School Supplies Giveaway

Originally posted by the Queens Gazette on August 31, 2016

(L. to r.); Samaritan Village President and CEO Tino Hernandez, NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky deliver free backpacks and other school supplies donated by Queens Center Mall to students at the Pan Am Boulevard Family Transitional Residence.

(L. to r.); Samaritan Village President and CEO Tino Hernandez, NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm and state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky deliver free backpacks and other school supplies donated by Queens Center Mall to students at the Pan Am Boulevard Family Transitional Residence.

Last Wednesday, state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone, Elmhurst) and Samaritan Village President and CEO Tino Hernandez joined NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm (D-Elmhurst, Jackson Heights) for a back-to-school backpack giveaway sponsored by Queens Center Mall at the Pan Am Boulevard Family Transitional Residence.

Dromm and Stavisky delivered over 200 backpacks to students of all ages living in the Pan Am Boulevard Family Transitional Residence. The 216-unit facility is located at 79-00 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, and has provided shelter to homeless families with children since June 2014.

“All children have a right to a quality education,” said Dromm, a former NYC public school teacher. “These free school supplies help provide that by enabling them to excel in the classroom. I am pleased to join Queens Center Mall and Senator Stavisky in delivering these backpacks, notebooks and other supplies to our neighbors in need.”

“Proper school supplies set children on the right track for the school year,” said Stavisky. “No one should be denied a backpack, notebook, pens or any other materials they need to be a productive student. I look forward to participating in this giveaway with Council Member Dromm every year, because I believe families should not have to choose between buying groceries or buying school supplies. Socio-economic status should not determine your access to a great education.”

“It is always our pleasure to partner with the community in Back-to-School events,” said Queens Center Mall Senior Property Manager Jeffrey Owen. “Queens Center is pleased to have contributed 1,400 backpacks this year. Queens Center continues to be a proud sponsor and supporter of these events year after year.”

Read more here.

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.”

Read more here.

Those ice cream truck jingles are keeping New Yorkers up at night

By Rich Calder and Natalie O’Neill

Originally published by the NY Post on June 27, 2016

Photo: Christopher Sadowski

Photo: Christopher Sadowski

The city isn’t sweet on late-night ice cream truck jingles.

Vendors shouldn’t be allowed to blast the dizzying ditties between 9 pm and 9 am, the Department of Environmental Protection said at a hearing Monday.

New Yorkers have lodged a brain-freezing 1,013 noise complaints about the trucks so far in 2016 — and summer has only just begun.

Despite hundreds of complaints, only one jingle-blasting jerk has been ticketed for playing music too loudly this year, city officials said.

“Something is not working when you have violations at such low of a level. C’mon only one? Give me a break!” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), who introduced a bill to mute the tinkly tunes last year.

“Ice cream jingles are among the most annoying noises assaulting New Yorkers’ ears every day.”

Micheal Hearst — who composed “Songs for Ice Cream Trucks,” used by vendors across the Big Apple — begs to differ.

“I love the sound of an ice cream truck jingle— it’s nostalgic. I would vote for ban on Harley Davidson volume before ice cream truck jingles. It’s unfair to single-out jingles,” Hearst, 43, said when asked about the bill.

Right now, it’s hard for the city to issue summonses because inspectors have to catch vendors in the act. Officials are pushing to change that.

Dromm also also wants to amend the city’s noise code to give inspectors more leeway in issuing summonses. The law now allows jingles to be played at a low decibel level.

Residents— especially ones in the Bronx and Brooklyn — have griped for years that the music keeps them awake and jangles their nerves.

Hearst, a Brooklyn resident, even admitted, “It can be annoying hearing one song over and over.”

Read more here.

All single-stall bathrooms in NYC to become gender neutral under bill passed by City Council

By Erin Durkin

Originally published by the NY Daily News on June 21, 2016

 Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. (BRANDON LAUFENBERG)

Business owners must take down the men’s and women’s signs from their one-person bathrooms by Jan. 1. (BRANDON LAUFENBERG)

All single-stall bathrooms in the city will have to go gender neutral after the City Council passed a bill to mandate the change Tuesday.

The legislation, passed by a vote of 47-2, will require business owners to take down the “men” and “women” signs on one-person bathrooms starting on Jan. 1.

It’s a move to make sure transgender New Yorkers can comfortably access facilities — which backers say will also cut down on waiting for all customers, especially women who usually face longer toilet lines.

“Most New Yorkers take their unfettered access to bathrooms for granted, yet every single day transgender and gender non-conforming individuals must grapple with the fact that their choices may lead to harassment or worse,” said Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Queens), the sponsor.

“Designating single-stall bathrooms as all gender is an easy way to create a welcoming environment for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals,” he said. “As an added bonus, anyone who is looking for an unoccupied bathroom will now have more options.”

Mayor de Blasio has already issued an order saying that city-owned buildings must allow people to use whichever bathroom matches their gender identity.

Larger bathrooms with many stalls will not be affected by the Council’s bill.

Mayor de Blasio signs a bill mandating city facilities to allow people to access bathrooms in line with their gender identity. (NYC.GOV)

The measure is also meant to send a message decrying laws like the one passed in North Carolina requiring people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.

Pols there “are perversely obsessed with the bathroom habits of others,” Dromm said. “Their recently enacted anti-LGBT law belongs in the toilet.”

The Department of Buildings will have to determine fines for building owners who maintain gender-segregated bathrooms.

Read more here.

East Village Students Win Fight for LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum in Classroom

By Allison Hope

Originally published by DNAinfo on June 17, 2016

Students from the Earth School have successfully advocated to push a national online education provider to include an LGBT-specific curriculum.  Photo: Colin Schumacher

Students from the Earth School have successfully advocated to push a national online education provider to include an LGBT-specific curriculum. Photo: Colin Schumacher

EAST VILLAGE — An education company that supplies learning materials to millions of students across the nation will be adding LGBT studies to its elementary school curriculum after one New York City public school fought to make it happen.

BrainPOP, an interactive digital educational company based in the Flatiron that’s used by students in public schools across the city, has agreed to create a new LGBT Civil Rights-specific curriculum by the fall — following nearly a year of pressure from students the East Village’s Earth School as well as an outpouring of grief following the recent tragedy in Orlando.

“Children of all ages are exposed to the terrible news, and as parents and teachers, we are once again faced with having to explain the unexplainable. To help provide kids with context, we’ll be publishing a topic that addresses the historic Gay Rights movement and encourages tolerance and acceptance,” BrainPOP Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Din Heiman wrote on the company’s website Monday — a day after gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people in an LGBT club and wounded 53 more before he was killed by police.

“I do hope that the Earth School children that expressed a wish to see a BrainPOP topic realize that their request was heard, and led to real change even before the events of this tragic weekend,” Heiman added in a separate email to the school shared with DNAinfo New York.

Heiman told DNAinfo he planned to prepare standalone LGBT educational materials ready in time for the new school year.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito hugs a student from the Lower East Side's Earth School during a meeting to brainstorm ways to advocate for an LGBT-inclusive curriculum in their elementary school.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito hugs a student from the Lower East Side’s Earth School during a meeting to brainstorm ways to advocate for an LGBT-inclusive curriculum in their elementary school.

The announcement came as welcome news to the students at the Earth School, where fourth and fifth grade students had been calling on BrainPOP to create an elementary school curriculum devoted to the fight for LGBT Civil Rights.

“What is the purpose of education if not to change things for the better?” said Earth School teacher Colin Schumacher, who spearheaded the charge after his fourth grade class realized last year during their civil rights studies that BrainPOP had nothing available regarding the LGBT community’s struggle.

The students sent an email to the company to find out why and to ask that it get added. When the company failed to respond, the students called elementary and middle school principals in the area and asked if they would lend their support. The students sent a second request to BrainPOP with the list of supportive educational leaders, but still heard no response, Schumacher said.

The Earth School’s Principal Abbe Futterman eventually got an email from BrainPOP’s Editorial Director, Jon Feldman, who wrote, “I doubled-checked with our standards provider, and it seems that at present only four states, including New York, have specific standards around LGBT rights. Every one of those standards is at the high school level. While there are high school classrooms that use BrainPOP, we do not create topics that are applicable only to those grades,” according to the email she shared with DNAinfo.

BrainPOP officials wrote in the email that they would consider, “revising the Civil Rights movie to better highlight the connection between the historical movement of the 1960s and the activism it inspired in subsequent generations. This will naturally include the LGBT Rights movement.”

But that wasn’t a sufficient response for the students, they said.

“The kids did not believe that adding LGBT rights as an addendum to any existing video is fair and equal treatment for one of the most significant civil rights movements of their lifetime,” said Schumacher, who teaches fourth and fifth grades at The Earth School, which serves 300 students between pre-K and fifth grade.

The students kept up the battle this spring, creating a standalone website entitled,“Kids for LGBT Rights Now,” which features a multi-faceted effort to push for LGBT-inclusive curriculum in schools, including a video they produced and starred in while wearing a rainbow of different colored shirts, standing in front of various locations of LGBT significance including Stonewall Inn.

The website also includes a blog with updates on their efforts as well as a petition calling on BrainPOP to add LGBT content to its suite of offerings.

On April 29, the students met with LGBT Liaison for the NYC Department of Education Jared Fox, who met with them and advised them on ways to make their advocacy campaign more effective, they said.

“We work closely with schools to develop grade-appropriate curriculum that aligns with the New York State standards and includes positive representations of LGBT individuals and history,” Fox said in a statement. “We support the work of The Earth School in creating an inclusive curriculum and encouraging students to get involved through project-based learning.”

A few weeks later, students met with more city officials including New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, her Community Engagement Liaison Mili Bonilla, and City Council and LGBT Caucus Member Daniel Dromm.

Dromm, who faced homophobia as one of the few out gay teachers in the New York City system in the early 1990s, then sent a letter to BrainPOP as well as to Apple CEO Tim Cook, since Apple has been heavily promoting BrainPOP on its products.

“These incredibly inspiring activists have one simple mission. They want BrainPOP, a resource they highly value, to cover history accurately. I look forward to receiving your response about why such content is not on your site and why you have no plans to address its glaring omission,” Dromm’s letter read.

On June 8, the students attended the New York City Council pride celebration where they showed the video the kids produced calling on BrainPOP to create standalone LGBT resources. “The kids were the hit of the evening,” Dromm said. “They received a five-minute-long standing ovation.”

The Earth School students with their teacher had planned to return to the New York City Council on June 21 to be recognized for their work as part of the annual ceremony to highlight the accomplishments of New Yorkers — and the news of their success will make the visit even more powerful, Dromm said.

“Many people have laid down their lives, Harvey Milk and others, in this cause for LGBT civil rights,” Dromm said, “So I think to present history in an intellectually honest way is something we must do.”

Read more here.

‘Don’t Turn Homophobia Into Islamophobia,’ Mourners at Queens Vigil Plead

By Katie Honan

Originally published by DNAinfo on June 13, 2016

Councilman Danny Dromm holds up a sign in support of the Muslim community after the deadly shooting in Orlando on Sunday, June 12. The suspect reportedly called police to declare his loyalty to the Islamic State after shooting 50 people at a gay nightclub. Photo credit: DNAinfo/Katie Honan

Councilman Danny Dromm holds up a sign in support of the Muslim community after the deadly shooting in Orlando on Sunday, June 12. The suspect reportedly called police to declare his loyalty to the Islamic State after shooting 50 people at a gay nightclub.
Photo credit: DNAinfo/Katie Honan

JACKSON HEIGHTS — Standing in the center of Diversity Plaza, a crowd of locals and community leaders vowed Sunday to stay united after 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Flanked by signs reading “Don’t turn homophobia into Islamophobia and war,”Councilman Danny Dromm joined other mourners in the heart of Jackson Heights, the most diverse zip code on the planet, which features both a large Muslim and LGBTQ community.

“I wanted to be sure that nobody divides us,” said Dromm, who organized the vigil within hours of the attack, in which police say gunman Omar Mateen pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State before carrying out the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

For Dromm, and for the more than two dozen people who spoke at the vigil, the focus was on the community’s unity and strength after another tragedy. Diversity Plaza has hosted both the Queens Pride Festival and Ramadan celebrations — both of which are being celebrated in June.

“No matter what happens, nobody will divide us,” he said. “Nobody will pit LGBT people against Muslim people, or against anybody.”

The emotional vigil featured tables of flowers and lit candles; many cried as people spoke to denounce the attack.

St. Pat’s for All parade organizer Brendan Fay said he wept when reading the news.

He said he carried fear in his heart — because he knows what it’s like to be denounced “from pulpits, from books, on the streets.”

“But also, I know what it’s like to find hope,” he said through tears.

“We send from this place a love to all of those that have nothing but grief and loss,” he said.

“May the love from this place go forth and help overcome prejudice and hate in our streets, in our communities and our nation. May love prevail.”

Read more here.

The Norman Seabrook kickback allegations

By Mark Chiusano

Originally published by amNY on June 9, 2016

After being arrested on federal corruption charges, Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, exits United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on June 8, 2016. (Credit: Getty Images/ Drew Angerer)

After being arrested on federal corruption charges, Norman Seabrook, president of the Correction Officers Benevolent Association, exits United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on June 8, 2016. (Credit: Getty Images/ Drew Angerer)

On a visit to the troubled Rikers Island jail facilities a few years ago, Councilmember Daniel Dromm was taken aback by an unannounced companion accompanying a group that included council members and the corrections commissioner.

The companion was Norman Seabrook, the powerful president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association who has held that post for 21 years.

Dromm says he was surprised to see a union official there, watching over them. He was more surprised by Seabrook’s response when Dromm asked about the treatment of prisoners in solitary confinement.

Seabrook “became enraged,” Dromm says, “screaming at me.” Dromm says that Seabrook questioned the councilmember’s right to be on Rikers Island. “A total bully,” Dromm calls Seabrook. “It speaks to the bravado of a man who thinks he’s above the law.”

On Wednesday morning, that perception was paired with serious allegations. FBI agents arrested Seabrook at his Morris Park home and charged with taking kickbacks — including $60,000 passed hand-to-hand in a Ferragamo bag — in a corruption case that could have dramatic effects in NYC politics and on Rikers Island itself

You scratch my back. . .
Seabrook is accused of investing $20 million of union money, largely his members’ pension funds, in Manhattan hedge fund Platinum Partners, for a price.

Allegedly, Seabrook got a cut of Platinum’s profits from the investment, funneled through a go-between, as well as an initial fee. Murray Huberfeld, a manager at Platinum, has also been charged.

It started on a trip to the Dominican Republic in 2013, paid for by the go-between, Jona Rechnitz, a Brooklyn businessman and donor to Mayor Bill de Blasio who plead guilty to fraud conspiracy charges and is now cooperating with the government, according to media accounts.

Rechnitz made the trip with Seabrook and an unidentified police officer, according to the criminal complaint. After a night of drinking, the complaint alleges, Seabrook groused that he “worked hard to invest COBA’s money” and wasn’t benefitting personally from it. It was time that “Norman Seabrook got paid,” Seabrook allegedly said.

Rechnitz also allegedly paid for Seabrook’s airfare to Israel, California and Las Vegas. But back in NYC, things heated up. In late 2014, after Seabrook had successfully deposited funds with Platinum — including more than 40 percent of the union’s assets — he demanded his kickback. So Rechnitz bought an $820 Ferragamo bag — Seabrook’s favorite brand, according to the complaint — and used it to stash the $60,000 cash. The size and shape of the bag has not been publicly identified but this bag, at the right price, should give you an idea.

The bag, along with 10 pairs of Ferragamo shoes, were found by FBI agents in Seabrook’s house Wednesday morning.

A tale as old as time
Corruption in NYC is nothing new, from the case of police officer Frank Serpico which led to the investigations of the Knapp Commission in the 70s, to former Assemb. Sheldon Silver’s guilty verdict earlier this year.

The Seabrook case is just one of the reported local, state and federal investigations swirling around New York City at the moment, encompassing the NYPD and the fundraising activities of the mayor’s office.

It shows the effect corruption can have on individual New Yorkers — in Seabrook’s case, through the influence he has wielded for decades, a power which has sometimes stood in the way of reforming Rikers and changing the attitudes and actions of corrections officers.

Retired Correction Commissioner Martin Horn says Seabrook was a “more effective and aggressive leader” than other municipal union heads and was adept at advocating for his members’ needs (of course, that advocacy allegedly didn’t extend to their pension funds).

Seabrook had strategic relationships with elected officials, Horn says. Indeed, Gov. George Pataki appointed Seabrook to the MTA board. He was one of the first union leaders to support the mayoral candidacy of Michael Bloomberg and of Bill de Blasio.

In negotiating with Seabrook, Horn says there was always a “quid pro quo.”

Horn describes an early effort to combine the agencies of probation and correction for efficiency, which required approval in Albany. It was going nowhere, and Horn says he was told state legislators wouldn’t act unless Seabrook was in agreement.

So Horn went to Seabrook to discuss, and he says Seabrook asked what he would get in return for his support.

“I had nothing to give him,” Horn says.

The agencies remain separate.

Read more here.

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.”

Read more here.