Two days after President-elect Donald Trump is officially sworn in, three elected officials who represent one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Queens will hold a community gathering to celebrate that diversity.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, Councilman Costa Constantinides and state Sen. Michael Gianaris announced last week a “community celebration of Astoria‘s diversity,” which will take place at the Varsity Boys and Girls Club at 21-12 30th Rd. from noon to 1:30 p.m on Jan. 22.
The celebration will include performances by the Variety Boys and Girls Club dance troupe, The Vipers, Astoria Young Women’s Leadership Academy “Digital Dance Project,” appearances by community faith leaders and more.
All three officials, who are Democrats, have been vocal about their opposition to President-elect Trump throughout his campaign. Astoria has also experienced several hate crimes inspired by anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric repeated throughout the campaign.
“Astoria is a place where differences do not divide us; rather they bring life to our community,” Simotas said. “We all live together, work together and educate our children together, and we are better for it. I hope our community serves as a peaceful example for the rest of the nation, for places in our country where change and cultural, religious and ethnic differences instigate fear and hate. Come to Astoria and see how we do it.”
Even diverse western Queens, though, has seen some of the hate crimes that have plagued the country since the election.
In November, an Arab-American Uber driver working in Astoria was the victim of a racist tirade by another driver, who stated that now that Trump is president, the Uber driver can “kiss his visa goodbye” because he will be deported soon.
That same month, swastikas were found on the 30th Avenue train platform on the N and W lines and in an Astoria park. A Muslim teen also suffered a fractured eye socket after three men made anti-Muslim remarks.
“We must recognize that Astoria’s strength is our diversity,” Constantinides said. “This celebration will honor our community’s diverse cultural history with performances and activities. At a time when we have seen a marked increase in hate crimes citywide, seeing our neighborhood come together to celebrate one another is in the spirit of what makes us great.”
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in November that during the same time last year, New York City experienced a 31 percent increase in hate crimes. Deputy Inspector Peter Fortune, commanding officer of the 114th Precinct in Astoria, condemned the hate crimes and stated that “there’s no place in the 114th for this kind of anti-Muslim, anti-religious, anti-ethnicity at all.”
Simotas said the celebration was organized in response to the wishes and concerns of her constituents and that the event aims to “celebrate Astoria’s diverse population and the harmony and fellowship that exists among residents that literally come from all over the world.”
“Queens is the most diverse county on Earth, with people from more than 100 countries co-existing peacefully for generations,” Gianaris added. “I am proud to represent a community that is willing to unite and organize, to make sure our neighborhood remains a welcoming, safe place that everyone is happy to call home.”
For more information on the event reach out to Assemblywoman Simotas’ office at 718-545-3889 or email@example.com.