But that shouldn’t be so surprising.
Queens is the most diverse place on earth. It has been statistically demonstrated to be the most ethnically diverse county in this country — in spite of a challenge from some place in Hawaii. Yes, we’re number one! We are the world’s true home of multiculturalism.
But that also should not be surprising.
The first home of the United Nations General Assembly was here in Queens. The New York City Pavilion from the 1939 World’s Fair played host to world. It is the same building which today houses an ice-skating rink, the Queens Museum of Art and the wonderful panorama of our City.
We are part of the wondrous multicultural metropolis of New York City. For much of last century our city served as the melting pot of the cultural diversities arriving at our shore. People from all over the globe came to New York through Ellis Island and then Idlewild (later named Kennedy Airport) seeking the American dream. Each ethnic group found its small piece of our city. Sometimes cultures blended quickly, sometimes they existed side by side and occasionally there was conflict. But they came to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and all she symbolizes. And they came in large numbers and often settled here in New York.
And today, a century later, they continue to come in search of the same American dream. And many of those dreamers make their home in our borough, Queens.
But that too, should not be surprising.
My grandparents were those dreamers. A century ago, or a little more, grandma and grandpa Schenkler and Katz made their way from Eastern Europe to New York to build their future and have a family in a home which promised religious freedom and opportunity. My in-laws came from the concentration camps of Europe a little more than a half a century ago for the very same reasons.
And although their story sounds a little more dramatic than most, the basic underlying reason for the settlement and growth of our great nation was the opportunity and freedom it offered. And since our founding fathers first spelled out those principles and our system of legislation and jurisprudence helped those freedoms to evolve, while a competitive economic system rewarded hard work and ingenuity, freedom and opportunity have became the shibboleths of every immigrant group arriving at our shores.
They started more than 200 years ago. And more than 100 years ago, they were my family. And if you look closely at your ancestry, they were probably your family, too. All of our families, at one time, came to this country in search of opportunity and freedom. And it is no different today.
However, today Queens is the center of the action.
As I look around my office, I see the multicultural panorama of our City.
Our editorial department’s ancestry, by my observation, can be traced to Taiwan, Ireland, Italy, Persia, Eastern Europe and, our newest member, Liberia.
The art department to Trinidad, Greece, Italy, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, France, Jamaica, Guyana, Ireland, and Germany.
The sales department boasts of Eastern Europe, Ireland, the Philippines, India, Italy, Poland, England, Colombia, the Caribbean, Africa, and Guyana.
The classified department and administrative staff are not much different but they have Cuban names and some that just leave me wondering.
The business that I took over almost 25 years ago has changed. The colors of the faces and the pronunciation of the names have become more varied. The ethnic backgrounds have become much more diverse. Our office reflects our city and our borough.
We are Queens.
And just over one year ago, when along with a group of friends and investors I purchased the Tribune back from the public company which had owned it since 1989, we celebrated with a very special anniversary edition: Queens World — Casting The Future.
That issue (the cover can be seen on this page) began the latest stage in the life of the Tribune. And looking back, nothing could have been more fitting for our new business launch than a salute to the people of our borough — the people of our world:
"As the #7 rumbles its way over and through the lives and neighborhoods of Queens, it carries with it a cross section of the globe. People of every race, faith and age have settled in the borders of the borough, raised their families, changed the shape of the Queens landscape and added their unique touch to our future."
And today, we invite the more than two million people who call Queens home to thumb through this guide to settling in the most ethnically diverse community on the planet. If you are a Trib regular, share some of the concerns of Queens’ newest residents, and recall or imagine the problems encountered by your ancestors.
And then take a moment and walk down the block to the new family who just moved in — the family that came the furthest point on earth.
But go on, reach out to someone new to our land and offer your hand and this copy of the Queens Tribune Immigrant’s Guide and tell them: "Welcome to Queens, the most diverse place on earth."
Celebrate our borough.
Michael Schenkler can be