Forty years ago, this September, friends got together in the basement of Walter Mahon’s home. They wanted more than a place to live. They wanted to know their shopkeepers and teachers by name. This was the beginning of Woodside on the Move. This is the spirit we are honoring at our Fall for Woodside Community Awards on September 27 at Claret Wine.
We will honor five exceptional leaders including small business owners Maria Iglesias, chef and owner of La Adelita, and Rachel Avendula of Payag Restaurant. At a time when big box stores are taking over NYC, these small business owners represent the soul of our neighborhoods. While serving up magic tequila sauce and lychee milkshakes, they also serve as hubs for neighbors to meet, talk shop about overdevelopment, and strategize on issues like the Small Business Job Survival Act (SBJSA), a bill in the City Council that would provide lease protection to commercial renters in NYC, including moms & pops.
It’s not just small businesses that are feeling the impacts of luxury development and gentrification. We also honor Stabilizing NYC, a coalition that is combating tenant harassment and preserving affordable housing for New Yorkers who need it most. Through legal action and organizing, Stabilizing is taking predatory equity landlords to task for patchwork repairs and bogus eviction cases. They fight for many Woodside and Sunnyside seniors on fixed incomes and new immigrant families hustling between low wage jobs to pay rent.
We also celebrate St. Pat’s for All. In 2016, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on 5th Avenue welcomed an Irish LGBTQ group for the first time, in part due to the activism of St. Pat’s for All that has been leading the way for equality for 17 years.
And we toast to Principal Vincent Vitolo, a lifelong resident of the Woodside/Sunnyside area, who always knew he wanted a career in elementary school education. Principal Vitolo began at P.S. 152 in 2005 where he initiated an affiliation with Woodside on the Move’s after school and summer camp program.
As we look forward, we are hopeful. We see tenant leaders standing up to abusive landlords, residents organizing for thoughtful solutions to address homelessness, displacement and the future of our neighborhoods, and local officials work alongside constituents.
As Woodside on the Move turns 40, we give gratitude to those who have left a legacy. We are confident that most lasting solutions are grassroots, resident-driven approaches. We march forward, eager to create a future that all of us can be proud to call home. Join us.