Uptown Grand Central is a 501c3 nonprofit that got its start as NHEMA (the New Harlem East Merchants Association). The members of our board include:
Diane Collier, Board Chair, has been a supporter of Uptown Grand/NHEMA since its inception. She is a lifelong resident of East Harlem, operates a family-owned small business in the neighborhood and previously worked as AT&T Business Solution Sales Executive. Diane has been a member of Community Board 11 Manhattan since 2007, served as its Board Chair (2015-2017), Board Vice Chair (2009-2015) and at various times as Chairwoman of the Economic Development, Public Safety and Marketing committees. Diane is known for her results-driven commitment to increasing local employment, small business local ownership, MWBE (Minority & Women Business Enterprise) participation and affordable housing for East Harlem constituents. Diane serves on the boards of Addie Mae Collins Head Start, Upper Manhattan Empowerment, the East Harlem Walk of Fame and Harlem Hospital’s Community Advisory group.
Michael Lythcott, Board Vice Chair, is the Founder and Managing Director of Lythcott & Company, a firm that has completed private equity investments totaling more than $500M over a broad spectrum of companies including consumer packaged goods, education, Internet technology, media and entertainment, sports entertainment and real estate. A skilled investor and operator who from time to time has taken on management responsibility in many portfolio companies, Michael is also the Managing Member of Harlem Renaissance 2012, LLC, and Founder and Managing Director of ICON EMBA. As an educator, Michael has successfully launched customized master’s in business administration programs at the George Washington University, Miami. A community activator, educator, entrepreneur and investor, Michael received his undergraduate degree in Intellectual History from The University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Columbia University. He lives in Harlem and enjoys his charitable work as Chairman of the Board of the National Black Theatre.
Raffaela Petrasek, Board Secretary, is Director of Community and Government Affairs at Blumenfeld Development Group (BDG), bringing to her work 23 years of experience in economic development, community revitalization policy and real estate development, and specializing in facilitating public/private partnerships. In her current role, she coordinates the public approval/entitlements process and community outreach for BDG projects, including working with various agencies regarding the redevelopment of brownfields and historic properties. In East Harlem, BDG’s projects have included the transformation of the former Washburn Wire Factory into East River Plaza, and the development of Gotham Plaza on East 125th Street and an affordable-housing building currently under construction on East 126th Street. (Note: Raffaela serves on the Uptown Grand Central board as representative of BDG Vice President David Blumenfeld.)
William “RanDe” Rogers, Board Treasurer, is Co-Owner and Chef of Sisters Caribbean Cuisine, an East Harlem staple founded 23 years ago. Having grown up in small business, RanDe is deeply invested in creating a vibrant and supportive environment for local entrepreneurship here in East Harlem. As a founding member of PASSNYC (Promoting Access to Specialized Schools in New York City), he works to expand access to educational opportunities and improve the support structures for students across the city. Additionally RanDe brings to the board extensive experience advising founders and executive directors in and out of the nonprofit arena.
Stacy Buchanan has lived in East Harlem for more than 25 years, and currently resides at 1775 Houses along with her daughter and two sons. A nurse by profession, Stacy works long nights and early days but still manages to make time to be active in the community with volunteer work.
Sylvia Caldwell was born and raised in Harlem. Educated in the New York City public schools, including Brooklyn Technical High School, Sylvia completed her undergraduate work in mechanical engineering at Syracuse University and her graduate studies at Polytechnic University, where she received a master’s degree in Telecommunications and Computing management. Sylvia served as a computations analyst for General Electric, and then at NYNEX, which is now known as Verizon. Now with Verizon for 26 years, she manages service outages for the state of New York. Sylvia is also a property owner here in Harlem and the founder along with her mother of local small business Harlem Berry Beauty Lounge.
Princess Jenkins is the force behind The Brownstone Woman, the women’s lifestyle boutique she co-founded in 1998. Known as “Harlem’s Crown Jewel,” the Brownstone is known for the individualized shopping experience and ethnically inspired fashion it offers to women ages 35-65. It has been featured in The New York Times, O Magazine, Essence Magazine, Good Morning America and Living It Up with Patti LaBelle. Princess has also worked as an entrepreneurial training consultant and motivational speaker. She is co-founder of Women In The Black, an association of African American female entrepreneurs that is now celebrating its 29th year. Widely recognized for her work in championing small businesses, Princess was recently honored with the Fashion Cultural Icon Award at 2017 Harlem Fashion Week.
Marilyn Joseph served in senior leadership at Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) from 1991-2018. Her tenure began as a Case Supervisor at Neighborhood Gold, a homelessness prevention program and as Program Coordinator of Parent Corps, a parent outreach program. In 2001, she was appointed Program Director of The Baby College (TBC), which under her leadership graduated more than 5,600 families and exceeded the annual enrollment goal for 12 consecutive years. In 2010, she accepted an additional role as Program Director of The Baby College Guardian Responding and Developing Strategies (TBC GRADS) program, managing an additional 100 employees. In 2012, Marilyn became Senior Manager of Early Childhood and Community Programming, with oversight of three pre-Kindergarten schools, a Head Start, an Early Head Start, a Parenting program and a community development program. Starting in 2015, she served as director of Community Pride, a resident-driven neighborhood revitalization program that works to develop community leadership skills, advocate for services, enhance the physical environment of Harlem, and improve overall economic stability. Marilyn graduated from the College of New Rochelle and the Developing Leaders Program at Columbia University Business School. She is a former elected official and served as Harlem District Leader for the 70th Assembly District from 1997-2007.
Evan Kashanian is Project Coordinator at Artimus. Having graduated from Binghamton University with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and an adjunct in Business Management, he joined the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 2001, working as a Project Manager in the disposition of city-owned land. In 2004, he brought his knowledge of real estate and affordable housing from HPD to Artimus. In his current role, he works on construction management coordination by managing relationships with city agencies, directing the pre-development process, and working on community relations and development. In East Harlem, Evan has worked on projects including the Harlem River Point South and the historic Corn Exchange.
Kat Peeler is Founder and CEO of Eco Guar Group LLC, a company focused on creating a greener, sustainable future and contributing to better lives for underprivileged, minority communities through ethical fair trade. Prior to the Eco Guar Group, Kat was a Senior Vice President at L’Oréal, where during her 17-year career she led the Garnier Hair business, totaling more than $500 million and including Haircare, Styling and Haircolor. Kat was also the marketing powerhouse behind Garnier Fructis, L’Oréal's biggest launch worldwide in its history. Kat is known for her experience in strategic vision and business optimization, new product development and innovation, consumer insight, and repositioning for turnaround and renewed growth. She received her Master of Management degree from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and earned her undergraduate degree in Engineering from Princeton University. She grew up in Eastern Tennessee, moving to New York City in 1993. Since 2006, Kat has been a resident of Northeast Harlem and is passionate about improving her community.
Jim Ratti is a community activist who is passionate about promoting positive community and economic growth for his neighbors. Having lived in Harlem for all of his 65 years, Jim studied education at the College of New Rochelle, South Bronx Campus. He first worked as the Legislative Assistant to the President of Legislation and Political Community Action for District Council 37, of the Local 371 Social Services Employees Union, then moved on to become the Legislative Assistant to City Council member Robert Rodriguez, Sr., and Congressman Robert Garcia. Passionate about politics, Jim was appointed in 1984 as Special Assistant in the office of Governor Mario Cuomo, where he worked as the first Director of Public Information for The Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) for all New York City boroughs. Following his political work, Jim entered the field of real estate, serving as Property Manager for several management companies. Now retired, Jim serves on a number of local boards including as president of the 1775 Houses Tenants Association and as an officer of the New York Police Department 25th Precinct Community Council. In his free time, he enjoys reading books and listening to classical music, especially piano concerts by his exceptionally talented son, Carlito.
Rev. Dr. Patricia A. Singletary is the Senior Pastor of the Elmendorf Reformed Church, the oldest church in the village of Harlem, New York, established in 1660. She is the first woman pastor of this historic church. Born in Harlem and educated in the New York City public school system, she is a graduate of the State University of New York, Empire State College with degrees in business organization and management. She also holds master’s and doctorate degrees in divinity from New Brunswick Theological Seminary. She is the co-founder of Harlem’s African Burial Ground Task Force.
Tenisha Sterling is manager of Wild Olive Market, the supermarket with a focus on local and healthy food that has been serving East Harlem for the past eight years. Tenisha was recently honored by the New York City Department of Health with a “Shop Healthy” proclamation in recognition of Wild Olive’s community partnerships, including a “Shop Healthy” art gallery that the store hosts along with Harlem Children’s Zone. Tenisha has lived in Harlem for 23 years and currently resides in East Harlem with her 14-year-old daughter, Akira.
Joyce Storey is an event management consultant with more than a decade of experience. Her company specializes in aiding charitable organizations with humanitarian missions. Clients have included NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, the New York Organ Donor Network, Columbia University Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, The Hereditary Disease Foundation and The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. Joyce is the Prize Administrator for the prestigious Pardes Humanitarian Prize, an international award honoring humanitarian efforts in the field of mental health. She lives on East 126th Street along with her husband and very large dog.
Ny Whitaker is the executive director of Emerge New York, an organization that encourages women to run for public office, and hone their skills to win. She is also founder of Events by Ny, a consulting firm that provides mission-based marketing, event management and sponsorships/philanthropic program development for small businesses, nonprofits and private foundations. Ny is an adjunct professor at New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies in Advertising Strategies, Event Marketing, Cause Marketing and Corporate Sponsorships. A Senior Fellow with Obama For America, Ny mobilized hundreds across New York City to support the re-election of President Barack Obama, and organized the Harlem office for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She has been a candidate for Female Democratic District Leader for the 68th District and is a current county committee member for the Manhattan County Democrats. She has served as a board member for the Association of Fundraising Professionals and National Alliance of Market Developers, and as President of the Parent Council for Harlem Success Academy 3.