Emergency SNAP Allocations End, concerning Queens Advocates

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

For the past two years, families that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have been provided the maximum amount of monthly benefits that is available for their family size. These emergency SNAP allocations, designed to help families during the pandemic, expired on March 1, greatly impacting those who rely on these services in Queens.

In 2021, during the height of the pandemic, Queens recorded a 48% increase in food insecurity, the highest increase among the five boroughs according to Jerome Nathaniel, the Director of Policy and Government Relations of City Harvest, one of New York City’s largest food rescue organizations. As for children, it increased by 60%

In response to the allocations ending, City Harvest is anticipating delivering roughly 75 million pounds of food free of charge to their network.

For the past 40 years, we have never shied away from stepping up where there’s these sorts of emergencies, even if there’s low unemployment, high unemployment, man made disasters or natural disasters, City Harvest continues to work with our network to do our best to make sure that our pantries are stocked with the food they need to serve folks,” said Nathaniel.

During the pandemic, food insecurity rates drastically increased, as 14.3% of the Queens population faced food insecurity in 2021 compared to 9.7 in 2019.

Queens was disproportionately hit hard by the pandemic — by job loss, by different low-income communities, low wage workers, immigrant communities, especially in Queens who may have not been eligible for a lot of these sort of government programs but were hit hard by economic impact by the pandemic,” Nathaniel said. “So it certainly had a disparate impact on Queens.”

Nathaniel described how the minimum benefit allowed for some households was $16 per month, and the Emergency SNAP allocations raised that to $281.

Just imagine over three years benefiting from that, not as some sort of privilege but really as just a survival tool, and then suddenly it’s all pulled from underneath,” he said.

In December, it was made clear to SNAP recipients that the additional funding was set to end — a three month turnaround that Nathaniel shared was “simply not enough time.”

In a report from the New York City Comptroller on March 1, 2.9 million New York households were enrolled in the SNAP as of December 2022, and that approximately one in 10 New York Households experience food insecurity.

He reported that with the loss of maximum benefits, as well as the increased benefits provided by SNAP for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) ending in October 2023, food insecurity could grow further. His office, among other suggestions, recommended that the federal government should extend temporary benefits related to SNAP and WIC until the increased cost of food due to inflation subsides. Many food organizations stand in agreement.

To help make up for the loss of benefits, there should be a coordinated response that involves community organizations working with city and state legislative leaders and other key officeholders who should use their budgets to protect New Yorkers from cuts in SNAP benefits by increasing investment in programs that provide crucial food support,” United Way of New York City said in a statement. ‘On the federal level, Congress should act to increase SNAP supports and sufficiency through key changes to the Farm Bill. Acting together, we can help make sure fewer New Yorkers go hungry.”

He also recommended that eligibility levels for SNAP and WIC should be increased to at least 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and that the Federal Child Tax Credit be expanded.

Food pantries and food banks are reportedly drawing larger crowds across the city, as reported by the New York Daily News on Feb. 28. They reported that advocates warn the end of the emergency funds will have a devastating impact in the city.

To wake up on March 1, and knowing that you’re going to lose anywhere from $95 to $200 in grocery benefits, at a time when food is at an all time high inflation rate, is really devastating. Just to really drive home the point of how these past three years really showed us that SNAP needs to be more,” said Nathaniel.

Remembering Father Cyclone

By Ed Wendell

 

He was a tough Irish kid from Elderts Lane, one of 12 children born to a tough New York City fireman and his wife who emigrated from County Cavan in Ireland.

He was an altar boy at the Catholic Church of Saint Sylvester in Brooklyn, around the corner from his house. His name was Father Lawrence Edward Lynch and he was a hero.

When he was assigned to the 69th Infantry Regiment, he stepped into some mighty big shoes worn by the famous Father Duffy, who was immortalized on film by Pat O’Brien in “The Fighting 69th” starring James Cagney.

According to those who knew him well and had the chance to work alongside him, he filled those shoes admirably.

Brigadier General Julius Klein was his commanding officer in the Pacific during World War II and recalled Father Lynch’s zest for justice when he stormed into his office fighting for a Jewish soldier who he felt had been unfairly passed over for promotion.

“It never mattered to him whether a soul was white or black, Jew or Christian, or unbeliever,” General Klein said of his friend. “To him, each human being was simply a child of God.”

They were at each other’s side on a rescue ship when rushing to the SS Elihu Thompson, a Liberty ship that had struck a mine on September 25, 1944. Eleven young men were killed and 22 were missing. They were never found.

While Klein was directing the rescue, Father Lynch tended to the mortally wounded, offering comfort and holding their hands so the young men did not have to die alone.

“Ego te absolve,” the “absolution of sin,” he whispered quietly in the ears of young men who would never see their friends or families again.
One of the young dying sailors was Jewish and asked for a rabbi. None were available, so Father Lynch held his hand and whispered “Sh’mai, Israel, Adonai, Eloheno Adonai echad.”

The young soldier died just as Father Lynch finished the prayer. Klein was overcome with emotion and never forgot the incident, often referring to the priest as his favorite Irish rabbi.

Regardless of who you were or what you believed, Father Lynch would be at your side when you needed him most. He was a priest first but a soldier second, and like so many young men of that era he was unafraid of the hazards of war, receiving five citations for bravery.

And it was this bravery that led father Lynch and so many other young soldiers to the island of Okinawa, a strategic piece in the impending land invasion of Japan.

The battle on Okinawa raged for weeks, and Father Lynch repeatedly sought out the battalions and regiments that were expected to see the heaviest action.

It was grueling and dangerous, but Father Lynch kept pace with the action, comforting the wounded and giving last rites to hundreds and hundreds of the 20,000 American soldiers that would eventually lose their lives in that battle by the time it ended.

On April 25, 1945, the Japanese were shelling the battalion that Father Lynch was traveling with and a soldier nearby screamed as he was hit. The tough Irish priest from Elderts Lane ran to the young soldier’s side and began offering the last rites when a second shell struck, killing both of them instantly.
Father Lawrence Edward Lynch was 38 years old.

At the end of June, after victory had been secured, over 4,000 servicemen attended a mass at his graveside in Okinawa. Back home, a steady stream of servicemen visited his parents to pay their respects long after the war had ended.

A local youth football league was started and named in his honor, taking part of his name along with honoring the other veterans of war: Lynvets.
And a piece of land near the border of Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Brooklyn was set aside as a memorial. A triangle at Atlantic Avenue and Rockaway Boulevard was dedicated in his honor following a large parade on October 8, 1949.

But over time, the sign disappeared and people forgot about Father Lawrence Edward Lynch. On March 9th 2019, the triangle was rededicated in his name. Members of the Lynch family along with community leaders from Woodhaven and Ozone Park gathered at the memorial to the local Irish boy turned hero priest they nicknamed Father Cyclone.

‘Eat Good, Live Better:’ Supreme Empanadas Opens in Jamaica

By Pamela Rider

intern@queensledger.com

 

Supreme Empanadas is a new local restaurant in Jamaica (137-32 Rockaway Blvd) that has an array of cultural dishes. Opened in October 2022, it is owned by Tajsaun Douglas, a 33-year-old up and coming entrepreneur who has lived in the area since birth. He was raised by his mother, father, and grandmother, and has had his fair share of life’s ups and downs during his journey towards manhood.

“I’ve always wanted to own my own business since I can remember. I just wasn’t sure what type of business that I wanted to pursue,” said Douglas.

Both of Douglas’ parents worked outside of the home, so most of his time was spent with his Nanna.

“She was always in the kitchen baking and cooking while she helped me with my homework,” he said. “Years went by and I became her best student of cooking creations, not to mention that I’m a foodie.”

Many local residents feel that Supreme Empanadas has an inviting ambiance which is quite inviting and magnetic to food lovers. Lamb empanadas are their specialty, and have attracted the attention of many.

Frequent customer Michelle Roberts said, “I just love their food. The lamb empanadas are my favorite. In this area, you can hardly find lamb in the supermarkets. I wish them all the best success!”

“Eat good, Live Better, is all about what we take in,” said Douglas.

He added, “The environment is all a part of living better. No one wants to feel slighted or uncomfortable when they visit any establishment. I do my best to cultivate my best and share it with others.”

“Soul food,” and “Chinese food” has monopolized most urban communities giving little to the imagination and to the palate of inner city residents. It serves its purpose, and has been prosperous for many years, and more than likely for many years to come.

Unlike many restaurants in the immediate area, this particular Supreme Empanadas in Jamaica advertises a daily special dish that is posted on their Instagram (@supremeempanadas). His menu has many diverse dishes that welcomes all to explore.

The reviews are outstanding from patrons that have posted their opinions on TikTok and other major platforms expressing their appreciation for the establishments cuisine. So many hashtags from so many customers. There are a handful of dissatisfied customers, but for the most part according to the reviews, Supreme Empanadas has been a smashing success.

These are just a few of the reviews and the daily specials that are shown on their Instagram.

Jacob Waters said, “I try to go there at least three times a week. The food is excellent and worth every penny!” Every time that I go, it seems like they have created a new dish,” added Waters.

“I’m just glad that I am doing well and pleasing my customers. As we all know, the customer is always right!, said Douglas. “I’m really thrilled with the outcome.”

This small restaurant affords the community with dishes that are usually out of their immediate reach, not to mention provides the comfortable atmosphere of love. The expression of love is not only expressed with the pleasure of the food and the desire for customers to climb on board the Supreme Empanada boat, but the love that is put into the meals that keep the customers happy and coming back for more.

“So far so good. Life is definitely looking up,” Douglas said.

Briarwood family demands justice for dog euthanized by ACC

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

On March 12, the Leon family of Briarwood frantically searched for their missing dog Leona.

As a 19-year-old animal, they knew her eyesight wasn’t great and she was frail, so they spent the morning walking the blocks around their home calling her name and scouring the internet for any signs of her.

Through Facebook, they found good news — a picture of Leona on a missing pets group page. Upon calling the Good Samaritan who made the post, they found out she had been taken to an Animal Care Centers of New York City (ACC) shelter at 2336 Linden Blvd in Brooklyn.

This, the Leon family described on Monday at a press conference in Briarwood, is where the good news ended. Upon calling the shelter, the family discovered their dog had been euthanized by the shelter managed by ACC, which is overseen by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

Standing at the intersection where Leona was first discovered by that good samaritan, on the Southeast corner of Smedly Street and Coolidge Avenue, the Leon family and local council member James F. Gennaro (D-Kew Gardens) claimed that the ACC went outside of its own policy and euthanized Leona inhumanely. They are calling upon the DOHMH to launch a formal investigation into the practices of the ACC.

“This is a grieving family that suffered the loss of their beloved pet, Leona, at the hands of the ACC for reasoning that I truly believe was completely unwarranted and atrocious,” Gennaro said. “Nothing like this should befall this family.”

“They didn’t get us the opportunity to say goodbye,” Vianey Areica Leon, the family’s mother said.

Vianey Areica Leon, the family’s mother, meeting Councilmember Gennaro for the first time.

According to policy found on their website, ACC shelters give potential owners 72 hours to reclaim their pet.

“We also will check for a microchip and search through various databases for any reports of lost pets that may fit the description of that animal. If no one claims during the holding period, he/she will receive a Placement Evaluation to determine next steps,” the website states.

Juan Leon described how the official time of death has not been provided for their dog, but that he expects it was just hours after she arrived at the shelter.

“Part of us is truly gone. She was the first love of my life,” Juan said, adding that he doesn’t understand how the ACC is able to operate in this way.

“We keep getting told different answers and we’re starting to notice that with every comment the ACC makes, they change the rules. They have a loophole for every action that they do,” he said.

However, the ACC shared in a statement to the Queens Ledger that the pets’ deteriorating health conditions led them to step outside this policy.

“She had no identification, no dog license and was not microchipped. Upon intake, Leona was seen spinning in circles and was wobbly when walking.  A comprehensive physical exam was done by a veterinarian indicating that she was in a very debilitated state and suffering from progressive neurologic symptoms.  She was minimally aware of her surroundings, non-reactive to stimuli, weak and unable to stand for more than a few minutes before falling.  She was emaciated with a body condition of 2/9 indicating possible chronic illness. The doctors at ACC do not take euthanasia lightly.  It is their job to direct a course that is in the best interest of the animal.  In Leona’s case, given her present state and in addition to all the other chronic, debilitating conditions she had (heart disease, blind, deaf, and severe dental issues) the doctors believed her to be suffering,” the statement read.

The emailed statement then stated that the law was on their side.

“For dogs with serious medical conditions and especially those stemming from extreme old age who are in pain and suffering, it is the duty of veterinary staff to provide peaceful end of life care. This decision is not made lightly but is always made in the best interest of the pet. In these cases, if a pet has been lost or abandoned, we scan for identification that ideally will lead us back to an owner before any end-of-life decision is made. However, if there is no information at all from a microchip or any other identification, we must make the decision on our own within the most humane timeframe. Euthanasia of stray animals is regulated by New York State Agriculture and Markets Law: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/AGM/A26. The law specifically states that if an animal is suffering, euthansia may be performed before the stray hold period is over.”

Juan shared that their veterinarian had described how there was little that could be done regarding the age-related issues that Leona had, but the family made the decision with the veterinarian that she would live the rest of her life at home.

“Leona never stood a chance the moment she walked to ACC and that’s not fair,” he said. “That’s not fair. She should have came home to us, and she should have died on our terms. Our family should have made that decision of when to start her end-of-life story.”

Juan’s sister Ericka expressed heartbreak over what happened to her dog, adding that she “thought shelters were a safe haven.”

“They took my dog from me,” she shared, holding back tears, adding that while she plans to fight with her family for justice for Leona, “at the end of the day, I’ve already lost.”

The Leon family suggested that their dog was cremated without their permission, and when they went to retrieve their pet, they were met with a hostile environment, claiming they were reminded more than once that there were officers near the property.

They also insinuated that they plan to take legal action.

The Leon family is planning a rally on April 15 at the ACC Administrative Offices at 11 Park Place in Manhattan.

Gennaro is calling upon the New York City Council’s Legislative Integrity Unit to ensure that the city is on-track in construction of a full-service shelter in Queens and the Bronx, as mandated by Local Law 123 of 2018. The law requires that the shelters be completed by July 1, 2024, and the Queens shelter is under construction in Ridgewood. The mayor’s office did not reply by publication with details of how far along the construction is.

Through having a fully-functioning city shelter in each borough, Gennaro believes that capacity will no longer be a consideration in the decision-making by veterinarians regarding euthanasia.

“I don’t know if it’s a capacity issue, where they have to do whatever it takes to minimize capacity,” Gennaro said.

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