Pictured from left to right are Deputy Director General of TECO-NY Andrew Yang, QBG Executive Director Susan Lacerte, QBG Board Chair Pauline Huang, Councilman Peter Koo, honoree Maria Grasso, Borough President Melinda Katz and DCA Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl.
BY JEN KHEDAROO
At its 23rd annual Rose Gala last week, the Queens Botanical Garden honored Flushing Bank chief operating officer Maria Grasso for her commitment to the Flushing community.
Grasso has been in the banking business for more than 30 years and joined Flushing Bank in 2006.
“I’m very excited to be honored, it’s something that’s very special to me,” Grasso said. “Flushing Bank has been in the community for 90 years. We’re an integral part of the community and we like to give back, and the Queens Botanical Garden is a great place.”
Recently, Flushing Bank held a cocktail reception for its clients at the Queens Botanical Garden (QBG). Grasso said the event showcased the quality garden located right in the neighborhood.
“It’s a beautiful garden,” Grasso said. “It’s great for us, having a space like this for our clients, and it’s nice for the garden because people realize what they have here. They can tell their friends about it.”
Grasso, who is also the senior executive vice president and corporate secretary of Flushing Financial Corporation and Flushing Bank, has been involved in many charitable organizations throughout the years.
She has volunteered for organizations such as the March of Dimes, Long Island Care, Women’s Fund of Long Island, the American Cancer Society, and Long Island Association for AIDS Care.
“We work together and she’s done so much for the community,” said QBG executive director Susan Lacerte. “She’s done a lot of volunteer work in Flushing.”
QBG board chair Pauline Huang said she was excited to see the expansive reach of the garden over the last year, with many people coming from around the borough and beyond.
About 210 people attended the Rose Gala, including Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Peter Koo and Borough President Eric Adams from Brooklyn.
Adams spoke about the garden as a way to connect people from various cultures and encourage the embracement of diversity.
“A garden like this is a great equalizer,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your economic level is, what language you speak, what block you live on, it forces us to leave our comfort zone and not only cross-pollinate the flowers, but also cross-pollinate our cultures in places like Queens and Brooklyn.”
Proceeds from the gala will go toward sustaining the garden’s flowers, as well as support for the programs and environmental education workshops that cater to over 35,000 schoolchildren and the almost 225,000 people served by QBG last year.
“The gala is just a great time to have friends get together that are involved with the garden in many different ways and celebrate,” Lacerte said.