2002-02-02 / Front Page

‘Pauline Was One Of God’s Angels’

'Pauline Was One Of God's Angels'

Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings (right) in the Assembly Chamber in Albany along with Chamber of Commerce President Liz Sulik and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (left). Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings (right) in the Assembly Chamber in Albany along with Chamber of Commerce President Liz Sulik and Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (left).Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings
Succumbs To Cancer
By Gary G. Toms

Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings, who was instrumental in securing subway and educational funding for the Far Rockaway area, died last Sunday after a yearlong battle with cancer. She was 56.

The Assemblywoman, a Democrat, represented the 31st District, which comprises the areas of Far Rockaway, Springfield Gardens, Rosedale, South Ozone Park, Laurelton, part of Richmond Hill and Kennedy Airport.

In a statement released shortly after her death, Governor George Patkai commented, "Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings was an outstanding community leader and a dedicated and tireless public servant for the people of Queens. We are deeply saddened by her untimely death, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Rhodd-Cummings family during their time of sorrow."

Rhodd-Cummings, who was president of the Deerfield Civic Association, was born and raised on the island of Jamaica. She worked in the garment industry as a manager, and was a member of Community Board 14.

The Wave received a phone call from State Senator Malcolm Smith, who expressed a deep sense of sorrow over the death of Rhodd-Cummings.

"This is a sad day for Rockaway and for the state. Pauline was truly one of God's angels. She will be sorely missed."

The State Senator went on to note that an effort would be put forth to honor the memory and legacy of the assemblywoman.

"We will be moving ahead, once everything is in place with the proposed aviation school at 6200 Beach Channel Drive, to name the facility after her. Her dying wish was to have the project completed, and once that happens, I think naming the building in her honor would be a fitting tribute."

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer also shared her fond memories of her departed colleague and friend.

"Pauline was a very nice lady. She was very focused on the needs of her community. She had no agenda other than the community."

Rockaway Chamber of Commerce president, Liz Sulik, was surprised by the news of Rhodd-Cummings' death.

"She used to always talk about Rockaway being a jewel. She was such an advocate for Rockaway and its residents. She was truly one of Rockaway's brightest jewels, and she will be sorely missed."

The death of the assemblywoman has left a vacancy in the assembly seat, and no one knows who will be selected to fill it. The most likely choice would have been Juanita Watkins, the former City Council member who served as the political mentor for Rhodd-Cummings, but Watkins has stated that she has no intention of running.

Brian Block, an aide to State Senator Malcolm Smith, Fred Lewis, who worked for Public Advocate Mark Green, and Reverend Evan Gray, a minister who ran for the seat in 1998, are all potential candidates for the post.

According to a source close to Rhodd-Cummings, "She gave her blessing to someone. She had someone in mind." The source would not go into detail about the chosen successor.

Governor Pataki does have the power to schedule a special election, which would provide a replacement within a relatively short period. However, the next couple of months will be crucial to the incumbents of the State Legislature, as district boundaries are redrawn to reflect population shifts measured by the 2000 Census.

Political experts have surmised that

The 31st Assembly District will be left without an incumbent as legislators divide the boundaries. As a result of an increase in the population, in the Queens area, the borough should get an additional Assembly district. Many believe it will be in the Corona-Jackson Heights-East Elmhurst section.

The Democratic District Leader of the 23rd Assembly District, Lew Simon, reflected on working alongside Rhodd-Cummings.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of a great friend. She was someone who had Rockaway in her heart, and she was fighting to make a difference."

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver praised the late assemblywoman for her record of public service.

"Throughout her years in public service, Assemblywoman Rhodd-Cummings distinguished herself as a champion of education and economic development, particularly in her home community. Among her proudest initiatives were her ongoing efforts to develop a technology program in the Far Rockaway area, and provide financial support for the David Dinkins Center. As a long-time friend, I am deeply saddened by this loss."

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