If you follow the Queens borough president on Facebook, you might have noticed that it was a busy week for Donovan Richards.
There was the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in Laurelton, a visit to Rudy’s Bakery in Ridgewood for the Queens Shops Small series, the unveiling of a statue of Claire Shulman at Crystal Windows, a visit to PS 19 in Corona, extended COVID testing at Borough Hall, and a rally to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to put the proposed AirTrain to LaGuardia on the shelf.
Or rather, the people who work in the Borough President’s Office were busy, because the borough president himself spent the first week of October on a trip to Ukraine.
He was there to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Babi Yar Massacre, in which 100,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II. The trip was paid for by the Assembly of Nationalities of Urkraine and facilitated by The Blue Card, the group who invited the guests.
The trip was kept hush-hush, with no mention that Richards would be leaving the country. His office has refused to comment on what expenses were covered for Richards.
The office did state that the official reason for the trip was to show solidarity with the Ukrainian and Jewish populations of Queens. Residents living in the borough who identify as Ukrainian American make up less than 1 percent of the population.
Technically, there is nothing illegal about Richards accepting a paid trip as long as there is ostensibly an official aspect to the visit. (See above paragraph.)
It just seems curious that his office wasn’t more forthcoming about the trip. You would think if the purpose of the trip was to show solidarity with the Ukrainian population in Queens, it might be nice if they knew about it.
Something seems a little off.
But don’t worry, if you live in Queens you were in good hands. The borough president’s purely ceremonial duties were in the capable hands of Franck Joseph, the borough president’s chief of staff, who stood in for Richards at all of the events we mentioned above.