Stefani Zinerman in black, Councilman Cornegy in background, and Age-Friendly Ambassadors

The Age-Friendly Neighborhood Initiative held a press conference on January 9th.  Honey Baked Ham was the venue for the launch. The Neighborhood Initiative is part of the Age-Friendly NYC Partnership between the Mayor’s Office, NYC Council and the NY Academy of Medicine.

The Council member, Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. of the 36th District, brought this initiative together with stakeholders who form the Advisory Committee, and seniors who serve as age friendly Ambassadors.

Age Friendly District 36 was established to forge collaborations between residents and community stakeholders, including local businesses, non-profits, city officials, cultural, religious and educational institutions, for the purpose of maximizing the social and economic participation of adults 62 years of age and older in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights community.”

The Initiative has secured local businesses to agree to offer discounts and special services on Wednesdays, and dubbed it “Elder Wednesdays.”  Decals are placed in shop windows participating in the Initiative.

Stefani Zinerman, co-chair of Age-Friendly Neighborhood Initiative, moderated the afternoon’s launching, and acknowledged distinguished guest such as former Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, Advisory Committee members, and red-sweater-clad Age-Friendly Ambassadors to stand and be recognized.  Bea Jones, co-partner of Honey Baked Ham and the gracious host of the event, was thanked for becoming the 51st member of the Initiative.

After the acknowledgment, Stefani Zinerman added, “It’s not too late. We want people to know that they can still sign up.  So, as you shop, whether it’s today or through the rest of the season, know that if there’s a business that you think is age friendly and treats you well while you are there, please ask them to sign on up.  It’d very easy to do.  They just have to make their first-year commitment and then display this lovely decal in their window.  We made sure it was small for their windows, but it’s big enough for us to read the print!”

When Councilman Cornegy came to the floor, he reflected on the current gentrification in the Bed-Stuy area and the coinciding rise in the cost of living.  He went on to say, “…we realized a long time ago that there were things we could do with partners in each community to reduce the cost of living in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, and that the mayor came up with this age-friendly initiative.  This first effort died out, but I solicited help from some of the greatest, aggressive, passionate age-friendly ambassadors in the City of New York.  You guys have actually set the gold standard for advocacy on behalf of seniors anywhere in the City.  This is all based on your hard work.”

Cornegy then gave his current status.  Cory Johnson was elected as NYC Council speaker, but he now chairs the Committee on Housing and Buildings, chairs the Democratic Conference, heads the Budget Negotiating Committee, and was able to get more money for staffing.  He said that, “I leveraged my commitment to this community in order to bring home way more things than we ever anticipated!”

The one low point in the afternoon was when Councilman Cornegy said, “I just wish there was more media right here today.  Because a lot of time when there’s a terrible event that takes place, there’s no parking for all of the media, but when we have partnerships like this, the media is absent.  So I have to ask you to use your social media and let folks know that in Bed-Stuy we look out for our commodities, which are our seniors and our youth. And we do that consistently whether there’s media attention drawn to it or not.  There’s just a commitment to that and we are going to set a shining example of partnership with the NYPD whom I see are here today and always with us.”

The two business owners in the house shared their experiences with this community-based organization.

Jean Alerte is the owner of the first frozen yogurt shop in Bedford-Stuyvesant.  In keeping with the age-friendly theme, an accessible ramp for seniors is being installed.  Adhering to landmark status codes, Brooklyn Swirl has been closed for a few months while restorations are being made.  Brooklyn Swirl plans on reopening this spring.    Alerte jointed Age Friendly three years ago to bridge the age gap.  He thanked the seniors for their support, and said he represents “generation businesses” to millenniums.  In addition to owning Brooklyn Swirl, he teaches entrepreneurship to middle and high school neighborhood students.  To date, he has sent 35 students to college on scholarships.  He is the recipient of the 2012 Entrepreneurship of the Year Award from the NAACP.  Alerte is also the author of ‘’Do Right-Do Good”, a guidebook towards vision fulfillment and entrepreneurship.  Brooklyn Swirl is located at 441 Marcus Garvey Blvd., Brooklyn, NY 11216.

Karla Carrington is the Founder of The Nail Belle, and spoke on this eco-friendly nail salon. Carrington said, while not originally from New York, she was committed to opening a business in Bedford-Stuyvesant because she appreciated the genuine community spirit.  She thanked the group for sharing generational wisdom.  Belle has been giving home bound seniors free manicures since their opening, 18 months ago.  She said it has always been their desire to give back to the senior community, and during the summer, Belle hosts a free lunch program for neighborhood youth.  She added, “We are the first Green America Certified nail salon.  Belle is eco-friendly and specializes in diabetic foot care with minimum cutting and exposure to foot care.”  The Nail Belle is located at 199 Malcolm X Blvd. @ Putnam Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11221.

Cornegy urged everyone to network and support local businesses.

Baked Honey Ham Franchise owner, Bea Jones, thanked everyone for coming and invited the guests to lunch on a variety of sandwiches and hot soup.  Honey Baked Ham is located at 1413 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11216.

For more information on Age friendly Neighborhood Initiative, District 36, call (718) 919-2100; email:


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