Boycott Queens Ctr. Chick-fil-A: Dromm

By Christopher Barca

Originally published by the Queens Chronicle on May 5, 2016

PHOTO BY MARK TURNAUCKAS / FLICKR.   Popular fast-food chain Chick-fil-A will open a restaurant in the Queens Center mall this fall. Councilman Danny Dromm has called for a boycott of the location, citing company leadership’s past verbal and financial support of anti-LGBT groups.

Popular fast-food chain Chick-fil-A will open a restaurant in the Queens Center mall this fall. Councilman Danny Dromm has called for a boycott of the location, citing company leadership’s past verbal and financial support of anti-LGBT groups.

The Queens Center mall is packed with restaurant options, be it fast food or sit-down dining.

Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) wants hungry shoppers to avoid one location when it opens later this year: Chick-fil-A.

After published reports said Saturday that the popular fast-food eatery will open its first outerborough location inside the mall this fall, Dromm slammed the company on Monday over its leadership’s past comments condemning same-sex marriage and financial contributions to organizations that supposedly sponsor anti-LGBT causes.

“Chick-fil-A is anti-LGBT,” Dromm said in a statement. “I am deeply disturbed that Chick-fil-A continues to give 25 percent of their charitable contributions to anti-LGBT organizations, including over $1 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.”

According to reports published in 2012, the WinShape Foundation — created by Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy and his family — had given millions of dollars in donations and grants over the years to groups such as the Marriage & Family Foundation and the National Christian Foundation, many of which were criticized as being anti-LGBT by gay and lesbian advocacy organizations.

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the federal definition of marriage as being only between one man and one woman was unconstitutional, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy tweeted it was a “sad day” for the nation and that the Founding Fathers would be “ashamed” of the decision.

In the years since the comments, Chick-fil-A and the WinShape Foundation have ceased giving funds to such groups with the exception of a $1 million donation the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization that demands prospective ministry leaders condemn “impure lifestyles” like homosexuality in order to be hired, among other issues.

Dromm hammered Chick-fil-A for its continued relationship with the FCA, calling Monday on shoppers to boycott the eatery and the Queens Center mall to reconsider its contract with the company.

“This group imparts a strong anti-LGBT message by forcing their employees and volunteers to adhere to a policy that prohibits same-sex love,” he said. “It is outrageous that Chick-fil-A is quietly spreading its message of hate by funding these types of organizations.

“I hope that the Queens Center mall will reconsider giving a company so deeply invovled in anti-gay discrimination a lease on their property,” he continued. “Believers in equality should boycott these purveyors of hate.”

Chick-fil-A spokeswoman Desiree’ Fulton fired back on Tuesday, saying the restaurant does not discriminate against LGBT employees or customers and no longer financially assists anti-gay groups.

“Our intent is not to support groups with political agendas,” Fulton wrote in an email to the Chronicle. “The Chick-fil-A Foundation gives 100 percent of its dollars to programs supporting youth, education and the local communities in which our restaurants operate.

“The Chick-fil-A Foundation partners with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes,” she continued, “specifically to provide free summer sports camps for hundreds of young students in urban environments throughout the nation.”

A spokesman for Macerich, Queens Center mall’s management company, had no comment on Dromm’s remarks, but said work on the Chick-fil-A location has begun and the new addition to the food court should open “sometime in the fall.”

Speaking at an unrelated press conference at the 105th Precinct in Queens Village on Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio criticized the eatery’s leadership for its previous comments and financial donations, but said he doesn’t agree with Dromm on a possible boycott of the location.

“It is a country in which people have a right to open a business,” de Blasio said. “What the ownership of Chick-fil-A has said is wrong. I’m certainly not going to patronize them and I wouldn’t urge any other New Yorker to patronize them, but they do have a legal right.”

Read more here.

Hillary Clinton, at Jackson Diner in Jackson Heights, meets with politicians, community leaders

By Jamie Reysen

Originally published by amNY on April 11, 2016


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talks with patrons as she visits the Jackson Diner on April 11, 2016, in Queens. (Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Theodorakis)

Presidential contender Hillary Clinton on Monday visited Jackson Diner, Jackson Heights’ oldest Indian restaurant, where she met with elected Queens officials and a culturally diverse group of community leaders to discuss discimination and diversity.

Clinton slammed Queens native Donald Trump, remarking that while he may be from the most diverse county in the world, he doesn’t seem to respect diversity.

The Democratic candidate said that the Republican front-runner’s words are “hurting our country” and “potentially undermining the safety of our people.”

“I have been speaking out against Trump and I will continue to speak out against him,” she said.

Clinton sat beside Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens), who told her that “folks here know what it’s like to be discriminated against.” He said that community members from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Indonesia were among those in attendance.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, state Sen. Jose Peralta, state Assemblyman Francisco Moya, Councilman Danny Dromm and state Assemblyman Michael denDekker, were also on hand for the campaign stop.

Clinton didn’t eat anything at the restaurant (no one at her table did), but she did drink a glass of water as she took questions and heard comments from community members in attendance.

The Democratic front-runner stopped to take questions from reporters before heading out. She told reporters that Trump’s “rhetoric, his divisiveness, his incitement … is absolutely unacceptable and needs to be called out.”

She also spoke about her Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders, remarking that she’s looking forward to a “lively” debate on Thursday in Brooklyn.

“Under the bright spotlights and scrutiny here in New York, Sen. Sanders has had trouble answering questions” on how he’d deal with the banks and how he’d approach foreign policy, she said.

When asked about her focus on both Trump and Sanders, she said, “I think I can both walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Read more here.

MTA Will Fund New Elmhurst LIRR Station

By Yvette Brown

Originally published in the Queens Tribune on January 14, 2016

The Long Island Rail Road is coming back to Elmhurst in the near future to help local residents get to and from the city in a more convenient way.

The reopening of the Elmhurst LIRR station, located on Broadway between Cornish and Whitney avenues, has been a goal of U.S. Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens), Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) since 2012. The station was shut down in 1985 because of the lack of usage.

The site of the former, and perhaps future, Elmhurst LIRR Station on Broadway in Elmhurst. File Photo courtesy of the Queens Tribune.

The elected officials had written letters to the LIRR president, held walk-throughs and conducted a ridership survey to get the process moving along, and it appears to have worked.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s 2015-2019 Capital Program, which includes $40 million and reconstructing the Elmhurst LIRR station, was approved in November 2015.

The first letter to the NYS Department of Transportation Commissioner and MTA Capital Program Review Board Chair Joan McDonald was to discuss the reopening and speak about how vitally important it is to ensure greater transportation options in the area. Crowley and Dromm initially wanted to reopen the LIRR station in January of 2012, which they both explained would not only create improved access to Midtown Manhattan, but also help create jobs in Elmhurst as well. Both elected officials led a walking tour of the site with officials from MTA to further explore the possibility of reopening the station in March of 2012. This was followed by a town hall with residents about a month later to discuss transportation issues within the community.

According to the 2010 Census, “Elmhurst is home to one of the most diverse populations in the country, a trend that will likely continue in the near future as the community continues to grow.”

The ridership survey was then conducted in June of 2013. There were two components of the survey, a written version and the other was in person with sites located at nearby subway stations and areas surrounding Elmhurst Hospital Center. Both of them contained questions about what means of transportation residents use at the time, their travel frequency, their mode of choice and how they might avail themselves of LIRR service.

“This survey will be very important in helping us determine if there is sufficient demand in the Elmhurst community to consider reopening the station,” said Helena Williams, LIRR President, during the time of the ridership survey. “We urge residents to take a few minutes to fill it out. There are many issues that need to be carefully evaluated as part of this process but this is an important first step.”

Following the ridership survey came the funding. Crowley, Meng and Dromm released a statement following the release of the MTA’s Capital Program.

“Restoring LIRR service to Elmhurst will help a burgeoning neighborhood reach its full economic potential and become a destination for all New Yorkers,” said Crowley, Meng and Dromm. “We are thrilled to learn the MTA agrees that investing in this community is a win-win and that they have included critical funding to rebuild the station in their recently proposed capital budget. For years, Elmhurst residents have called for greater transportation options and we are now one step closer to turning this idea into a reality. We will continue to work with MTA officials to ensure this project remains a top priority and look forward to the day when Elmhurst will be the next stop for millions of New Yorkers.”

“We have budgeted $30.5 million for the design and construction of a new LIRR station at Elmhurst,” said Aaron Donovan, spokesperson for the MTA. “It would include two new 12-car-long platforms along with staircases, platform railings, platform shelters, ticket vending machines, as well as lighting, communication and security systems. The station will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, with elevators. The funding includes environmental review, design and construction.”

“For Elmhurst, one of Queens’ most vibrant and fastest-growing communities, the reopening of its LIRR station will be transformational,” said Crowley. “I applaud the MTA Board for approving the project as part of its 2015-19 capital program and I thank both Congresswoman Grace Meng and Council Member Daniel Dromm for their roles in helping to make this a reality. After years of advocating for this new station, the MTA Board approval means we are yet one step closer to not only ensuring local residents have the transportation options they deserve but also making sure Elmhurst lives up to its full economic potential.”

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.

Read more here.

StreetsBlog: Ped Plazas in Low-Income Neighborhoods Get $800,000 Boost From Chase

Under cloudy skies this morning at Corona Plaza, elected officials and community members gathered to announce an $800,000 contribution from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to help fund the upkeep of pedestrian plazas in low-income communities. The funds are going to the Neighborhood Plaza Partnership (NPP), a program of the Horticultural Society of New York that works with merchant associations and non-profits to maintain plazas in neighborhoods including Corona, Jackson Heights, East New York, and Ridgewood.

Noting that JPMorgan Chase chairman Jamie Dimon grew up in Jackson Heights, Dromm said creating plaza space in all of the city’s neighborhoods is a social justice and economic justice issue. “Our communities deserve to have plazas just as much as the communities where there are large corporate sponsors,” he said. Dromm’s staff is already working with merchants around Diversity Plaza to raise money. ”We need to add to the $800,000 for each of the plazas,” he said. “We want people to literally get to buy in to this program.”

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DNAinfo: Queens Politicians Sing, Dance and Crack Jokes for Charity

by Katie Honan

Politicians from across the borough, including Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, Councilman Danny Dromm, Assemblyman Francisco Moya, Assemblyman Michael DenDekker and State Senator Jose Peralta, have been rehearsing their lines and moves all week.

Dromm said that, despite holding press conferences and campaigning, the idea of performing on stage still made him nervous.

“I never had the courage to get on stage,” he said, adding that this is his first time performing in a play.

“It’s great, though,” he said. “It lets the public see elected officials in a different light.”

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Queens Gazette: Dromm Joins Jackson Heights Beautification Group For Diversity Plaza Clean UP

Councilmember Daniel Dromm joined theJackson Heights Beautification Group and many community members to clean up 74th and 73rd streets and Diversity Plaza on Saturday.

About 30 residents, students and community leaders picked up trash, planted daffodil bulbs and mums in the planters and tree wells and added mulch and compost to the tree wells.

“Keeping our streets and Diversity Plaza, which has become an essential community gathering space, clean is important for insuring a high quality of life for Jackson Heights residents,” Dromm said. “I thank the Jackson HeightsBeautification Group for organizing the event.”

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NY1: Community Leaders Push To Make Diwali An Official Holiday For Students

There’s a push to add another holiday to the public school calendar.

Community leaders are calling on the Department of Education to make Diwali an official holiday for students.

The “festival of lights” is celebrated by the Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh religions.

This year, it falls on Sunday, November 3, but it’ll be on a weekday in 2014 and 2015.

Supporters say kids shouldn’t have to choose between missing a school day or missing an important holiday.

“I feel that this is important because we take off holidays for other religious groups,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm of Queens. “We take off for Rosh Hashanah, for Christmas, for Easter, and we show respect for those religions, and we also know that it’s not a time that people want to be in school. They want to be home with their families.”