SE Queens pols give funds to needy groups

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City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) has given out more than a million dollars in taxpayer money to more than a hundred of groups in southeast Queens during this fiscal year.

His fellow southeast Queens members on the Council, Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) and James Sanders (D-Laurelton), have also parceled out large donations to community groups with a combined total of more than a million dollars, according to the city’s list of discretionary funding.

Comrie, the deputy majority leader at City Hall, has listed 144 member items in this year’s budget, including small donations to neighborhood groups such as the Cambria Heights Civic Association, which received $3,500, and large contributions to long-running community organizations, such as the $28,000 he gave to the Afrikan Poetry Theatre for workshops.

In total, the councilman, who represents the neighborhoods of St. Albans, Hollis, Cambria Heights, Jamaica, Baisley Park and Addisleigh Park in the 27th Council District, distributed $1,124,121.

The largest single contribution went to a performing arts center at York College, at 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica, where the councilman’s wife, Marcia Moxam Comrie, works in the Department of Marketing and Communications. Comrie gave $45,000 to support the center’s 12-part series that brings the arts to southeast Queens.

The councilman gave a combined $57,550 to the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults, JSPOA, in four separate items. The nonprofit has been caring for senior citizens in the neighborhood for years and was on the verge of losing one of its centers, the Friendship Center, due to a cut in funding from the city Department for the Aging.

The city reversed its plans and restored the funding after a massive rally in December which Comrie attended.

“The Council member does not want to put them in a situation where they can not fund their centers,” Reggie Thomas, the director of legislative budget affairs for Comrie’s office.

Comrie was not available for comment.

Although he has been in the Council for less than a year, Wills had 69 member items listed and has given a total of $577,071.

Wills, who replaced the late Thomas White as the Council representative for the 28th District in a special election in November, gave $28,500 to the nonprofit group Young Leaders Inc. to help fund after-school activities for elementary and middle school.

“These groups do an incredible amount of work in the community, but they have not secured enough grants to do a lot of services. I decided to fund them based on that,” said Wills, who represents the neighborhoods of Jamaica, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Rochdale Village.

Comrie, Sanders and Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) have all contributed to Young Leaders during this financial year, according to the member item list.

Wills’s other member items include two grants to the southeast Queens housing advocacy group Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica that totaled $20,000 and $12,500 to JSPOA.

Sanders, who represents the neighborhoods of Rosedale, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway, Arverne, Bayswater and Edgemere in the 31st Council District, donated $588,321 with 48 member items. The councilman gave a combined $183,750 to the Margert Community Corp. with three different member items for senior, youth and community engagement services, according to the expense list.

The Rockaway-based nonprofit focuses primarily on housing counseling, but it also provides free services such as trips for seniors and a summer concert series in southeast Queens, according to Sanders.

“Margert is kind enough to sponsor a music festival that has become regionally renowned,” he said. “We have had groups as [big] as Roberta Flack, Ernie Eisley and Maxi Priest.”

Sanders said the money has gone a long way to help out his constituents over the years.

“Overwhelmi­ngly, the city and the taxpayers of New York feel proud for what their Council members are using their money for,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 11:30 am, October 12, 2011
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