Brand new, $32.4 million Elmhurst Community Library opens

By Bill Parry

Originally published by the Times Ledger on December 23, 2016

Courtesy of NYC Department of Design and Construction. Hundred of Elmhurst residents wach elected and Queens Library officials cut the ribbon opening the new Elmhurst Community Library.

Courtesy of NYC Department of Design and Construction.
Hundred of Elmhurst residents wach elected and Queens Library officials cut the ribbon opening the new Elmhurst Community Library.

Elmhurst has its library back and hundreds of community members turned out for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and flag-raising Tuesday.

The new $32.4 million Elmhurst Community Library at 86-01 Broadway is nearly double the size of the original at 32,000 square feet, with four fully accessible levels for library service, separate adult, teen and children’s library spaces, and an adult learning center on its own level.

“The new Elmhurst Community Library is a direct response to the changing needs and demographics of a vibrant, diverse neighborho­od,” Queens Library President Dennis Walcott said. “We expect it to be one of the most heavily trafficked libraries in our system and one of the busiest in the country, with an estimated 1.1 million children coming here to learn, dream, explore and get what they need to navigate through life.”

The English language collection includes 75,000 books and multimedia items and an additional 36,000 books in nine languages. Construction of the new terraclad structure began in 2011 and it replaces the smaller library built in 1906.

“The Elmhurst Library is back and better than ever. I welcome this beautiful state-of-the-art facility into the community,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “Libraries are a vital part of every New York City neighborhood. They connect our children with the resources they need to learn and offer them a quiet place to study. Libraries also serve as community centers for our seniors. This new and improved building will ensure that the Queens Library continues to meet the needs of the Elmhurst community.”

Borough President Melinda Katz, whose office allocated funds, credited former Borough President Helen Marshall for providing more than $18 million toward the project.

“It really is taxpayer money going right back into the community,” Katz said. “The new Elmhurst Library is a magnificent facility that will become a center of learning, literacy and culture for residents of all ages for decades to come.”

The new building includes 13,000 square feet of outdoor space with two green roofs, a learning garden and features a sleek and modern glass cube reading room. A fireplace mantle from the original library was moved into the new children’s room and brickwork from its original facade surround the foyer at the Broadway entrance all designed by Marpillero Pollak Architects and overseen by the city Department of Design and Construction.

“We were impressed by the intensity with which the local community used the library: as a venue for social gathering, interaction between generations, educational facility, news and information source, Internet access, cultural setting and, of course, as a reading and books borrowing outlet,” Marpillero Pollak Architects Principal Linda Pollak said. “Whenever we visited in the morning, there would be a large group of patrons outside, waiting for the library to open. It was clear that the library needed to expand in order to accommodate the community that places so much importance on it.”

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艾姆赫斯特 吟詩點亮聖誕樹 [Elmhurst Poem Reading and Christmas Tree Lighting]

記者俞姝含/紐約報導

 

艾姆赫斯特點燈儀式熱鬧舉行。(記者俞姝含/攝影)

艾姆赫斯特點燈儀式熱鬧舉行。(記者俞姝含/攝影)

 

Originally published by the World Journal on December 2, 2016, 6:00 am

艾姆赫斯特第二屆點燈儀式1日在百老匯街(Broadway)的CC Moore Playground舉行,近百名來自附近學校的學生和居民歡唱聖誕歌曲,八名高中生用中文吟誦學者Clement Clarke Moore的詩歌,聖誕樹在熱情掌聲中被點亮。

當晚,公立13小學、公立102小學以及第五初中的學生們帶領眾多民眾一起唱聖誕歌。市議員卓姆(Daniel Dromm)與州參議員史塔文斯基(Toby Stavisky)一起朗誦學者Clement Clarke Moore的詩歌「A Visit from St. Nicholas」,此後由亞洲人平等會指導的八名來自皇后語言研究高中(Queens High School for Language Studies)的學生用中文邊唱邊朗誦此詩。雖然許多人並不懂中文,但仍對他們精彩的表演報以熱烈的掌聲,一同提前享受聖誕氣氛。

這個公園平日裡有不少民眾聚眾賭博,甚至發生打架事件等。卓姆表示,希望藉此機會提升此公園的知名度,並向附近民眾傳播多元文化意義非凡,希望日後艾姆赫斯特社區能更加文明團結。史塔文斯基也說,艾姆赫斯特附近案件頻發,希望能藉此機會凝聚附近居民的向心力,增加節日的喜氣。

來自皇后語言研究高中的華裔學生翁祺和高Kevin以自身中文能力指導不同族裔的同學們練習,八名學生在兩周內用拼音學習中文詩。表演後學生們非常興奮,紛紛表示這是個獨特的經歷,希望以後還能參加此類慶祝活動,幫助中國文化融入社區。

在这里阅读更多

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Talking About Coming Out With the Cast of ‘Fun Home’

By Elizabeth A. Harris

Originally posted by the New York Times on August 25, 2016.

At a gathering with the cast of “Fun Home,” which won the Tony for best musical, Samuel Nathanson, a volunteer with Pflag NYC, tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

At a gathering with the cast of “Fun Home,” which won the Tony for best musical, Samuel Nathanson, a volunteer with Pflag NYC, tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The volunteers visit schools in pairs. One person is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and the other has a family member in one of those categories. They stand at the front of a classroom and tell their families’ coming-out stories.

This month, about two dozen of these volunteers received an invitation that could, perhaps, happen nowhere but New York City: Would they like to get some public speaking lessons from the cast of a Broadway show? It’s called “Fun Home,” and it won a bunch of Tonys.

The show, adapted from the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman through phases of her life as she learns that both she and her father are gay. The show, which won the Tony for best musical, among other awards, is now approaching the end of its run. It is scheduled to close in September and go on a national tour a few weeks later. The volunteers were invited to attend a workshop on Wednesday, and then to stay to watch the show.

“We thought they could learn a lot from professional actors about public speaking skills,” said Drew Tagliabue, the executive director of Pflag NYC, an organization for family members of gay and transgender people. The group runs the Safe Schools Program, which sends those emissaries into classrooms to talk about coming out.

And so it was that about two dozen Pflag volunteers, some in their 20s, clad in sneakers and tattoos, others comfortably into retirement age, found themselves in the very guts of the Great White Way — a windowless, subterranean room in Midtown Manhattan with gray linoleum floors below the Circle in the Square Theater.

Volunteers meeting with cast members in Midtown. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Volunteers meeting with cast members in Midtown. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Before them sat six cast members from the musical: Michael Cerveris, who plays Bruce, the father; Judy Kuhn (Helen, the mother); Beth Malone (Alison, the main character); Emily Skeggs (Medium Alison, the character in college); Roberta Colindrez (Joan, the college girlfriend); and Kally Duling (the understudy for Medium Alison and Joan).

But what was planned as a class about how to hold onto an audience became something different. There were two sample presentations, but instead of coaching, there was a conversation between two groups of people, strangers to one another, about how what they do — whether on a Broadway stage or in a busy public-school classroom — is actually quite similar. They tell stories that are not often told.

“I have some advice for anyone who is thinking of coming out, or if you have friends who are thinking of coming out,” said Samuel Nathanson, 24, a Pflag volunteer who tells his story of coming out as transgender to his mother. “Don’t do it while your mom is driving.”

The Safe Schools Program in New York City began about 15 years ago, not so many years back, but at a time when gay issues received an immeasurably chillier reception in this country than they do today.

“We got a lot of pushback in the beginning,” said Suzanne Ramos, a Pflag NYC board member and the mother of a gay man. “Back then, schools used to say: ‘Oh, we don’t need anything like that. We don’t have any gay kids here.’”

“Fun Home,” adapted from the memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman as she learns that both she and her father are gay. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

“Fun Home,” adapted from the memoir by Alison Bechdel, follows a woman as she learns that both she and her father are gay. Credit Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Today, Mr. Tagliabue and Ms. Ramos said, schools are much more open. During the last school year, volunteers spoke to almost 6,000 students. That is many more students, and often much younger children, than they used to address.

Still, there is resistance. Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Democrat who helped found Pflag Queens, and who quietly found a folding chair toward the back of the room on Wednesday, said it took years to get Pflag into certain schools. Mr. Dromm, who is gay, has been involved with the group for a long time.

When Ms. Malone takes the stage, or when Mr. Nathanson stands up to face rows of young people at desks, they are not just speaking to the most obvious audiences. There are gay people who come to “Fun Home” eager to see a story even a little like their own sung on a stage, just as there might be gay teenagers in a classroom relieved to see that when they grow up, they might just be all right. But there are others.

“There are people who come to New York, who show up in the summer and they just want to see what won best musical — ‘We’ll just go see that!’” Mr. Cerveris said. “Those audiences are, in some ways I think, our favorite ones, because we’re not preaching to the choir at that point.”

“And as you go into schools, you may have a couple receptive kids,” Mr. Cerveris continued. “You’re trying to give those kids a sense of confidence and help them feel not so alone, but you’re also, maybe even more, helping other kids who don’t know that their minds need to be opened.”

“The thing that we have discovered so fully,” he added, “is the value of showing up and telling stories.”

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Jax Heights celebrates official co-naming of Diversity Plaza

By Bill Parry

Originally published by the Times Ledger on May 30, 2016

Councilman Daniel Dromm celebrates the official co-naming of Diversity Plaza with Public Advocate Letitia James and civic leaders.

Councilman Daniel Dromm celebrates the official co-naming of Diversity Plaza with Public Advocate Letitia James and civic leaders.

When a stretch of 37th Road between 73rd and 74th streets in Jackson Heights was closed off to vehicular traffic in 2011 in the interest of public safety, business owners initially objected. Many of them turned out last Saturday as elected officials joined civic leaders and city officials to officially co-name the northeast corner of Diversity Plaza in a ceremony that coincided with World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, which was designated by the United Nations in 2002.

“Diversity Plaza has truly become a gathering point for Jackson Heights and Elmhurst residents,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “The plaza serves as a town square, concert stage, festival space and café year round. There is always something exciting taking place here.”

Dromm worked closely with the city Department of Transportation and community organizations to manage, maintain and enhance the plaza since it was closed to increase pedestrian safety and decrease congestion in the area. The plaza has become home to a variety of festivals and cultural events throughout the year and it serves as a central gathering point for immigrant communities when disaster strikes in their home countries.

“Diversity Plaza has been a mainstay of Jackson Heights—one of the most diverse neighborhoods in one of the most diverse cities on earth—for years,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “From providing a central space for community members to hold vigils and seek support from their neighbors in difficult times, to cultural festivals in the summer, Diversity Plaza will represent something powerful for this city and this community for years to come.”

The mayor noted that over 150 languages are spoken by the residents of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst. Borough President Melinda Katz called it a hub for free speech, while Public Advocate Letitia James hailed the plazaas a “safe and accepting place for New Yorkers of all religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders” to gather without fear of bigotry or hatred.

“Not only does Diversity Plaza provide much-needed open space, it also reminds us how lucky we are to live in this borough,” state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) said. “The melting pot that is our borough is demonstrated all around this plaza. For example, we have Bangladeshi clothing shops along 73rd Street, Colombian bakeries on 37th Avenue and Korean BBQ on Roosevelt Avenue. Together, they all culminate right here on Diversity Plaza.”

Now that the name is official, the plaza is set for a makeover.

In 2012, Dromm allocated $500,000 for capital reconstruction that will feature a raised street bed and new lighting as well as planters and trees. Construction is set to start later this year with completion in late 2017.

Vita Coco, a coconut water company, has signed on as a sponsor of the plaza and will be funding additional cleaning and horticultural services for a full year as well as programming for the community. The space is also receiving support from the DOT in the form of funding for programming, day to day operations and maintenance and technical assistance for plaza managers.

“Since it opened, Diversity Plaza has become the beating and bustling heart of Jackson Heights,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “With 53 plazas currently open to the public citywide and more on the way, Diversity Plaza has set the bar high on what communities can do to creatively transform their neighborhood public spaces.”

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NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade Steps Into New Era

Gay-Irish group Lavender and Green Alliance joins New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade for first time

 

By Mara Gay and Zolan Kanno-Young

Brendan Fay, Edith Windsor, Daniel Dromm and Malachy McCourt broke out in song before heading off on Fifth Avenue with the Lavender and Green Alliance in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. PHOTO: STEVE REMICH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

 

They were among the last groups to march in the parade Thursday, and faced a burst of chilly rain as the day began to stretch into evening.

But for members of the gay-Irish group who marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue for the first time, it was a moment to cheer the end of a 25-year fight to be included in one of the world’s largest celebrations of Irish heritage.

“We are feeling the joy of being together, of having overcome,” said Brendan Fay, a founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance, the gay-Irish group that joined the parade this year after organizers lifted a long-standing ban on gay-Irish groups.

Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the group, after years of boycotting the parade in solidarity with the alliance. He also marched with the police and fire departments.

As the latest group to join the event, the Lavender and Green Alliance was placed near the end of the hourslong procession, and didn’t enter the parade, which began at 11 a.m., until after 4 p.m. That meant the some 200 members faced mostly empty streets, with most parade-goers having gone home.

Nearly all those who remained along the parade route cheered and applauded as the group walked slowly by with their green and lavender sashes, and rainbow flags.

“Everybody has to live and let live,” said James Stafford, 47 years old. “We’re all God’s children.”

Sonnia Ehlers, 59 years old, who sat in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral when the gay-Irish group marched by, said she wished gay organizations weren’t allowed to march.

“God made you a woman and a man and that’s the way it should be,” she said.

Marie Hilliard, 68, of southern Italy, said she was fine with gay organizations marching, unless they were promoting their sexuality more than Irish heritage.

Police officers from Ireland walked on Fifth Avenue on Thursday.
Police officers from Ireland walked on Fifth Avenue on Thursday. PHOTO: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

 

 “It would’ve caused a fuss if they weren’t included,” Ms. Hilliard said in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She added that “if they are taking part because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, then fine.”

Christine Quinn, the first openly gay speaker of the New York City Council, also joined the Lavender and Green Alliance in the parade, as did council members Corey Johnson, Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer.

Ms. Quinn, who was arrested multiple times protesting the ban over the years, took a moment to reflect on the moment with her 89-year-old father, Lawrence P. Quinn.

“I thought the battle would take longer and I thought he would have gone on to see his maker before this happened,” she said.

The decision to allow the gay-Irish groups wasn’t without controversy.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, called the decision a “disgrace.” His group stopped marching after the parade allowed Out@NBC-Universal, an employee group, to participate last year.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, join the parade.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, join the parade. PHOTO: STEVE REMICH FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

 

Mr. de Blasio said it would be “a very healing day.”

“For two decades or more we had a blemish on our city,” he said of the ban on gay-Irish groups, which organizers said was based on religious objections to homosexuality.

The mayor marched three times Thursday: first with the New York Police Department, then with the Fire Department of New York, and finally with the Lavender and Green Alliance, donning a lavender and green sash as he walked the route with his wife, Chirlane McCray.

Earlier in the day, at a breakfast at Gracie Mansion where the mayor’s emerald-clad guests mingled amid a breakfast of soda bread and tea, Ms. McCray said it was impossible to talk about the history of New York City without talking about its Irish roots.

Ms. McCray also joked that her husband’s name for the day should be “Bill O’Blasio.”

The mayor also joined hundreds for a morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate the holiday, where he sat beside New York Police Commissioner William Bratton.

In many ways, the parade went on as always, with tens of thousands of revelers filling the streets around Fifth Avenue and cheering as groups with bagpipes and drums marched through Manhattan.

Martine O’Neill, 49, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, flew into the city on Monday for the parade, which had its start in the year 1762.

“We’re having a ball,” she said, adding, “I can’t wait to go to the bar.”

Read more here.

AP: NY Mayor to March in St. Pat’s Parade After Gay Ban Dropped

Photo by William Alatriste.

 

By JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — Mar 2, 2016, 6:26 PM ET

Mayor Bill de Blasio is ending a two-year boycott of the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade now that it has fully dropped its longstanding ban on allowing gay and lesbian groups to march under their own banners.

De Blasio, a first-term Democrat, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that for the first time he will take part in the parade along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. He skipped the parade in 2014, when no gay groups were allowed to openly march, and he skipped again last year, when only one small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group was permitted.

“The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride,” de Blasio told the AP a day ahead of a planned formal announcement. “Finally, they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”

This year, more than 300 people will march under the banner of the Lavender and Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group that had worked for 25 years to reverse the ban and, when those efforts stalled, founded a competing parade, called St. Patrick’s For All, which marches every year in Queens and allows all groups to participate.

“Our hearts will be dancing,” said Brendan Fay, the head of the group.

Fay gave credit to de Blasio, who was the first mayor in more than 20 years to refuse to participate in the Manhattan parade, saying his boycott put pressure on the parade’s organizers to change their policies. A year ago, organizers allowed OUT@NBCUniversal, a gay organization at NBC, which televises the festivities, to participate, but de Blasio and several other elected officials said that wasn’t enough and continued to abstain from participating in the 255-year-old march.

“It wasn’t truly inclusive until it included an Irish gay group,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, a Democratic member of the City Council’s Irish and LGBT caucuses. “This allows us to express, in full, who we really are. When you’ve been excluded for something for so long, when you finally realize your dream is coming true, it’s very emotional.”

Dromm will be joined by several members of the City Council, including its speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who also boycotted the last two years. Aides to de Blasio said he would march in the first portion of the parade with police officers, firefighters and other members of the city’s uniformed services and then spend some of the parade under the Lavendar and Green Alliance’s banner.

It’s customary for the groups marching, some of whom have been participating for decades, to proceed in the same order, with new groups relegated to the end. But parade organizers said the new gay group would not be placed at the end of the lineup.

“We want this to be our most inclusive parade ever,” said John Lahey, chairman of the parade. “We hope that it will bring New Yorkers from all backgrounds together in a way that maybe our previous parades didn’t.”

Lahey, who also is the president of Quinnipiac University, said that no groups dropped out this year after the decision to include the gay organizations, though some had complained the previous year when OUT@NBCUniversal was allowed.

But some longtime parade participants condemned the changes.

“The mayor is a disgrace who bullied everyone to having the type of parade that he wanted,” said Bill Donohue, of the Catholic League, who stopped marching a year ago over the decision to allow LGBT banners. “They are making this just an Irish parade, not a Catholic parade. It’s contemptible.”

This year’s parade, which will mark the 100th anniversary of an insurrection that led to Ireland’s independence, will feature former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as grand marshal. Mitchell, a Democrat and a primary architect of 1998’s Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland, had told organizers he would not participate if LGBT groups were not permitted.

Contact the author on Twitter @JonLemire

‘In Jackson Heights’ settles into run at Museum of Moving Image

By Merle Exit

Originally published by the TimesLedger on January 15, 2016

 

jackheighs_2016_01_15_q03_z

Photo Courtesy of TimesLedger

 

Frederick Wiseman was a no-show at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards Jan. 5.

When Susan Sarandon, born in Jackson Heights, presented the award for best non-fiction film for Wiseman’s latest “In Jackson Heights,” the director was in Europe, shooting his next movie.

However, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who appears in the highly acclaimed project, was in attendance to do the accepting.

“I was extremely honored to be asked to accept the award for this documentary,” Dromm said. “I was very pleased to receive the award from Susan Sarandon. As Ms. Sarandon and I both stated at the event, ‘In Jackson Heights’ has a lesson of tolerance and acceptance to teach to the rest of the world. What an honor it was to be among so many important people.”

What makes this epic three-hour documentary different from most is noticeable within its first 10 minutes.

There is not any narrator, or anyone being interviewed. Wiseman simply takes his camera and travels around the area as if he is just dropping in, with everyone seemingly oblivious to the fact that being filmed is not something that happens to them every day.

Dromm calls Jackson Heights “the most diversified community in the whole world. We have 167 languages spoken here.”

In fact, so many languages are spoken in the film, that English subtitles are provided.

“There are communities of people from every country in South and Central America as well as large groups of people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Nepal and Tibet,” Wiseman said in a statement. “They live together with the descendants of earlier immigrants to America — Italian, Jewish and Irish. The area is a true American melting pot reminiscent of the Lower East Side of New York City at the end of the 19th century.”

Those many languages are just one example of the wide variety of people and cultures who appear in the film. From Muslims praying and teaching, to Latino groups, East Indians, seniors and the largest LGBT community in Queens, the film examines the many sides of the neighborhood, as well as the issues that concern them.

Those issues, however, are not simply a Jackson Heights topic but one that much of America deals with.

There is no “town hall” here. In fact, it appears that the local Jewish Center is the largest gathering venue, particularly for seniors and the LGBT population.

A gay Latino bartender, Julio Rivera, was the victim of a brutal hate crime in 1991. It could have been brushed off by the police if the neighborhood hadn’t taken active steps to address this as a community.

Another issue involves a transgender Latina who launches a boycott of a Greek-owned pizzeria that she believes is guilty of discriminating against her and her transgender friends.

You may want to turn away when chickens at a live-poultry farm have their throats slit. You will hear the Muslim workers doing solemn prayers for the lives that are about to be taken. Business Improvement Districts become a hot topic as the livelihoods of Latino neighborhood residents are threatened by the effects of gentrification, with real-estate mongers buying out long-time “Mom and Pop” storefronts. Priced out of areas such as Long Island City, they see Jackson Heights appearing to be the next “trendy” neighborhood.

The immigrant experience is one of the largest topics of the movie. We become a part of a meeting held by a group called Make the Road, NY as its leader asks for someone to talk about their experiences of crossing the border. Celia, a middle-aged Mexican illegal immigrant, shares an approximately 10-minute-long narrative about how her daughter was abandoned in the desert by the coyotes, guides who help people cross the border, with the promise of helping her. If not for two “acts of God,” she says her daughter would have died in the desert. One of those acts involved a blinding white light in a hazy horizon; the other a sudden rainfall.

“In Jackson Heights” also has a less serious side, showing us concerts in the street, people playing instruments in a Laundromat as well as other uncommon venues, and the cheering or non-cheering of Latino groups as they watch soccer games.

“The Jackson Heights depicted in the film is a large part of the Jackson Heights that I know and love and is the Jackson Heights that people travel from around the world to visit,” Dromm said. “Jackson Heights is hot.”

If you go:

“In Jackson Heights”

When: Through Jan. 31

Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria

Cost: $12/adults, $9/seniors and students, $6/children

Contact: (718) 777-6888

Website: www.movingimage.us

***

Read more here.

Attorney General’s office opens investigation into NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade finances

By Debbie McGoldrick | @irishcentral
Originally published by the Irish Central on December 09,2015, 01:18 AM

“Misuse of assets” by former chairman John Dunleavy key in Attorney General’s investigation of parade finances.

“Misuse of assets” by former chairman John Dunleavy key in Attorney General’s investigation of parade finances.

The New York State Attorney General’s office has formally opened an investigation into the finances of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Irish Voice has learned.

A letter sent last month by the parade’s board of directors to the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau prompted the investigation. The letter detailed a “misuse of assets” by John Dunleavy, the former chairman of the board’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration Committee, former board member Michael Cassels, and Dunleavy’s assistant Carla Chadwick. The board sent the letter to the Charities Bureau to comply with reporting regulations New York State requires of non-profit groups.

The Irish Voice has learned that the board of directors received confirmation last week that the Charities Bureau will investigate, and wants supporting documentation to go along with a forensic audit of the parade’s finances that was conducted by the board in June after Dr. John Lahey was voted in as chairman. In particular, the bureau wants back-up on certain double billings and other misuse of assets.

Members of the board declined comment on the latest development but plan on fully cooperating with the Charities Bureau investigation.

John Dunleavy in the New York St. Patrick's Day parade.

John Dunleavy in the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade.

As first reported in the Irish Voice two weeks ago, the November 20 letter from the board to Assistant Attorney General Deborah Y. McCarthy detailed a number of Dunleavy’s charges on the parade’s American Express card, including multiple purchases of the male enhancement pill Triverex, hotel stays, restaurants and clothing. The letter also noted a number of supplies missing from the parade’s office in the Bronx, including a printer and two cloud storage devices.

The letter alerted the Charities Bureau about “recurring out of town trips for which there was no indication that said trips were related to company business, let alone that they had prior approval by the corporation,” and also said that Dunleavy ignored repeated requests by the parade board to address the credit card charges. (Cassels was removed from the board in September, after he repaid $1,752.86 in expenses he had double billed.)

In other parade news, members of the parade board plan to meet with New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm and other members of the Irish caucus in the council to inform them of the many changes that have occurred in the parade’s leadership since March.

An Irish gay group, the Lavender and Green Alliance, will take part in next year’s parade for the first time, joining OUT@NBCUniversal which marched this year.

Investigate3

Out@NBC/Universal in 2015’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Dromm was among those who hailed the parade board’s decision in September to include Lavender and Green, and said that he would march with the group.

Read more here.

Frederick Wiseman’s ‘In Jackson Heights’

The filmmaker offers a three-hour cross section of the multicultural neighborhood

 

A scene from Frederick Wiseman's atmospheric documentary film “In Jackson Heights.” PHOTO: ZIPPORAH FILMS

A scene from Frederick Wiseman’s atmospheric documentary film “In Jackson Heights.” PHOTO: ZIPPORAH FILMS

Unlike many in the documentary field, Frederick Wiseman never makes it a point to be topical.

Yet, “In Jackson Heights,” the 42nd feature from the filmmaker, couldn’t be timelier. The film, which opens Wednesday at Film Forum, is immersed in the experiences and struggles of the many immigrant communities that populate the Queens neighborhood.

“You see the issues,” said Mr. Wiseman, whose film arrives as immigration has flared as a controversial topic in the GOP presidential debates. “Forty percent of the film is in Spanish. A lot of the people you see in the film are undocumented immigrants.”

When he began shooting in spring 2014, Mr. Wiseman, who is 85 years old, wasn’t thinking about the election—or anything else. He was just looking for a good subject to film, and had taken to the neighborhood after a friend gave him an intensive tour.

“It’s probably the most culturally diverse community in the world,” he said. “They speak 167 languages. It’s a bit more like I imagine the Lower East Side was at the turn of the 20th century.”

The filmmaker tracks a cross-section of those cultures over the course of three hours. The camera roves through the streets, venturing into bodegas whose owners fret about gentrification or following a Halal butcher as he slaughters and prepares chickens for market. There is no narrator or voice-over, just a collage of immersive scenes that are meticulously edited with a larger narrative in mind.

“Wiseman’s purist approach to documentary was radical in 1967 and remains just as radical today,” said Thom Powers, artistic director of DOC NYC, the city’s annual documentary showcase, which will present Mr. Wiseman with a lifetime-achievement award this month.

The film spends much time in places such as Make the Road New York, a nonprofit organization that supports Latino and working-class communities, where fledgling New Yorkers learn how to adapt to a new way of life.

”In Jackson Heights” is the 42nd feature by filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, now 85 years old. PHOTO: JOHN EWING

”In Jackson Heights” is the 42nd feature by filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, now 85 years old. PHOTO: JOHN EWING

There, aspiring cabdrivers from Africa and South Asia take notes from a spirited instructor, who uses comical memory tricks to help them for a coming exam. In another session, Hispanic immigrants share their stories, including one woman’s harrowing account of her daughter’s Mexican border crossing.

As with many of Mr. Wiseman’s films that expose the nuts and bolts of American institutions—student life in a Philadelphia high school in 1968’s “High School” or the New York welfare system in 1975’s “Welfare”—his great subject is the civic discourse that flourishes in a democracy.

“You shoot what you see that looks interesting,” said Mr. Wiseman, who filmed “In Jackson Heights” in nine weeks, working with a crew of two over long days. “I’m not interested in making propaganda or didactic films.”

Though he did some advance preparation, the filmmaker connected with most of his subjects and situations by walking around and talking to people. “They probably wondered, ‘This guy with big ears, what does he want to hang around here for?’ ” he said.

That approach has guided the Boston native through five decades of filmmaking, and established him as a pioneer of what has been called cinéma vérité, a label the filmmaker has disparaged as “a pompous French term.”

A scene from Frederick Wiseman’s film “In Jackson Heights,” which paints an impressionistic portrait of one of New York City’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. PHOTO: ZIPPORAH FILMS

A scene from Frederick Wiseman’s film “In Jackson Heights,” which paints an impressionistic portrait of one of New York City’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. PHOTO: ZIPPORAH FILMS

“They aren’t journalistic,” he said of his films. “It’s not who, what, when, where, why. They’re novelistic. They’re indirect. I’m trying to provide you with enough information…so you feel you’re there and you can make up your own mind what you’re seeing and hearing.”

And the narratives have inspired other art forms. His earliest film, the now-legendary 1967 “Titicut Follies,” is being made into a ballet by Minneapolis choreographer James Sewell.

Turning scenes from the graphic and disturbing documentary about inmates at the State Prison for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Mass., into poetic movement may not be as far-fetched as it sounds, said Mr. Wiseman. “The dances are based on ideas and emotions,” he said, describing two elements abundant across his films.

A subject of “In Jackson Heights,” New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, discovered as much when he saw the completed film.

One scene homes in on a hectic day for his staff members, who navigate phone calls from agitated constituents, some angry about a new local homeless shelter. The camera keys on a staffer who patiently reasons with an aggressive caller, striving to control her exasperation.

Later in the film, the councilman, who is openly gay, commands his own float during the Queens Pride parade, cheered as he strides in a rainbow-colored boa. “It’s the diversity that really drew me to [Jackson Heights], and the freedom to be myself.”

That spirit applies even to tourists. Wandering the street one day, Mr. Wiseman overheard a group of women praying aloud with deep Southern accents. “They were up on a mission to sweep the streets, to clean up Jackson Heights,” he said. The women, part of an Alabama church group, are approached by a passerby who asks for a prayer and shares in a warm embrace.

“That was pure chance,” the filmmaker said.

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Bill de Blasio and NYC politicians expected to march in St. Patrick’s Day 2016 parade

Irish Central Photo

By Debbie McGoldrick

Originally published by the Irish Central on 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to issue a statement on the decision to include the Lavender and Green Alliance in next year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, but multiple sources who spoke to the Irish Voice fully expect the mayor to take part in the event for the first time.

The mayor’s office contacted Lavender and Green founder Brendan Fay last week to discuss the decision, and City Council Member Daniel Dromm of Queens says he “hopes the mayor marches, and I believe he will.”

“It was just a wonderful decision by the parade,” Dromm told the Irish Voice.

“Finally after 25 years, I feel included and validated. I have never marched before in the parade and I’m looking forward to it.”

The New York City Council has boycotted the march for several years due to the lack of an Irish gay group, but Dromm expects his colleagues out in force next March 17.

“I’m chair of the Irish caucus in the council and we are all excited,” Dromm said. “The LGBT caucus is also thrilled. It’s going to be a great day.”

Meanwhile, the Irish government has hailed parade leaders for including Lavender and Green. Speaking to the Irish Voice in New York last week, Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said the move sends a strong message of inclusivity.

“I want to warmly welcome the move, and I want to thank those involved in what has been a controversial and difficult issue over the years,” Flanagan said.

“The Irish government fully supports inclusivity in all our activities. In welcoming this news I say that I expect next year’s St. Patrick’s Day to be bigger and more positive and more inclusive than ever. It’s very good news.”

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