Forest Hills leaders gather at State of the Civic Community
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Feb 07, 2018 | 4148 views | 0 0 comments | 91 91 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Three years ago, when Forest Hills Asian Association president Edwin Wong hosted the first “State of the Forest Hills Civic Community,” a handful of civic groups attended to share news and updates on their organizations for the upcoming year.

Now in its third year, the event has grown exponentially, with nearly 50 community members and community leaders rubbing elbows at the West Side Tennis Club last Tuesday.

"The gathering of the various civics provides an opportunity for us to gather and meet one another and learn about the respective organizations,” Wong said, “as well as partner and also to share information about the organizations with the community so that they can get involved.”

Mario DiPreta, WSTC general manager, added that the two came up with the “State of the Forest Hills Civic Community” during his first meeting with Wong in November 2015.

“We were talking about what we could do in the community,” DiPreta said. “Everybody may go to community board meetings or they may attend 112 Precinct Community Council, but they don’t talk to each other. No one really understands what each group does.”

Over the past three years, the event has formed partnerships between several local organizations. Additionally, the FHAA teamed up with the Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade organizers to add a Chinese Qipao group for the first time last year.

Organizations in attendance included 112th Precinct Community Council, Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, Forest Hills Civic Association, Forest Hills Long Island Jewish Northwell Health and Queens CB6 CERT.

Jean Silva, president of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, was a first-time attendee. For Silva, it was imperative to network with other civic groups in order to reach more members of the community about all of the activities and attractions available within the 892-acre park, like the Queens Theatre, Queens Museum and Queens Zoo.

“I think the important thing is that they know what we’re doing and we know what they’re doing,” Silva said. “That seems to be the missing link, everyone touches base here and there, but if we can see everything that’s going on in the community, that’s the key.”

Felix Cabrera, outreach coordinator of the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corp., announced that interest in the organization’s annual Run for Richie, a motorcycle ride honoring the memory of member Richard Pearlman, who was killed while responding to the attacks on September 11, have already exceeded the 1,000 riders that participated last year.

He also mentioned that May 20-26 is annual EMS week. FHVAC will organize a number of community events, including a blood drive on May 20 and an open house to close out the week.

The group will also begin the Stop the Bleed campaign in upcoming months. The campaign will encourage people to become trained so when an emergency occurs, they are equipped to lead before the first responders arrive.

Both DiPreta and Roland Meier, president of the WSTC Foundation, lauded the growth of the Forest Hills Stadium and the concerts held between spring and fall.

“There are great events throughout the year, they bring great culture into the community,” DiPreta said. “We have a great partnership with our team out there who also do a lot for the community.”

Upcoming concerts include Belle and Sebastian on June 8, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats on June 9, Alt-J on June 15 and Roger Daltrey on June 17.

“It’s amazing what six years have done,” said Meier, who was president of the WSTC when Forest Hills Stadium was revived. “Six years ago, we were an island here and no one knew we existed, and now we’re here, and the whole community is here, and they are connecting and discussing how they can improve the quality of life.”

In addition to programs such as wheelchair tennis and tennis for underprivileged youth, as well as a library containing historic pieces, the WSTC Foundation is hoping to potentially host an event on August 25 commemorating tennis great Arthur Ashe, who won the U.S. Open at WSTC 50 years ago.

Meier said the event would be a wonderful opportunity to garner support from the community and raise money for more programs that support youth and families.

Heidi Chain, president of the 112th Precinct Community Council, shared two possible events that will occur in the upcoming months. First, Police Commissioner James O’Neill is expected to speak at an upcoming meeting sometime in May.

The 112th Precinct Community Council is also planning a tolerance and diversity dinner event that will include a poster contest by local school children.

Forest Hills Kiwanis president Jeff Hayes encouraged organizations to reach out to one another to find more volunteers. For instance, high school students that are part of the Kiwanis Key Club could volunteer with Friends at MacDonald Park for community service projects.

He also encouraged the civics to participate in the Memorial Day Parade.

Dan Olson, president of Musica Reginae, encouraged civics to get more involved with engaging younger members of the community, particularly young families who have just moved to the neighborhood and are looking for different ways to interact with the community.

Forest Hills Civic Association president Chris Collett spoke to the room about staying involved, which especially helps when the community needs to fight for an issue.

As chairman of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, Collett also shared some insight into the development into the area.

“We want development, but we want it done thoughtfully,” Collett said. “Otherwise, what I think is going to happen is we’re going to choke on all the things that attracted us to Forest Hills in the first place.

“If we’re not going to stand up and take notice of what’s going on, believe me, other people will do it for us,” he added.
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