Southeast Queens is in the midst of a transformation, but rather than relying on those in power to effect change, one man started an advocacy group for residents to have a say in the area’s future.
“Southeast Queens is at a pivotal moment in time,” said Roy Paul, the group’s convener. “We can either choose to stand still and go backwards, or move forward and create the kind of community that will instill ‘Jamaica Pride.’”
Paul started the group, Southeast Queens for Community Action, about three weeks ago. He wants the group to focus on advocating for community action, civic participation, holding the government accountable for their actions, better schools, economic development, affordable housing and cleaner streets.
The group held its first meeting on Nov. 11, setting up several small taskforces to take on certain issues more intensely.
A little over 50 people showed up and Paul was encouraged that the group’s meetings would be very successful in getting residents’ voices heard.
“Many people don’t know how to create change,” Paul said. “This will give local residents an opportunity to shape the future of southeast Queens.”
Paul came to the meeting with some major issues in southeast Queens, such as the need for more affordable housing units and more resources for schools in the area. To help with these issues, he wants to build relationships with private companies to come in and assist the public sectors in the neighborhoods that he says are underfunded.
Such a group would be CFY, a national education nonprofit that helps students in low-income communities. Paul has been in contact with the nonprofit and believes building a relationship with them and their digital learning program will help schools around this section of the borough.
“It will give us a better access to resources, bridge the gaps in our neighborhoods and create opportunities,” Paul noted.
With regards to affordable housing units, he wants to not only install more around the neighborhoods, but also upgrade the current ones where necessary. With winter coming up, the lack of heat in affordable housing units was a major topic of discussion, and Paul added a taskforce whose job is to find the best solutions to this problem as quickly as possible.
Paul lives in Queens Village and currently works as a media consultant. He has been involved in his fair share of politics, being elected to a board of education in upstate New York, acting as a political commentator on ABC and hosting a number of debates, including one for current Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2013.
He said he wants this new group to get people thinking of ways to better the quality of life for the neighborhoods.
“None of us has all the answers,” he said, “but together we can come up with better plans and ideas for our neighborhoods.”