By Jessica Meditz
Last Tuesday, some of Queens’ most prominent movers and shakers were honored by the Queens Chamber of Commerce at their 2022 Business Persons of the Year Awards Gala.
Family, friends, partners and sponsors gathered at Terrace on the Park in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park to honor seven influential business people in the borough: Serge Abergel, CEO of Hydro Québec Energy Services; Rachelle Antoine, Manager External Affairs & Community Outreach Manager at Port Authority of New York & New Jersey for the JFK Redevelopment Program; Kevin O’Connor, CEO of DIME Community Bank; Loycent Gordon, owner and proprietor of Neir’s Tavern; Dr. Stacie NC Grant, Community Advisory Council Facilitator for the JFK Redevelopment Program; Peter Kapsalis, CEO and owner of Cine Magic LLC Studios; and Dr. Edwin Simpser, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children.
Queens Chamber of Commerce’s President and CEO Tom Grech also took the opportunity to applaud how far Queens has come since the pandemic, bouncing back from many losses in the business community.
“Queens turned the corner starting in early 2022 with COVID in the rearview mirror and our momentum has only
grown since then,” Grech said in a statement.
“Just over the past few weeks, we have learned about a new soccer stadium, 2,500 deeply affordable housing units, a new hotel and school at Willets Point, a well-deserved final approval of Innovation QNS in Astoria and a signed contract and start to the redevelopment of JFK,” he continued. “All-in, these public and private investments total near $25 billion…and all in Queens.”
Before the seven business people received their awards, the Queens Chamber surprised its Chief Operating Officer, Joanne Persad, with an honorary Business Person of the Year award for her hard work and dedication to keeping all things running smoothly.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce is at the forefront of major projects in Queens, including the massive $18 billion JFK Redevelopment Program — in which honorees Antoine and Grant play major roles in. Both women feel incredibly honored to have received the award.
“It’s humbling to know that others see your efforts in trying to create space for others…Even during COVID, keeping the community encouraged through a very challenging time by offering free resources and using media as a way to connect and to create space for a very confusing time we were all witnessing,” Grant said. “I believe wherever you live, you should also serve — and it’s my honor to serve Queens.”
Throughout the evening, attendees and honorees remarked about the beauty of Queens’ diversity, and how every person has their own story to tell.
Kapsalis, of Cine Magic LLC Studios, recalled how his parents emigrated to the U.S. from Greece with just $17 in their pockets, and is proud to now be the owner and CEO of a roughly 100,000-square-foot studio operation in Long Island City.
Neir’s Tavern owner and proprietor, Loycent Gordon, reflected on his experience as an immigrant who arrived in the U.S. at the age of 10, and struggled academically. He went on to preserve the well-loved establishment in the community, after it was at risk of shuttering after an increase in rent.
“I came into Neir’s Tavern seeing that it was going to close. The long forgotten place that was special, just as I felt I was, but wasn’t given the love,” Gordon said. “This was my opportunity to give back. What if I could save one of America’s oldest places as an immigrant, as my service.”
After the awardees delivered heartfelt speeches upon accepting their awards, the energetic crowd of attendees danced the night away, looking forward to the advancements in tech and business to come into the borough they call home.