Far Rockaway assemblyman announces funding for the Queens Defenders Emergency Distribution Center

Queens Defenders
Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson joins leaders of the Queens Defenders to break ground on renovations at its Emergency Distribution Center for Far Rockaway. (Photo by Anthony Randazzo/1028 Photography)

Since 1996, the attorneys from the Queens Defenders have been providing free legal representation to more than 450,000 residents of the borough in cases involving domestic violence, youth charged with felonies and immigrants facing criminal charges. Queens Defenders’ dedication to their clients and community goes beyond the courtroom with their expansive support programs for adults and youth spreading throughout the borough.

On Oct. 27, Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson announced a $150,000 investment into the Queens Defenders Emergency Distribution Center just days before the 10th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, so that Far Rockaway is more than ready for the next coastal storm or unprecedented emergency. He also took part in a groundbreaking ceremony on renovations at the facility funded under the grant to provide critical food service to the low-income and working-class families of Far Rockaway and southeast Queens.

“Superstorm Sandy and the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the logistical struggles and challenges in delivering essential services like food throughout the Rockaways,” Anderson said. “This capital funding will support the procurement of refrigerated vehicles, forklifts, food storage containers and shelving, food prep and food box assembly areas, a commercial dishwasher and stainless-steel sinks and workspaces. The construction and rehabilitation of this emergency food storage facility will help eliminate food disparities and bottlenecks. Moreover, the strategic location of this warehouse in Inwood, which is just off of the Rockaway peninsula, should help facilitate more safe and efficient transportation of food not if, but when, the next emergency happens.”

Renovations on the warehouse are already in progress and will include a loading zone, a small office and main area alterations to accommodate for the pallets of food provided by Queens Defenders Food Pantry partners, emergency PPE and clothing provided by Delivering Good as well as other partners. The warehouse is scheduled to open in the spring of 2023 with public access being by appointment only through the Rockaway Community Justice Center.

“On behalf of Queens Defenders leadership, board of directors, staff and especially the individuals we serve every day, we offer our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the Assembly member for his partnership, leadership and commitment to the residents of Queens, and we look forward to working with your office to address food insecurity throughout the Rockaways,” said Queens Defenders’ Managing Director Hettie Powell. “When he first learned about our Food Justice initiative, the Assembly Member brought his trademark enthusiasm, energy and solutions-focused mindset to address the infrastructure needs of the communities he represents. A leading voice in addressing issues of food insecurity and disaster preparedness, Assembly Member Anderson’s commitment to these important issues is evident in his advocacy and diligence in directing state resources to the 31st Assembly District.”

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Far Rockaway residents were hit the hardest. They faced massive flooding, prolonged disruptions in utilities and difficulty accessing food, water and gasoline, and they experienced significant structural barriers to the distribution of emergency supplies. The Queens Defenders Emergency Distribution Center is located directly on the evacuation route and in an area that will experience limited flooding.

“In 2020 Queens Defenders began our food justice initiative in direct response to our client’s needs during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. What began as a way to serve our clients quickly turned into a critically needed resource for the community and our partners stepped up to support this effort,” said Queens Defenders’ Director of Community-Based Initiatives & External Affairs Brian Schatz. “Hundreds of Queens Defenders staff and individual donors contributed to ensuring that the individuals and families we serve have access to healthy food and essential supplies.”

Anderson added the funding will help with emergency preparedness.

“As we work together with partners to expand and fortify food infrastructure and delivery systems, our goal must be to develop a self-sufficient and food-sovereign community,” Anderson said. “We have to stay ready, so we do not have to get ready.”