Front row (left to right): AAFE Executive Director Chris Kui; Councilwoman Margaret Chin; AAFE Board Member Jackie Huey; AAFE Board Secretary Suki Terrada-Ports; AAFE Board President Wendy Takahisa; Pioneer Spirit Awardee and President of Astella Development Corp. Judi Stern Orlando; Pioneer Spirit Awardee and Neighborworks America Regional Director Deborah Boatright; Pioneer Spirit Awardee and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito
Back row (left to right): Neighborworks America Relationship Manager Keith Getter; AAFE Board Member Mitchell Wong; AAFE Board Member Fred Hung; AAFE Board Member Marie Pedraza; AAFE Board Treasurer Stephen Davey; Edison Properties Vice President of Planning and Development Anthony Borelli

In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) convened its 6th Community Development Conference on May 14, 2013 in New York to examine the socio-economic contributions of New York’s growing Asian Pacific American community.  This day-long summit brought together over 250 leaders from housing and community organizations, corporations, foundations, government agencies, academic institutions, as well as local, state, and national elected offices.

In opening remarks, AAFE Board President Wendy Takahisa shared the significance of the conference:

This year’s theme “Building Our Communities with Resiliency and Strength” is one that we at AAFE hold very close to our hearts. These values of resiliency and strength      have guided us in our service to the Asian American community for the past four decades.  Over the course of the day we will have an opportunity to reflect on the significant grow and development of Asian Americans in New York City. We will also share in a dialogue about what is at stake for our communities in the upcoming 2013 elections for the Mayor, other city wide offices and a new City Council. We will spend today thinking about our roles and responsibilities to each other – and to other communities – our civic commitment.

AAFE Executive Director Chris Kui added:

It really has been an impressive year for AAFE. Day in and day out, AAFE’s remarkable and committed staff serve thousands of Asian Americans, immigrants, and every day New Yorkers. They have helped countless individuals become citizens; buy their first home; start a business; fight for their rights, and go to college.  In addition to all this we were faced with the worst disaster in our city since 9/11—Superstorm Sandy. This conference gives us a chance to take a moment to reflect on everything that happened locally and nationally in the past year, including Sandy.  What I am most excited about is the opportunity for us to learn from all the on-the-ground practitioners who are committed to improving our great city

To kick off the conference in the morning, Asian American Federation’s (AAF) Howard Shih presented his organization’s latest reports on the demographics of the Asian community in New York City and throughout the state.  The data AAF collected will help community organizations and other groups to better meet the needs of the APA population.  To view the report on NY State’s APA community, click here.  To view the report on NYC’s APA community, click here.

The luncheon keynote speaker for the conference was Darryl Towns.  He was selected by Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve as Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), which includes all the state’s integrated housing and community renewal agencies and programs.  During his speech, Towns discussed HCR’s latest initiatives, including proposed changes to rent regulation and the establishment of a tenant protection unit.

At the end of the evening, AAFE honored individuals and groups with the Pioneer Spirit Award given to those who challenge public perceptions about APAs and immigrants, as well as push for policy changes that improve our everyday lives: Deborah Boatright, Regional Director of Northeast Region, Neighborworks America; Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York City Council District 8; and Judi Stern-Orlando, Executive Director, Astella Development Corporation