2015 Winners

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Roxana F. Benavides

Neighborhood Library Supervisor, Sunset Park Branch, Brooklyn Public Library

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Caroline H. Bragdon

Director of Neighborhood Interventions, Bureau of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Division of Environmental Health, New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

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Charles A. Gili Sr.

Chief of Operations, Borough of Brooklyn, Department of Parks and Recreation

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Michael Johnson

Assistant Maintenance Supervisor, James Weldon Johnson Houses, New York City Housing Authority

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Marsha Kellam

Queens Borough Commissioner, Division of Child Protection, Administration for Children’s Services

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Stephen J. O'Brien

Director of Food and Menu Services, Office of School Food, Office of School Support Services, Department of Education

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Roxana F. Benavides

Neighborhood Library Supervisor, Sunset Park Branch, Brooklyn Public Library

Roxana Benavides is a librarian for the 21st century. The Sunset Park library she runs is a thriving neighborhood center, and perhaps the most important community resource for the diverse residents of Sunset Park. From employment assistance programs, to adult education and English language courses, to afterschool reading and tutoring programs for students, the Sunset Park branch epitomizes the importance and evolved role of the contemporary library in the community. Ms. Benavides has also taken the library outside of its walls, creating partnerships with Community Boards, hospitals and nonprofits to best serve the Sunset Park community. To reach residents unable to commute to the library, she created a mobile tent for community events and coordinated the weekly presence of the "Bibliobus" mobile library at Sunset Park to allow families to borrow books, sign up for library cards (without the fear of IDs being checked) or register for programs offered at the library. Says one Sunset Park resident, "She is an energetic ball of fire and she never waivers. She is the heart of Sunset Park."

Caroline H. Bragdon

Director of Neighborhood Interventions, Bureau of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Division of Environmental Health, New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

"When rats started overrunning our neighborhood, Caroline came through for us," says a Harlem resident. Rat eradication requires both cutting-edge science and community engagement. Ms. Bragdon excels at both. She meets with residents, gardeners and business owners; walks through neighborhoods to identify problems; and offers training so that communities can use the most effective pest management materials and strategies. She also involves other City agencies in solutions because their efforts must be in sync. As an innovator, Ms. Bragdon worked with the team that implemented the first citywide rat-indexing program, transforming rodent inspections from single building surveys with pen and pad to surveying whole blocks at once with handheld devices, allowing rat colonies to be targeted at their source. Ms. Bragdon also piloted the use of a steel-mesh barrier to prevent rats from burrowing in tree wells, and helped initiate twice-daily garbage collection in some parks. Says the President of one block association, "Caroline will bend over backwards to help any neighborhood in need. She knows every piece of the puzzle and has an incredible amount of sincerity and empathy."

Charles A. Gili Sr.

Chief of Operations, Borough of Brooklyn, Department of Parks and Recreation

Charles Gili Sr., Chief of Operations for the Parks Department in Brooklyn, has 24-hour operational responsibility for over 900 park properties, 240 playgrounds, three and a half miles of beaches, 150 baseball fields, 12 swimming pools, 150 tennis courts and 600,000 street and park trees in Brooklyn. Managing a staff of over 500, Mr. Gili and his team ensure that parks are safe, clean and inviting for all visitors. With 33 years of service in the Parks Department, Mr. Gili has brought innovative models everywhere he has worked. As an Urban Park Ranger, Mr. Gili created a geology curriculum for Crotona Park. In 1987, he initiated the City's then largest ever salt marsh restoration project in Marine Park. As Chief of Operations in Brooklyn, he manages implementation of diverse initiatives including the use of hand-held computers for field work and Operations for the 21st Century helping to streamline the borough's response to issues needing attention. Says one former colleague, "If the job's impossible, he finds another way. And everything is done with an eye on serving the public."

Michael Johnson

Assistant Maintenance Supervisor, James Weldon Johnson Houses, New York City Housing Authority

How many New Yorkers would love to have the cell phone number of their building's maintenance supervisor? The 3,000 NYCHA residents in the 10 buildings that comprise the James Weldon Johnson Houses in East Harlem do. For over 27 years, Michael Johnson has made the residents in the Lehman Village, DeWitt Clinton Houses and the Johnson Houses NYCHA developments his number one priority. There is no task too big or too small for Mr. Johnson. He is responsive and meticulous, whether it is fixing a dripping faucet, arriving at 4 AM to clear the ice and snow from sidewalks and steps, repairing playground equipment, checking with a resident to ensure the quality of a repair or, on his day off, hauling a truckload of compost for the community garden. His supervisor says, "Mike is something special. He's the most dedicated worker I have ever seen and the fact that he does it all with a smile tells you also that he is an even better human being."

Marsha Kellam

Queens Borough Commissioner, Division of Child Protection, Administration for Children’s Services

As Queens Borough Commissioner for the ACS Division of Child Protection, Marsha Kellam manages 600 caseworkers and supervisors who are responsible for investigating 10,000 cases of child abuse and neglect annually. Having served for 30 years in child protective services, Ms. Kellam brings a profound understanding and deep experience to this difficult work. A natural leader, she has cultivated excellent working relationships with other divisions within ACS, other City agencies, nonprofit service providers and unions to ensure that the children of Queens are well-served. The Queens office leads in having the quickest response time, the most managers with twenty years or more of experience and the least turnover because of her talents as a leader, mentor and trainer. Says one colleague, "Parents are approached from a place of respect because Ms. Kellam is mindful that every parent wants to do the best for her or his child, in spite of huge obstacles. She is always advocating for our borough's children and families. Marsha means so much to Queens."

Stephen J. O'Brien

Director of Food and Menu Services, Office of School Food, Office of School Support Services, Department of Education

Trained as a chef with degrees in Culinary Arts, Foodservice Management and Administration, Stephen O'Brien and his team offer breakfast, lunch and afterschool meals to 1.1 million students daily. Mr. O'Brien is a force for innovation who has shattered every stereotype of schools meals. Over 1,000 schools now have salad bars and over 100 school gardens partner with kitchens to grow greens. Since 2009, Mr. O'Brien has been on a mission to remove polystyrene trays from New York City schools. Next year, all schools will use compostable trays, eliminating 150 million polystyrene trays annually from the City's waste stream. Mr. O'Brien also helped create the Urban School Food Alliance, a partnership of food service directors from the largest urban school districts in America. Committed to working together, all six districts will begin to use these compostable trays. Says Eric Goldstein, Director of the Office of School Support Services, "Stephen's leadership with the Alliance is an example of the tangible, forcible impact he is having on food policy not just in New York, but nationwide. He is the person who is always instituting change."

 
 

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