By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Neighborhood Improvement Association, a Dyker Heights-based organization that has won praise for its outreach efforts to schoolchildren and senior citizens, will hand out some praise of its own when it honors six southwest Brooklyn law enforcement, business, and educational leaders at its 15th Annual Community Recognition Awards Dinner.
Assistant Police Chief Owen Monaghan, commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, is one of the honorees who will receive an award at the dinner, which will take place on Thursday, Oct. 3, at Gargiulo’s Restaurant at 2911 West 15th St., in Coney Island, at 6 p.m.
Monaghan will be presented with the Outstanding Law Enforcement Award by the Neighborhood Improvement Association (NIA).
Harry Nespoli, president of Local 831 of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Union, has been named NIA’s Man of the Year.
NIA is giving its Distinguished Brooklynite Award this year to lawyer Joseph Seminara of the law firm Grimaldi & Yueng. “Joe was our lawyer when NIA was first starting out back in 1981,” NIA Executive Director Rosa Cassella told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “Even today, we still call on his expertise,” she said.
The Leadership in Business Award will go to Rosario Gangi, owner of Gangi Heating and Plumbing in Dyker Heights.
Two women involved in education, Laurie Windsor, president of the Community Education Council of School District 20, and Nancy Tomasuolo, principal of PS 204 in Bensonhurst, will be given the Community Service and Educational Leader awards respectively.
“I’m very honored. I’ve had a close relationship with NIA for many years,” Windsor told the Eagle. “I’ve worked with them on a lot of projects,” she said.
“We like to give awards to people who have done a lot for the community and who have been supportive of the NIA,” Cassella said.
The annual dinner also serves as a fundraiser for the NIA. The group also receives grants, donations, and other sources of funding.
Under the leadership of its president, Michael Bove, CEO Mary Ann Cino, and Cassella, NIA has grown over the past three decades from a small group of community do-gooders cleaning up graffiti to an organization employing 30 full time employees and 300 part-time workers. The headquarters is located at 6614 11th Ave. in Dyker Heights. NIA in Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Coney Island.
NIA sponsors after-school programs in 16 schools, offering thousands of children a chance to take drama classes, take part in writing workshops, play basketball, and get homework help. “The after-school program is not a baby-sitting service,” Cassella said. “We don’t just want to watch them. We want to enrich their lives. We consult with teachers to find out what lessons they’re doing in the classroom so that we can continue that after-school in case the child needs some extra help,” she said.
At one school alone, PS 186 in Bensonhurst, 585 children are enrolled in the NIA after-school program.
“We also have parenting workshops. We go to schools to talk to parents,” Cassella said.
NIA offers social service referrals, sponsors graffiti cleanups, and works closely with the three police precincts in its service area, the 62nd in Bensonhurst, the 66th in Borough Park, and the 68th in Bay Ridge.
NIA also sponsors health and wellness programs for senior citizens, offering advice on how to exercise and eat healthy foods. NIA assists Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Bensonhurst-Dyker Heights-Sunset Park) at the lawmaker’s annual senior picnic, an annual event that takes place at the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bay Ridge.
“They’re one of the premiere organizations in the community. They’re a vital part of the community,” Abbate said.
In recent years, NIA has expanded its coverage area to offer programs in Crown Heights and State Island.
Tickets for the dinner are $125 each. For more information, call NIA at 718-236-5266.