Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner
Robert W. Walsh this evening presented the 2006 New York City Neighborhood Achievement Awards to fourteen recipients at Gracie Mansion. The awards honor outstanding organizations, businesses and individuals that have enhanced New York City neighborhoods by fostering small business activity and creating greater economic opportunity for an entire community. Kevin Burke, Chairman and CEO of Con Edison, and Jacqueline Arrington, Director of Community Relations for Citibank North, were also in attendance to present the awards. Con Edison and Citibank were once again sponsors of this year’s awards ceremony.
“There are hundreds of organizations, businesses and individuals whose efforts have been instrumental in invigorating our neighborhoods and the small business community in New York City,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “I am delighted to recognize the exceptional work of these fine organizations who have demonstrated ingenuity, excellence and passion for making New York City’s great neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs even better. Tonight, we celebrate their achievements, both large and small, and we look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with them in the future.”
“Mayor Bloomberg created an environment where businesses, organizations and individuals can be creative, share best practices, and work to improve their communities,” said SBS Commissioner Walsh. “It is the commitment to this ideal that we celebrate here tonight. This is the fifth year that we have been recognizing the great work of organizations throughout the city, and the results of their efforts can be seen throughout the five boroughs. SBS is committed to providing continued support and leadership to these groups. When small businesses, communities and government come together to improve neighborhoods, there really is no limit to what can be accomplished.”
New York City’s Business Improvement Districts, Local Development Corporations, nonprofits, businesses and other local organizations nominated projects in the seven award categories listed below. SBS administered the nomination, evaluation and selection process in collaboration with the selection committee of John Banks of Con Edison, Hector Ramirez of Citibank, Carolyn Clevenger of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Maria Torres of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding and Dr. Mitchell Moss of New York University. The following are tonight’s awardees:
The Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) has been bringing vitality, economic opportunity and affordable housing to the streets of Brooklyn since community activists founded it in 1977. After growing substantially during the past decade, FAC needed a new facility to house the holistic set of services it offers. As a longtime champion of smart, neighborhood friendly development, FAC challenged itself to create an exemplary community facility that would serve a variety of purposes. The result is the new FAC Center for Community Development at 621 DeGraw Street, a 27,000 square foot multi-purpose center, constructed of green materials, which is ideally situated for FAC to continue its work of empowering the community as the area evolves.
The Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) first had the idea to create a public event that exemplifies the vibrancy of Staten Island's communities in 2004. The result was The Staten Island Film Festival, a four-day event in June of 2006, which showcased 113 independent films from around the world at nine venues throughout the borough. Over the course of the weekend 4,500 people flocked to the festival from both on and off the island, creating what is already being called a new cultural tradition for Staten Island.
Jacques Torres, an internationally renowned chef, converted a derelict brick warehouse on the Brooklyn waterfront into a one-of-a-kind chocolate factory in 2000. In 60 days, working alongside a waiter and a fellow chef, he created an aesthetically unique factory and retail store in a space that had been abandoned for 60 years in a neighborhood where few businesses had set up shop. Today Jacques Torres Chocolate employs 20 workers and is one of DUMBO’s signature destinations. This store has acted as a prime catalyst for growth and entrepreneurship in DUMBO by proving that the neighborhood could have a viable retail community and helping transform the community into an attractive place to live, work and play.
Shake Shack has quickly become both a cherished culinary and cultural phenomenon since its inception just one and a half years ago. Delighting thousands of hungry patrons, this dynamic community gathering place has sparked new opportunities for neighborhood involvement and appreciation. Its unique partnership with the Madison Square Park Conservancy guarantees that a portion of Shake Shack’s revenue flows directly back into the park – creating a synergy that ensures the park will continue to grow as a neighborhood hub.
The Chelsea Cultural Partnership (CCP) is a coalition of cultural organizations and businesses located in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Founded in 2003 by Dance Theater Workshop in association with The Joyce Theater and the Atlantic Theater Company, it brings the community’s wealth of cultural institutions together to work toward building awareness of all that Chelsea offers. Destination Chelsea: 13 Thursdays, CCP’s most recent campaign to attract shoppers and visitors, proved to be a successful collaboration amongst the businesses and cultural institutions of the neighborhood, laying the groundwork for future promotional efforts.
The Doe Fund’s Ready, Willing & Able program began in 1990 when its founders decided to tackle the plight of homelessness in New York. The program targets the hardest to serve homeless population: single, able-bodied adults, the majority of whom have histories of incarceration and substance abuse. Ready, Willing & Able is a holistic, residential, work and job skills training program which empowers, employs and supports homeless individuals in their efforts to become self-sufficient, contributing members of society. To date, it has helped over 2,200 men and women become drug-free, secure full-time employment, and obtain their own self-supported housing. In turn, the trainees and graduates make New York City’s neighborhoods cleaner and more attractive places to live, shop and do business.
Workforce Innovation Award
The Church Avenue Merchants Block Association (CAMBA) partnered with Whole Foods, the United States’ largest organic supermarket, to build an employment training program to respond to the explosive growth the chain experienced in 2005 and 2006. This partnership has provided Whole Foods with over 100 expert customer service personnel. The new employees include refugees from over 20 countries and underemployed New Yorkers from the poorest neighborhoods in the City. These jobseekers with workforce obstacles now work full-time with benefits in a highly motivating environment where internal promotion and incentive bonuses are available to all.
Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), since its inception in 1978, has played a unique, pioneering role in preparing disadvantaged women for jobs in the construction and utilities industries. Through strong partnerships with the City and State, employers and unions, the program places hardworking, resilient women in jobs that offer good wages and essential benefits and enable them to achieve economic self-reliance. The NEW at Night Program provides a training option for women who work during the day, often at jobs paying at or below minimum wage, or for those who have childcare or other responsibilities that prevent them from taking daytime classes.
Small Business of the Year Award
Abu’s Bakery is a charming family-owned store which Idris Conry opened in 2000. The next year, when he could no longer run the store due to illness, his son, Idris Braithwaite, took over. With no previous baking experience, he faced countless challenges and the business struggled. But thanks to help from dedicated friends he managed to accomplish a complete turnaround, and the bakery is no longer a fledgling mom-and-pop store, but a destination and a community fixture. Abu’s now serves as a model for positive change and adaptation within the neighborhood, and continues to provide delicious baked goods to the Bedford Stuyvesant community and all those who come from near and far.
LeNell’s: A Wine & Spirit Boutique, was founded in 2000 by Tonya LeNell Smothers, and quickly became one of Red Hook, Brooklyn’s model businesses. Set along the cobblestones of Van Brunt Street, Ms. Smothers uses her shop as a way to bring the community together and infuse it with new life by treating her customers like guests in her home and sharing her extensive professional knowledge with them, often introducing them to smaller, independent brands locally owned by women and minority entrepreneurs. LeNell’s is a source of encouragement and inspiration for the area’s prospective business owners, providing a wonderful example of a successful small business making an impact in the community.
M/WBE Advocate of the Year Award
Netfast Communications, an IT firm founded by Joe Asady in Long Island City in 1994, achieved success by combining engineering and network expertise with a level of customer service that many bigger firms lack. When it was founded, there were few minority-owned companies in the IT business, and the market was crowded with competition. The company now earns $15 million in annual revenue, maintains a dynamic and diverse workforce of 25 employees, and is an active participant in the revitalization of Long Island City, encouraging young entrepreneurship.
Per Scholas was founded in 1995 by a consortium of leading foundations and corporations to build and distribute computers at a significant discount to schools serving diverse, low-income neighborhoods. In partnership with the City, it provides newly certified Minority- and Women- Owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) with refurbished computers for $200 each, with all of the appropriate software the business needs pre-installed. Per Scholas also trains the business in the use of necessary software. Since January of 2006, 86 M/WBEs have purchased equipment through Per Scholas. In addition, Per Scholas runs a nationally recognized job training program for unemployed men, who in turn refurbish the computers that the organization sells.
Dr. Lee Stuart has played an important role in the revival of the Bronx for more than 20 years. In 1992, she became the lead organizer of South Bronx Churches (SBC), a network of 35 Christian and Muslim congregations. SBC's signature projects under Dr. Stuart's leadership included the creation of the Bronx Leadership Academy High School in 1994 – one of the first small public high schools in the City – and the SBC Nehemiah Program, which created over 900 units of affordable housing in Mott Haven and Melrose between 1992 and 2004.
In addition to the seven categories for which nominations were received, one individual was honored for contributions he made to the City over the course of his careers:
Special Achievement Award
Eugene McGrath, the former Chairman and CEO of Con Edison – a role he held from 1990 to 2006 – has not only led a company whose services are critical to the day-to-day operation of New York City, but also served as one of the City’s most active and involved community leaders. As the head of the area’s largest employer, Mr. McGrath ensured that Con Edison was an integral community partner in improving quality of life in New York City. He played an instrumental role in revitalizing the Union Square neighborhood as Chairman of the Union Square Partnership from 1990 to 2006, beautifying Union Square Park and sponsoring programs for students at Washington Irving High School. He has also been an active board member in numerous civic, cultural, educational and economic development organizations, such as the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the American Museum of Natural History, the Central Park Conservancy, Barnard College, Manhattan College and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.