2008-01-02 / Political Page

'Chanukah Hero' Who Fought Off Subway Attackers Hailed

Jackson Heights lawmakers Congressmember Joseph Crowley and state Senator John Sabini heaped praises last week upon the 20-year-old Bangladeshi college student, a Muslim, who singlehandedly defended a group of Jewish men and women who had been attacked by about 14 anti- Semites in a subway car.

Crowley stated on the floor of Congress that what started as a kind exchange of "Merry Christmas- Happy Chanukah" between fellow passengers ignited into a violent exchange of anti-Semitic slurs and violence which prompted the Muslim student, Hassan Askari, to jump in on the side of the Jews.

About two weeks after Askari's heroic actions, Sabini and local Bangladeshi community leaders gathered to honor Askari, who works seven days a week at two waiter jobs to help pay his rent and tuition at Berkeley College in Manhattan.

At the award ceremony, held in the Jackson Heights enclave of Little Bangladesh, Sabini presented Askari with an award for exhibiting courage and valor for his fellow New Yorkers.

Sabini stated: "Hassan represents what it is to be a model New Yorker, a model American and a model human being. Despite the religious and seasonal significance of this incident, which grabbed the attention of the world, Hassan did what we should do in all circumstances: apply the Golden Rule and treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. I give him my utmost praise and respect."

          Senator John 
            Sabini and community members honor Hassan Askari, a Muslim Student 
            who aided Jews during subway beating. 
    Senator John Sabini and community members honor Hassan Askari, a Muslim Student who aided Jews during subway beating.

Crowley, in a similar vein, paid homage to Askari for his bravery and heroics. Askari, he said, "risked his own safety and his life and like the man he was trying to help, he was beaten and pummeled by the attackers".

Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx) noted that Askari said with regard to his actions, "I believe we are all members of one family, and my religion teaches me always to come to the aid of my fellow man in distress."

Crowley concluded, "Hassan's actions on the subway were human nature at its best, and I applaud him for interceding to stop a senseless act of violence and hate."

Present at Sabini's ceremony honoring Askari were Democratic District Leader-At- Large Mohammed Aminullah and America- Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce Secretary Hasanuzzaman Hassan.

Responding to the accolades heaped upon him, Askari stated: "I did what I did because it was the right thing to do. That alone makes me feel great, but everyone's kindness and generosity are icing on the cake.

He thanked Sabini and the others "for recognizing me".

CONVENTION CENTER OVER SUNNYSIDE YARDS?: Mayor Michael Bloomberg says "no" to the above suggestion, but Assemblymember Richard Brodsky (D- Westchester) thinks it has merit.

Brodsky came up with the idea after the long-sought major expansion of the Javits Convention Center in Manhattan was scrapped by the Empire State Development Corporation (EDC).

Former Governor George Pataki had proposed a $1.8 billion expansion of the Javits Center to make it into a world-class facility to accommodate major conventions. But when Governor Eliot Spitzer inherited the Pataki plans, he ordered a thorough evaluation of them by Patrick Foye, EDC chairman.

Foye, after an almost year-long study, found that the cost of the ambitious Pataki plan had skyrocketed to $5 billion. He and the Spitzer administration didn't want to spend that kind of money. Instead of a 340,000- square-foot expansion, Foye said, there will be an $850 million upgrade and repair job.

According to one report, the year-long evaluation ordered by Spitzer and the delay it brought about put the cost at an estimated $17 million per month. Bloomberg, who favored Pataki's plan, complained, "The delay certainly cost an enormous amount."

But even at that rate, the cost wouldn't have increased by $5 billion, as Foye said, so perhaps Spitzer didn't want to go through with the project for other reasons.

As for the Sunnyside Yards site proposal, the mayor didn't sound enthused about it, citing the need to build over the rail yards and the transportation complications a Queens site would create for people who had to travel from Manhattan.

But Brodsky said he thought the plan was worth serious consideration. Under his plan, Javits would be sold to a private developer and the proceeds of the sale would go toward building over the rail yards, which have the space to accommodate a center of the size Pataki and Bloomberg had in mind, one large enough to attract conventions from all over the world and bring conventioneers and other tourists to New York City in droves.

MALONEY HAILS RELIEF FOR COOP OWNERS: Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D- Queens/Manhattan) says New York's cooperative boards now have greater flexibility in the rent they can charge, based on a new law, the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007.

The new law, Maloney explained, contains a provision which allows the boards to determine commercial rents without fearing the additional income would disqualify owners from deducting their proportionate share of a building's mortgage interest and taxes.

She noted that co-ops were previously limited to charging commercial tenants rents that did not total more than 20 percent of a building's total income from rents and co-op owners' maintenance payments.

"It's about time our tax code stopped unfairly punishing co-op owners and tenants. People who live in cooperative housing should be treated the same as homeowners and condo owners," Maloney said.

MARK THE DATE: Borough President Helen Marshall announced that she would deliver her State of the Borough address on Tuesday, January 15 at 10 a.m. in Colden Auditorium on the Queens College campus in Flushing. In her presentation, the borough president looks forward at her plans to improve services and make physical improvements in the borough.

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