Historical society honors immigrant New Yorkers

New York City Councilmember Mathieu Eugene originally from Haiti along with fellow Councilmember Margaret Chin from Hong Kong and two other outstanding immigrant Americans: Rick Rescorla — from Cornwall, UK and Adrian P Flannelly from Ireland were recognized for their contributions to American society on July 3.

At the National Memorial Federal Hall, the Lower Manhattan Historical Society (LMHS) celebrated these individuals with the Alexander Hamilton Immigrant Achievement Award.

The society organizes historical events that educate about the area’s rich history. Acknowledging that New York has always been a city of immigrants and that the city takes pride in its ability to attract immigrants, who in turn realize great contributions, it created these awards to highlight individuals that exemplify the spirit of these achievements.

The award is named in honor of Alexander Hamilton who arrived in the United States from the Caribbean island of Nevis as a 16- year-old penniless orphan.

When he died in 1804, 31 years later, he had been a key aide to George Washington in the revolutionary war, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury creating the nation’s financial system (his face is on the $10 bill) and he promoted its manufacturing economy. It was a result of his efforts that Wall Street, where Federal Hall is located, became the nation’s financial center.

This was the first time that LMHS has bestowed awards to American citizens born outside the U.S., having made outstanding contributions to Lower Manhattan and New York State.

The award was presented posthumously to Rick Rescorla who died in the south tower of the World Trade Center during 9/11.

Born in the United Kingdom, the retired decorated U.S. Army officer, became the corporate security director of Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center. Recognizing its vulnerability, he regularly scheduled evacuation drills and during the attacks, he helped in the evacuation, credited in saving the lives of almost all the 2,687 Morgan Stanley employees. He was killed after returning to the building to find any remaining persons.

Mathieu Eugene’s City Council district represents Crown Heights, Flatbush, Midwood, Prospect Heights and Leffert Gardens in Brooklyn. He received a medical degree in Mexico. In his acceptance, he reminded attendees of Haitian contributions citing their fighting in Savannah for American Independence, Chicago founder Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, and Pierre Touissant, freed slave who became a leading philanthropist who contributed funds to help build Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street.

After years of being deeply involved with the community, he was elected in 2007 to New York City Council, the first Haitian-born councilmember. He is co-founder of the Committee for the Development of Northern Haiti, which supports immigrants in Brooklyn

Councilmember Chin took office in 2010 and represents District 1 in Lower Manhattan. Arriving in the U.S. at age nine, she grew up in Chinatown and attended Bronx High School of Science and City College. Prior to her service to the city, she worked for years in advocacy, community organizing, coalition building, and fought for the preservation and building of affordable housing and better access to government services. She also helped immigrant adults get a college education when she worked at LaGuardia Community College’s Division of Adult and Continuing Education.

Adrian Flannelly emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 17. In his dedicated career as a broadcast journalist, community leader and promoter, he discusses issues of concern to the American Irish community. His uncle Paul O’Dwyer was a well-known political activist and politician and another uncle, William O’Dwyer was the 100th mayor of New York.

Susan Rescorla accepted the award for her husband Rick Rescorla.