2016-11-23 / Front Page

Justice for All Coalition Meeting Comes Together

By Thomas Cogan
The Justice for All Coalition (J4A), which has been active for about a year in Astoria and Long Island City and was begun, as stated in its literature, “to address community needs related to housing, jobs and other issues, particularly with the coming zoning in our neighborhood,” had a meeting early last week at the Community Church of Astoria, 14-42 Broadway.  It was attended by many who have been working with J4A for some time and several others just becoming acquainted with it.  The speeches were short, since the activists running the meeting wanted a significant amount of time apportioned to dividing the large audience into groups that would confer and come away with organizational and strategic steps to make J4A a larger, more effective force.  If they did that, they could maintain a fight to prevent obliteration of the current neighborhoods by those in pursuit of higher rents and greater riches for the already prosperous few.

Trying to keep control of the meeting wasn’t easy, with a lot of chattering going on that couldn’t be surpassed by a loud voice on microphone, since there was none available.  But Dr. Diane Brown, an elder of the Community Church and chairwoman of Justice for All, managed to find quiet spots where she could introduce speakers, the first of which was Edward J. Acton, a retired tax lawyer who told the audience he’d recently started a not-for-profit law firm with two other attorneys called Public Housing Justice (telephone number, 347-697-5357).  David Aglialoro, of Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan’s office, sent a message expressing her concern for the cause and he informed them of her Long Island City office (47-40 21st St.) and the phone number there (718-784-3194). 

Sharon Cadiz of J4A assured groups that have been active for social justice much longer than her group has should not be worried about being pushed out of the way.  The coalition seeks union with them.  The agenda, she said, is affordable housing, jobs and rezoning.  The current peril can be traced to the days when the new century was beginning and easy money led to the development of hotels in Dutch Kills and Long Island City, not to speak of other parts of the city.  Overbuilding led to too much room for too little patronage but with dispensations from a city concerned with boom turning to bust, some of those hotels were able to become office and residential buildings, and even homeless shelters.  Stemming further such developments is the concern of J4A and other groups that are equally concerned, Cadiz said.

Brown considered the problems of success.  Building the group and the movement could lead to such growth that larger meeting halls than the one at the church would be needed.   She wondered how such places could be paid for.  J4A has to get money but must remain honest, whether poor or well-financed, she said.  A lot of legal details must be put in order.

Groups were formed, bearing such titles as the Media group and Outreach to Organizations.  The latter was typical, having a moderator and about 15 interested participants, who communicated only with difficulty in a very loud room.  When all the groups were broken up and asked to report, Outreach said its duty is to get in contact with elected officials.  It will be making calls in the next couple of weeks.  The Media group said it must build a Web site and a Facebook page.  Two of its members, Pat Dorfman and Ray Normandeau, will take up these duties.  The Internal Organization group exists to take in new members, who will mount telephone campaigns and make the J4A agenda plain to all.  The Diversity Coordination group sees to the neighbors about such concerns as home repairs and accessibility to transportation.  The Individual Outreach group plans to start a newsletter and engage in social media.  The Secretarial group will take notes and search for vital meeting space.  The Research group must develop a database to include information on those who would benefit most from rezoning and development.

When the aims of the various groups had been explained, a woman announced that Friends of the BQX, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, had been invited to the January meeting to speak in favor of the proposed light-rail line that is expected to run from Sunset Park in Brooklyn to Astoria.  She asked for feedback from attendees about J4A’s view of “infrastructure improvements,” particularly regarding the BQX, which was part of a five-page statement handed out at the meeting.  It said among other things that the BQX must accept Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) cards, though this light-rail system is not an MTA project; and that there must be free transfers between it and the subway and bus lines.  Pat Dorfman, of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, arose to say that accepting the BQX would lead to the removal of local small businesses.  It looks slick, but it’s a power push, she said.

Brown sensed a bit of anger in the room and said that no one should plan any “crazy” protests, since J4A is a peaceful movement.  She said that retirees and other possible volunteers ought to attend BQX meetings and report back about what had been discussed.

The meeting ended with a resolution to keep after local politicians and insist on their attention.  That Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Michael Gianaris reportedly had failed even to acknowledge this meeting caused some annoyance among persons who were there.

The next J4A meeting is on schedule for Monday, December 12.





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