Queens Borough President, Donovan Richards has appointed a Guyanese American as the borough’s deputy president.
Richards, of Jamaican heritage, on Jan. 4, selected Rhonda Binda in his first round of appointments.
Other first-round appointees were: Franck D. Joseph II, chief of staff and senior advisor; and Breeana Mulligan, director of communications.
“Throughout their careers, Franck Joseph, Rhonda Binda and Breeana Mulligan have demonstrated both exemplary talent and tireless dedication to the people of New York City, and I am confident they will bring the same energy to Queens residents and families,” said Richards in a statement.
“I am proud to add these hardworking public servants to my staff, some of whom represent the best of our borough, especially as we quickly move to tackle the ongoing public health and economic crises,” he added.
“Franck, Rhonda and Breeana will make great partners in building a stronger, healthier and more prosperous Queens in 2021 and beyond,” Richards continued.
As deputy borough president, he said Binda is tasked with focusing on “specific policy areas of the office.”
Richards said policy areas include land use, technology, food insecurity, criminal justice reform, parks and transportation.
“I’m honored and humbled to have this opportunity to serve, and am excited to help Queens Borough President Richards implement his vision for our borough and take Queens to new heights,” said Binda in a statement.
“As a woman of color, it is also important to me that Queens Borough President Richards is committed to ensuring that women continue to have a strong voice in our government and community; and that, in his appointments, he has sought to honor the great progress made by the last four borough presidents — all women who led and moved our communities forward,” she added.
Richards described Binda, the daughter of Guyanese immigrants, who was raised in Southeast Queens, as “a visionary leader with a passion for social and environmental justice.”
In her youth, he said Binda successfully lobbied the New York City Council for New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG) to shut down Fresh Kills, the largest toxic site in the country.
As an attorney, Richards said Binda “represented and released” wrongly detained clients before the US Immigration Court of Appeals after 9/11 pro bono, and broke up internet and cable monopolies.
In government, he said Binda served in both the Obama-Biden and Clinton-Gore administrations as a US diplomat and in the West Wing.
Inspired by her love for her hometown, Richards said Binda returned to Queens as the executive director for the Jamaica BID, the borough’s largest business district, where she took action against “the stark inequality of resources and investments made in the borough.”
“Under her leadership, Jamaica remarkably rose through the ranks to be named the #1 neighborhood in the city, and won #1 awards from the NYC Department of Small Business Services (NYC SBS) and the state for downtown revitalization, raising Jamaica’s profile as a unique, vibrant multicultural center for retail and tourism,” Richards said.
He said Binda continued to serve her community as chairwoman of South Asian American Voice, vice president of the Guyanese Girls Rock Foundation, and on the boards for The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens, The NY Hall of Science and Positive Women United.
In addition, the Queens Borough President said Binda is an “internationally-recognized People’s Choice leader in building smart and connected communities.”
He said she is also an Adjunct Professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) and served on both the 21 Century Government and Foreign Policy teams for the Biden-Harris 2020 Presidential campaign.
Richards said Binda has travelled to six continents, 40-plus countries and hundreds of cities working with state and local leaders, and lives in Jamaica Estates, Queens.
Binda told Caribbean Life, in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, that her Guyanese-born parents — Yvonne Bibi Shamin Kamaludin and Harry Deodath Binda, Sr. — after several visits, decided to permanently move to the US in their quest for the American dream, opening up a business on Jamaica Avenue, Queens.
After a career in Washington, D.C., Binda said she returned to New York, “and worked to strengthen my hometown by contributing to the economic growth of Jamaica, Queens.”
She said growing up in a multi-cultural household led her to be “empathetic to the everyday struggle and obstacles of immigrants — from opening up a business to just being accepted by my peers.”
Binda said this was among reasons for co-founding the Guyanese Girls Rock Foundation, a high school women’s leadership academy.
“The work we have done has given a platform to an often-overlooked community, opening the opportunity of increased exposure and resources,” she said.
“I’m honored and humbled to have this opportunity to serve, and am excited to help QBP (Queens Borough President) Richards implement his ‘One Queens’ vision for our borough,” Binda added. “My appointment should show that Queens Borough President Richards is actively taking every step towards a more inclusive Queens, touching all communities and all perspectives.
“This appointment is not solely about me, as an immigrant daughter, but (about) Queens Borough President Richards’ promise of a better more inclusive Queens,” she continued. “Together, we are building more connectivity amongst its community, better equipped for any disaster from Sandy, to more recently COVID-19.”
Binds said she was also “deeply inspired by QBP Richards, and his story, as an immigrant son fulfilling the American dream and holding the doors to opportunity open for those behind him – people like me.”
Additionally, she said she was honored to follow in the footsteps of the late Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who was also of Guyanese descent.
Binda said she, Richards and his office “have so much work to do,” stating that, since Jan. 1, “we have hit the ground running.”
“I want to emphasize how much the Queens Borough President Richards and I are committed to Queens, from ensuring that we have the proper infrastructure for testing sites for all communities, and that our seniors, essential workers, first responders and educators are being prioritized,” she said.
“We are also aggressively supporting our small businesses in their attempt to overcome the many challenges the pandemic has brought,” Binda added. “That is why we are partnering with METS to distribute 15 million dollars to Queens small business owners in emergency grants, and Citi Field is becoming a 24/7 vaccination site.”
She noted that the Caribbean and Guyanese communities make up “some of the largest immigrant populations in Queens and New York, and have made tremendous contributions to business, arts and non-profits, and now, more than ever, in government, with leaders like Queens Borough President Richards, with Jamaican heritage.
“I’m a daughter of Guyanese immigrants, and I was raised in the richness of the melting pot that makes Queens so beautiful and that creates so much potential,” Binda said.
“I think my multicultural Caribbean roots has been a tremendous asset for me throughout my life and in my career, and has equipped me well for the role of deputy president for a diverse borough like Queens,” she added.
“We wish you all the success in your new endeavor, and have no doubt and you will serve the Queens community to best of your abilities,” said Goring in a Facebook post. “We are so proud of you, Rhonda!”