By Erica Finocchio
The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual St. Patrick’s Day luncheon on March 14 at Terrace on the Park in Corona.
The ballroom, decorated with green lights for the Irish holiday, was filled with the sound of music. The tables were filled with Irish soda bread and finger foods as guests checked in and networked.
The annual luncheon, which featured Queens elected officials and companies, honored Northwell Health, one of the largest healthcare systems in the country. Michael J. Dowling, president of Northwell Health, spoke about the merging of the North Shore and LIJ health systems.
“Northwell Health provides the best quality and best service to local communities,” Dowling said. “We’re delighted to work with the Chamber as we expand.”
Dowling was a former director of health, education and human services for Governor Andrew Cuomo. He now runs 21 area hospitals and a medical school, the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.
The healthcare network has 550 outpatient practices and employs 175 people per week, Dowling said. Nearly 12,000 of the 62,000 total employees come from Queens alone.
Dowling also spoke about his Irish immigrant background, and stressed the importance of immigrants in the United States.
“Each and everyone of us is an immigrant,” he said. “Members of your family came here from somewhere else.
“You can’t speak about the history of the United States without speaking about the history of immigration,” Dowling added. “We celebrate immigrant contributions from all over the world in the United States.”
Business leaders across different industries lauded the annual event as an opportunity for both new and old members to meet and work together.
“I think this event brings the local community together,” said Alpa Patel from Swan International. “We all can network, build relationships and connect with many organizations.”
During the luncheon, cover band Brogue performed while the audience enjoyed corned beef and cabbage for lunch. The band was followed by an Irish step-dancing performance by the Fitzpatrick Academy of Irish Dance.
“I loved the festive music as I walked in,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “It was great. This shows when you come to Queens Chamber events, we can talk about business but have a good time as well.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley also lauded the organization.
“I want to thank the whole Queens Chamber for what they do in my district and creating more jobs,” she said. “Together, we’re going to make this district better.”
Queens Chamber executive director Thomas Grech announced at the end of the event that the chamber is hosting a “Queens Day in Albany” on May 8. Buses and food will be supplied for the trip.
“We want legislators to know who we are and that Queens has arrived,” Grech said.
The luncheon concluded with a raffle drawing. Investors Bank was the big winner, as their representatives won two round-trip tickets to Ireland.
Claire Shulman, former Queens borough president from 1986 to 2002, expressed her gratitude for the event.
“It’s a great day,” Shulman said. “Everyone is Irish today.”