2015 Grassroots Awards and Preservation Party
Suzanne Spellen learned to appreciate architecture and history by growing up in Gilbertsville, a historic village in upstate NY. After attending Yale University, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in opera. Suzanne is a board member of the Crown Heights North Association, Inc. (CNHA), which has worked tirelessly for landmark designation for the neighborhood. She is a columnist for the popular blog Brownstoner.com under the pen name “Montrose Morris.” Her expertise on the architecture and history of Central Brooklyn has led to lectures, walking tours and research projects for many organizations and causes. In 2012, Suzanne left Brooklyn for Troy, NY. She is a board member of Troy’s new Community Land Bank, and on the citizen’s advisory board for the Comprehensive Plan for Troy. Suzanne is the co-author of The Fallen Heroes of September 11th: The Wall of Remembrance at Coney Island, (2011). She is currently writing a designation report for the State and National Register of Historic Places on the Carnegie Libraries of New York City. She is also working on a novel, as well as planning two books about Brooklyn architecture and history.
Steven Barrison (Bay Improvement Group) is a third-generation resident of Sheepshead Bay, where he has lived for over 55 years. As an attorney currently practicing in midtown Manhattan, he has contributed between 1,000-2,000 hours each year to pro bono activities such as community preservation, enhancement, and revitalization in Sheepshead Bay in order to bring life and planning to its main streets. Steven has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the statewide non-profit New York Main Street Alliance since 1992, advocating Main Street revitalization from one end of New York State to the other. He has testified before numerous hearings on zoning issues as well as important Brooklyn landmarks such as The Carroll Street Bridge, the Parachute Jump, Cyclone, and the Wonder Wheel. Steven was a founding member and elected President of the Bay Improvement Group, which was organized in 1992 to preserve and comprehensively plan the revitalization of Sheepshead Bay’s main streets and its waterfront Special District. Steven has dedicated over 32 years of community service to making New York State, New York City, Brooklyn, and Sheepshead Bay better places to live, work, and visit.
People for the Pavilion (PFP) is a 501(c)3 non-profit advocacy organization whose mission is to develop a vibrant community around the New York State Pavilion and to raise awareness about the structure. PFP works toward this goal through public programs, events, and online communications, and reaches out to individuals, organizations, and institutions about the preservation effort, particularly those based around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. In 2014, PFP secured $4.8 million of the Capital Budget to restore the New York State Pavilion with help from Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the members of the City Council. Matthew Silva, co-founder of People for the Pavilion, has recently been engaged in a campaign to light the pavilion in order to raise awareness and funding for the restoration project. Silva also just completed a documentary film, two years in the making, called “Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion.” The film explores the vibrant history of the structure through interviews with historians, architects and fairgoers, it premiered on May 22, 2015 at the Queens Theatre.
Teri Slater was a passionate preservationist, committed community advocate and fierce defender of her beloved Upper East Side. Longtime community board member, director and officer of the Historic Districts Council and numerous other preservation and community groups, she served the public with dedication, intelligence and passion tempered with grace, caring and humor. She was pivotal in numerous campaigns to protect her neighborhood from inappropriate development, especially from institutions such as hospitals and museums seeking to build enormous and unnecessary expansions. She was a convener of groups and connector of people. Teri passed on January 13, 2015, and her absence is unimaginable. She is survived by her sons Eric and Edward and all the many people whose lives she touched.
Friend from the Media Award: Welcome2TheBronx
Ed García Conde is a social media consultant and successful blogger. Working as a real estate appraiser since 1998 has enabled him to become fluent about the histories of the five boroughs of New York City as well as the current social and cultural transitions of these areas. A lifetime resident of Melrose in the South Bronx, Ed has dedicated himself to social and environmental justice issues. Unhappy with mainstream media’s negative coverage of Melrose, the South Bronx, and The Bronx in general, he created websites to share the history and beauty of these neighborhoods and discuss with followers the issues that challenge the community, giving a voice to an otherwise voiceless neighborhood. His blog Welcome2TheBronx www.welcome2thebronx.com has become the most widely read and recognized Bronx blog (250,000 monthly visitors across all social media). Considered an authority on many Bronx issues, Ed’s stories often shape the local news, quoted by the mainstream media including The New York Times and serving as a basis for media outlet articles. In 2014, Ed and his teammates won the first ever Bronx Scavenger Hunt hosted by the Bronx Borough President’s Office.
Friend in High Places Award: Council Member Daniel Garodnick, District 4, Manhattan
Dan Garodnick was born and raised in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. In 2006, Dan foresaw the sale of this property would put affordable, middle-class housing at risk in New York City and initiated an unprecedented, multi-billion dollar bid on behalf of 25,000 tenants to buy the property. As another sale became imminent, Dan organized over 50 elected officials from across New York to form a Coalition Against Predatory Equity, ensuring the commitment of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac not to lend to buyers motivated to run out middle-class tenants by destabilizing affordable units. Dan made the list of City Hall newspaper’s “Rising Stars” under the age of 40 and has been praised for his “independent streak,” and “creative problem solving.”A champion of neighborhood preservation, he has been pivotal in community-based efforts to expand landmark protections along Park and Lexington Avenues on the Upper East Side as well as inserting a measured, rational vision for East Midtown.
He currently serves as Chair of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee and has authored important legislation including the Tenant Protection Act, giving tenants an opportunity to sue for harassment; the City’s first Green Energy Code, reducing carbon emissions from buildings; and the expansion of the Transit Benefits Program, allowing employees to purchase Metrocards using pre-taxed earnings.