

Stavisky, who worked as a substitute teacher at the school before her election to the State Senate, was joined by Assemblymember Grace Meng and Councilmember Peter Koo, as well as representatives for the school, the United Federal of Teachers (UFT) and the NAACP.

The protest was sparked after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to replace about half of the teaching staff at the 33 city schools, including eight in Queens, identified as struggling by the state. These 33 schools are in a federal improvement program because of low test scores and graduation rates.

A spokesperson representing UFT president Michael Mulgrew said that Bloomberg’s push for Turnaround stems from a disagreement between the mayor and the teacher organization.

“We are here today in support of not only Flushing High School, but all the schools the mayor is holding hostage,” Mulgrew’s spokesperson said. “It is time the mayor put our children and our school’s first, and end the political grandstanding that has now gone on for far too long.”

Flushing High School, and the other 32 schools listed for closure, had recently received the OK from the Department of Education (DOE) to implement reform models aimed at reversing troubling trends. According to the president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators Ernest Logan, the DOE isn’t giving these reforms the time to take hold and make a difference.

“All of these schools, including Flushing, had rather recently embarked on new reform models with the blessing of the NYC DOE,” said Logan. “For the DOE to now abruptly reject those schools’ efforts, without examination of their progress, is arbitrary, capricious and insensitive to children and families.”

DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas said that Flushing High School received a “D” on its most recent progress report, with an “F” on the student performance section. He also said that graduation rates at schools serving similar populations are significantly higher than at Flushing.

“We understand the passionate feelings these issues evoke on all sides, but these proposals represent an opportunity to provide our families with new, high-quality schools that will do better by students, and ultimately that has to be our priority,” said Thomas.

Thomas also said that the DOE cannot afford to let underperforming schools linger while a teacher evaluation deal is hammered out and implemented. He said the turnaround plan keeps the best parts of the existing school, including its highest quality faculty, while creating a new program, new school culture and a different and better environment for students.