Bayside activist blasts pols in new alternative paper

By Brendan Browne

A Queens political newspaper was launched last week by community activist Joyce Shepard and the publication is pulling no punches in its view of city officials.

Shepard’s highly opinionated Queens Alternative, which covers feature-oriented news of northeast Queens and politics all over the borough, hit newsstands July 4 taking swings at several local elected officials.

Alongside the political talk, the biweekly paper, which is distributed mainly in northeast Queens, has an advice section, art, theater and dining reviews, and a city parking column. The paper also comments on health and business.

With a circulation of about 25,000, the paper will be offered at no cost until September when it will probably be priced at 50 cents, said editor-in-chief Cris Italia. Subscriptions will be available as well, he said.

Still, the main focus is politics. Shepard, who ran unsuccessfully for the City Council against Tony Avella (D-Bayside) last year, founded the paper with the goal of educating Queens residents to be active in their communities and to hold elected officials accountable for their actions, she said.

“I think the media has become too politically connected and too afraid to write the truth,” Shepard said in a phone interview. “Our main goal is to print what is happening in an unbiased and objective report.”

Shepard, who lives in Bay Terrace, said several Queens community papers “promote unethical politicians,” often printing only supportive news about elected officials.

In Shepard’s “Like It Is” column in the first issue of the biweekly paper, criticism is doled out to Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), and Queens Democratic Party Chairman Tom Manton, among others.

Shepard, long known as an outspoken activist, labels Manton the “don” of the Queens Democratic Party and implies that many of the borough’s Democratic politicians often make backroom deals that may not be in the best interest of voters.

“We want people to know who they vote for, not who they’re told to vote for,” Shepard said. “The people have to understand that they need independent representatives. We need true leaders out there.”

To be fair, Shepard said she does has favorable opinions of some Democratic politicians in the City Council including Avella, Hiram Monserrate (D-Corona), and Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica).

The Bayside-based paper will also inform people about public meetings, community board votes and upcoming political votes so they can be aware of happenings in their communities, she said.

The Queens Alternative has 17 full-time editors, reporters, and columnists and a few free-lance writers, said Italia.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.