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St. Nicholas group applauds neighborhood activism

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The St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation hosted its fourth annual Rising Stars celebration last Thursday, honoring more than 80 activists for their work for local causes.

Four honorees received special recognition as “partner” honorees to “St. Nick’s,” the multi−pronged social service organization that reaches more than 9,000 people in North Brooklyn: Mario Aguila, Peter Gillespie, Dianne Jackson, Juan Ramos, and Alicja Winnicki.

Aguila is president of the Community Education Council for District 14, and an active leader in Williamsburg’s Boy Scouts Troop 997. A lifeline resident of Williamsburg, Aguila was first elected to the CEC in 2003 before assuming the presidency in 2007.

Gillespie is the executive director of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, known locally by the acronym NAG. The non−profit was formerly called Neighbors Against Garbage, which speaks to its original purpose: to shut down a waste transfer station on the Northside Williamsburg waterfront in 1998.

Since then, NAG’s purview has expanded. Among many other projects, the organization is collaborating with another community non−profit, The People’s Firehouse, Inc. to build a community center and art gallery at the site of the old Engine 212 firehouse at 134 Wythe Avenue.

Jackson is president of the Cooper Park Resident Association in East Williamsburg. In that position, she has become a citywide voice for the preservation of public housing. She has also advocated for protecting her community from the environmental harm of waste transfer trucks on the streets of East Williamsburg.

Ramos is the chair of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC), a group that opposes the city’s controversial rezoning plan for the Broadway Triangle – a large tract of land at the intersection of Williamsburg, Bedford−­Stuyvesant, and Bushwick – from manufacturing into residential because of what it claims is an exclusive manner in which it is being executed. St. Nick’s is also a member of this coalition.

Ramos works for Safe Horizons, the anti−domestic violence group, running support groups for perpetrators of domestic violence.

Winnicki, in her fourth year as principal of Greenpoint’s PS 34 (131 Norman Avenue), has gained a reputation for her work in the school in the community. She has created school−based community programs like an English as a Second Language program.

“St. Nick’s would not have been able to achieve nearly as much as we have without the tireless work of these honorees,” said Michael Rochford, executive director of St. Nick’s and the event’s emcee.

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