(Opinion) Journalists: Call racism what it is

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood via Pexels.

What a hell of a week it’s been.

A member of Queens Community Board 5 was removed last week by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards after he referred to COVID-19 as the “Wu flu” during the most recent public full board meeting.

We worked hard to break the story first for a few reasons. Community Boards are an integral part of the neighborhoods we live and work in, and its members represent us and our ever-growing needs. It’s in our DNA to get hyperlocal.

With that said, we must hold these officials to a higher standard. They must be held accountable for their words and actions. If that comes with consequences – so be it.

Richard Huber, a CB5 board member from Glendale, has been removed by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards after the use of an anti-Asian slur during the most recent public meeting.

We have no regrets for how the story was reported, and would like to take this opportunity to explain why journalists should not be afraid to insert themselves into the stories they report.

Complete objectivity in journalism is an outdated concept, which was first legitimized in the 1920s.

As the news industry evolved, the 1960s and onward saw more and more journalists including analysis and interpretation into their reporting – not “just the facts,” as a 2018 TIME opinion piece highlighted.

In 2023, an era of science denial, calls to end our democracy, increased lies by politicians and an abundance of hate and violence – we cannot dance around these issues.

As journalists, we pay attention to these current events on a to-the-minute basis, and no one quite understands these topics in the same ways we do. We have an enormous responsibility.

Professional judgements differ from personal ones. They are based on factual evidence and experience.

Modern notions of objectivity, which strive to be non-partisan, undermines the idea of us being objective to the truth. It’s a disservice to give two talking points equal 50/50 weight, and isn’t objective in deference to the truth.

We reported that the use of “Wu flu” is racist, and that it is a “known racial slur against Chinese people and Asians as a whole.”

To call it anything else is dodging. “Racially tinged” and other synonyms are simply weak writing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not name infectious diseases haphazardly. In 2015, it released new guidelines for the best practices of determining these names, citing the aim to minimize “unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare,” and “avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”

Quickly now, give me one reason other than assigning blame to a certain geographic location for this virus, did Richard Huber have for using that terminology?

Yes, COVID-19 destroyed and ended lives. But to assign blame only opens the door for hate and violence against a certain racial group, in this case, Asians – as they are often viewed as a monolith despite hailing from such a culturally diverse continent.

This term not only assigns blame to Asian people, but it deflects blame from the U.S. government – which many feel did not do nearly enough to address this virus from the get go. 

It ignores the fact that politicians and people gave up, when the easiest thing was to wear a mask and social distance.

If you say “Wu flu,”  you have no serious analysis of what happened with the country’s pandemic response, and we learn nothing about how to protect ourselves.

As for his claims that COVID-19 vaccines alter DNA,we’re going to get a bit medical here, so pay attention; Messenger RNA and Covid-19 vaccines work by delivering instructions to cells in our body to build protections against the virus that causes COVID. After the body produces an immune response it discards all the vaccine, never entering the nucleus of your cells.  But I guess if you don’t trust the CDC, the WHO or just about every accredited medical organization, then go with some study in Sweden.

Community Boards are a forum for members of the neighborhood to give input on bus routes, sanitation, precinct police response, zoning and parks. The borough president appoints the members and expects engagement to help him make decisions on budget items, where attention needs to go to infrastructure (like flooding).

It is not a forum for members to spread opinions about global issues.

It should be noted that the CB5 meeting was held remotely to begin with as a precaution due to COVID-19, flu and RSV concerns.

Yes, Richard – your remarks are completely protected under the first amendment. But you are appointed by the borough president to represent your neighborhood to him. It would have been great if you just apologized for being insensitive, after one member of the board commented that he was offended by what he saw as a racist comment. That’s what we do when our words offend someone, whether we intended it or not.

‘The Monkey King: A Kung Fu Musical’ coming to Queens Theatre

Forest Hills couple to share passion project

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Jonathan and Kimbirdlee Fadner.

Husband and wife team Jonathan and Kimbirdlee Fadner first moved to Forest Hills from California about a decade ago to experience the buzzing musical theater scene that New York City has to offer.

After years of experience and community engagement, the duo looks forward to presenting their passion project, “The Monkey King: A Kung Fu Musical,” for the first time as a fully realized production for young audiences at Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park.

This performance will take place at 3 p.m. on Feb. 11 and 12; however, “The Monkey King” has been a large part of their creative lives since 2018, upon receiving a grant from Queens Council on the Arts.

“That was one of the pinnacle moments for us,” Kimbirdlee said. “At the same time, we both started working with Queens Theatre doing different things like teaching artists’ work, directing, music directing…so that led to us to start to develop ‘The Monkey King.’”

Around the same time, the couple also started working at Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance on Roosevelt Island.

“It’s been really a wonderful, wonderful thing for us and then just growing with that community and helping that community grow,” Jonathan said.

When co-writing “The Monkey King,” the Fadners took inspiration for the main character from “Journey to the West” by Wu Cheng’en, a classic Chinese novel that dates back to the 16th century during the Ming dynasty.

Their production is unique in that it features a big twist: the Monkey King character is female, portrayed by Kimbirdlee.

As an experienced writer, composer and music director, Jonathan said this was a conscious decision as it pays homage to his wife’s Chinese heritage and opens up a window of opportunity for Asian women in theater. “The Monkey King” is also completely powered by Asian cast members.

Throughout the course of her career in musical theater, Kimbirdlee found that there were not many roles written specifically for Asian women such as herself, and wanted to take initiative and change that.

In “The Monkey King,” despite what its title suggests, the lead character is female. Co-writer Kimbirdlee Fadner will portray her.

She said that New York City is the place that allowed her to truly be herself and excel doing what she loves most: performing and entertaining various audiences.

“It’s really here where I discovered that my own Asian female self, it’s kind of a funny thing to say, but I grew up in the Midwest, not being around too much Asian culture and then moved to California where I felt that there was non-traditional casting going on,” she explained. “But it wasn’t seen through the lens of ‘Let’s actually feature the Asian female actor.’ So that’s one of the really profound things that has happened in my career since moving to New York.”

A story of girl power, anti-bullying and representation, “The Monkey King” follows a tribe of monkeys, living on a mountain, under the oppression of the Demon of Havoc.

In hopes of discovering a magical monkey that will come to save them from all their troubles and lead them to the promised land, the Monkey King shows up…and is a girl.

She tries to increase her power in the world – not just for herself, but for her tribe – and conflicts arise throughout the storyline.

“It’s so cool because never has the Monkey King appeared as a girl…ever,” Kimbirdlee said of the role.

Jonathan said that another unique aspect of the show is that since it is a kung fu musical, the choreography (set by Max Erhlich) is based around the martial art form. In addition, “The Monkey King’s” soundtrack features a mix of classical and rock musical elements.

Jonathan and Kimbirdlee thank the cast and crew for making this production possible: Steven Eng, director; I Chen Wang, projection designer; Erin Black, costume designer; Madeline Goddard, set designer; Kelly Ruth Cole, stage manager; Charlotte Fung Miller, artist; Jerry Fadner, graphic designer; Sarah Lam Chiu, Ellis Gage, Brian Jose, Charles Pang, Gage Thomas, Bella Villanueva and Annie Yamamoto – cast members.

As the parents of two young children, the Fadners understand firsthand the importance of sharing arts and culture with youth.

“The Monkey King” was actually staged as a children’s theater production at first, and being able to share that experience with young people has been incredibly powerful, Kimbirdlee said.

“One really special experience I had was teaching it as an in-school residency early on, and the ending showcase was the entire fourth grade performing a version of ‘The Monkey King’ all in unison,” she said. “We were able to teach the lessons that we were so inspired by with girl power, Asian culture, anti-bullying and just this overall empowerment, in a universal way that every child in this fourth grade could comprehend, could get excited about and then could actually perform it together.”

Taryn Sacramone, executive director of Queens Theatre, is proud to have such a great relationship with the Fadners through the dedicated work they’ve done at the institution.

She said that audiences can expect to be completely delighted and to discover an exciting, action-packed musical in a way that hasn’t been done before.

“We knew this was a passion project and that there was a gap that they saw in the world…you don’t see many of these stories with an Asian actress in the lead and taking an important folkloric tale and telling it in a new way, reaching multiple generations with it,” Sacramone said. “They had this really compelling vision, and they’re also just wonderful people and parents themselves, so they really understand young audiences and what people respond to.”

She shared that years ago, they did a reading of an earlier draft of “The Monkey King” at Queens Theatre, which was extremely well-received.

Sacramone also feels that “The Monkey King” as a production truly aligns with the mission of Queens Theatre, which is to reflect and celebrate the diversity of local communities.

The Fadners feel lucky to maintain and grow relationships within the performing arts community, including with Queens Theatre.

“I think that’s one of the beautiful lessons that we’ve learned coming to New York,” Kimbirdlee said while tearing up, “To have an organization like Queens Theatre believe in us and in our work…means so much to us.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: https://queenstheatre.org/event/the-monkey-king/, or call the box office at (718) 760-0064.

New bubble tea shop opens its doors in Ridgewood

Tsaocaa strives to bring quality food and drink to locals

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Tsaocaa’s menu includes a wide variety of teas.

Earlier this month, residents of Ridgewood extended a warm welcome to Tsaocaa, a brand new bubble tea shop in the community.

Located at 65-07 Fresh Pond Road, the shop sits in a prime location where both longtime locals and passersby alike can stop in and enjoy a cup of bubble tea.

Wendy Lin, owner of the location, first arrived in the U.S. from Hong Kong almost 22 years ago, and has lived in Ridgewood ever since.

Loosely translated, “Tsaocaa” means “the holy land of tea,” and the franchise’s website looks at its team members as being on the pilgrimage road. Tsaocaa has over 100 locations across the U.S.

Tsaocaa opened its doors on Jan. 7

Lin feels this sentiment resonates with her own journey in the restaurant industry.

“I really like milk tea; I make myself one every day. But the ones that I make for myself versus the ones at Tsaocaa are totally different, as they use different types of tea, different roasts,” she explained. “Basically what we do is to try to fulfill whatever the Ridgewood area needs, and want to bring something special here.”

Tsaocaa’s menu includes various types of roasts, including sakura, jasmine and green tea. They offer a wide variety of options, including classic and slush style fruit tea, fruit mojitos, milk swirl and milk bubble tea.

Flavors across the menu range from grapefruit, mango, strawberry, kiwi, dragon fruit, lychee, blueberry, peach and many more.

Lin said that Tsaocaa is unique in that its teas not only taste great, but consist solely of pure, natural ingredients. Presentation is also of utmost importance, as their products are also served in an aesthetically pleasing way.

This is not Lin’s first endeavor in food and beverage, as she also owns Sushi Yoshi, which is located at the same site.

Lin’s other food business, Sushi Yoshi, is at the same site as Tsaocaa.

She’s been making sushi at the location for eight years, and its varieties include classic sushi rolls and signature rolls – such as the “Fresh Pond Roll” – which includes salmon, fresh pineapple and crunch topped with avocado and black caviar with mango sauce.

Other options include bowls, burritos, burgers, egg waffles, soups and salads.

Lin said that despite opening up so recently, she already has several regulars who stop by multiple times per week.

She’s thrilled to serve her community.

“I hear so many customers say they’ve been waiting to see this kind of location in the Ridgewood area, and we already have regulars,” Lin said. “That makes me so happy.”

Tsaocaa is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and online ordering options such as UberEats, Grubhub and DoorDash – as well as their own online ordering service: https://www.onlineorder.abcpos.com/sushiyoshiridgewood/88b2a8c6856849daac58da72b81a3553.

Maspeth Federal Savings teaches financial literacy to Molloy High School students

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Toya Brown gives Molloy High School students a seminar on credit and debt.

Last Thursday, Maspeth Federal Savings Bank (MFS) ventured out into the community to educate students about financial literacy.

Employees of the bank visited Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood as part of their commitment to community involvement and sharing valuable information with youth.

Toya Brown, assistant bank officer and executive assistant to David Daraio, senior vice president and COO, and Michael Corteo, senior credit analyst, gave a slideshow presentation to the students, sharing quintessential talking points about all things savings, budgeting and credit.

Michael Corteo’s portion of the seminar focused on savings and budgeting.

“Maspeth Federal has a very long history of giving back to the community, and one of the things that we recently started in the last couple of years was financial literacy amongst not just high schools, but colleges,” said Akshay Mehandru, vice president and credit manager at MFS. “Our goal for starting this was to educate the younger generation, providing financial literacy to them, that they may not have access to or have conversations about with their peers.”

Although he wasn’t at the most recent presentation, Mehandru has much experience giving these lessons to students.

He said that because they’re usually so busy pursuing other milestones in their lives, students don’t always have the opportunity or time to have these important conversations.

“I genuinely love talking about loans, credit and making smart financial decisions young because I’ve been there. When I was back in high school, I wanted to have something like that – I should have had something like that – but it was never brought up,” he said.

He feels it’s essential to educate young people about things such as how to get a credit card, where to save money, how to get a car loan or what loan options they have.

Brown, whose portion of the presentation included the topics of savings and budgeting, emphasized the key five steps to managing a budget – which are evaluating one’s needs versus wants, setting goals, knowing one’s income and expenses, formulating a spending plan and sticking to that plan.

“Our mission is to get young people aware of their finances: the point of having a savings and checking account, and the importance of credit,” she said. “All of this knowledge is out there, but it’s not always put into an easy way for kids these days to understand.”

Half the battle is getting children and teens to listen to this advice in the first place, and Brown is confident that the Molloy students were actively listening and engaged.

“They had a lot of questions, especially when it comes to credit…but also budgeting for college and how to save up for that,” she said.

MFS aspires to continue sharing these life lessons with Queens youth, and encourages any interested school or business to visit their website and request a seminar on financial literacy. 

Remembering Gina Lollobrigida: Memories of a superstar in Queens

By Walter Karling

2 unidentified women; Queens Borough President Donald Manes; Gina Lollobrigida; Bishop Anthony Bevilacqua of the Diocese of Brooklyn [He later became a Cardinal]; and Queens District Attorney John Santucci.

As you probably know, the great Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida recently died.

I checked through my archives and found some photos I shot of her at an event entitled “Vita Italia,” which was held 42 years ago on February 26, 1981.   This  took place at the Terrace on the Park.

I remember the late Vincent Iannece, father of now Judge Jerry Iannece, the president of the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Queens calling me at the last minute about her appearing there.

I have no idea what the event was about but I hustled over anyway and got some photos. I scanned these from my negatives.

Manes, Lollobrigida, Bevilacqua, Santucci.

Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (1/26)

CTE Shop Class:  NOW – IT’S HIGH-TECH

Don’t be fooled by statistics

By Mike Porcelli

Schools should provide education that matches students’ abilities and talents. Many education experts now agree.

Michael J. Petrilli, leader of the Hoover Institution’s education policy think tank, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, says: “Those of us in the policy world have gotten it wrong… thinking that high schools’ only job is preparing kids for a four-year liberal arts degree.” 

I’ve seen how this, “college for every student policy,” has destroyed trade education. For decades, students whose abilities and learning styles do not conform with the opinions of school administrators, have been deprived of their best educational opportunities in CTE programs, and subsequently – highly lucrative careers. 

In 1994, President Bill Clinton said, “We are living in a world where what you earn is a function of what you can learn.”

With that in mind, parents who want their children to achieve success, try to guide them toward their best educational options. Unfortunately for many, especially low-income parents with limited education backgrounds themselves, this is an impossible task. They therefore rely on so-called “experts” for advice.

Since I was in grade school, most giving career guidance have spouted statistics showing that college graduates earn much more than non-grads – leading students and parents to believe that the only path to success is a sheepskin. This has led millions to drop out of colleges – with low skills and high levels of debt. 

Here’s how the experts’ figures are misleading. They generally compare the lifetime earnings of all college grads to those with just a high school diploma. These numbers are distorted by the earnings of people at the extreme high and low ends. For example, most professional sports stars making millions each year, and other top-tier professionals, have college degrees. This tends to skew their income distribution toward the higher end of the spectrum. Conversely, unemployed, partially unemployed and part-time workers lower the average income of those without college.

I suggest that a better examination would assess the earnings of the middle 80 percent of the worker population. When comparing median earnings of most college grads to the same segment with a high school education and some sort of trade-certification, the earnings gap all but disappears. 

Although the disparity in earnings of college graduates and those with only a high school education may be great, when compared to high school grads with trade skills certifications, for most of the population, there is no distinguishable difference in incomes. 

Consider this when choosing schools: Recent statistics show median earnings of Ph.D.s in the humanities were $80,000 and the median earnings for all Ph.D.s are generally $104,000. Most skilled trade workers in New York City make much more than that, working in both the public and private sectors – with little or no college debt.

Who’s smarter now?

Academic & Trade Education are Two Sides of a Coin. This column explores the impact of CTE programs on students, society, and the economy.

Mike Porcelli: life-long mechanic, adjunct professor, and host of Autolab Radio, is committed to restoring trade education in schools before it’s too late. https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-porcelli-master-mechanic-allasecerts/

Six Queens and Brooklyn firehouses receive solar roofing

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

Credit: NYC DCAS

Six FDNY firehouses across Queens and Brooklyn have finished their solar roof installations.

The new panels are solar photovoltaic systems which the city says be used to make sure firehouses can remain operational during emergencies, as well as helping reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

In Queens: Astoria Engine Company 260 in Astoria, Engine Companies 291 and Ladder 140 in Ridgewood, Engine Companies 302 and Ladder 155 in Jamaica received the new upgrade. Brooklyn firehouse that got upgrades include Engine Company 254 and Ladder 153 in Gravesend, Engine Company 236 in East New York, Engine Company 309 and Ladder 159 in Flatlands.

The six firehouses were selected due to recently experienced power outages according to a press release from the Department of Citywide Administrative services announcing the installations on Monday.

Costs for the installation totaled $2.4 million and were funded by the DCAS. The panels will be managed both by the DCAS and the New York Power authority.

The new solar panels have been paired with a battery bank to keep the solar systems charged in case of an emergency. The batteries help operate roll up doors, fuel pumps, some lights, electrical outlets and more.

DCAS indicated that they are planning to expand the solar photovoltaic systems with specific focus on more firehouses, police stations and libraries.

“Firehouses are an integral part of keeping our city safe and remaining operational is critically important to the safety of our city,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement. “We are happy to partner with NYPA to lower our carbon footprint, and bring solar upgrades to more of our firehouses. We know this is a pathway to a more sustainable, safer city.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing