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NYC Small Business Services
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Six-Month Program Provides Community Leaders with Tools, Experiences, and Networks to Strengthen New York City’s Commercial Corridors and Revitalize Neighborhoods

Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel and Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh, along with the Coro New York Leadership Center, graduated the third class of the Neighborhood Leadership program during a ceremony held at the Roosevelt House last night. Neighborhood Leadership is an award-winning leadership training program that provides individuals who work 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 program has graduated 40 participants to date, all of whom have utilized their new skills to strengthen commercial corridors and improve their neighborhoods and organizations.

“The Bloomberg Administration is proud of our record of investing in neighborhoods and neighborhood leaders through programs such as Neighborhood Leadership,” Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel said. “The City’s network of diverse and thriving neighborhoods are the heart of New York City, and we’ve felt the positive impact these talented community leaders have had by energizing commercial corridors, attracting private investment and creating jobs throughout all five boroughs.”

“Initiatives such as the 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 congratulate and thank these neighborhood leaders for their efforts in helping improve the City’s neighborhoods and foster economic growth.”

“The City’s Local Development Corporations and 67 BIDs are coming up with creative and innovative ways to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods throughout New York City because of strong and effective leaders,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “I thank Coro for their partnership, and congratulate this year’s class of neighborhood leaders who will continue to strengthen the City’s commercial corridors and small businesses.”

“For 30 years, Coro has been building the leadership community of our city by training the City’s commissioners and chief executives, its activists and entrepreneurs,” Scott Millstein Executive Director of Coro New York Leadership Center said. “We are pleased that this partnership with the Department of Small Business Services has become part of that tradition and an important part of the city’s strategy to strengthen our neighborhood business communities across New York City.” 

“I strongly believe in the Neighborhood Leadership program and the environment it creates for development and growth,” said Michelle McClymont, Executive Director of the Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID. “Establishing critical relationships amongst peers while sharing visions and strategy is a key component of the program, along with the opportunity to develop commercial revitalization expertise that will enable me to utilize the proper tools to make positive changes for the district.”

The Neighborhood Leadership program is a partnership between the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) and the Coro New York Leadership Center that provides individuals from different neighborhoods across the City with the opportunity to develop their personal leadership skills, hone their commercial revitalization expertise, and foster change in their communities. Using Coro’s leadership development curriculum, participants work with experts in the field as well as fellow participants. They are exposed to innovative management strategies, a connection to key stakeholders, resources critical to implementing effective commercial revitalization efforts, the resources and skills needed to drive retail sales and support small businesses in their neighborhoods, and a network of like-minded peers. All participants work on a Community Change Project during the course of the program and directly apply their learning to achieve desired outcomes for their neighborhoods.

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 Business Improvement Districts (BID), local development corporations, or other non-profit organizations whose work focuses on commercial revitalization activities. Upon graduation, participants are eligible to 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, Speaker Christine C. Quinn and the New York City Council. 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.

This year’s Neighborhood Leadership graduates are:

Akila A. Shenoy, Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation
Akila A. Shenoy, Assistant Director of Community Development at the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation, manages WHEDco’s food business incubation programs, merchant-organizing initiatives and advocacy efforts in the Crotona East community. Akila’s Neighborhood Change Project focuses on increasing the visibility of the Southern Boulevard commercial corridor between 174th Street and Westchester Avenue as well as strengthening the leadership within the Southern Boulevard Merchant Association with the goal of developing a more independent body. During her time in the program, Akila successfully launched “Boogie Down the Boulevard,” a two-day event that promoted the Southern Boulevard shopping corridor through free live music, sales, and raffles and developed a Southern Boulevard shopping and culture guide that provides residents and employees with information about great resources they can access within the neighborhood. Akila has a BA in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of California, San Diego and a Master of Urban Planning from New York University.

Ariel Ferreira, Washington Heights BID
Ariel Ferreira is the Director of Strategic Planning for the Washington Heights BID. His Neighborhood Change Project plans to 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, and the Washington Heights BID to raise 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 taken part in all aspects of how the BID runs from coordinating street maintenance to advocating on behalf of retailers impacted by Hurricane Sandy. His Neighborhood Change Project involved the DOT capital project for DUMBO that includes the rehabilitation of the surface and infrastructure underneath 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. During this project Chris has lead outreach to community stakeholders, acted as a liaison with the various agencies involved, and coordinated community meetings— where attendance, community input, and feedback was enthusiastically given and used to make changes in the ongoing project.

Daniel Coates, Make The Road NY
Daniel Coates joined Make The Road NY (MRNY) 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. He has also coordinated Small Business United (SBU), a coalition of small business owners in low-income immigrant neighborhoods such as Jackson Heights, Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn.  In just a few months, Daniel doubled participation in SBU and built it into a recognized force for small and immigrant entrepreneurs, while also building 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. He returned to his old neighborhood (LIC) two years ago to establish and serve as Executive Vice President for TNT Forensic Solutions, Inc. (TNT) which offers a suite of services aimed at facilitating and enhancing therapeutic jurisprudence via evidenced-based programs.  David graduated summa cum laude from St. John's University with a BA degree in sociology and is pursuing an MA in Urban Affairs at CUNY’s Queens College.  David’s Neighborhood Change Project is to further forge ERDA-MA and prep to take the next logical step to form a BID so merchants, stakeholders, community organizations, and local government come together to become agents of change.

Felicia Tunnah, Union Square Partnership
Felicia Tunnah joined the Union Square Partnership team in February 2012 as Director of Economic Development and Special Projects. Since then she has revamped the Biz & Broker Quarterly, USP’s monthly real estate market newsletter, and the Commercial Market Report, which is an annual snapshot of the state of Union Square’s commercial and residential market.  For her Neighborhood Change Project Felicia is developing 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, and is a native New Yorker residing in Park Slope, Brooklyn. 

Jane Kojima, Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership
Jane Kojima joined the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership as Deputy Director in November, 2012. For her Neighborhood Change Project Jane updates the BID’s communications and marketing to better serve local stakeholders as well as visitors to the area. Jane has an interest in the interaction of communities and how the environment is built through programming and art. She holds a BA in Art History with certificates in Business Administration and Italian Studies from Saint 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. For his Neighborhood Change Project, John will lay the groundwork for establishing a Chamber of Commerce that will unify Flushing’s entire business community with funding from the NYC Department of Small Business Services; he 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 joined the Atlantic Avenue BID as the Executive Director hoping to learn more about how to foster stronger ties between community and business leaders. The Atlantic Avenue BID's Neighborhood Change Project is to forge a connection between businesses and Brooklyn Bridge Park under the BQE by transforming the current underpass into the Atlantic Avenue Gateway. Josef graduated from Columbia's Urban Planning Program in May 2010.

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 and is responsible for promoting economic growth and development in downtown Jamaica by developing strategies and initiatives that expand and enhance Jamaica’s retail, industrial, and economic bases. His Neighborhood Change Project is working with the Jamaica Avenue BID and Sutphin Boulevard BID to create a new retail corridor that complements Jamaica Avenue and promotes 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 and her Neighborhood Change Project focuses 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 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 and resides in Stapleton, Staten Island with her four children.

Leigh A. Eisen, Fashion Center BID
Since joining the Fashion Center BID in 2008, Leigh Eisen has overhauled the organization’s capital improvement program and dramatically expanded the scope of the area’s streetscape program by introducing a number of promotional events and innovative marketing initiatives such as a fashion-centric bike share program and mobile walking tour. The focus of her Neighborhood Change Project has been on implementing a retail recruitment program which engages area stakeholders and which has high awareness and support from the broader community. To that effect, Leigh has already conducted a number of stakeholder meetings to gather feedback from her community and has actively applied Coro’s listening and communication techniques at these stakeholder meetings as well as within her organization. Leigh has made it her goal to explore new ways of problem solving and to experiment with different leadership styles. Leigh holds a BA from UCLA and a Master of Science 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 and is also the Founder of LAS Consulting Services, Inc., which provides marketing, public relations, and event planning consulting services for non-profits and corporate entities. 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 of the business district.  Ms. Sorin was honored as one of the Bronx Times’ 25 Most Influential Women in 2009 and has also served as the first woman President of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce for two years where she remains on the executive board to support the Chamber in working with small businesses in the borough.

Michelle McClymont, Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID
Michelle McClymont joined the Flatbush Nostrand Junction BID as the Executive Director in September 2012. Prior to joining the BID, Michelle worked as a Senior Account Manager at NYC Business Solutions, focusing on assisting business owners with starting, operating and expanding small businesses. Michelle’s Neighborhood Change Project is a streetscape project that will support commercial revitalization and business attraction while creating a community that is a great place to live, shop, and do business. Michelle has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and is the recipient of the Women in Service Honor Award for 2013.

Peter Arndtsen, Columbus/Amsterdam BID
Peter Arndtsen is the 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.  For over 30 years, he has guided non-profits in formation and in transition, addressing environmental, social welfare, housing, and job training issues.  Pete’s Neighborhood Change Project is an effort to strengthen the neighborhood’s identity by reviving its historic Bloomingdale name by using new media, historic plaques, and sidewalk art installations to showcase the 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.

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. 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 to implement a comprehensive streetscape improvement plan that includes a traffic management strategy, which will embody the BID’s sustainability goals. 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 and oversees all business and residential services provided by the BID while serving as the main liaison to merchants, business and property owners, and residents in the district. His Neighborhood Change Project has been to lead a group of high school students in downtown Brooklyn in the effort to improve an underutilized public space. The project encourages students to design new amenities engineered from materials stored in the schools basement. Students have assisted in the design of a green wall with rainwater catchment, new benches from repurposed gymnasium bleachers and a free public Wi-Fi network. 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.

For more information on the Neighborhood Leadership Program visit or

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

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

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