Monte Redman, president and CEO of Astoria Bank, was inducted into the chamber’s Hall of Fame. The Astoria native, born in the Ravenswood Houses and a graduate of Long Island City High School, spoke about his days attending the local Boys Club and taking the bus to swim in Astoria Park.
“Queens is always a part of me, it’s a special place,” Redman said. “I’m always going to be not just a Queens native, but a Queens person at heart.”
Redman joined Astoria Bank in 1977, and worked his way up the ladder to become CEO in July 2011. Under his watch, the community bank rebranded from Astoria Federal Savings to its current name in 2014.
Today, Astoria Bank offers retail and business banking, residential mortgages and commercial real estate lending.
“At Astoria Bank, we truly believe that community is important,” Redman said. “The overriding goal has been to become an integral part of the fabric of the communities we serve.”
Redman serves on the boards of several banking associations, and previously chaired the Tourette Association of America. An alumnus of New York Institute of Technology, Redman now serves on the college’s board of trustees.
He’s been honored by a handful of Queens-based institutions, including Queens Botanical Garden, Queens Council Boys Scouts of America, and Queens Theatre in the Park.
“My mother would be proud,” Redman said while accepting his award.
The chamber also honored John Kaiteris, executive director of HANAC, one of the city’s largest social service agencies. The Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee began in 1972 as a nonprofit to address the needs of new Greek immigrants in Astoria.
Today, HANAC builds affordable housing for seniors and provides services such as child and family counseling, substance abuse treatment and prevention, adult education and job training to both seniors and youth.
Kaiteris, who has been at the helm since 1973, spoke about the dire need for affordable senior housing in the borough. HANAC has already developed four senior housing projects, all in Queens. The latest groundbreaking was in Corona, where 68 affordable apartments will house the elderly.
“There’s an overwhelming need for affordable senior housing, and the need is growing,” he said. “The need is so great because of the rent burden many seniors have.”
Another project HANAC is working on is One Flushing, a development backed by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). The development would create 231 units of mixed-income affordable housing, including 66 units for seniors.
The proposal includes retail space, senior care services and a 5,000-square-foot community meeting facility on the first floor. Kaiteris touted the proposal because of the benefits it would provide for the general Flushing community.
“The housing becomes a platform for services for everyone in the surrounding community,” he said. “I’m very proud of that project.”
Kaiteris said too many seniors are sleeping or staying in subpar housing. He told stories about a Flushing woman who could only afford sleeping on a cot in an apartment, and another Sunnyside senior who lives in a cellar.
“These are the options and desperations seniors in Queens face today,” he said. “Each community has to become more receptive to affordable senior housing.”
Steve Wei, founder and senior partner of Wei, Wei & Co., the largest accounting firm in Queens, was also honored at the event. The Taiwan native came to the United States and started his own practice in 1969.
“Back then, Flushing was not like today,” he said.
Though many of his clients were doctors initially, Wei has expanded his expertise in audit and tax, and now has clients all around the country. His affiliations run deep, particularly with accounting associations and Asian-American groups.
The last honoree of the night was Rhonda Binda, executive director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District (BID). With Jamaica widely recognized as one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York City, Binda said the neighborhood has revitalized economically.
She credited her “recipe for success” to the importance of public-private partnerships, which brings investments into the neighborhood. The BID, she said, helps small businesses cut red tape, better market and advertise their goods and services, and modernize for the digital economy.
“We were able to help support the growth of our small businesses in unprecedented ways,” she said. “We know it’s the small businesses that truly grow our economies and create new jobs.”
Looking forward, Binda said she will continue to focus on technology, transportation and tourism to expand Jamaica’s businesses.
“Technology is so important today to better connect our businesses with customers around the city and globally to compete with the exponential growth of the digital market,” Binda said. “We’re currently planting the seeds to attract more technology-based businesses and innovation-focused companies to do business in Jamaica.”