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Astorino Visits Elmsford Turkish Cultural Center

ELMSFORD, N.Y. — More than 20 people waited for County Executive Rob Astorino at the Westchester Turkish Cultural Center in Elmsford. Gathered there for the center’s 9/11 commemoration Thursday afternoon, they chatted around white-clothed tables, topped with small American and Turkish flags, some of them drinking Turkish coffee in decorated Turkish porcelain cups.

The center, located at the second floor of the building on 133 East Main St., had been there since 2004, but only in 2006 became the Westchester branch of the Turkish Cultural Center, which also has chapters in Manhattan, Albany, Long Island and other places.

 “Our primary goal is to reach out, to build strong relationships with the community and officials,” said Murat Bayram, the center’s executive director.

Bayram, who came from Turkey 10 years ago and lives in Ossining, said there are more than 700 Turkish families all around Westchester, with bigger pockets in Ossining, Yonkers and White Plains.

But he welcomed all the people in the community to attend the center’s many activities, such as monthly Turkish coffee and movie nights, water marbling sessions and an annual “friendship dinner.”

“We want to reach out,” Bayram said.

President Hasan Erkan mentioned that the center raised $3,000 from its nearly 150 frequenters to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

“A couple of our members even went to Haiti,” he said.

Ali Ozturk, a deli owner in Yonkers, comes to the center regularly. He said that since his wife is American, the center plays an important role in exposing his three children to his home country’s culture.

“They are trying to help us to show where we are from, our culture, the language,” he said.

After Astorino arrived and was taken for a quick tour, the 9/11 ceremony started, including a video about Turkish history and culture, moments of silence, prayers and speeches.

Plaques honoring the policemen and firefighters who died in 9/11 were respectively given to George Longworth, Westchester commissioner of public safety, and John Cullen, Westchester commissioner of emergency services. 

“I am happy to know a portion of our population in Westchester County,” Astorino said, after beginning his speech with a Turkish greeting.

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