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Queens trio honored for civil service

Karen Armstrong is one of three Queens recipients for the Sloan Public Service Awards.
Photo by Naeisha Rose
By Naeisha Rose

Once a year, six out of 250,000 civil servants across the city are selected for the Sloan Public Service Awards. Three of this year’s recipients serve Queens.

The awards, which are like the Nobel Prize for city government workers, were presented to each of the recipients at their workplaces May 25 by the Fund for the City of New York. Each received a $10,000 cash prize.

The honorees were Community Library Manager Vilma Daza, who works for Queens Borough Public Library; Department of Probation NEON Center Assistant Commissioner Karen Armstrong; and Executive Director for Materials for the Arts Harriet Taub.

Daza, an immigrant from Peru, provides services for 18,000 patrons at the bustling Corona Branch at 38-23 104th St, and has a staff of nine full-time employees. Being honored meant the world to her.

“I’m very happy and excited,” Daza said. “I feel like a million dollars. My working for the community is to make them learn about the resources we have so they can be successful.”

At the library she oversees programs for children, ESL courses, adult classes, math courses, painting classes and an after-school program. One of the newer initiatives that she helped to usher in was a prenatal program.

“It’s a six-session prenatal course,” said Tamara Michael, who teaches the class. “Today they talked about family planning, anatomy and physiology, mental health, labor, childhood education and body autonomy.”

Public Health Solutions sponsors the prenatal courses.

Armstrong leads a team of 140 probation officers who are responsible for 8,000 people in Queens. The award is for her work at the Queens Adult Services NEON Center, located at 162-24 Jamaica Ave., in connecting parolees, with community organizations, local businesses and government agencies. Her efforts have led to many individuals on probation receiving early parole.

“I love everything that we do,” Armstrong said. “We get to come in every day and help people. That is all we do and keep our community safe.”

The married mother of two is on the clock “24 hours a day” and on weekends to get “clients to resources that will help sustain them and educational opportunities that will help them stay out and move out of the criminal justice system,” Armstrong said.

“To be acknowledged for it — I appreciate it.”

Taub presides over a 35,000-square-foot warehouse holding 2 million pounds of art material that would have ended up in a landfill. She manages a staff of 17 people and 1,000 volunteers, and provides fabric, paper, trim and office supplies for creative purposes to 4,000 arts and educational organizations.

Material for the Arts is one of the city’s largest providers of arts education for New York City’s schoolteachers, according to staff members. Being revered while highlighting MFTA’s contributions was a privilege for Taub.

“It’s a huge honor to be chosen,” Taub said.

Taub is the daughter of a florist, a former arts teacher and an environmentalist. Working at MFTA has been a dream come true for her.

“Who gets a job where they can combine their love of sustainability with the arts, and also arts education and equity?” Taub said. “If I could move that needle a little bit – I have had the pleasure and honor of doing that.”

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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