What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this area?
I am the president of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), a State Authority with two major areas of focus. We provide tax-exempt financing for the State of New York and public state entities as well as for private institutions in higher education and healthcare. We also manage major construction projects for public clients such as SUNY, CUNY and NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation. We’re working on the first new courthouse on Staten Island in over 75 years, a $208 million project, and adding the finishing touches on an incredible new patient pavilion for Harlem Hospital, a $225 million construction project.
I am a lawyer by training, a graduate of Columbia University School of Law here in NYC. I co-founded a minority-owned corporate law firm on Wall Street in the early eighties and eventually spent eight years at a national law firm as a partner. However, I also spent nearly five years as an investment banker at a boutique minority-owned firm. I was asked to come into State government to head up DASNY by Governor David Paterson, a friend for 30 years, who apparently couldn’t find anyone else who was willing to undertake the commute.
What is your strongest characteristic and how has it assisted you in your career?
Vision. By that I mean the characteristic of intelligent foresight; having the ability to see opportunity before it actually arrives. Trust in my own vision has been my guide through the critical decisions in my life. As a young lawyer, I took a job in Albany even though all of my colleagues thought it a crazy idea. I started a small law firm to enter the field of municipal finance when the field was dominated by centuries old white shoe firms. There are more examples I could provide. I have benefitted every time I have embraced my personal vision, not necessarily monetarily, but from the experiences I have enjoyed and the relationships I have been able to forge.
Describe three lessons you have learned during your career?
Of course, I have learned many lessons and continue to work on my game but these three come to mind: You can’t undo the past, but you can shape the future. The mind is a powerful thing to use. And, never say never. All simple ideas, yet transformational in practice.
What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
My biggest accomplishment has been raising three wonderful, intelligent and independent thinking children (now young adults) with my wife, Ammie. Next would be my professional accomplishments. At this time, I would say being named the first African American to head DASNY in its 65 year history and having the chance to shape and impact the work and policies of such an institution takes first place. A close second was having the privilege and honor of being appointed by the Governor to serve as chairman of the Executive Order No. 10 Task Force to increase utilization of minority and women- owned firms in State bond financings and related areas. There we clearly helped brighten the future prospects for MWBE firms by dramatically changing the way State Authorities conduct business.
What do you do in your free time?
I continue to devote time to the Eagle Academy Foundation (EAF), where I am Board Chair. EAF was launched by 100 Black Men of New York when I was president to support the Eagle Academy for Young Men, an innovative public school for boys which opened in the Bronx in 2004. Today, we have three schools and hope to open a total of seven schools in the next five years. Numbers show that there are seven districts in NYC which account for 70% of the State’s prison population. We hope to have an Eagle Academy in each one of those districts. So far, so good. One report recently indicated that only 28% of Black boys graduate from high school in NYC. In 2010, the Eagle Academy graduated 87% and 90% of them went on to college, and we’re getting better every year.
I also love spending time at sports events involving my kids (my youngest daughter is a terrific soccer player!) I also follow sports in general and have recently become a big fan of mixed martial arts and the UFC.