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Rhodd-Cummings dead at 56

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State Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings (D-Far Rockaway), the first woman of Caribbean descent to be elected to the Assembly, died of cancer at her Far Rockaway home Sunday. She was 56.

Elected officials from throughout the borough and the state called Rhodd-Cummings’ district office in Far Rockaway Monday to express their condolences and applaud the work the Democratic assemblywoman had accomplished during her four years in office, said Valerie West, her chief of staff.

Gov. George Pataki described the assemblywoman as “an outstanding community leader and a dedicated and tireless public servant for the people of Queens.”

Rhodd-Cummings had been sick for a few months but continued to work at home through her illness. “She was a fighter,” West said.

Rhodd-Cummings was born and raised on the island of Jamaica. A longtime resident of Far Rockaway, she was a community activist for several decades before her election to the Assembly in 1998.

“We always admired her for her commitment to the community,” West said. “She was an elected official who knew what the community wanted and she went after it.”

Rhodd-Cummings was re-elected to the Assembly in 2000 with 95 percent of the vote. She represented the 31st Assembly District, covering Far Rockaway, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens, South Ozone Park and part of Richmond Hill.

Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), whose district borders Rhodd-Cummings’ district, worked with her on several projects common to the southeast Queens neighborhoods they represented.

Scarborough remarked on how much Rhodd-Cummings had achieved during her brief tenure in the Assembly.

“She was a tremendous fighter for her district,” Scarborough said. “Pauline was not loud or very vocal — she would not bang her fist on a table, but she was very persistent, she was tenacious in finding out where the resources were. Case in point: She had been able to get about $500,000 to establish an aviation school in her district.”

Scarborough said the school is a collaboration between York College and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which will train young people for jobs in the aviation industry.

“This was something that she was tremendously excited about,” he said of the school.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver(D-Manhattan) said Rhodd-Cummings was known among her colleagues as “a warm and gracious individual” and he praised her dedication to her constituents.

“This commitment was evidenced by her steadfast advocacy for residents and businesses adversely affected by severe flooding in 1999,” Silver said. “She was also influential in securing funding for renovations to the Mott Avenue subway station and was deeply committed to immigrant issues and the seniors she represented.”

Silver went on to call Rhodd-Cummings “a champion of education and economic development.”

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall also mentioned the assemblywo­man’s commitment to the communities she represented.

“Before her death, she was extremely helpful to our office in moving forward a planned health and education center on the Rockaway Peninsula,” Marshall said.

Rhodd-Cummings was a member of four standing committees in the Assembly: Children and Families; Corporations, Authorities and Commissions; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; and Small Business.

She is survived by her husband, Michael Cummings; a daughter, Andrea Chester; three brothers, Keith, Easton and Victor; one sister, Audrey; and her father, Roy Rhodd.

Visiting hours were set for Wednesday evening at the First Presbyterian Russell Sage Memorial Church in Far Rockaway.

A second viewing was scheduled for Thursday from 10 to 11 a.m., followed by a funeral service at 11 a.m. at Church of Saint Luke and St. Matthew, 520 Clinton Ave., Brooklyn.

The interment was to be at the Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens. The family requested that no flowers be sent.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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