On October 10, the Queens Chamber of Commerce will honor four remarkable individuals at its annual Business Person of the Year awards at Terrace on the Park.
This year’s Hall of Fame honoree is John Catsimatidis, president and CEO of Red Apple Group.
“I ran for mayor in 2013, and I don’t know if I’ll run for mayor again, but the one thing I found out when I was running was how many neighborhoods there were and how many great people there are in the outer boroughs,” Catsimatidis said of being honored. “Once in a while, I’ve got to get out of this ivory tower and go to the outer boroughs and hug a few people.”
The other honorees are Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, founder and executive director of Hour Children, Nick Tziazas, president of Lyons Mortgage Services, Inc., and Christopher Horch, associate partner at JB&B.
Fitzgerald said she’s humbled by the recognition, but ultimately, “it’s not about me.”
“It’s for the mission,” she said. “I will stand there representing all of the people here who make life go and work. Especially the women whose lives are serviced, I do it for them.”
Horch said he has a fast-growing relationship with the chamber and fits well with their culture.
“I grew up in the Midwest, so we’re not used to accolades and things of that nature,” Horch said. “To be honest, it’s humbling. It’s very exciting, and I’m very appreciative of it.”
Tziazas credited the support of his family for helping him achieve everything he has for the community.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “My wife, Kalina, and two kids, Nicholas and Kristal, have been great supporters for me.
“It makes me feel good, but I don’t want to make this award all about me,” he said. “I’m a strong believer in teamwork. I owe a lot to my partners George Sophocleous, Edith O’Donnell and the entire staff, many who’ve been with Lyons for a long time.”
BY BENJAMIN FANG
Nick Tziazas, first and foremost, considers himself a community person.
After arriving in the United States from Cyprus at the age of 21, he attended St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, where he studied business and finance.
Upon graduation, Tziazas spent time as a soccer coach for Eleftheria Pancyprian, a local soccer club for which he now serves as president. For Tziazas, it wasn’t just about teaching the kids about the “beautiful sport.”
The streets of New York City in the 1980s, Tziazas said, were infested with drugs. He wanted to give kids in the community an alternative.
“The main idea and mission was to keep to the kids away from the streets,” he said. “Bring them in, teach them teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship. Create good citizens at the end of the day.”
He also began working in real estate financing, helping community families obtain real estate loans and mortgages for new homes.
In 1996, he help found Lyons Mortgage Services in Astoria, a company he runs today as its president. To date, the company has lent out more than $2 billion in real estate loans.
Understanding that the mortgage and loan process is complex, Tziazas said his role is to simplify, explain and make it easier for families to achieve their American dream.
“People really needed help,” he said. “So I devoted myself to make that process easier.”
Tziazas prizes transparency, especially for the client. That’s why everything is up front, he said, and the process is explained step by step.
In his eyes, obtaining loans became more difficult after the 2008 real estate bubble. But as a community lender, Tziazas said he tries to introduce the right programs and products that cater to clients’ needs.
“This is what we’ve been doing all along,” he said. “That’s how we’re helping people to get into their dream houses.”