It was all about community service at this year’s annual Brooklyn Real Estate Board’s (BREB) holiday celebration, held Weds., Dec. 12 at the Rex Manor at 1100 60th Street.
Also known as the Bay Ridge Real Estate Board, the organization presented awards to a distinguished group of eight well-deserving honorees – civic activists, lawyers, educators, doctors, and, yes, realtors, from all parts of the borough.
The evening was hosted by Deborah Iemma of Empire State Realty Services. She welcomed guests and called beloved real estate agent Dino Lamia to the podium. Lamia, a decorated WWII veteran who celebrated his 97th birthday on Dec. 5, is one of the longest serving members of the Brooklyn Real Estate Board.
Iemma recognized the club’s board of directors: President Geri Giancola, Vice-Presidents Felix Burgos and Madeline Caudiano, Secretary Katherine Vero, Financial Secretary Sayel Tayar and Co-Treasurers Margaret Ranieri and Eufemia Maldari.
She also acknowledged the evening’s sponsors including Northfield Bank, Big Apple Abstract Corp., Geri and Richard Giancola, the Merchants of Third Avenue, and Properties by Joanne Valerio.
Michael Prayor was honored as outstanding brooklyn high school superintendent. He was the principal of Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology before becoming high school superintendent for Districts 17, 18, 20, 21 and 22. “When I think of leadership I’m really thinking about empowering our students to be leaders,” Prayor said.
Giancola introduced Brian Chin, VP Bay Ridge branch manager at Northfield Bank. Chin has been involved in banking for over 14 years and active in many local community organizations. He currently serves on the board of the BREB, the Merchants of Third Avenue, the Bay Ridge Senior Center, the Colonial Club, Reaching Out Community Services and the Guild for Exceptional Children and is the incoming president of the BNI.
“I consider him Mr. Congeniality,” Giancola said. “He’s known for his gentlemanly charm and greets everyone he meets in a welcoming manner.”
Chin was grateful to all his colleagues and friends who came to support him, adding, “According to GQ magazine, Brooklyn is the coolest place on the planet!”
Caudiano presented realtor Harriet Robinson with the Humanitarian Award for Dedication to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She explained that Robinson became passionate about Make-A-Wish “because she saw first-hand the joy children have when they receive a wish.”
District 20 Community Superintendent Karina Costantino introduced honoree Dianne Gounardes, recipient of the Outstanding Early Childhood Educational Director award.
Gounardes oversees all the pre-k centers in District 20. “I knew of no other person to tap to lead my early childhood pre-k centers, all 11 of them,” Costantino said. “She really does run a small district with close to 1,300 students. . . It’s the largest pre-k center in New York City.”
Gounardes thanked her staff, with many of her site coordinators and teachers at the ceremony. “We have 240 people in our organization. We have 11 buildings across Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Sunset Park, Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights,” she said.
She invited everyone to come visit the Pre-K centers to see what the children do. “They come in as babies and they leave us as little people. It’s just amazing to see the transition,” she added.
The other award recipients were Dr. Gabriel Rincon, a dentist, for Outstanding Leadership in Health & Community Service; dance instructor Patricia LaBella McGuire for Outstanding Entrepreneurship & Dedication to the Art of Dance; lawyer and civic leader Robert Giancola for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Law & Community Service; and educator Johanna Castronovo for Outstanding Elementary School Principal.