Queens lawmaker injured at ribbon-cutting of Louis Armstrong Center in his district

Louis Armstrong Center Opening
New York State Speaker Pro Tempe and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry escorted out in a stretcher with a head wound after being pushed to the ground by a man running from the police during the opening of the Louis Armstrong Center in Corona on Thursday, June 29, 2023.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

One of the borough’s elder statesmen was injured Thursday morning during the long-awaited opening of the Louis Armstrong Center in North Corona.

Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, 75, had just completed his opening remarks and stepped away from the microphone when an alleged car thief ran into him as he attempted to flee on foot from police. Aubry, 75, who has been one of the state’s foremost criminal justice reformers during his three decades in Albany, fell to the ground striking his head, as elected officials and paramedics rushed to his side.

The NYPD had cordoned 107th Street in front of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in North Corona. The event went from a high-energy, joyous environment with live musical performances to near-panic and confusion when the 23-year-old driver of a stolen silver Honda Civic with Pennsylvania plates drove past the police barricade and jumped the sidewalk near the new center.

People gather for the opening of the Louis Armstrong Center in Corona on Thursday, June 29, 2023.Photo by Paul Frangipane

The suspect jumped out of the vehicle and attempted to elude the officers who were pursuing him. The man then collided with Aubry, who appeared to be momentarily unconscious, and was chased by cops who arrested him a short while later a few blocks away.

EMT’s from Flushing Medical Center, who had an ambulance on site, quickly wrapped Aubry’s bleeding head and brought him through the crowd on a stretcher. He waved to the gathering of more than 200, and was transported to Elmhurst Hospital Center where he was treated for a laceration to his head and released a short while later.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Louis Armstrong Center, which was two-decades in the making, resumed with a more somber tone with each speaker offering their well-wishes to Aubry before moving on with their remarks. Opening to the public on July 6, the new center will preserve and expand the legacy and ideals of America’s first Black popular music icon, known internationally as Satchmo, who spent the last 40 years of his life in Corona with his wife Lucille in what is now the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

“With new space comes new possibilities. This center will allow us to continue to preserve the legacy, sustaining and promoting the cultural, historical and humanitarian legacy of Louis and Lucille Armstrong and to live the Armstrong values of artistic excellence, education and community,” Louis Armstrong House Museum Executive Director Regina Bain said. “We’re so excited for what this building will bring.”

The center, located at 34-56 107th St., is the permanent home for the 60,000-piece Louis Armstrong Archive and a 75-seat venue offering performances, lectures, films and educational experiences.

“This venue will be full of innovative performances by creative musicians and artists and an education hub for students, but one of the things I also want to harp on for a second is what we see going on around the country,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “How we see book bans happening in states like Florida, how people want to eliminate Black history, well today we are sending a message to those individuals that our stories will be told in the USA and certainly in the most diverse county in the world, Queens County.”

State Sen. Jessica Ramos noted how Lucille Armstrong bought the home in Corona nearly 80 years ago, and her husband became so enamored with the children in the neighborhood which inspired him to release the globally-known “What a Wonderful World,” at age 66 in 1967.

“The Louis Armstrong House is a place where we can bring our children and show them that history and creative genius has happened right here in our own backyard. There’s no need to look elsewhere and that surely it can happen again,” Ramos said. “All we need is for people to see Queens as the gem that it is, as the wonderful world that Louis saw.”

In addition to being artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton Marsalis serves as president of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation that was a baseline grantor of the Louis Armstrong House Museum.

“Louis Armstrong’s trumpet is the sound of freedom and with it, he left the world so much richer than how he found it,” Marsalis said in a statement. “We need his consciousness, intelligence and broad understanding now, more than ever. We are so proud of the Museum, and now, the new Armstrong Center. This great achievement is a physical representation of the down-home soulful world of Pops. It is much, much more than just a place. It’s a way for all people from everywhere to physically interact with the profound and deeply moving legacy of Lucille and Louis Armstrong.”

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.