Birch Family Services Announces 2019 Spring Gala Honorees

Join us on May 9 at the Prince George Ballroom in Manhattan, as We Honor Long-Time Friends and Supporters at our Annual Spring Gala: Empowering People. Building Futures.

At the Birch Family Services Annual Spring Gala — Empowering People. Building Futures, we are privileged to present our Birch Legacy Award to Jay R. Fialkoff, Esq. and Iris Fishman, Ph.D., two former Board Members whose contributions honor our past, shape our present, and transform our future by helping to build a foundation for our success. We also recognize Commissioner Victor Calise and the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) as our Voices of Hope honoree. Under Commissioner Calise’s leadership, MOPD consistently ensures that the rights and concerns of the disability community are included in all City initiatives and that City programs and policies address the needs of people with disabilities.


Birch Legacy Award

The Birch Legacy Award is presented to individuals or corporations whose work honors our past, shapes our present, and transforms our future by building a foundation of success.


Jay R. Fialkoff, Esq. and Iris Fishman, Ph.D.

Jay Fialkoff and Iris Fishman, husband and wife, are longtime friends and supporters of Birch Family Services.  Each of them dedicated years of volunteer service to our Board of Directors, and their advocacy for people with disabilities, and financial support continues to influence who we are today.

Iris, who served as a Birch Board Member from 2006 to 2012, currently directs the Speech-Language-Hearing Disorders Clinic at the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU Steinhardt. She is a speech-language pathologist who has specialized in working with children and adults with severe communication impairment and the assistive technology that they rely upon. Iris recently received her doctorate from the Graduate Center of CUNY and is involved in research to develop reliable methods of testing language comprehension through eye-tracking in individuals with severe motor limitations. Prior to this, she was director or consultant for a number of programs in the New York metropolitan area serving individuals with cerebral palsy, autism, Rett syndrome, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and stroke, and served as President of the United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (USSAAC).

Jay, who served as a Birch Board Member from 2012 to 2016, is Moses & Singer’s Managing Partner, a member of the firm’s Management Committee and Co-Chair of the Litigation practice. Jay has practiced commercial civil litigation in New York for more than forty years. He represents many owners of New York City real property in complex litigation. He has been active in the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and was a member of the Judiciary Committee for many years. As a Trustee of a private foundation, Jay has supported a number of organizations involved in providing services to the disabled and has provided grants to support Birch’s programs, including New Frontier.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Birch Family Services, whose work is so important to children and adults with disabilities who must be empowered to become independent members of our society. Serving on the board of this organization has been a privilege.” –Iris Fishman, Ph.D., Director,  Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, Dept. of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, NYU Steinhardt

Voices of Hope Award

The Voices of Hope Award is given to individuals whose actions help to empower children, adolescents, adults, and families living with autism and developmental disabilities.

Commissioner Victor Calise and the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

Operating since 1973, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) is the liaison between New York City government and the disability community. In partnership with all City offices and agencies, MOPD ensures that the rights and concerns of the disability community are included in all City initiatives and that City programs and policies address the needs of people with disabilities. Through its work and advocacy, MOPD has steadily improved services and programs for the more than 920,000 New Yorkers who self-identify as people who are living with a disability as well as the approximately six million annual visitors to the city who have disabilities affecting their access to transportation, employment, healthcare, housing, education, City services, and financial empowerment. Working to make New York the most accessible city in the world, the office regularly engages in advocacy and policymaking at the local, state, national, and international levels to make certain that accessibility and full inclusion are key priorities for all public and private stakeholders alike.

As MOPD Commissioner, Victor Calise tirelessly advocates for the disability community in all City decision-making. He chairs the Accessibility Committee of the City Building Code and leads efforts to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce through the NYC: ATWORK employment initiative. This initiative has played an instrumental role in providing access to employment opportunities for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities and ensuring corporations include people with disabilities as part of their workforce. He also ensures that concerns for the disabled are at the forefront of technological developments, including smart cities, autonomous vehicles, and digital accessibility. Through his leadership and the staff at the MOPD, the first Disability Pride Parade was launched in July 2015. Recognized as an expert on disability Commissioner Calise frequently participates in national and international conferences. A dedicated public servant, he previously led efforts within the Department of Parks and Recreation to make the city’s park system — one of the most complex in the world — universally accessible. Commissioner Calise – an avid athlete – competed in the 1998 Paralympic Games as a member of the U.S. national sled hockey team. A native New Yorker, he is married with two daughters.