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NYC Small Business Services
Press Release

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012


17 Organizations and Individuals are Honored for Their Outstanding Work to Revitalize New York City’s Neighborhoods

MANHATTAN— Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel and Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh today presented the 2012 New York City Neighborhood Achievement Awards to 17 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.

"New York's network of diverse and thriving neighborhoods is the engine that powers the City's economy, and under Mayor Bloomberg's leadership, neighborhood commercial districts are stronger than ever," Deputy Mayor Steel said. "We're pleased to recognize tonight's 17 award winners who do so much to make New York City the Greatest City on Earth."

“It’s the 300 vibrant neighborhoods that make New York City so unique, and each year the Neighborhood Achievement Awards spotlights the remarkable small businesses, individuals, and organizations helping to strengthen neighborhoods in all five boroughs,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “I want to congratulate and thank tonight’s 17 awardees for their hard work and leadership.”  

The Small Business of the Year Awards were presented to five businesses.

Coogan’s Restaurant, Washington Heights, Manhattan – Coogan’s Restaurant on Broadway at 169th Street has been serving the diverse Washington Heights community since 1985. Over the past 27 years, Coogan’s has led the neighborhood through a renaissance, helping residents and visitors alike feel safe and welcome in a neighborhood once filled with drugs and crime. In 1999, owners Dave Hunt, Tess O’Connor, and Peter Walsh launched the first Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K run. Proceeds from the race benefit the nearby Armory Foundation.

Brooklyn Cupcake, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — Brooklyn Cupcake was opened by two sisters, Candice Rodriguez and Gina Madera, in August of 2011, and quickly became a unique, gourmet cupcake destination in the Williamsburg neighborhood. The sisters renovated a 600sf storefront that had been vacant for 20 years and had been an eyesore in the community. Brooklyn Cupcake has driven new customers into the area, that now patronize the other local eateries and retailers as well, created 8 local jobs, and supports interns looking to get culinary experience. The sisters are also active in local fundraising for schools and charities, such as Saint Jude, Friends of Fire Fighters, Wounded Warriors, Toys for Tots, Pitch in for a Good Cause, and Road to Recovery.

Brooklyn Grange Farm, Long Island City, Queens – Brooklyn Grange is currently the world’s largest rooftop farm, producing 15,000 pounds of organically grown produce on its 40,000sf flagship rooftop in Long Island City. This rooftop farm is fiscally sustainable, serves the NYC community, creates jobs, educates the public, and provides unmatched environmental benefits. Brooklyn Grange connects and educates NYC residents, especially youth, with a food system from which they are increasingly alienated. Brooklyn Grange is expanding to more rooftops around the City, with the newest location in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This new location was partially supported by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program.

Oak Point Property, Hunts Point, Bronx – For more than a decade, Steve Smith has been in the process of bringing together community members, developers, and environmental remediators to transform the notorious Oak Point Property in Hunts Point from the City’s largest illegal dumpsite into an economic engine and healthy food resource for the South Bronx – and the City as a whole. By the fall of 2011, Smith had nearly completed a $6 million clean-up of the site, paid over $3 million in taxes owed by previous owners, set aside land for a planned $7 million wildlife preserve at the water's edge, and developed the site's upland portions for a grocery wholesaler. He created over a hundred jobs in the process and began work on developing a long-sought regional food campus to bring local produce within reach of local storeowners and residents. Over the coming years, the planned campus and a new Restaurant Depot facility will provide an estimated 450 new jobs.

Beso and Bayou, St. George, Staten Island – Beso and Bayou are two thriving restaurants on the North Shore of Staten Island, created by Albanian chef and restaurateur Julian Gaxholli in 2003 and 2009, respectively. Bayou is a French Quarter-themed bistro housed in an 80-year old brick building, formerly the Side Street Saloon, in Rosebank, and Beso is a Spanish cuisine and tapas bar in St. George. Julian is a community-minded business owner, who participates in many charitable events and donates food for non-profits, including one that rebuilds homes in New Orleans.

The Leadership Award was presented to two individuals.

Martin G. Englisher, YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood, Washington Heights, Manhattan – Martin G. Englisher has been the executive vice president of the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights & Inwood since 1981. His visionary leadership had a significant impact on the neighborhood in 1989 when he secured funding from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Department to construct a 100 unit Section 202 housing facility for low income seniors that is owned and managed by the Y. He has secured the resources for several renovation and construction projects at the Y that have both created jobs in the community and built program capacity – the Y now serves a wider and more diverse population with the highest program enrollment level in their history.

Kathleen McGovern Kearns, Manhattan – Kathleen McGovern Kearns has been a member of the New York City Workforce Investment Board (WIB) for eight years and has shown strong leadership as chair of the WIB and Executive Committee for the past two years. Using her expertise in business, media relations, communications, and marketing, Kathy has helped build a system that provides better coordinated, high quality, outcome-oriented services to businesses and jobseekers in New York City. Under Kathy’s leadership, the focused effort of the WIB and its workforce partners has transformed the City's workforce programming into an effective system that connects qualified jobseekers with employers, and makes it easier for businesses to thrive in an increasingly competitive economy.

The Cultural Award was presented to the Queens Theatre, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens—Located in Philip Johnson's historic 1964 World's Fair Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens Theatre (QT) hosts more than 300 diverse performances annually and provides cultural services to 100,000 people each year. The theater’s mission is to provide quality and diverse performing arts activities that are geographically and economically accessible to the 2.2 million residents of Queens – the most ethnically diverse region in the nation. QT is committed to scheduling exciting programming which specifically targets diverse Queens residents, many of whom belong to hard-to-reach, non-traditional theatre-going populations.

The Norman Buchbinder Placemaking Award was presented to the Fulton Mall Improvement Association and Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, Downtown Brooklyn — Built in the early 1980's, Albee Square, managed by the Fulton Mall Improvement Association (FMIA) and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), transformed in 2011 from an underutilized 6,000sf barren public space to a functional and dynamic 27,000sf public plaza. With pre-cast concrete benches, planting beds, unique pedestrian lighting, uplighting for the landmarked Dime Savings Bank Building, moveable tables and chairs, free WiFi, and utility connections for events and a future food and beverage subconcession, Albee Square has become the focal point of Fulton Street, and a center of neighborhood activity.

The Adaptive Reuse/Preservation Award was presented to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, Navy Yard, Brooklyn — Established in 1801, the Brooklyn Navy Yard served as one of America’s preeminent military facilities for more than 150 years, before it was closed in 1966. Under the management of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC), this historic site has been transformed into a bustling 300-acre industrial park with 275 businesses employing more than 6,000 people in diverse industries such as film production and green energy manufacturing. BNYDC has transformed the external presence of the Yard, created job opportunities for surrounding communities, and restored the viability of 21st century manufacturing in the City.

The Partnership Award was presented to two organizations.

Wagner College, Port Richmond, Staten Island – Wagner College is a four-year private liberal arts college whose mission is to prepare students for life, as well as careers, by emphasizing scholarship, achievement, leadership, and citizenship. In March 2008, Wagner along with community agencies in Port Richmond set out to build a mutually-beneficial partnership and dedicate at least 50% of its civic engagement courses to the Port Richmond neighborhood. Collaborating with over 18 organizations, the Partnership identified education, immigration, economic development and health as the areas of highest need and established programs for truancy prevention outreach, after-school tutoring, nutrition campaigns, college and career readiness, and business improvement research.

Association of Chinese American Physicians, Citywide – First organized in 1995, the Association of Chinese American Physicians (ACAP) now has more than 500 physician members who are of ethnic Chinese decent or care for Chinese patients. The organization has become a tremendous advocate for healthcare for all, organizing health fairs, conducting research, and attracting physicians to train in NYC and serve in underserved neighborhoods. ACAP also works to help reduce and eliminate healthcare disparities while reducing hospital admissions, unnecessary emergency room visits, and redundancy in care. The partnership between ACAP’s network of physicians shows what can be achieved when communities organize and realize the power they have to make NYC a better place for all.

The Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Advocate of the Year Award was presented to two individuals.

La-Verna Fountain, Columbia University, Upper Manhattan – La-Verna Fountain currently serves as the Associate Vice President for Construction Business Services and Communications at Columbia University in the City of New York. In this role, Ms. Fountain leads the university’s outreach and communications efforts regarding construction business opportunities and activities and manages the university’s overall effort on minority, women, and locally-owned (MWL) contracting. Ms. Fountain was instrumental in the creation of the MWL Construction Trades Certificate Mentorship Program designed to help construction-trade business owners on bidding. This program has been adopted as a citywide model. 59 firms have graduated and received more than $60 million in contracts with New York City and Columbia University.
Cynthia Franklin, NYU Stern School of Business, Citywide – Cynthia Franklin is a Senior Associate Director at the NYU Stern School of Business Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and the Program Director for Strategic Steps for Growth. In that role, she guides M/WBEs on business growth by helping them develop a customized, actionable growth plan for the next 3-4 years. Since the start of the program in 2010, Cynthia has instructed three classes and 41 graduates who have been awarded $24 million in government contracts, secured over $1.6 million in financing through loans or lines of credit, and have hired 100 new full-time and 60 part-time employees.

The Workforce Innovation Award was presented to Sustainable South Bronx, South Bronx – Since its founding eleven years ago, Sustainable South Bronx has advocated for a variety of green development and restoration projects along the Bronx River. In 2003, the organization launched what has become its flagship initiative – the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training (BEST) program, one of the nation’s first urban green collar training and job placement systems. The BEST program recruits Bronx residents, mostly from the South Bronx, and trains them for green jobs – brownfield remediation, green roof installation and maintenance, living roof installation and maintenance, and horticultural jobs. Since May 2010, 142 people have graduated from the program’s training unit – BEST Academy.

This year, two new awards were also presented.

The Business Improvement District (BID) Innovation Award was presented to the Alliance for Downtown New York, Lower Manhattan – As part of its mission to make Lower Manhattan a world class destination for businesses, residents, and visitors, the Downtown Alliance undertook a streetscape improvement plan which included distinctive street name signs and wayfinding to area attractions and transit stations. As a result of this investment, the BID is responsible for maintaining over 500 new street signs, 170 wayfinding elements, and over 300 streetscape elements. Through the development of a Handheld Infrastructure Tracking System, the Downtown Alliance created an electronic survey method that is easy to analyze, produces maps, saves time, and yields easy-to-understand data. 

The Entrepreneur Award was awarded to the Bronx Brewery, South Bronx – The Bronx Brewery is a craft brewery and distributor based in the South Bronx. Founded by two Bronx natives, Steve O'Sullivan and Niall Henry, along with beer industry veterans Christopher Gallant and Damian Brown, the Bronx Brewery launched its first beer in September 2011 at the Bronx Ale House, and has since sold close to 500 kegs to 30 different bars and restaurants throughout the Bronx and Manhattan. Though still in its infancy, the company has pledged a portion of its after-tax profits back to community organizations, is committed to hiring locally, and strives to be a pillar of its neighborhood through community outreach and neighborhood improvement.

About the Department of Small Business Services
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. For more information on all of SBS’ services, go to

  Contact: Merideth Weber (Small Business Services) 212-513-6318,  

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