Neighborhood Awards celebrate best in the Heights
Story by Sandra E. García
Photos by Mike Fitelson
On Tues., July 10th, the 2012 Neighborhood Achievement Awards were presented by Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel and Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh at Gracie Mansion.
The 213-year-old home, located at Carl Schurz Park, served as the backdrop for award recipients making history in their own neighborhoods.
And northern Manhattan was ably represented.
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,” Deputy Mayor Steel said. “We’re pleased to recognize tonight’s 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 awardees for their hard work and leadership.”
Washington Heights’ Martin Englisher, Executive Vice President for the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights received the Leadership Award; uptown institution Coogan’s received the Small Business of the Year Award; and La Verna Fountain, Vice President for Construction Business Services and Communications at Columbia University, received the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Advocate of the Year Award.
“It feels wonderful being recognized, but it only happens because of the staff at Coogan’s, and the extended family that is our community,” said co-owner Peter Walsh, whose restaurant at 169th Street has been serving diners since 1985.
In 1999, Walsh and co-owners Dave Hunt and Tess O’Connor launched the first Coogan’s Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K run. Proceeds from the race benefit the Armory Foundation.
“Washington Heights is so misunderstood,” said Walsh. “It’s one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country.”
Martin G. Englisher, who was presented with the Leadership Award, has been the executive vice president of the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood since 1981. He secured funding in 1989 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.
Englisher 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.
“It was a great event and I was very proud to be honored,” said Englisher.
Embracing small business is something that Columbia University’s Fountain knows well. As the Associate Vice President for Construction Business Services and Communications, 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.
She was instrumental in the creation of the MWL Construction Trades Certificate Mentorship Program designed to help construction-trade business owners on bidding, a program which 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.
“I would say that the key to my recognition is not about what I do; it’s about what we do,” said Fountain.
“More than anything else the people that operate Columbia are all about the community,” she added. “We talk about the community all the time. That’s how it is, because we are neighbors, and if it’s anyone that cares, it’s the people who live there.”