Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Robert W. Walsh this evening presented honors to fifteen recipients of the 2005 New York City Neighborhood Achievement Awards at Gracie Mansion. The awards honor neighborhood organizations, businesses and individuals that have demonstrated excellence, partnership and creativity in enhancing New York City’s business environment and quality of life. Chairman of Con Edison Eugene McGrath and Vice President and Director of Community Affairs for Citibank Hector Ramirez were also in attendance to present the awards. Con Edison and Citibank are sponsors of this year’s award ceremony.
“Neighborhoods are built by building great partnerships,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “I am delighted to recognize the creative work of these fine organizations who have worked collaboratively with government to increase opportunities and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. Tonight, we celebrate their achievements, both large and small, that have contributed to making New York City’s great neighborhoods even better.”
“When small businesses work together with the community to improve their neighborhoods, the results can be phenomenal,” said SBS Commissioner Walsh. “Today’s award recipients have each shown an exemplary spirit of teamwork and commitment that is a shining example to be replicated. SBS is committed to providing the support and leadership to local groups to make sure that each of our neighborhoods is an excellent place to live and do business.”
New York City’s Business Improvement Districts, Local Development Corporations, nonprofits, businesses and other local organizations nominated projects in five award categories listed below. SBS administered the nomination, evaluation and selection process in collaboration with the selection committee of Michelle Adams of the Association for a Better New York, John Banks of Con Edison, Hector Ramirez of Citibank and Laurie Tamis of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding. The following are tonight’s awardees:
Neighborhood Leadership Award
Theater of the Young Audience arrived on the scene in 2004 when Irina Roizin decided to respond to the lack of artistic avenues for disadvantaged youth in Brighton Beach. Ms. Roizin, the Executive Director of the Brighton Ballet Theater Company (BBT), emigrated from the Ukraine to New York City at age 17 with a love of dance and passion for educating youth.
These attributes comprise the heart and soul of her Theater of the Young Audience, which involves six professional dancers from BBT who perform at public schools, parks and local theaters. Their shows and lectures specialize in Russian ballet and folk dance and expose children to the arts in a unique and interactive fashion. The program represents the first-ever resident dance company in Brighton Beach and the first wide-scale effort to bring Russian arts and culture to the wider New York City community.
The St. George Theatre opened its doors in 1929 and quickly became one of the most magnificent theatre venues on Staten Island. After shutting down more than 25 years ago, despite a few short-lived reincarnations, it has stood in need of serious repair. Thanks to the long hours of diligence, dedication and investment from Rosemary Cappozalo—known as "Mrs. Rosemary" throughout the community—and her daughters, Doreen Cugno and Luanne Sorrentino, the St. George Theatre has finally received the restoration it deserved. After many days and nights spent removing decades of dust and debris and giving the old structure a new sheen, the St. George has reopened as a vibrant destination on Staten Island's North Shore. It has also provided a key boost to the area's revitalization efforts, attracting more than 80,000 visitors since reopening.
Community Partnership Award
Exito Empresarial arrived in New York City in 2005 as a collaborative effort to address the lack of small business assistance programs targeting the Latino community. Recognizing that
Spanish-speaking business owners were underserved, El Diario La Prensa, Con Edison, Staples and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) partnered to develop a four-part Spanish-language seminar series that provides existing small business owners with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to grow a successful business. Classes take place at CUNY schools and follow a curriculum designed by the SBA that includes Access to Capital, Internet Security, Legal Structure and Marketing. The demand has been overwhelming, and with plenty of satisfied customers and a big market to serve, Exito Empresarial plans to expand its offerings in the year ahead.
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, founded in 1967 by Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Jacob Javits as the first local development corporation in the nation, has proven a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization through partnerships with a wide spectrum of community organizations. From its streetscape improvement collaboration with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to its financial fitness workshops for community residents, Restoration executes a multi-pronged economic development strategy. Additionally, its Youth Arts Academy reaches more than 2,000 students in public schools. In spearheading the Central Brooklyn Childhood Asthma Partnership, Restoration has raised awareness about asthma and worked with schools to improve care and treatment. Among its community services, Restoration works with New York State to make homes more energy efficient and reduce bills for residents. Restoration's 360 degree approach to community empowerment is a model many other organizations seek to emulate.
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), established in 1883, is the oldest service organization in Chinatown. From language classes to day care centers and business counseling to local opera performances, CCBA provides a range of critical services that bolster and invigorate Chinatown's ongoing economic and cultural development. CCBA's President, York Chan, immigrated to the U.S. in 1979 and established himself as a prominent banker and educator. Under his leadership, CCBA has expanded its reach to offer more comprehensive small business assistance and has taken on new projects like voter outreach and philanthropic initiatives.
In 2004, CCBA created the Chinese-American Voters Federation to encourage qualified Asian-Americans to register and vote; their efforts resulted in a 24.2% increase in the turnout of Chinatown voters. And after December's tsunami disaster, CCBA led an effort that raised over $500,000 for the American Red Cross International Response Fund.
Neighborhood Development Award
ABCO Fire Door opened for business in 1979 when William Schwartz, a recent immigrant who made his start in New York City working in manufacturing, saw an opportunity. Faced with the liquidation of his previous employer, ACME Door, William made the decision to start his own company. He bought ACME Door's rights to the manufacturing of fire doors, took advantage of the City's incentive programs to purchase vacant City-owned lots and constructed three connected buildings in the Bathgate Industrial Park in the South Bronx. This is where his business still thrives today, making high quality metal doors and window frame products. Because of recent expansion, ABCO has created 45 new jobs in the area, and today 90% of his employees are residents of the South Bronx.
Elmhurst Dairy invested $14 million in new and refurbished buildings, equipment and capital expenditures over the last two years. These investments made it possible to accommodate the processing and packaging needs of local milk distribution companies, ensuring that New York State dairy distributors keep their operations in the City. The investments also created 45 new jobs and helped to retain 615 existing jobs. Total production at the Elmhurst facility has doubled from 760,000 to 1,500,000 million gallons of milk per week. This comprises 90% of the milk processed in the City. With 99% percent of the milk processed at Elmhurst Dairy coming from New York State dairy farms, it is clear that without this expansion the processing of New York State dairy farm milk would have resulted in a loss of jobs and important economic activity for the community.
Business Pioneer Award
Daniel, Noah and Sydney Katz acted boldly in investing over $4 million in the renovation and expansion of a grocery store in Bedford Stuyvesant's Restoration Plaza to open up a state-of-the-art, 31,000 square foot Super Foodtown. Quality full-service supermarkets with competitive prices have historically been hard to find in low-income communities. The Katz family has changed that and created a new model by making the Bedford Stuyvesant Super Foodtown its flagship store, which now serves more than 18,000 customers weekly. The addition has invigorated the community by providing a retail anchor for Fulton Street and Restoration Plaza, which instantly became more attractive to other prospective tenants. For example, Applebee's is scheduled to open later this summer. The Katz family business built itself around a commitment to the community—from hiring and training 120 local residents to reaching out to community groups, the Super Foodtown exemplifies the true spirit of a business pioneer.
Carlos Aguila Jr. had a simple and admirable goal: to provide quality and affordable products and services to underserved neighborhoods. Carlos acted on this goal in September 2003 when he opened the first Karrot Health Food Store, an organic health food store and juice bar, on the commercial strip of Myrtle Avenue in Clinton Hill. This venture amounted to taking a big risk; selling high-end pastas, soy milk and organic foods to customers from this neighborhood was something that hadn't been tried in the past. But Carlos was determined to make a difference. With Karrot's growing presence in the area, many of his competitors have been pressed to improve their products and services, and other new stores have followed suit in bringing new commerce and vitality to the neighborhood. Carlos' success has led to three additional Karrot stores—one more in Brooklyn, and one each in Washington Heights and Harlem.
Design Times Square, a new program of the Times Square Alliance, celebrates a wide range of quality design in Times Square and encourages investment by demonstrating that good design is good for business. Design Times Square promotes the area's design assets, encouraging the public to seek similar features in their own neighborhoods. In 2004, the first year of the program, a jury of design professionals nominated 39 sites featuring outstanding architecture, publicly-accessible interiors, commercial signage, and public art, from subway entrances and murals to theatres and restaurants. More than 3,000 voters, including New York design experts and tourists from around the world, chose their favorites. The Times Square Alliance hopes the program will continue to improve the streetscape environment that all New Yorkers cherish in their daily experience.
Harlem Renaissance JAZZ, FILM & ART in the PARK is a three-day outdoor art expo started in 2002 by Bonita G. LloydNettles and the Harlem Renaissance Economic Development Corporation. The festival, which takes place in Malcolm X Plaza, provides a communal space where residents, visitors and businesses can build relationships and work together. By showcasing the area's emerging and established artists, the event has sparked increased tourism activity in Harlem. It has also increased economic opportunity and encouraged community-owned business by promoting the public profiles of emerging artists and linking art entrepreneurs to art service providers. Attracting over 1,000 visitors since its inception, the festival has created a new art and cultural tradition while building on Harlem's rich and proud cultural heritage.
In addition to the five categories for which nominations were received, four individuals were honored in the category of Special Achievement for contributions to the City made over the course of their careers:
Carl Weisbrod opened the doors of the Alliance for Downtown New York in January 1995, and his constant leadership in the decade since has made it one of the City’s pre-eminent economic development organizations. This was never more visible than in the period following September 11th, when the Downtown Alliance responded quickly and strongly, first in the recovery, and later—with events like River to River and other campaigns to bring people back to Lower Manhattan—with its rebirth and rebuilding. All of this comes in addition to the core services of cleaning the sidewalks, enhancing the lighting and beautifying the streetscapes that have welcomed visitors from across the globe. Lower Manhattan has been known as a center of commerce from its earliest days, and thanks to Carl Weisbrod and the Downtown Alliance, now a permanent fixture in a community poised for growth, the neighborhood will continue to brandish that reputation for decades to come.
Fred Cerullo, in serving his two year tenure as President of the BID Managers Association, brought charisma, dedication and passion for New York City neighborhoods. As someone who understands the value BIDs provide to their neighborhoods, Fred has been a tireless advocate in invigorating their role as economic development partners throughout the five boroughs. Under his leadership, five new BIDs have formed, bringing their total to 51—the most comprehensive network of its kind in the country. Fred's knowledge of government and his knack for collaboration have provided the City's BID directors with a great resource and an ongoing forum where they share best practices, learn from one another and continue to improve their services to the City's neighborhoods. Fred is also the President/CEO of the Grand Central Partnership, and lives in Staten Island.
Amalia Betanzos, the outgoing President and CEO of Wildcat Service Corporation, has worked in public service and social outreach in New York City for more than three decades and served under five Mayors in various appointed capacities. From jobs as diverse as Executive Secretary for Mayor Lindsay to the Commissioner of Youth Services to a member of the New York City Housing Authority, Amalia's work has impacted New Yorkers from all corners of the City. Throughout her career, she has always been committed to serving the poor, the unemployed and the City's youth. In 1992, she founded the John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy, a charter high school serving high-risk students that has become one of the most successful programs of its kind in the country. The unparalleled knowledge and leadership she has brought to Wildcat has been instrumental in serving her native South Bronx, where the organization has dedicated itself to connecting people to jobs and providing disadvantaged New Yorkers with opportunities to empower their lives.
Sylvia Salonger of Forest Hills, Queens, retired in January 2005 after working at SBS for over 25 years in the division of Neighborhood Development. She was invaluable in starting and growing both the Commercial Revitalization and Business Improvement District programs. In many ways she was the driving force of the agency, constantly urging people around her to excel. Her enthusiasm and zest for life inspired anyone who crossed her path, and getting to know her became a key part of the orientation for all of the agency's new employees. Her former colleagues miss her daily presence and contributions and will never forget the indelible impression she left not only on them, but on the small businesses and neighborhood development organizations of New York City. As one of the City's true unsung heroes, Sylvia's retirement leaves a big void, but her legacy, her wit and her characteristic laugh will continue to inspire.