Pearl Jacobs shines as a community advocate


Pearl Jacobs, the president of Nostrand Gardens Civic Association, champions civic advocacies with fervor beyond activism. She shines as a maternal figure, advocating for the betterment of her community.

Born Willene Jacobs, she adopted the moniker Pearl, a name that has become synonymous with compassion, resilience, and unwavering dedication.

“Everyone here knows me as Pearl Jacobs,” she shares with a smile, her warmth infectious. “My grandmother gave me the name Pearl as a nickname. It’s just stuck with me.”

Pearl’s roots are as diverse as the community she serves; she is of Italian, African American, and Native American descent. Originally from the Bronx, and a Queens girl at heart, Pearl found her home in Uniondale over three decades ago. Her and husband, James, have two adult sons.

Her career, marked by her tenure as a corporate manager for Verizon before retiring, prepared her for the challenges she would later face as a civic leader. Despite initial reservations about balancing her career with civic duties, Pearl heeded the call to service, propelled by the mentorship of Melvin Harris Jr., who was instrumental in recruiting her at the civic association. She started as a recording secretary in 2010 and moved her way up to becoming the president of the association in 2014.

Under Pearl’s leadership, the association has become a powerful advocate for change in the community, addressing racial disparity and injustice head-on. She speaks out against inequality and disenfranchisement at town and legislative meetings.
Since then, the NGCA has led significant initiatives.

“One key project was the streetscaping on Uniondale Avenue with the Victorian lights, the new sidewalks, and the roadways; it took 10 years of strong advocacy and persistence,” she said.

Despite Uniondale being the third highest revenue-generating community in Nassau County, as it generates a robust tax revenue base from neighboring businesses, Pearl adamantly argues, “That money, it does not come back to our community.”

Pearl said the biggest issue right now in Nassau County, and that definitely affects Uniondale more than any other community, is the multi-billion-dollar Sands Casino project. The county has been criticized for not having open meetings, educating communities and involving them in the process. The community is concerned about the casino’s location and proximity to schools, as well as its health and environmental impact.

Pearl’s journey is indeed not without its challenges. She and her community navigates through political obstacles, but Pearl remains undaunted, guided by a steadfast belief in justice and equality.

“I can’t be intimidated,” she said. “That’s just not my nature.”

Heidi Sanft, the civic association’s vice president, praises Pearl for her leadership and community-focused approach. She admires Pearl as a friend and mentor.

“Working with Pearl is an absolute joy; she values the community; whatever she does is not for her personal gain,” Sanft said.

“She truly cares about making the quality of life better.”

At the core of Pearl’s ethos lies a profound sense of empathy and compassion. Her tireless efforts are fueled by a desire to empower the community and uplift those who have been marginalized by society’s indifference.

“What motivates and drives me is that there are so many people out here that don’t have voices,” she said.

This story was corrected and edited from the printed version.