By Eleni Sakellis
ASTORIA – On April 21, NYS Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney hosted a luncheon to commemorate and celebrate Women’s History Month and to honor three exceptional local women for their contributions to the communities of Western Queens. Approximately 60 invited guests joined the celebration, which was held in the Astor Room at Kaufman-Astoria Studios.
The Honorees were Ann Bruno- President of the 114th Precinct Community Council; Claudia Coger- President of the Astoria Houses Residents’ Association; and Mackenzie Farquer- proprietor of Lockwood Shops and Managing Editor of We Heart Astoria.
Assemblywoman Simotas saidthat “this year is a very special one in women’s history and our nation’s history as it marks the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York. Today’s honorees and Congresswoman Maloney are an inspiration for me. They inspire me to continue my focus on serving the needs of my community and putting my heart and soul into that work, as each of them has done in their own unique ways. Throughout our nation’s history, women have fought for justice, equality and the well-being of their communities and these special women motivate me to continue that fight for as long as I can.”
Congresswoman Maloney said “strong women, powerful women, engaged women are the backbone of a thriving community and provide the inspiration for our next generation of leaders. I am happy to join my exceptional colleague in government, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, in celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of three amazing women. Mackenzi Farquer, Claudia Coger, and Ann Bruno work tirelessly day in and day out for the betterment of Western Queens, and each of them embodies the highest ideals of the movement for women’s equality in the United States. They are an inspiration to each of us, and motivate me to keep fighting for true gender equality. They are certainly deserving of this honor.”
Ann Bruno is part of the lifeblood of Astoria, where she was born, grew-up, married, and raised three sons. She has selflessly donated her time to numerous organizations that help to make Western Queens a better place for all. Most notably she has led the 114th Precinct Community Council as President for the nearly 27 years and organizes Astoria’s National Night Out Against Crime. Bruno also serves on the Board of Directors of the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition and Queens Community Board 1 and generously volunteered with the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens for 18 years. She has actively served the church community at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
“I thank Congresswoman Maloney and Assemblywoman Simotas for hosting this luncheon and I am honored to be one of the women being recognized. We are fortunate here in Astoria to have these inspiring women as our representatives in government. Women’s history has always been about more than furthering the rights of women. It has and always will be about making our world a better place to live, protecting the health and well-being of our neighborhoods and nurturing our young people so they reach their full potential. It’s a privilege to be in the company of the other honorees, Claudia Coger and Mackenzi Farquer who have helped make Astoria one of New York’s great communities,” said Bruno.
Claudia Coger has lived in Astoria since 1955, where she has raised seven children and has become a remarkable and powerful voice in the community. Since the mid 1990’s, Coger has served as the elected President of the Astoria Houses Residents’ Associations, working in partnership with elected officials at all levels of government for social welfare, improved education and tenants’ rights. She serves on the Executive Board of the Citywide Council of Tenant Association Presidents. Coger is an Elder of the New Covenant Life Christian Center and her drive to serve the public good stems from her spiritual beliefs.
Coger said, “Love and hard work override the obstacles of life. I was a young parent when I came to Astoria and it felt like a safe haven when I arrived and it’s a blessing to be living here. I am honored to stand with Assemblywoman Simotas and Representative Maloney and to be with this wonderful group of women. Let’s keep fighting for what’s right and don’t give up.” She concluded her remarks by saying, “Keep on, keep on, keep on.”
Mackenzi Farquer came to Astoria in 2003 from the Midwest. She is a successful entrepreneur and small business owner and actively gives back to the community by serving on Community Board 1 and the Astoria Performing Arts Board of Directors. Farquer founded and owns the successful lifestyle boutique Lockwood Shop which features custom art, stationary, locally-made gifts and unique Astoria-centric goods. She is also the founder and managing editor of the enormously popular neighborhood blog – We Heart Astoriaand a print magazine, The Paper.
“Astoria is lucky to have such inspiring and hardworking elected officials as Congresswoman Maloney and Assemblywoman Simotas and I am grateful to be honored by them. I love living and working in this community which is so special in part because of these women and also because of women like Ann Bruno and Claudia Coger whose dedication to community service has been unwavering for decades” said Farquer.
Simotas concluded the event by offering her gratitude to Kaufman-Astoria Studios and specifically to President Hal Rosenbluth and Vice President Tracy Capune, as well as The Astor Room for their generous support in making the event a success.