2020 Winners

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ELOISE HIRSH

Freshkills Park Administrator, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

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JOHN JAMES

Associate Job Opportunity Specialist III, Division of Fair Hearing Administration, New York City Human Resources Administration

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OPAL SINCLAIR-CHUNG

Chief Nursing Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC)

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PEGGY WYNS-MADISON

Principal, PS 15K, the Patrick F. Daly Magnet School of the Arts, New York City Department of Education

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STEVEN SCHINDLER

Director of Water Quality, Bureau of Water Supply, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

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YANG ZENG

Director of the Flushing Library, Queens Public Library

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ELOISE HIRSH

Freshkills Park Administrator, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

A veteran public servant, Eloise Hirsh was asked in 2006 to implement the just-released master plan to turn Freshkills, at the time the largest landfill in the world, into a multi-use 2,200 acre park in the heart of Staten Island. Adrian Benepe, the then Parks Commissioner, recalled, "We needed a great creative thinker and someone who knew how to navigate the complicated landscape of city government and private fundraising. Eloise fit the bill perfectly." Fourteen years later, Freshkills Park is home to thousands of native plants and scores of animal species and is equipped with open fields for recreation, greenways for biking and running, and access to the waterfront. As one colleague remarked, "This is the most complex public works project in the past 40 years and can be as game-changing for New York City as Central Park was. Eloise's work will have an impact that spans generations."

JOHN JAMES

Associate Job Opportunity Specialist III, Division of Fair Hearing Administration, New York City Human Resources Administration

Born and educated in India, John James came to New York in 1989 taking a job as a cashier at a drugstore in Queens. After passing a civil service exam, Mr. James began his career in NYC government at HRA in 1993. Twenty seven years and many promotions later, Mr. James now oversees a team of 12 staff members, who essentially act as lawyers for the agency and the City in Fair Hearing cases. These cases, which are presided over by 25 New York State judges, are the last opportunity for HRA clients to challenge previous rulings that changed the public benefits they received. Improving the process of Fair Hearings and eliminating any chance of clients erroneously losing benefits is a trademark of Mr. James' career. As one colleague said, "For John James, it is not about being right, but getting it right."  Sandy Bryant, Executive Director of the Fair Hearing Administration reflects, "John James is fearless, fair and a flexible worker who shows great initiative. There is no job within our agency he won't do. Even though he is one of my staff members, I would gladly work for him and follow his leadership any time."

OPAL SINCLAIR-CHUNG

Chief Nursing Officer, NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC)

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Opal Sinclair-Chung received accolades from staff at all levels at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, from staff at all levels at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, which operates a world-renowned Level 1 Trauma Center and serves as the 13th busiest Emergency Department in the country.  When she was hired in 2010, Kings County Hospital was undergoing structural and cultural change. Ms. Sinclair-Chung developed and implemented policies to improve the quality of nursing-related services, which has 1,500 full-time staff.  Her innovative practices, empathy for patients and nurses, as well as her commitment to excellence, which she personally demonstrates, ushered in a higher standard of patient care at the hospital and helped Kings County achieve high ratings by the Joint Commission on Hospitals.  When Covid-19 arrived, Kings County had the foundation in place to respond to the crisis. Says a colleague, "We at Kings County have had a difficult 2020, but because of Opal and her colleagues we can take great pride in our service to this community at a time of great need and urgency."

PEGGY WYNS-MADISON

Principal, PS 15K, the Patrick F. Daly Magnet School of the Arts, New York City Department of Education

Born and raised in Bedford Stuyvesant, Peggy Wyns-Madison wanted to be a teacher since the fourth grade. She graduated from Howard University in 1982 and taught for 15 years at PS 131, Brooklyn. She was a technology staff developer from 1997 to 2001.  In 2001, she became Assistant Principal of PS 15 and six years later, was named Principal, a position she has held for 13 years. She receives accolades from students, parents, teachers, Red Hook residents and the scores of nonprofit leaders who have programs at PS 15. Students designed the school's two playgrounds, helped build community gardens that grow fresh produce for residents, and are the stars of the feature-length documentary Microplastic Madness that details their work to help achieve Plastic Free Waters. Indisputably, PS 15 is a flagship for the community.  One parent recalls, "My daughter and I both felt a real sense of belonging and a sense of mission, like we were part of something larger that was doing good for everyone." Says another, "You feel welcomed and cared for the moment you walk into PS 15. That's all Peggy."  

STEVEN SCHINDLER

Director of Water Quality, Bureau of Water Supply, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Over one billion gallons of high quality drinking water flows into New York City daily. For the more than eight million residents who safely consume this water, they can thank Steven Schindler, who has been Director of Water Quality at DEP since 2003. A scientist and public servant, Mr. Schindler has scaled up the Bureau of Water Supply's laboratory and research capabilities. He and his team conduct millions of water quality tests annually both in New York City and the upstate watershed. This allows the Bureau to identify new contaminants and water quality issues before they become problems. His proactive approach has saved the City billions of dollars, including the need for a water filtration plant. As one City regulator noted, "Steve Schindler is the most outstanding individual I've ever worked with. He is unconcerned with anything other than ensuring the health of the public." In 2011, Hurricane Irene had the potential to completely overwhelm the upstate reservoir system and water supply but Steve and his team kept clean water flowing uninterrupted to New York City.

YANG ZENG

Director of the Flushing Library, Queens Public Library

As a Chinese immigrant, Yang Zeng relied on her local library in Canada to help her acclimate to life in a new country. "I was so grateful for all that the library gave me, I knew I wanted to do that for others."  For 25 years, she perfected her craft working at several neighborhood branches throughout Brooklyn and Queens.  In 2017, she was asked to be the Director of the Flushing Library in Queens, the busiest community library in the U.S.  With a staff of almost 80, it has 5,000 visitors daily (1.7 million a year), a circulation of more than 1 million and 3,000 program offerings attended by 180,000 people.  It is located in a neighborhood densely populated with immigrant communities from around the world and is an indispensable resource for its residents. Says one colleague, "Under Yang's leadership, the Flushing Library is more than a community center. It is the center of the Flushing community."  Adds another, "The Flushing Library is not just an invaluable community resource, but a hub of democracy."

 
 

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