I was invited to attend the annual Ridgewood Democratic Club brunch over on Putnam Avenue last Saturday. The event raises funds for the upkeep and renovation of the building which has housed the organization since 1917. I was there last year as well, and my colleague Kevin Walsh offered this post describing the building at Q’Stoner back in 2013. The structure holds a collection of political memorabilia – campaign posters and so on – which is unparalleled in my experience. This year’s brunch had food and beverages provided by Congressman Joseph Crowley‘s office, although the Congressman was unable to attend as he was on a trip to India with President Obama.
Having arrived a bit early, as is my habit, I was treated to a short tour of the second floor which is undergoing renovation. Coming back down the grand stairs, a buzzy crowd and the smell of fresh coffee greeted me.
More after the jump…
A who’s who of elected officials attend this event. It’s always odd when you meet these famous and influential people in person. While waiting my turn to grab a cup of joe, I ran into Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, who was also seeking out a cup of coffee.
As mentioned, Congressman Crowley’s office provided the refreshments, which were gobbled. A nice turnout was encountered at RDC, despite inclement weather. There were a lot of familiar faces in the room from LIC and Astoria, as well as folks from Ridgewood and Maspeth and all over western Queens.
Nothing a Queensican likes better than convivial company and a plate of food, although – as a late riser, I’m personally more of a “Blunch” rather than a “Brunch” person.
Calling the group to order, David Aglialoro kicked off the “speechifying” part of the event. He’s one of the two Democratic District Leaders for Ridgewood, and he introduced the elected officials attending the event to the crowd. David is caring for the century old building as well, and planning its renovation.
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan addressed the crowd next. She congratulated David on his efforts as both District Leader and on his dedication to the rehabilitation of the RDC’s building, as well as acknowledging the long service to the group by former District Leader Tom Borneman. Nolan has served the community since 1979 in this role and offered the following.
“We love the diversity of our community- whether it’s Long Island City, whether it’s Hunters Point, whether it’s Maspeth, whether it’s Ridgewood, we’re very proud of that – in Sunnyside, and in Astoria – we know we are that “American Dream” model. That we know the people from very different places on the globe come, and why do we stay together? Why do we not fight? Why do we work together? Because we can pursue the ideals of the American dream.”
Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez spoke next, discussed education reform in New York State, and after discussing Congressman Crowley’s trip to India offered the following –
“I am so proud of my President, by issuing an executive order that we allow for Cuba and the United States of America to normalize relationships – we did it in Viet Nam where 50,000 of our children died, and not a single American has died in Cuba… we need to promote Democracy, by example, and that is bringing people to the table”.
Assemblywoman Nolan next introduced NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, who came to the brunch with his family.
“I’m here today for personal reasons… it dawned on me today that my son Max has not yet gotten Democratic political training and he’s already three. I had to pick a club to initiate him in, and this is the club with the history, this is the club that’s been around for generations”.
Young Max Stringer was doing his best to upstage his dad, by the way, and the Comptroller promised his son that he would get to make a speech too. Somebody produced a Bill Clinton doll, the sort where the former President is posed with a saxophone, and Max became fascinated by it.
There were three City Council members in attendance, and the 30th’s own Elizabeth Crowley was next up to speak. She discussed recent tensions between the NYPD and the Mayor, the Council’s efforts at ensuring that the Police have proper equipment and support, and promised to ensure that more women can forge a career in the FDNY, as well as offering:
“I’ll be focusing a lot in the coming months on Rikers Island, which falls under our (City Council) jurisdiction. We’ll be working a lot with the Mayors office to get the resources for those that are in need of resources out there. Some people feel that when someone gets arrested or they’re found guilty of a crime, that you should throw away the key and forget about them, but that’s not how I feel… So many people who are in jail or incarcerated have mental health issues or needs, and for far too long, those needs haven’t been addressed”.
Antonio Reynoso spoke next. The first term Councilman is chair of the sanitation committee, and discussed some of his efforts at promulgating a litter free environment in his district which straddles the Borough line across Bushwick and Ridgewood. He joked a bit about the contentious election season which put him in office, and commented:
“I’m committed to a lot more trees coming in here. It’s a thousand dollars a tree, and I’ve committed to $800,000 for tress over the next three years. If I do well, and you guys give me the pleasure of being here for four more years, then $400,000 more will be on the way”.
He also discussed his desire to begin reforming the structure of property taxes.
Also a first term City Councilman, Costa Constantinides from Astoria spoke next. He offered empathy for David Aglialoro’s struggles to keep the RDC building in fine fettle, both as a former District Leader and as the one time custodial manager of the Powhatan Democratic Club.
His comment that “I thought that as the chair of the subcommittee on libraries, it was going to be a little bit of a quieter year” garnered a laugh from the room, but the Councilman adopted a more serious tone when discussing affordable housing and his recent efforts concerning the 1,700 unit Astoria Cove development:
“We have to ensure that people can live in their neighborhood. How we’re going to structure these deals so that everyone can stay in their neighborhood. As rents get higher and higher, setting aside affordable housing, making sure that good jobs are part of development, that we’re not just having a race to the bottom… making sure we build a larger transportation network. The shuttle bus to the train station was not enough, we had to ensure that we were bringing a ferry to Astoria for the first time.”
Jimmy Van Bramer was the final speaker. Mr. Van Bramer is the Majority Leader of the New York City Council, lives in Sunnyside, and is also chair of the Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations Committee. He congratulated and acknowledged Cathy Nolan’s staffers and the various activists in the room from all over Western Queens, offering:
“As Costa and I were saying, there seems to be a snow storm every single brunch, we know that there will be a snow storm when we get the date of the annual RDC brunch, and yet the attendance is always great.”
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.