Riding the International Express


Leaving Grand Central and heading east, the No. 7 “International Express” train races through the Steinway Tunnel and arrives at Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City.When the working day is done and tens of thousands of people escape from Manhattan under the East River.

The No. 7 running along IRT Flushing Line lives up to its nickname. A microcosm of the borough itself, the train car is packed with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Those who can’t afford to embark on a transcontinental odyssey can enjoy an around-the-world cultural tour in less than an hour for the price of a MetroCard. In between Queensboro Plaza and Flushing you’ll pass through Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, India, Thailand and China. And there are those people who undertake the journey twice a day just to get to work.

“It can be a stressful way to start your day sometimes, but I wake up and make it happen like everyone else,” said Jerome Strother, 37, from Woodside. Like a lot of people who work in Manhattan, Strother commutes everyday to his construction job in order to avoid the high cost of living. “The people who build the city could never afford to live there,” he says with a grin. Then the doors open at 61st street and Strother steps off onto the platform, his weathered hard hat swinging from a strap connecting to his backpack.

The people sitting next to each other look different in almost everyway. At first glance the only thing they have in common is they share the same 67-by-10 foot metal can, but it’s more than that. On this particular Wednesday evening, most of them are headed home.

“You read about everything going on in the world and people killing each other for belonging to a different sect of the same religion” said Kyra Garewal, 27, from Jackson Heights. “But throw a bunch of fundamentally different people together here and they’re more or less able to live together peacefully.”

The No. 7 on through East Elmhurst and Junction Boulevard, roaring above streets on a century-old elevated track. Looking out across the rooftops you see the lengths graffiti artists have gone in search of their canvas. Their work attracts as many pairs of eyes than if it was framed in a gallery.

The train pulls into Corona Plaza near 103rd street where the people depart and walk down onto Roosevelt Avenue. Once an Italian neighborhood but now overwhelmingly Hispanic, it’s still the place where immigrant families risk it all to start something new.

A ride on the International Express reminds one of New York’s long history with immigration, as well as offer a glimpse of its future.


Queens community leaders seek to address senior care in immigrant neighborhoods


Below is the updated first draft of my issues story. I’m open to any notes you guys have. There’s an obvious key source missing here, but I’m in the process of tracking them down. I have trouble writing a coherent conclusion for a complex topic. Any tips when it comes to wrapping up?


According to a U.S Census report, the population of Americans 65 and older will double nationwide by the year 2050. As Americans of all ages consider how we’re going to support this aging population, a significant group of elder citizens is being left out of the discussion.

Aging and senior care in immigrant communities is fast becoming a major issue in New York City. Experts say the work must begin now if we’re going to have a system in place before the problem becomes unmanageable. How do we make sure older immigrants have access to high quality, culturally competent care and services that contribute to a better quality of life?

The Queens Coalition for Immigrant Aging (QCIA) says that immigrants now make up around 46 percent of New York’s total senior population. Last month the QCIA, in cooperation with the Queens Forum, hosted a conference titled “Immigrant Aging in Queens: Realities, Challenges and Opportunities” that examined health, economic, housing, and other issues facing immigrant seniors in Queens and New York City as a whole.

Speaking at the QCIA conference was Dr. Joseph J. Salvo, the director of the Population Division for the New York City Department of City Planning. Since 2010, Dr. Salvo has worked with the Census Bureau on compiling data about the residential settlement of immigrants. “Our department’s job is to help the people who help the people,” said Dr. Salvo. This data provides the foundational data necessary to take to city officials and make the case for funding.

A major issue echoed by Dr. Salvo, as well as other experts and community leaders, is the level of English proficiency in immigrant communities. According to Dr. Salvo’s data from the Census Bureau, 58 percent of the population in Queens is foreign-born. Of that 58 percent, at least a third of them are over the age of 65-years-old. For those foreign-born immigrants who are 65-years-old or older, 60.4 percent possess “limited English proficiency.” In other words, they may have a tenuous grasp of the language, but still have difficultly speaking or reading English. This means they’re less likely to know about or take advantage of city services they might qualify for.

Older immigrants face the same challenges as other seniors, except with the added complexities of legal status and language barriers. According to Center for an Urban Future, a non-partisan public policy think-tank based here in Manhattan, 24 percent of older immigrants live in households below the poverty level. That’s compared to 15 percent of native-born older adults. The median income of a foreign-born senior in New York is only $9,900 compared to an average of $18,300 for native-born seniors. Nearly 130,000 immigrant seniors in New York City are living below the poverty line.