By Daniel Offner
The Queens Chamber of Commerce held its annual St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, March 16, at Terrace on the Park in Flushing.
Hundreds of business and community leaders from all across the borough gathered at this year’s festivities honoring NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell and Real Estate Board of New York President/CEO James Whelan.
The annual event, held in celebration of the contributions of Irish-Americans in Queens, also included delicious corned beef and cabbage and networking opportunities.
“The influence of Irish-American and immigrants and their descendents on politics, industry, labor, arts and religion beginning as early as the 1700s is evident and apparent to this day,” Commissioner Sewell told the audience.
“I’d like to acknowledge and dedicate this year’s public safety award to the men and women of the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and to all the members of the NYPD who suit up every single day to police this complicated and revered city. They are everything we can hope for and need them to be.”
Sewell, a 25-year Nassau County Police veteran, is the first woman to serve this role in the NYPD’s 176-year history. Over the years she has led hostage negotitations spearheaded initiatives to get guns and drugs off the streets and has beena member of the federal terrorism task force.
Following her presentation, she was presented with the Public Service Award from Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Grech.
“After two years of losses for Queens residents and not being able to gather in person, it is a joy today to bring together business and community leaders to celebrate the amazing contributions that Irish immigrants and Irish-Americans have made to our business community,” Grech said.
“They have helped make Queens and New York City a thriving borough, leading the comeback from COVID-19, and ensuring Queens remains a great place to work, live, and do business. And we are grateful for the opportunity to honor Commissioner Sewell and James Whelan for their efforts in bringing our borough and city back.”
This year, the St. Patrick’s Irish American of the Year Award was presented to James Whelan, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, the city’s leading real estate trade association representing commercial, residential, and institution property owners, builders, managers, investors, brokers, sales people and other corporations.
Whelan oversees all of the board activities including advocating for effective public and industry policy, supporting the association’s 17,000 members with technical resources and educational opportunities, and connecting industry leaders with other business and community leaders to foster constructive civic partnerships and impactful results.
“Having been born and bred in Queens, and now raising my family in this wonderful borough, it’s an honor to be recognized at today’s event,” Whelan said.
“The chamber has taken on significant efforts to position the borough and city on the road to recovery coming out of this pandemic and I look forward to continuinwg to work with this organization.”
The luncheon also featured a presentation of colors by the 2nd Battalion 25th Marines, led by Color Sergeant Pillco; the National Anthem, sung by Danasia Davis; a benediction from Reverend James A. Kuroly, rector and president of the Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary; remarks by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, NYPD Commissioner Sewell, Whelan and Queens Chamber Board Chair Thomas Santucci; and a performance by the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes & Drums band.
“Our borough’s Irish roots are strong and deep, going back centuries. As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, we honor our Irish-American heritage and all that our neighbors of Irish descent have contributed to the growth and success of The World’s Borough,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Thank you to the Queens Chamber of Commerce for its efforts to revitalize our small business community as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and congratulations to today’s honorees.”
Also in attendance were NYC Councilman James Gennaro, Councilwoman Vickie Paladino, New York State Senator Leroy Comrie, and New York State Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman and Assemblyman David Weprin.