College of Staten Island President Dr. Tomás Morales, flanked by Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, was honored over the weekend at the Unidad Latina Legislative Conference in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of The Staten Island Advance.

( – The first annual Unidad Latina conference held in New York City this weekend was an enormous success that brought together hundreds of people from the Hispanic community in New York, including leaders from business, education, health care and government to discuss ways to promote economic growth and job creation.  The conference was organized by the New York State Senate and the Hispanic Federation.

“This conference was an impressive gathering of bright, talented people who came together to discuss how to make the Latino community more prosperous,” Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said. “Every conference room and ballroom was filled with people committed to giving Hispanic-owned entrepreneurs the resources they need to grow and improving the quality of life for Latinos.”

Among the bipartisan group of legislators who attended were: state Senators Charles Fuschillo, John Flanagan, Jack Martins, Martin Golden, Jim Alesi, Lee Zeldin, Jeff Klein, Diane Savino and David Carlucci;  Assemblymembers Nicole Malliotakis, Guillermo Linares, Naomi Rivera, former Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez and former New York City Councilman Fernando Ferrer.

A gala dinner, held Saturday night, began with the national anthem sung by Marybeth Melendez, a visually impaired graduate student at the College of Staten Island.  The gala was emceed by Jeanine Ramirez of NY1 News, who has traveled to Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic for special feature reporting assignments.

Featured speakers at the dinner included Lillian Rodriqúez López, President of the Hispanic Federation;  Monika Mantilla, founder, President and CEO of Altura Management and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, whose mother came to the United States from Cuba.

Special awards were presented at the dinner to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Hispanic community.

  • The Unidad Latina Award for Excellence in Education was presented to Dr. Tomás D. Morales, the President of the College of Staten Island.
  • The Unidad Latina Community award was given to Gil Bernardino, the Executive Director of Circulo De La Hispanidad, a non-profit Hispanic community organization in Nassau County.
  • The Unidad Latina Award for Excellence in Business was presented to Juan Figueroa, an owner of Milestone Mechanical, a heating and cooling company in Manhattan that focuses on energy-efficient buildings.  After beginning just three years ago, the company has achieved almost $2 million in sales.
  • The Unidad Latino Legacy Award was presented to Rita DiMartino, a member of the CUNY Board of Trustees and former vice President of Congressional Relations for AT&T.  Ms. DiMartino also served in leadership roles with UNICEF.
  • In addition, Senator Lee Zeldin presented an award for Business Person of the Year to Santiago Reyes, a restaurant owner in Suffolk County.

Other speakers at Unidad Latina were: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Irene M. Esteves, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Time Warner Cable Inc.;  Dr. John B. King, Commissioner of Education and President of the State University of New York; and former New York City Council Member Fernando Ferrer.