Some of the best city workers are right here in Brooklyn.
Five civil servants who either live or work in the borough are recipients of this year’s Sloan Public Service Awards.
“Government employees are the backbone of this city whose diligence and dedication to improving the lives of all New Yorkers is sometimes overlooked,” said Mary McCormick, president of the Fund for the City of New York, which presented the awards.
The Brooklyn-based recipients are Christina Fuentes, principal of PS 24 Sunset Park Elementary School; Robert Lange, a Park Slope resident and the city Department of Sanitation’s director of Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling; Carrie Banks, a Windsor Terrace resident and supervising librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library; Sonia Galarza, a Midwood resident and the Department of Juvenile Justice’s director of programs; and Dr. Julius Berger, professor and chairman of Kings County Hospital Center’s Department of Dentistry and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
Banks believes awards are unnecessary. Her job is rewarding enough. She created the Child’s Place for Children with Special Needs program catering to kids with disabilities in the BPL’s Flatlands, Greenpoint, Saratoga, Marcy, Red Hook and Sunset Park branches.
“My job is simply the best I can imagine having. It takes relatively little to make a huge impact in lives of others,” Banks said. “I love watching children and their families, who may experience discrimination and stigmatization in other places, feel that they belong in the library and the library belongs to them.”
Fuentes considers herself lucky to work with children at PS 24, which offers a dual language program for 800 low-income and predominantly Hispanic students.
“I get great satisfaction from touching the lives of students and working with teams of educators,” Fuentes said. “A principal’s work has limitless possibilities to help fulfill the promise of public education.”
Galarza spends her days with children — but in a very different environment.
“The mission of the Department of Juvenile Justice has always been custody and care, but I have never seen it that way. I see our mission as planting seeds and making a difference in our residents’ lives, with the hope that they do not end up on Riker’s Island or six-feet under,” Galarza said. “What began as a job 25 years ago has become my mission in life.”
Although he doesn’t live in Brooklyn, Berger cares for area residents and “gives back” at Kings County Hospital Center, located at 451 Clarkson Ave.
“I was born in Washington Heights in an enclave of people who fled from Nazi Germany. Growing up in the manner that we did, we all had the feeling that we should give back to society and live towards the highest moral and ethical standards,” Berger said. “What I especially love is having an impact on young practitioners and imparting knowledge to young residents.”
At the Department of Sanitation, Lange is New York City’s recycling guru. The job is good for the city — and Lange’s love life.
“There are aspects to being the director of recycling in NYC that echo the myth of eternal recurrence — think Bill Murray in Groundhog Day,” Lange said. “There are also ample rewards that cause me to embrace such a fate, like meeting my future wife, working with some of the most intelligent and hardest working people in city government, and assisting along with my very dedicated staff to give birth to an unusual but necessary city service.”
©2010 Community News Group
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