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“I will be the taxpayers’ watchdog in Nassau County”

By Parveen Chopra

Former New York State Senator Elaine Phillips is confident that she will be elected Nassau County Comptroller this November. Speaking to The South Asian Times, she said, “I have experience in both the public and private sector and the skills to be the taxpayers’ watchdog. To be the independent voice, to make sure that the taxpayers are told the truth of what is happening with the County government.”

Phillips is running on Republican, Conservative and Tax Revolt Party lines. Her opponent, Democrat Ryan Cronin is a corporate attorney who twice ran unsuccessfully for State Senate.

Elaine Phillips’ background in the financial sector stands out. An MBA in finance from Penn State, she worked for JP Morgan and in Goldman Sachs for a long time.  In 2010 she started a new phase, to give back to the community. “I got involved as a trustee in my village, Munsey. I served in many volunteer roles. I became Mayor in Flower Hill. I went on to get elected to the New York Senate, representing the northwest quadrant of Nassau County,” she says.

The Comptroller’s role, Phillips argues, is critical, because “we watch over our community’s taxes. To make sure that our tax dollars are used effectively, efficiently and transparently.” She cites the anomalous reassessment in the County.  “We were told that for 50% of people taxes will go up and for 50% they will go down. Instead, we found that for two-thirds of homeowners their assessment went up. This is where the Comptroller should step in and order an audit. Why did that happen? What changed and why were we not informed of the change? Then again, the legislature was told in last December that the County was going to have a deficit. And now we have a surplus!”

As Comptroller, she says her job will be to make sure that the county administration and the legislature do their job. To go in and do the analysis. And report to the people.

Phillips is critical of the Democratic Party which has not asked the sitting county Comptroller Jack Schnirman to step down even after District Attorney Madeline Singas, from his own Democratic party, issued public reports faulting him for accepting  payouts illegally when he worked as Long Beach city manager. He is not seeking re-election.

“I am proud to be a Republican,” Phillips says, “because I can go to bed every night knowing that I have always given my best to my community, in the most ethical standards that I can live by. People are concerned how far Democrats’ reforms have gone about the call to defund the police. They are concerned how an administration is raising taxes when that is the last thing we should be doing.”

Yet, she claims she is not a gotcha kind of person. “We need bipartisan effort, and I said it in the Senate, we need both parties, we need checks and balances. And that is exactly why I should be elected Comptroller. To bring the independent voice. County Executive Laura Curran has been at my house for dinner.  We know each other, we will work together. County legislative majority leader Rick Nicolello too has been to my house. We will work together to make sure that taxpayers of Nassau County get what they deserve,” she says.

Elaine Phillips has come to know the South Asian community in the past couple of years. “They have prospered here on Long Island, thanks to the economic support, the living environment, the school districts. All people want to live here.  We got to protect that. Here on Long Island, we can feel secure, financially and because of law enforcement support. Home ownerships is also important and keeping taxes as low as we can.”

Hicksville, she points out in particular, is a community which is vibrant with small and mid-sized businesses. “And we need to keep it that way. Incidentally, part of Hicksville was in my state Senate district.”

A month ago, she attended a press conference in Hicksville that talked about the need for America and Americans to support India and other South Asian countries devastated by Covid. Earlier this month,  she attended another press conference on the steps of the Nassau County legislative building in Mineola, to honor the young spiritual teacher Ishan Shivanand who donated PPE for India.

Phillips credits her widening knowledge of the South Asian community to her association with Ragini Srivastava, who is running on the Republican ticket for North Hempstead Town Clerk: “She is an inspiring woman who has worked hard with many community leaders for Covid relief efforts in India. She is the one who takes me to the community events.”

As County Comptroller, how can I help the South Asian community, Phillips asks rhetorically? “The same answer: to ensure that their tax dollars are used the way they should be. To have community groups, particularly businesses that come in like in Hicksville and in New Hyde Park where we can have forums to talk about how we can keep economic development going, how do we keep our religious communities vibrant. How do we keep our communities and our children to be able to afford to live near us? I did that as a Mayor, I believe I did that as a Senator. I want to continue to represent the people of Nassau County. And I do want my children and grandchildren to live here near me!”

Incidentally, two of Phillips’ three daughters have lived and done some volunteer work in India. And she recalls, “I have travelled with my family to India three years ago. I found it a vast country with so many different cultures just like the United States.”

Phillips’ final pitch to be elected Comptroller: “I got into public service, and I seek voters’ support to get back into public service because I care about our communities, and I want to ensure that  Nassau remains a safe and vibrant County.”

Contact: Elaine Phillips for Comptroller on Facebook.

In an exclusive interview with The South Asian Times, Elaine Phillips, running for Nassau County Comptroller, asserts that she has the requisite experience and skills for the job. (Photos provided)
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Town of Oyster Bay launches July 4 decorating contest for residents

Oyster Bay, NY: Supervisor Joseph Saladino and Councilwoman Laura Maier invite residents to express their patriotism and the American Spirit in advance of Independence Day by decorating their homes in red, white and blue with lights, flags or other decorations from now through July 14th. To support our economic recovery, residents are encouraged to make decoration purchases of at least $17.76 from small businesses.

“This contest unites our community through patriotism and love while supporting our local economy,” said Supervisor Saladino. “Buying decorations from small businesses is also an important way for us to show our support of small businesses while celebrating our American spirit.”

“We’re experiencing some trying times in our world and bringing back our patriotic spirit can unite us as Americans,” said Councilwoman Maier. “We hope our residents will join us in decorating their homes as American celebrates its independence.”

The Town will illuminate Town Hall in red, white and blue.

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Many events planned in US to celebrate International Yoga Day

New York: Last summer when the pandemic was still raging in America, the International Day of Yoga (June 21) events had to go virtual. This year amid the reopening of the country, many events in-person and virtual have been planned to celebrate the day established by the UN in 2014 at the behest of Prime Minister Modi.

In the tristate area, FIA and the Consulate General of India are organizing a one-hour yoga and meditation program on Sunday, Juen 20 at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ.

In Washington, the Embassy of India in partnership with Friends of Yoga is organizing a virtual celebration on 20 June at 10:00 AM.  Keeping in mind the prevailing situation, the theme of the IDY 2021 has been set as “Be with Yoga Be at Home”. The live demonstration of Yoga Protocol will be broadcast through Embassy’s social media channels.

Tirlok Malik, Emmy-nominated filmmaker,  is hosting a Happy Life Yoga event on June 19th, virtually on Zoom and social media.

In Houston, the  Consulate General of India in partnership with a number of organizations is marking the occasion with outdoor events on June 20 and June 21.

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District 23 City Council candidate Harpreet Singh Toor calls for end to attack ads

 

Bellerose, Queens: Calling for an end to the hateful attack ads by a group from outside Council District 23 against one of his opponents, City Council Candidate Harpreet Singh Toor issued the following statement, “My campaign is built on bringing people together.  That is the only way we will solve the problems facing District 23, and put an end to the epidemic of hate crimes plaguing our communities.
So when an ugly piece of hateful mail dropped in my mailbox, viciously attacking a young member of our community who also is running for City Council in District 23, I naturally was extremely disturbed.  Many of you may know I do not support this candidate, or agree with her policies.  At the same time, however, I am proud that a young woman from our community has made the decision to become engaged in the political process and run for office.  And I am appalled that a group of wealthy Manhattanites, with no connection to our community, is attempting to decide our future by launching a smear campaign against one of our own.

I invite these smart, successful people to join me in a tour of District 23.  I would happily show them how they can direct their considerable philanthropic activities to our senior centers, our food banks, our schools and libraries.  How they might use their experience as major real estate developers to solve our problem of lack of public transportation, or even help build the hospital we so desperately need.

Working together we can accomplish much. And I hope that is how they decide to truly help the voters of District 23.”

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New York lifts all Covid curbs with 70 per cent vaccine threshold hit

New York, NY: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced on Tuesday that “we can now return to life as we know it” because the state had hit his vaccination-rate threshold.

Earlier this month, Cuomo said he would lift “virtually all” Covid-19 restrictions once 70% of New Yorkers had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Cuomo said on Tuesday that restrictions would be “relaxed as of today, effective immediately.”

“Remember June 15th. Remember today, because it is the day that New York rose again,” Cuomo said at Manhattan’s One World Trade Center, adding that June 15 was also his late father and former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s birthday.

Masks will still be required on public transit, but otherwise New York’s landscape of state mandates will be drastically diminished.

Counties and localities can still implement their own restrictions, and Cuomo said New York would still observe guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Businesses can also keep their own mask policies.

Cuomo did not clarify policies on masks and social-distancing measures in schools.

New York’s vaccination drive has been most successful in regions around New York City and to the north – Long Island and the area around the capital, Albany, have the highest rates of single doses administered.

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June 19 now a federal holiday

Washington, DC: The House passed legislation Wednesday that would establish June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, sending the bill to President Biden who is expected to sign it after returning from his Europe tour.

The bill passed the House 415-14 after the Senate unanimously passed the legislation Tuesday. The no votes were all Republicans.  

The legislation was previously blocked by conservative Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin in 2020 but he dropped his objection this week despite his concerns, allowing the bill to advance out of the chamber.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer thanked the bill’s bipartisan sponsors, which included Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D), Sen. John Cornyn (R) and Sen. Ed Markey (D).

On June 19, 1865, Maj Gen Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas, the end of slavery in accordance with President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. In 1980, Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday. In the decades since, every state but South Dakota came to officially commemorate Juneteenth, but only a handful of states observe it as a paid holiday.

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Latest News New York

ZEE5 to launch in US on June 22

New York, NY: After having won the hearts of millions of South Asians across the globe, ZEE5, the world’s largest streaming platform for South Asian content, has announced its launch in the United States on June 22. The platform is currently under beta testing in the market.

The US is the final and largest launch for ZEE5, setting the stage for its rapid growth in a market with a ready 5.4 million diaspora audience that has a deep cultural and language connect to this content.

With this launch, the streaming platform will open up access to the largest catalogue of South Asian i.e., Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi content to diaspora and even mainstream content consumers in the US who have been eagerly waiting to access ZEE5’s massive content library.

“The United States represents our most significant market and the last bastion in our global journey as we launch an ad-free subscription service. As a Global Media Conglomerate, we have had a very deep connection with our diaspora audiences here, so it is a rather happy moment for me to now be bringing this audience the largest aggregation of South Asian content on a single platform through ZEE5,” said Amit Goenka, President, Digital Businesses & Platforms, ZEE Entertainment.

“The United States is home to millions of people whose families have strong connects with South Asia, and we are glad to bring them the largest and most diverse catalogue of culturally relevant entertainment across Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi stories,” said Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global.

  • 3,500+ movies – including 120+ World Digital Premieres like Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai, Simmba, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Dream Girl, Operation Java (Malayalam), Ka Pae Rannasingham (Tamil), Switzerland (Bengali) etc.

  • 1,600+ TV shows including Kundali Bhagya, Mithai (Bangla), Sembaruti (Tamil), Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (various languages) etc.

  • 200+ Originals – including The Final Call, Kaafir, Mentalhood, Churails, and more.

  • 600+ music, food and lifestyle videos coming soon.

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Emmy nominated filmmaker Tirlok Malik to host IYD NY event

New York: Tirlok Malik, Emmy-nominated filmmaker and Happy Life Yoga speaker, will be hosting a Happy Life Yoga event on the occasion of International Yoga Day 2021 on June 19th, 2021 at 10 am, New York EST virtually on Zoom and social media such as Facebook Live (IndusTV and Facebook page of GOPIO Manhattan). The event will be joined by the audiences from many countries. 

The theme of the event is Happy Life Yoga. The event is being presented by GOPIO Manhattan, The Indian Panorama, Indian American Forum and Consulate General of India, New York. Ambassador Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General of India will be the chief guest.  

“Happy Life Yoga follows a basic underlying philosophy. If you feel you deserve and want to live a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life then Happy Life Yoga can show you how. It’s a way of living inspired by the wisdom of Ayurveda, Yoga & Indian philosophy and no mats are needed to practice it,” explains Malik. 

Many experts and honored guest speakers have been lined up to share their wisdom. The list includes the award-winning filmmaker, international entrepreneur, motivational speaker and author, Dr Bhuvan Lall, Sangeeta Agarwal, CEO & Founder, Helpsy, Neil & Andrea Garvey, Publishers/Editors, Creations Magazine, Deborah Fishman Shelby, Founder & Executive Director, FED, Ranju Narang, Director, Educator, Prof. Indrajit Saluja, Chief Editor/Publisher, The Indian Panorama, Indu Jaiswal, chairperson, Indian American Forum, Renee Mehra, and Anil Narang. The event also has a guest singer Pallavi Verma Belwariar.

Happy Life Yoga, an educational platform launched in June 2019 is the creation of Tirlok Malik and the Ayurveda Cafe team. It offers a unique holistic approach to health and happiness using tools from Ayurveda, Indian Philosophy, and Yoga to help better manage modern-day challenges such as work, finances, relationships, family and other social pressures. “After Covid-19, the world has realized that it is very, very important to have good health, physically and emotionally, and the Happy Life Yoga platform can show how. A way of living inspired by the wisdom of Ayurveda, Yoga and Indian Philosophy, Happy Life Yoga can be very, very useful for everyone,” says Malik. “The whole team of this event prays for the wellbeing of the world and is happy to celebrate International Day of Yoga 2021,” Malik adds.

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Documentary on Gandhi bags top honor at New York Indian Film Festival 2021

New York: A documentary feature on Mahatma Gandhi, a documentary on the Sikh tradition of ‘Seva’ and a movie that explores the state of mind of a married woman during the Covid-19 lockdown are among the films that won top honors at the 2021 New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF). 

The NYIFF awards were presented during a virtual ceremony Sunday. 

Other winners at the festival were “Nasir”, directed by Arun Karthick, which won the award for best film; Akshata Pandavapura was named best actress for “Where Is Pinky?”, the best actor award went to Siddharth Menon for “June” and the best director award to Ajitpal Singh for “Fire In the Mountains.” 

“Ahimsa Gandhi: The Power of the Powerless” directed by Ramesh Sharma, was awarded the best documentary feature. 

As the world commemorated the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi in 2019, Sharma was inspired to revisit the iconic leader’s life and philosophy. Shot in India, South Africa, the U.S. and Europe, Ahimsa tracks the influence of Gandhi’s non-violence approach on world leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., late Congressman John Lewis, former South African President Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. International musicians U2 and AR Rahman contributed to the title track of the documentary. 

Rippin Sindher-directed “Seva” won the best documentary short. It highlights the idea of service, which is an important element of the Sikh religion, and underscores it against the backdrop of rising hate crimes against people of the Sikh community in the US, including the 2012 Oak Creek Gurdwara mass shooting. 

Acclaimed actress Swastika Mukherjee-starrer “Tasher Ghawr”, directed by Sudipto Roy, was honored with the best short narrative award. The film explores the state of mind of a married woman, Sujata, played brilliantly by Mukherjee, during the coronavirus lockdown. 

The film festival, presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), ran from June 4 – June 13 virtually, the second year in a row that the oldest and prestigious film festival that features cinema from India and diaspora went online due to the pandemic. 

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