Briarwood Action Network (BAN), one of the few community-focused organizations in the Briarwood section of Queen’s District 8, provides a platform for residents to help raise awareness on issues in their community. BAN also donates to the needy and hosts several other events within the community, such as “It’s My Park Day,” an event that helps beautify Hoover Park. Sylvia Sherman, 74, and her husband Larry Sherman, 82, are two board members of the network that have lived in Briarwood for over 20 years. They have hosted several BAN meetings inside their home on 83rd Avenue. They share their views on what BAN has done so far and what challenges the network has faced:
Q: Talk to me about the history of Briarwood Action Network. How did the network get started?
Sylvia Sherman: We are still very young. We are about four years old. One resident in the community had issues, particularly sanitation issues, and she called a meeting in her backyard. When we went there to see what was going on, we ended up meeting a few people who were very interested in the Briarwood community and who ended up forming Briarwood Action Network.
Q: What is the culture of the Briarwood community and how is this reflected through BAN?
Sylvia Sherman: Briarwood is one of the most diverse places, I believe, that exists. People who dress differently and who speak many different languages come to our events and, to some degree, connect with each other. Of course, the children always do this.
Q: How many people are involved with BAN and how do they give back to the community?
Sylvia Sherman: When we run a “Park Day” activity, we will easily have 100-125 people in the park actually working on different aspects. Some might be serving food but some will be sweeping. You may see a hundred there but the outreach has been to many more than that. There are different scouting groups throughout Queens. The Kiwanis club, which is an international organization helping children with all kinds of needs, has a chapter here: The Queens Boulevard Chapter. They work closely with us. So we have some input from them. It’s really hundreds of people working together in some way.
Larry Sherman: We get help from the police department, the fire department and Maple Groves Cemetery. We also work with a shelter. We have a family residence shelter ran by the Salvation Army. It happens to be one of the best shelters in the city.
Q: What have been some difficulties that you have faced as board members of the network?
Larry Sherman: I’m the Treasurer so I abscond with the money (He laughs). We’ve been in existence for four years and every time we have needed, people have reached out and donated. We really function off of donations. The challenge, though, is in the word “action.” It’s the main word in our name.The idea of bringing businesses together is somewhat difficult because they don’t all really want or understand what organizations can do. We have had one meeting with businesses and had limited success. But that’s one of our new projects.
Q: Have there ever been disputes with members of the network?
Sylvia Sherman: We, as a young group, are a work in progress. I talked about the wonders of people coming together and the community. We do have a diverse board. Diverse, in terms of ethnic and bi-racial background and, interestingly, in age. All those things bring points of views from different cultures. We all bring different points of views. I could say there have been disagreements about how to accomplish something or even what is the priority at the moment. But overall, I’d say, there is a unity and a dedication to what is good for the community.
Q: Finally, with the major construction project that is occurring in Briarwood, who are you most concerned about and how will they be affected?
Larry Sherman: Next door, we have a woman. She is in her 40s and she has to walk through all this mess every morning. I am very worried about her. She and her family are Polish immigrants.
Sylvia Sherman: Even though I am not being bothered by it everyday, it is just as important to me to know that my neighbors are suffering from the constant noise or the constant uncertainty. I think that is part of what BAN is about. There is always some focus on what affects you. It’s also a great focus on what’s affecting your neighbors. It’s about the community.
If you are interested in more information about the Briarwood Action Network, you can visit them at briarwoodactionnetwork.com.