This story was produced through the City Limits Accountability Reporting Initiative For Youth (CLARIFY), City Limits’ paid training program for aspiring public-interest journalists.
New York is a city rich with diversity — and Community Board 3 of Queens is looking to give its immigrant residents a greater voice.
Queens CB 3, where more than half the population is foreign-born, recently created a new committee to bring attention to issues affecting immigrants in the community, including affordable housing, senior housing, public transportation and adult English education.
The board — which represents residents in the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, and North Corona — introduced the new Committee for Immigration Affairs in March, and it held its first official meeting on May 9. The committee is led by board member Lobsang Salaka, who is an immigrant himself as well as a veteran.
“I am myself immigrant, I know what it means to be an immigrant,” says Salaka. “We need a committee to build relations among various ethnic backgrounds and have a dialogue to promote our interest.”
CB3 is known for its diversity: both Corona and Elmhurst are among the New York neighborhoods with the most immigrants, according to city data. Jackson Heights is home to Diversity Plaza, a two-block pedestrian walkway on Broadway and 37th Road that was named to honor the neighborhood’s role as “crossroads of the world.”
“We have people who speak different languages and have different cultures,” says Salaka. “It was long overdue to have an immigration committee.”
The committee currently consists of nine board members, who have already created an agenda for the coming months, according to Salaka, though a monthly meeting time has not yet been decided on.
The board was inspired to start the new committee, in part, because of the current political climate, says Salaka. He believes it’s the board’s responsibility to help people come together and work through the issues they face as a community.
Although they’re just getting started, Salaka has already come up with ideas to get more members of the immigrant community involved with CB 3: He wants to hold culture fairs as well “Immigration Story Sharing” events where people can share their immigration stories.
Salaka hopes the new committee will allow more people in the neighborhood to have their voices heard.
“This committee is to identify problems and issues and raise [our] voice as a team,” he says. “We are here to show that immigrants are here to build the nation.”