New York City Council Member Gale Brewer called for supporting asylum-seekers who have arrived by the thousands to the five boroughs from the southern border while receiving an Icon Award at City & State’s 50 Over 50 celebration.
“Knowing how the city budget works is unique to those of us who have been around government for a while. We would not have guessed that the migrant issue would be front and center of the discussion. I support the migrants,” she told attendees at the event held at the Manhattan Penthouse near Union Square, where she was among honorees given special recognition as “Icons.”
Brewer’s remarks reflected her commitment to government and solving its most pressing challenges, including the migrant influx which has brought thousands of asylum-seekers to the city from the southern border. Limited shelter stays that have forced families to relocate to different parts of the city prompted Brewer to insist on keeping migrant children in the same schools they already were assigned to. “I really appreciate the Department of Education and want to keep the kids in school. So help me Mr. Mayor, do not take those kids out of school,” she said in a direct appeal to Mayor Eric Adams.
Brewer, a long-serving Democrat representing New York’s 6th council district since 2022 and during an earlier stint from 2002 to 2013, as well as holding the office of Manhattan Borough President from 2014 to 2021, continued on with her desire to see asylum-seekers moved into housing supported by faith-based institutions. “We did it for years. How many times did I speak with New Yorkers in a church or synagogue because they didn’t have a home for God's sake. Why can we do it now? The congregations welcomed people then and they would do it now. But we've been discussing this issue for over a year,” she told the crowd.
The 50 Over 50 celebration, co-hosted by City & State and AARP of New York identified a group of “distinguished” New Yorkers whose decades in local and state politics and government are worth recognition. Brewers and other Icon awardees were honored for their 20-plus years serving various government and private sectors, leaving lasting contributions in the form of innovation and enduring mentorship.
An often unsung population, Beth Finkel, state director of AARP New York, in her remarks at the event highlighted the importance of celebrating New York’s maturing leaders, instead of perpetuating age-based discrimination.
“People are working longer. And the problem is that a lot of people continue with these perceptions of age discrimination, which is so maddening, Finkel told attendees at the event. She noted during her remarks that a national survey found 78% of workers 50 and older have witnessed or experienced age discrimination at their jobs. “Aging is perceived as a problem that needs to be corrected,” she continued. “I'm looking at all of you right now, because it's so important that we have your representation in these fields, and get rid of those stereotypes from yesteryear. I'm asking you today to continue to disrupt that conversation about aging, all of you.”
Another Icon Award recipient, Marie Therese Dominguez, commissioner of the State department of Transportation, tearfully reflected on her family role models as she accepted the honor. “My father and grandfather instilled in me a deep sense of pride and integrity, in working for the greater good,” she told attendees. “Throughout my career, I have carried these principles with me as I have witnessed the transformative power of transportation. It's an awesome and powerful thing, that feeling that you get when you see how something like a new bridge, or a train station or an airport project played a role in truly making a meaningful difference in people's lives.”
Another Icon, Bill Imada, chairman and chief connectivity officer at IW GROUP and who was featured on the cover of this week’s City & State magazine, praised the evening’s honorees.
“We're setting an example by volunteering. We are involved in civic engagement. We're involved in politics and elected offices for giving back through our stories and our life experiences. That's the beauty of being 50 plus, and I'm very proud of it,” he told the crowd.
Longtime NY1 Anchor Cheryl Wills, also an Icon, unapologetically celebrated her fellow quinquagenarians’ (a fancy word for over 50) combined wisdom, experience and courage in shaping their respective industries.
“That’s why it’s a kickass time to be in your 50s. I’m so proud to receive this award. I’m proud to be in your company,” she said in her remarks to attendees. “We are fierce, we are phenomenal, we are ferocious, and there is no time that we don’t redefine what it means to be in the 50s.”
Don’t you back down from these 20-year old babies, make them know who you are,” she added. “Make them know what age you are. Because this is our time.”