The Origins of St. Nicks, Part II
Sep 05, 2017 | 19373 views | 0 0 comments | 1832 1832 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, we shared part of an email we received from Michael Rochford, executive director of St. Nicks Alliance in north Brooklyn, who helped us fill in a lot of the details surrounding this undated photo from our archives.

To recap, the man at center is Father William Vetro, former principal of the former Bishop McDonnell High School, at far right is Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and in between them is Gary Hattem, who once led St. Nicks Alliance.

But this week, here's a little more on the history of the nonprofit from Mr. Rochford:

One of their first achievements was the redevelopment of property where the fire took place, which led to the building of Jennings Hall, a 150-unit housing development for senior citizens. This community-led development was a major turning point in grassroots efforts to revitalize Williamsburg.

St. Nicks Alliance went on to develop over 2,000 units of housing, rebuilt or constructed 75 residential or commercial buildings, all while launching industrial and commercial revitalization strategies.

Today the organization serves over 3,000 children, 1,200 elderly, and trains and places over 350 people in jobs each year at its Workforce Center on Broadway.

The photo documents the presentation of a contribution to St. Nicks Alliance by Citi Foundation. The two other people on the left side are Citi representatives, including Peg Swezey, who ran community and government affairs for Citibank in Queens and Brooklyn in the 80s.

A person familiar with Swezey that Hattem and Rochford reached out to had this to say about the woman who would become the first female president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, “She had a large pile of blond hair, an outgoing personality, a larger than life presence and an office that was full - on every wall and surface - of community awards.”

Reader Jeff Gottlieb also recognized Swezey, who he worked with in the mid-80s to publicize the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. He called her a “kind-hearted, generous person.”

According to Rochford, Citi Foundation continues investing in building economic opportunity through Progress Makers. Through Progress Makers, St Nicks Alliance created Career GPS this year, a new initiative that facilitates high school students and young adults who enter college or a career.

Thanks to everyone who got in touch with us for the information.
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