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NYC Small Business Services
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Thursday, February 6, 2013


Six-Month Program Provides Community Leaders With Tools, Experiences, and Networks To Help Revitalize NYC Neighborhoods

Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel and SBS Commissioner Robert W. Walsh welcomed 19 new participants to the third class of the Neighborhood Leadership program during an opening ceremony at City Hall. Neighborhood Leadership, offered by the Department of SBS in partnership with the Coro New York Leadership Center, is a six-month, award winning leadership training program that provides individuals working to strengthen New York City’s commercial corridors with the tools, experiences and networks they need to develop new ways to lead change in their organizations and communities.

“The Bloomberg Administration is proud of our record of investing in neighborhoods and neighborhood leaders,” Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel said. “The Neighborhood Leadership program has helped accelerate economic development and job creation in neighborhoods in all five boroughs, and we are thrilled to welcome another group of participants to this important program.”

“Initiatives such as the Coro Neighborhood Leadership program have proven to be valuable in helping business owners attract new customers and improve our communities,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “I want to thank Deputy Mayor Steel and Commissioner Walsh for their continued efforts to helping improve the city’s neighborhoods and foster small business growth.”

“Strong leadership is the key to building strong neighborhoods, and the Neighborhood Leadership program provides outstanding community leaders with the tools, experiences, and networks they need to achieve even greater change,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “Along with our partner, the Coro New York Leadership Center, the program has already graduated 40 participants, and I look forward to seeing the impact of the program’s third class on strengthening commercial corridors in all five boroughs.”

“Coro is proud to partner with Commissioner Walsh and the Department of Small Business Services on this initiative to build the leadership community of those leading change in our commercial corridors of the city. The skills, knowledge and networks offered by this program are unique and we look forward to supporting our newest participants in their efforts to impact their community,” said Scott Millstein, Executive Director of Coro New York Leadership Center. 

Over the course of six months, participants work with experts in the field and other participants to develop their personal leadership skills and hone their commercial revitalization expertise. The program incorporates the leadership development curriculum created by Coro, New York City’s premier leadership training program. For the first time this year, the program includes a Neighborhood Change Project, in which participants directly apply their learning to achieve desired outcomes for their neighborhoods. Upon graduation, participants can receive a capacity-building micro grant, made possible by the Surdna Foundation, to support their change project and make it a reality. Other program supporters include the Association for a Better New York (ABNY), Citi, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and TD Bank. The Neighborhood Leadership program is a recipient of the International Downtown Association (IDA) 2011 Downtown Merit Award, for its excellence in downtown leadership and management.

“The CORO Neighborhood Leadership program rejuvenated my self-confidence and taught me invaluable lessons that helped me understand my leadership style and embrace my leadership position,” said Melissa Hodge-Miller, District Services Manager of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, and a 2012 Neighborhood Leadership program graduate. “I learned countless lessons during my neighborhood leadership experience, but the most exhilarating part of the program was the relationships that I fostered amongst my fellow cohorts. We became each other’s support system, which helps us all be better representatives of our district.”

40 neighborhood leaders have already completed the program. The participants of the third Coro Neighborhood Leadership program are:

Akila A. Shenoy, Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation

Akila A. Shenoy is the Assistant Director of Community Development at the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation. She looks forward to learning capacity building and retail attraction strategies during the Neighborhood Leadership Program. Akila’s Neighborhood Change Project will focus on increasing the visibility of the Southern Boulevard commercial corridor between 174th Street and Westchester Avenue. Over the next two years, Akila hopes to attract a more diverse retail mix to Southern Boulevard and help the Southern Boulevard Merchant Association become a more sustainable and independent body. Akila has a BA in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of California, San Diego and a Master’s of Urban Planning from New York University.

Ariel Ferreira, Washington Heights BID

Ariel Ferreira is Director of Strategic Planning for the Washington Heights BID. His Neighborhood Change Project will expand the BID, work on creating a new BID for the Dyckman Street commercial corridor, and execute the marketing campaign "Explora." He is also working on a one year branding initiative developed in partnership with the NYC Department of Small Business Services, School of Visual Arts, & the Washington Heights BID to drive awareness of the businesses, culture, arts, and beauty of Washington Heights and Inwood. 

Chris Martin, DUMBO BID

Chris Martin has been the Director of Community Development and Operations for the DUMBO BID since August, 2011. He has been involved in all aspects of the BID including coordination of street maintenance to advocating on behalf of retailers impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Chris’ Neighborhood Change Project involves the Department of Transportation capital project for DUMBO that includes the rehabilitation of several blocks of the historic streets, as well as plaza design for the Pearl Street Triangle, the Archway under the Manhattan Bridge, and the adjacent space between the two. Chris will have a key role by developing a strategy for the plaza design process, outreach to community stakeholders, and anticipating maintenance needs of the new plaza space. Chris is looking forward to learning more through shared best practices and the experiences of the NL2013 cohort and greater Coro network.

Daniel Coates, Make The Road NY

Daniel Coates joined Make The Road NY in 2008 and oversees its small business and immigration work. Since joining MRNY, Daniel has led ambitious voter mobilizations, played a key role in passing local legislation to protect immigrant families, and engaged faith based institutions across the neighborhoods MRNY works in around immigration issues and campaigns. For the past three years Daniel has coordinated Small Business United (SBU), a coalition of small business owners in low-income immigrant neighborhoods like Jackson Heights, Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn. Daniel’s Neighborhood Change Project is to build a Merchant’s Association along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights and Corona, Queens. Before coming to NYC, Daniel studied Latin American social change at the University of Virginia where he obtained a BA in Political and Social Thought.

David Thorpe, East River Development Alliance

David Thorpe is the President of the East River Development Alliance (ERDA) Long Island City Merchant’s Association, and is also managing an Avenue NYC Grant for FY 2013. Two years ago he returned to his old neighborhood (Long Island City) where he co-founded TNT Forensic Solutions, Inc. (TNT) which offers a suite of services aimed at facilitating and enhancing therapeutic jurisprudence via evidenced-based programs and he serves as the Executive Vice President. David graduated summa cum laude from St. John's University with a BA degree in sociology, and a minor in business. David is pursuing a MA in Urban Affairs at CUNY’s Queens College.  David’s Neighborhood Change Project is to further forge ERDA-MA and prepare to take the next logical step towards a BID because “when merchants, stakeholders, community organizations and local government get together we all become agents of change from which we all benefit.”

Felicia Tunnah, Union Square Partnership

Felicia Tunnah joined the Union Square Partnership in February 2012 as Director of Economic Development and Special Projects. Felicia has revamped the Biz & Broker Quarterly, USP’s monthly real estate market newsletter and the Commercial Market Report, an annual snapshot of the state of Union Square’s commercial and residential market. As her Neighborhood Change Project, Felicia will develop an electronic handheld project to map and track quality-of-life issues within the district, tree health and maintenance in Union Square park, and ground floor retail spaces in the area. Felicia holds a BA from Vassar College, an MA in Urban Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, is a native New Yorker, currently residing in Park Slope, Brooklyn. 

George Espinal, Community League of the Heights (CLOTH)

George Espinal is the Merchant Organizer for Community League of the Heights (CLOTH). He is responsible for the operation, oversight and development of the Merchants Association on Broadway; Broadway United Businesses and other economic development projects including but not limited to NYC Clean Streets, Winter Lights in the Heights and Avenue NYC. His Neighborhood Change Project includes working closely with NYC Department of Small Business Services to create a BID in Southern Heights covering West 155th Street to West 179th Street on Broadway in Washington Heights. In the next two years, George would like to see the BID come to fruition in order to enhance the economic development of Southern Heights. The BID will provide much needed supplemental services that will enhance the landscape and economic vitality of Broadway.

Jane Kojima, Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership

Jane Kojima joined the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership as Deputy Director in November, 2012. With an interest in the interaction of communities and the built environment through programming and art, Jane looks forward to working with the vibrant and creative tenancy of the Flatiron district to develop engaging and meaningful programming and culture for the neighborhood at large, as well as the Public Plazas at the iconic intersection of Broadway and 23rd Street. Her Neighborhood Change Project is to streamline communications and marketing that will better serve local stakeholders as well as visitors to the area.  Jane holds a BA in Art History with certificates in Business Administration and Italian Studies from St. Louis University and an MA from New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development in Visual Arts Administration.

John Choe, One Flushing Community Economic Development Center

John Choe has two decades of leadership experience in public service and community organizing and is the founding director of the One Flushing Community Economic Development Center. As his Neighborhood Change Project, John will lay the groundwork for establishing a Chamber of Commerce that will unify the various ethnic groups and articulate a common agenda for Flushing’s entire business community. With funding from the NYC Department of Small Business Services, John will also conduct a comprehensive community needs assessment and develop a business assistance program tailored to the specific needs of this diverse community. John graduated from the State University of New York at Binghamton, earned his Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, and completed post-graduate fellowships at Columbia University and the Coro New York Leadership Center.

Josef Szende, Atlantic Avenue BID

Josef Szende is the Executive Director of the Atlantic Avenue BID. Josef is joining the program to learn about improving retail retention and fostering stronger ties between community and business leaders. He will use the Atlantic Avenue BID's project to forge a connection between businesses and Brooklyn Bridge Park under the BQE as his Neighborhood Change Project.

Justin K. Rodgers, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

Justin K. Rodgers has held the position of Director of Economic Development at Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, since 2007. He is responsible for promoting economic growth and development in downtown Jamaica, including developing strategies and initiatives to expand and enhance Jamaica’s retail, industrial and economic base. His Neighborhood Change Project is to work with the Jamaica Avenue BID and Sutphin Boulevard BID to create a new retail corridor that will complement Jamaica Avenue and promote downtown Jamaica. Justin graduated magna cum laude with a BS degree in Economics from Florida A&M University and earned a Master’s Degree in Management and Business from Adelphi University.

Kamillah Hanks, Historical Tappen Park Community Partnership

Kamillah Hanks is currently the President/CEO of Historical Tappen Park Community Partnership. Her Neighborhood Change Project will focus on promoting Tappen Park as a viable venue for positive community arts, cultural, and educational programs and events in Stapleton, Staten Island. Ms. Hanks is the former Executive Director of the Downtown Staten Island Council and led the organization's efforts to drive the economic development and commercial revitalization of the downtown Staten Island business district. Most recently, Kamillah was appointed in 2012 by the Council Minority Caucus to serve on NYC Districting Commission. She now resides in Stapleton, Staten Island with her four children.

Leigh A. Eisen, Fashion Center BID

Leigh A. Eisen is the Director of Streetscape and Community Outreach at the Fashion Center BID. Leigh has overhauled the organization’s capital improvement program and dramatically expanded the scope of the area’s streetscape program. She has also introduced a number of promotional events and marketing initiatives, including a small-scale bike share program and a mobile walking tour. As a manager of a neighborhood improvement organization, Leigh’s goal in joining the Neighborhood Leadership program is to develop strategies for cultivating stronger partnerships with area stakeholders. Leigh’s Neighborhood Change Project is to develop and promote a streetscape master plan which engages neighborhood members and which has high awareness and support from the broader community. Leigh holds a BA from UCLA and a MS in Urban Planning from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Lisa Sorin, Westchester Square BID

Lisa Sorin is the Executive Director of Westchester Square BID. As a founder of a new BID, Lisa’s Neighborhood Change Project is to connect with merchants and property owners to enhance the marketing of the area in order to support revitalization. Ms. Sorin served as the first woman President of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce for two years and remains on the executive board to support the Chamber in working with small businesses in the borough. She was honored as one of the Bronx Times 25 Most Influential Women in 2009.

Michelle McClymont, Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID

Michelle McClymont joined the Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID as the Executive Director in September 2012. She focuses on managing capital improvement projects in addition to attracting and retaining sustainable and diverse businesses. Michelle believes strongly in the Neighborhood Leadership program and anticipates gaining critical relationships amongst peers. Through the program, she also strives to develop commercial revitalization expertise which will enable her to utilize the proper tools while implementing and communicating the various upgrades and changes she foresees for the BID.  Michelle’s Neighborhood Change Project is a streetscape program that will support commercial revitalization, creating a community that is a great place to live, shop, and do business. Michelle is a graduate of CUNY BA program in Business Management.

Peter Arndtsen, Columbus/Amsterdam BID

Peter Arndtsen is District Manager of the Columbus/Amsterdam BID (registered under the name Lenape/Bloemendael District Management Association), which covers Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues between W. 96th and W. 110th St. He is looking forward to support from Neighborhood Leadership for his Neighborhood Change Project, an effort to strengthen the neighborhood’s identity by reviving its historic Bloomingdale name. This effort would use new media, historic plaques, and sidewalk art installations to showcase the area’s architecture and its connection to notable musicians and artists. He will also promote and advance existing green initiatives, including bike-friendly streets, expanded tree pit plantings, and a possible Bloomingdale Green window sticker that would recognize restaurants for offering locally-sourced produce, installing energy efficient appliances, or recycling cooking oil. With the help of interns and volunteers, Peter hopes to enhance the social media and online presence in order to promote these efforts and draw visitors to the restaurants and retail spaces.

Rachel Thieme, Sunnyside Shines BID

Rachel Thieme is the new Executive Director of the Sunnyside Shines BID in Sunnyside, Queens.  Rachel’s Neighborhood Change Project is implementing district marketing initiatives, highlighting unique businesses and the small-town feel of Sunnyside. She looks forward to developing these initiatives with insight and new skills from the Neighborhood Leadership program. Rachel holds a graduate degree in City and Regional Planning from the Pratt Institute and an undergraduate degree from Mills College in Oakland, CA.

Renée Schoonbeek, Hudson Square BID 

Renée Schoonbeek is the Vice President of Planning & Capital Projects at the Hudson Square BID, where she is responsible for managing the BID’s planning process. Her Neighborhood Change Project is the implementation of a comprehensive streetscape improvement plan, including a traffic management strategy, which will embody the BID’s sustainability goals. Participation in the program will provide her with an opportunity to further explore the concept of place-making as a neighborhood revitalization strategy. Renée earned a Master’s Degree in Urban Geography and Planning from the University of Amsterdam.

Ryan Grew, MetroTech BID

Ryan Grew is the Services Manager for the MetroTech BID. He oversees all business and residential programs and services provided by the BID and serves as the main liaison with merchants, business and property owners, and residents in the district. Utilizing strategies and best practices picked up through the Neighborhood Leadership Program, Ryan looks forward to improved coordination with property owners and relevant city agencies. His Neighborhood Change Project will be leading the effort to organize stakeholders to create a master plan for Willoughby Street in downtown Brooklyn. Ryan relocated to NYC in 2008 to pursue a Master's degree in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute's Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development.

In order to be eligible for the program, leaders must be dedicated management staff of nonprofit organizations that serve commercial districts in New York City, such as a Business Improvement District (BID), local development corporations or other non-profit organization whose work focuses on commercial revitalization activities. For more information on the Neighborhood Leadership program visit

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

About the Coro New York Leadership Center
Coro is New York City’s premier leadership training program and a community of 2,000 alumni across business, government, schools and non-profits that is shaping the city’s future. For nearly 30 years, Coro has used the city as its classroom teaching students and executives, activists and entrepreneurs how New York works so that they can make it better.  For more information about Coro, please visit

  Contact: Merideth Weber (SBS),, 212-513-6318  

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