Charisma Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lawyers, political officials and community advocates came out to celebrate the 44th anniversary of the Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, at the New York Marriott Brooklyn Bridge last week. The room was replete with prominent leaders from New York City’s legal and corporate worlds and some of Brooklyn’s most recognized community members and elected officials.
The celebration consisted of an awards ceremony during which three individuals were honored for their contributions towards providing legal services for those in need and for building partnerships between organizations that serve Brooklyn communities.
William Cavanaugh, Jr., co-chair at Patterson, Belknap, was presented with the inaugural Judge Harold R. Tyler award for his and his firm’s commitment to pro bono work in addition to his public service work in the Department of Justice.
Though not a resident of Brooklyn, Cavanaugh expressed gratitude for the work that Brooklyn A does and the care it provides to Brooklynites.
“Brooklyn A is support,” said Cavanaugh. “I was asked to serve. When you are asked to serve [a community] you don’t find reasons why you can’t…you serve.” The late Judge Tyler’s daughter, Shelia Gregg, presented Cavanaugh with her father’s namesake award.
Mariadele Priest, a Fort Greene resident, received the Denis Berger Award in recognition of her outstanding work as a community advocate and coalition builder.
As vice president for community development banking at Capital One, Priest noted how her job allows her to apply an array of available tools to jump-start community development at the community level.
Councilwoman Diana Reyna accepted the Sargent Shriver award for her activism in the field of affordable housing in Brooklyn communities, and her commitment to the needs of the indigent minority, and working-class populations in Brooklyn.
Martin “Marty” Needelman, project director and chief counsel at Brooklyn Legal Services A, noted that Reyna “shows passion and commitment to our [Brooklyn] neighborhoods that goes beyond her job as a City council member.”
Reyna was very humbled by the honor and recognition that she received. “I accept this award for the community that has taught, that has struggled. My [Brooklyn] community receives this award with me,” she said in her acceptance speech.
Retelling a moving story of how she, at the age of 8, served as the advocate for her non-English-speaking parents as they contested an eviction from their Williamsburg home, Reyna cited this as the moment she became driven to serve her community.
Now representing NYC’s 34th District, including Williamsburg and Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Ridgewood, Queens, Reyna said, “It consumes you to want to serve.”
Samuel Seymour, former president of the New York State Bar Association and current Brooklyn resident, was “delighted to see the participation and support” for Brooklyn A.
“I’ve lived in Brooklyn long before it was cool,” said Seymour. “In Paris, when something is cool or trendy, it is now called ‘Tres Brooklyn’ (which translates to ‘very Brooklyn),” Seymour lightheartedly mentioned.
While the event was a celebration, Paul Acinapura, general counsel at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, reminded the audience of the important role that Brooklyn A plays.
“Brooklyn A crosses the line from community organization to community asset,” he said. “This transition is earned not merely by passage of time but by the commitment to the neighborhood,” he continued.
Citing the Brooklyn A’s announcement in August to dissociate from Legal Services NYC, Acinapura noted that “amongst the changes to the organization, [Brooklyn A]’s commitment to serving clients and becoming a part of the fabric of [Brooklyn’s] vibrant neighborhoods is steadfast.”
Brooklyn A is committed to sustaining, defending, and developing our [Brooklyn] neighborhoods,” he concluded.
At the close of the ceremony, Pooja Bansal, counsel to Brooklyn’s Borough President, presented Brooklyn A with a proclamation declaring Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012 “Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A Award Benefit Celebration Day.”