Reality House Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Expands Facilities

by Charlie Finnerty

Reality House, Inc., a substance abuse and addiction treatment center in Astoria, are expanding their residential in-patient facility on Astoria Blvd. from 30 beds to 60 and opened a new outpatient office. Specializing in reintegration, Reality House takes a community-based approach to help individuals secure housing, employment and other essential needs to rebuild their life after struggling with addiction. Executive Director Michael Cannaday said he sees reintegration as providing the support needed to ensure the longer recovery process is successful.

“Reintegration is the next step after rehab, it’s not an alternative,” Cannaday said. “Some people go to rehab and they have support in place; they have family, they have support.”

Reality House provides substance use treatment, mental health counseling, housing and employment services for patients, according to Clinical Program Director Roland Smith. While most patients come from Queens, Smith said Reality House serves individuals across the city and offers virtual services for those who want to stay connected to the program remotely. The residential in-patient care program is typically 6 months.

“Because it’s a reintegration program it’s more of a step down from maybe a more intensive residential program,” Smith said. “It’s a lot less restricted. They can be back in their communities, visit their families and work.”

Established in Harlem in 1967, Reality House initially focused on offering culturally-appropriate substance abuse, HIV treatment and prevention, mental health treatment and PTSD recovery for veterans. While veterans are still a central part of their work, Smith said that their services have expanded to be open to all New Yorkers that need support. Expanding their residential facilities will help to better serve those individuals since Reality House regularly has a waiting list of at least 30 people, according to Smith.

Roland Smith at Reality House. Credit: Charlie Finnerty.

Like many staff and counselors involved with addiction and recovery treatment, Cannaday and Smith were both drawn to community-based work after their own personal experiences and struggles.

“The last time I was incarcerated, there was a correction officer who used to walk by everyday and he used to give me the newspaper, he’d give me coffee,” Cannaday said. “When I left I asked him, ‘Why’d you alway give me that stuff?’ and he said ‘I heard you speak before. You’re a smart dude, you’re a decent looking guy. I was invested in you because you have the potential to live next door to me and I wanna know who’s going to live next door to me.’ That sticks with me like a ton of bricks to this day.”

Cannaday said he hopes reintegration facilities like Reality House can become examples for an alternative path for the city and state to support people dealing with addiction, mental illness and poverty that isn’t dependent on criminalization. Particularly after seeing the city’s response to the ongoing asylum seeker crisis, Cannaday said he feels the failures to support those struggling with substances or homelessness is a lack of political will rather than a lack of available resources.

Reality House staff receive a presentation from the national guard. Credit: Charlie Finnerty.

“It just gets so disparaging, when you see how much money we’re utilizing in the state and the city right now, because you know what it says? It says that we have the capability to do something, but we really choose not to do it. And that’s what makes people say, ‘Is this a setup?’” Cannaday said. “You say you want us to turn out better but you don’t want to invest in turning it out and you don’t even have the vision to see how far this impacts society. Most these people have mental health issues that are undiagnosed, especially people of color.”

Reality House can be reached at (212) 281-6004.

The Woodhaven Beat: Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

Patrolman Arthur Kenney (left), killed while defending the residents of Woodhaven in March 1926, left behind a wife and a young daughter. Kenney will be honored in Woodhaven 98 years after his death, on Saturday, April 6th, when the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue is co-named in his honor. 98 years after his shooting, New York grieves the loss of another hero, Officer Jonathan Diller, killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Like Patrolman Arthur Kenney, Officer Diller leaves behind a wife and a young child, a 1-year-old boy.

By Ed Wendell
A tragedy happened in Woodhaven nearly 100 years ago. A police officer from another part of Queens, temporarily assigned here to find one dangerous criminal, lost his life on the streets of Woodhaven, defending our community.
On Saturday, April 6th, ninety-eight years after Patrolman Arthur Kenney died from injuries sustained here in Woodhaven, he will be honored by having the corner of 80th Street and 90th Avenue co-named in his honor.
The ceremony will begin at 1:30 PM and is the work of the Newtown Historical Society, Councilwoman Joann Ariola and the Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society. A reception will be held afterwards at Neir’s Tavern.
The Newtown Historical Society and its President Christina Wilkinson have been honoring police officers killed in the line of duty for quite a while and this year they turned their attention to Woodhaven.
Later this year, School Safety Agent Orville Williams, who suffered a heart attack while breaking up a fight between students at Franklin K. Lane in 1999, and Sergeant Thomas F. J. O’Grady, who died due to injuries sustained while responding to a stabbing at Dexter Park in 1916, will also be honored with street co-namings in Woodhaven.
Back in 1926, residents of Woodhaven were living in fear due to a dangerous criminal who had been breaking into residents’ homes and stealing one of the most valuable things many of them owned, the relatively new item every household had to have, a radio.
Reports ranged from 50 to over 100 radios stolen from residents and homeowners began taking down their aerials so it would appear that they didn’t own one. The police flooded the area with plainclothes detectives and uniformed patrolmen to try and corral the criminal the press had dubbed “The Radio Burglar.”
At 2:30 in the morning of March 25th, 1926, police were summoned to a home on 78th Street by a housewife who saw a man acting suspiciously outside a neighbor’s home. When the detectives arrived at the scene, they noticed a flickering light inside the home and one of the officers walked down the alley and into the backyard to investigate.
Detective Frank Donnelly of Long Island City was near the back door when it opened and a man, identifying himself as the homeowner, asked “What’s the matter? Is there anything I can do for you?”
Before the Detective could answer, there was an explosion and he fell, a bullet lodged in his chest. The burglar had shot Donnelly without removing his hand from his jacket pocket.
In the chaos, and under the cover of darkness, the burglar escaped and emerged on 90th Avenue, with Patrolman Arthur Kenney and another officer in hot pursuit. The chase continued past 80th Street, with Kenney closing in, when the burglar disappeared into some bushes.
Patrolman Arthur Kenney followed the suspect’s trail into a dark backyard where he almost collided with a man claiming to be a fellow police officer, also in pursuit.
“I think the man you’re looking for jumped over that fence,” he told Kenney.
Keep in mind that the streets were flooded with plainclothes detectives from all over Queens and they didn’t all know each other. And in that brief momentary pause, the suspect fired his gun from his jacket pocket again, striking Kenney in the neck, before vanishing into the night.
Patrolman Arthur Kenney battled for two weeks before succumbing to his injuries. He was 28 years old and left behind a wife and a young daughter.
His killer, Paul Hilton the Radio Burglar, was captured a few weeks later at the Polo Grounds. He would be convicted and executed for his crimes within a year.
And now, nearly a hundred years later, as Woodhaven prepares to honor a hero lost in 1926, our hearts are broken by the murder of another young hero, Officer Jonathan Diller, lost this week.
Diller, just 31 years old, was killed by a career criminal during a traffic stop in Far Rockaway. Like Patrolman Arthur Kenney, Officer Diller leaves behind a wife and a young child, a 1-year-old boy.
One constant in life is that there will always be bad guys on the streets, and we will always need good police officers to combat them. And sadly, another constant is that police officers will be killed while doing that job.
Our prayers go out to the families of all fallen officers like Patrolman Arthur Kenney and Officer Jonathan Diller and to all the officers that continue to put their lives at risk for our safety, night after night, year after year.
They show bravery and courage that, frankly, is sometimes hard to comprehend. And so, honoring their memories while praying for their souls is the very least we can offer.

BQE Redevelopment Initiative Receives $5.6M Federal Grant to Bridge Neighborhood Divides

Examples of treatments that could be applied to BQE North and South. Credit: Department of Transportation


The U.S. Department of Transportation has greenlit a $5.6 million grant to propel forward a transformative redesign of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s (BQE) North and South corridors, Brooklyn elected officials revealed.  For nearly seven decades, the BQE, colloquially referred to as the “trench,” has severed neighborhoods like South Williamsburg and Sunset Park, fostering environmental hazards and health concerns due to noise, pollution, and heightened levels of respiratory illnesses.

This substantial grant, announced on March 12, aims to mend these urban scars, fostering community cohesion while mitigating the adverse environmental and economic impacts stemming from the daily influx of approximately 150,000 vehicles along the expressway.

Brooklyn representatives, alongside the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Environmental Justice Coalition, a consortium comprising 17 community groups spanning northern to southern Brooklyn, have waged a sustained campaign to rectify the infrastructural rifts caused by the BQE’s inception, led by the influential urban planner Robert Moses. In a unified statement on the 12th, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Rep. Dan Goldman (NY-10), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand lauded the decision, highlighting their concerted efforts to prioritize the “BQE Connects: Advancing the BQE North and South Corridor Vision” grant.

“This grant is the catalyst we need to finally put together a comprehensive plan to reimagine the entire BQE corridor and to address environmental justice issues that plague the northern and southern portions of the expressway,” the officials stated. “Our offices will work to ensure this is just the beginning of the federal government’s investment in the BQE with fairness and justice at the forefront.”

Echoing this sentiment, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Environmental Justice Coalition emphasized a clear vision to reshape the BQE into a space prioritizing the well-being of all affected communities, pledging to advocate for environmentally conscious decision-making in future infrastructure planning.  Notably, the grant’s approval follows Mayor Eric Adams’ announcement, heralding a significant step toward rectifying the historical disunity sewed by the BQE’s construction.

Governor Kathy Hochul and state DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez reaffirmed their dedication to collaborative efforts with the community and governmental stakeholders in this endeavor.  Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi lauded the city’s Federal Infrastructure Task Force for crafting exemplary grant applications, which also secured a $117 million federal grant to advance the QueensWay project, a park initiative situated on a disused corridor of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch. However, a contentious $800 million NYC DOT grant proposal aimed at rebuilding the deteriorating BQE Central section, stretching from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, was recently rebuffed. NYC DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez expressed eagerness to explore various initiatives in consultation with Brooklyn residents along the BQE, envisioning possibilities like highway capping, street redesigns, and other enhancements to the corridor.

Notably, NYC DOT has orchestrated workshops to solicit ideas for enhancing areas adjacent to the BQE North and South, emphasizing community engagement in envisioning the future of these regions.  According to DOT’s release, proposed treatments for BQE North and South encompass full or partial highway capping, pedestrian infrastructure enhancements, intersection and ramp optimizations, and under-elevated improvements. At least two proposals, each addressing BQE North and South, will progress to partial design, laying the groundwork for further collaboration between DOT and NYSDOT to foster community reconnection initiatives across the corridor.

Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul aimed financing planning endeavors to enhance the quality of life for residents residing in proximity to the BQE, particularly those hailing from disadvantaged communities. This grant will facilitate the exploration of proposals to revitalize connectivity in the local transportation network, bolstering accessibility to employment, amenities, and green spaces while fortifying safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists.

The comprehensive efforts outlined Mayor Adams’ overarching BQE Corridor Vision, underscoring a commitment to collaborate with communities along Brooklyn’s sole interstate highway, redressing longstanding divides and addressing critical infrastructure challenges within the city-owned BQE Central stretch between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street.

QueensWay Receives Major Boost with $117 Million Federal Grant

A $117 million federal grant injects new life into the ambitious QueensWay project, aiming to transform a blighted stretch of abandoned railway into a vibrant linear park and cultural greenway in Central Queens. Rendering of the QueensWay. Credit: Trust for Public Land


The ambitious QueensWay project, aimed at transforming a blighted 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railway in Central Queens into a vibrant linear park and cultural greenway, received a significant boost with the announcement of a $117 million federal grant.

The grant, part of the “Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program – Neighborhood Access and Equity Program” issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, marks a watershed moment in the initiative’s progress.

Led by the Friends of the QueensWay (FQW) in collaboration with The Trust for Public Land, the project has garnered widespread support from various quarters since its inception in 2011. The conversion of the former LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch into a public park has been championed by local residents, civic organizations, and advocacy groups, with the aim of revitalizing the area and enhancing the quality of life for residents of Queens and beyond.

“In communities like Queens, greenspace is limited, and transportation projects have historically disconnected diverse neighborhoods and discouraged walkability, and QueensWay stands to help change this,” U.S. Representative Grace Meng said.

Mayor Eric Adams hailed the federal funding as a testament to the city’s commitment to fostering community cohesion and investing in transformative infrastructure projects.

“Our infrastructure should be bringing communities together, not tearing them apart, and that’s why we aggressively pursued these Reconnecting Communities grants, to reshape our city in a way that unites us,” Mayor Adams said. “The next phase of the QueensWay will add more greenway miles, vibrant parks, and outdoor amenities to neighborhoods across Queens, and the BQE Corridor grant we won moves us closer to undoing some of the damage that Robert Moses caused and invests in beautiful, interconnected new public spaces.”

The Rockaway Beach Branch, abandoned since 1962, once extended from the LIRR main line at Rego Park through Ozone Park and across Jamaica Bay to the Rockaways. Its construction began in 1877, with services commencing in the 1880s and full completion in the 1910s and 1920s. However, recurring track fires near Jamaica Bay in the 1940s and 1950s made maintenance financially impractical for the LIRR.

In 1955 and 1956, significant changes occurred, New York City acquired part of the line for subway tracks which is now used by the A train, while the LIRR reduced operations due to low ridership. Service ceased entirely on June 8, 1962. Despite numerous attempts to reactivate the RBB, studies consistently deem it infeasible due to high costs, commuter disruptions, environmental impacts, and adverse effects on existing communities.

The $117 million grant will specifically support the Forest Park Pass project, an extension of the QueensWay into Forest Park. This phase of the project will encompass approximately 1.3 miles of greenway, new greenway bridges, recreational amenities, and connections to existing facilities in Forest Park, including Victory Field. Once completed, the QueensWay will comprise 47 acres of new park space and seven miles of greenway, spanning multiple neighborhoods including Rego Park, Forest Hills, Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, and Ozone Park.

“My thanks to President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg for establishing this transformational grant program and investing $123 million in federal grants to support our city’s growing infrastructure needs, as well as to all of our city, state, and federal partners who went to bat for New York City,” Mayor Adams said.

The announcement comes on the heels of a $35 million investment for the design and construction of Phase One of the QueensWay, known as the Metropolitan Hub (Met Hub). This initial phase, set to transform a vacant city-owned corridor in Forest Hills into a five-acre park with 0.7 miles of greenway, aims to provide residents with enhanced access to recreational amenities and safe transportation corridors.

The QueensWay project has drawn inspiration from successful precedents such as the High Line in Manhattan, the Atlanta BeltLine, and the 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C. By repurposing underutilized rail corridors, these projects have not only created recreational opportunities but also stimulated economic and cultural development in their respective communities.

“This innovative project will create a new signature park in the heart of Queens, transforming an abandoned rail line into a vibrant greenspace where New Yorkers can enjoy all the health benefits of time outdoors,’ New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) Commissioner Sue Donoghue said. “With over a mile of new greenway paths for pedestrians and cyclists, the QueensWay will provide new connections between neighborhoods and give New Yorkers a safe way to get around and enjoy the fresh air.”

While the QueensWay project has garnered broad support, potential criticisms include concerns about environmental impact,  accessibility issues, long-term maintenance and funding and levels of community consultation.

With the latest infusion of federal funding, the QueensWay project is poised to enter its next phase of development, bringing to fruition a vision of a dynamic urban green space that promotes health, connectivity, and community engagement.

“Friends of the Queensway has been advocating for our communities and activation of this rails to trails project for more than a decade, and we commend federal and city leaders for collaborating on this extraordinary investment to activate quality park space and parks access,” Friends of the Queensway said.

For more information on the QueensWay project and upcoming developments, visit

Queens Chamber Hosts Annual St Patrick’s Day Luncheon

by Queens Ledger Staff  |

The Queens Chamber of Commerce welcomed leaders in business, politics and culture from across the borough to Antun’s in Queens Village for their annual St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon March 13. The event celebrated the contributions of Irish-Americans to Queens with food, entertainment, and recognition of honorees Jack Schlossberg and Mary Murphy.

President and CEO of the Queens Cham­ber of Commerce Tom Grech opened the event by honoring former NYC Council Member Paul Vallone, who passed away in January, before invocations from Bishop Robert Brennan and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik. The luncheon featured traditional Irish fare, performances by Fallon O’Brien of the Hagen Kavanagh School of Irish Dance, music by The Cobblers, and presentation of colors by the 2nd Battalion 25th Marines. The National Anthem was performed by Emily Kightlinger of St. Francis Prep.

Murphy is an award-winning journalist born and raised in Queens. She served as an anchor for PIX11 News for nearly 15 years and received multiple Emmy awards her reporting, spanning the opioid crisis, the September 11th terror attacks, the “Junior” case in the Bronx, the death of Princess Diana, Hurricane Sandy, the Black Sunday fire in 2005, and 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800. Murphy said the stories that stuck with her the most were missing people and cold cases in which families were still looking for justice.

“The main reason I lasted so long on TV is because every day, New Yorkers trusted me to tell their stories and for that I am in their debt,” Murphy said. “They gave me a career.

Schlossberg, the only grandson of President John F. Kennedy, is an activist and attorney currently serving on President Biden’s reelection campaign as part of their voter protection team in battleground states. In his speech, Schlossberg spoke about his passion for paddleboarding. He can be found in the East River in the early hours of most mornings with a few friends and said it was an essential part of his routine as he prepared to pass the bar exam last year.

With a large portion of his speech focusing on the 2024 election and his belief in President Biden, Schlossberg looked to Queens as an example for what it means to bring the country together at a tense political moment.

“Queens is the most diverse place in our country,” Schlossberg said in his speech. “These days, people like to talk about how divided they think we are. They should come to Queens, because people out here seem to get along pretty well.”

Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center continues to Face Community Concerns in Glendale

Community concerns and efforts for collaboration intensify as the Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center in Glendale faces scrutiny. Despite its aim to support homeless single men, challenges in communication and integration persist, prompting discussions on its impact within the neighborhood.

By Mohamed Farghaly 

Since its inception in 2020, the Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center located at 78-16 Cooper Ave in Glendale has been a focal point of both hope and concern within the local community. Designed to provide shelter and support services for homeless single men, the facility aims to facilitate their transition into stable employment and permanent housing. However, challenges have arisen, prompting discussions on its impact and integration within the neighborhood.

The Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center, designed to accommodate up to 200 men and facilitate their transition into employment and permanent housing, has encountered hurdles in its operational framework.

Kathy Masi, Head of the Glendale Civic Association, shed light on the challenges the shelter has faced and its impact on the neighborhood. Masi highlighted the prolonged struggle to establish a functioning Community Advisory Board (CAB), which she described as critical for fostering community engagement and transparency.

“The shelter was supposed to have a CAB meeting every month, but it has taken three years to get it functioning,” Masi explained. “Theoretically, these meetings serve as a platform for exchanging information about shelter residents’ progress and addressing community concerns, but the delay has hindered effective communication.”

Community members have expressed apprehension over various issues, including shelter residents loitering in Pinocchio Park, adjacent to the local elementary school, and the lack of structured activities for residents when they are not working. Masi emphasized the strain on community resources, citing the frequency of emergency calls related to shelter incidents which may take away from other emergency priorities in the area.

“If 911 is responding 50 times a month to shelter incidents, they’re not servicing the rest of the community,” Masi stated, underscoring the need for sustainable solutions to alleviate the burden on local services.

Despite efforts to improve communication between the shelter and the community, Masi acknowledged persistent challenges. She pointed out the absence of collaborative initiatives beyond the recently established CAB meetings, emphasizing the importance of transparency and community involvement.

“Homelessness is a persistent challenge throughout New York City, and it requires a city-wide response and a network of expert providers,” Leah Richardson, Communications Manager at Westhab responded. “Westhab opened the Cooper Rapid Re-Housing Center four years ago, and we’ve provided services to several hundred individuals during this time. Currently (as of 3/28/24), 192 individuals reside at Cooper, which has a total capacity of 200 residents. Residents arrive at Cooper with various needs and barriers to attaining – and maintaining – permanent housing. Our team works to provide a welcoming and supportive environment and delivers the specific services each resident needs to reach their goals and achieve independence. Our professionally-trained team is on-site 24/7 and is skilled at providing case management, employment, home-finding services, and referrals to a wide network of community-based partner providers. Since opening 4 years ago, 205 residents have moved to permanent housing, including 73 in 2023. Additionally, we’ve placed 356 individuals into employment, including 95 in 2023.”

“Transparency and dialogue are key to fostering understanding and collaboration,” Masi said. “By actively engaging with the community and addressing concerns, we can move towards a better relationship and create positive change for everyone involved.”

Despite the Glendale Civic Association’s eagerness to extend support and assistance to the Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center through initiatives like coat drives and other community outreach efforts, the shelter’s willingness to collaborate beyond bi-monthly meetings remains limited. Though there have been repeated offers of collaboration from the association, the shelter has shown reluctance to engage in additional joint efforts.

“There are so many things we can be doing together,” Masi said. “We are a very giving community willing to hold events like a men’s clothing drive so we can get them clothes and events of that nature. We’re willing to do a community cleanup, but they haven’t really taken us up on anything.”

Looking ahead, Masi emphasized the importance of open communication and community engagement. She advocated for greater transparency, including opportunities for civic associations to tour the facility and engage with shelter administration.

“I have not once been invited on a tour of the facility since it opened,” Masi remarked, highlighting disparities in community outreach efforts compared to other areas. “We have no idea what goes on in there.”

As discussions continue on how to address community concerns and foster mutual understanding, the civic association is committed to finding sustainable solutions to ensure the well-being of both shelter residents and the broader Glendale and Queens community.

“We’ve shown a commitment to open and ongoing dialogue on how we can be the best neighbor possible through our active Community Advisory Board,” Richardson said. “In addition, we’ve built strong relationships with various business, non-profit, faith-based, and government partners who have stepped up to help Cooper residents through job referrals, donations, and other types of support. Westhab is proud to deliver services at Cooper, which is part of a city-wide safety net provided for our neighbors who have fallen on tough times.

Queens Community Orgs Host Town Hall on Tenant Right to Counsel Bill

by Charlie Finnerty |

Credit: Charlie Finnerty

Woodside on the Move, the Right to Counsel Coalition, Chhaya, Catholic Migration Services and other Queens-based community organizations hosted a tenant organizing town hall Feb. 21 at St. Sebastian Parish Center in Woodside. Organizers spoke to tenants about Right to Counsel for ALL (A1493 / S2721), a bill proposed in the state legislature that would establish a right to legal services in eviction proceedings for all tenants across New York.

Attendees received presentations on what a right to counsel would mean for tenants and demonstrated how to provide feedback and testimony to elected officials. The bill is currently awaiting a new sponsor in the state assembly before it can move forward. District 30 Assemblymember Steven Raga and District 37 Assemblymember Juan Ardila also spoke at the event.

“The purpose and the goal of this event was really to just relaunch Right to Counsel’s legislative and budget campaign. That’s why we had the teach-in, but also it had the emphasis on statewide right to counsel and informing tenants about what that entails and providing testimony to support it and galvanize it,” Frances Hamed, policy & advocacy coordinator for Woodside on the Move, said.

Credit: Charlie Finnerty

Tenants at the event spoke about their own experiences with housing court where many felt the judges were biased in favor of landlords who had access to legal representation.

“He has rights who dare to defend them,” one tenant said, speaking into a microphone at the front of the room. “We have to change how housing court judges are put on the bench in New York City. Housing court judges should be elected, not selected. Let them pay for a campaign and be elected.”

Another tenant spoke about how economic suppression of Latino communities adds an additional obstacle to housing burdens. His testimony was translated into English by event organizers.

“I’ve been in housing court fighting my case,” the tenant said. “It has been very traumatizing as a Latino person that we are people that do not have economic power.”

Yhamir Chabur, a housing and tenant organizer for Woodside on the Move, said he is inspired by advocacy and community organizing groups across Queens working together.

“Queens is getting closer to unifying itself,” Chabur said. “We have to keep the momentum going, because all of us experience this. It’s not fair that you have the landlord class and they’re easily able to have access to lawyers to represent them. This system supposedly says that it’s democratic because it’s capitalist, but yet it favors those that have access to capital.”

Raga, who was formerly executive director for Woodside on the Move before being elected to the State Assembly, spoke in support of the bill at the event, saying he feels hopeful there is support for it in Albany.

“It’s a broad coalition of folks that know that this is a moral issue,” Raga said. “Whether or not you have constituents in your district that are fighting for it, no matter what you should know that this is about right or wrong.”

Assembly Member Steven Raga speaks at the town hall. Credit: Charlie Finnerty

Hamed said Woodside on the Move and their partner organizations fighting for Right to Counsel are focused on gaining more support for the bill in the state legislature.

“In terms of next steps, I feel it’s very important to garner the support of all the legislators who haven’t signed on,” Hamed said. “I feel confident that Right to Counsel will be something that we see implemented statewide, given all the testimonies we heard from the electeds and the tenants.”

Queens Lawmakers Rally for SMOKEOUT Act

By Celia Bernhardt |

Credit: Celia Bernhardt

State Assemblyperson Jenifer Rajkumar held a rally with State Senator Leroy Comrie and about 20 supporters on the steps of City Hall on Friday to call for the SMOKEOUT Act to be included in the State’s enacted budget.

The SMOKEOUT (Stop Marijuana Overproliferation and Keep Empty Operators of Unlicensed Transactions) Act, first introduced in early January, is Rajkumar’s proposed fix to the state’s bumpy rollout of cannabis legalization and the proliferation of thousands of illegal, unlicensed smoke shops through the five boroughs. Under the proposed rule, local municipalities would have the power to shutter illegal shops and seize all merchandise. Currently, that power is reserved for the State’s Office of Cannabis Management, which has only 14 inspectors statewide.

“I think all New Yorkers feel right now like they’re high, because they look at the situation and it makes no sense,” Rajkumar said at the rally. “There are 1000 times more illegal shops than there are legal shops. There’s only about 60 legal shops in the whole state. And there’s 36,000 illegal shops. How can this be? Am I high right now?”

A Staten Island community leader displays her sign. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Comrie told the crowd that the issue was consistently top of mind among his constitutents. “Every meeting I attend, everywhere I go, people want to see these places shut down,” he said. “The ones that have been inspected, they found rat feces in the basement. They found other chemicals that are being mixed in with the marijuana. You don’t know what you’re getting. You’re not getting it from a safe supplier.”

Rajkumar’s office estimates there are about 1,500 illegal shops in New York City alone. Previous estimates cited by Council Member Lyn Schulman this past summer put that number much higher, at 8,000. Mayor Eric Adams has claimed that if Rajkumar’s legislation is enacted, the city could shut down every illegal shop in 30 days.

“The state budget is due on April 1. That’s five and a half weeks from today. On April 1, I don’t want to be standing here saying ‘April Fools,’” Rajumar said. “I want to be standing here saying ‘we have put the SMOKEOUT Act in the state budget.’”

New Medical Center Comes to Atlas Park

Credit: Northwell Health

Glendale locals will have a centrally-located medical center in the new Northwell Health Physician Partners at Glendale, a multi-speciality practice that just opened in the Shops at Atlas Park.

The $5.1 million facility opened its doors Feb. 15. It features offices for primary care, behavioral health, cardiology, endocrinology, pulmonary medicine, urology, and multiple surgical specialities including general, vascular, colorectal, and otolaryngology surgery. The practice is located inside 80-40 Cooper Ave — the same building which houses Northwell’s STARS Rehabilitation, a physical therapy center that opened in 2023.

“Northwell Health Physician Partners has made the investment in Queens a priority and that’s been made clear by our expanding range of health care services and medical specialists in the region,” said Mark Talamini, senior vice president and executive director of Northwell Health Physician Partners. “We want to be where people live and work to make access to care and the delivery of quality medical services as seamless as possible.”

10 physicians and 27 support staff will man the new Atlas Park center. The offices include 16 exam rooms, an onsite clinical laboratory for point-of-care testing, a procedure room, and all the equipment needed to perform ultrasounds and echocardiogram/ stress tests. The site will see patients six days per week.

“In order to empower ever healthier communities, it’s important that Northwell provides a range of complex care beyond the walls of our hospitals,” said John D’Angelo, senior vice president and regional executive director of Northwell’s Central region. “We have a long history of service to Queens and we’re doing even more in Glendale by bringing ENTs, cardiologists and surgeons to the local community.”

Anyone who needs to make an appointment can contact the center by calling 718-887-3090 or visiting physician-partners-at-glendale.

IN OUR OPINION: The Perfect Storm For The Migrant Violence

Migration to NYC is nothing new. In the 1800’s, early 1900’s and during the wars in Europe, people fled here for a multitude of reasons. We just handled it better. The immigrants came to New York then, just as they are now.

It’s been nearly two years since this new migrant crisis started. Just like it was in the early 1900’s and Ellis Island, new people are arriving daily, if not weekly.

Here’s the difference; we had a plan.

Similar to other times when migrants came here, many people are able to live with relatives. Although it creates a housing problem in many neighborhoods where people are living in spaces meant for far less people, there are still many migrants who are in our migrant housing programs for housing.

It’s living in shelters. It’s living on Randall’s Island, Floyd Bennett Field, at the Roosevelt Hotel and we know there are dozens of other shelters.

The perfect storm has arrived. In perfect storm situations Mother Nature takes over and an inertia is created that can’t really be stopped.

The perfect storm in the migrant crisis results in migrant-on-migrant violence, a lack of regard for police – leading an even more dangerous lack of respect for anyone.

They can’t work, they have little to do but hang out in public spaces, just watching, wondering and waiting. And since it’s been nearly two years it has reached a perfect storm where migrant gangs grow and a crime wave persists.

While, for the last year or so, we have been worrying about retail stores closing because criminals know they can’t be prosecuted, the migrant community has now realized that ‘thuggary’ might be the only way to survive at the moment.

We don’t entirely blame bail reform. We can’t entirely lame the mayor for calling migrants here. We remember when he exclaimed, “We’ll take em.”

We can’t entirely blame the legislature for hot figuring out a way they can get work visas. It’s everything … all at once.

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