Queens Chambers hosts annual Building Awards & Gala

The Queens Chamber hosts its Buildings Awards Gala this month, an annual tradition over 90 years in the making. This year, 20 projects in a variety of categories were honored. Check next month’s issue of This Is Queensborough for a full list and coverage of the gala.

The projects include the Han Ma Um Zen Center of NY (New Construction – Religious Building), The Douglaston Club (Interior Design – Commercial), The Nordic (Interior Design – Mixed Use), Chan Lee Residence (2nd Place, Rehabilitation – Single & Two-Family Residences), and Mikkeller Brewery (Rehabilitation – Mixed Use).

Click here to check out photos from this year’s Building Awards & Gala!

Chamber Foundation Host Workforce Symposium


In a borough as diverse as Queens, there are always challenges to attracting and retaining top talent for any company in the borough.

That’s why on November 16, the Queens Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted a workplace symposium at the United Nations Federal Credit Union in Long Island City.

The event, which was sponsored by Verizon, featured two panels of experts who discussed best practices from both business and nonprofit provider perspectives.

Kenneth Adams, dean of workforce and economic development at Bronx Community College, and a board member at the Queens Chamber Foundation, moderated the first panel on finding and keeping qualified employees.

According to Adams, there are 1.2 million Queens people in the workforce. The unemployment rate, he said, is currently 3.5 percent, which is low and presents a challenge to employers.

“It’s a tight labor market,” he said. “It’s hard to find good people because they’re working.”

To find qualified staff, Shaheen Barrett, manager of HR Business Partners at Verizon, said he not only posts online on sites like Indeed, but also invites candidates to do “mock trials.” Demonstrating how an employee interacts with customers in person is telling, Barrett said.

BeniJayne Santiago, talent acquisition manager at Investors Bank, said they partner with nonprofit and community organizations, who sometimes offers candidates for consideration.

After conducting initial phone or video interviews, Santiago sets up an in-person interview. She noted that she “lays down all our cards” during these interviews, including setting expectations on language and travel requirements.

The panel also discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion. Nicole Leon, director of diversity and inclusion at Con Edison, said about half of her company’s employees are minorities.

While that’s good, Leon said it’s also important to create “the right environment” to respect and appreciate the diversity.

“You want to make sure your staff reflects your customers market,” she said. “Get to know your customers and their buying habits. Understand who they are and what their needs are.”

Recently, Con Edison hosted a job fair for entry-level jobs, and marketed the positions for women. Opportunities like that, Leon said, changes how the company sources talent.

Barrett, meanwhile, said because Verizon is such a large company, their goal is to make sure employees “connect to our culture” and know that they are part of the larger Verizon family.

The panel also touched on the significance of soft skills, which Leon said are sometimes the most difficult to acquire. She said that’s why mentoring is so key, particularly for younger employees.

Nine months ago, Barrett’s leadership team concluded that while they have strong technical skills, many members still lack soft skills, such as communication. However, he also offered a solution.

“Motivate your associates by connecting to them on a more emotional level,” he said.

The second panel, moderated by Jose Ortiz, Jr., executive director of the NYC Employment & Training Coalition, focused on nonprofits that connect people to jobs.

Sheree Ferguson-Cousins, vice president of workforce at Goodwill Industries of Greater NY and Northern NJ, said her organization works with people who have barriers to employment. Goodwill runs career advancement programs that train people who are either out of work or underemployed.

Ferguson-Cousins said they work with employers to create a curriculum, and partner with CUNY schools as well.

“We always have employers come to us because of the services we give them,” she said. “Our employees have high retention.”

Bryant Nichols, employment services manager at Urban Upbound, based in Long Island City, said his organization has two clients: the employers and the employees. Using a Jobs Plus model, Urban Upbound offers not just job training, but also services like career planning, tax returns and on-site financial counseling.

He said he connects with companies by becoming “a student of your employer” and knowing exactly what positions they want to fill and what skills they need.

Jane Schulman, executive director of adult and continuing education at LaGuardia Community College, said employer input typically comes first.

“We come to employers and say, ‘What do you need?’” she said. “We really want to stay in touch with the owners of businesses, big and small.”

Schulman said LaGuardia also works with larger employers like Weill-Cornell Medicine, which has its own specific system for employment.

Finally, Andre Ward, associate vice president of education and employment services at The Fortune Society, said his group supports people with criminal justice involvement.

Ward said it’s important to build trust and a strong relationship with employers to keep opportunities open.

“Based on our track record and integrity, employers stay with us,” he said. “They know they can count on us to send good candidates.”

Symposium marks launch of Queens Wins!

The November 16th Workforce Symposium represented the launch of the Queens Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s new initiative: Queens WINs! (Workforce Initiative Now!).

In early 2018, the Foundation partnered with the Queens Chamber of Commerce to conduct research in the area of workforce development. This was prompted by Queens businesses’ frustrations with recruiting and retaining qualified staff, as well as the growing attention paid to the value of workforce development by government leaders and business groups.

The goals of the research were to determine Queens businesses’ greatest workforce-related challenges and the best role for the Queens Chamber of Commerce Foundation in the workforce development realm.

The research included a survey of Queens businesses and interviews with workforce training programs, college career offices, workforce experts and those representing major industry sectors of Queens. The Foundation is now launching Queens WINs! in response to the research results. Queens WINs! will:

• Seek to become a primary workforce resource for Queens businesses large and small, providing information and connecting Queens-based workforce entities. Because so many resources already exist, Queens WINs! will aim to increase awareness of these resources among Queens businesses and facilitate connections. Activities will include forums and roundtables, as well as the offering of new and expanded online resources.

• Provide businesses—especially small businesses—with human resource-related information, such as hiring resources, legal and compliance information and more.

• Launch a pilot internship program to strengthen the talent pipeline in Queens. The Foundation would emphasize placement at small business locations and plans to explore working with bilingual job seekers.

For more information about Queens WINs!, please contact Ellen Young, Consulting Program Manager, at ellenhelps@gmail.com.

Queens Chamber honors business leaders

The Queens Chamber of Commerce honored four local business leaders at its annual Business Person of the Year awards last Thursday at Terrace on the Park.

This year’s recipients included Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, founder and executive director at Hour Children, Christopher Horch, associate partner at JB&B, and Nick Tziazas, president of Lyons Mortgage Services, Inc.

John Catsimatidis, the president and CEO of Red Apple Group, was this year’s Hall of Fame honoree.

“It’s our opportunity to honor people in the Queens community who have added something special to the business community and to their own community,” said Chamber chair Thomas Santucci.

The honorees were chosen for demonstrating business acumen, street smarts, hard work, success and for “doing well by doing good.”

Queens Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Thomas Grech said the honorees all have made a difference by giving back.

“That’s the legacy of the people out here tonight,” he said.

Queens Business Expo 2018

This year’s Queens Business Expo, our largest annual event, was a great success. We had 135 Exhibitor tables, a sold-out breakfast sponsored by NY Daily News, five industry-specific panel discussions, and over 1,500 visitors. Further, we were so excited to have former Met, Dwight “Doc” Gooden, join us and greet Exhibitors and guests.

The breakfast panel, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: A Queens Perspective,” was a who’s-who of industry leaders: Andy Byford (President, MTA/NYCT), Seth Pinsky (President, RXR Realty), Mark Scheinberg (President, Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association), and Lysa Scully (General Manager, LGA). Their insight into upcoming projects and developments was extraordinary.

Photo Cred –> Dominick Totino Photography

A huge THANK YOU and shout-out to our Sponsors:

Aloft New York LaGuardia Airport
Austin Dental Plus
Baker Tilly
Cohn Reznick
Consolidated Edison
De Sales Media
East Coast Energy Group
EMU Health
Engie MEP/Trystate Mechanical
ENT and Allergy Associates LLP
First Nationwide Title
Flushing Bank
Friends of BQX
Graf & Lewent Architects
Investors Bank
LIJ Forest Hills Hospital
Lincoln Computer Services
Lyons Mortgage Services, Inc.
Maspeth Federal Savings
Mattone Group
Metro Fire Inspections & Maintenance
PaySwipe, Inc.
Prime Storage
Resorts World
Sterling National Bank
TD Bank
TSC Training Academy
Zara Realty


The Future of Retail Panel Discussion

Retail is undergoing an enormous transformation, leaving many asking, “What’s the future of retail?!” This conference, hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce Real Estate Committee, was designed to address the exact question. The panel was comprised of the following industry experts:

PANEL DISCUSSION: “The Future of Retail”
Moderator: Tom Grech, Queens Chamber of Commerce
Retail Services: Jonathan Krivine, Director of Retail Services, Avison Young
Banking: Steven Rothman, SVP, Director of Operations, Jones LaSalle
Fashion: Frances Graham, Project Director, Linesight / Primark
Food: Paul Daniels, Owner/Operator, Chick-fil-A Queens Center Mall
National Malls: Dustin Rand, Leasing Manager, Macerich Leasing

Over 75 people were in attendance, including financiers, property manager, leasing agents, etc. Breakfast was catered by Applebees and we received Audio/Visual support from Ash Krikorian at IAN Audio.

Thanks to all who participated 🙂

Evening of Hospitality at Aloft NY LaGuardia Hotel

Aloft NY LaGuardia is the hottest new hotel to join the Queens Chamber, and graciously opened its doors to showcase the borough’s finest food and beverage vendors for “An Evening of Hospitality.”

On May 10, over 100 attendees enjoyed food and drink from a dozen food and beverage vendors. The event was run by the Queens Chamber of Commerce Restaurant and Hospitality Committee with the help of Michael Zayas (Real Hospitality Group) and Hanny Lin (Aloft Hotels).

The event was sponsored by Heartland Payment Systems and Metro Fire Protections.

Thank you so much to our amazing Food and Beverage Exhibitors:

Bareburger – www.bareburger.com
Café de Colombia – Juan Carlos Acosta, planetausa14@gmail.com
Casa Del Chef – www.casadelchefny.com
Good Eats at Aloft NY LaGuardia – www.aloftnewyorklaguardiaairport.com
Fusion East Caribbean and Soul Food – www.fusioneastny.com
Kaiso, a potent blend of coconut water and fine spirits – www.kaisococktail.com
Lady M Confections – www.ladym.com
Long Island City High School Culinary Program
Salt and Bone Smokehouse – www.saltandbone.com
Smokehouse, St. Albans
XYZ Lounge at Aloft NY LaGuardia


12TH Annual Start UP Queens Business Plan Competition


This 4-day family-friendly event will feature a full midway, complete with rides, games and great “fair” food and drinks, fun and exciting entertainment for all ages.
The NYC Fair will feature more than 30 different rides and many family-friendly areas, sure to delight
kids of all ages.
Dog Shows
Children’s Movie and TV Characters
Wood Carvers
Pig Racing
& more!
The NYC Fair is conveniently located at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
Event information HERE