Tag Archives: star of queens

Star of Queens: Harriet Krasnoff, head of the Outreach Program, Alley Pond Environmental Center

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Harriet Krasnoff

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Harriet Krasnoff is the head of the Outreach Program at the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC), a program in which animals are brought to hospitals, nursing homes and hospices to let residents there interact with them. Before she started doing this with APEC, Krasnoff was in charge of the same program at the Bronx Zoo for 35 years.

BACKGROUND: Krasnoff was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1927, and came to America in 1948 as a Holocaust survivor. During her childhood, she spent most of her time in the Frankfurt Zoo, where she learned how to handle animals. It was there that her love for animals originated.

“I’ve wanted to help people ever since I was a child,” she said. “Then my husband found an ad in the newspaper saying that volunteers were needed at the Bronx Zoo, and that’s how Outreach got started.

After one of Krasnoff’s friends suggested they bring animals from the zoo to hospitals and hospices, she began bringing mammals, reptiles and birds to facilities all around New York.

“It’s a wonderful feeling seeing these people who seem like they couldn’t care less about anything perk up and get involved,” Krasnoff said. “When I see the looks on people’s faces, it makes me feel like I’ve really accomplished something. And that makes my life worthwhile.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “One of my favorite memories is from Calvary Hospital,” Krasnoff said. “A man who simply did not want to be brought down to the main room to be part of things came down and decided he would take a look. He wound up getting so involved, he called his nurse later on and said, ‘You know what? For the last hour, I forgot I was sick. I forgot for the last hour that I was dying.’ Now that’s a statement that I’ll never forget.”

BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: “My biggest challenge is always having to find somebody else to work with. I can only do the Outreach Program once a week now, and there aren’t many volunteers since most people have their own jobs and can’t go out. I do the very best to make people happy every day now with my partner, John Burkitt. He’s as big a part of this program as I am.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is to make people happy for as long as I can. As long as I can hope to stay well enough, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. At my age, there’s always a limit for one reason or another, after having done this for 40 years. I just look forward to being with people and creating smiles.”




Star of Queens: Walter Mugdan, president Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, Westmorland Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Walter Mugdan

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Walter Mugdan is the president of both the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC), an environmental conservation group, and the Westmorland Association, a small homeowners’ association in the Westmorland section of Little Neck. A Westmorland resident, Mugdan enjoys working for the organizations because they are both in the area where he grew up, and he cares deeply about the environmental well-being of his community. Because he lives in the area, Mugdan says that it was “only natural” for him to become a member of the UCPC, and has been working with them since the 1970s.

JOB: Mugdan works for the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

BACKGROUND: Mugdan was born in Flushing, and has spent his whole life in Queens. He recalls growing up by Udalls Cove Park, where he used to play all the time as a young boy. It was after he was diagnosed with asthma as a child that he noticed his aggravation at air pollution.

“When I reached junior high school, I became interested in what was then a brand-new area of interest, which was environmental issues,” he said. “My parents always took me hiking and I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors, and I was in college around the time that the environmental movement was beginning. Environmental protection has always been an area of interest for me.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memories would have to be playing in the slivers of wilderness and undeveloped land on both sides of Douglaston, where I grew up,” Mugdan said. “I was very attached to those woods. It was a great place for a suburban kid to have a bit of area to play in growing up.”

BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: When Mugdan became president of the UCPC in 2002, he was immediately presented with a difficult issue. The city had plans to turn a section of woods into a park, but although they had committed to the idea, they hadn’t acquired all of the properties to make up that area. Because of financial constraints, the city was having a difficult time buying the property from property owners. At the time Mugdan became president, eight of the approximate 45 necessary acres still had not been purchased, and the owners of four of those acres filed an application to build several homes on that property. This posed a serious problem, because these houses would have been placed directly in the middle of the proposed park, and all of the money the city had put into buying the properties would have been lost, and the previous four years wasted.

“It was scary to me that the park would be ruined on my watch,” said Mugdan. “I had to meet with state senators, assemblymembers, and other officials to explain to them why this park was so critical. I was very gratified when Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the decision to purchase the remaining properties.”

INSPIRATION: “I really enjoy the outdoors,” Mugdan said. “I love the idea that in a huge metropolis like New York there are not only parks that you can have recreation in, but also parks where you can have a little slice of the natural world that’s still embedded here. So my inspiration is to maintain and improve that.”




Star of Queens: Janet McCreesh, president, Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Janet McCreesh serves as the president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, which serves to unite and encourage all homeowners and residents to improve and maintain the community. In addition to her duties as president, McCreesh is also an executive assistant for a construction company in New York City. McCreesh is the mother of four children, and volunteers for the alumni association at their school, St. Andrew Avellino.

BACKGROUND: McCreesh has lived in Queens her whole life. Born and raised in Sunnyside, she attended school at St. Teresa’s in Woodside and later attended St. John’s University. For the last 16 years, McCreesh and her family have lived in North Flushing.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory was when City Planning wanted to upzone Northern Boulevard to allow buildings up to a height of six stories. I had been mostly uninvolved in the community and got together with some friends and we were able to get over 600 signatures on a petition to the city requesting they not change the zoning on Northern Boulevard,” explained McCreesh. “When the executive staff of the BFHA found out what we were doing they contacted me and they explained that we were going about it all wrong.  After that meeting the plan changed and we were able to negotiate with City Planning. Even though they changed the zoning, it was such a minor change that the community remained low density with low building heights.  It was a great success for our community and I realized people do make a difference,” said McCreesh. 

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: McCreesh says that her biggest challenge has been educating homeowners about the Rickert Finlay covenant that is attached to their deeds. “One of the most important ones is no fences within 20 feet of the property line.  The original developers of our neighborhood intended it to have open streetscapes with a suburban feel,” explained McCreesh. “We send newsletters and have regular meetings but there is always a greedy developer/individual lurking in the background trying to make a profit by subdividing lots (which is not permitted) just to get two houses and double their profits.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration has been the members of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association,” said McCreesh. “I have never met a more passionate and hardworking group of people who volunteer their time, money and energy for the sole purpose of protecting and maintaining our beautiful community.”




Star of Queens: Janet McEneaney, president of Queens Quiet Skies, Community Board 11 member

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Janet McEneaney

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Janet McEneaney works as an attorney, arbitrator and mediator and is a professor on the adjunct faculty at New York University, where she teaches law and business subjects, in addition to her work with the community. After experiencing some neighborhood problems shortly after McEneaney arrived in Bayside, she began a civic association.

In 2008, State Senator Tony Avella appointed McEneaney to serve as a member of Community Board 11. In 2012, after noticing an increase in noise from airplanes, McEneaney organized Queens Quiet Skies.

“Queens Quiet Skies has worked with Congressmembers Steve Israel and Grace Meng, Senator Tony Avella, Assemblymember Ed Braunstein, many other elected officials and representatives of aviation community groups and municipalities in Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau County and northern New Jersey,” explained McEneaney. “Together we have pushed to established a Community Aviation Roundtable, to increase the number of noise monitors on the runways at our local airports, to convince the FAA to implement a current environmental study rather than relying on a study from 2007, as they plan to do, and to have the Port Authority conduct noise compatibility studies in our communities around the airports.”

BACKGROUND: McEneaney was born in Brooklyn, lived in Rego Park for 25 years, then moved to Bayside where she has lived since. McEneaney received her J.D. degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a Masters of Law degree from the University of Leicester School of Law in England.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My best recent moment was when we received a letter from the entire Congressional delegation headed by Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand that endorsed the establishment of a Community Aviation Roundtable; that felt like a victory for everybody.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: McEneaney says her biggest challenge has been “to not get bogged down in interpersonal relationships and to always keep your eyes on the prize.”

INSPIRATION: “I’ve been thinking a lot about [advocate] Bella Abzug, she really was somebody who was committed to the welfare of ordinary New York people. There have been a lot of people who have worked very hard for the benefit of their communities, and they have been my inspiration.”




Star of Queens: Barbara Stuchinski, president, Forest Hills Community & Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Stuchinski, Barbara photo

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Barbara Stuchinski is deeply involved with her community. Not only is she president of the Forest Hills Community & Civic Association, Stuchinski is also involved with the Remson Park Coalition, Community Board (CB) 6, which oversees Forest Hills and Rego Park, and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) of CB 6. Stuchinski’s responsibilities varey: maintaining quality of life, traffic mitigation, maintenance and landscaping of parks, providing awareness for emergency preparedness and much more.

BACKGROUND:  Stuchinski was born and raised in Forest Hills and resides there today. She considers herself a “100 percent Queens resident.” Though she is now retired, Stuchinski once worked in education as well as doing office work, but has always been involved in volunteer work.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory is when I convinced Parks Commissioner Henry Stern to name a playground in Forest Park after Joe DeVoy, who was president of the Forest Hills Civic Association before me,” recalls Stuchinski. “It was a tremendous accomplishment, and a touching way to remember someone.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “My biggest challenge was definitely securing a space for the schools on Woodhaven Boulevard and Metropolitan Avenue,” said Stuchinski. “It was a huge fight that took 17 years.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration has been watching people who do things for other people, I’m just aware of it,” said Stuchinski. “My parents taught me, if you see someone who is less fortunate than you, you should reach out.” While Stuchinski realizes it isn’t always easy devoting so much time to others, she truly believes in being altruistic. “If you’re just here to take care of yourself, there’s no point in being on Earth.”




Star of Queens: Len Santoro, American Cancer Society, Juniper Park Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

star of queens

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Len Santoro started working with the American Cancer Society three years ago. It was his first time volunteering for such a group. Since then, Santoro has worked on several fundraising projects for the society. He also helped work with financial services company Standard & Poor’s to organize a volunteer day.

Around the same time, Santoro started working with the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) after seeing all the work that it does for the community. With the JPCA, he organized neighborhood cleanups, tree plantings and much more. He also helped revive and expand its youth organization. With Santoro’s help, the JPCA has worked alongside the Maspeth High School Green Club, Stop & Shop, the 104th Precinct and others.

BACKGROUND: Santoro was born in Brooklyn, where he lived until he was eight years old. After moving to Ridgewood in 1978, he stayed there for 13 years before moving to Middle Village and then Forest Hills. In addition to his community service, Santoro also works for the IT Department of Standard & Poor’s.

“That job is interesting,” he said. “But it’s the community service that’s really important to me. Society has really opened up my eyes to volunteering, and after my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I found that it was through volunteer work that I was able to feel as though I was doing something to help her and others. It empowers you to make you feel that you can make a difference.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory is probably when I was looking for my first apartment, when I was moving from Middle Village to Forest Hills. At that time, I was becoming more independent. My stepfather taught me a lot about how to negotiate in a way that let me know that I have a voice. He showed me that I’m the buyer in that situation, and if there’s something I want to go my way, I have to say something. That relates to my community service because that period was definitely a period of growth for me.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “I think my biggest challenge is getting volunteers during the summer, especially for the Relay for Life. The challenge there is always getting donations and awareness out on what we do. The biggest advantage that the American Cancer Society has over other organizations is that it offers patient services, does research and doesn’t just focus on one particular cancer.”

INSPIRATION: “I think a lot of my inspiration comes from my mother. I have two older siblings, and even though my parents divorced when I was eight years old, my mother took care of us all by herself. She always put our needs ahead of her own, and that’s what community service is all about, being able to give up your time, but doing it because it makes you feel good. When people appreciate the work that’s being done, that’s a feeling that you can’t describe and can’t replace. My other inspiration is my wife, who was working with the American Cancer Society and encouraged me to become a part of it, and that helped kick off some of the other volunteer work I’ve done since then.”




Star of Queens: Brent O’Leary, president, Hunters Point Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE:  Brent O’Leary has dedicated countless hours to the Queens community. He founded the Hunters Point Civic Association, which advocates for neighborhood causes, brings awareness of issues to the community and works to get community feedback. About two years ago, O’Leary became one of the founding members of the Boys and Girls Club’s Sunnyside/ Woodside unit, which provides activities including sports, artistic and educational events for children. O’Leary also works as a legal compliance council for Bloomberg L.P.

BACKGROUND: O’Leary was born in Jackson Heights and currently lives in Long Island City. He spent 10 years in Japan working for Bloomberg and was a former City Council candidate for District 26.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory is receiving a thank-you letter from all of the kids of the Boys and Girls Club,” said O’Leary.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The biggest challenge has been trying to get people involved,” he said. “Because people are very busy with work and life, it’s hard for them to devote time to other causes.”

However, O’Leary is very happy with the Hunters Point Civic Association, which hosts active monthly meetings.

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is my parents and seeing how hard they worked to make sure I had a chance,” O’Leary recalled. “That makes me want to make sure everyone else has the same chance, an opportunity to follow their dreams, whatever they may be.”




Star of Queens: David Dolan, Community Advisory Committee, New York Hospital Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

David Dolan

COMMUNITY SERVICE: David Dolan currently serves on the Community Advisory Committee of New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ). The body is dedicated to advising the hospital in terms of meeting the needs of the community and reaching out to all the different constituents.

Dolan is also a Eucharistic minister at his local parish, Holy Family Parish. In addition to his ministerial responsibilities, he has also been the chair of the pastoral care department of NYHQ for five years, providing religious services to patients.

BACKGROUND: Dolan has been helping people for as long as he can remember, and describes it as the most important element of his entire life, both personally and professionally.

“If I could summarize my whole life’s objective in one word, it’s empathy,” he said.

Dolan has also always been very concerned with fairness and justice, and volunteer work has been the main focus of his life for the past 35 years. He works extensively with children, and believes that the meaning of life is to be kind, considerate and passionate to the people around us, whoever they may be.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Last summer, Dolan met a man from Ireland in his parish. One of the man’s friends told Dolan he was interested in a gym membership while he was in town. Dolan was more than happy to get the man a membership at his gym, and the two became close friends.

After the man returned to Ireland, he contacted Dolan about a Brooklyn friend’s relationship troubles. Dolan himself contacted the friend in Brooklyn and provided advice about the relationship.

“I was just so glad I could help,” he reminisced.

BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: Although Dolan prefers to use the word “opportunities” rather than “challenges,” he admits that he sometimes has to remind himself to be patient.

“I think everybody in this world is somewhat challenged from a patience standpoint,” he said. “If we just give things a little time, things will work themselves out. It may not be how we expected them to, or even how we wanted them to, but they’ll work out.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration is twofold,” Dolan said. “First, going back to the religious capacity, I’m part of the Secular Franciscan Order. It isn’t a priesthood or a sisterhood, but it’s an order that tells us that learning the Gospel isn’t enough. We need to live it. I think that the more we think along the lines of living for others, the better. We need to focus externally and be compassionate towards everyone else.

“My second inspiration is my mother,” he said. “She was always upbeat throughout her difficulties, and she was never cynical or regretful. She was also always very compassionate to people around her.”




Star of Queens: Alan Ong, board of directors, Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

star of queens

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Alan Ong has been active in the Queens community for years, serving as the PTA president for P.S. 173 before being appointed by Borough President Helen Marshall to the District 26 Community Education Council.

“Even though I stepped down as PTA president, now I can try to effect things on a district level,” said Ong, who also serves on the board of directors for the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association.

Ong said that he was very active in the PTA, doing a lot of outreach and safety awareness work for parents and students alike.

At the head of the Homeowners Civic Association, Ong said he has worked hard to “maintain the quality of life within the neighborhood, like [fixing] potholes in the street. We also work with the local precinct to make sure everything is safe for the residents.”

BACKGROUND: Ong was born in Manhattan and spent his early years in Chinatown.

“I moved to Queens when I was a teen and have been living here ever since,” he said.

He attended the City College of New York and now lives in Fresh Meadows.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Ong recalls his time with the P.S. 173 PTA as one of his best memories.

“The reaction of the parents was very rewarding,” he said. “A lot of us work, and sometimes we don’t spend as much time with our children as we should. My aim was to get parents involved.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The greatest obstacle I face is getting people to speak up,” Ong explained. “It’s difficult to tackle issues when you don’t know what they are. I have to inspire people to step up and tell us what’s going on.”

INSPIRATION: “One of the main reasons why I do this is because I’m Americanborn Chinese, and in the community of Chinese culture, people don’t step up and help others as much. I do this community work because I feel there’s a need for that. Hopefully what I’m doing will help others to do the same.”




Star of Queens: Maria DeInnocentiis, Utopia State Civic Association, Order Sons of Italy in America, Community Board 8

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Maria DeInnocentiis

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Maria DeInnocentiis has dedicated her life to the service of others. She is the chair of the Utopia State Civic Association, the treasurer of the Order Sons of Italy in America and the chair and treasurer of Community Board 8, among other posts.

“I work hard to support my community,” she said. “I try to keep up the quality of life for my neighbors, and make sure they have a place to file complaints when they need to.”

BACKGROUND: DeInnocentiis was born in Brooklyn and moved to Queens when she was a teenager. She attended St. John’s University, where she acquired her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and counseling.

DeInnocentiis’s volunteering efforts began at her church. When she had children later on, she knew she wanted them to have a good life. She thought that getting involved in the community would help her better understand its problems and issues.

“I see a need to give back, and people always ask me to help out,” she said. “I guess I just don’t know how to say no. It’s what I really enjoy doing, and I learned in my 30s that this is what I want to do with my life.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “I remember when I was at a rally with my one-year-old daughter,” she said. “That’s when Mayor Ed Koch walked up to me and told me that it was people like me that made a difference. He was a great man, and those words still stick with me.”

BIGGEST CHALLENEGE: DeInnocentiis says that her biggest today is getting people away from mass media to focus on becoming involved.

“Finding young people willing to persevere is harder than it was 30 years ago,” she said. “Twitter and Facebook are great for getting a message out, but they can’t solve problems. People have to get out and make sure your voice is heard.”

INSPIRATION: “I have many people I look to for inspiration,” DeInnocentiis said. “But my true lifelong inspiration is Tami Hirsch, my best friend. She’s the president of the Utopia State Civic Association and she’s been my best friend and supporter for many years.”




Star of Queens: Jackie Forrestal, Hillcrest Estates Civic Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Jackie Forrestal has been active in the Queens community for years. She is a board member of the Central Queens Historical Association. She also served on the St. Joseph’s Advisory Board until the facility closed in 2004.

Forrestal is the corresponding secretary for the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, while her husband Kevin is president.

BACKGROUND: A lifelong resident of Queens, Forrestal graduated from Martin Van Buren High School and studied at Queens College.

For decades, Forrestal and her husband have volunteered their time and efforts to help countless organizations.

Last year, she was honored by the Queens Civic Congress with the Queens Civic Award for Outstanding Community Service.

She has also been the recipient of a Woman of Distinction Award from Community Board 8 and was one of 29 women to receive the City Council’s Pacesetter Award in 2006.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Forrestal remembers the day she and her husband moved to Hillcrest Estates.

“In 1974, we moved into our first home on 164th Place as homeowners and were invited by the neighbors to square dance,” she said.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Honestly, my biggest challenge has to be saving Jamaica High School from closure,” she said. “This historic and renowned school should not be closed. The phase-out of Jamaica High School is incredibly unjust and unfair to students.”

INSPIRATION: Out of her love for the Queens community, Forrestal has spent decades fighting to preserve programs and institutions to improve the standard of living for residents.

“I love people and I find serving them to be very satisfying and fulfilling,” she said. “Hillcrest Estates is a very special place, my civic work is a nurturing pastime.”





Star of Queens: Susan Shiroma, board of directors, King Manor Museum, member, Community Education Council 26

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE:  Susan Shiroma does a great deal in the Queens community. She is on the King Manor Museum’s Board of Directors, where she does a lot of work with public schools. She is a Queens Borough President appointee on Community Education Council 26 as well as a board member of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association.

Shiroma also works as a senior librarian for the Foundation Center, a national philanthropic organization.

BACKGROUND: Shiroma grew up in Astoria before moving to Flushing. Her family is from Hawaii, and she described their history as a “classic Japanese-American immigration story.”

Now living in Jamaica, Shiroma said that though she works citywide for her day job, she likes to focus on her hometown in her volunteer work, especially the public school system.

“I worked for two years on the Citywide Council on High Schools,” she said. “The cool thing is that my mother was a schoolteacher in Hawaii, and everyone in my family went to public school.”

Shiroma was the council’s president, and also served as the co-president of the P.S. 216 PTA.

FAVORITE MEMORY:  “The Suzuki violin program at P.S. 107, a fantastic school in Flushing, is one of my favorite memories,” Shiroma reminisced. “It was one of the first schools to establish a Suzuki violin program. Public school is the reason I learned to play a violin free of charge!”

She was one of the first students to learn to play violin under the Suzuki program, and played for a time with the Queensborough Orchestra. Shiroma studied at Skidmore College with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

“That’s one of the reasons I volunteer,” she said. “These opportunities got me into a really good college.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Shiroma has a positive outlook on the outreach and community work that she does, saying, “It really isn’t a challenge. It’s actually an honor to work with so many of the great volunteers.”

INSPIRATION: “Why do I spend so much time and money volunteering for King Manor? Because they’re really making an impact on the kids.”

“That’s the cool thing about living in Queens, such a multi-cultural community,” she continued , “You see who lives so close to each other in Queens and it’s truly amazing.”




Star of Queens: Felix Cabrera, EMT crew chief/PR officer, Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

emt me

Community Service: Felix Cabrera has been an emergency medical technician, or EMT, for six years. He has also volunteered with the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps (FHVAC) for the past two years.

“I love it, I really enjoy being a part of the Forest Hills community,” he said. “It’s like a second family.”

Cabrera was recently promoted from EMT attendant to crew chief, a position that comes with more responsibilities. He recently became the public relations officer for FHVAC, too.

“There are a lot of people who don’t realize that Forest Hills has a volunteer ambulance corps,” Cabrera said. “We can get anywhere in Forest Hills within two to three minutes.”

He added he is trying to get the community more involved with FHVAC through programs like the youth corps, which trains 14- to 17-year-olds to become EMTs.

Background: Born and raised in Queens, Cabrera was a member of the NYPD Explorers program when he was young. He moved to Maspeth when he was 18 and became a certified EMT two years later.

Favorite Memory: “I used to transport this patient, an elderly man with no family, no relatives or anything,” Cabrera recalled. “I used to visit him on holidays, bring him food on Thanksgiving and Christmas to show him that somebody cared, and we were pretty close.”

Biggest Challenge: Cabrera’s main goal is increasing the number of people FHVAC can help. That means getting the word out.

“We need more events, more open houses, more volunteers,” he said. “It’s beyond the funding aspect. It’s the fact that we want our community to be a part of us.”

Cabrera added that a lot of people who work with FHVAC are not from Forest Hills, but he would like to see more volunteers from the neighborhood.

Inspiration: Cabrera has always been driven to help people.

“There’s so much negativity in the world and there’s not much I can do about it,” he said. “But I can help out a little as an EMT. People think, ‘If an EMT is here, everything is going to be okay.’ And I like knowing that I make people feel safe.”




Star of Queens: Edwin Westley, president, Jackson Heights Beautification Group

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

star of queens

Community Service: Headed by Edwin Westley, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group (JHBG) fills the neighborhood with music, nature and goodwill. Founded in 1988, this all-volunteer organization hosts street cleanups and orchestral concerts in addition to creating more green spaces and preserving the Jackson Heights historic district.

Westley, who has been involved with JHBG for more than 20 years, said the organization’s commitment extends beyond its greening efforts.

“It shows the community that an organization is dedicated to keeping the neighborhood friendly, safe and welcoming of all our neighbors,” he said.

Background: A Brooklyn native, Westley attended St. Francis Preparatory School and St. Francis College. He received his MBA at Long Island University and raised six children who are now “having wonderful careers and delivering wonderful grandchildren.”

A senior planner at Northrop Grumman until he retired six years ago, Westley’s involvement with the community began with coaching his children’s baseball and basketball teams. He joined JHBG soon after moving to Jackson Heights in 1992.

Favorite Memory: Westley said his most memorable moment as president of JHBG was at a holiday lighting ceremony, when residents came up to him to thank him for his contributions to the community.

“The recognition that we get from the people on the street is more than worthwhile,” he said. “That’s really the ultimate satisfaction one gets in doing this kind of work.”

Biggest Challenge: JHBG is currently fighting three commercial development proposals that they say would take a significant number of acres from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“We’re waging the good fight against the development,” Westley said. “We think that’s an outrageous attempt by the developers to commercially develop public parkland that belongs to the people.”

Inspiration: The volunteers and members of JHBG inspire Westley the most.

I get satisfaction “knowing that people are always willing to chip in and always willing to fight the good fight,” he said.


Star of Queens: Carolann Foley, president, 107th Precinct Community Council

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



Community Service:  As president of the 107th Precinct Community Council, Carolann Foley describes herself as the bridge between police and the community.

Foley works closely with the precinct’s captain, community affairs officer, crime prevention officers and sometimes the lieutenant of special operations to enhance partnership between residents and the police.

With help from the precinct and the community, Foley organizes a number of events and programs. Besides holding monthly meetings where community members can speak with police officials, the community council holds annual Halloween parties for children complete with a performance by a magician. The council also collects gifts for underprivileged kids during the holidays.

After Sandy struck last year, Foley and other community members traveled to Brighton Beach and the Rockaways along with 21 trucks sent by the 107th Precinct to assist those in need.

Background: Foley was the PTA president of P.S. 200 when her son attended. Since then, she has become more and more involved in her community.

“I started out, and every time there was a problem to work, on I got deeper into my community,” she said.

Foley has worked with the 107th Precinct for more than 20 years. She has been president for 11 years, and was councilmember for 10 years before that. Foley is also a member of Community Board 8 and serves on the board of her co-op.

Favorite Memory: Every year, many precincts in the city participate in the National Night Out Against Crime.

“We are number one in the city,” Foley boasted.

The 107th Precinct sees anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 people attend the event each year, which takes place on the first Tuesday of August.

At the event, parents can sign their children up for the NYPD’s Child ID Program. Kids can also participate in a flashlight-guided walk around the precinct, in which they are encouraged to look for crime.

“The real reason we do this is to bring the children into the station to interact with officers,” Foley explained.

Biggest Challenge: Foley said the biggest challenge that she faces is getting residents to communicate with the precinct.

“Any captain will tell you that they need the residents to tell the police what’s going on, or else they won’t ever know,” she said. “They have to get involved, they live here.”

Foley stressed that residents are the eyes and ears of the community and that their input is the police’s most valuable resource.  She said while it is tough to encourage people to participate, things are improving in the 107th Precinct.

“We have it pretty good here compared to what other [community council] presidents tell me,” she said. “That’s the biggest challenge, but we’re doing a good job.”

Inspiration: Foley is committed to helping create the best community possible. She imagines leaving a better place for her children and grandchildren.