From the NY Times:
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, was dark this year in Jackson Heights, Queens.
Stores along 74th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, usually string lights for Diwali, a Hindu festival. But this year, the shop owners were too busy arguing to decorate.
The owners of the jewelry shops, grocery stores and sari boutiques who usually string multicolored bulbs along 74th Street for the fall celebration were too busy fighting one another to bother.
They are battling for control of the local merchants’ association, in a dispute that has cleaved the business community in two with accusations of election fraud, ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation. The cast includes a father feuding with his son-in-law, two rival grocery stores and at least one private detective. Five judges in State Supreme Court in Queens have worked to settle the quarrel, which still rages.
To many people outside the community, and even some inside it, the stakes seem far too meager to justify all the bad blood. The merchants’ group, made up mostly of South Asian business owners, is a nonprofit enterprise devoted largely to mundane matters like street parking, garbage pickup, arrangements for Diwali and for a springtime religious festival, the highlights of the year.
But to those involved, the association is a source of prestige, a vehicle to gain respect in the neighborhood, to host mayors and senators for ghee-soaked lunches, and to play a role, however minor, in the swirling jumble of New York politics.
Some trace the ill will back decades, but the real drama began in the run-up to the Aug. 1, 2009, election for the board of directors. (The date had been set by the State Supreme Court in response to a lawsuit calling for fresh elections.)
The campaign was marred with such heavy-handed manipulation that Justice Charles J. Markey, in his decision that November to invalidate the election, quoted the former Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev: “The trouble with free elections is, you never know who is going to win.”
YES!!! We have a mini-Queens Machine in Jackson Heights!!!