Flushing Town Hall held its 40th Anniversary Gala on Thursday, June 6, honoring former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and Emily Lin, Principal at Lin + Associates. The annual benefit supports Flushing Town Hall’s year-round arts and cultural programs that serve more than 58,000 people annually.
As guests arrived at the landmark Northern Boulevard venue, they were greeted by the Shinbone Alley Stilt Band and then enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the venue’s tranquil garden. Among the attendees were: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz; New York City Council Members Peter Koo and Karen Koslowitz; New York State Senators Toby Stavisky and John Liu; New York State Assembly Members Ron Kim and Ed Braunstein; Jordan Beberman, representing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; and Sandra Ung, representing U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants: Jo-Ann Jones, the founder of Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts; Claire Shulman, the Queens Borough president who helped save Flushing Town Hall; Howard Graf, our long-time Board President; and, many others who are in the room tonight,” Ellen Kodadek, Flushing Town Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director, said during her welcome remarks. “Forty years ago, in 1979, Jo-Ann Jones founded Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts. Jo-Ann had a vision that Queens needed a new kind of arts organization that would celebrate all of the different cultures being brought to the borough by different immigrant groups, and she dedicated her fledgling organization to the mission of ‘intercultural exchange’.”
Forty years later, Flushing Town Hall, a Smithsonian Affiliate and member of New York City’s Cultural Institutions Group (CIG), is drawing audiences from near and far. Just last year, the institution greeted nearly 60,000 New Yorkers, including 22,000 students, seniors and disabled populations served through its arts education programs, adhering to its mission to provide “global arts for a global community.” Check out our 40th-anniversary video below!
JHS 189 students, The Balsam Trio, and the Cumbia River Band entertained the more than 200 attendees through the evening, and the event’s Paddle Raise for Education exceeded Flushing Town Hall’s expectations. “We were very grateful for the generosity of our guests, with some pledges coming in by phone and even overseas during the event,” Ms. Kodadek said. “Donations to support enrichment and educational programs for children, seniors and students are still very welcome, and can be donated online, by mail, or in person.”
At the celebration, Flushing Town Hall presented its first Jo-Ann Jones Award for Devoted Leadership to Claire Shulman, who was Queens’s first female Borough President, serving from 1986 to 2002. As the highest-ranking elected official in Queens, Ms. Shulman focused on land use, development of the City’s expense and capital budgets, economic development, and health care.
“This building (Flushing Town Hall) is here and I love it. I knew Jo-Ann Jones. She was an incredible, phenomenal, wonderful woman and she loved this building. She and Howard Graf got together, and it took love because this building is a landmark and fixing up this building was not easy, but they did a magnificent job,” said Ms. Shulman. “I love the building. Ellen is doing a very good job and that makes me feel very secure. Because when you spend taxpayer’s money you want to make sure that it goes to a good purpose. I am very proud to be part of this.”
During her tenure, Ms. Shulman was pivotal in ensuring the development and growth of a number of Queens cultural institutions, including Flushing Town Hall, and shepherded the rezoning of dozens of neighborhoods to create appropriate zoning restrictions, the economic revitalization of communities, including downtown Jamaica and western Queens, expanded the Borough’s infrastructure, and increased funding for senior citizen centers, cultural programs, and libraries.
Ms. Shulman currently serves as the President and CEO of the Flushing Willets Point Corona LDC, a nonprofit that focuses on development initiatives including the creation of housing and community open space, opportunities for health and wellness, and improvements to infrastructure and mass transit options.
Flushing Town Hall presented its second annual Howard Graf Award (named after Flushing Town Hall’s longtime former Board Chair) for Creative Design & Architecture to Emily Lin, Principal, Lin + Associates Architects, PC, which she founded in 1995. Located in Kew Gardens, Ms. Lin’s practice includes a wide range of condominium, residential, commercial, institutional, religious, retail, interior and multi-use projects throughout the Tri-State Area. She and her husband have developed and managed multiple real estate development projects in New York City. “Flushing Town Hall has always been one of the institutions in my heart,” Ms. Lin said up on receiving the award.
Born in Taiwan in 1956, she emigrated to the U.S. in 1971 with her family, attended public high school, and received her architectural training and professional degree from Pratt Institute in 1979 as well as completed advanced studies at Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1992. She has served on the boards of the American Institute of Architects, Asian American Business Women Association, Garden of Hope, Queens Botanical Garden, and Queens Economic Development Corporation, and received numerous awards and recognitions, including a Lifetime Achievement Award and Business Person of the Year Award, both from Queens Chamber of Commerce, and an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2012.