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New CB2 chair proud of his fellow Sunnysiders in response to 5-alarm inferno

New Community Board 2 chair Anatole Ashraf is proud of the way his Sunnyside neighbors responded to support the 450 residents who were displaced by the 5-alarm blaze just days before Christmas. Photo courtesy of Anatole Ashraf

Dec. 26, 2023 By Bill Parry

The new chair of Community Board 2 was less than two weeks into his tenure when disaster struck in the heart of Sunnyside.

A massive 5-alarm fire just five days before Christmas displaced nearly 450 people from their apartment complex at 43-07 47th Ave. on Wednesday, Dec. 20, and Anatole Ashraf marveled at the community’s all-hands-on-deck response to the emergency.

FDNY determined the 5-alarm inferno was started by a contractor using an unauthorized blow torch in a vacant 6th-floor apartment. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“My heart breaks for everyone affected by this fire and losing so much just before the holidays,” Ashraf said. “This community inspires me every time with the outpouring of support, generosity, and action in times of need. From signal-boosting the main relief fund managed by Sunnyside Community Services and helping to raise more than $100K, to donating and collecting so many toys, and winter gear, and doing laundry, we proved once again what our community looks like, with the beautiful unity and warmth that we’re made of.”

Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Donations are still being accepted at Sunnyside Community Services’ relief fund. Ashraf thanked the Red Cross of Greater New York for providing support for nearly 200 of the displaced residents at Sunnyside Community Services, where he was elected chair of CB2 on Dec. 7. He also thanked city agencies and elected officials, including Council Member Julie Won and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, for including CB2 in the coordination to distribute information to the community.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards briefed by the Red Cross at Sunnyside Community Services. Photo courtesy of Assemblyman Juan Ardila’s office

“Special thanks to the small businesses that provided food, charging stations, and free WiFi, and the community members who sprang into action to organize physical collections, like Sofia Moncayo, Ty Sullivan, Ska Ska and so many others,” Ashraf said.

The 38-year-old married father of one was secretary at CB2 before he beat incumbent Danielle Brecker, who had served as chair for one year, in the board election earlier this month. Professionally, Ashraf is a digital marketer working on websites, social media, search engines and optimizations in the tech sector, an expertise he brought to CB2 as chair of the Tech and Access Committee. All board positions, including chair, are unpaid.

“We worked together to bridge the internal and external divide between board members and the community and we set up a Google calendar on the Queens CB2 website,” Ashraf said, adding that he wants to make CB2 more inclusive.

“We will work to ensure that CB2 meaningly reflects the diversity of our community,” he said. “We will also work to make it easier for people to get involved, regardless of their background or experience. We’ll do this by creating more ways for people to participate in CB2 meetings and by working to build relations that represent the diversity of our community.”

Firefighters battle blaze on 47th Avenue in Sunnyside on Dec. 20, 2023. The fire left nearly 450 people displaced. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Ashraf became the first non-white chair of CB2 since it was established in 1950 and one of the first Bangladeshi Americans to be elected chair of a community board in New York City history. The board district has become more diverse in recent times, along with the rest of the city due to immigration.

Ashraf became a resident of CB2 when he moved to Woodside in 2003. Ashraf and his wife moved to the south side of Sunnyside in 2013 and relocated to the north side of the neighborhood after the birth of their daughter.

“My heart is still with the south side of Sunnyside and I want to help improve the quality of life in that part of the neighborhood,” Ashraf said. “There are good things happening on 48th Avenue and Greenpoint Avenue in the last couple of years.”

The demographics in CB2 have changed significantly in recent years with Asian Americans now representing more than 35% of residents, a number far higher than the 17% citywide. Nearly 55% of district residents are foreign born, according to board data.

When Queens Borough President Donovan Richards was sworn into his first full term in November 2020, he implemented reforms for the 14 community boards to make them more representative of the neighborhoods they serve.

“Congratulations to Anatole Ashraf on becoming one of the first Bangladeshi Americans to chair a community board in New York City,” Richards said. “Our community boards should look and feel like the communities they represent, and I look forward to making even more strides in making our boards more diverse in 2024.”

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