NY1 VIDEO: The Road to City Hall’s Errol Louis visited City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s 25th city council district in Queens.
Residents in densely populated Jackson Heights, Queens, are so desperate for public green spaces that they recently temporarily closed down a blocklong section of 78th Street and laid down clumps of synthetic grass bought, on Craigslist, from a suburban house in New Jersey.
That desperation has come into sharp relief in recent weeks, as residents have reacted angrily to proposals by the private Garden School to sell an athletic field to a private developer with plans to build a high-rise apartment building on the site.
In a battle that has prompted accusations of nepotism and financial mismanagement, the unremarkable 29,000-square-foot field has become emblematic of how the financial crisis has buffeted already struggling private schools across New York and the country.
The controversy arose in January after trustees of the 87-year-old Garden School, which has a debt of more than $2 million, rejected a $4.8 million offer from the city for the field, on the grounds that it could take up to two years for the financing to be approved, time the trustees said the school and its students could not afford. Even when the city two weeks ago increased its offer to $6.8 million, more than the developer’s offer of $5.4 million, the board appeared unmoved, wanting the money up front.
The city, said the mayor’s office, wants to use the field to expand nearby Travers Park, Jackson Heights’ only park, which is scarcely longer than a football field. It also said the process would take less than two years.
The decision by the school has attracted the anger of parents, environmental groups and members of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s office. They have banded together, with many accusing the tidy red-brick school of chronic mismanagement, willful elitism and short-sightedness. The debate over the field, in a multiethnic neighborhood peppered with sari shops and Peruvian chicken joints, has touched on issues of class and ethnicity.
The mayor’s office said Wednesday that Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson would meet with the school’s board this week to try to persuade it to reconsider the city’s offer. Meanwhile, many local parents have dug into their own pockets and raised $260,000 to try to keep the field out of private hands. But so far, the school has refused their loan.
“If the school sells to developers, it will kill the school, as who on earth will pay $15,500 tuition to send their kid to a school without a playground?” asked Will Sweeney, a film producer, who is leading the drive to save the field. He said he was motivated by the desire for an expansive green patch where his 2-year-old, Malcolm, could play. “Someone needs to ask how the school got to this point financially,” he added.
But Michael Rakosi, vice president of the school’s board of trustees, argued that chalk, teachers and computers could not be paid for with the city’s promises. Moreover, he said, the residents shouting the loudest did not send their children to his school.
Disagreeing with criticism that Garden School, most of whose students are not from Jackson Heights, was out of touch with the community, he said that the school served dozens of ethnic groups from across Queens, and that many students received financial aid.
“I would happily sell to the city tomorrow, but they haven’t paid a nickel,” said Mr. Rakosi, who works in real estate. “I can’t pay my teachers based on promises. My responsibility is to 300 little kids.”
Arthur Gruen, president of Garden’s Board of Trustees, said the financial downturn had contributed to enrollment falling to 240 students this year, from 330 in 2009. “There has been no financial mismanagement,” he said.
But some parents of students at the school said that mismanagement preceded the financial crisis, and that a sudden rise in tuition in 2009 had led to the departure of many students, and that the problem had been made worse by a lack of investment and meager fund-raising efforts.
According to the school’s financial statements, the school has four outstanding loans amounting to $2.25 million, including two loans totaling $1 million that it took out in 2009 — at an interest rate of 12.99 percent — from Precision Financial, a loan and mortgage company based on Long Island, which has since gone out of business, and whose chief executive was Mark Rosenbloom, Mr. Rakosi’s nephew. Mr. Rosenbloom could not be reached by phone.
Mr. Sweeney was adamant that the school could have received loans with better terms. But Mr. Rakosi said the loan from his nephew’s company was the most favorable at the time and had been secured with the support and knowledge of the board.
Why a single athletic field in Queens has unleashed such a maelstrom might seem mysterious. But the hunger for green space here is strong. New York City has more than 28,000 acres of municipal parkland, with roughly one-quarter of it in Queens. But Jackson Heights, built in the 1920s and 1930s as an idyllic garden city, has long since given way to concrete and sprawl.
Even Travers Park, the only one in the neighborhood, is largely covered in concrete.
From The Queens Courier: By Aisha Al-Muslim
Community members and elected officials came out recently to show support for the victim of a savage beating in Jackson Heights.
City Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Julissa Ferreras, Assemblymember Michael Den Dekker, and City Comptroller John Liu hosted a fundraiser for Victor Mejia de los Santos, a pizza delivery person for Due Franky’s Pizzeria, who was viciously attacked by two men after being set up for a robbery on Friday, November 5.
“It is a personal thing for me,” Dromm said. “The man delivered pizza to me.”
Nearly 75 concerned neighbors attended or dropped by the Jewish Community Center of Jackson Heights on Sunday, November 14 to make donations. By the end of the event, close to $3,000 was raised for the Victor Mejia Fund.
“They were just people who were concerned and were interested in helping the family,” Dromm said.
Ferreras established a fund to help the Corona resident and his family. The Victor Mejia Fund has been established at TD Bank to pay for Victor’s medical expenses and lost income.
“My office established a fund to benefit Mr. Mejia because I was concerned about how his wife would manage to pay his steep medical bills,” Ferreras said. “We are a community that cares deeply about each other, and when bad things happen we come together in mutual aid and support.”
De los Santos, a 28-year-old Mexican immigrant, suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain after Jorge Paret, 28, and Anardo Battista, 23, ordered a pizza as a trick and then allegedly attacked him with a baseball bat as he walked on 75th Street in Jackson Heights, police said. They allegedly beat him unconscious before stealing his $1,000 motorized scooter. The suspects were charged with attempted murder and robbery.
“When I heard what happened to him, it was horrible,” Dromm said. “Here is a man who is working hard to get his American dream and they stole that from him.”
With his income, de los Santos provided financial support for his 22 year old wife Candelaria Rodriguez, who lives here, as well as his elderly mother and sister back in Mexico. He remains in critical condition at Elmhurst Hospital and already has undergone two brain surgeries.
“My deepest sympathy goes out to Mr. Mejia’s wife, and I am praying for his recovery,” Ferreras said.
Anyone wishing to contribute can stop by any TD Bank branch and make a check or cash deposit to the Victor Mejia Fund (account number: 4249506431).
Last Thursday, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Corona) joined Mohammad Razvi of the Council of People’s Organization and Amy Paul of South Asian Youth Action at Kabab King in Jackson Heights to urge community members to donate money and supplies to reputable aid organizations in Pakistan.
“It became apparent to me that especially in this holy time for Muslim people during Ramadan, that these floods have taken a tremendous toll on the people who live there,” Dromm said.
The councilman cited a statistic that placed the number of people left homeless after the floods at 4 million.
Peralta focused on the ability of Jackson Heights residents to help those in need. “Time and time again every time there is a natural disaster, elected officials in this area come together in solidarity,” Peralta said. “[We] come to send a loud message that we will work together to help.”
The group COPO is one of many that is accepting monetary donations and canned food to help the efforts in Pakistan. “People need food, people need water. They need everything,” Razvi said. “Do what New Yorkers do best. In times of tragedy we come together and support each other as one.”
Paul said members of her group SAYA are linked to the tragedy. “Our youth are very connected to their families in Pakistan,” Paul said. “They are experiencing the tragedy firsthand.” On Aug. 27, SAYA held a bake sale to aid in humanitarian efforts.
At the end of the press conference, Dromm told a personal story elucidating the difference between the United States and Pakistan. Recently, his mother was injured in a fall and hospitalized.
“My mother had a home to come to; she is not in a flood ravaged area; she’s receiving medical attention. These are the things Pakistani people don’t have access to,” Dromm said. “And yet they still have to deal with everyday type issues and they have to move forward with their lives not having the basic necessities.”
Dromm presented a check to COPO and another one to SAYA to support its bake sale.
“You don’t have to be rich to help the people of Pakistan,” Dromm said. “Donating something is the most important thing.”
While many people are always willing to extend their hand and help, one of the problems with donating is making sure the money does not wind up in the hand of scammers. “You can go to the FTC website at ftc.org to check that a charity has registered,” Perlata said. “If it hasn’t, it may be questionable.”
Those interested in donating $10 by mobile phone can send a text to FLOOD (27222).
City Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) urged residents to donate money and food for those suffering from the floods in Pakistan at a news conference at Pakistani restaurant Kabab King Diner in Jackson Heights last Thursday.
“These floods have taken a tremendous toll on the people who live there,” Dromm said.
More than 2,000 people have died and 20 million have been affected by the massive flooding in the country, which began in late July from monsoon rains. Despite the large number of people imperiled by the disaster, some from Queens have been reluctant to give, due to distrust of the weak Pakistani government and uncertainty over whether the money donated will go to those affected.
Dromm said more than 4 million people have been left homeless by the floods.
“Can you imagine the devastation there would be if more than half the people in New York City were without homes?” he asked.
Dromm and Peralta recommended two organizations operating in the area: the Bilquis Edhi Foundation, which has its American base of operations in Corona and can send money to its head office in Karachi, Pakistan, and the Council of Peoples Organization in Brooklyn.
“We’re here to send the message that we need your help. We need your support,” Peralta said.
Mohammad Razvi, executive director of COPO, said the organization has people on the ground in Pakistan who have been bringing food to the flood victims.
“I can’t explain to you how devastating it is to the Pakistani people,” he said.
Peralta also suggested residents donate by texting FLOOD to 27722, which will send $10 through the user’s phone bill to the U.S. State Department’s Pakistan Relief Fund, or SWAT to 50555, which will send $10 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has teams in Pakistan providing supplies.
Dromm and Peralta also highlighted the Elmhurst-based South Asian Youth Action, which held a bake sale Friday to raise funds for the Edhi Foundation. Amy Paul, development and communications manager for SAYA!, said the group raised $210.
“Our youth are very connected to our relatives in Pakistan,” Paul said.
Peralta said residents should go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website at ftc.gov and see if any charity they wish to donate to is registered.
Dromm also gave $50 checks from his own pocket to both the Edhi Foundation and COPO as well as canned goods for COPO’s food drive.
“You don’t have to be rich to help the people in Pakistan,” he said.
The As-Siddiq Muslim Organization at 117-25 133rd St. South Ozone Park and the Coney Island Avenue Project at 1117 Coney Island Ave., Suite 1R in Brooklyn both said they are also raising funds for flood relief.
The American Red Cross is also collecting money for relief efforts with its Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in other countries, including the Pakistani Red Crescent. Those interested can donate at the American Red Cross’ website at http://american.redcross.org, by phone at 1-800-RED-CROSS or by check in the mail to American Red Cross P.O. Box 4002018 Des Moines, IA 50340-2018. If sending a check, indicate “Pakistan Relief and Development” in the memo line.
To donate to Edhi, send checks made out to “Edhi International Foundation” at 45-11 National St., Corona, NY 11368. To donate to COPO, write checks to “COPO Flood Fund” or drop off canned foods Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1081 Coney Island Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11230. Food can also be dropped off at 45-10 Parsons Blvd., Second Floor in Flushing.
New York City Councilmember Daniel Dromm and New York state Senator José Peralta urge New Yorkers to make charitable donations to help the victims of the Pakistan flood disaster through NYC based aid organizations with long and proven track records of effectively delivering resources to those in need.
The floods which were triggered by the start of the monsoon rains about a month ago, have now affected an estimated 15 to 20 million people.
“It is important that our community continue to stand alongside the Pakistani people to help them overcome the tragic losses brought on by these devastating floods,” said Dromm (D–Jackson Heights). “I urge everyone to contribute what they can to help those in need to rebuild their lives and get through the difficult times ahead. I encourage anyone wishing to help to do so through trustworthy and reputable NYC based organizations like The Council of Peoples Organization and the Edhi Foundation which have done a fantastic job of delivering the resources that the Pakistani people so desperately need.”
Peralta said, “I urge everyone in Queens to support the victims in Pakistan by donating to the relief fund. Even a small amount of money will go a long way in helping Pakistan recover from this devastating situation.” The Council of Peoples Organization, (COPO) Executive Director Mohammad Razvi said, “COPO has been a leader in providing relief to the Pakistan flood victims. We appreciate the efforts of councilmember Daniel Dromm, Senator Jose Peralta and these other leading community organizations for their active participation in this humanitarian effort.”
COPO accepts financial donations and canned goods at its Queens location: c/o Kamal Syed 45-10 Parsons Blvd., 2nd Floor, Flushing. For more information, go to www.copousa.org. Checks should be made out to: “COPO Flood Fund”
Founded in 1947, the Edhi Foundation is the largest social welfare organization in Pakistan. The Foundation works round the clock to provide a broad range of social services including 24-hour ambulance services, shelters, hospitals, maternity services, animal shelters and relief efforts for victims of natural disasters. To contribute to the Edhi Foundation contact their Queens office at 718-639-0633 or for more information go to www.edhi.org.
South Asian Youth Action, (SAYA), a NYC based organization started in 1996 with the mission to create social change and opportunities for South Asian youth will also be contributing to the relief efforts by hosting a bake sale on August 27 from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at its center in Elmhurst, to raise funds for the victims of the Pakistan flood and create awareness regarding the devastating impact of the floods. All donations will be distributed directly to the local office of the Edhi Foundation, based in Corona, and sent to Pakistan.
invite you to a Pre-Queens Pride Parade Breakfast
to support Queens LGBT Pride Parade Founder
Candidate for New York City Council, 25th District
Sunday, June 7, 2009 – 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Cavalier Restaurant 85-19 37th Avenue , Jackson Heights, NY
*Right before the parade, near the start*
Special Guest Speaker: Council Member ROSIE MENDEZ
$50 – suggested donation
March with Danny in the parade right after the breakfast.
Danny needs your financial contribution now more than ever.
This is our last big fundraising push before
petitioning begins on Tuesday, June 9th.
COME OUT TO SUPPORT DANNY NOW!
Together we can change the political process in Queens. Our campaign is committed to creating better schools, more jobs, improved health care access and stronger communities. This movement for change is built by ordinary people from the bottom up.
Daniel Dromm has been a leader in engaging the community in the political process. Unlike other candidates, Dromm’s campaign refuses to accept contributions from real estate interests, corporate lobbyists and political action committees. Dromm is committed to broadening the number and types of people who fund the political process. Be a part of this movement.
We are proud of the fact that our campaign has raised more money from small donors than any other candidate in this race. From the beginning, our campaign has been funded by supporters like you giving only what they can afford. More than 1000 individual donors have stepped up to own a piece of this campaign — which means Danny is not beholden to anyone but the people of our community. Your grassroots support makes this all possible.
We need your help to strengthen our movement for progressive change. Contribute now.
from Jackson Heights Times:
by Jeremy Walsh
The dynamics of November’s City Council races were beginning to take shape in western Queens as candidates reported their fund−raising totals for the March 15 city Campaign Finance Board deadline.
The race in District 25, which includes Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Woodside, was in limbo, although Democratic District Leader Daniel Dromm has raised $79,072.
It was unclear if Dromm would face incumbent Councilwoman Helen Sears (D−Jackson Heights), who is remaining coy over what seat she will seek in the upcoming election. Sears had raised $110,623 by March 15.
Third in the race is Con Edison spokesman Alfonso Quiroz, Sears’ former deputy chief of staff, who had raised $62,558 by March 15. Trailing Quiroz was Jackson Heights lawyer Stanley Kalathara, who had raised $29,632 by March 15.