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Joan Tisch Community Health Prize Ceremony Winners

We are delighted to announce the recipients of the fifth annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize, an award that honors not-for-profit organizations and individuals for distinguished accomplishment in the field of urban public health. The recipients were honored on June 9th at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College in an event hosted by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab. 

This year’s award recipients are:

The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, which works to eliminate health inequities, improve health status, and expand access to the medically underserved in New York City, with a focus on Asian Americans. Its Comprehensive Hepatitis B Program is widely recognized as a national model of outreach, prevention, and care that addresses major health disparities for the Asian American community—chronic Hepatitis B infection and associated liver disease. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up less than 5% of the total United States population, but account for more than 50% of Americans living with chronic Hepatitis B.

Ann-Marie Louison, Co-Director of Adult Behavioral Health at CASES, which works to increase public safety through innovative services that reduce crime and incarceration, improve behavioral health, promote recovery and rehabilitation, and create opportunities for success in the community. Ms. Louison is a New York City leader working at the intersection of behavioral health and criminal justice. She co-founded the Nathaniel Project, the first alternative-to-incarceration program in Manhattan Supreme Court for adults with severe mental illness convicted of felony offenses. Ms. Louison has developed and implemented innovative and effective interventions for a high-risk population that addresses both public health and public safety.

The awards were presented by President Raab, Laurie Tisch, and Tom Farley, former NYC Commissioner of Health and current Joan H. Tisch Distinguished Fellow in Public Health at Hunter College. The Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize is made possible with support from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund; the Prize is a tribute to Joan H. Tisch in recognition of her humanitarian activism in health care and social services in New York City.


No Longer Empty Exhibition at Old Bronx Borough Courthouse

From April 23 to July 19, No Longer Empty will welcome the public to the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse for the exhibit When You Cut into the Present the Future Leaks Out.  The historic Old Bronx Borough Courthouse, which has been closed for 37 years, serves as the exhibition’s both site and theme.  The exhibition will occupy three floors and include the works of 26 artists.  In collaboration with community partners, No Longer Empty will host cultural events and educational programs throughout the course of the exhibition.

The Old Bronx Borough Courthouse was built 1905–1914 by architects Michael John Garvin and Oscar Florianus Bluemner.  The Courthouse once boasting granite floors, lavish stairways, and bronze doors, remains adorned by a statue of Lady Justice.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Bronx County, the Beaux Arts-style building was abandoned and sealed in 1977.

Naomi Hersson Ringskig, Executive Director at No Longer Empty, shared that “Our goal in this project is to increase access to the arts and to reopen this beautiful building.”  Prior site-specific exhibitions by No Longer Empty have included If You Build It (in Broadway Housing Communities’ new affordable housing building in Sugar Hill, Harlem), How Much Do I Owe You? (in the Clock Tower in Long Island City, Queens), and This Side of Paradise (at the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx).  The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund hosted A Glimpse of This Side of Paradise, a sampling of the works from the exhibition, at the Fund’s office gallery.

To activate the empty space and directly involve the community members, NLE will host public programs and activities. Approximately 20 events will include: No Longer Bored Family Day: Urban Gardening Workshop (Saturday, April 25, 1–4pm); BX200 Virtual Artist Studios (Sunday, April 26, 3–5pm and Friday, June 12, 6–8pm); Teens Curate Teens exhibition opening and teen day (Saturday, May 16, 1–7pm); Bronx Fashion Week (Saturday, May 9); and conceptual walks with Elastic City (Friday, May 29, 1pm and Saturday, May 30, 1pm and 5pm).  Additional event and programming dates to be announced will include a New York Public Library Community Oral History Project, an evening of dance and performance with Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance, walking tours by Ed García Conde, Founder and Editor of Welcome2TheBronx, a prospective tenant party hosted in partnership with SoBRO, and more.

Click here for more information on the exhibit, details on exhibiting artists and the calendar of events.

On View | April 23 – July 19, 2015: Thursday–Sunday, 1–7pm
Location | Old Bronx Borough Courthouse, 878 Brook Ave (at E 161 St & Third Ave)


Judith Rodin featured in Aspen Institute’s Conversations with Great Leaders

On March 18th, the Aspen Institute’s members, friends, and staff welcomed Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, to the year’s first event of Conversations with Great Leaders in Honor of Preston Robert Tisch. Judith joined Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson in a conversation to discuss her innovative work around the resilience dividend framework, highlighting that building capacity not only allows communities to recover quickly, but also yields job creation, economic benefits, ecosystem protection, and greater community cohesion. Rodin gave examples of how communities, businesses, and cities have developed resilience in the face of shock, stress, and catastrophic challenges.

• Toyota and its recovery after the Fukushima nuclear disaster and tsunami
• Governor Deval Patrick’s leadership during the Boston Marathon bombings
• Medellín, Colombia’s transformation from the drug and murder capital of the world to a thriving, international city

The event took place at Hunter College’s Roosevelt House, and is part of the Leadership Series in memory of Preston Robert Tisch sponsored by Steve Tisch, Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. Watch the full conversation here.


Tang Teaching Museum Receives Grant from Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund

The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund hosted a reception at its office for Skidmore College’s Frances Young Tang Museum and Art Gallery’s mini-retrospective of I was a double. The original show closed in January at the Tang and was curated by the museum’s Dayton Director Ian Berry and composer David Lang. In conjunction with the showcase, the Illumination Fund announced a $1 million one-to-one matching grant to endow the position of Assistant Director for Engagement and to support the creation of engagement programs at the museum. Read more about the grant and showcase here.


An Evening Celebrating Cardozo Public Interest Alumni

Current recipients of the Laurie M. Tisch Loan Repayment Assistance Program at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law were invited for a reception at the Illumination Fund’s office on February 3, 2015. The program benefits Cardozo graduates who have chosen to pursue careers in public service by providing “forgivable loans” to assist them in overcoming their education debt. Several recipients in attendance conveyed to the room that the program helped mitigate the stress of loans and instead redirected their focus on defending New Yorkers with limited resources. One particular Cardozo graduate, Amy Cross, wrote a thank you letter to Laurie describing the program’s impact on her work at the Legal Aid Society:

“It's thanks to your generosity that I have been able to defend over 600 New Yorkers in their criminal cases, who otherwise would not have been able to afford counsel. Many of my clients have mental disabilities, many are still in high school, many have suffered severe beating by the police, many cannot afford bail, none of them are there by choice and all of them are deserving of top quality legal representation.  It's thanks to loan repayment assistance that I am able to do this work that I love and provide a much-needed service. In 2014 I was able to help a gentleman wrongly-accused of driving while intoxicated achieve a full acquittal by a jury; last month I resolved a case for a man who had been coming back and forth to court for five years to fight the charges against him. Several times a month I help people get out of jail at arraignments and avoid bail amounts that are almost always beyond my clients' means. I work in a system where the odds are almost insurmountable for poor people of color, and where public defenders are notoriously overworked and underpaid. But thanks to your financial support I am able to work towards challenging it, to learn invaluable trial and negotiation skills, and to do service on a daily basis.”


Hunter College Seeks Nominations for 5th Annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize:1/23 Deadline

Do you know an individual or organization doing outstanding public health work in the NYC region? Please nominate them!

Hunter College is seeking nominations for the 5th annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize. This $10,000 award for distinguished accomplishment in urban public health will be presented to one individual and one nonprofit organization in spring 2015.  Submission of candidates will be accepted until January 23, 2015.

The selection committee includes prominent health policy experts drawn from Hunter faculty and the broader public health community. Nomination guidelines and forms as well as additional information can be found on Hunter College's Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute website.

Successful candidates will have pioneered creative approaches to tackle significant public health challenges and made valuable contributions to the health of New Yorkers. They will join a respected group of former recipients selected based on achievement, innovation and impact.  Past Joan H. Tisch Prize winners have included Sandra Hagan of The Child Center of NY, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Turning Point for Women and Families, Independence Care System’s Breast Cancer Screening Project for Women with Physical Disabilities, LegalHealth, Union Settlement Association, Robert Cordero of CitiWide Harm Reduction, Mark Hannay of Metro NY Health Care for All Campaign, and Dr. Melony Samuels of Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger. 

The Prize is a component of the Joan H. Tisch Legacy Project, a major, multidisciplinary initiative at Hunter College that addresses urban public health issues – from diseases such as HIV/AIDS, obesity, and diabetes to health disparities due to economic and environmental factors. The Project is funded by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund in honor of Laurie's mother, Joan.


Nationwide Screenings of Underwater Dreams

Underwater Dreams, written and directed by Mary Mazzio, and narrated by Michael Peña, is an epic story of how the sons of undocumented Mexican immigrants learned how to build an underwater robot from Home Depot parts. And defeat engineering powerhouse MIT in the process.

The Illumination Fund was one of the major supporters of Underwater Dreams, and Executive Producers included Laurie Tisch, Jackie and Mike Bezos, Jeb Bush, Jr. and Michael Peña. 

The film is getting rave reviews, and now you have opportunities to see it.  Upcoming screenings include Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and Denver.  Learn more about the film here, and for the full schedule of screenings as well as online opportunities visit the Underwater Dreams website here.


“inspiring and insightful”
Los Angeles Times

“modest yet meaningful”
New York Times

“The awards-worthy ‘Underwater Dreams’ is by turns rousing and heartbreaking, and organically touches on important social issues.”
- San Francisco Chronicle

“The year is just half over, but already a contender for best documentary of 2014 is looming with Mary Mazzio's Underwater Dreams. What starts out as a high-school competition study—compelling enough on its own, as so many of these like-themed films are—pulls a breathtaking fast one in its second half, expanding its basic inspirational theme to embrace an even larger message, with an organic efficacy that is nothing short of astonishing.”
Film Journal International

“a seemingly modest human interest film that may be the most politically significant documentary since Waiting for Superman.”
Jonathan Alter, The Daily Beast

“Underwater Dreams” is that rare film that keeps your total attention for its entire duration and also encourages you and inspires you to want to do better with your life.   What I loved about this movie, was that it didn’t just concentrate on the competition win but also the young men’s backgrounds and the impossible obstacles they and their families had to overcome just to survive.  As you become more aware of the good people they are and their future goals and achievements, it makes you care about their plight even more. “Underwater Dreams” introduced me to a group of people who achieved the impossible by beating any and all odds to come out on top. Now THAT is the American dream.”
Red Carpet Crash


SIPA study says NYC Green Carts Expand Access to Fresh Produce in Low-Income Neighborhoods

A major study of the New York City Green Cart Initiative undertaken by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) concluded that the Green Carts initiative has been reaching key goals in improving access to healthy foods in targeted neighborhoods. The Illumination Fund commissioned SIPA as an independent evaluator to assess the economic viability of Greens Carts as small businesses and consider the role of philanthropy in promoting and supporting innovative public policy. The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Ester P. Fuchs, a professor of international and public affairs and political science at Columbia SIPA and Sarah Holloway, a lecturer in international and public affairs at Columbia SIPA.

To discuss the report’s findings, a panel was convened on June 11 at the New York Public Radio’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space which included Cathy Nonas, Senior Advisor for the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control at the New York City Department of Health, Sean Basinski, Founder and Director of the Street Vendor Project, Nancy Biberman, Founder and President of Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCo), Rick Luftglass, Executive Director for the Illumination Fund, and Ester Fuchs who moderated the event. The panelists discussed study findings, background of public-private partnerships, and opportunities for growth and scale. Read about the findings here and obtain a pdf of the study here.


Joan Tisch Community Prize Ceremony

Recipients of the fourth annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize were formally recognized at a ceremony on May 29th hosted by Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab at Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College. This year’s recipients are Sandra Hagan, former executive director and current senior advisor at The Child Center of NY in Queens; and Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in Chelsea. Sandra Hagen was executive director for nearly 28 years, expanding the organization’s scope from strictly outpatient children’s mental health to a continuum of services, increasing the number of families served each year from 850 to 18,000, and increasing the budget from $3 million to $36 million. Callen-Lorde Community Health Center has been providing quality, sensitive medical and related services to LGBT New Yorkers, regardless of ability to pay; 41% have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, 36% are uninsured and 8% are homeless or unstably housed. The prize recipients were selected from dozens of nominations submitted by leaders in the public health field.

The awards were presented by President Raab, Laurie Tisch, Roosevelt House Interim Director Jonathan Fanton, and Tom Farley, former NYC Commissioner of Health and current Joan H. Tisch Fellow at Hunter College. Attendees included several previous Health Prize Winners such as Robert Cordero of BOOM!Health, Robina Niaz of Turning Point for Women and Families, David Nocenti of Union Settlement Association, and Randye Retkin of LegalHealth.


A Glimpse into “This Side of Paradise”

On April 23rd, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund office was buzzing with anticipation and excitement for the launch of No Longer Empty’s mini-retrospective of This Side of Paradise. The original exhibit was first introduced in 2012 at the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx. Situated on the Grand Concourse, the Home was once a symbol of paradise for the formerly wealthy that lived there from the 1920s to the early 1980s. Built to mirror a grand palazzo, the Home provided the accoutrements of a rich and civilized lifestyle for the elderly who had lost their fortunes—white glove dinner service, a grand ballroom, and a social committee who organized concerts and opera performances. Fast forward to present-day Bronx, the Home was mostly shuttered due to a depleted endowment. Referencing this quixotic history, No Longer Empty’s mini-retrospective of This Side of Paradise exhibition launched at the Illumination offices on April 23rd.

No Longer Empty, a non-profit organization that presents professionally curated, site-specific art exhibitions to promote socially conscious artists and to build resilience in communities through art, engaged more than thirty artists and Bronx-based organizations to “reactivate” the building. Now the Andrew Freedman Home houses artists’ studios, a Head Start program, job training, and even a bed and breakfast.