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Community activist from Sunnyside remembered in Congress

By Bill Parry

A longtime community activist from Sunnyside was honored for his life and legacy in Congress last week.

U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) submitted a statement to the Congressional Record remembering Luke Adams who died in November at the age of 76.

“I had the honor and pleasure of knowing Luke for three decades,” Crowley said. “He was synonymous with Sunnyside, Queens and his contributions to the community will never be forgotten. Selfless and eager to help his neighbors any way he could, Luke made a real difference in people’s lives. Whether he was working to feed the hungry, strengthen our small business or advocate for the arts, Luke’s priority was always to make Sunnyside a better place for everyone.”

For more than 40 years, Adams immersed himself in community work as a member and former president of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, Sunnyside Artists, the Sunnyside/Woodside Lions Club and the Sunnyside Kiwanis Club. In recognition of his long list of accomplishments, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and Sunnyside Artists’ annual ‘Luke Adams Sunnysider of the Year” award was named in his honor when he was the first recipient in 2011.

The City Council announced last month that 46th Street between Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue will be co-named Luke Adams Way. It’s a fitting location because as the leader of the Gateway Restoration Project in 1983, Adams was instrumental in the installation of the iconic art deco Sunnyside Arch that stands at Queens Boulevard and 46th Street.

Meanwhile, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1947, is experiencing a renaissance this year after Adams and several associates formed a coalition that ousted President Swain Weiner one year ago. The coalition had formed soon after Adams was “laid off” as the chamber’s longtime director of marketing.

Rigoberto Cardoso won an election and took over as president in May and membership has been rising ever since.

“It wasn’t just about what happened to Luke — there were several factors at play,” Cardoso said. “But I did want to take over, so I could bring him back as marketing director, and help restore his vision of what the chamber was supposed to represent. That’s the No. 1 thing we’re working on for the small business.” Cardoso said.

A native of Equador and owner of Sunnyside-based Pronto Car Service since 1993, Cardoso personally visits Hispanic business owners.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, I’m reaching out to them for the first time,” he said. “But we’re working very hard to bring everyone in and not just in Sunnyside but in Woodside, Maspeth, Long Island City. Anyone in Queens can join.”

To help spread the word Cardoso hired Patricia Dorfman, a web designer and former advertising executive who was also a longtime friend and collaborator with Luke Adams.

“We will grab social networking by the throat but retain what made the glory days of the chamber work,” Dorfman said. “Luke was a big believer in small town in the big city. Our memberships are up and most gratifying is the return of chamber stalwarts who worked hard for everyone, bringing their imagination and drive to the table.”

Over 100 members left during the previous leadership and now many are returning including former president Rebecca Barker.

“I think the chamber, as it’s constructed today, is filled with people who genuinely care about Sunnyside,” Barker said. “People who live here and work here. We’re going to get back to where we were. The chamber is going to start doing good things for the community again.”

The chamber is also drawing new members. Paul Flynn, the owner of Flynn’s Garden Inn, has owned pubs in Sunnyside for more than 20 years and never wanted to join the Chamber until last month.

“If you want to be a businessman around here, it’s important to get involved,” Flynn said. “And with all the new development that’s being planned around here, it’s a good time for small businesses to stick together. There’s strength in numbers.”

That feeling was reinforced last month with the closing of the Sunnyside Center Cinemas to make way for a residential building.

“The coming wall of glass going up on Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue will be changing things,” Dorfman said. “Prices will go up and small businesses will be dislocated and there will be more pollution, congestion and noise. These businesses will need patronage from more than just the dwellers who live above.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr‌y@cng‌local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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