In recognition of her six years at Borough Hall, Queens Chamber of Commerce president Thomas J. Grech presented Queens Borough President Melinda Katz with the “Q” Award in her last Chamber event before she becomes Queens district attorney next month.
More than 350 business, government and community leaders from throughout the borough gathered at Terrace on the Park last week for the group’s 25th annual Business Person of the Year Awards Dinner. Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton served as the evening’s Hall of Fame Honoree and Keynote Speaker.
“This award recognizes the tangible progress made by the Port Authority on its multibillion-dollar airport redevelopment project in Queens at LaGuardia and JFK,” Cotton said. “Congressman Meeks, Borough President Katz, and Queens elected officials as well as the Queens Chamber of Commerce and other local organizations have been tireless partners in our efforts to transform LaGuardia and JFK into 21st-century airports fit for the greatest city in the world. The Port Authority is committed to rebuilding these airports in close consultation with the local communities and ensuring that real benefits flow to Queens communities impacted by the airports and by these major construction projects.”
This year’s dinner also honored Tyquana Henderson-Rivers, president and CEO of Connective Strategies Inc., Chris Xu, president of United Construction and Development Group Corp., and Alexandra Vassilaros, executive vice president of Vassilaros & Sons Coffee.
“Towards the end of each year, we like to look back and acknowledge some of the women and men who make Queens’ business community so special,” Grech said. “These individuals are not only extraordinary business people; they believe in doing well by doing good, and giving back. They may come from different industries and different walks of life, but they represent the very best of Queens and contribute greatly to creating opportunity throughout the borough.”
The Queens Chamber of Commerce is the oldest and largest business association in Queens, representing more than 1,100 businesses and more that 100,000 Queens-based employees. Henderson-Rivers started her Jamaica-based community and government relations firm in 2008.
“It is not every day that someone like me, who came from the streets of southeast Queens, stands up here among so many other distinguished honorees,” Henderson-Rivers said. “I am humbled and I am honored by this award.”
Xu started his United Construction & Development Group in Corona in 2000. The company develops, builds and operates residential buildings, condominiums, daycare centers, hotels as well as office and rental buildings.
“I started to work here in Queens after less than a year in high school, making $40 a day,” Xu said. “Thanks to the opportunities this borough had to offer, I’m here before you today.”
Vassilaros & Sons is a family-owned coffee company that has been operating in the city since its founding by Greek immigrant John Anthony Vassilaros more than a hundred years ago. In 1962 the company opened its permanent home in Flushing now led by the family’s fourth generation.
“Queens is the best advertisement for why diversity works,” Vassilaros said. “Our borough is a shining example of how different groups of people can live together, work together and thrive together.”