Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel and Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh today presented the 2011 New York City Neighborhood Achievement Awards to 14 recipients from all five boroughs. Established in 2002, the awards honor organizations, businesses and individuals that have demonstrated excellence in enhancing New York City neighborhoods by fostering economic opportunity. Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Steel and Commissioner Walsh presented the recipients with their awards in a ceremony at Gracie Mansion.
“New York City is home to the world’s most vibrant, diverse and interesting neighborhoods, and in every one of them there are people taking steps to make them even better place to live, work and visit,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The annual Neighborhood Achievement Awards gives us a chance to recognize and thank some of them.”
“Revitalizing commercial corridors in all five boroughs has been at the heart of New York City’s economic development strategy under Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership,” said Deputy Mayor Steel. “Tonight’s awards recognize extraordinary New Yorkers who have contributed to the growth and development of New York’s economy by bringing jobs, investment and new energy to neighborhood’s across the City.”
“We have winners from across this City’s 300 unique neighborhoods and each of them has worked tirelessly to build up their communities, create jobs and provide opportunities for their fellow New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Walsh.”
The Leadership Award was presented to two individuals:
Dr. Norbert Sander – Dr. Norbert Sander is the founder and Executive Director of the Armory Foundation, a nonprofit corporation hosting the New Balance Track and Field Center. The Armory played a role in some of Sander’s biggest accomplishments: he won a scholarship to Fordham University thanks to his long hours practicing there and, in 1974, became the first and only New York City resident ever to win the New York City Marathon. When the Armory fell into a state of decline in the 70s and 80s, “Doc Sander” decided to rescue it. In 1991, he formed the Armory Foundation and, just two years later, the City agreed to give him the keys to his beloved childhood track and field. Today, the Armory Foundation is the home to the busiest indoor track facility in the country, hosting over 100 track and field meets each year for more than 125,000 athletes from across the United States. Close to 2,000 high school students practice at the Armory each week. Thanks to Sander’s leadership, the Armory has become an anchor to a host of businesses in the neighborhood and an inspiration to the thousands of people who run there.
Elba Pichardo – Elba Pichardo is a Vice President of Banco Popular North America and a Branch Manager in Washington Heights. An expert in business finance, she represents Banco Popular as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Washington Heights Business Improvement District (BID). At a time when the BID was struggling, Pichardo worked closely with elected officials to develop new leadership, re-invigorate the Board and to re-establish credibility among the business and property owners who make up the BID. The results of her leadership are palpable: there is a new enthusiasm among the Board of Directors; there has been a tremendous response from the business community and other local organizations to BID outreach and widespread participation in recent events; the streets are cleaner and the work of improving both the organization and the community is ongoing.
The Cultural Award was presented to The Pregones Touring Puerto Rican Theatre Collection, Inc. The Pregones Theater is home to a vital network of professional Latino actors, musicians, dancers, writers, directors, designers, and technicians. Since 1979, the ensemble has produced close to 70 premieres and presented more than 200 visiting artists. The organization provides the local community with year-round arts programming, run by award-winning Latino artists and conducted in both Spanish and English. The organization offers discounts to low-income households and brings free arts events to other venues throughout the Bronx.
The Small Business of the Year Awards were presented to five businesses:
Saxelby Cheesemongers, Lower East Side, Manhattan – Founder Anne Saxelby opened her cheese shop in a largely vacant corner of the Essex Street Market in 2006. Today, the market houses several high quality food-stalls and specialty shops, largely as a result of Saxelby’s influence. Saxelby has been at the forefront of educating New Yorkers about sustainable cheese practices, as well as raising the profile of American cheeses. The store focuses on building relationships with regional farmers, primarily selling products from roughly 30, small-scale cheese makers in the northeastern United States. This past year, Saxelby expanded with a new space in Red Hook that will serve as a home office and a facility that includes a cheese “cave” (a temperature-controlled room set to ideal cheese-aging conditions).
Cheryl’s Global Soul, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn – Cheryl Smith realized her dream of running a restaurant in 2006 with the opening of Cheryl’s Global Soul. Along with serving tasty home-style comfort food reminiscent of Smith’s Jamaican heritage, it doubles as a gallery for local artists to showcase their work. The restaurant employs 17 people and is part of the Washington Avenue Merchant’s Association, an organization that seeks to engage in community-building activities in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights. Smith hosted a show on the Food Network, Melting Pot, and works with ACCION USA, a microfinance organization, and the Tory Burch Foundation, where she mentors small business owners. Smith plans on opening a second restaurant in Brooklyn and is also working on entering the retail market to be able to sell her food to people around the country.
Great Bear Auto Repair and Auto Body Shop, Flushing, Queens – Great Bear Auto Repair and Auto Body Shop was founded in 1933 and has been a landmark in the Flushing community ever since. Since 2007, the shop has been run by Audra Fordin, the fourth generation to operate the business and the first female to hold this position. When owner Audra took over for her dad, Bill Fordin, Great Bear started a free clinic called “What Women Auto Know” to teach how to maintain a car so that it has a longer life and needs less repairs. To date, more than 125 people have participated in the free workshop. Fordin also fixes the cars of members of her community who cannot always pay the full amount or, sometimes, anything. In the future, Fordin hopes to embrace new technology by hosting a charging station for hybrid and electric cars. She is also in the midst of developing a program to encourage young women in foster care who are aging out of the system to consider a career in auto repair.
Gourmet Guru, Hunts Point, Bronx – Gourmet Guru was founded by Jeff Lichtenstein in 1997 with a focus on cutting-edge natural and organic specialty food. The company has evolved into a direct importer, producer, and marketer. The company recently completed its new, state-of-the-art facility, which adheres to U.S. Buildings Council and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. Despite the extra costs that “green” building involves, Lichtenstein felt it important to incorporate these environmentally-friendly measures. Gourmet Guru employs about 50 people and regularly hosts events for employees and area residents to teach about the benefits of eating healthy, such as company-paid-for Wednesday Wellness Luncheons.
CLR Printing Plus, Dongan Hills, Staten Island –Founded by Carol DiMarco, CLR Printing Plus is a full-service print distributor in the Dongan Hills neighborhood and a certified M/WBE. They promise to work with clients, mostly other small businesses, from start-to-finish of their design process. Such dedication to its fellow small businesses is present in founder Carol DiMarco’s other work, too: she helped keep local businesses strong by starting a local youth employment program at McKee High School and by founding a local merchants group called the Dongan Hills Society.
The Norman Buchbinder Placemaking Award was presented to the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, South Bronx. When Casita Maria was founded 76 years ago, it was the first charitable organization to serve the Hispanic population of New York City, offering after-school enrichment and recreational programs for the children of newly-arrived families from Spanish speaking countries. In September 2009, Casita Maria opened a new 90,000 square-foot Center for Arts and Education. Its programs foster academic achievement and develop skills that lead to jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. Four hundred students participate in Casita’s after-school programs, getting help with their homework, singing in the choir, creating science and art projects. Casita is making the neighborhood safer, encouraging people from other boroughs to visit the South Bronx and encouraging the neighborhood’s cultural revival.
The Adaptive Reuse/Preservation Award was presented to The Red Hook Winery. The Red Hook Winery makes wine exclusively from grapes grown in New York. Owner Mark Snyder, a lifelong Brooklyn resident, envisioned the winery as a place that would draw attention to the Red Hook neighborhood, to local wines, the local growing region, and to Brooklyn's history of winemaking. All aspects of the winemaking process take place in Red Hook, from de-stemming and crushing the fruit, to fermenting, aging in barrels, and finally, bottling the wine. The winery provides full-time employment for Brooklyn residents and, seasonally, employs neighbors from the Red Hook Housing Projects. The winery was designed and built by a Brooklyn carpenter/builder who restored and remodeled a former bronze foundry located in the midst of Red Hook's historic shipbuilding and ship repairing area. Now in its third vintage, the wines made in Red Hook have received warm reviews from New York City-based restaurants, wine shops, critics, and retail customers.
The Partnership Award was presented to The Chinatown Business Improvement District Formation Campaign in the Chinatown/Little Italy/Lower East Side/SoHo/Tribeca area. The campaign has implemented a comprehensive wayfinding system to draw visitors to the neighborhood. And it has carted away 16 million pounds of refuse; power-washed 9,000 storefronts, tidied up more than 650,000 trash bags, cleared thousands of corner caps and hydrants during snowstorms; abated odors; and removed graffiti and stickers.
The Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Advocate of the Year Award was presented to two individuals:
John F. Robinson, National Minority Business Council, Citywide – John F. Robinson is a co-founder and the current President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Minority Business Council (NMBC). A 39-year-old membership organization serving minority, women and veteran-owned businesses, the NMBC provides direct services to diverse businesses in the areas of procurement, education and training, international trade, advocacy and business development. The NMBC has gained the respect and support of the corporate community by offering its members management expertise and entrepreneurial opportunities they desperately need to develop viable businesses. As a result of Mr. Robinson's leadership of the NMBC over the last thirty years, thousands of small, minority and women-owned businesses have benefited by the business development services that the organization offers.
Claire Scanlon, BNY Mellon, Citywide – Claire Scanlon is a Vice President at BNY Mellon in its Supplier Development Office. Over the past 16 years, she has worked to advance the firm's corporate social responsibilities as they relate to the incorporation of minority-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses into the firm's supply chain. Ms. Scanlon works to identify BNY Mellon’s needs for products and services and then identifies appropriate firms to meet those needs. She participates or officiates on numerous professional boards, including the NY/NJ Minority Purchasing Council, the National Minority Business Council, the National Associate of Veteran Business, the National Association of Women Business Owners and the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She has received awards from DiversityPlus, the National Minority Business Council, the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Minority Business Development Association, the National Hispanic Business Group, and the NY/NJ Minority Purchasing Council. BNY Mellon is a founding partner of the Department of Small Business Service’s Corporate Alliance Program.
The Workforce Innovation Award was presented to The Entrepreneur’s Space-An Incubator for Food & Business. The Entrepreneur’s Space-An Incubator for Food & Business offers food entrepreneurs a powerful asset: a 24/7 commercial kitchen where food manufacturers, caterers, and bakers can test their recipes, manufacture in bulk, train new employees—and do it all efficiently. Clients in both the kitchen area and the offices have access to business counseling, technical assistance, and networking opportunities. The goal of the space is to provide a venue where people with limited capital can start and grow a business to ultimately create jobs. Opened in 2010 by the Queens Economic Development Corporation, the space already hosts 100 business clients, employing more than 150 people. The space has also recently partnered with other organizations like FEGS, Long Island City Business Development Corp., and NYC Business Solutions to offer programs and services to its aspiring entrepreneurs.
The Department of Small Business Services (SBS) makes it easier for businesses in New York City to start, operate and expand by providing direct assistance to business owners, fostering neighborhood development in commercial districts, and linking employers to a skilled and qualified workforce.