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Brooklyn Public Library raises $776K at 19th Annual Gala

Literary Community Celebrates DUMBO-Based Etsy and Mill Basin Native Frank Bisignano, CEO of First Data

March 10, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Nicholas A. Gravante Jr., Kristina Salen, Chad Dickerson, Linda E. Johnson and Frank J. Bisignano. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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More than 400 Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) supporters gathered at Weylin B. Seymour’s in Williamsburg on Tuesday to celebrate a pair of Brooklyn business success stories at BPL’s 19th annual gala, which raised $776,000 ($108,500 of that in silent auction) — a total growth of 18.7 percent over last year.

Joining the event were notable authors Kurt Andersen, Farai Chideya, Rivka Galchen, Joseph O’Neill, Francine Prose, Kent Russell, Jacqueline Woodson and others to raise funds for the library.

BPL honored Mill Basin native Frank Bisignano and DUMBO-based e-commerce marketplace Etsy for their business and philanthropic contributions to the borough. 

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“In addition to raising funds for Brooklyn Public Library’s programs and collections, the gala is our opportunity to recognize individuals of distinction and achievement from the public sector, the business community or the arts,” said BPL President and CEO Linda E. Johnson.

Proceeds from the gala will support the BPL’s early literacy resources and will help fund programs like Today’s Teens, Tomorrow’s Techies (T4), which for more than a decade has helped high school students develop the technological and professional skills they’ll need to get ahead in their careers. After receiving training on the various technologies offered at the library, T4 participants devote upwards of 100 volunteer hours to helping patrons access library resources. 

Frank Bisignano was named CEO of First Data in 2013 after a distinguished career in banking and finance. Under his leadership, First Data has become a global innovator in commerce-enabling technology, providing business management solutions to millions of large and small enterprises around the world — including more than 17,000 businesses in Brooklyn. 

It was announced at the event that First Data will fund a pair of special collections featuring business and career materials for veterans, one to be located at the Brooklyn VA and the other at BPL’s Fort Hamilton branch. 

“I am a proud Brooklyn native, having grown up in Mill Basin, and this award is truly humbling,” said Bisignano. “I have fond memories of my local library branch on Ralph and Avenue N, and remain grateful for the resources the library provided me during my early years. Institutions like the Brooklyn Public Library, which function as vibrant centers of our borough’s many neighborhoods, are essential to ensure the development of future generations of American leaders.”

Bisignano was introduced by actor, author and Brooklyn native Steve Schirripa, best known for his work on “The Sopranos” and his current role in “Blue Bloods.”

Founded in 2005, Etsy provides a platform for millions of entrepreneurs to market and sell their goods online and offline. The DUMBO-based company has contributed immeasurably to small business development in the borough and is at the leading edge of the tech boom that has redefined Brooklyn’s economy over the past 15 years. 

“Just as public libraries offer many resources to help patrons achieve their dreams, Etsy empowers entrepreneurs to share their talents, and their products, with the world,” said Etsy CFO Kristina Salen. “We’re proud to be born and based in Brooklyn, and we look forward to our continued partnership with Brooklyn Public Library.” 

Etsy’s leadership was introduced at the gala by seller Brandi Harper, founder of the handmade knitwear shop purlBknit.

Bisignano and Etsy joined a roster of BPL gala honorees that includes Clive Davis, Eliot Feld, Roz Chast, Alan Dershowitz, Max Roach, Maurice Sendak, Lena Horne, Wendy Wasserstein and Betty Comden. Last year, the library honored attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson for their role in our nation’s progress toward marriage equality.


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