Ecuadorean community copes with disaster back home

By Bill Parry

The borough’s Ecuadorean community, still reeling from Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake that claimed at least 400 people and injured more than 2,500 in their home country, gathered for a candlelight vigil at St. Leo’s Church in Corona Wednesday as plans to aid relief efforts gained strength.

State Sen, Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) are hosting the “Queens for Ecuador” benefit concert to raise funds to provide aid to the victims and their families. Musicians from Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic were scheduled to perform at La Boom at 56-15 Northern Blvd. in Woodside Sunday from 1 to 7 p.m.

All proceeds of the event will go to UNICEF, which is the international organization working with the Consulate General of Ecuador in New York.

Meanwhile, Moya has turned his office into a command center this week, where he has coordinated with civic organizations and the Ecuadorean consulate in Manhattan.

“On Saturday when I heard of the devastating earthquake that stuck Ecuador, my heart sank,” he said. “Like many Ecuadoreans living in New York my first thought was to reach my family and friends still living in Ecuador to know they were safe. Since then I have been working closely with members of the community and representatives from the government of Ecuador to connect families and organize relief efforts.”

Moya, the first Ecuadorean American lawmaker in the United States, said his office would remain available to help those affected connect with resources. The phone number is 718-458-5367.

Peralta, whose district has a population of 46,000 Ecuadoreans, vowed to do everything possible to help.

“Words cannot express how devastated I was when I heard the news about the disaster,” he said. “Ecuadoreans here in New York are also feeling the aftershocks, especially the ones trying to get in touch with their family members and haven’t been successful. As Ecuador recovers, we will cooperate in any way we can to assist them in relief efforts.”

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said billions of dollars will be needed to help his country rebuild. In Washington, Crowley introduced a resolution in support of the people of Ecuador Tuesday after the nation requested assistance.

“The road to recovery will be long and difficult for the people of Ecuador, and I’m pleased that the U.S. government has pledged assistance,” Crowley said. “Our resolution is a signal to the people of Ecuador that the U.S. Congress also stands with them in the wake of this tragedy.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio assured the city’s 140,000 Ecuadorians that his administration is prepared to help.

“Our Community Affairs Unit is already on the ground working with the community organizations and leaders to best channel any support we can offer as Ecuadoreans prioritize rescue efforts and begin to rebuild their cities,” he said.

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

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