Donald C. Notice, honoree NYC Comptroller John C. Liu, emcee Dyanna Williams (Photo by Bernard Raglin)

*Len Burnett, Hon. John C. Liu, Tamara Tunie, Gregory Generet and Capital One Bank were the 2011 laudatory honorees at the West Harlem Group Assistance Center (WHGA) celebration of four decades of housing development and neighborhood preservation efforts in West and Central Harlem.

The festive celebratory event, which took place on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at Aaron Davis Hall on the pristine grounds of City College of New York, attracted community and business leaders and politicians.  Broadcaster Dyana Williams served as Mistress of Ceremonies and presided over the awards program following a lavish dinner.

During the awards the esteemed honorees were introduced by equally distinguished presenters.  Burnett, CEO and group publisher of Uptown Media and Vibe Lifestyle Network was introduced by Keith Clinkscales; NYC Comptroller John C. Liu was introduced by Williams; actress-director-philanthropist Tamara Tunie and her husband jazz vocalist and community activist Gregory Generet were introduced by chef Alexander Smalls; and Capital One Bank was introduced by event chair Maurice Coleman.  Vice president and bank manager Marlon March accepted for Capital One.

Honoree Leonard E. Burnett Jr. with presenter Keith Clinkscales (Photo by Karl Crutchfield)

Vy Higginsen’s Gospel for Teens opened the show with a rousing, spirit-filled performance and legendary R&B trio Ray, Goodman and Brown closed the show with a soulful performance of some of their favorite oldies but goodies to the thorough delight of the upscale crowd.

Honorary chair, The Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, senior pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church and founder and chair of Abyssinian Development Corporation and president, State University of New York College at Old Westbury, was unable to attend but pre-taped a very gracious (and often humorous) message especially for the occasion.

Maurice Coleman, senior vice president, Bank of America, served as event chair.  In addition to Bank of America, other sponsors of benefit fundraiser included Phipps Houses Group, BNY Mellon, Capital One Bank, Citi, Columbia University, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and TMA Contracting Corp.

Since its inception WHGA has developed more than 1,200 units of affordable housing, created approximately 325 units of home ownership opportunities and moved more than 3,000 families from transitional to permanent housing in 40 years.

WHGA is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit community-based development corporation established in 1971 to revitalize the under-invested West and Central Harlem communities — then riddled with dilapidated and abandoned buildings.

Ironically, as its preservation efforts have taken hold and Harlem experiences a rapid influx of new businesses and investments, WHGA’s primary function has become to quell the negative impacts of rapid gentrification on its low to moderate-income constituency, with a renewed focus on preservation of homes and businesses.  For more information on WHGA visit www.whgainc.org.

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.