Veterans pose for a photo at the Memorial Day service at Borough Hall. Photo by Bruce Adler.
Borough President Melinda Katz and the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs has created a new satellite office inside Borough Hall that will provide veterans living in Queens with easier access to services and benefits, Katz announced Thursday during a Memorial Day Observance Ceremony held at Borough Hall.
The Ceremony honored local veterans, as well as fallen servicemen and women. As she addressed those in attendance, Katz credited the development of the new office to Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), chairman of the Council Committee on Veterans and Loree Sutton, MOVA Commissioner.
“They’re not there to take your name and number, they’re not there to give you a call back, they are there to service you,” said Katz.
New York City’s population consists of nearly 200,000 veterans, many suffering from issues with disability, unemployment, homelessness and more, often making it difficult to adjust to life after their service. Queens is home to the largest number of veterans, totaling more than 50,000, according to the most recent data by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“More veterans call Queens home than any other borough, and we honor their service to our nation and their sacrifices for our freedoms,” said Katz “We’re pleased to welcome the MOVA Satellite Office here at Queens Borough Hall, the first of its kind outside Manhattan.”
The satellite office will enable local veterans to speak with the New York VA Division certified outreach specialists regarding educational and employment opportunities, and get information about benefits and resources to help ensure physical and mental health, according to the release.
“We are here to support the veteran community in Queens,” said Dayanira Rois, outreach specialist in the Office of Veteran Affairs at Borough Hall “We’ll be giving support to veterans, the service members and their dependants, with employment, resume review enhancement, housing evictions, and city services that are available to them like food stamps and Metropolitan Transit Authority reduced fare cards.”
As part of the ceremony Katz presented citations of honor to some local veterans and organizations, who later thanked and praised her for her work with and support veterans.
“I think she does an outstanding job with helping veterans, not that other boroughs aren’t, but she has a sort of personal touch that the other boroughs don’t, that’s my personal thought,” said Lt. Colonel John Peterkin, one of the event’s honorees. He said the office provided veterans with a place to come home to.
Local veterans have thanked Katz and MOVA for creating the satellite office and spoke about the benefits and necessity of having one in Queens.
“We have the largest veteran population in the city. The Borough of Queens is the first to get a Satellite Office, rightfully so, and we’re honored by that,” said Paul Schottenhamel, a Vietnam veteran, Queens County Commander of the American Legion and retired Lt. Colonel of the United States Army. “The establishment of this MOVA Satellite Office in Queens shows that the city does care about the welfare of military veterans.
“The office will be of great benefit, especially those who have injuries or disabilities that may limit their mobility and make it difficult to travel all the way to the main office in Lower Manhattan,” said Samuel Mantilla, a Vietnam veteran and a former Commander of the Disabled American Veterans of New York State.
Mantilla thanked everyone involved with creating the satellite office for “bringing valuable benefits and services within closer reach of the veterans who need and deserve them.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr (D-Howard Beach) described the creation of the local office as a “turning point” in the ongoing effort to provide veterans with the best resources and services available. He urged veterans in Queens to take full advantage of the services available to them through the office.
Following the opening of the MOVA Satellite Office in Queens, offices will be opened in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. Due to increases in the city budget for MOVA, it will soon be upgraded to a city agency establishing it as the New York City Department of Veterans Affairs, at the beginning of the city’s new fiscal year on July 1.
The MOVA Satellite Office at Queens Borough Hall can be reached by telephone at (718) 286-2868.
Katz also announced a new $1.5 million memorial that will go up in Elmhurst Park, a former brownfield that used to be home to two large gas tanks that dominated the Central Queens skyline, just off the Long Island Expressway.
“From this day forward, veterans in Queens will have access to every level of government and will be able to speak directly with highly-trained benefits counselors at Borough Hall,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), Chairman of the Council Committee on Veterans. “I thank my good friend Borough President Melinda Katz and Commissioner Loree Sutton for improving the way we serve those who have served us.”