Although the skies were heavy with rain Saturday night, inside, the Brooklyn Marriott was filled with sparkling stars, there to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the powerful Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
I hadn’t gotten up the escalator before I was greeted by an old friend waiting for her friend. It was just the beginning of an evening in which I saw many friends dressed elegantly and looking like movie stars — because they are the stars of our city, making a difference every day.
My dear friend 87-year old developer and innovator Joe Mattone, Sr. — who was one of the honorees — was there with his beautiful wife Mary Ann, holding court during the cocktail hour at a table in the corner with his family and friends. It was like old home week, seeing retired judge Joe Golia and his wife Rosalie. They were joined by Vallo Transportation CEO Linda DeSabato.
Joe — along with Bruce Ratner, another centennial honoree — changed the face of downtown Brooklyn in 1985 by building MetroTech, the now centerpiece of the area, and one of their many projects in Brooklyn.
It was a treat to see Pam Brier, another honoree, recognized for her devoted, powerful leadership in the healthcare world, after having recently retired from many years at the helm of Maimonides Medical Center. Under her leadership, I was a Nurse for a Day and saw first-hand her world-class neonatal intensive care unit. One of her recent achievements was planting the seeds for Maimonides’ relationship with Northwell Health.
What I particularly love about going to a gala is seeing friends I mostly communicate with online or on the phone. The program led off with greetings from Peter Meyer, president of the New York City Market for TD Bank, who is devoted to the chamber and who served as the centennial chair. Under his leadership, the event was a huge success, with a packed, sold-out ballroom and a thick journal filled with tributes to the Chamber.
It was fascinating to read the 100-year timeline which traced the Chamber’s history from its beginnings to today, when it was chosen by the Business Council of New York State as the Chamber of the Year. My favorite moment of the night was when I saw Chamber Chair and dear friend Denise Arbesu — who broke the glass ceiling to become the Chamber’s first woman and first Latino leader — take the microphone to welcome the massive audience.
She earned her position the old-fashioned way, working hard, coming to the Chamber decades ago, knowing no one and building relationships one by one. She is a role model and inspiration for every businessperson.
It was a night also celebrating another dear friend who has devoted his life and career to public service through his work in the energy sector for over 50 years. Robert Catell, the former chair of the Brooklyn Chamber and a key figure in every leading business group in New York City, was the CEO of Keyspan. Our lives have reconnected with his latest project as chair of Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy Research & Technology Center. His knowledgeable contributions to the university have been reported in the Long Island Press, one of my recent acquisitions. Although the night focused on his Brooklyn connections, I know he carries his unique and powerful knowledge outside the borough’s borders.
Although I don’t know him, Alan Fishman was another worthy honoree. He has made endless contributions through his banking affiliations to non-profit organizations such as my childhood-to-adulthood favorite, the remarkable Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). His leadership in business circles is renowned.
The influential Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation — which was created by the beloved Robert Kennedy back in 1967 — was also recognized. Everyone knows how the integrated community has become one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York City.
Tribute was also paid to the Chamber’s past chairs, and Andrew Hoan, the chamber’s current president and CEO, also recognized popular Borough President Eric Adams in the audience, which also included former Borough Presidents Marty Markowitz and Howard Golden. Marty helped make Brooklyn sexy, making it an international “star.”
I was a guest of Investors Bank, one of the sponsors of the event. The bank’s Senior Vice President & Market Executive, stunning, stately Ana Oliveira, took the stage to introduce videos of the honorees, a great way to present them to the huge audience.
Andrew has continued to make the Chamber a great organization for business owners looking to build their businesses.
Adding to the power of the night was to see and give hugs to Joyce and Frank Seddio, Frank Carone, Dawn Simon from Kings Plaza, National Grid’s Dan Daly along with Renée McClure, his right hand person, dressed as a star. I was so happy to see the Broadway Stages family of Gina Argento, her brother Anthony and husband John Ciafone, who recently opened a movie studio at the former Arthur Kill prison site on Staten Island. Anthony complained that they filled every sound stage and need more property. Any real estate developers listening? The company brings in millions of dollars to the city coffers!
It was also great to see old friend Ed O’Donnell of Chase Bank who had served for many years as chair of the board of the organization I founded, Life’s WORC.
Perhaps my favorite persons were my son Josh’s mentors, business leaders Elaine and Norm Brodsky, and developer Josh Muss who told me he reads my column regularly — keep reading, Josh!
I was happy to see my friends Michael Perez from Dime Bank, Phil Guarnieri from Empire State Bank, Robin Lefkowitz of Northfield Bank, and Northwell Health – Maimonides, NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn, St. Francis College, NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, Cushman & Wakefield, Halstead Property, Industry City, Airbnb, Two Trees, DeSales Media, St Joseph’s College and Wells Fargo, and the table of people from the YMCA. Our friends from the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Alliance for Coney Island just added to the fun!
The great thing about such a grand celebration is that it also brought out business partners from the other boroughs. It was great to see Cesar Claro, president and CEO of the SIEDC, and Linda Baran, CEO of the Staten Island Chamber, as well as the leaders of the Queens, New York and Bronx Chambers.
Looking spectacular in her gold sequined dress was the stunning and smart Yvonne Riley of TD Bank. The glamour of the night was personified by brilliant Ingrid Lewis-Martin, senior advisor to the Brooklyn borough president, who wore a stunning midnight blue sequined gown.
Move over, Hollywood. You may have your Oscar night, but Brooklyn had its stars out, all dressed for prime time, to commemorate the powerful centennial celebration of the Brooklyn Chamber.
What a night!