FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM MARCH 25, 2022 • THE QUEENS COURIER 16 Danasia Davis sings the National Anthem.
Queens Chamber of Commerce’s St. Patrick’s Day luncheon returns after two-year hiatus
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards speaks
at the Queens Chamber of Commerce St. Patrick’s
Tom Grech (l.) and St. Patrick’s Irish American of the Year Award recipient James Whelan.
BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
Aft er a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19
pandemic, the Queens Chamber of Commerce’s
annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon
returned to its full glory at Terrace in the Park
on Wednesday, March 16.
Hundreds of business and community leaders
celebrated not only Irish American heritage,
but also the progress made in the fi ght to end
the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had the
city — and the world — in its grips for two years.
Tom Grech, president and CEO of the
Queens Chamber of Commerce, described the
past two years as “hell on Earth,” ceremoniously
tossed his face mask into a wastebasket
and reminded everyone that life is short.
“Please take a moment to think about all
those we’ve lost to COVID over the last two
years,” Grech said. “Please keep in your heart
and your minds the brave men and women of
our armed forces throughout the world protecting
us. We also mourn and appreciate the daily
courage and bravery of the men and women of
the NYPD, especially offi cers Jason Rivera and
Danasia Davis opened the luncheon with a
rendition of the National Anthem, followed by
the benediction of Rev. James Kuroly, rector
and president of Cathedral Preparatory School
Kuroly recalled that his Italian mother
would cook corned beef, cabbage and Irish
soda bread, served with a side of pasta, on St.
“She would say as she was cooking, ‘On St.
Patrick’s Day, we are all Irish,'” the reverend
said. “What she was trying to teach me at a
young age is that we are all sons and daughters
of God. So St. Patrick’s Day is a reminder that
we are all one.”
His prayer — which included the people of
Ukraine and the city’s fi rst responders — was
followed by the Presentation of Colors by the
Second Battalion 25th Marines and a performance
by the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes &
Keynote speaker NYPD Police Commissioner
Keechant Sewell was supposed to be
the recipient of the Public Service Award
— an honor she respectfully and humbly
declined in her speech.
“It’s not because I’m not Irish, but because I’m
famous for my exits,” the 45th NYC police commissioner
joked. She explained that her service
had only just begun and would dedicate the
award to the NYPD Emerald Society Pipes &
Drums and all members of the NYPD.
Th e city’s fi rst female police commissioner
explained that the NYPD Emerald Society
Pipes & Drums were the embodiment of
service as the NYPD has had to endure
many tragedies and challenges since
the beginning of the year.
“I have heard the moving, consoling
sounds of the NYPD Emerald Society
Pipes & Drums over cries of grief and feelings
of hopelessness far too oft en,” Sewell
said, referring to the funerals of NYPD
Detectives Wilbert Mora and Jason
Rivera, who were killed in the line of
duty last January. “No matter the nationality
of the offi cer or the circumstances of the loss.
In your own grief, their melodies comfort the
families and every member of one of the most
diverse police departments in the world during
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards
also remembered the thousands of lives lost
to the pandemic, but pointed out that there was
also hope because Queens was not only the fi rst
county in New York with 1 million vaccinations,
but also the most diverse county.
“On a day like this, it is great to be able to
celebrate the contributions of Irish American
neighbors,” Richards said. “Th e Irish community
has been a vibrant part of our borough; it
has played a key role in our culture.”
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams
recalled that the last time the St. Patrick’s Day
luncheon was held was right before the city shut
down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Finally, we get to see each other in person
again to truly, truly celebrate this momentous
occasion,” the fi rst African American council
speaker said. “Th is annual St. Patrick’s Day
luncheon is always special because we get to
celebrate Irish heritage and culture. And of
course, there’s no greater place to do that than
right here in Queens.”
James Whelan, president of the Real Estate
Board of New York, received the St. Patrick’s
Irish American of the Year Award.
Th e fi rst-generation Irish American who grew
up in Elmhurst was taught by his dad to love the
Mets and hate the Yankees.
“As countless as countless immigrants from
around the world choose to do every year, my
parents chose these as their home as a place to
raise their children. As a place to stake their claim
to the American dream to provide a better life
for themselves and their children,” Whelan said.
“I’m very proud to be Irish. I’m very proud to be
the off spring of immigrants, and I’m very proud
to be a citizen of this great borough of Queens.”
Photos by Gabriele Holtermann
(From l. to r.) NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, and Tom Grech,
President and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, at the chamber’s St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at Terrace
in the Park in Flushing, Queens, on March 16, 2022.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell speaks at
the Queens Chamber of Commerce St. Patrick’s Day