Queens Leaders Celebrate Women’s History Month in Astoria

Back row, from left: State Sen. Jessica Ramos, U.S Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, honoree Julie Schweitert Collazo and honoree U.S.Rep. Grace Meng. Front row, from left: Honorees Megan Stotts, Julia Sorrentino and Angela Garvin. Photo courtesy of Simotas’ office.

Back row, from left: State Sen. Jessica Ramos, U.S Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, honoree Julie Schweitert Collazo and honoree U.S.Rep. Grace Meng. Front row, from left: Honorees Megan Stotts, Julia Sorrentino and Angela Garvin. Photo courtesy of Simotas’ office.

By David Brand

Seven women lawmakers who represent Queens in Albany and Washington, D.C. gathered in Astoria on Friday to honor the achievements of influential local leaders and activists as part of Women’s History Month.

The illustrious attendees included State Sen. Jessica Ramos, U.S Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and U.S.Rep. Grace Meng. Simotas and Maloney hosted the celebration at Kaufman Studios, located in their districts.

The event honored Meng as well as Immigrant Families Together co-founder Julie Schweitert Collazo, Hearts Across Queens co-founders Julia Sorrentino and Megan Stotts and middle school student Angela Garvin, whose advocacy inspired Astoria Park’s Rain Garden project.

“In Congress, I am proud of the work I have done in providing women and girls equal access to health care, education, and economic opportunities, and I will continue to do all I can to advance gender equality,” said Meng, the first Asian American to represent New York state in Congress. “I am also proud to recognize the accomplishments that women have made to our state and nation, from improving our communities to making our country grow and prosper. During Women’s History Month, I’m proud to commemorate the achievements and successes of women, and I look forward to continuing to do so throughout the month of March.”

Local leaders break ground at Astoria Park in December 2018. The park will feature a sustainable rain garden to manage runoff thanks to the advocacy of 12-year-old Angela Garvin. Photo courtesy of Costa Constantinides’ office.

Local leaders break ground at Astoria Park in December 2018. The park will feature a sustainable rain garden to manage runoff thanks to the advocacy of 12-year-old Angela Garvin. Photo courtesy of Costa Constantinides’ office.

Schwietert Collazo is a former social worker and art therapist from Long Island City who founded Immigrant Families Together with her husband in 2018. The organization organizes volunteers to post bond for detained immigrants and provide support services for families in asylum proceedings.

“As one of the most diverse counties in the nation, Queens residents are in a unique position to defend and protect the rights of immigrants, regardless of their status,” she said. “I am honored and grateful to live and work among so many leaders who understand how important is to show up, speak up and fight back against hateful and harmful immigration policies so that the rest of the country can grow to understand what Queens residents have long known: our diversity is our strength and it is not a threat.”

Stotts and Sorrentino, both from Astoria, co-founded Hearts Across Queens with 10 other mothers in 2016 in order to organize Western Queens residents to promote progressive change.

“One woman alone is mighty, but, as many women in this community have shown, all of us working together are unstoppable,” Sotts said. “I’m excited to continue the work with these brilliant, courageous women. Together we can build a community that benefits all our neighbors.”

Sorrentino, who teaches at LaGuardia Community College, also developed the series Queens Women in STEAM for Hearts Across Queens.

“Astoria is a strong, vibrant and loving neighborhood, and at its heart are the women who live and work here,” she said. “It is no wonder that we are represented by women who truly care, who tirelessly work for this community.”

Garvin, 12, is an Astoria native who wrote a detailed proposal for a sustainable rain garden at the newly renovated Astoria Park. She gave the proposal to Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver.

“This world is not only for us to enjoy today, we have to take care of it for future generations to enjoy it in even more ways than we have,” Garvin said.