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Pelham Bay Park

The Daily Plant : Thursday, October 21, 2010

Latino Society Honors Parkies At 2010 Alma Awards

The 2010 Alma Society award winners.
Malcolm Pinckney

On Tuesday, October 12, the Parks Latino Society commemorated Hispanic Heritage Month with its ninth annual Alma Achievers Awards, held at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park. The ceremony recognized the accomplishments and dedication of ten Latino Parks employees. The Latino Society also acknowledged the work of Lizbeth Gonzalez, President of Friends of Pelham Bay Park, with its annual Community Service Award.

The ten honorees were nominated by their peers and supervisors for their dedication to Parks & Recreation, and represented all of the boroughs and divisions in the agency, including Operations, Recreation, the Parks Opportunity Program (P.O.P.), and the Urban Park Service. First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh and Councilmember Fernando Cabrera, from District 14 in the Bronx, delivered remarks before the awards were presented.

The Latino Society recognized ten Parkies with the Alma Award: Fidel Rodriguez of 5-Borough, David Velasquez of Public Programs, Roberto Barreto of Manhattan, Sandra Fernandez of Staten Island, Nancy Mercado of the Urban Park Service, Mario Delgado of Brooklyn, Cristal Rivera in Administration, Cesareo Torres of The Bronx, Carmen Colon in Capital, and Hiram Diaz of Queens were all presented with the award in front of a packed crowd of families, coworkers, and friends.

“We are extremely proud of the ninth annual Alma Awards,” Iris Rodriguez-Rosa, a Latino Society founder and Queens Chief of Recreation, told the Plant. “We were so proud of all the awards winners, and in particular of Lizbeth Gonzalez, who we honored for her commitment to community service.”

For the past five years, Gonzalez has worked tirelessly to help make Pelham Bay Park a better place. In 2005, she started a Trails Committee within the Friends of Pelham Bay Park and has developed a monthly volunteer group of 10-15 adults who help to maintain and restore portions of the Kazimiroff Nature Trail and the Bridle Path. The Friends of Trails Committee has grown to host eight annual projects. They plant trees, clear invasive vines, and clean up the park’s shorelines.

Gonzalez is now President of Friends of Pelham Bay Park, and she is currently working with Pelham Bay Park Administrator Marianne Anderson to develop the organization into a broader public-private partnership to improve stewardship, programming, and facilities for the largest park in New York City. Gonzalez is a Civil Court Judge in Bronx County and is president of the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage.

Rodriguez-Rosa said that in accepting her award, Gonzales spoke about the beauty of city parks and how proud she is to be associated with so many talented and dedicated individuals.

“She said that her mother was her inspiration for teaching her how to appreciate her surroundings,” Rodriguez-Rosa explained. “When they walked through the park, her mother would tell her look at a tree and really see the beauty in it.”

The Latino Society, a fraternal organization of employees of Latino descent, was established by six Parkies in 1987, including Rodriguez-Rosa. Today, she sits on the executive board along with Raymundo Gomez, Howard Febo, Albert Ayala, Ramon Cordero, and Gabe Ramos. About 20 percent of full-time Parks employees, as well as about 25 percent of the job training participants hired in the last fiscal year, are of Hispanic origin.

With the annual Alma Awards, the Latino Society seeks to uphold the principles and integrity of American Democracy, to encourage social and educational opportunities, and to support the general welfare of its members through recognition and support. Throughout the year, the Latino Society also concentrates on fostering the culture, spirit and language of Latino Heritage. The Society holds regular informational seminars on career advancement, civil service requirements, and employee benefits, and often sponsors social events to bring the Hispanic Parkie community together. The Latino Society is always looking to expand, and interested Parkies are encouraged to join.

“How strange that nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude!”
Emily Dickinson
(1830 – 1886)

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