Photos by Mike DiBartolomeo
Some of Queens' top young professionals were honored at the 2014 Rising Stars Awards & Networking Event on Thursday, Feb. 27.

Just days before the Oscars, Queens was home to its own awards ceremony.

Top young professionals from around the borough shined at The Queens Courier’s 2014 Rising Stars Awards & Networking Event. And this year, a Hollywood star even graced the stage.

Held on Thursday, Feb. 27, at Terrace on the Park, Rising Stars honored individuals who exemplify outstanding leadership skills not only in their chosen fields, but also in their community.


“When you get the recognition it helps you realize the impact that you have and the work you are doing is worth it,” said one of the night’s award winners, Dana Frankel, director of economic development, planning and BID services for the Long Island City Partnership.

“It’s one of those kind of humbling things that you don’t ever expect to be honored for the work that you do in your day-to-day life,” said Matthew Wallace, chief of staff for Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

Wallace was nominated by his boss, a former Rising Star himself. Van Bramer was beaming with pride when he handed the award to Wallace, calling him the “best chief of staff.”

Among the Rising Stars this year was an actual star.

Actor Stephen Lang, known for his many stage and film roles, including “Avatar,” “Public Enemies,” “Gods and Generals,” “Gettysburg,” “Tombstone,” and “Death of a Salesman,” was the event’s emcee.

The Queens native also came to accept the Mentor of the Year Award on behalf of his father, philanthropist, Eugene Lang, 94, founder of REFAC Technology Development, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation and Project Pericles.

Courier co-publisher Joshua Schneps with actor Stephen Lang

“I know when I bring the award to him tomorrow, I know that it is going to brighten up his day and he is deeply appreciative of it,” Stephen said. “He would congratulate every one of you Rising Stars, and he would go on at length about your responsibilities to the community and to make this world a better place.”

The Star of Stars Award was given to Borough President Melinda Katz, who told honorees, “this is supposed to be one of those steps that leads you to the future.”

Other Rising Stars included Steven Appel, co-founder, CERRU at Queens College; Stacey Altman, assistant administrator, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care & Rehabilitation; Christine Backel, senior advisor-business advisory practice, Grassi & Co; Jacob Berelowitz, director of social services, Queens Boulevard Extended Care Facility; Anthony Brown, associate, J.P. Morgan Asset Management U.S. Private Bank; Mauricio A. Carrasco, mortgage loan officer, Everbank; Michael Cassano, financial advisor, North Coast Financial Group An Office of MetLife; Joseph Chang, production manager, Crystal Window & Door Systems; Denise DeSabato-Pisapia, chief operating officer, Vallo Transportation Ltd; Elizabeth Dickinson, Hub Manager – Terminal 2 / John F. Kennedy International Airport; Ulysses Duenas, performance leader, John F. Kennedy Airport; Cesar Garcia, real estate broker, Keller Williams Realty Landmark II Anat Gerstein, Founder/ President, Anat Gerstein Inc.; DJ Peter Gozzi; Efrain Guevara, assistant vice president, branch administration manager, NY Community Bancorp; Benjamin Guttmann, co-founder, Digital Natives Group; Nick Hardie, director of training, Queens Economic Development Corporation; Delilah Rettagliata Houser, marketing manager, Qside Federal Credit Union; Anthony Ingrassia, producer, Joseph Marc Sports Media; Tamiko Myrna Johnson, TV host, Backyard TV Matthew Katakis, owner, Butcher Bar; Fenella Kim, president and CEO, Reliance Star Payment Services Inc.; Ron Kim, New York State Assemblymember, District 40; Jennifer Krinsky, NYC press secretary, State Department of Labor; Vladimir Lackovic, COO, Digital Natives Group; Maria Messados, principal/ insurance broker, Queens Medallion; Rich Nieto, owner, Sweetleaf; Logan O’Connor, president/chef, Logan’s Catering LLC/Logan’s Café; Tamar E. Ogburn, event planner, EmblemHealth; Francis Papadopoulos, AVP branch manager, Investors Bank; Craig Ratigan, vice president/relationship manager, TD Bank; Kleber Silva, franchise owner of Jamaica, Queens, Rapid Realty; Joseph Schiavone, community library manager, Queens Library at Sunnyside; Sami Abu Shumays, deputy director, Flushing Town Hall; Rachel Thieme, executive director, Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District; Sheron Thompson, department manager, LaGuardia Airport; Eun Chong (EJ) Thorsen Esq., associate, Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP; Dr. Jessica Widmer, gastroenterologist, Forest Hills Hospital; and Wycliffe Wilkinson, associate director of Development, Futures in Education.

The event, attended by more than 400 people, also served as a networking opportunity and featured an expo with vendors from leading businesses in the area.

“The good thing about it is [we can] meet a lot of people and network,” said Fernanda Calderon, marketing representative healthcare specialist for Healthfirst, one of the expo vendors.

At each Courier event, all proceeds from raffle ticket sales go to charity. This year, $1,500 was raised for Flushing Town Hall educational programs.

Sponsors for the Rising Stars Awards & Networking Event included the City University of New York, Con Edison, TD Bank, New York Daily News, NY1, Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care & Rehabilitation, Flushing Bank, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Emblem Health, Qside Federal Credit Union, Queens County Savings Bank, and our photo booth and journal sponsor Investors Bank.



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