BY TRONE DOWD
Amid the state’s multi-billion dollar investment for the revitalization of John F. Kennedy International Airport, Southeast Queens faith leaders said that they are uniting to ensure that the plans are more of a vessel for opportunity for the surrounding neighborhoods than a takeover.
Queens pastors—including Robert Lowe of Cambria Heights’ Mt. Moriah AME in, Phil Craig of Jamaica’s Greater Springfield Community Church, Floyd Flake of Jamaica’s Greater Allen AME Church, Henry Simmons of the St. Albans Congregational Church and Caesar Cabiness of Jamaica’s Praise Tabernacle—have created an alliance to push for a community agreement for the airport revitalization. Their goal is to ensure community employment, high wages and local contractor and business participation in both the pre- and post-construction process of the upgraded airport.
On Friday, the five congregations organized a public forum to discuss the practicalities of such a plan with Southeast Queens residents. More than 100 people attended the meeting at Mt. Moriah.
As explained by Craig at the meeting, the coalition is “not about bashing the airport” plans, but empowering the people who will be affected by development if certain steps aren’t taken.
“Historically, with things like the Airtrain and other developments in Southeast Queens, we never really saw the promised benefits that came out of it,” Craig said. “While 95 percent of the workers are African Americans coming from our community, many of them still find themselves living in poverty,” Craig said.
Lowe said that while the average employee makes $11 an hour, he hopes to see pay go up as high as $20 for appropriate positions.
“There’s inequity in our community,” Lowe said. “This billion-dollar state investment should transcend to the entire community.”