A Woodside resident who has been involved in local politics for most of her career is now on a mission to get her Queens neighbors active in voicing their needs to Congress.
Elenor Denker has served on Community Board 2, acted as the chief of staff under former Borough President Claire Shulman, served as the assistant commissioner of housing and community renewal under former Mayor Mario Cuomo and ran Woodside on the Move for 10 years.
Now she’s involved in the nonprofit group known as Indivisible; it was started by former Congressional aides to educate every day people on how to organize and advocate for specific policies that were being discussed in Congress. Denker learned about it while watching MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” in January.
The aides released the Indivisible Guide shortly after President Donald Trump was elected. The guide started as a “poorly formatted, typo-filled Google Doc” that outlined how the Tea Party organized against former President Barack Obama and a list of successful advocacy tactics, according to the nonprofit’s website.
The guide was downloaded more than a million times and now, all of the 435 congressional districts in the country have at least two Indivisible chapters, according to Denker.
Denker said there are 150 people signed up for the Indivisible Queens mailing list and that the group has a call every two to three weeks to discuss new issues that have risen in terms of legislation, exchange information about research and talk about events happening in the city such as rallies or protests.
“I’ve been involved in government and politics for most of my career, and I can’t believe this is the country that I loved and I am not willing to let him have it without a hell of a fight,” Denker said. “I feel some days, I feel like a soldier defending my country. His view of what America is and mine are so completely at odds that I felt that I had to take a stand.”
Denker said most of the members of Indivisible Queens are “every day people” who have not been involved in politics before. Doris P., a Queens resident and Filipino native, came to the United States in 2008 to make more money to support her parents and son. She is applying for citizenship in June and declined to give her last name.
She’s finishing her degree at LaGuardia Community College and joined Indivisible Queens because she is concerned that President Trump’s policies will harm immigrant communities.
“He just doesn’t get it,” she said in a statement. “I am concerned that my Filipino community will be greatly harmed by his policies.”
Queens has the largest foreign-born population of all five boroughs, with approximately 48 percent of residents born out of the country. For this reason, Denker said she and members of the group vehemently disagree with President Trump’s characterization of immigrants.
“The way he’s treating immigrants is so completely contrary to my feelings about immigrants,” she said. “They have been a really critical part of our development and a critical part of our economy and to kind of equate immigrants and immigration with terrorism is not only an alternative fact but just completely off the wall.”
Denker said Indivisible’s most recent newsletter is asking members to reach out to local elected officials urging them to call on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the new American Health Care Act, a replacement to the Affordable Care Act that House Republicans unveiled on March 6. The CBO has not yet projected how much the new bill would affect federal healthcare spending.
The group has also met with Congresswoman Grace Meng to discuss their concerns and is scheduled to meet with Congressman Joseph Crowley.
“It went very cordial, very gracious and we really seem to be in sync on the issues,” Denker said of the meeting with Meng.
Indivisible Queens is looking to participate in the Tax March, a nationwide march on April 15 to call on President Trump to release his tax returns. Denker said their ultimate goal is to get more people involved in the democratic process and show that it is easy.
“We’re in this for the long run,” she said. “I don’t want us to get burned out. I think we all need to do something every day – just one phone call or three so that our voices continue to be heard at the national level. [These are] every day people who have decided to participate and in some ways it’s the best thing that’s happened to our democracy in a long time.”
Those interested in getting involved can email indivisiblequeens[at]gmail.com and you’ll be included in the mailing list and calls.