U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D−Jamaica) took a detour from Jamaica and Washington, D.C., Sunday to visit the South Asian population in the west of his district.
The congressman visited one Hindu temple and two Sikh temples on a meet−and−greet trip where he touted the benefits of the newly passed federal economic stimulus package and the importance of diversity in the United States.
“America needs to have a new image, and it has to have new people to make that change,” Meeks told the roughly 200 Hindus at the Tri Murti Bhavan Mandir in Ozone Park, emphasizing the contributions of immigrants to society.
Community leader Albert Baldeo pointed out that the area’s strong Indo−Caribbean population had a special connection to Meeks, whose wife is of Guyanese descent.
“We actually have a piece of Congressman Meeks’ family heritage,” he said.
Meeks also answered congregants’ questions about the economy with reassurances about the stimulus package.
“It will bring 7,500 jobs to the 6th Congressional District,” he said. “We want to make sure those jobs are created through local businesses.”
Meeks assured the audience that President Barack Obama’s strategy of mortgage relief was aimed at individual homeowners like those in Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.
“Yes, he’s concerned about Wall Street, but he’s also concerned about Main Street,” Meeks said.
The congressman was less able to assure one Hindu religious leader who asked Meeks to lead a movement to give Hindus waterfront spots for worship across the country.
“Our devotees from time to time go to the ocean to worship,” said Bavindradati Parasram, president of the USA Pandits Parashad, an organization of Hindu clergymen. “We are always worried about the city giving us a fine.”
“What you indicated would probably be covered by the city or the state,” he said, suggesting he contact with the local City Council member or the mayor’s office. “I think it is a situation in which we need to have a conversation.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@tim
©2009 Community News Group
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