Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Week's Forum South and West

The Second Time Around: A Solider Returns to War

By Patricia Adams

Sean McCabe described his flight to Baghdad with one word: nerve-wracking. The journey actually started twenty-one months before when he enlisted in the United States Army in April of 2004.

“It’s a long flight. We left around 8 o'clock at night. We flew from Ft. Hood, Texas to Maine. From Maine we went to Frankfurt Germany and then on to Kuwait.” It wasn’t long after arriving that Sean realized just how very far he was from home. “We were on a training exercise in the desert… sleeping in a foxhole. When we woke up there was a thick mist over the sand and a couple of feet away from our trench, out of nowhere, there was a goat herder saying his morning prayers—I looked at my buddy and all I could say was, ‘This ‘aint Queens’.”

After a few weeks the unit flew the last leg of their trip. “We got to Baghdad at 8:46 PM on December 24, 2005—it was the farthest thing from Christmas Eve you could ever imagine.”

Now, nearly four years later, Sean McCabe will celebrate Christmas Eve at home with his entire family including future wife Melanie Castellano and their 15-month-old baby Kiera. But the memory of a Christmas past spent in the desert will call again on January 17, 2010 when Sean McCabe will journey as a soldier in the United States Army once again—this time to Afghanistan.

The McCabe family watched with anticipation, much like the rest of the nation, a December 2 speech by President Barack Obama, in which he outlined the details of a plan that would send 30,000 additional troops off to war. In the prime-time speech delivered from West Point, the President also told the American public that the same troops will start leaving Afghanistan long before the end of his first term.

Despite the dire warnings of more troops being deployed, no one at the McCabe house expected what was to come in the mailbox the next day. “When you enlist you are committed to the Army for the next eight years of your life,” Sean explained. “I didn’t expect to get notified the day after the speech, but I always knew there was a chance that this day would come.” And so after spending the last two and a half years as an inactive ready reserve, Sean McCabe is going back to war.

In the midst of his world as a soon-to-be-husband—Sean will marry his sweetheart Melanie on December 27—father, Community Board 10 member, firefighter hopeful and a host of other things, Sean McCabe will ship out to begin his second tour with orders that say he will be coming home within 400 days.

“Going back is not something I would say I want to do — I’m going to leave my wife and baby behind this time—that makes it so much harder.” But despite the emotional ties of his current situation, Sean rationalizes his position, “Nobody wants us to go. If they didn’t need us, they wouldn’t call us.”

In response to the many people who are opposed to additional troops being deployed, Sean McCabe says he understands the way people think. “It’s very difficult for the American public to understand what’s going on. But, when you are there and you see these people you start to understand. They’re hardworking and trying to provide for their families in the middle of war and chaos. We are the United States of America, the greatest country in the world. We can fix this and we belong there.”

Much of Sean’s duties overseas he expects will be along similar lines to his first tour. “I will be in a special operations command,” but he further explains how a unit doesn’t generally have the details of their mission much beforehand. “We never know exactly where we are going and what we are doing until that moment is upon us.”

What he does know from past experience is that for about 98% of the time he spends away he will be — his buddies at his side—in harm’s way. “One of the most valuable lessons I learned the first time over was the difference between a snap and a “whizz”. You always want a “whizz”.” The “whizz” is then defined by McCabe as the sound a bullet makes as it flies past you. A snap is the sound of a bullet as it breaks the sound barrier—usually within inches of your head. Sean McCabe chuckles, “You see my point about the “whizz” over the snap right?”

There are many things Sean McCabe says will get him through. “First of all, I am never without friends. Within minutes of my first shipment of vacuum-sealed homemade brownies from Aunt Pat, guys are knocking themselves out to protect me.”

Then there is what Sean says really kept him safe the last time and, ultimately what will get him through again. “A lot of guys do not have the family and the support system that I do. My family is always there to talk, to listen and to hold me up. They are my strength and my armor. Anyway as long as I’m back by St. Paddy’s Day 2011, it’s all good.”

Top: Among Kiera McCabe’s favorite times are those she spends in the "Airborne Division" her father runs in the family's living room. Left: Sean McCabe sits atop a tank with a buddy in one of few idle moments out in the Iraqi desert.

Concerns Over Burglaries, Railroad Security and Response Time in 104th Precinct

By Conor Greene

A number of concerns regarding the 104th Precinct were discussed at a public safety meeting this week, but with no officers in attendance, many of the questions remain unanswered.

Items slated for discussion at Tuesday’s Community Board 5 Public Safety Committee meeting included a review of the precinct’s current staffing levels, updates on crime statistics and concerns over the safety of freight train cars passing through the area.

A member of the precinct’s Community Affairs Unit said on Wednesday that “conflicts in our schedule” prevented the precinct from sending an officer to the meeting. Regardless, he noted that certain issues, such as staffing levels or personal assignments, are not discussed in public due to security concerns. One aspect of the precinct’s crime statistics that was discussed at length is an increase in burglaries, which is the only major crime that is up so far this year compared with 2008.

To date, there have been 415 reported break-ins, up more than 14 percent from the 363that had occurred at the same point last year. Over the past 28 years, burglaries are up more than 70 percent, with 46 reported this year compared with 27 last year.

All other major crimes are down this year compared with the same point in 2008, including robbery (263 to 290), grand larceny (464 to 515) and grand larceny auto (287 to 336). There has been one murder this year compared with four that occurred in two separate incidents last year, and there have been 13 rapes compared with 17 last year. However, all categories except murder are up over the past 28 day period, including double the amount of felony assaults (16 to eight) and grand larceny auto (25 to 18).

Another issue discussed in depth was security along the railroad corridors and train yards located within the community board’s confines. A representative for Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Glendale) said that pushing the rail operator CSX to ensure that all necessary safety precautions are being taken is a top priority.

While nobody from the precinct was able to discuss sensitive issues such as staffing levels and response time, board members in attendance expressed concerns over both issues. Robert Holden, who chairs the Public Safety Committee and is president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said he has been hearing complaints from neighbors that there aren’t enough officers to patrol the area or respond to crimes.

One problem, according to Holden, is that a patrol car dedicated to following up on prior crimes was nixed. That has led to a number of complaints from residents who said they had to wait “five, six, seven hours or longer” to report crimes. “We’ve been getting a lot of complaints about that,” he said, adding that the problem will likely be compounded when officers are reassigned for the upcoming terror trials in Manhattan. “That is going to overburden our precinct, which is understaffed already,” he said.

Another complaint from residents, said Holden, is officers discouraging victims from filing police reports. Several residents complained about both of these issues at recent civic meetings, leading Holden to wonder, “How often is it happening?”

Ridgewood North Historic District Approved

By Conor Greene

After extensive lobbying by community members and elected officials, the City Council has overwhelmingly approved the Ridgewood North Historic District.

The vote earlier this month brings citywide recognition to one of the neighborhood’s most distinctive aspects: blocks of multi-family homes built starting in 1908. Known as Mathews Flats because they were built by the G.X Mathews Company, the homes provided affordable housing for working class residents.

The Ridgewood North Historic District (RNHD) includes 96 buildings on former farmland along Gates, Fairview, Grandview and Forest avenues and Woodbine and Palmetto streets. The three-story buildings were constructed in long rows of repeated designs with buff-and-amber-colored brick facades and each included six separate residential apartments featuring a full bathroom.

The homes marked a departure from the overcrowded living conditions many immigrants and working-class residents were subjected to after the turn of the century. Central shafts provided ample light and fresh air, and the design was thought to be such an improvement over prior forms of affordable housing that they were exhibited at the Panama-Pacific Fair in 1915. The company, founded by German immigrants, ultimately built more 300 flats in Ridgewood and hundreds of other buildings throughout Queens.

News of City Council’s Nov. 30 approval of the district, during which 48 members voted in favor with one abstention, was welcomed by activists including Paul Kerzner, a lifelong Ridgewood resident who is hoping the city will ultimately landmark the 2,982 neighborhood buildings added to the state and federal historic registers in the 1980s. Next up is the Ridgewood South Historic District, which is currently awaiting approval from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“This is just another chapter,” said Kerzner, adding that the effort is long from complete. “Some people have gotten the impression that this has taken care of all 2,983 buildings in the district… This is the second one they have approved, and the third is in the hopper. I’m very happy to see that we’re making progress.”

Kerzner noted it is important to recognize the neighborhood’s history so that it can be appreciated by future generations. “Ridgewood has always been a melting pot of new immigrants,” he said, making it fitting that its history of providing affordable housing is being recognized. New immigrants are often concerned with finding shelter and work, meaning many times it is “the next generation starts to appreciate the significance of getting historic designation” as they become more invested in the neighborhood.

Vincent Arcuri, chairman of Community Board 5, called the designation “a long time coming and well deserved.” He said that the borough has been “ignored for many years” in terms of preserving historic areas and structures, and as a result Queens has “lost too many of these” notable buildings. “I think it is good for the community’s pride, it’s good for property values, and it’s good for the young people to understand that we recognize our history,” he said. “If Paul Kerzner completes everything he started 15 years ago, we could have the largest historic district in the city.”

The next goal, said Arcuri, is to secure funding and approval for street signs to provide “real visual recognition” similar to the brown and white street signs in Greenwich Village. Arcuri is also looking forward planned to the Wyckoff Avenue reconstruction project, which will help create an inviting entrance way into the historic district.

In a statement, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), who represents that portion of Ridgewood, called the approval “a long-awaited victory for many people in Queens.” Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Tierney said the buildings are “innovative in plan, striking in style, and, remarkably, have remained unchanged since their completion nearly 100 years ago.”

Tour of Potential Dog Run Sites Planned

Two New Locations in JVP on Table

By Conor Greene

A tour of potential locations for a dog run in Juniper Valley Park is planned for Saturday, as the community attempts to come to an agreement on an appropriate place for a permanent, fenced in area for canines to exercise and socialize.

Members of the Juniper Valley Park Dog Association have pushed for a dog run within the area of the park near the baseball fields already used during off-leash hours, but the proposal has been met with opposition from some neighbors and park goers. Instead, two other areas of the park – behind the roller hockey rink’s bleachers and a spot near 80th Street will be investigated on Saturday, according to Kathy Masi of Community Board 5.

A third potential location – land adjacent to the CSX railroad tracks along 57th Road near 78th Street – was suggested by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. While officials might look into it in the future, there are concerns that the area isn’t appropriate due to its proximity to homes and lack of parking, according to Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

Masi also sought to end rumors that space at Atlas Park in Glendale is being considered. Speculation began when Atlas Park was mentioned in an e-mail sent out by the board about the upcoming tour, but Masi said that was only mentioned when she raised the possibility of having a park in Glendale to the dog association members and is currently “not on the table.”

The issue has been a hot-button topic since the dog association first presented the plan to the community board more than a year ago, with some residents arguing that the current area used during off-leash hours (which would be eliminated if a dog run is built) is not appropriate because of its location in the middle of the park and due to damage dog urine has caused to nearby trees and plants.

Residents wanting to take part in Saturday’s investigation of the two new potential sites in Juniper Valley Park should meet at noon in front of Crowley’s office at 64-77 Dry Harbor Road. While Crowley is not attending the session, according to her press secretary, she vowed at last week’s CB 5 meeting to fund the project if an appropriate location is agreed upon. A Parks Department official is expected to attend the tour, according to Masi.

Newtown Historical Society Presents Flushing Avenue Photo Exhibit

The Newtown Historical Society is proud to present our first exhibit, “A Walk Down Flushing Avenue, 1929” at Maspeth Federal Savings, located at 58-15 69th Street in Maspeth, starting Monday, December 21st. This photo series is presented to create awareness and foster appreciation of the history of western Queens communities. The exhibit will be displayed in the windows of the recently renovated and upgraded bank building through the end of February and will be viewable from the street.

The photos represent a snapshot of life in Maspeth and Ridgewood on Nov. 1, 1929, just days after the “Black Tuesday” stock market crash that many associate with the beginning of the Great Depression. Several of the buildings featured in the series are still standing, with different uses today. The photos also offer a fascinating glimpse into how people from our communities went about their daily activities 80 years ago.

“Maspeth Federal Savings is pleased to host this photo series highlighting the history of Flushing Avenue and we look forward to working with the Newtown Historical Society to bring more educational exhibits to the public in the future,” said David Daraio, Assistant Vice President of Maspeth Federal Savings.

The Newtown Historical Society will be presenting more photo exhibits, as well as slideshows, lectures and walking tours throughout the upcoming year. Winter 2010 slideshows will include topics such as the development of western Queens neighborhoods, the story of the Newtown Pippin apple and the history of the Ridgewood Reservoir.

For more information about the Flushing Avenue photo exhibit or to join the Newtown Historical Society, visit or call 718-366-3715.

Motion Denied at Sheehan Hearing

Howard Beach Woman Can't Use Battered Women's Defense

By Patricia Adams

Family members and friends filled a courtroom on Tuesday morning in support of Barbara Sheehan, the Howard Beach resident accused in the shooting death of her husband, Raymond, back in February of 2008.

On November 10, Justice Arthur Cooperman handed down a ruling which denies the use, by the defense, of expert testimony to establish a battered woman’s defense. The ruling was handed down because the court stated that Sheehan deliberately missed an interview with a psychologist for the prosecution.

But Sheehan’s team says they never missed the appointment--they informed the court and the prosecution they would not attend because they had not received a decision on a prior appeal they had filed. Tuesday’s hearing was to hear a decision on the motion made by the defense asking that the prior ruling would be overturned — thereby allowing for expert testimony during the trial.

Attorney Michael Dowd stood with his client before Justice Arthur Cooperman, awaiting a decision. After learning that the prosecution had not read the motion, the judge offered a copy of the 30-page document to Assistant District Attorney Debra Pomodore to “peruse”.

A few minutes later, the hope that Cooperman would overturn his November ruling was quickly dashed as he delivered his decision. Cooperman first spoke to Pomodore, “I presume the people are opposed.” After confirmation from the ADA the judge directed two words to Dowd and his client, “motion denied.”

Outside the courtroom Sheehan’s family and supporters remained collected but appeared disappointed. One neighbor shook her head, “I just can’t believe this keeps happening.” But Barbara Sheehan wasn’t surprised at the judge’s decision. “We’ve come back to court at least a dozen times over the last twenty-two months,” she said. “We haven’t gotten one favorable decision in all that time.”

Referring back to Tuesday’s decision by Cooperman, Sheehan said, “He [Cooperman] had the order to deny the motion fully prepared when he came into the courtroom, without even hearing from the prosecution. His mind was made up.”

Barbara Sheehan shrugged her shoulders, “We just keep trying.”

Michael Dowd was not so accepting of Cooperman’s decision. “It is a gross miscarriage of justice to deprive a woman, who, without question, was so violently abused, of her legal and constitutional rights to a fair trial.” Dowd continued to rail at the court’s decision, “To think there will be no expert testimony at the trial — where such testimony is essential to help jurors to really understand domestic abuse — is unprecedented.”

Sheehan’s parents, Mike and Barbara Henry were in the courtroom. “We cry a lot,” said Barbara Henry. We can’t say anything or do anything. It’s very frustrating and terribly upsetting. Nobody wants to hear what really happened.”

Also in the courtroom were Raymond Sheehan’s brother Vincent and sister-in-law Linda. Before the shooting it was Vincent and Linda Sheehan who helped Barbara seek help through a domestic violence hotline. Now the couple sat on the opposite side of the room from the group who came in support of Barbara Sheehan; Vincent and Linda Sheehan engaged in conversation, marked by laughter, with ADA Pomodore.

Although it appears that Justice Cooperman’s latest ruling in the Sheehan case will stand, he will not preside over the trial. Arthur Cooperman will officially retire from the bench at the end of December.

Barbara Sheehan is scheduled to return to court on January 5, 2010. She will appear before Judge Richard L. Buchter, who presided over the Nicholas “Fat Nick” Minucci trial in 2005 in the same Howard Beach community.

Before leaving the courthouse on Tuesday morning Michael Dowd labeled the actions of DA Brown’s office as disingenuous. “They’re hypocrites. This is a DA’s office that acts as though it were the champion of domestic violence. It’s laughable,” said Dowd. “You can’t act this way and engender the respect of the domestic violence community. You just can’t do it.” As for Tuesday’s ruling Dowd said, “It’s just another devastating blow to Barbara Sheehan and to her defense.”

City Council Stirs Up Sick Leave Controversy

Bill Would Require Small Business to Provide Paid Days Off

By Patricia Adams

A bill introduced by the City Council has fueled a strong two sided argument over proposed paid sick leave for employees. Intro No. 1059 would require NYC small and medium businesses, (SMB’s), to give workers, both full and part time, nine paid sick days.

Small business is defined in New York State as those enterprises who employee fewer than 100 people, while medium business can employ 500.

Supporters of the measure report that nearly one million New Yorkers of the city’s workforce do not receive any paid sick days. Finger pointing by advocates of the bill supports the idea that a lack of paid sick days contributes to poor health outcomes, the spread of contagious disease and lower productivity from workers.

The Community Service Society of New York (CSS), a 160 year-old institution whose focus is on fighting poverty and advancing public policy innovations for low-income New Yorkers says that workers without paid sick days are more likely to go to work when they are ill and also send their kids to school sick.

Proponents say that when workers without sick leave are faced with decisions about taking off from work, it is not their health that is the biggest contributing factor in their decision. Co-sponsor Councilmember Eric Ulrich says that people are going to work sick because they cannot afford to lose the day’s pay, perhaps even their job. “In times like these, people deserve the peace of mind and know that their hard work merits time off when they are sick,” Ulrich said, “Despite objections, this is not an entitlement. It’s time off that workers must earn.”

While small business owners say they understand the dilemma of employees, they are facing another set of challenges. Carl Hum, the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce expressed his views in a statement written on behalf of the 5 Boro Alliance, a coalition of Chambers throughout the five boroughs that is strongly opposed to the legislation.

“In response to the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s, many businesses, big and small, have already cut overhead, payroll and services. Add to that increased taxes (including the new mobility tax on payrolls to support the cash-poor Metropolitan Transportation Authority), increased water and electricity rates, and additional fines and fees, and it becomes clear why New York City is renowned for being a difficult and costly place to do business.”

Hum concluded by saying that the coalition’s real objection to the bill is not that employees do not deserve paid sick time. It is the “broad-stroke” approach that would mandate the business community under such legislation and remove all flexibility from business owners.

Now the city council seeks to enact a measure that has proven successful in other cities, namely San Francisco, where initial objections were similar to those being bantered about among New Yorkers. Prior to the enactment of the bill in San Francisco there were almost 120,000 workers without paid sick leave. Now, with the paid days in place, many of the business groups and skeptics who opposed the bill admit that it has posed very few problems for their members.

According to a report released by the Drum Major Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank, the industry most affected by the new mandate in San Francisco, restaurant and hospitality businesses, saw strong growth relative to other counties in the region.

Although it is expected that the bill will be amended to include a lesser number of sick days than the nine originally proposed, the urgency of any inclusive measure is heightened by the infiltration of the swine flu.

“If we make serious considerations about the people most affected by this bill,” says Ulrich, “it is a sector of the workforce comprised of employees that have more public contact than any other.” Ulrich says that the restaurant and hotel workers have the largest potential to impact public health by coming to work sick. He also added that the same people would likely be the ones faced with the decision of having to send their sick children to school or daycare so they wouldn’t have to lose the day at work.

The city council's Civil Service and Labor Committee held a hearing on Intro.1059 back in November. A final vote has not been scheduled to be taken.

DEC Proposes Ozone Park Superfund Site Remedy

By Patricia Adams

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), held a public meeting on December 9th to discuss the proposed remediation for contamination related to the Ozone Industries State Superfund Site. The site consists of eight bays beneath the abandoned elevated Long Island Railroad (LIRR) located across the street from 101-32 101st Street in Ozone Park.

New York’s State Superfund Program (SSF) is responsible for identifying sites suspected of being inactive hazardous waste disposal sites. Sites in the program are categorized as those that pose a significant threat both to public health and the environment. During the course of remediation, a proposed site will go through an investigation, evaluation, cleanup and then monitoring. NYSDEC generally attempts to identify parties responsible for site contamination and require cleanup before committing State funds.

In order to clean the Ozone Park site, the DEC says it will excavate contaminated shallow soils, construct and operate a soil vapor extraction system, and include the construction and operation of a sub-slab depressurization system (see definition below) in the disposal area. Groundwater monitoring is proposed for the contaminated groundwater plume and institutional controls would be imposed in the form of an environmental easement.

The following is an outline of the proposal by NYSDEC for cleaning up the site:

•The floors in Bays 8-15 would be removed and the contaminated shallow soils would be excavated and replaced, as much as practical, with clean backfill.

•A soil vapor extraction (SVE) system of vertical wells and a piping system would be constructed to collect vapors from the deeper soils.

•An active sub-slab depressurization (SSD) system would be constructed beneath the new floors in Bays 8 through 15 to collect subslab vapors. The sub-slab depressurization system basically consists of a fan or blower which draws air from the soil beneath a building and discharges it to the atmosphere through a series of collection and discharge pipes.

•A vapor intrusion mitigation program would be implemented to investigate and mitigate, if necessary, vapors in off-site adjacent structures.

•Monitoring of the impacted groundwater onsite and off-site would be conducted.

•Institutional controls in the form of an environmental easement would be required.

•A Site Management Plan would be developed.

•The property owner would provide a periodic certification that the institutional controls are in place.

•The operation of the components of the remedy would continue until the remedial objectives have been achieved, or until the NYSDEC determines that continued operation is technically impracticable or not feasible.

Before finalizing the remedy for the site, NYSDEC will consider public comment. The agency will also release a document known as a Record of Decision explaining why the particular remedy was selected. The document will also serve to address public comment. Following the states filing of the Record of Decision, the project will move into the design phase with cleanup action to follow.

Prior to 1998, The Ozone Industries Facility was sold in 1998 and prior to that manufactured aircraft parts including landing gear, hydraulic assemblies, aircraft steering assemblies and flight controls. The company rented several bays beneath the LIRR which were used to store spent trichloroethylene (TCE), hydraulic fluids, and scrap metal chips. It is believed that releases of solvents, oil and/or fluids may have occurred in one or more of these bays.

The Ozone Industries Site is located in a mixed commercial/industrial and residential area within a block bounded by 99th and 100th Streets to the east and west and by 101st and 103rd Avenues to the north and south. The bays on the property are owned by the City of New York and leased to various tenants for different uses.

If you would like to offer public comment you may do so until December 24. Submit your comments to: John Durnin, P. E. NYSDEC, Division of Environmental Remediation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7016

Amalgamated Bank Opens Myrtle Avenue Branch

By Conor Greene

Residents have a new option in local banking with the opening of Amalgamated Bank on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood. The occasion was marked with a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday attended by a host of local residents and officials.

The bank touts itself as “America’s Labor Bank” and offers services that “work hard for working people.” The new branch at 56-29 Myrtle Avenue marks the borough’s third location, along with Flushing and Long Island City. The company plans to open two more branches in the coming year, including one planned for Maspeth in early 2010.

Derrick Cephas, president and executive officer of Amalgamated Bank, said the company was looking to expand into the “nice, stable, middle-income” neighborhoods of Queens. In particular, they were searching for a location that offers plenty of street traffic, small businesses and population density. “This fits the bill – great visibility and a nice location,” said Cephas. “You can’t beat it.”

He said Amalgamated offers all the various banking service the community needs at competitive terms. “We don’t try to get the last nickel out of the customer,” he said. Speaking before the subsequent ribbon-cutting, he elaborated on why Ridgewood is a good fit for the company. The bank was founded 85 years ago because many immigrants, especially Jewish and Italian, needed a bank that would do business with them. “That’s our founding, that’s our roots,” he said.

The bank provides many services to the community, including free workshops about topics like obtaining a mortgage and building credit, according to Keith Pilkington, executive vice president for marking and retail banking. “Especially in these times, that is really needed,” he said.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-Ozone Park) called the opening of a new bank an indication the economy is turning the corner. “That’s a good sign,” he said, adding that it’s “an absolute challenge for someone like Amalgamated Bank to cut a ribbon today.”

Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, called Amalgamated “a bank with a rich social history” that will benefit the area. “It shows they really believe in the Ridgewood community and our commercial strip,” he said.

Top: Bank President Derrick Cephas cuts the ribbon on Amalgamated’s newest branch as staff members, elected officials and neighbors look on. Bottom: Ridgewood resident Andrew Bennett, one of three lucky raffle winners, is congratulated by Lona Gill of Amalgamated.