Organized by Progressive American Community Empowerment (PACE), a Pakistani community organization, the event was attended among others by NY State Assemblymember David McDonough (R) who represents the 14th district, NY State Assemblymember John Mikulin (R) representing the 17th district, Hempstead Councilman Chris Carini who was elected to represent the 5th District in November 2019, former State Representative Thomas McKevitt, and Joe Baker of South Merrick Community Civic Association. Diversity, enthusiasm, and energy inside the hall of Merrick Golf Clubhouse were beyond the pale.
Senior journalist and analyst Jehangir Khattak also addressed the event and stressed the importance of both diversity and equity and inclusion in diversity. “Diversity, and – “equity and inclusion in diversity” — both still remain a challenge in many ways,” Khattak told the audience. He hoped that elected officials, decision-makers, and those in positions of authority will celebrate American diversity even more by making it “equal and inclusive in their spheres of influence by giving opportunities to those who don’t have it just because they are new in this country or are in the process of integration.” He urged the communities to engage more actively with mainstream politics.
PACE chairman Saeed Hassan moderated the event, which started with special prayers by Maulana Imtiaz Thanvi, Imam Bellmore Mosque; Rabbi Ira Ebbin of Congregation Ohv Sholom, Hindu Pundit Shri Pathannkar, and Winners church Hempstead Pastor Mutiu Babaker.
Hassan explained the aims and objectives of his organization, saying PACE will serve the communities irrespective of their background and affiliation. He also highlighted PACE programming, including the launching of a Halal pantry. He urged the Pakistani community to come forward, get themselves registered as voters, vote in the elections, and join the mainstream.
The Republican leaders had an unequivocal message for the Pakistani Americans and representatives of other communities in the room — “We are your servants. We work for you. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and reach out if you have any issues, concerns, or need help,” said one speaker. The words diversity, equity, and inclusion remained the buzzword for greater civic engagement and political activism.
The Republican leaders in their speeches stuck to their party line on key issues. They touched on subjects such as law and order, safe streets, good schools, housing, property tax etc. “Nassau county has witnessed 38% increase in violent crime,” said Senator Steven Rhoads in his speech, adding: “It is because the laws we put in Albany favor criminals.”
According to crime statistics published on the Nassau County Police Department’s website, the biggest jump has come in stolen cars, up over 87 percent from 425 to 796 thefts. Similarly, home burglaries also rose this year, by over 39 percent. The rate of robberies saw a jump of over 51 percent. Grand larceny was up 38 percent. “We are fighting (Governor) Kathy Hochul’s policies that are against people’s interest,” said one speaker.
Governor Hochul’s Housing Plan Criticized
Governor Hochul was the target of almost all the Republican speakers over her housing and policies related to keeping the streets safe. Senator Rhoads objected to Governor Hochul’s housing plan for Nassau County.
“Around every Long Island railway station the governor wants a density of 50 homes within an acre,” he said adding the county’s population could increase by 1.5 million with such housing density.
Hochul’s $250 million plan is aimed at increasing the supply of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households, as well as addressing homelessness in the county. But Rhoads said it will bring the civic infrastructure under unbearable pressure.
Rhoads and his Republican colleagues expressed their determination to oppose Governor Hochul’s policies both in Albany as well as at the local level. They urged the Pakistani and other communities to get involved in local politics and work with them for the resolution of many issues they face.
Special citations were given to community activists for their outstanding community services. The recipients included: South Asian Community Leader Nilima Madan who is also a former President of Rotary Club Hicksville and a Trustee of Hanuman Temple; Guruma Saraswati, Chairman Vedic Heritage Inc; Azhar Aslam President Bellmore Masjid; Rehana Jaffer, Vice President of Architectural sign company which is a women-owned minority business (MWBE) local manufacturing facility in Nassau county; Chairlady of Al Mahdi Islamic Center in Hicksville; Maulana Imtiaz Thanvi, Imam Bellmore Mosque; Masood Siddiqui; Waheed Ahmed, and Najmussaqib Saiyed.
The event attendees included the PACE team consisting of Saeed Hassan, Adnan Bukhari, Najmussaqib Sayied, Aleya Jung, Masood Siddiqi, Kamal Tahir, Imke Hassan, Danish khan, Atiq Qadri, Waheed Ahmed, and Tanveer Chaudhry. Prominent among Pakistani community members present included Hasnain Aziz of Al Mahdi center Hicksville; Azar Aslam, president, Jaam’e Masjid Bellmore, Dr. Afzal Sheikh of Masjid Al-Rasheed; and PACOLI founder Bashir Qamar with his team members. Also present were Commander Gary Glick, of Jewish War Veterans USA, and Julie Marchesella of Nassau council of chambers of commerce.
Glimpses of the event