By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn’s business community sent its largest contingent ever to Albany to meet with key elected officials and representatives of the Cuomo administration as crucial negotiations got underway in anticipation of the April 1 deadline for the state Legislature to adopt a state budget.
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce led a group of more than 90 members for a two-day visit that started on March 13 and ran right up against Winter Storm Stella.
But the snow didn’t deter Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of the chamber, and chamber members from the chance to talk to legislators about issues of importance to the borough’s business owners.
“This is our largest contingent ever and it says something about how engaged our members are,” Hoan told the Brooklyn Eagle prior to the start of a luncheon that kicked off the series of events for chamber members in the state Capitol. Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY), was the guest speaker at the luncheon.
Hoan became the chamber’s leader in December.
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1918, is the largest chamber of commerce in New York state, according to Hoan. The organization has more than 2,100 members, from large corporations to mom-and-pop stores.
Headquartered at 335 Adams St. in Downtown Brooklyn, the chamber offers assistance to businesses large and small, promotes the borough nationally and internationally as a great place to do business and serves as a voice for the business community with elected officials.
The chamber also works with individual business owners to assist them in promoting an online presence and develop funding sources to help the company expand.
During the Albany visit, chamber members met with virtually every member of the Brooklyn delegations to the state Senate and state Assembly. With 21 members, the Assembly’s Brooklyn delegation is the largest in that legislative body. Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (D-North Brooklyn) is the chairman of the Brooklyn delegation. There are six state senators representing the borough.
Hoan said one issue the chamber planned to discuss at length with lawmakers was a proposal to extend the state’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP). Set to expire in June, the program offers business income tax credits to business owners who relocate jobs to areas outside of Manhattan.
The chamber has endorsed a plan to extend REAP in perpetuity. “It’s very important,” Hoan told the Eagle.
Chamber members expressed a variety of reasons for making the trek up to Albany.
Rafael Mavi, founder of Unplugged Influence, a sales consulting firm, said he was looking forward to speaking directly to elected officials. “I want to hear them out, to get a feel for things,” he told the Eagle.
Mavi is one of the chamber’s newer members, having joined a month ago. When asked why he became a member, he said the idea of networking was a factor in his decision. “I want to expand my business and I also want to deliver value to the chamber,” he said.
Elaine Brodsky, president of the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, said she and her leadership team came to Albany with a goal of making people aware of the chamber and what it does.
The Greenpoint chamber was originally founded in 1930 but has been revitalized in recent years.
It is a member of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and has worked out an agreement that allows members who join the Greenpoint group to also become members of the larger Brooklyn organization, Brodsky said.
Lyn S. Hill, a vice president at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, has been traveling to Albany every year with the chamber for more than 20 years.
“I have always found the trips to be very productive,” she told the Eagle.