As soon as you set foot into the building and walk up the dark red staircase to the smoky showroom, a mysterious aura kicks in as you warm up from the cold outside.
The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted its 110th annual Building Awards and Gala at the TWA Hotel in JFK airport last week, recognizing various development projects throughout the borough for achievements in construction, restoration, interior design, and more.
“I have the best job in the world, it really is my calling,” said chamber president and CEO Thomas Grech. “As a membership organization, 2020 was a terrible year. However, it was our board and our members who stepped up during that difficult time.”
Grech thanked a number of elected officials who helped secure relief money at the federal, local, and city level.
“As we move through the pandemic, private public partnerships will continue to be extremely crucial,” Borough President Donovan Richards said. “There are those who said we should go back to normal after the pandemic, but we know normal was never good enough for Queens county.”
Both Grech and Richards acknowledged the federal infrastructure bill currently stalled in the Senate, expressing hope the bill will pass and fund construction and repair projects for the borough’s roads, trains, and airports.
Carlo Scissura, head of the New York Building Congress, offered the keynote address at this year’s gala. Although he is a native Brooklyn, Scissura discussed Queens’ history of dreaming big and encouraged the borough’s public and private leaders to continue that tradition.
“You have everything in Queens, and you have a future that I think the people in the city and the state need to learn from,” Scissura said. “When people say New York is the center of the world, it’s because of a borough like Queens.
“Think about the vision people have in Queens,” he continued. “One-hundred years ago, Jackson Heights was fields and now it’s home to amazing apartment complexes. We transformed a valley of ashes into a park that hosted two World’s Fairs. Just look at the building we are in right now. It was the pinnacle of the aviation age and made you feel like a king or queen. All of this was built right here in Queens.”
In addition to the keynote address, a number of guest speakers helped distribute awards to the night’s recipients, including Assemblywoman Stacy Pheffer Amato and representatives from Maspeth Federal Savings Bank, the gala’s platinum sponsor.
This year’s gala event sold beyond capacity, another sign of recovery as Queens continues to build and grow after the pandemic.
“It’s great to see everyone in person,” said Thomas Santucci, chair of the Chamber’s board. “Nothing beats an event like this.”