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Mayor Bloomberg And Small Business Services Commissioner Walsh Present 12th Annual Neighborhood Achievement Awards

July 15, 2013

Awards Honor Organizations and Individuals for Their Outstanding Impact on New York City's Neighborhoods

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert K. Steel, and New York City Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh presented the 2013 Neighborhood Achievement Awards today to recipients from all five boroughs for their outstanding impact on New York City’s neighborhoods. Established in 2002, the awards honor organizations, businesses and individuals that have demonstrated excellence in enhancing New York City neighborhoods by fostering economic opportunity. This year’s awards included a new category called the Helping Hand Award, to honor a business, organization, or individual that went above and beyond to help the people, businesses, and neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy. The awards were presented at Gracie Mansion.

“Small businesses are what keep our neighborhoods strong and moving forward,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “New York City is home to more than 200,000 small businesses that together account for more than half of all private sector jobs. Since Sandy hit, we’ve worked hard to help small businesses hurt by the storm to reopen their doors and come back stronger than ever.”

“Mayor’s Bloomberg’s focus on economic development in all five boroughs has helped to create a network of thriving neighborhoods commercial districts,” Deputy Mayor Steel said. “Even in the face of enormous challenges like Hurricane Sandy, small business owners continue to invest in rebuilding and growing in New York City. Their hard work and creativity creates the businesses that make New York City a great place to live, work and visit.”

“For the past 12 years the Neighborhood Achievement Awards have spotlighted the remarkable small businesses, individuals, and organizations helping to strengthen neighborhoods in all five boroughs, and this year we are also recognizing those that went above and beyond to help after Hurricane Sandy,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “I want to congratulate and thank tonight’s awardees for all they have done to help create jobs and strengthen our City.”

The Helping Hand Award was presented to The Action Center, Far Rockaway, Queens  The Action Center is a community-based organization in the Rockaways. When Hurricane Sandy devastated the area, the Center made it their mission to be at the front lines, providing residents with food, medical supplies, relocation, laundry, legal services, and more, to help Rockaway residents recover. The Action Center distributed 60,000 hot meals and over 450,000 food, water, and care packages. Their medical center continues to see an average of 250 residents a week. Over 90% of the staff lives in the Rockaways and were personally affected by Hurricane Sandy, yet they put the needs of their community first.

Honorable mentions in the Helping Hand Award were presented to two businesses:

  • Sandy Yellow Team, Staten Island  Farid Kader saw the devastation Sandy caused and became determined to help rebuild Staten Island, while also working at his regular job and daily responsibilities. He started the Yellow Team, a group that helped clean homes, remove mold, and rebuild, as well as help raise funds and spread information about resources available to New Yorkers impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The Yellow Team has helped hundreds of people and continues to do so.
  • New York City Food Truck Association, Citywide  David Weber is the founder of the NYC Food Truck Association, a coalition of small businesses focused on responsible street vending. After Hurricane Sandy, David organized a food truck outreach effort that provided over 350,000 hot meals to New Yorkers without power, using 60 food trucks at 20 distribution locations. David is currently developing a more robust emergency response protocol for activating mobile food operators after disasters. 

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

  • Red Rabbit, East Harlem, Manhattan Founded in 2005 by Rhys Powell, Red Rabbit provides nutritious meals and snacks for private and charter schools in New York City, with a special emphasis on under-served communities. The company’s mission is to provide healthy cuisine and educate children about nutrition. They partner with local farmers and vendors to support the local economy. Red Rabbit serves over 70 schools and has expanded service to Brooklyn, the Bronx, and northern New Jersey. To support their growth, Red Rabbit has created more than 120 jobs in East Harlem.
  • Bar Sepia, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn After witnessing many of her neighbors leaving the area for shopping, dining and nightlife, Delissa Reynolds decided to take a risk on a little known stretch of Underhill Avenue which was under-commercialized, dark and deserted. She opened Bar Sepia in 2004 and working closely with neighbors, local precincts, the community board, and elected officials, Reynolds instilled a sense of safety and neighborhood pride among residents. Bar Sepia has since become a cornerstone of Prospect Heights catering to the area’s now burgeoning nightlife and the community at large.
  • Songza, Long Island City, Queens A team of passionate music fans decided that part of the music listening experience is hearing the right music at the right time and started Songza, an innovative music streaming service that offers free playlists depending on the time of day or the listener’s selected mood. Though still a young business, Songza has created 15 new full-time jobs in Long Island City and provided internships for 12 college students last summer. Songza has been named one of the Best Apps of 2012 by Apple, and one of 2013's "Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Music" by Fast Company, and has helped shine a light on the tech viability of the City’s Long Island City neighborhood.
  • Il Forno Bakery, Hunts Point, Bronx Born in the Dominican Republic, Ramon Eduardo founded Il Forno Bakery in 2005, largely as a result of his extensive experience in the food industry. Located in the Hunts Point industrial area, Il Forno has helped diversify the local economy and employs a largely local workforce of 47 employees, many of whom can walk or bike to work. Il Forno serves the restaurant and hospitality industry with artisanal breads, baking about 37,000 loaves a week for customers in the New York metropolitan area, and also donates 500 pounds of bread each week to City Harvest.
  • Rab’s Country Lanes, Dongan Hills, Staten Island Rab's Country Lanes has provided a fun, safe haven for Staten Island residents for 18 years. More than just a neighborhood bowling alley, Rab’s is a proud community member that has raised over $500,000 through their annual Bowl-A-Thons, awarded over $25,000 in college scholarships to bowlers in their youth bowling program and, in the aftermath of Sandy, opened their doors as a distribution center for food, clothes and shelter to victims. In 2008, the corner of Delaware Avenue and Hylan Boulevard was renamed “Rab Wilkinson Way” in honor of Rab’s community impact.

The Entrepreneur Award was presented to Local Roots NYC, Brooklyn  After reading an article on the decrease of supermarkets in New York City and an increased dependency on purchasing food at bodegas, Wen-Jay Ying became involved in food justice. In 2011 she founded Local Roots NYC to strengthen the City's connection with local food by creating a culture of community, accessibility, and innovation. Through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, Local Roots NYC provides more than 350 NYC residents with local, sustainably grown food and specialty items from small Brooklyn producers. It also works to improve the connection and communication between City residents and farmers.

The Norman Buchbinder Placemaking Award was presented to Hudson Square Connection,

Manhattan  The Hudson Square Connection is working on transforming one of Manhattan's last industrial districts into a major hub for advertising, design, media, communications and other creative businesses. The BID is using innovative public-private partnerships to recreate a place that was originally built for cars and trucks into a place built for people by ameliorating traffic congestion, beautifying and enlivening the streets, and re-enforcing a socially, culturally and environmentally sustainable community.

The Adaptive Reuse/Preservation Award was presented to the Pitkin Theater Center Project, Brownsville, Brooklyn  After 40 years of blight and neglect, the dilapidated former theater was an eyesore and a symbol of disinvestment in the neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn. Since its restoration, it has become an emblem of the comeback of the neighborhood. Loew’s Pitkin Theater has been transformed into a charter school that educates approximately 1,100 low-income students, and provides space for national and local retailers while also creating jobs in construction, retail, and education.

The M/WBE of the Year Award was presented to American Fire Control, Harlem, Manhattan – Founders Londel Davis and Keith Pearson became friends while serving in the army and together started American Fire Control, which sells and inspects fire extinguishers in the tri-state area. The company began in a basement and sold extinguishers from a push cart. Today, they employ approximately 15 local residents and are committed to green technology and responsible practices. Londel Davis is an active community member and serves as an influential advocate for Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises (M/WBEs). He helped develop and pass new M/WBE legislation (recently signed by Mayor Bloomberg) to increase opportunities for M/WBE firms to do business with the City.   

The Cultural Award was presented to Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, Livingston, Staten Island   Through its internationally acclaimed botanical gardens, architecturally significant buildings, and programming, Snug Harbor welcomes 500,000 visitors per year and has helped anchor Staten Island as a cultural, agriculturally sustainable, and economically active borough. Snug Harbor recently revitalized a visual arts program that has brought an untapped audience to the borough, and it has also spearheaded a shift in urban agriculture through its most recent endeavor, Heritage Farm, which has sold 14,000 pounds of pesticide-free fruits and vegetables, and donated the equivalent of 3,400 meals.

The BID Leadership Award was presented to three individuals.

  • Laurel Brown / Jamaica Center Business Improvement District, Queens  Laurel Brown, Executive Director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District (BID), is responsible for making Jamaica Center a thriving business hub and enjoyable destination to work, live and visit. The BID provides sanitation, graffiti removal, maintenance, and marketing services to the district. Last year the Jamaica Center BID's Clean Team logged over 17,000 hours removing 1,100 tons of litter from nearly 50,000 trash bags from Jamaica Avenue, averaging three tons of garbage every day. Laurel manages her large district with limited resources, yet she is constantly encouraging her staff, colleagues, and youth in the community.
  • Alfred C. Cerullo III / Grand Central Partnership, Manhattan  Fred Cerullo has led the rejuvenation of the Grand Central neighborhood. During his time as President of the Partnership, crime is down by 53%, street and sidewalk cleanliness is consistently rated in the top tier of BID districts, tourist greeters have assisted more than 12 million visitors, and staff maintains a $40 million inventory of highly recognizable streetscape furnishings. He has managed to improve quality of services through creative strategies, and shares his ideas, insights and experiences with his BID colleagues.
  • Gayle Baron / Long Island City Partnership, Queens  Gayle Baron has been Executive Director of the Long Island City (LIC) Business Development Corporation since 1999. She was a leading local force behind the 2001 rezoning of LIC's core. Her advocacy and leadership led to the creation of the LIC BID in 2005, after which she rallied its board members to work with elected officials and City agencies to improve LIC's commercial corridors. This resulted in an $80M capital improvement program that the BID maintains. Gayle has led a number of programs that have all reinforced LIC's emerging brand, attracting major new stakeholders. Gayle is currently leading an effort to expand the LIC BID to encompass the commercial corridors of the Hunters Point waterfront neighborhood and is working to retain industrial jobs in Long Island City through the creation of an Industrial BID.

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