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Pandemic predators

Dear Editor,
I’m shocked by accusations that “nonprofit” hospitals sued patients and filed liens against their homes during the COVID crisis, despite receiving state emergency funds.
The Coalition for Affordable Hospitals, a group of labor unions, claims that 55 hospitals sued nearly 4,000 patients for medical debt while getting over $442 million from the state’s Indigent Care Pool.
These pandemic predators exploited taxpayers and patients out of sheer greed. Among the worst culprits, says the Coalition, is Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system a biggest private employer with 23 hospitals, 650 outpatient facilities and more than 70,000 staffers.
Its president & CEO, Michael Dowling, got a total compensation exceeding $4 million last year, ten times higher than President Joe Biden’s salary. Not bad for the head of an enterprise designated as a “nonprofit, tax exempt” organization by New York State and the federal government.
In television commercials, hospitals portray themselves as compassionate lifelines to their communities. But their bottom line takes top priority in real life.
They are nonprofit profiteers who violated a basic mandate of medicine: “First, do no harm.” State leaders and regulatory agencies must probe and penalize them for financial abuse.
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

Russia aggression

Dear Editor,
The recent buildup of Russian troops and military equipment along the border with Ukraine certainly must be considered a potential flashpoint for an escalating military confrontation.
How far will NATO be willing to go to support Ukraine should Russia decide to send troops across the border?
Officially, Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO, although it is pushing to become one. Russia is playing a very dangerous political and military game of roulette, and Putin should think twice before launching an attack on Ukraine.
This situation could potentially be a flashpoint for a major conflict, one that nobody really wants to see occur. Diplomacy and tact must be used to resolve this tense situation.
John Amato
Fresh Meadows

Dem vs. GOP debt

Dear Editor,
Dispatcher Larry Penner is upset that President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Bill will add $595 billion to the deficit over the next ten years.
The bill will put $110 billion into roads, bridges and other major projects, $66 billion into freight and passenger rail, $39 billion into public transit systems, $65 billion into expanding broadband, a priority after the coronavirus pandemic left millions of Americans at home without effective internet access, and $55 billion into improving water systems and replacing lead pipes.
It will also increase funding for seniors in regards to vision, hearing and dental care, fight climate change, curb prescription drug prices, and increase funding for veterans.
Was Mr. Penner equally as upset when Donald Trump’s tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires added $3.9 trillion to the deficit? Of course not.
Here is the difference when it comes to Republicans and Democrats in regards to the deficit: Reagan took the deficit from $70 billion to $175 billion, Bush 41 took it to $300 billion, Clinton got it to zero.
Then Bush 43 took it from zero to $1.2 trillion, while Obama halved it to $600 billion despite Republican obstructionism at every turn. When Trump left office the deficit was $27 trillion!
Just to be clear, Biden increased the deficit to help the citizens of the United States. Trump increased the deficit so that the wealthy could buy a new yacht.
Robert LaRosa, Sr.

QCC honors local business heroes

The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted its first-ever Business Heroes of the Year Awards in front of about 400 people at Terrace on the Park last Wednesday night.
President and CEO Tom Grech took the time to introduce and honor the awardees, who come from various industries, such as hospitality and technology, and philanthropic organizations.
District Attorney Melinda Katz spoke at the event, expressing her gratitude for small businesses and all they’ve done for the borough during the height of COVID-19.
“At the end of the day, whether we were dealing with a worldwide pandemic, whether we were dealing with an overdue conversation on policing in the United States, whatever we were working on and dealing with, we had to count on our businesses to continue to thrive and survive,” said Katz.
She presented the first award of the evening to Melva Miller of ABNY, who was also Katz’s former deputy borough president when she served as bBorough president.
Charles Boyce of Boyce Technologies was another honoree, whom Grech commended for saving lives throughout New York State by mass producing ventilators during the depths of the pandemic.
While not everyone can be a frontline healthcare worker themselves, many people view food and hospitality as a way of symbolically healing.
This is especially true for honorees Rachel Kellner of Aigner Chocolates, Nupur Arora of Queens Curry Kitchen, Mark Boccia of Bourbon Street, Patrick Oropeza of Bolivian Llama Party, Frank Russo of Russo’s on the Bay and Declan Morrison of Stacked Sandwich Shop.
As for services and organizations who dedicate their time to help smaller businesses succeed, honorees Jonnel Doris of NYC Small Business Services, Larry Zogby of RDS Same Day Delivery Service, and Michael Peterson of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation fit the bill.
“It was a wonderful evening and it’s a great honor to be given this award by the Queens Chamber,” said Michael Peterson.
“We’ve worked very hard with them along with the other chambers of commerce across the city to help out small businesses,” he continued. “So to be here tonight in person to meet some of the other small business leaders in this community and to be a part of this is a great honor.”
In addition to the businesses being honored for their efforts to the borough, the Queens Chamber of Commerce held a toy drive for children in need that guests could donate to for a chance to win a raffle.

Blood Center, RWNYC team up for Giving Tuesday blood drive

The never-ending need for blood has been exacerbated by both the global pandemic and the holiday season, with reserve levels decreasing across New York City and the country.
On Giving Tuesday, the New York Blood Center and Resorts World NYC hosted an annual blood drive event as part of their nine-year partnership.
Under normal conditions, the New York Blood Center would typically have a week’s worth of blood in their reserves, said account manager Armando Echeverry. But currently, the center is down to just one to two days worth of reserves.
And the blood shortage is also being felt across the nation, with the Red Cross announcing they are heading into the holiday season with its lowest blood supply in more than a decade.
“We’re hoping that people can give a little bit of their lives to save others,” said Echeverry last Tuesday at Resorts World NYC. “Since the pandemic started, donations have dwindled to the point where our reserve levels are very low. We have people with chronic illnesses who need blood on a consistent basis.”
Every pint of blood donated can save three lives. With eight to 12 pints of blood flowing through the average person, blood is usually regenerated in the body within 24 hours.
The efforts to incentivize people to donate blood in a dire time of need has been tough, says Echeverry, and he fears that new coronavirus variants will discourage people from donating.
During the pandemic, the number of blood drives in the region dropped by two-thirds.
“With our mobile blood drives, about a quarter of our blood came from schools and colleges,” said Echeverry, recalling the height of the pandemic. “That was no longer there. Little by little, we’re starting to get schools back.”
One does not need to be vaccinated in order to donate blood
Michelle Stoddart, RWNYC director of Community Development, said the blood drive was the fourth the casino has hosted this year, with many familiar faces returning to donate.
“We definitely see that people understand and that people will turn out to do this,” said Stoddart. “There’s a real passion, even with our staff.”
Denis Shannon, who works an evening security detail for the casino and hotel in Jamaica, is among the group of employees who give blood at the donation centers set up by their employer.
The one-hour process for Shannon helped RWNYC climb closer to a goal of 100 units of blood donated over the course of the day. Instead of taking his scheduled lunch break, Shannon was set on giving back before starting his shift.
“I do it because somebody needs my blood,” said Shannon as his blood was being drawn. “I’d rather do this than eat.”

Concrete-less Jungle: medians to get green makeover

The concrete slabs that divide Hillside Avenue in Queens Village will soon be replaced with several new green drainage spaces, better protecting the eastern Queens neighborhood from flooding.
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Vincent Sapienza says the seven new greenspaces along Hillside Avenue will capture millions of gallons of stormwater, reducing local flooding and overflows of the sewer system.
In September, an overflowed sewer system was a main culprit behind the damage sustained during Hurricane Ida.
“Pavement is not our friend,” said Sapienza outside Martin Van Buren High School last week. “We want to try and get as many permeable surfaces in the city as we can and let the ground do its work and soak up stormwater rather than have it runoff and cause flooding.”
The project is anticipated to break ground in late 2022 and construction will continue for up to 12 months. The total cost of the project is approximately $2.5 million.
True to its name, the stretch of Hillside Avenue in the northern part of Queens Village is situated at the bottom of a hill, parallel to the Grand Central Parkway. DEP says a minimum of 5 million gallons will be captured in the new green spaces, which will also serve as habitat for pollinators and other threatened species in Jamaica Bay.
Councilman Barry Grodenchik described the current medians as “a sea of concrete.”
“The honey locust trees didn’t do well here” said Grodenchik. “This is going to change the environment here. It’s going to make the area literally cooler, because we won’t have the concrete soaking up all this heat.”
Incoming councilwoman Linda Lee vowed to see the project to its completion.
“Hopefully it can be a space the students and the community can utilize, because one thing that COVID has taught us is that outdoor spaces cannot be taken for granted,” said Lee. “I think this project will be a huge resource and benefit for the community.”
Kirby Lindell, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1958, is thrilled with the planned upgrades.
“I’ve been writing letters since before Barry was the councilman,” said Lindell. “In the summer, the only thing that survived was the weeds.”
Instead, Lindell and his neighbors will soon see the patches of concrete replaced with new trees and native plantings, with the addition of environmentally friendly green infrastructure
“I am so happy,” added Lindell. “I know how difficult it is even for the local council people to get projects like this done with all the bureaucratic stuff that goes with it. It’s going to be so important to people in our neighborhood.”

Menorah vandalized in Hollis Hill

In the early evening of Saturday, November 27, a large menorah at the intersection of Union Turnpike and 220th Street in Hollis Hills was knocked into the road, breaking most of its lights.
The incident was reported to the NYPD by Rabbi Zalmanov, co-director of the Chabad of Eastern Queens.
In response, local leaders and elected officials denounced the act of vandalism, leading up to the rededication of a new menorah just steps from where the original one was damaged. Governor Kathy Hochul also instructed the state Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate the incident.
Assemblyman David Weprin said a similar act occurred at the site in 2014.
“Chanukah is a time of peace and joy,” said Weprin. “No acts of vandalism or anti-Semitism will ever be tolerated. We are watching, the hard-working members of law enforcement are watching, and this community, where we always have each other’s backs, is watching.”
Weprin was joined by State Senator John Liu, who noted that just a few weeks prior there was an unrelated act of anti-Semitism at Bagels & Co. in Fresh Meadows.
“That this vandalism occurred as New Yorkers celebrated the first night of Hanukkah stings all the more, but our community will never waiver in our determination to fight back against hatred and division in any form,” said Liu.
According to the FBI’s 2020 statistics, crimes targeting Jewish people made up nearly 55 percent of all religious bias crimes last year. More than half of hate incidents targeting Jews involved the destruction, damage, or vandalism of property, with a third of incidents being instances of intimidation.
Congresswoman Grace Meng co-chairs the House Antisemitism Task Force.
“There is no place anywhere in our society for anti-Semitism and hate, particularly here in Queens, where we welcome and embrace the great diversity throughout our borough,” she said. “Those responsible must be held accountable.”
Roughly a week after the incident, elected officials joined together for a rededication of a new menorah.

Remembering Queensboro Symphony Orchestra founder

Dong-Hyun Kim, the prolific maestro of the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra, passed away last year on December 12. Although it has been a year since his passing, Kim continues to live on in the memories of those who worked alongside him.
The Korean-born conductor founded the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra in 2015. The group rapidly emerged as one of the most exciting ensembles in New York’s classical music scene, dedicated to bringing vibrant and inspiring symphonic music to a broad and diverse audience.
The orchestra never charged admission to its concerts, which were regularly attended by large audiences of hundreds of fans enthralled by the intensity of the energetic and vibrant orchestra.
Kim led performances of the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra perform at venues like Flushing Town Hall and the Korean Mission to the UN. Just days after his passing, the orchestra performed at Mokyang Presbyterian Church in Whitestone, which Kim had helped coordinate.
“Maestro Kim’s posthumous Xmas concert was performed exactly the way he wanted thanks to the members of the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra,” wrote Paul Joseph, a composer in residence at the Queensboro Symphony Orchestra, in a tribute to Kim. “The incredible event was a sad but beautiful celebration of Maestro Kim and his legacy.
“He made a lot of concertgoers and musicians very happy,” Joseph added. “He’ll be missed by so many people. His musicians and his audience loved him.”

55th annual Maspeth tree lighting awakens holiday spirit

Last Friday, the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce brought holiday cheer to the neighborhood with its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Held in Maspeth Memorial Square, a sentimental corner of the neighborhood, residents gathered on the chilly night to sing Christmas carols, watch performances and spend time with their kids.
Assemblyman Brian Barnwell spoke at the event, thanking the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce and Maspeth Federal Savings Bank for making the tree lighting possible every year.
“Without you guys, we’d be in big trouble,” he said. “In the beginning of the pandemic, they bought and distributed masks to all the first responders that we had. They do so much behind the scenes, and they might not even be aware of their impact.”
The crowd watched the children of “A Song and a Dance” on Grand Avenue perform their holiday-themed routines, with tunes ranging from “Jingle Bell Rock” to Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me.”
Maspeth music icons Liz and Bill Huisman brought their folk inspired sound to the crowd, encouraging everyone to sing along and enjoy the music.
When the tree and all the hanging lights lit up after a ten-second countdown, the scene felt like a winter wonderland in the middle of Maspeth.
Bill Huisman called all the children in attendance to join him in singing classic Christmas carols while he played his guitar.
In the spirit of giving, two raffles were held, and two lucky winners got to go home with an Amazon Echo and a brand new bicycle from local business Grand Bicycle.
The highlight of the evening was when Santa Claus arrived. Even though it happens annually, Maspeth resident Tammy Sanchez said events like the tree lighting are essential to the community, especially now.
“They really put a lot of effort into it year after year,” she said. “With all the craziness going on in the world, this is the one thing that they can do for the community to bring happiness and get everyone into the holiday spirit. I am thankful that they do this for the neighborhood.”

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