FORCES OF CHANGE AWARDS
Denise M. Berger, FAIA, FRICS
Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, AECOM East Region
A results-oriented leader with more than 30 years of executive experience in the building trades industry, Denise Berger joined AECOM last year as the chief operating officer for the Northeast Region, managing strategic planning, operations, marketing and branding, digital transformation, growth of key cities and accounts and ESG across all regional business lines. A champion for equitable engagement and inclusion, Denise serves on AECOM’s global Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) Steering Committee and is the chair of WTS International ED&I committee, advancing women in transportation.
Berger is the former chief of operations for the engineering department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where she was responsible for the operations of an engineering department comprised of over 570 engineers and architects with an annual budget of $1.3 billion.
Project Executive and CEO, JFK Millennium Partners
Helena Williams is the Project Executive and CEO of Vantage-led JFK Millennium Partners–the team selected by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to lead the redevelopment of a new world-class, multi-billion-dollar international Terminal 6 at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
While leading the advancement of the Terminal 6 redevelopment project, from financial close and ground-breaking through planned construction phases to operations commencement, Williams is engaging in critical local community and Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) outreach in support of the redevelopment.
Williams has decades’ worth of proven experience in successfully leading multi-faceted strategic initiatives in such essential service sectors as transportation and public safety. Most recently, Williams served as chief deputy county executive for Nassau County, overseeing the county’s operating budget of $3.1 billion, some 7,000 employees, and delivering significant initiatives for the county’s 1.3 million residents.
Alexandria Perotti, CCM, PMP
Executive Director of Corporate Initiatives & Strategic Planning, Holt Construction Corp
Alexandria Perotti serves as Holt Construction Corporation’s Executive Director of Corporate Initiatives & Strategic Planning. With over 27 years of experience in Construction Management, General Construction and Mechanical Building Trades, she has led numerous company-wide initiatives that continue to break new ground in many areas of corporate operations.
Over the past several years, her work in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility has advanced Holt’s reputation as one of the go-to organizations for diversity utilization approaches that grow successful diverse teams. Her innovative work at many of the region’s leading airports has created new and successful models for linking education, technical assistance and right-sized procurement opportunities as a winning formula for increased diversity participation on Holt’s projects.
Perotti is known for her problem-solving expertise, developing and managing highly efficient construction project teams and client development, while always mentoring staff. Before joining Holt Construction, Perotti spent 14 years working in her family contracting business as a Project Manager responsible for projects with the US Army Corps of Engineers, State of New Jersey Department of Buildings and Construction, multiple school districts and many other public authorities.
Executive Director/Senior Program Officer, JPMorgan Chase Global Philanthropy
Jeanique Riche- Druses serves as Executive Director and Sr. Program Officer for Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase, with responsibility for the Northeastern United States. Her work spans the four pillars of Neighborhood Development, Financial Health, Jobs & Skills and Small Business Development.
Through investments in the growth of MWBEs across the region, Riche-Druses has enabled targeted access to capital through the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, funneled additional funding to the sector through the development of the NYC Small Business Funders Collective and leads the Ascend Cities Programs, in the region, whose goal is to support the award of $1B in contracts to businesses owned by people of color by 2025.
A staunch advocate for developing and growing businesses in underserved communities, Riche-Druses built the Resident Business Development Unit at the New York City Housing Authority providing access to business building services to over 600,000 people. She also owned and operated a small business consultancy and taught Entrepreneurship and Marketing in the City University of New York system.
Magalie D. Austin
Executive Deputy Commissioner, NYC Department of Design and Construction
Magalie Austin the NYC Executive Deputy Commissioner at the NYC Department of Design and Construction, the City’s largest economic development program and capital project delivery agency with a portfolio currently valued at over $20 billion.
Prior to assuming this position, Austin served as Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Minority and Business Enterprises where she is responsible for oversight, policy and accountability of the City’s M/WBE Program. Austin previously served as the Chief Diversity and Industry Relations Officer for the New York City Department of Design and Construction where she was responsible for managing the agency’s Minority and Women Business Enterprises program and served as the Commissioner’s representative to the built industry. NYCDDC has created and implemented innovative solutions that increased contract opportunities for minority-and women-owned business entities by almost 250%, awarding nearly $2 billion in capital projects.
In her new role at NYCDDC, she will oversee the Division of Human Resources and Staff Development, the Office of Diversity and Industry Relations, as well as Community Partnerships and STEAM Education Initiatives. Austin is a recognized industry leader and subject matter expert on the value of inclusion in empowering communities through economic development.
President, New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce
Quenia Abreu is the President and CEO of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce (NYWCC), a not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to empowering and fostering the economic development of women and minorities.
Abreu, together with a group of business women and community leaders, founded the NYWCC in 2002, which has rapidly grown and since assisted with the creation of more than 3,500 new businesses and aided entrepreneurs in accessing $15 million in capital and $30 million in procurement contracts. Under Abreu’s leadership, the NYWCC has hosted more than 250 virtual programs advising women- and minority-owned businesses on how to cope with Covid-19. Abreu has over twenty years of experience in economic and business development, career counseling, job development and placement.
Abreu has received many awards and recognitions for her work. This year, she was among Crain’s New York Business’ Notable Hispanic Leaders and was voted the Civic Diversity Hero by Crain’s New York Business Executives. She also made City & State’s The Power of Diversity: Latino 100 and was included in the MWBE Power 50 and its inaugural Economic Development Power 75 list in within the same year.
Gayle Benjamin is a Business Leader at Jacobs, a multi-disciplined architectural and engineering firm that has consistently ranked No. 1 on Engineering News-Record (ENR)’s Top 500 Design Firms. Benjamin has more than 25 years of experience leading and supporting public and private clients throughout New York City and New York State. Her passion for working in the A/E/C Industry was ignited at a very early age after witnessing major rebuilding efforts following a major earthquake on the island where she was born.
Some of Benjamin’s most notable projects include DASNY’s $350M Bronx Mental Health Redevelopment Project, which was awarded ENR’s Regional Award for Healthcare Projects, Columbia University’s Manhattanville Development Program, and Polytechnic University of NYU’s Joseph Jacobs Building. Benjamin is currently supporting the City of Rochelle as they embark upon redevelopment of their city and upgrades to their facilities.
As a seasoned Construction Manager, Benjamin attributes her success to strong leadership skills, ability to effectively communicate and collaborate and a strong focus on project execution excellence. Her success has resulted in repeat business from clients. Benjamin has a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and Planning from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP AWARD
William D. Haas
CEO, USI Construction Practice Group
For over two decades, William Haas has been instrumental in establishing USI Construction as a premier Surety Construction Insurance Broker in the tri-state area. Hass is a staunch advocate for the MWBE construction community and has assisted innumerable MWBE contractors flourish, establish and grow their bond lines.
Haas proudly takes a special interest in each of his clients’ success and goes above and beyond to assist MWBE construction firms with his sage counsel. At USI, Haas is an empowering leader who supports women’s’ professional development and career equity at all levels. Under Haas’ tenure, USI has been recognized as one of Insurance Business America’s Top Insurance Employers for the past four consecutive years.
Haas has also supported WBC since its inception to further promote diversity throughout the construction industry. Additionally, Haas is a philanthropist, and an active Board Member of Construction Industry Council of Westchester, Association of General Contractors and Subcontractor’s Trade Association of New York City.
Haas has an M.B.A. in Finance from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College in New York. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1976, Haas began his surety career with The Hartford Insurance Company. Haas quickly rose through the ranks to become a Bond Manager. Haas left Hartford in 1985 to form an insurance and bonding Agency, Spadaccia, Ryan & Haas. In 1997, Spadaccia, Ryan & Haas was purchased by USI.
Haas has been a licensed broker since 1985. He resides in Rye, NY with his wife Lizabeth, and they have three children together.
Victoria Scala, Ph.D., P.E.
President, Lowy & Donnath Inc.
Victoria Scala, Ph.D., P.E. is President of Lowy & Donnath Inc. a certified WBE union electrical construction firm serving both New York and New Jersey that specializes in healthcare, financial institutions, private higher education and industrial projects. Scala began her career as a Project Engineer for the company, before earning her doctorate in engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, researching building performance modeling and measurement with a keen interest in energy efficiency. She is a NYS licensed fire alarm installer as well as a NYS licensed Professional Engineer.
Scala is a WBC Board member, and her firm is a member of the New York Electrical Contractors Association, Inc. [NYECA] where she serves on the Education Committee. At WBC, she contributes her time on its Next Generation Committee where she supports the growth of women in the engineering, electrical and construction industries. She also serves on the Board of Governors for the New York Building Foundation.
Scala’s extensive project management experience and leadership truly shone through during the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, when she led a team that converted 400 new hospital beds at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel for patients during the height of the pandemic. In addition, Scala was an Assistant Professor at the United State Military Academy at West Point and a Visiting Professor at Manhattan College where she now serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Engineering. She has been recognized by Engineering News Record as a National Top 20 Under 40 and New York’s Top Young Professionals.
EMERGING TRAILBLAZER AWARD
President, Evans Electrical Services Inc
Brownette Cooke is the Founder, President and NYC DOB Master Electrician of Evans Electrical Services Inc., a union electrical contractor that provides services in commercial, institutional and residential areas. Her firm is a member of New York Electrical Contractors, Inc [NYECA] and she is a NYC and NYS certified MWBE and Port Authority certified MWBE and DBE. She is also prequalified with the NYC School Construction Authority and DASNY.
The firm has worked on several notable projects including the NYCHA Red Hook Houses, NYCEDC Fulton Street Ferry Landing and Bronx Community College CUNY Campus.
Cooke has 27 years of experience in the electrical field. As a second-generation electrician, she worked her way through the ranks from apprentice to foreman/project manager, and finally Master Electrician. She has worked for various contractors during her tenure as a Journeywoman. Cooke’s last position before forming her firm two years ago was at the Javits Center as a first African American female Show Foreperson for two of the six years there. Cooke is a member of the Regional Ascend Program funded by JP Morgan Chase and had doubled in firm’s revenue over the past two years. A member of WBC, Cooke represents the next generation of union electrical contractors.