JAMAICA, NY – “We were at the peak of the epidemic, and I felt an obligation to give back to a community that’s been good to me and my family,” Robin Eshaghpour, whose family owns a sizeable amount of rental properties in the area surrounding the Jamaica Subway Station located in Sutphin Blvd, in Jamaica, Queens, told me during a recent telephone interview.
I already knew most of what Eshaghpour was talking about from a then just prior telephone conversation I had with Glenn Greenidge, the Executive Director of the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District (SBBID), which represents 134 businesses and 59 property owners in the Sutphin Boulevard community.
Greenidge, who in addition to his formal title is affectionately known in that community as the “Mayor of Sutphin Boulevard,” told me during our phone conversation that shortly after the COVID 19 crisis struck last March, Eshaghpour, voluntarily waived the rent for dozens of mom and pop businesses on the property his family owns.
Greenidge, whom I favorably profiled on these pages in a July, 2019 column and afterwards remained in occasional contact, asserted that without Eshaghpour’s kindness and generosity, many of these business owners would have gone bankrupt, and their employees would have lost their jobs.
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When, just as I assumed, Greenidge asked me if I wanted him to arrange an interview with Eshaghpour, I answered with a loud “yes!”
So thanks to Greenidge making all the arrangements, just a week later Eshaghpour, 53, the married father of two school aged children, and I were on the telephone discussing his generosity to his tenants.
“With all of the uncertainty and tragedy of COVID 19 engulfing us all, I came to the realization that the income I earn from rent payments is insignificant compared to keeping hard working people in business and keeping their workers employed…The tenants didn’t ask for this pandemic. [So] putting them out of business would not have been something I could live with,” said Eshaghpour.
As the interview continued, I learned the personal history surrounding Eshaghpour’s devotion to the Sutphin Boulevard business community.
“In 1970, when I was just two years old, my parents immigrated with me and my older brother from Iran to America,’’ he informed me.
Eshaghpour, who is Jewish, elaborated that, unlike the forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of Iranian Jews shortly after the virulently anti-Semitic, anti-American Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the pro-Jewish, pro- American Shah of Iran in 1979, his family left their native country, not for political reasons, but rather primarily for the opportunity to achieve the financial success they believed was achievable in America for those willing to work hard.
“My father came to the greatest nation in the world to pursue the freedom America offers to achieve as much success in life as your energy, resolve and talent allows,” stated Eshaghpour.
And, the place, Eshaghpour tellingly added, that his family first achieved that success was in a liquor store they bought shortly after their arrival to the U.S. near, you probably guessed by now, the Jamaica Subway Station in Sutphin Boulevard.
“My family and I owe so much to the Sutphin Boulevard business community, because it gave us our start… So what a great feeling it has been for me to be the son of an immigrant who realized his dream on the very same streets as the merchants I have been able to help,” he explained.
But Eshaghpour’s benevolence does not end there. As Greenidge had earlier informed me, over the past several years Eshaghpour has run and paid for local Thanksgiving meal giveaways geared to people in financial need; and this past year, Greenidge additionally informed me, due to financial crisis caused by COVID 19, Eshaghpour also provided meals on Christmas Eve, feeding more than 1,000 people.
Eshaghpour, though, downplayed that kindness.
“Some very good people in the community were struggling during the pandemic. I was in a [financial] position to help them have a happier Thanksgiving and Christmas, so what I did was no big deal, because it came so naturally,” he stated.
It did come naturally, I believe, for this very special landlord and very special man.