As 2005 draws to a close, we will reminisce. Some of us achieved wealth and prosperity, some educational advancement, and some of us retrogressed, whereas others received blessings in various other forms-jobs, babies, etc. As Charles Dickens, the famous author wrote, in his literary masterpiece A Tale of Two Cities, for some of us, "it was the best of times," whereas for others, "it was the worst of times. "As we reflect on the year that was, we must pay tribute to the brave men and women from our community who selflessly serve in the armed forces. We also mourn our lost families and friends. And, as exemplified in the last City Council election which made both good and bad headlines, we must follow one of the world's treasured poets, Rabindranauth Tagore's advice, and remove "the narrow domestic walls" which fragment our community, into a "heaven of freedom."
In this inaugural column, we then asked several readers the question, "Which member of our community, by virtue of his efforts and example, stands out as our Person of the Year? "They thought of the many entrepreneurs and investors, who have enriched our landscape and our local economy, and created jobs, of the many students, who have come of age by entering their new professions and vocations, of the many community advocates and organizers, and of our religious priests and leaders, who propagate and instill the great virtues of our various faiths and religions from generation to generation. 
As we considered each person and business, priests to doctors, artists to writers, bankers to brokers, lawyers to nurses, restaurateurs to teachers, noting their undeniable contributions, we unanimously settled on one person, an advocate who stood out like a beacon, a person who dared to take this fledgling community to new frontiers of political progress. Albert Baldeo was preaching a message all year -"Unity and empowerment is the key to the American dream. Stand up and be counted. Become a citizen, register to vote, and agitate for reform, or continue to live as second class citizens in America!" Some of us stayed at home and did not exercise our franchise, whereas others split our vote into three. Baldeo's professional peers were making financial hay while Baldeo sacrificed family, career and resources to be the Drummer Boy Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted in every emerging minority community. Some men preach prophetic words before their time, some men dream dreams and ask why are they not reality, but whatever it turns out to be, Baldeo's dreams and words to us were timely. And adore him or criticize him, we must respect that Baldeo's  exhortations must be fulfilled if we are to progress as a community. 
Devoting all of his time, resources and energy to enlighten and empower a politically reticent community, an effort that was to put him behind bars, when he could have been having a good time at exclusive country clubs, our community person for the year must be Albert Baldeo, and we list the reasons below, each worthy of emulation, by each of us:
Baldeo, a prominent attorney and an expert in immigration, business and real estate law, has enabled thousands to live the American Dream, in securing American citizenship for them, and in representing them in the purchase and sales of their homes, and in advising them in business law. Many "back trackers," who most lawyers would not touch with a 10 foot pole, found legal solutions and that elusive victory in Baldeo's office. Taking unjustified blame for the Department of Homeland Security's delays and imperfect systems which are sometimes laid at his door, he knows that comes with the practice. But Baldeo knew that he could reform the system in the legislature more than in the courtroom, and he pressed on with his initiative to gain office, which would have resulted in a considerable decline in his income, if he was elected. "It is not an easy sacrifice to advice the man off the street free of charge, then go home to your family tired and broke,"  many colleagues have muttered of Baldeo's efforts.
In October 2004, Albert and his brother Dr. Philip Baldeo, opened the first Community Assistance Center & Voter Registration Drive in our community. As global and local catastrophes repeatedly struck, they provided food, clothing, medical supplies and cash to Guyana Flood,Tsunami, Katrina & Pakistan victims and to the poor and needy in our community since then.
When two Guyanese breadwinners, Beharry and Balram were cruelly murdered and sent back to Guyana in coffins, Baldeo was furious. He hastily formed an organization to combat hate crimes with other activists, and he began to secure compensation for the bereaved families, while calling on the District Attorney to send the strongest messages possible against  these acts. Due to Baldeo's efforts, one family received over $22,000 to cover funeral and other expenses. He acts as the watchdog, examining any rising statistics in hate crimes in the community post 9/11.
In early 2005, quota driven "Jaywalking" charges and  violations, and business harassment in our community raised its ugly head and Baldeo's response was swift and decisive. He protested vigorously at Police Plaza, and quelled a rising problem on our residents, much to the chagrin of the police in the precincts. Baldeo knew that vigilance and communication was the key, so he ensured that our community was represented at all precinct, community boards, civic and other meetings in our district, trudging to meetings and briefings every evening at great personal and family sacrifice. His 1 year old son Gandhi hardly saw his father throughout the year.
When the DOT threatened to convert 111 Street into two narrow  lanes, it was Baldeo who convincingly testified and presented arguments that it was counter productive, and asked the DOT to concentrate on installing more stop signs, speed bumps and traffic lights in the area instead of hindering business from coming into Richmond Hill and Ozone Park. He made it clear that his many of his clients lived there, and were afraid that their property value would decrease unfairly, which may provoke an unnecessary class action lawsuit against the DOT. Goliath backed off.
But Baldeo's greatest work was still to be come. He traversed the "racial and geographical divide" of the Van Wyck Expressway, and assisted low income shareholders/cooperators in Rochdale Village to fight against rent increases & poor living conditions in a class action law suit. Here was a young politician, who for the first time, was trying to unite the 5 different neighborhoods of City Council District 28, consisting of Jamaica, Rochdale Village, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park. "I see people, not colors, and I am running for this office because I can bring much needed changes for our community, " Baldeo declared. 
On his website, appropriately entitled, he remains true to his Mission, I am stepping up to the plate to go to bat for the residents of Council District 28- Rochdale, Richmond Hill, Jamaica and Ozone Park, because our community needs dynamic, inspiring, moral and robust new leadership. I will bring a fresh and invigorating approach to tackling the pressing issues and problems in this district rising above those who seek to divide and marginalize us.

Advocating for a person means advancing and protecting every part of his or her life. Each day in my office, and in our neighborhoods, I hear my clients and fellow citizens telling me of how city government is failing to provide essential services to improve our quality of life in health, education, housing, transportation, senior services, wages & workers benefits, crime, police-community relations, discrimination, youth programs, jobs, among many other concerns.

I am seeking office to change that and make city government work for all of us in this district, to advance economic prosperity and civic pride, alleviate poverty, hardship and suffering, and eradicate all injustices and shortcomings in our society. I answer to no political boss or special interests. You, the people, are my boss. I will fight to make open, honest government a reality in District 28. Together we will aspire, and together, we will succeed!"

During his campaign on behalf of us, Baldeo criticized the poor housing policies of the city, and  his threatened class action lawsuit for discrimination caused the city to back off with illegal conversion summons & harassment, pending better housing availability. Throughout his tiring campaign, Baldeo still gave free legal advice to all, while steadfastly being an education, immigration, housing & health care reform advocate.

But for some strange reason, his efforts spawned enemies, and Baldeo, who had openly criticized his rivals for splitting the vote and engaging in the "crab eat crab syndrome, not to win, but to ensure that our community does not secure representation," came up with an alarming tale. Dr. Robby Mahadeo got his wife and campaign manager Vishnu Mahadeo to falsely swear that Baldeo, a former judge and prosecutor, had pointed a gun at them on 4 different occasions. With a trumped up charge hanging over his head, Baldeo, who was a leading contender to win the seat, lost a lot of ground, and although he doubled the combined votes of his nemesis Dr. Dhanpaul Narine and Dr. Robby Mahadeo, the die was cast for our community. With the charge, albeit bogus, hanging over him, Baldeo's numbers slipped, and with it, the seat. Bloodied, but unbowed, Baldeo has emerged the logical and consensus leader of our community, a man who our community owes.

But it was the statesmanlike act of dropping charges against a rival and his cronies who had fabricated the sick and ridiculous charge that puts Baldeo head and shoulders above other contenders for our award. It was established that the Mahadeos had not made any reports to the police, despite their trauma, and that Baldeo was actually in Rochdale Village in front of hundreds of Rochdale Village residents who signed onto his class action lawsuit, with an airtight alibi. With filing false police complaints, obstructing justice, conspiracy and perjury charges  facing his rivals, and the risk that their small kids would become wards of the state with their parents in jail, Baldeo took us to the highest moral ground we have seen in our community's history. Never before has such magnanimity been shown in our community, and Albert Baldeo's  example in fighting hate with love, war with peace, hatred with forgiveness and evil with righteousness is reminiscent of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Cheddi Jagan and Martin Luther King Jr. Thank you for your wonderful example to our community, Mr. Baldeo. We salute your leadership!

We may never decide which act is more Herculean for anyone who challenges our popular choice of Baldeo. Rising from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix, or exemplifying righteousness, and leading under the guidance of a higher moral authority? For the skeptics out there, take your pick and give us your best shot...

OUR COMMUNITY SALUTES YOUR MAGNANIMITY AND LEADERSHIP!" Albert Baldeo, the consensus builder gets support in all five neighborhoods in District 28:

In Rochdale Village, Baldeo initiated a class action lawsuit for better living conditions

Baldeo, in center, with the Sikh support of Richmond Hill


Ozone Park, South Ozone Park & Jamaica stand with Baldeo

Many homes and businesses proudly display their choice for leader 

The Mayor and Baldeo discuss our community's problems

Malcolm X's daughter exchanges pleasantries with Baldeo

Queens Counsel Shakoor Manraj congratulates Baldeo

So does Senator Weprin. "Building bridges is crucial to our communities..."

The Comptroller and future Mayor Bill Thompson congratulates Baldeo

With Councilwoman Helen Sears

Albert and brother Dr. Philip Baldeo-sending food, clothes, medical and other relief supplies nationally and internationally 

With fellow Caribbean leader/labor advocate, Roger Toussaint of NY Transit Workers Union


  AlbertBaldeo.Com 2005