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Queens Village GOP club undergoes a rejuvenation

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In the late 1980s the Queens Village Republican Club was on its deathbed with membership down to only four, but the oldest GOP club in the nation has experienced a resurgence with the help of new Americans.

The club’s membership has risen to more than 250 and it might be the most financially sound Republican club in the city, said Jim Trent, chairman of the Queens Republican Club.

The wavering devotion of the area’s traditional Democrats has also opened the door for the club’s continued growth in an era when New York City’s last two mayors are Republicans as well as the governor.

“For a club that was close to demise, we are excited it was brought back from extinction and now enjoys power and prestige to a level that had not been seen in years,” Trent said. “Our mission is to continue to advance the basic Republican principles of maximum personal freedom and limited government.”

Trent said the club hit hard times in the late 1980s because Queens Village was divided into three state assembly districts. He said it was hard for the club to focus on one assembly seat, but in the 1992 the area again became one district in the redistricting process.

Once Queens Village was consolidated into one assembly district, interest in the club began to rise and meetings were called again by then-President Delores Grant.

The club started a newsletter and rewrote its constitution, Trent said, and soon it was back on its feet.

Recently, he said, the club has been able to make inroads into area Democrats’ traditional base. And, he said, it has attracted members from the large Haitian community in Queens Village, Cambria Heights and Laurelton as well as the South Asian population from Queens Village, Glen Oaks and Bellerose.

“The Haitian population and South Asian population have indicated they are not happy with the Democrats and have joined the Republican Party,” he said. “The traditional immigrants who had joined the Democratic Party were poor, but these people have money and opened businesses.”

Trent said these groups see the Republican Party as defending their interests by not raising taxes or implementing social welfare programs that have failed in the past.

The Queens Village Republican Club was founded in 1875 when the community was mostly farms and was a township of Jamaica. The club made its first splash in the 1880 presidential election between the GOP James Garfield and Democrat Winfield Hancock.

The club began to grow and by 1912 it became a regular destination for any Republican running for city, state and federal office. Some of the politicians to visit the club were President Theodore Roosevelt and New York gubernatorial candidates Ogden Mills and Albert Ottinger.

The organization continued to grow and enjoyed large membership rolls into the early 1960s. But the area’s demographics began to change in the mid-1960s and the newcomers were primarily Democrats. The club’s enrollment underwent a steady decline until the late 1980s, when there were no meetings and only four members left.

The club’s newsletter has been instrumental in bringing the club back from the brink.

“I think the newsletter helps,” Trent said. “It is infectious, lets people know the organization is alive and it is functioning. It keeps the club in touch with all of our members.”

Philip Sica, president of the Queens Village Republican Club, said the club’s value is its ability to generate enthusiasm about the Republican Party and convince people to vote along the Republican line.

“We are trying to reach out and get people to join,” he said, “especially the new Americans because they think we don’t care, but we do care.”

For the party to grow in the borough, Sica pointed out, more are needed with at least one in each assembly district. The Republican Party has been weakened in the borough over the years, he said, but with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg carrying the borough, there is a chance to revive the party.

“Switching or drifting to vote our line depends on developing a strong organization,” Sica said. “We need to help people see the Republican Party is not evil but there to help and serve the community.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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