NBA Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, Jr.; Community Development Leader Phyllis Rosenblum;
Foodtown-PSK Supermarkets; Playwright Joyce Sylvester; and HSBC Bank USA to Receive Award
On June 13th Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation celebrated 38 years of service to Central Brooklyn with a fundraising gala held at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. Business leaders, entertainers and politicians, such as Councilwoman Yvette Clark and Senator Carl Andrews, attended the gala, which has generated $1.7 million over the past few years. CBS 2 news anchor Jay Dow served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.
The gala acknowledged the institute’s accomplishments within the last year as well as honored distinguished members of the Bed-Stuy community. Among the honorees were community developer Phyllis Rosenblum, NBA hall of fame legend Lenny Wilkens Jr., renown playwright Joyce Sylvester, Foodtown Supermarkets and HSBC Bank. Restoration’s President Colvin Grannum said the honorees were selected because of their “contributions to [Restoration] and to the community.”
Phyllis Rosenblum, the now retired Senior Vice President of HSBC Bank, used her position as t
he head of the bank’s community development services to invest not only in Restoration, but also in numerous housing and homeownership initiatives. She was honored with the Restoration Founders Award for Enlightened Leadership, in recognition of her commitment to community development. Rosenblum believed it was important to invest time and resources into Restoration because she believed Restoration “is the most important community group in the history of community development as it created a model for other groups to follow.” She guided HSBC’s decision to invest in the federal low-income housing tax credit program, and was also a
co-founder of the New York Mortgage Coalition, an effort to address inequities in mortgage lending and promote homeownership.
NBA hall of fame player and coach Lenny Wilkens Jr., born and raised in Bed-Stuy, received the Restoration Founders Award for Excellence in Achievement. Wilkens, a nine time NBA all-star, coached the 1996 gold-medal-winning Olympic “Dream Team. “Growing up in Bedford Stuyvesant certainly afforded me a rich heritage, the culture of the community, the
warmness, the caring were a foundation for me,” said Wilkens. He credits Restoration with being “a wonderful involvement for people giving back to their community,” which makes him proud to support the institution.
Playwright, director and actress Joyce Sylvester, whose plays are a mainstay at The Billie Holiday Theatre at Restoration Plaza, received the Restoration founders Award for Excellence in the Arts. Sylvester won a 2004 Audelco award for directing Freeda Peoples, which was produced at the Billie Holiday Theatre. Born in Harlem and currently living in Queens, Sylvester said
Brooklyn has been a blessing for her. “The Billie Holiday Theatre was the first to produce all of my plays, as well as gave me an opportunity to act there and move on to Broadway,” said Sylvester.
Restoration also honored the plaza’s most recent and notable tenant, Foodtown Supermarkets with the Robert F. Kennedy Humanitarian Award. The family-owned chain hired more than 120 employees from the community and provided a $1.3 million donation in support of Restoration’s community development programming. “We are thrilled to serve the residents of Bedford
Stuyvesant,” said Noah Katz, Vice President of Foodtown Supermarkets. Katz went on to say that his family opened their largest store at Restoration Plaza because of the potential of the institution and the community in which it resides.
The final award recipient was HSBC Bank, honored with the Jacob K. Javits Achievement Award for Excellence in Leadership, for their commitment to community development. The bank has financially backed numerous community development initiatives in low-income areas throughout the country for the purposes of revitalization.
Revitalization and expansion has been the focal point of Restoration for the last year; with the opening of Applebee’s in late September 2005 and the $800,000 donation from the city to modernize the plaza, Restoration hopes to invigorate the commercial strip along Fulton Street and create new jobs. The corporation aspires to create a “first-class center for culture, commerce,
and education.” When asked if Restoration wants to become another Atlantic Terminal president Colvin Grannum said, “No we’re not going to aim for that; we want to keep people in Bed-Stuy, you know Atlantic Terminal’s sort of like a city wide destination. We would like people from Central Brooklyn to enjoy our services.”
In addition to physical expansion plans, Restoration is presently working with HUD, HPD and private investors to re-capitalize all of their residential housing to insure long-term affordability for low-income residents. The corporation recently hired a career specialist to increase their capacity to place residents in jobs and equip them to enter the workforce, as well as a commercial revitalization manager to further their efforts to assist local merchants and attract new business to the community. “We are right on track and we are working to create change that will benefit all residents,” said Grannum.