Tag Archive: activism

Oct 18 2011

Meet Michael Serao, QP’s 2011 Man of the Year

Michael Serao is named Queens-Politics Man of the Year and for good reason.

Do you know Michael Serao? You should.

 

Michael Serao is the man you never heard about. He is a pillar of Queens society. Michael is not a politician, although he’s been encouraged to run on many occasions. Rather, Michael is a civic-minded citizen, a businessman, a Democrat, a friend that liberally shares his success with a profusion of charitable organizations – and yet – asks for nothing in return.

Michael was not born into wealth, he made his own. He’s the kind of guy that rose up from his bootstraps and unlike many others; Michael never forgot where he came from.

His best friend, Chrissie Candela who has known Michael for over 25 years said he’s one of the best guys you’ll ever meet in your life.

“My mom was sick and she couldn’t get to the bank and Michael came to my house and opened all the accounts.”

But its not about business says Michael “It’s about friendship.”

Candela told a story of a dire moment in her life. During the torrential Flushing floods of 2006 – when her house flooded with three feet of sewage – Michael came to the rescue.

“My basement was in ankle high in shit water and I freaked out no one was home so I called Michael and he came over with cleaning equipment and Clorox.”

Antoinette Rivera of Bayside believes it’s Michael’s sense of determination that compliments the deep content of his character.

“Michael is a unique person that never turns anyone down. The odd thing is that it began at a young age. He’s a positive guy. I love him and he’s good to be around. He goes for the gusto,” she said.

I’m also proud to be a friend of his. Michael and I grew up in the same neighborhood and share a number of close friends in common. The neighborhood wasn’t an easy place to grow up. Scratch the surface and underneath the veneer of a working class neighborhood you’ll find the enduring pitfalls of chaos: drugs, gangs, and violence. It’s the type of environment that cast an iron mold of successful men. Michael is one of them.

City Council Member Dan Halloran and my friend Michael Serao, VP Quontic Bank and Treasurer of the Bayside-Whitestone Lions Club at the Community Service Awards Night in the Adria Hotel.

Michael’s kindness is something I experienced first hand.   In 2011, he made it a point to check up on me when my mother was in the hospital. He was one of only people that for no other reason than being a true friend, showed the true colors of his munificence.

Michael was there for me, in my time of need. It was an act of kindness that I will never forget.

Serao is a rising star amongst political insiders, although he is adamant about never running for office.

“Running for office? Absolutely not, [but] I will support candidates I believe in and that’s it,” Michael said.

In lieu of a campaign for public office, Michael has turned to philanthropy by offering grants and community scholarships to local students.

The Serao-Bench Scholarship will be presented to the Bayside-Whitestone Lions Club. It is a venture Michael hopes will make a difference in the life of young students.

“In an economy that has suffered to severely, I am blessed that my partner and I are in a position where we can help and make a difference,” Michael said.

Present

Michael is very active in the LGBT community, in fact he is the LGBT community. Michael has served as President of the Western Queens LGBT Democratic club.  In addition to donating $50,000 of his personal finances last year, Michael has confident plans for the future. He began The Michael Serao and Jonathan Bench Foundation in which he plans to donate over $250,000 to various community groups.

Currently, Michael is the Vice-President of Quontic Bank and also a NYC Commissioner of Deeds. He transferred from JP Morgan Chase to work in a bank with strong ties to the community. Michael was fed up with corporate culture.

“I worked for corporate banks and I got tired of the nonsense, so I moved to a truly community bank,” said Michael.

Michael shares the love. He is involved in so many organizations and his compassion is recognized by so many; I had to put them in a list. Most recently he was unanimously voted onto the Board of Directors for QSAC where he received the QSAC 2011 Community Service Award:

Michael is engaged to his partner Jonathan Bench. They will be married in September at Leonards of Great Neck. Over 250 guests are expected to attend.

 Awards include:

Michael’s business acumen has been recognized throughout Queens. He is the recipient of the The Business Leadership Award from Queens Borough  President Helen Marshall  The HX Magazine Business Man of The Year, The Powahattan Democratic Club Business Leadership Award, and  2007 Man of the Year Long Island City Knights of Columbus.

Affiliations include:

  • Board Director Astoria LIC Kiwanis.
  • President of the Ditmars Merchants Association.
  • Board Member Sharing and Caring.
  • Advisory Board Member to Immaculate Conception school.
  • Chairman of the Astoria Park Relay for Life.
  • Charter member Bayside-Whitestone Lions International, Treasurer.
  • Treasurer Clinton Democratic Club.
  • Board Director for the Variety Boys and Girls Club.
  • Member of Community Board 1.
  • Vice-President of the Astoria Civic Association.
  • Former Vice-President of OUT Astoria.

For his selfless commitment to the neighborhood and community activism and working harder than most elected officials, Michael Serao is named Queens-Politics Man of the Year.

Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/10/michael-serao-man-of-the-year/

Oct 17 2011

On The Front Line Of Occupy Wall Street…A Lawyer Named Yetta.

Yetta Kurland, a civl rights litigator and an activist says her primary concern is the use of excessive force by the NYPD against Occupy demonstrators. "It's a HUGE curtailment of our first amendment rights," said Yetta. Picture from FB.

QP Exclusive: The Wall Street Movement is not going away, says Yetta Kurland a civil rights activist and former city council candidate from Manhattan’s West side. Yetta is a lawyer, no not a blood sucking corporate lawyer, she’s the people’s rep, a civil right’s litigator and she’s been working pro bono for the demonstrators arrested down at Wall Street.

Yetta really knows her issues and the law. In the interest of bringing QP readers a front line perspective, we decided to interview her.

QP Interviews Yetta Kurland:

 Yetta, what’s the scene like at Wall Street?

Yetta begins by saying it’s been more calm but, “You know what’s amazing? The visuals of the Times Square and Washington Square. The movement has grown so massive and very tense, riot gear and horses were out with significant arrests nearly 100 arrests but not mass arrests that folks were concerned with”.

You just can’t arrest that many people,” according to Yetta.

I understand you’ve been down at the courthouse volunteering your legal services as an attorney on behalf of demonstrators. Can you tell me more about that?

“I have been volunteering, it includes arraignment at the court house, and visiting precincts.” It’s easy to get lost in the system, said Yetta who has split her time between visiting precincts and at the courthouse at 100 Centre Street for more than 100 arrestees. “It can be extremely time consuming  — keeping track of those arrested,” she said. It’s a lot of work [and] it’s unfortunate and frankly unnecessary. 

“My primary concern is excessive force.”

“On one of my cases, Ari Douglass was horribly injured by police who basically ran into him knocked him over and left him pinned under a motorcycle, and in response rather than giving him care, they gave him a number of criminal charges including criminal mischief, and resisting arrest.”

“If you look at the video, he’s clearly not.”

So, what are the demonstrations being charged with?

“Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrests, Obstruction of Government administration– different charges routinely used. Ari was charged with criminal mischief. Criminal mischief depending on the degree s a felony charge.”

When Occupy Wall Street began, did you predict an end – that is for the demonstration to fizzle out?

“I don’t think this is going to fizzle out. I don’t think weve seen the full momentum of the movement.”

“971 cities across the world, Rome Los Angelas, London, Chicago. 175 arrests. Folks are willing to put themselves on the line.

Yetta continues, “When we see brutality you see more people coming out in solidarity. I don’t see any thing fizzling out.  There is obviously a question about the cities want to shutdown the efforts and weather or not the folks will be able to continue there. Last week was a great victory they were supposed to shutdown the park – and they didn’t. We are moving forward and everyday is a victory… I think that these occupiers are reclaiming public space — public spaces for the public good, I mean the public interest.”

Its really resonating not just with New Yorkers. It is true the whole world is watching this…. I don’t see this coming to an end anytime soon I see this as transformative.:”

What do you think will be the outcome on a national level?

“I hope that the outcome on the national level  is that we reinvest the public sector. I hope that we find ways to prioritize the collective public interest of our country and to seperate government from private interest — that we have check and balances to ensure a free democratic society.”

Are you advocating electoral reform?

“I think it has to happen on every level, electoral, corporate, financial reform in the way we do business reform in the way the NYPD tactics to deal with protesters in public space.

 This is a referendum on police tactics post 9\11. Riot gear, massive arrests… It is a huge curtailment of our first amendment rights.

What’s your next step to support the movement?

“My only role is to act as an attorney to represent the folks down there.”

At the time of this interview, Yetta was traveling to the courthouse at 100 Centre Street.  “There’s additional activities and well keep monitoring and helping to deal with people that have been arrested. We have to go back to work perhaps go to trial. It’s a lot of expense.”

Yetta points out that the police presence is costing an exorbitant amount of tax dollars:

“Every time a huge group of police officers there’s a lot of costs involved in that we complain about financial difficulties we shouldn’t waste tax payer dollars for that.”

What do yo think about Mayor Bloomberg extolling the virtues of free speech, but denouncing the demonstration on Bloomberg radio?

“Confusing—“I’m not sure what he means by that… and free speech is exactly that: It’s not always with something you agree, or even with the medium. He’s lost in his position.

Curious, are you thinking of running for public office  again?

Oh I don’t know— it’s years away, but if I do, I’ll let you know.”

See Politicker NY article.

What’s your message to all the naysayers out there? You know – armchair politicians?

“Come down to Liberty Park and talk to the people. Remember that its easy to step back and not want to be involved or engaged. Bob Dylan said the times they are changing and if you have to wrap your head around that,” said Yetta.

“It’s undeniable. It’s not for us to naysay it’s much bigger… it’s a social movement.”

“History is being made by brave minded making a stand and standing up to simply ask for integrity in our system and that we have a balancing of our powers a truly democratic society,” according to Yetta.

Keep up the good work – QP. If you need to contact Yetta, email yetta@yettakurland.com.

A photo of Yetta during her bid for City Council (3rd district) against Council Speaker Christie Quinn.

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Permanent link to this article: http://queens-politics.com/2011/10/on-the-front-line-of-occupy-wall-street-a-lawyer-named-yetta/


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