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Queens councilman honors those lost during COVID-19, works to combat hunger in underserved communities

First Baptist Church Pastor Patrick Young, young volunteer Arlington, Councilman Francisco Moya and Speaker Corey Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Moya's office)

A new study from researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine determined that Queens, and to a lesser extent Brooklyn, were indeed the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring of 2020.

The research found that 35 percent of Queens and Brooklyn workers travel daily to Manhattan by car, subway and bus, and that Black and Hispanic Americans — who were hardest hit during the pandemic — disproportionately use public transportation.

“Our findings appear to confirm Queens’ role as the early epicenter of coronavirus transmission throughout the rest of the New York metropolitan avenue,” said study co-author Ralf Duerr, MD, PhD. “Now that we understand how viral outbreaks can spread between neighborhoods, we can better plan for future contagions and prioritize testing in the most vulnerable areas.”

Councilman Francisco Moya, who represents the neighborhoods of Corona, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, reflected on the findings following a special Sunday mass honoring the victims of COVID-19 at St. Leo’s Church in Corona.

“People read and heard about our neighborhood being the epicenter of the epicenter, but those of us in the neighborhood knew long before,” Moya said. “After 15 months of fighting this pandemic and not being able to see family and friends and to properly say goodbye to those that passed away, we came together once again to honor and celebrate our loved ones lost to COVID.”

Moya thanked Mary Guida and Edward Guida, Jr. for bringing everyone together to honor loved ones at the special mass at St. Leo’s.

Councilman Francisco Moya. (Photo courtesy of Moya’s office)

“It’s through occasions like this mass and spaces like the Tree of Hope at William F. Moore Park that allow us to continue to cherish the memories and love of those we lost,” Moya said. “I always say there’s no community like this one — they lifted the spirits of this neighborhood through incredibly challenging times and this special mass was another example.”

The special mass came a day after Moya and Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced that $200,000 in funding will be divided between the First Baptist Church in East Elmhurst and Urban Upbound to combat food insecurity in communities that were hardest hit during the coronavirus emergency.

“Getting through the pandemic has been a collaborative labor of love with the community. As we work towards recovering from one of the worst pandemics of our time, we need to prioritize the neighborhoods hardest hit by bringing funding to critical partners like First Baptist Church and Urban Upbound, which are go-to resources for so many families,” Moya said. “First Baptist Church and Pastor Young have been doing God’s work from the very beginning — they are here every week, rain or shine, making sure that our community has food to put on their table.”

The latest round of $200,000 in funding is part of a continued effort to fight food insecurity.

“The Council is committed to combating hunger in our city, and I’ve made this issue a top priority as speaker,” Johnson said. “Access to affordable, healthy food is a human right but unfortunately the number of food insecure New Yorkers increased during the pandemic. I’m proud to work with Council member Moya and the Council to make sure no one in our city goes hungry.”

Johnson is running for New York City Comptroller, while Moya is campaigning for re-election to the City Council.

“I want to thank Speaker Corey Johnson and our Councilman Francisco Moya for his diligence and commitment to make sure the communities in his district are taken care of,” Pastor Patrick Young said. “We not only count on his support with resources and this latest round of $100,000 in funding for our food pantry, Councilman Moya is here with our volunteers and my team every week, especially throughout the pandemic, to help us distribute food to our families.”

The Bread of Life food pantry serves the Queensbridge community run by the Center of Hope International Church under the leadership of Bishop Mitchell Taylor, the co-founder of Urban Upbound.

“The last 15 months have proven to be the toughest times northwestern Queens residents have seen in their lifetimes. The loss of family, friends and colleagues has shaken us at the core,” Taylor said. “But when the going gets tough the tough keep going, that’s us — Queens tough! Fresh food, cash assistance and critical referrals to Urban Upbound for workforce development, financial counseling, and a suite of wrap around services. On behalf of the thousands of people we’ve served and will continue to serve, thank you again for standing up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves.”

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