John Choe

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John Choe


John X. Choe until recently served in the New York City Council as Chief of Staff to Council Member John Liu. Prior to the Council, Mr. Choe's public service career included positions with the NYC Department of Finance, Corporation for Supportive Housing, NYC Rent Guidelines Board, and the Rainbow Center, a shelter and the Rainbow Center, community center for Korean women in Queens.

Early life/education

"John Choe comes from a working-class family and understands the value of hard work and sacrifice". Born in 1970, John Choe's family left Korea when he was five and arrived in New York City via Sydney, Australia. John Choe is a product of our public schools, graduating from Susan E. Wagner High School and the State University of New York at Binghamton. Choe won a national fellowship to study at the University of Chicago and earned a Masters in Public Policy[1].

John Choe ntered the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, where he was a Woodrow Wilson National Fellow in Public Affairs & International Relations and earned a Master's in Public Policy (MPP).

Community service/affiliations

John Choe has two decades of leadership experience as a community organizer and public servant -- most recently as Chief of Staff to Councilman John Liu. Prior to his service in the City Council, Choe worked with the national Corporation for Supportive Housing, the city's Department of Finance, the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, and the city's Rent Guidelines Board.

Mr. Choe has volunteered with the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence , the Korea Exposure and Education Program (KEEP), the Coalition of Minority Policy Professionals,WBAI 99.5 FM Pacifica Radio, the Venceremos Brigade, and the Korean American League for Civic Action.

As Co-President of the Mitchell-Linden Civic Association, Choe has aggressively advocated on behalf of the 3,000 families in his neighborhood. Choe is a Board Member of the Democratic Party Organization of Flushing and attends the Flushing Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. He is also a member of the NAACP, the Queens Historical Society, the Flushing Council on Culture & the Arts, and the Flushing YMCA.

In addition to fellowships at Columbia University and the Open Society Institute, John Choe has been recognized for his public service by New York Newsday and has also received the prestigious Union Square Award from the Fund for the City of New York[2].

Nodutdol

In 1999, Choe helped found a community-development organization called Nodutdol, which is Korean for “stepping stone.” The organization’s mission, according to its website, is “to contribute to a global people’s struggle against war and militarism as part of a Korean struggle for national unification and democracy, and as part of a U.S.-based peoples’ struggle for racial, social and economic justice in New York City.”

As part of that mission, the group organizes trips to North Korea. It's what the group calls its "Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Exposure & Education Program."

“Because of the biased and negative portrayal of north Korea by the US government and mainstream media, most of us [even Koreans who are already committed to social justice], are poorly informed about the DPRK,” reads the program description available on the site. “This program helps to demystify the DPRK, and build person to person understanding. To organize in this collective, socialist society.”[3]

As a Nodutdol member, Mr. Choe coordinated the Stepping Stone Community School Project, which encouraged immigrant families to participate in educational reform policy. [4]

Venceremos Brigade

In 2004, the 35th Anniversary Contingent of the Venceremos Brigade arrived in Santiago de Cuba on July 4, for a week of work, meetings and travel in the eastern part of Cuba. In Santiago they stayed at the Abel Santamaria School, where they helped to renovate the school building, as well asmone other school in the province. Among their activities have been meetings with members of the Women's Federation of Cuba and with Cuban veterans who fought against Apartheid South Africa; Brigade members been named welcomed as "Distinguished Visitors" by Santiago city officials.

John Choe, 27, says[5];

"As a Korean living in the United States, I am very much interested in learning about the Cuban Revolution and the way it can both inform my activism as a community organizer in New York City and also inspire me to create new ways of building solidarity with the struggles of workers and people of color here and abroad."

Workers World Party speech

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John Choe of the Korea Truth Commission addressed the Workers World Party May 13-14 2006 conference in New York City on “Preparing for the Rebirth of the Global Struggle for Socialism” in New York City[6].

A South Korean free-trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S. is now being negotiated. It got underway in February 2006 with a meeting between President Roh Moo-hyn of South Korea and President Bush. This trade agreement follows major defeats in establishing the next round of neoliberal interventions in the Third World.
Spectacular people’s victories-from Seattle to Hong Kong, where thousands of Korean peasants and movement activists blocked the ministerial meetings, and 300 farmers swam in Victoria Bay to avoid police repression—have made a mark, and have forced these types of bilateral agreements to now be the norm. Next month, from June 4 to 9, Korean workers, peasants and activists are going to bring the war against imperialism to the belly of the beast, and stage protests in D.C.
The FTA would allow U.S. companies to dump imports like agribusiness-grown, U.S. taxpayer-subsidized rice in South Korea, sounding the death knell for 3.5 million Korean peasants. The FTA would also eliminate many of the worker rights achieved by decades of militant struggle and sacrifice.
Once the FTA is implemented, 15 million workers will overnight become a highly dispensable and exploitable contingent labor force. The FTA would also expand a growing militant labor force around the world, forcing families apart, dislocating people from traditional villages and communities, many of them later facing discrimination and criminalization here in New York City and abroad.
Finally, the FTA would also destroy the social fabric of South Korea, opening up Korean culture to the mercies of the monstrosity we call Hollywood. We will slowly see the Korean-owned, struggling artistic and film industry strangled to death.
As an immigrant and a byproduct of U.S. imperialism, I hope you can help me bring down imperialism through [the June 4-9] event and many other events in the future.

Working with Margaret Chin

John Choe, chief of staff for Councilman John Liu, Margaret Chin, deputy director of AAFE, Assemblywoman Ellen Young, and Christopher Kui, executive director of AAFE

Asian Americans for Equality announced August 2008, that the group had purchased a total of 62 units in two buildings, one located on Parsons Boulevard and the other on Sanford Avenue, both just blocks from the heart of Downtown Flushing.

“We are still committed to developing affordable housing, but preserving existing housing is critical as well,” said Christopher Kui, executive director of AAFE.

“We are still fighting for affordable housing in projects like Willets Point, but we are also preserving affordable housing,” added Margaret Chin, deputy director of AAFE. “Now, 60 families will be able to stay in the community.”

Assemblywoman Ellen Young allocated $125,000 to the purchase of the two buildings, funds AAFE said will be used to install energy-efficient windows, upgrade the boiler system, and make roof repairs.[7]

One Flushing Community Economic Development Center

Grace Meng left, John Choe, microphone

With the goal of planting the seeds for a strong, diverse and sustainable community by empowering small business owners, a new project called the One Flushing Community Economic Development Center opened its doors, December 15, 2012, marking the occasion with an open house on Friday.

As part of its goals, One Flushing, as the project is known, has set out to gather economic data on the small business community, leverage more resources, organize a hiring campaign and build community education and outreach.

The project’s executive director, John Choe, said his role “is to bring people together and connect people to existing resources.”

Choe acknowledged that small business owners are too often in the dark about the training, counseling and low-interest loans that are available to them. He aims to make people aware of the help they can receive to “build Flushing as one community. We live next to each other, but we don’t always communicate.”

In August, he abandoned his career in government, which included a stint as chief of staff for then-city council member John Liu of Flushing, and began working in conjunction with Asian Americans for Equality, a nonprofit organization, on the creation of One Flushing, which has become Choe’s full-time job.

He said he will count on AAFE to help him identify private foundations and government agencies that could provide One Flushing with much-needed resources.

A lucky break came from Simon Gerson, a partner in Gerson Properties, which has offered One Flushing a six-month rent-free lease at 39-01 Main St.

Several elected officials and community leaders attended the open house, including Christopher Kui, executive director of AAFE, who said, “We want to push Flushing forward. Small business is a key” to help the area become a major economic center.

Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) said, “This is a logical place to help small business people with their problems. They can come to seek help. I hope this office will help business people to solve their problems.”

Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) called One Flushing a “very important project. I’m proud to join all of you.”[8]

Supporting Grace Meng

Queens congressional candidate Assemblywoman Grace Meng used a North Korea sympathizer to help out with her upcoming primary race.

John Choe, who gathered 20 signatures on a Meng petition dated April 2,2012 is notorious for telling a 2006 “Global Struggle for Socialism” conference that Kim Jung-un-led North Korea was “at the front line of the liberation struggles against imperialism.”

Choe left Comptroller John Liu’s campaign in 2009 after his remarks became public, and resigned as a senior aide in the Comptroller’s Office last September.

“Apparently John Choe — who is not a part of our campaign staff — was one of over 100 volunteers who collected 4,300 Democratic signatures. Assemblywoman Meng completely disagrees with Mr. Choe’s politics concerning North Korea,” said Meng campaign spokesman Michael Tobman.[9]

Asian American Federation

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As part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Asian American Federation hosted a citywide Asian Pacific American policy roundtable at the Queens Public Library in Flushing on May 30 2014. The discussion highlighted ways Asian-Pacific Americans could leverage their purchasing power to educate and influence corporations and discussed programs that work with entrepreneurs to launch new businesses, the challenges of owning a small business and what elected leaders can do to help small businesses overcome economic downturns in order to flourish and thrive.

The panel began with a welcome by Jo-Ann Yoo, the federation's interim executive director, and keynote remarks by Chinese-American US Congresswoman Grace Meng. New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim and Chinese-American New York City council member Peter Koo also addressed the audience.

The Panelists were Betty Lo, vice-president of community alliances and consumer engagement at Nielson; John Choe, One Flushing director and founder; Agha Muhammad Saleh,founder of the Asian American Merchants and Neighborhood Alliance; and moderator Howard Shih of the Asian American Federation.

"Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to enrich our nation and make tremendous contributions to virtually every facet of our society. But as we celebrate the accomplishments, we must also address the ongoing needs and concerns of the AAPI community," Meng said.

By improving education, immigration reform, assisting small businesses, providing opportunities for economic success and tackling quality of life matters and other important issues, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community can be further strengthened, Meng said.

Council member Koo echoed similar ideas. "We need to put our buying power to use to ensure that those who wish to succeed commercially in our community do so by being respectful to our culture and our linguistic diversity," he said.

Koo described his personal experiences coming to America. "Forty years ago I came to the US to study pharmacy," said Koo. "I went to the pharmacy and said 'Where are our people?' "

Koo also expressed the need for Asian Americans to have equal entitlement in education, work, and business. One-sixth of Asian Americans live below the poverty line, he said. "Just because we are doctors, lawyers, engineers they think we are model citizens and don't need the help of the government, but we share the same burden of disease and poverty," he said.

Choe said up to 30 percent of Asian Americans who live in Queens are poor and suffer from lack of housing and food. "Stereotypes and perceptions portrayed on TV of Asians are not accurate," he said. "We have to get new information out." Ten percent of Asian Americans are jobless and Flushing has one of the greatest concentrations of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese businessmen, according to Choe . "We need to provide services to help them become even more confident business owners and be able to express themselves linguistically," said Choe, stressing that One Flushing was ready to help develop better narratives for Asian Americans to the American public.

Choe also talked about how Queens is currently celebrating the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair in Queens, but in the commemoration there was no mention of Asian Americans. "We need to better brand and package our community," said Choe.

Assemblyman Ed Bronstein also talked about passing the dream act as a way to help Asian Americans.[10]

Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce

In 2014 John Choe was named executive director of the newly formed Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. Two years in the making, "the chamber will serve as a resource for economic guidance and technical assistance for small businesses in Flushing".

The chamber was formally announced at a launch event on Dec. 11 at Flushing Town Hall. Area politicians and community leaders attended and recruited small business owners in the area.

Choe's One Flushing was expected to continue to work with the new chamber.

The previous chamber of commerce closed in 2012. Choe and his associates have spent the past two years organizing, admittedly longer than he expected. But he’s optimistic and excited about the new chamber.

Choe said that most chambers merely serve as networking tools for businesses, but the new Flushing one will offer tech support and other services.

Choe named Peter Tu from the Flushing Chinese Business Association, Ikhwam Rim from the Union Street Small Business Association, Executive Director of Asian Americans for Equality Christopher Kui, and Managing Principal at Gerson Properties LLC Simon Gerson as other major players.

According to Choe, several officials including Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing), Assemblymembers Ron Kim (D-Flushing) and Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) and Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) are backing the chamber of commerce. [11]

“A New Beginning”

According to CEO John Choe — Community leaders announced that, “A New Beginning,” the first anniversary celebration of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce will take place Thursday, October 29 2015, 6–9pm, at historic Flushing Town Hall, located at 137-35 Northern Blvd, Flushing NY 11354.

The Chamber’s anniversary celebration is led by an honorary host committee of community leaders, including Borough President Melinda Katz, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky, Assemblyman Ron Kim, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Councilman Peter Koo, the Reverend Richard McEachern, Simon Gerson, Christopher Kui, Don Capalbi, Mike Cheng, Taehoon Kim, Ellen Kodadek, Michael Lam, Alfred Rankins, Maureen Regan, Leo Zhang, Al Harris, Perka Chan, Carmen M. Colon, Alice Lee, Edna Rutledge, Haide Chen, Alfonso Quiroz, Regina Im, Lloyd Cambridge, and John Choe.

The Flushing Chamber is a multicultural membership association of entrepreneurs, business owners, and civic leaders representing the most diverse community in New York.

"We've had an amazing year of community service and invite you to come celebrate our achievements as well as honor those who have provided leadership in bringing us together," stated Simon Gerson, President of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. "A united community is the only way we can fulfill our potential as the center of small business growth in New York. With thousands of entrepreneurs from around the world, we are the new face of America."

The Flushing Chamber represents the fastest growing and most dynamic business community in the United States. Attracting firms from around the world – two dozen languages are spoken here – we are already an international trade hub and the fourth largest commercial district in New York. As the center of small business activity in the metropolitan region – 90% of our 6,000 firms have less than 10 workers – we are also the new face of American entrepreneurship.

The Chamber will be honoring: Dr. Felix V. Matos Rodriguez of Queens College, Phil Andrews of the African American Chamber, James Chen of FlushingFood.com, and Dr. Uma Mysorekar of the Hindu Temple Society of North America. The keynote speaker will be Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City’s Chief Financial Officer.[12]

References