By Kami-Leigh Agard
Whatever side of the political aisle you sit on, the name—Lew Simon—carries precious sentiment, and while the passionate Rockaway advocate is forever missed, the resurged, aptly now-named, Lew M. Simon Regular Democratic Club (LMSRDC), hopes to carry on the torch Simon blazed for decades for Rockaway’s residents. This Monday, October 30, at 7 p.m. at Beacon Rehabilitation Center, registered Democrats are beckoned to attend LMSRDC’s official kickoff. And with Democrat elected officials and running candidates invited, for the club’s president, Jeanette Garramone, it’s about giving constituents—whether conservative, moderate and others on the wide Democratic political spectrum, not just a platform to unite, but a voice and knowledge of critical proposals on the ballots facing not just Rockaway, the borough of Queens, but NYS at large.
Simon was Rockaway’s longtime Democrat 23rd Assembly District-B Leader since the early 1990s, and according to public records, registered his run of the Good Government Regular Democratic Club in 1987. Today, Garramone and James McGoorty are two of Rockaway’s Democrat District (B) leaders. As for why the club’s name is referred to as “Regular,” Garramone said, “When you use ‘Regular’ in the club’s title, that means that you’re backed by Queens County. So, that means Queens County gave the approval for us to be a ‘Regular’ Democratic club. So, they basically review the bylaws and the setup of the club to make sure that it encompasses the Democratic district leaders’ goals to be a voice for the party; encompassing their demographic and geographic areas, which in our case is District 23-Part B Rockaway neighborhoods.”
As submitted to The Rockaway Times, the LMSRDC’s mission is to: “Honor and serve the memory of Lew M. Simon through unceasingly promoting the ascendancy of the Democratic Party in NYS, in Queens County, and most especially in his beloved Part B neighborhoods of Assembly District 23. Their goals are: (1) To serve all the people of Assembly District 23, Part B, in creating more perfect communities through advocacy, education and expansion of the local, state and national Democratic Party. (2) To bring public figure interest, policy, and performance insight to Assembly District community members, and to bring the Assembly District community members’ interests, questions and concerns to public figures, so to provide a forum for public figures and District community members to share information, ideas and opinions in pursuit of the understandings upon which rest the meaning of ‘the Common Good.’”
Each district of the Queens County Democrat Club has two female and two male district leaders, distinguished by an “A” or “B” suffix. For example, Garramone and McGoorty are both leaders of District 23B, while Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and local Frank Gulluscio are District 23A’s leaders.
Garramone said, “The goal is for the LMSRDC to have that one voice. Of course, we all differ in our own ways, but overall, our united goal is to support Queens’ Democrats.”
As for why she took on the challenge to slip into the huge shoes left by Simon as leader of the club, Garramone boiled it down to sheer empathy and love for the Rockaway community.
“Although the community didn’t always 100% agree with Lew, collectively, we 100% appreciated his passion and fight. He wouldn’t give up on something if there was a way, or if even there wasn’t a way, he would always try. And now that he’s been gone, many of us realized that there’s that missing voice, which has unfortunately led to less collaboration between the two parties. Lew was someone who could link the pieces and I want to try fill in and restore what he tirelessly worked for. It’s not easy, ’cause I’m not Lew Simon, but we are determined,” Garramone said.
Garramone, originally from Astoria, moved to Rockaway 17 years ago, and after seeing how disenfranchised local residents felt after Hurricane Sandy, she said she found her voice to advocate for others.
She shared, “It started with Hurricane Sandy, after spending all of the tireless hours and days in meetings, just not to be heard again, and again. Eventually you get to a place where your voice is loud enough, you’re angry enough to speak up even louder, and that’s when you start to be heard. At the first meeting, you’re kind of quiet. Your second meeting, you start to ask questions. Then at your third meeting, you’re like, ‘We did this meeting five times already. When are you gonna listen to us?’ Then it starts becoming where you become a voice for everything you’ve heard in the room. I was never somebody politically motivated. I was more of that math/science girl. I still love math and science, but the community where we live, our kids, our neighbors—at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s about, and Lew Simon embodied that.”
When asked why name the resurrected club in Simon’s name, Garramone said it was a no brainer. “People can honestly say they feel the void with him being gone. Whether you liked him or not, we all know how hard Lew worked and the time he committed for the people of Rockaway,” she said. “So, I think his name will help bring people. Plus, I would like to build on how welcoming Lew was, no matter who or where you were on the political spectrum, or on the issues. He always allowed people to come and speak their piece, as long as they did it respectfully. Sometimes not everybody in the room was from the same party, but he allowed the conversation.”
Garramone laughed, “Sometimes I question how I ended up here myself as district leader and president of the club. I blame Lew. However, on a serious note, it was honestly Hurricane Sandy. Not just because of my own family, but my neighbors. I’ve always been somebody very service driven. If you’re hurting, you can be healed by helping others, opposed to focusing on yourself.”
The Lew M. Simon Regular Democratic Club kickoff meeting is this Monday, October 30, 7 p.m. at Beacon Rehabilitation Center (140 Beach 113th Street). For more info, email: lmsrdc23AD@gmail.com