American Dream At Work In Queens
month and a half ago, Crain’s New York Business, published its
list of New York’s 100 most powerful minority business leaders. Like
much of our city’s media, Crain’s Manhattan-centric view of New
York, ignores much of the outer boroughs.
you’re not with a Fortune 500 company, unless you make headlines you
don’t get recognized. It’s similar with the arts, education and many
fields of endeavor — there’s Manhattan and then there’s the rest of
we see it differently. But that’s not what we focus on today.
we reviewed Crain’s list of New York’s 100 most powerful
minority business leaders, three names jumped out at us. There were three
people we knew — friends — business friends, at the least. Three
Queens guys — one black, one Asian, and one — Latino jumped off the
Manhattan- molded page and stood out yelling Queens to this
outerboroughphile. Perhaps there are others on the list that reside or
work in our borough, but none as much a part of the community as Floyd
Flake, Thomas Chen or Napoleon Barragan.
Flake is the personification of modern black power in our city. As far as
this political analyst is concerned, Flake, — not Sharpton, Rangel or
any of the dozens of elected African American officials — has the
ability to, if he chooses, clearly emerge as the dominant electable
citywide or statewide candidate of color in New York. He has and continues
to have opportunities to serve our nation at the Cabinet level.
has, at least for the moment, opted for other callings.
11-year Congressional veteran continues to serve as senior pastor of the
10,000 member Allen AME cathedral in Southeast Queens. During Flake’s
25-year tenure at Allen, it has become one of the nation’s foremost
Christian churches and nonprofit corporations. The church’s annual
operating budget of $29 million, expansive commercial and residential
development, 500-student private school founded by Rev. Flake and his wife
Elaine which is undergoing significant expansion, and various commercial
and social service enterprises have placed it as a national leader among
religious, urban development institutions.
serves as President of his alma mater Wilberforce University and of Edison
Charter Schools, the nation’s largest schooling company — a $350
million corporation with a capitalization value exceeding $1 billion
dollars — making Flake one of the highest-ranking African American
corporate executives in America. Edison operates 113 public schools
nationwide, either through contracts with Boards of Education or as
has authored a book, I’ve seen him preaching on television, and
political hopefuls of both parties, from Southeast Queens locals to
Presidential candidates attend services at his cathedral seeking his
blessing and endorsement.
only is Flake clearly one of Queens most influential leaders, he is a
national force in politics, religion, education and business, who we will
be hearing about for years to come.
Asian community is alive, well, vibrant and growing in Queens. No one
typifies that community’s work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit and the
commitment to serving his people, as Thomas Chen, founder and CEO of
Crystal Windows and Door Systems.
selected, — as one of its minority business leaders, — the 47 year-old
Chen, “who came to Queens from Taiwan with little more than a drive to
Chen’s Crystal Windows employs 340 people nationwide, with about 283
workers in Queens — mostly Asian and Hispanic immigrants who have come
to Queens in search of their own dream.
year Crystal opened a new $20 million, 165,000 square foot facility in
College Point. The building not only houses the company production
facilities, it also includes a museum, open to the public on weekends. The
Crystal Foundation Art Gallery helps showcase local artists, especially
was just awarded a million dollar grant from the New York City Investment
Fund, which invests in ventures that generate jobs and promote
entrepreneurial activity. The money is to be used for expansion of the
company which produced more than 400,000 windows and doors last year.
believes in giving back to the community. Last month he announced the
donation of $250,000 over the next five years to establish a scholarship
endowment fund with Queensborough Community College — the single largest
donation for scholarships in the college’s 43-year history. The
scholarships will provide immigrant students with intensive language and
culture training to position them for success in the business world and in
the American mainstream.
year, when I reacquired the Tribune, I was thrilled to have
Thomas Chen join us as one of our investors. Thomas is one of those rare
individuals who lives the American dream and then dedicates himself to
helping others have the same opportunity.
example is a tribute to the spirit of Queens society.
proud to call him a friend.
Napoleon Barragan is another impressive story of the American dream come
true. The native of Ecuador moved here with his family in 1969. After a
series of factory jobs, he opened a furniture store in Jamaica, Queens.
than 25 years ago, from that furniture store, Nap demonstrated the drive
and marketing genius that created Dial-A-Mattress, his company with more
than $100 million in sales and a slogan that was emblazoned on the
American consciousness: “Dial M-A-T-T-R-E-S and leave the last ‘S’
off for savings.”
now sells mattresses in 50 showrooms in the northeast, via phone
(1-800-Mattress), and on the internet at mattress.com.
had the pleasure recently of meeting with Nap in my office. He was there
basically to tell me about his desire to help people of Queens learn
had founded a foreign language school when he lived in Colombia before
coming to the United States. One of the first applications of his creative
management skills in his new home Queens was the development with the help
of his church, of a one-on-one language exchange learning program. Through
simple classified advertising, Nap would locate and recruit Americans who
wanted to learn or practice a foreign language and team them up with
immigrants who were fluent in their language of choice and wanted to
practice their English in exchange. Nap’s marketing flare was clearly
not limited to mattresses.
now intends to revisit that language learning and teaching model on a
larger scale. Nap, truly a resident of Queens, understands the soul of our
borough. Utilizing the method he developed a quarter of a century ago, he
intends to help the people of our multi-cultural wonderland improve their
English while American-speaking residents get to explore a new language of
languages of our borough are many and the task immense, but Barragan —
utilizing his half a dozen Queens showrooms, neighborhood institutions,
his knowledge of marketing, advertising and telecommunications — is
launching his Free Language program.
you want to learn a foreign language — for free — while you help
someone master their English, 1-800-Mattress will show you the way.
by or call any of their showrooms (for addresses see ad page 17) or fax or
mail us a copy of the coupon below — we’ll give it to Nap personally.
to learn a language?
to live a dream?
Learn a Language
Your primary language_____________________ secondary_______________
What language do you want to learn?
Days of the week:
||# of hours?____
|Bring to a 1 800 showroom or fax to 718 357-9417 or mail to: Tribune
174-15 Horace Harding Expressway Fresh Meadows, NY 11365.
by Dom Nunziato
Michael Schenkler can be reached at: MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
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