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For Immediate Release: Contact:
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2007 Corey Bearak
(718) 343-6779


Statement to the Queens Borough Board, Thursday, February 22, 2007*
Presented by Ethel Levine, Vice President, NEQJCC

Thank you on behalf of our executive director, Gail Eisenberg, and president, Jeff Gurdus, for this opportunity for the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council [�NEQJCC� or �Northeast Queens�] to comment on the City Budget for Fiscal Year 2008 which begins July 1, 2007. The Council represents synagogues and other community, educational, fraternal, and religious institutions and organizations in some of the communities which form the City's backbone: Bayside, Bay Terrace, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hillcrest, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village.

Until 2004, the NEQJCC relied solely on UJA-Federation to service the community.  After we achieved our 501.C3 we expanded our outreach, neighborhood development, educational and youth and family cultural programs; we also forged new community partnerships to improve life in Queens.  This includes a partnership with the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (�Met Council�), in addition to our ongoing relationship with our human services partner, the Samuel Field/Bay Terrace Y. Using one staff member, Northeast Queens added two food drives in 2005; we continued these programs joined by toy and clothing drives and began a healthy marriage program funded by Met Council. Also, with the support of the City Council, especially its Speaker and Finance Chair David Weprin � thank you Councilman Weprin for your steadfast support in the City budgets, we are in the second year of our model Anti-Bias program. We call it �Hi� for �Harmony initiative.� The City's Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the Queens District Attorney, as well as the NAACP Northeast Branch, continue to partner with NEQJCC in its planning. Hi developed after initial planning sessions involving multiple stakeholders who represent the diversity of our communities in Community Boards 7, 8, 11 and 13, included an intergenerational dinner and social and a youth park cleanup. We look to expand the program and provide regular opportunities for members of diverse communities in our borough to develop their own relationships. The Council believes this collaboratively developed model offers multiple opportunities for similar programs elsewhere.

In partnership with Met Council, through its Growth Fund, we offer Project ECHAD -- �Environments that Create Hope and Awareness for Families Raising Children with Disabilities� -- and Project Shoresh to develop and implement community-wide events to integrate members of the Israeli American community into the at-large community. Thank you also to Councilman Weprin and Gennaro for their support of Met Council funding to NEQJCC for the immigration initiative. State Senator Frank Padavan and Assembly Member Barbara Clark also fund NEQJCC programs.

For fiscal year 2008, Northeast Queens seeks $45,000 -- this represents an increase over the $25,000 provided by the Speaker and Councilman Weprin this fisca; year -- to maintain and enhance the model Hi program and $55,000 for a Harmony (initiative) Concert Series; it would feature a diverse lineup of performers to help bring neighbors in our borough together. We aim to include additional parks besides Cunningham, where an existing Jewish Music Under the Stars, Opera and Philharmonic concerts take place, to Crocheron, Alley and, perhaps Peck, Parks.

Northeast Queens also requests $23,000 to fund a permanent food pantry, which will serve needy community residents.  The growing need for this food pantry became evident during our first food drive when we collected over 2,000 pounds of food in one month and distributed every pound to hungry Queens residents. We kick off our next food drive Sunday, March 11 and welcome you to its Kickoff, 12:30 p.m. at the Samuel Field Y.

If every council member provides at least $5,000 from DYCD or other allocations and the Borough President also devotes commensurate funding, we can realize our modest goals.

Why invest in our community council? More than any other non-profit, our lay leaders and members invest much time and effort in our programs. In addition to the food, clothing and toy drive programs noted above, Northeast Queens has organized programs to educate the public, including two forums on the Medicare Prescription Drug Card, and helped organize other programs with other organizations. Our Annual Legislative Forum offers the community opportunities to meet major public officials and those who seek higher office; this year's forum, April 22, �2007 � A Transit Odyssey,� moderated by Chairman Weprin, features MTA CEO Elliot Sander, labor leaders, Councilmen Gennaro and Liu and others (We only mentioned those confirmed.) Our programs - widely publicized -- are open to and attended by members of our borough's diverse communities. Northeast Queens maintains one of the most effective programs to get the word out using both traditional and new technologies.

Our human services partner, the Samuel Field/Bay Terrace Y, serves senior, youth and special needs populations. Northeast Queens appreciates past support for the "Y," particularly from our elected officials; it's important the budget adequately resource the Y's programs. This includes Beacon schools in Bayside, Fresh Meadows and Floral Park.

The NEQJCC played the key role in forging the community and political partnerships needed for the unique model, NORC-WOW -- Naturally Occurring Retirement Community Without Walls, serving parts of Bellerose, Floral Park Glen Oaks and New Hyde Park and helping seniors stay in their homes and communities longer -- rather than moving on to a nursing homes; it saves significant taxpayer dollars on the Medicaid side.

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty also serves needy populations and merits your continued support. At our Legislation Forum 2004, many of you inspected Met Council's "Project Handyman" van; this fully equipped mobile hardware store provides small repairs for seniors and others who need assistance; NEQJCC urges funding to make the vans roll again.

We would also be remiss not to note the need for seven day service, eight to ten hours per day, particularly on Sundays, at all of our branch libraries. Many northeast branch offer only weekday service. We also support Meals on Wheels programs for our homebound seniors.

Thank you.

*Prepared Corey Bearak, Esq., Chair, NEQJCC Executive Committee


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