The Civic Scene: Flushing family leads community betterment

By Bob Harris

Kenneth Cohen has lived in the Flushing suburban community, on and off, for 53 years. His first activity was cleaning the 75th Avenue playground with the Flushing Suburban Civic Association by creating a group of volunteers in 1990. He worked with his wife Valerie on the P.T.A. at PS 154 and then became its president.He was elected as a School Board 25 member where he served from 1996-2004. He served as an officer of the 107th Precinct Community Council and is a former president of the Lewis Latimer Fund Inc. He currently serves on the Queens district attorney's African American Advisory Council, is president of the Flushing Suburban Civic Association, is vice president of the Queens Civic Congress, a board member of Queens Youth with Valerie Cohen and works to find activities which enhance young people. He is also a member of Community Board 8.Kenneth Cohen serves as the president of the northeast Queens branch of the NAACP. Valerie Cohen serves as the education chair and creator of their academic excellence program. She also serves as the New York State youth and college advisor of the NAACP. Their son, Kenneth Cohen II, a recent graduate of Robert F. Kennedy High School, is president of the NAACP's northeast Queens youth council and was first vice president of the New York State youth and college division of the NAACP.Their daughter, Courtney Alexis, is a junior at the Mary Lewis Academy and is the secretary of the northeast Queens youth council of the NAACP. The children seem to have learned to be activists from their activist parents.Valerie Cohen is a native of California who relocated to New York City in 1985 with her husband Kenneth Cohen. While raising her children she continued her education and also became very active in the community. She became president of the John F. Kennedy Regular Democratic Club, president of the P.T.A. for P.S. 154 and the Robert F. Kennedy Middle/High School. She became a strong advocate for education throughout Queens and New York City.During this time she was working her way up through the ranks of the Police Athletic League. She brought a play street to the Flushing Suburban Civic Association at P.S. 154, then added several other sites in CB 8 at Manton Park and Pomonok. She now works at PAL headquarters where she shares her knowledge and skills throughout the city of New York. She was the co-founder, with Kenneth Cohen, of the 75th Avenue Playground Volunteers. They continue to keep the playground clean and drug free today.Kenneth Cohen commented, “I guess you can say that everything we do is a family affair. What each of us does, brings out the best in each other.” Cohen has been a Local #3 IBEW Electrician for 33 years and recognized that the “family encouragement from Local #3 has carried over into my non-working life.”Kenneth and Valerie Cohen have been recognized by numerous organizations. Earlier this year Borough President Helen Marshall honored the dynamic couple for their work. In 1998 first lady Hillary Clinton held a reception to honor them for their support of arts education at the White House. Later that year she traveled to School District 25 to see first-hand the successful education programs in the district.Cohen stated “over the years, people have been our No. 1 emphasis … helping both young and old have a positive future.”Good and bad news of the weekA pair of red-tailed hawks were evicted from a ledge in an Upper East Side Manhattan co-op when the metal spikes put out to keep away pigeons from the ledge were removed. Any future nest would not have support. The co-op board felt that falling twigs and parts of animals the hawks ate were a health and safety hazard. However, hawks do eat pigeons which carry diseases and thus remove them from the environment.Bird-watchers had been watching the male hawk, named Pale Male, and his succession of mates over the years. They started to picket with signs. Some bird-watcher became very abusive to the co-op owners. It was then decided to let the Hawks rebuild. Good! However, I have not heard any voices crying for the 17,000 homeless children in New York City who the schools are supposed to educate along with all the other children.U.S. Rep. W. J. “Billy” Tauzin has served the state of Louisiana for 13 terms. His salary was $158,100 a year when he just retired as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, where he had jurisdiction over the pharmaceutical industry. He helped write the current Medicare prescription drug legislation. As you may know, the law doesn't permit the government to negotiate for medicines in bulk from the drug makers at reduced rates for people needing them.Tauzin now has a new job. As of Jan. 3, he is president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. He will now represent the same industry he regulated for years as a congressman. He will not be able to lobby Congress directly for a year. But he will receive $1 million a year for his new position. Now, isn't that nice?

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