Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Robert W. Walsh presented the 2007 New York City Neighborhood Achievement Awards to 11 recipients at Gracie Mansion tonight. The awards honor outstanding organizations, businesses and individuals for strengthening the City's neighborhoods and commercial corridors. Representatives of the event sponsors, Kevin Burke, Chairman and CEO of Con Edison and Michael Flanigan, Vice President and Director of Community Relations for Citibank, were in attendance to present the awards.
"New York City's annual unemployment rate hit a record low and business is booming thanks in large part to the efforts of individuals and groups like this evening's honorees. By investing in neighborhoods across the City imparting valuable skills to our workforce and improving the business climate and quality of life in their communities, tonight's honorees are making a huge difference," said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "This evening I am pleased to recognize and celebrate their efforts."
"New York City's 200,000 small businesses form the backbone of our economy, accounting for half of our City's private sector workforce," said Robert W. Walsh, Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services. "This evening's honorees are to be commended for making the City a cleaner, safer and more attractive place for New Yorkers to live and for these businesses to form and grow."
The inaugural Norman Buchbinder Award for Neighborhood Beautification was presented at the ceremony in memory of Norman Buchbinder, a co-founder of the Union Square Partnership, the city's first Business Improvement District, and founder of the Village Alliance BID. He was also an active member of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Buchbinder owned numerous properties downtown and was instrumental in revitalizing and attracting business investment to the area.
The Norman Buchbinder Award for Neighborhood Beautification was presented to the Grand Central Partnership and accepted by President and CEO Fred Cerullo, which designs and manages a year-round multi-million dollar seasonal horticulture program that includes sidewalk planters, elevated street pole baskets and trees that reflect and enhance the vibrancy of Midtown Manhattan. The Partnership has been especially creative in bringing natural beauty to crowded city streets, improving the air quality and aesthetics of its community and creating a more welcoming atmosphere for residents, merchants and visitors to the Grand Central area.
The Development Award was presented to Gregory O'Connell, a retired police detective who created Pier 41 Associates in 1982. Since then, the company has renovated more than 60 buildings in South Brooklyn, and has developed two piers which are important incubators for the 80 small businesses in the neighborhood. Most recently, O'Connell developed the Red Hook Stores building which includes supermarket Fairway; 6,000 square feet of space for non-profit organizations and artist studios; and 300 parking spaces, the project is serving as a catalyst for more jobs and housing in the Red Hook community.
The Placemaking Award was presented to The Pond at Bryant Park, a project created by the Bryant Park Corporation with its partner, ID&A, LLC. The Pond opened to great acclaim in 2005, offering free ice skating in a gorgeous urban setting. By creating an exciting winter attraction, the Corporation is realizing one of its most important goals: making Bryant Park a year-round destination. With more than 168,000 skaters and 350,000 spectators in 2006, the Pond was one of the busiest public ice rinks in the world. The Pond also helped nearby retailers and restaurants by attracting visitors to the area from late-October through mid-January. The award was accepted by Executive Director Daniel A. Biederman.
A Partnership Award was presented to Added Value, which has transformed the Red Hook Community Farm into a center for urban agriculture. The organization has brought community residents together to harvest and produce fresh produce on a 2.75 acre urban farm. Proceeds from the sale of their products support educational stipends for a youth leadership program. By providing numerous educational programs for children of all ages, the organization is growing leaders, generating economic activity and improving the community's access to healthy food. The award was accepted by Community Education Coordinator Caroline Loomis.
A Partnership Award was also presented to Phipps West Farmer's Market launched last summer to improve nutrition and healthy lifestyles in the South Bronx. The Market brings fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from New York's farmers to the community and provides a venue for the 36 community gardeners in Phipps' Drew Gardens to sell Bronx-grown produce and herbs. The Market also encourages healthy eating through cooking demonstrations and nutritional programming, while employing teenagers from the South Bronx through the Summer Youth Employment Program. The award was accepted by Phipps Director of Environmental Education Jennifer Plewka.
A Small Business of the Year Award was presented to bushbaby. Established in 2000, bushbaby is a gourmet coffeehouse and café in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, famous for Millie's Iced Tea (a family recipe), exotic wrap sandwiches and vegan selections. The café serves as a gathering ground for a diverse clientele, and a focal point and anchor of its community, and it holds itself to a high standard of product, service and atmosphere, which has inspired neighboring merchants to follow suit. The award was accepted by Owner Milton O. Jemmott.
A Small Business of the Year Award was also presented to Lily Gavin, owner of Dazies, an Italian Restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. Galvin is an officer of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and has been instrumental in securing government grants to improve her commercial corridor. She has also served as a leader of the planning committee for a Business Improvement District in Sunnyside. Dazies serves as a place where residents, merchants and members of local organizations regularly gather to discuss how to strengthen their community.
The Workforce Innovation Award was presented to Special Tees. With two locations in Staten Island, Special Tees, a division of Community Resources, is one of the borough's major employers. The screen printing and embroidery business employs individuals with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, providing training to equip their employees with both technical and social skills. The company has bolstered the local and improved the quality of life of its employees, while conducting outreach to educate Staten Island residents about individuals with special needs. The award was accepted by Founder and Program Director Thomas Siniscalchi.
The M/WBE Advocate of the Year Award was presented to Minority Commerce Weekly, a publication launched in 1988 which provides important information about both public and private sector contracting opportunities to minority and women-owned businesses. By providing this information free of charge to such firms, the publication has helped these businesses thrive and grow and helped the City achieve its goal of increasing the number of contracts held by minority and women-owned businesses. The award was accepted by publisher and owner James W. Wood.
A Leadership Award was presented posthumously to Gilbert Rivera, a strong advocate for local businesses in Brooklyn, who passed away on February 1, 2007. Rivera was a member of the Mayor's Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise Advisory Board and a director appointed by the Mayor to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation. He founded two small businesses in Bedford-Stuyvesant – Park Avenue Building and Roofing Supplies and AM&G Waterproofing – and was active in numerous community service and economic development organizations, helping other entrepreneurs realize their dreams of growing their businesses.
A Leadership Award was also presented to Gail Richards and Sharon Joseph for extraordinary leadership in raising the capital for the creation of Harlem Lanes in Harlem. The sports and entertainment complex has become a leader in its community, offering an inclusive, quality recreation facility; creating more than 45 jobs as well as a summer employment program for local youth; and contributing significantly to community organizations in Harlem.
The 2007 awards selection committee included Dr. Mitchell Moss of New York University, Michael Flanigan of Citibank, David Margalit of the Department of Small Business Services, Frances Resheske of Con Edison, and Maria Torres of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding.