Events & Honors

Spring Cocktail Party – Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Award

Amalia Betanzos knew how to get things done. She had a great soul, a great spirit, a great intelligence about the work of justice reform and helping people in dire circumstances. She personified the civic leader who could straddle the divide between the halls of power and influence and the real-life challenges facing those facing serious barriers.”
— Jeremy Travis, internationally recognized expert in criminal justice reform.


Our annual Spring Cocktail Party honors the work of Wildcat and the individuals we are proud to serve. Each year we present the Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Award to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to justice reform
Amalia Betanzos was the first Chair of Wildcat and a legendary public servant to the people of New York. Born and raised in the South Bronx, Ms. Betanzos graduated from NYU and went on to serve five NYC mayors. She served as Commissioner of the Youth Services Agency, Commissioner of Relocation and Management Services, and trustee of Catholic Charities. She served as Chairperson of the Rent Guidelines Board, the New York City Commission on the Status of Women and the National Puerto Rican Coalition, and as a member of the NYC Housing Authority, the Citizens Commission on AIDS and the NYC Board of Education.
Ms. Betanzos’ spirit of service is exemplified by the recipients of the Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Award:



Vietta Horton, a Fedcap Home Care home health aide who provided outstanding service during Hurricane Sandy, caring for her elderly patient for six days and nights following the storm, without electricity or running water.



Carl Weisbrod, former Chair of the New York City Planning Commission, Founding President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and former Executive Director and board member of Wildcat.



Jeremy Travis, formerly President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the DOJ’s research arm, and Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters, NYPD



Shay Bilchik, Founder and Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University, and former President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America.



Bill Grinker, former HRA Commissioner and co-founder of visionary poverty fighting agencies MDRC




Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice of The Legal Aid Society. Tina spearheaded the Decarceration Project, a city-wide campaign to reduce and eventually eliminate the pre-trial incarceration of poor people in NYC.