Serge Abergel of Hydro-Quebec recognized by Queens Chamber

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

Serge Abergel is the Chief Operating Officer of Hydro-Quebec, a Quebec-based company that generates, transmits and distributes clean energy throughout Canada and areas of the United States.  

For his work in promoting sustainable energy in Queens, he has been honored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce as a Business Person of the Year.

“We are in this huge energy transition. We are trying to lessen our usage of fossil fuel,” Abergel said. “People are looking for alternatives to using fossil fuels. This is especially relevant in the case of New York City and in the case of neighborhoods like Queens.”

Abergel is responsible for the U.S. operations — all energy exports from Quebec to the United States. Talking to Queens residents, Abergel shared, led to an immediate connection between the company’s mission and their desires.

“Especially in Queens, you have part of the community that is right next to oil burning fossil-fuel peakers,” Abergel said, referencing the Ravenswood Generating Plant — which is currently undergoing their “Renewable Ravenswood” effort to produce 100% renewable energy.

“Those are fossil fuel generating plants,” he continued. “The big issue of these things is that they pollute, they worsen air quality in areas like Queens, and they create health consequences.” 

To engage with the community, Hydro-Quebec cultivates partnerships because “it is the only way we are going to have that successful transition [to renewable energy,]” Abergel said.

The company has worked to partner with community organizations throughout Queens, such as the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens based in Long Island City, and through working with local schools. 

“We are thinking differently and we are thinking about real relationships with real people,” Abergel explained. “This [recognition] is less about me, but all these people who took part in this process.”

Recently, Hydro-Quebec, partnered with Transmission Developers Inc., donated $1.25 million to fund a science lab as well as STEM programming in the new clubhouse of the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens. It is expected to be completed in 2026.

In local schools, Hydro-Quebec supports a laundry program for low-income families to ensure they have access to clean clothing.

These partnerships, Abergel emphasized, are “not transactional” or short-term — they are looking for further partnerships and to be a part of their existing relationships beyond the foreseeable future.

“We deeply believe in this,” Abergel expressed. “We are committed long term… What we want is not just to support financially, but to be there, interacting with people, for years to come.

Owner Loycent Gordon shares his vision for future of Neir’s Tavern

 

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

Loycent Gordon has been the owner and proprietor of “Neir’s Tavern” in Woodhaven for 14 years. 

Located at 87-48 78th St., Neir’s has been deemed “the most famous bar you’ve never heard of,” and is in its 193rd year of operation. 

Nearing its bicentennial, Gordon is aiming to solidify the future of Neir’s Tavern, hoping to create a strategic board of directors and to possibly have the building become a historic house. Above all, Gordon feels Neir’s Tavern should be owned, not rented. 

Ownership, Gordon believes, would solidify the safety of Neir’s Tavern. External forces would not impact the future of the bar. In order for “Neir’s for Years” — a community effort, seen on the walls of Neir’s Tavern, to ensure the longevity of the bar — to come to fruition, Gordon feels it must be autonomous from a landlord or anybody beyond devoted supporters.

“I just feel like Neir’s Tavern shouldn’t be dependent on one person. It’s way more important than that. We need to have a real sustainable model, not one that’s predicated on who has the cheapest prices of beer,” Gordon said. “I know that’s counterproductive to a business and trying to get customers, but I think at the end of the day that Neir’s Tavern is the deal. It’s the deal of the century.”

Acting with a board of directors, there are avenues of revenue that Gorden feels will best ensure the future of the bar. 

“We need to figure out how Neir’s Tavern can rise above that fight for customer’s attention. We don’t have all the money in the world to have that economy of scale, of advertising, of buying a ton of products so that you can get it cheaper,” Gordon said. “What we can have is this hope for economy of the community. If everyone can do a little part, we are more powerful than what any advertising dollar can do.”

Gordon does not want the future of Neir’s to sit on his shoulders alone. That, he feels, makes it too vulnerable, and he faithfully believes that it must last beyond his time as owner.

“I’m now transitioning to ‘What is Neir’s like without Loy?’ and that’s scary. I’m looking at a different way that Neir’s can survive without me,” he said. 

He looked at the street name, recently titled ‘Neir’s Tavern Way,’ and emphasized that owning Neir’s is an act of service — hence why it is not named ‘Loycent Gordon Way.’

As a small business owner, Gordon has faced an array of challenges. Most notably, he was nearly forced to close the bar in 2020 following a jump in rent from around $2,000 to $5,000 plus other expenses. 

With support from elected officials — including the office of then-mayor Bill DeBlasio — the community and the Queens Chamber of Commerce, an agreement was reached for a new five-year lease with a considerably lower rent. 

“The small business owners have glorified jobs,” Gordon said. “They could get paid similarly or even more working for someone. But they don’t because there is a level of passion that they aren’t willing to give up — doing something for hopefully the next generation.”

For his contributions in saving Neir’s Tavern and his devotion to the bar — and by extension, the community — Gordon has been honored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce as a Business Person of the Year.

However, he felt it necessary to emphasize that he alone did not save the bar. 

“I can’t eat all the burgers and drink all the beer,” Gordon said. “We have to work together to make sure Neir’s presses on.”

Prior to becoming the owner at Neir’s Tavern, Gordon had never runned a bar or restaurant. He is an immigrant, coming to the United States at age 10. 

Helped by a community of staff at P.S. 116, he went from being overwhelmingly behind educationally in his fourth grade class to graduating at its top, receiving a standing ovation from parents and staff at his graduation. He recalls janitors peeking their heads through the door windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of Gordon crossing the stage.

This experience left a lasting impression on Gordon — an impression that made him see the failing state of Neir’s Tavern as a way for him to give forward the support that was given to him.

“I came into Neir’s Tavern seeing that it was going to close. The long forgotten place that was special, just as I felt I was, but wasn’t given the love,” Gordon said. “This was my opportunity to give back. What if I could save one of America’s oldest places as an immigrant, as my service.”

Beyond his work at Neir’s Tavern, Gordon is an active firefighter. He was the first graduating class to be hired following the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Neir’s Tavern offers a distinct experience to its customers. Service is part of Gordon’s identity.

From a bowl that allows people to leave behind a community memory and mementos from the 1800s, there is more to Neir’s Tavern than beer. 

“It’s about preserving one of America’s oldest places,” Gordon said. “There’s not many of them left.”

 

Neir’s has a community bowl to leave a memory, emphasizing the importance locals have on the historic building.

Queens Gigabit Center opens in Jamaica

LinkNYC CEO Nick Colvin

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

The Queens Gigabit Center held its grand opening on Friday, Dec. 2 in the Allen Senior Center in Jamaica. In an attempt to bridge the digital divide in New York City — where two in five households lack either a home broadband connection or mobile broadband — the center will bring free high-speed internet access and access to computers to the seniors at the center. 

This is the third Gigabit Center in New York City, and the first in Queens. The center was created in partnership between Office of Technology and Innovation and LinkNYC, a free public Wi-Fi network with kiosks across the city that provide Wi-Fi, phone calls, device charging among other services. 

The opening was held to a crowd of approximately 100 senior citizens, who were encouraged to connect to the internet. Members of LinkNYC and staff of the center were available to help the attendees who were struggling to access the service. 

Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez serves as the commissioner for the New York City Department for the Aging, and she expressed how access to the internet at the center will help eliminate the barriers that the older population faces in the city.

“When anyone does anything in particular communities like this one to just equal the playing field, to bring technology to the level that many other communities enjoy, it is a gift,” Cortés-Vázquez said.

The digital divide, she shared, was devastating on the older community during the pandemic. Through the ingenuity she attributed to the New York City Chief Technology Officer Matthew Fraser and the directors of senior centers in the city, she applauded the speed in which programming transitioned to virtual.

“We knew that virtual programming for some is just a technical skill. For us, it broke social isolation,” she said “We know that social isolation is one of the hardest things that older adults can experience. We know it hurts us mentally and can affect us physically.”

Firing in at 800 megabits per second (Mbps), the free high-speed internet at the Gigabit Center is 32 times faster than low-end broadband internet. As defined by the Federal Communications Commission, internet speeds must be 25 Mbps or greater to be considered broadband. 

The internet is provided by LinkNYC, with numerous high-ranking members of the organization attending the grand opening. 

“To the older adult members who are here with us today, I want to welcome you to this space that was created specifically for you,” Nicole Robinson-Etienne – Director Of External Affairs LinkNYC. “At LinkNYC, we believe that high-speed internet connectivity is not a luxury. It’s a necessity to modern life.”

Through a public-private partnership with the city of New York, LinkNYC installs kiosks with free services, CEO Nick Colvin shared with the Leader-Observer.

Currently, LinkNYC is working to expand 5G coverage to communities in need. Currently, about 100 Link5G kiosks have been deployed throughout the city — approximately 90 percent of the locations are to be deployed outside of Manhattan or above 96th Street. 

Quantity is important, since 5G uses a high-frequency wavelength that struggles to connect through buildings or skyscrapers. LinkNYC says users can connect within 750 feet of the kiosks.

“For LinkNYC, we are a mission-driven organization. We believe that access to the internet is a human right. It is necessary to fully participate in society,” Colvin said. “That’s really the core of what we do. It’s really to bring free internet to as many people in New York as we can.”

Evette Ennis serves as the Vice Chair of the Allen Community Non-Profit Board and the Greater Allen Development Board, and spoke on behalf of the center.

“We are extremely thankful and honored that our senior center was chosen as the Queens Gigabit Center,” Ennis shared. “This will provide greater access and equity to all.”

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