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Nonprofit provides green space to underserved communities

Seven years ago, Jamaica resident Alicia White realized that there was green space in her community that wasn’t being used to its fullest potential.

She noticed that Railroad Park was being used as a dumping ground and that a few community members did what they could to keep it clean on their own.

“So one day, when I was on my way home, I asked one of them, ‘Is there a way I can help?’And they told me they would love for someone else to come and help clean up the space,” White said.

“Long story short, I had a volunteer project there that next Saturday, and I came with volunteers to clean it up,” she said. “From there, I was trying to figure out what more I could do.”

After various neighbors and friends saw what White had done for her community, they began to ask her for help with other green spaces with great potential.

By following that calling, White went on to create Project Petals, a nonprofit that devotes itself to creating and maintaining green spaces in New York’s under-resourced and BIPOC communities.

Project Petals has grown from that one project in Queens, to 10 projects across the five boroughs including the Mill Brook Houses Garden in South Bronx, Bergen Street Garden in Crown Heights, and Paradise Garden in Jamaica.

Prominent personal care brand Tom’s of Maine recently awarded Project Petals a $20,000 grant as part of their “Giving For Goodness” program.

“It’s empowering that Tom’s of Maine sees the impact Project Petals and our community of volunteers have at a local level,” White said. “These green spaces we develop provide food, wellness and will be there, benefiting the community for years to come.”

White added that the team has already started utilizing the funds to further expand their initiatives by providing tools, gardening materials, and other resources for programming in each garden.

Sonia Ferraro, a gardener who works the day-to-day at Paradise Community Garden is thankful for White’s efforts to provide environmentally equitable spaces to those underserved — especially during such difficult times.

“Alicia White and Project Petals helped us when we were struggling,” Ferraro said. “I was going to give up and was ready to throw in the towel. No one was giving us tools and resources, then Alicia and Project Petals came, and our garden really got started. Now we are thriving because of their help.”

Paradise Garden in Jamaica serves as a “learning garden,” where people can learn to grow their own food and distribute fresh produce to the community.

The garden also recently held an event where PPE was distributed, including masks, hand sanitizer, and COVID tests, as well as providing a space for mental health and wellness for community members.

White said that she’s happy to see BIPOC communities benefiting from the efforts of Project Petals, given where the organization is based geographically.

“A lot of the communities we work in are food deserts, and that access isn’t there. The gardens also act in a way so people can learn,” White said. “Growing your own food is not a skill that many people in New York City have, which is something that we help with, but I would say the most important feature of the spaces is that we’re creating healthy spaces. Usually, a lot of Black and brown communities in New York City lack green spaces, compared to Manhattan or other zip codes that have more funding. So it’s essential and vital that these spaces are there just for health and wellness purposes as well.”

White encourages representatives from any local green space in need to reach out to info@projectpetals.org via email, and for any potential volunteers to log on to Project Petals’ website and sign up.

Woodside car dealers hit with fines, suspension

JF Motors of Northern Blvd agrees to $375,000 settlement

Three used car dealerships in a one-mile span on Northern Boulevard in Woodside have been stripped of their license to operate for at least two years, and are facing civil penalties for over 10,000 violations of the City’s Consumer Protection Law.

The City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection announced a $375,000 settlement with the Queens-based dealerships, which includes $225,000 in total restitution for customers and payment towards the city of $150,000 in civil penalties.

All three dealershipsAutomania (4309 Northern Blvd.), Luxury Automotive Club (5511 Northern Blvd.) and World Auto (6107 Northern Blvd.), are run by JF Motors and are ordered to surrender their licenses, which prevents them from operating a used car dealership for at least two years.

DCWP charged the dealerships with deceptive advertising and falsely marketing some of their cars as “Certified Pre-owned”. Despite often marketing their cars as “Certified Pre-owned” by the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, JF Motors did not conduct the required 125-point inspection, nor did they give buyers the promised 10-year/100,000 warranty or provide a vehicle history report, says DCWP.

JF Motors unlawful conduct includes the use of illegal contracts, the overcharging out-of-state buyers for bogus fees, and failing to provide documents to consumers in Spanish, even though the deal was negotiated in Spanish.

As part of the settlement, 16 consumers are getting restitution totaling $199,600, leaving just over $25,000 available for new complainants.

“When New Yorkers buy a used car, they expect to get a fair and honest deal,” DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga said. “With this settlement, we are delivering thousands of dollars in restitution for the victims of JF Motors and sending a clear message to the used car industry that DCWP will hold them accountable if they choose to deceive their customers.”

JF Motors could not be reached for comment, as their business phone number was recently disconnected.

The violations leveled against the dealerships go against some of the rules put in place by the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs in 2018, put in place to combat predatory sales and financing practices in the used car industry. Since June 2018, used car dealerships in New York City are required to provide consumers with a Consumer Bill of Rights, a financing disclosure form, where applicable, and a cancellation option.

The settlement was handled by Senior Staff Counsel Bradley McCormick, under the supervision of Associate General Counsel Adem Blumenkratz of the General Counsel Division, which is led by Acting General Counsel Michael Tiger.

Mayor Eric Adams applauded the work of DCWP for delivering the settlement six months after the agency filed cases against the Queens-based dealerships.

“Preying on New Yorkers looking to buy a used car is not only unacceptable, it’s illegal,” Mayor Adams said.

DCWP currently licenses 505 used car dealerships and has received over 5,638 complaints about the industry over the past five years. In the same time frame, the agency has conducted nearly 3,000 inspections, issuing more than 1,156 violations, with a majority of them for failure to post required signs, parking or storing cars on the sidewalk, and missing price disclosures. DCWP has secured over $1.8 million in consumer restitution and over $4.6 million in fines against used car dealerships in the past five years.

“Protecting New York City consumers from scams and fraud is one of our most important responsibilities in government,” Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “I commend the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for holding these dealerships accountable for breaking the law and securing thousands in restitution for consumers.”

Queens rallies for safe, legal abortion

Local elected officials, gender justice groups, and other community advocates followed the lead of other protesters across the country when they gathered at the steps of Queens Borough Hall to fight for abortion rights.

Outrage sparked nationwide in response to a leaked Supreme Court draft to overturn Roe v. Wade, which set the precedent to protect a woman’s right to an abortion in the ‘70s.

A Forest Hills resident holds up a sign with a photo of his grandmother, who died as a result of an unsafe abortion.

Merle Hoffman, who founded Choices Women’s Medical Center before Roe v. Wade said that as a result, women’s rights in the United States are in a “state of emergency.”

Hoffman founded Choices Women’s Medical Center in 1971 as one of the country’s first abortion centers.

She said that over the years, she’s been invaded, harassed and received death threats for performing abortions — and that the one thing that kept her going was the women and patients she was able to assist.

“I was only 25 years old, and one day abortion was illegal, a sin, and a crime. The next day, women were lining up to have them in New York,” Hoffman said.

“That first patient, Helen, was my epiphany that led me to this struggle and to understand that this is what I had to spend my life doing,” she continued. “I had my abortion when I was 32 years old — I was married, I had all the support I needed. I just didn’t want to be a mother at that time, and that’s enough. My decision is enough.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who organized the rally, stood in solidarity with women fighting for their rights. He echoed Hoffman’s sentiment that the U.S. cannot go into a post-Roe society.

“I will never truly know what it means or how painful it is to seek or need an abortion. But as a Black man whose ancestors were brought here in chains and deemed three fifths of a person, I want you all to know I stand with you today as an ally,” Richards said. “Abortion is healthcare and a fundamental human right. Queens will not stay silent as Roe is gutted by five right wing justices, in black robes, as if they were the Grim Reaper trying to destroy one of our country’s most sacred rights.”

He emphasized that overturning Roe v. Wade would simply be a ban on safe abortions, and that women would continue to seek them in other ways — many of which are unsafe.

Councilwoman Lynn Schulman shared the story of how in the 1800s, her great grandmother died trying to give herself an abortion.

“We’re going back to the 1800s. We cannot let that happen,” Schulman said. “I’ve gotten messages from people in this district who said they don’t want their taxpayer money used for abortion. They don’t believe in reproductive rights; it is horrible. We have to make sure that we go out and fight, that we go out and vote and organize because our lives depend on it.”

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaks to the crowd

She added how proud she is to be a woman on the female majority-led City Council with the first African American woman to be speaker.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams reiterated that Queens will always support the right to safely access abortion and reproductive healthcare.

“No Supreme Court decision made by a majority of white men who will never understand the pain or heartbreak that goes into making the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy will ever change that fundamental right,” Adams said.

“Several states have already passed trigger laws that would outlaw abortion if Roe were overturned,” Adams continued. “Those who cannot afford to get access out of state, those who cannot have access to reproductive care in state, poor and low income Americans will be left out, but here in New York we will do what we can to support people coming from outside our state to seek care.”

Members of local gender justice groups South Queens Women’s March and Jahajee Sisters encouraged New Yorkers to continue to fight for safe abortion and support clinics that offer the service.

Joan Hirsch of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights took donations from attendees that would go to funds for safe abortions.

“We’ve got to show up and join these actions, put our bodies out there, and let this whole nation know that we are not taking this lightly,” Tannuja Rozario, a founding member of South Queens Women’s March, said. “Our liberation as a whole is tied to the liberation from reproductive injustice. If you care about the right to vote, environmental justice, or food justice, all these issues are linked. Reproductive justice should be important to you.”

“We must do everything as a borough, as a city, and as a people to protect decision making power for all,” Felicia Singh, of the Jahajee Sisters, said. “This means taking to the streets and showing up in mass. This means supporting abortion funds from our local independent clincics that will bear the brunt of this work. This means establishing an abortion access fund in New York State, creating a state public fund for abortion care… and a public option for healthcare for all people regardless of immigration status.”

Joan Hirsch, an advocate from Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, took donations from attendees that would go to funds for safe abortions. The organization is participating in the national week of action for abortion rights, which takes place from May 8-14.

“You cannot capitulate to this. We have to fight this now and get in the streets. Only the people can stop this,” Hirsch said. “Forced motherhood is female slavery. We are fighting for abortion on demand and without apology.”

Two Grand Marshals named for the 2022 Maspeth Memorial Day Parade

Maspeth Memorial Day Parade: Sunday May 29th, 2022 @ 1PM
Parade Begins at Grand Avenue & 69th Street
Memorial Services immediately following the parade at Maspeth Memorial Square

Cosantino Carbone, Jr.

Costantino, nicknamed J.R., was born on July 16,1932 on North 7th Street in Williamsburg Brooklyn. He attended PS 17 and later transferred to PS 73 before graduating from Newtown High School. J.R. pushed up his draft to join the Korean War.

Patriotism ran bold in the Car- bone household with five of his brothers serving in the Army. He volunteered for Jump School and
joined the 101st Airborne Division. As a young Private Rifleman he was transported to North Korea to join the 3rd Infantry Division located on the front line. At 5’ 4” he volunteered to carry the Browning Automatic Weapon, a big gun for little guy as he put it. His outfit was engaged in combat from Day One.

The North Koreans would charge their positions and fight at night. During the day they tried in vain to rest, sustaining constant bombardment. As he recalled, his buddies thought they would never return home. Then, on July 27, 1953, a cease fire was announced, however, his unit never left the front line.

The good ship Fort Mason carried him home and he mustered out of the Army at Fort Kilmer, N.J. Tech. Sgt. Carbone saw much action on the front line and received the following awards and decorations:

  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Korean Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star
  • Korean Defense Service Medal Combat Infantryman Badge United Nations Service Medal Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation

On a personal note, he met his Maspeth born and raised Theresa at the Maspeth Memorial Day Parade in 1950. Theresa attended St. Stan’s grammar school. The Carbone’s were married at St. Stan’s Church in April 1956. They became the proud parents of three children: Vicky, Frank and Connie. Today they enjoy doting on their great- granddaughter Rowan. They still reside in Middle Village and attend many social events as an admired couple.

Peter Wolyniec

Peter has been part of the Maspeth landscape since his birth in 1950. He was born a “special baby” with a severe case of Syndactylism which affects the formation and position of the body’s extremities. Peter underwent many surgeries to improve his ability to walk and the dexterity to function in our everyday world.
Although he was compromised at birth but overcame his afflictions with true grit attending Holy Cross Grammar School and Christ the King High School.

As a youngster he became a Boy Scout of troop #213 at the American Legion in Maspeth. LaGuardia Community College offered a course in handicapped typing, which provided the impetus to be offered a job as a computer operator at Pfizer Chemical. That same year, 1978, Peter was a charter member of the newly formed Maspeth Lions Club. He ascended to President for two years and has been its Recording Secretary since 1985. It was around this time in his life that he also joined the United Veteran & Fraternal Organization of Maspeth. He served as its President for two years, Recording Secretary for 30 years and Parade Commentator for 25 years.

Now in his golden years he has but one regret, not being able to join the armed services because of his dis- abilities. Peter is indeed proud of the long line of relatives that have served their country in military service. His motto is “God, Country & Family.”

“Borough Boxing” brings fight night to St. John’s

People filled the Carnesecca Arena at St. John’s University on Saturday night, to watch and cheer as some of the toughest professional boxers from NYC stepped into the ring. Hosted by Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, “Borough Boxing,” featured five back-to-back match-ups, including the main event between Woodhaven local Danny “El Gallo” Gonzalez (20-4-1 7 KO’s) and Brazilian welterweight Paulo Galdino (12-5 8 KO’s).

Danny “El Gallo” Gonzalez went the distance in an 8 round bout against Brazilian welterweight Paulo Galdino

Gonzalez came out the gate early, landing a flurry of punches, keeping Galdino unsteady on his feet. Gonzalez was looking to close the show early, but Galdino managed to survive the round. The thrilling action continued throughout the entire bout. Gonzalez appeared to have Galdino’s number several times throughout the match, picking his spot and unleashing strong bursts of jabs against the southpaw Galdino, who managed to hold his own through all eight rounds. The fight was a memorable one, as the two fighters went back and forth, exchanging impressive and brutal blows to the body of their opponent.

In the end, it all came down to the final bell, as ringside judges were left with a difficult decision to make. In the end, it was Galdino who pulled it off, winning in a razor-thin split decision upset right in Gonzalez’s own backyard.

Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea wins her bout.

Maureen “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Shea (30-2-1 13 KO’s) extended her win streak in a super bantamweight showdown against Calista “Cali” Silgado (19-14-1 13 KO’s), who showed remarkable resolve, trading blows and body shots with the heavy-handed Bronx-native. But in the end, it would be Shea’s superior boxing ability that would prove the difference, winning by unanimous decision. She is now poised to make a title run at 118-122 lbs.

The undercard matches were just as thrilling as the Bronx-based “The Nigerian Nightmare” Afunwa King (4-1 1 KO) won in the cross-borough matchup, besting Brooklyn-born and raised Kamron Humphrey (3-1 2 KO’s). King managed to knock down Humphrey in the second round, to go on to win in a unanimous decision.

Glendale’s own Mat “The Future” Castro wins his bout against Angelo Thompson

Glendale’s own Mat “The Future” Castro got hometown fans riled up in his match-up against Angelo Thompson (0-3), as they went the full 4-rounds in this super welterweight fight. Thompson kept Castro on his toes, but in the end, it was not enough to triumph over Castro’s boxing skills, which made all the difference. Castro won by unanimous decision.

The opening bout of the night got fans out of their seats to see NYPD officer Emmanuel Etienne (2-0 1 KO) face off against Tunde Fatiregun (0-2) from Elizabeth, NJ. The first two rounds were intense as both fighters switched up from the body to the head. However, in the third round, Fatiregun was deducted a point for two separate occasions where he pressed down on the head and held Etienne. In the end, the referee called the fight off for the same reason, giving Etienne the win by DQ in the fourth round.

“What an excellent night of boxing for the first-ever show in Carnesecca Arena history,” Joe DeGuardia, CEO of Star Boxing, said. “The fights emulated the grit and determination of the history and quality of Borough Boxing. Maureen Shea bit down against a tough opponent and got the job done. Paulo Galdino and Danny Gonzalez put on a thrilling fight for the fans, as did all combatants. Thank you to everyone involved in the show and the fans who came out to support their fighters and the show. We look forward to returning to St. John’s University and will announce our future events schedule soon.”

Afunwa King of The Bronx and Kamron Humphrey of Brooklyn step into the ring for an interborough match-up.

City votes to raise rents for thousands

The Rent Guidelines Board, the city regulatory agency that decides the prices of rent-stabilized units, preliminarily voted to increase rents in their largest single-year jump in nearly 10 years. The final vote will be held on June 21.

The RGB voted to increase rents by 2-4 percent for one-year leases and 4-6 percent for two-year leases in a 5-4 vote on Thursday. The last time the RGB raised rents by over 3 percent was in 2014; that year one-year leases increased by 4 percent while two-year leases increased by 7.75 percent.

A 2017 report from the Housing and Preservation Department found that Brooklyn comprises nearly 30 percent of the city’s rent-stabilized units; meaning that up to nearly 275,000 units in Kings County could be facing increases.

The jump in rents marks a shift from the freezes and modest increases the RGB pursued under previous Mayor DeBlasio’s more tenant-friendly board. Mayor Adams appointed a landlord lawyer and a self-proclaimed rent control skeptic to the board last month, as City Limits reported.

The RGB is comprised of nine different members who are all appointed by the mayor. Two seats are designated for tenant interests, two others to represent owners, while the other five are supposed to represent the general public.

“Inflation is hurting property owners as the cost of providing safe, clean, affordable housing continues to rise. Our analysis of the data is that an increase of rents it keeps up with inflation and rising property taxes is necessary to protect the housing stock,” said Robert Ehlrich, one of the owner representatives. Ehrlich continued to cite RGB research that found that 1/3 of rent-stabilized buildings are spending 70 percent of operating income on costs.

Sheila Garcia, one of the tenant representatives called for rent freezes and rent rollbacks on apartments.

“This is what the language of the statute reads. action is necessary to prevent exactions of unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive rents and rental agreements. And to forestall profiteering speculation and other disruptive practices tending to produce threats to the public health, safety, and general welfare. It goes on to say that this is because many, many owners, and I quote, ‘were demanding exorbitant and unconscionable rent increases.’ These are the underpinnings of why the RGB exists,” said Adán Soltren, the other tenant member of the board.

The New York City Council Progressive Caucus, which represents the majority of the council, denounced the rent hikes in a statement.

“We are at a loss as to why the recommended increases only have the landlord in mind, devised so as to maintain landlords’ net operating income at constant levels. Why should the maintenance of landlord income be privileged over the tenants’ ability to keep up with cost of living increases? Tenants have not experienced wage or salary increases of 9%, are paying more for everything due to inflation, and unemployment in the City remains nearly double the national average,” the statement reads.

The caucus also called for an immediate rent rollback to stave off evictions and that the board hold at least five public hearings, one in each borough. There are only two scheduled public hearings before the final vote in June, currently scheduled on the RGB website.

Mayor Adams, who is a landlord himself, refused to take a stance on the floated hike in order to maintain the independence on the board. Adams emphasized the responsibility of his appointed positions to strike the balance between landlords and what Mayor Adams described as small time renters.

The progressive caucus dismissed the notion of ‘mom-and-pop’ landlords being the primary provider of rent-regulated apartments. Their statement cited a 2017 analysis of Housing Preservation and Development data released by Justfix.nyc, a non profit organization that releases online tools for the housing movement. The report found that 91 percent of “mom-and-pop” landlords, defined as only owning one building by the Progressive Caucasus, do not own buildings with rent-regulated units and that 70 percent of landlords who own rent-regulated units own six or more buildings.

Queens Theatre presents ‘Forward Festival’

Uplifting the artistry of deaf/disabled performers

From circus to musical theater performances, audiences of Queens Theatre can expect a series of diverse, captivating performances as part of their first-ever Forward Festival of the Arts.

The goal of the festival is to highlight and uplift the artistry of deaf and disabled performers, and will run from May 13 through May 22.

The festival will feature Omnium Circus, Full Radius Dance, composer Molly Joyce, Phamaly Theatre Company’s ‘The Spitfire Grill,’ and The Apothetae/New American Voices Reading Series.

Festival events will include audio description, open captioning, ASL interpretation, and other accessibility services.

Queens Theatre’s executive director Taryn Sacramone said that this festival is an extension of their “Theater for All” initiative, which provides more opportunities for
deaf and disabled individuals.

“In 2016, we gave some consideration to whether we were truly fulfilling our mission of reflecting and celebrating the full diversity of the community we serve,” she said. “Theater for All includes training programs for disabled actors as well as children, plays that were written by disabled playwrights or
feature disabled characters.”

“We are excited to present a festival with such a range of disciplines represented,” she continued. “I know audiences will be thrilled
by these performances.”

Omnium Circus will present “I’Mpossible,” the story of a young boy who dreams of joining the circus.

Rob Lok, a Flushing resident who portrays a clown in the act, said he is proud to be part of an inclusive, diverse, multi-abled, multi- ethnic company.

“When I started in the circus years ago, there was a certain look of what a circus performer is. But beauty comes in different sizes, shapes, and perspectives, and Omnium’s vision is that everyone’s beautiful and can be included,” Lok said.

Lok is Chinese American and was raised very traditionally, but is so glad to serve as an inspiration for other young Asian Americans who are interested in the perform- ing arts.

“Representation matters,” he emphasized. “We see deaf acrobats, disabled hand balancers, as well as dancers and aerialists. We’re just showing what we do; we’re just ordinary people.”

“The live conversation we have with the audience is priceless, which is also part of Omnium’s mission of just being there for people and entertaining them. And that’s the best thing about being a clown, is having that beautiful conversation with our audience from eight to 80 years old. It means so much to us.”

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