Anthony Watson

Board Chair

Anthony is an accomplished senior leader with expertise in program development, human relations, and program management. Extensive background in staff recruitment and retention, with 18+ years of experience in managing both youth and adult programs. Currently, Anthony is the Executive Director of the Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center, where he is responsible for all areas of institutional operations and development.


Michelle B. Hardy

Vice Chair

Michelle is a Senior Sales Executive with over 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and health care industry. She currently works with Merck & Co., Inc. and serves as a Senior Account Manager in the Surgical and Anesthesia division. Over the course of her career, she has worked in several institutions including the National Institute of Health, Harlem Hospital, and the New York City Department of Health. She has a special interest in addressing community health care disparities and barriers related to HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Nutrition, and Alopecia. Michelle is a certified trichologist and received her BA in Economics and African American History from Wellesley College and a Master in Public Health from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

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Dr. Joseph Tait

Board Director

Dr. Joseph L. Tait, a University of Pennsylvania-trained Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Harlem Commonwealth Council, Inc., its subsidiaries, and affiliates from September 2004 until September 2020, when he retired. Under Dr. Tait's leadership, Harlem Commonwealth Council initiated programs that focused on investing in the human capital of the Harlem community. Among its initiatives, Harlem Commonwealth emphasized fostering the success of students in Harlem through healthcare-related scholarships to those pursuing careers in medicine, radiology, and nursing; orchestrating summer internships for high school juniors and seniors in private-sector business corporations; providing adult basic education for the emerging immigrant population in Harlem; and delivering entrepreneurial training programs as well as providing revolving loans and technical skills to existing and start-up businesses. His vision and goal have always focused on creating opportunities for human development and independence.

As an entrepreneur and CEO of a community-based organization, he provided educational opportunities and resources for young people in the community whom he feels should be a top priority.  His passion for providing youth with guidance through mentorship, and desire to see all underserved youth in the community excel, continues to be a driving force in leading him to establish educational scholarship assistance for bright, talented, committed young people striving for academic excellence with strong connections to the Harlem community. 

Dr. Tait contends that at the end of the day, it is not about what you have or even what you have accomplished….it is about who you’ve lifted up, who you have made better. It is about what you have given back.  He would also like to impart the following quote, “As you grow older, you discover that you have two hands….one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”  Use both well.


Richard Shaw

Board Director

Richard serves as an SVP/client advisor with the Bessemer Trust Company. He has over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry as a financial analyst. J.P. Morgan Chase, Mark Asset Management, and Scudder Kemper Investments are just a few of the firms he has worked with. Richard received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Boston University and an M.B.A. in Finance from Columbia Business School. He is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor (CTFA), and has Series 7 and 63 licenses.


Michael T. Johnson

Board Director

Michael has worked in the real estate industry for over 25 years. He is a principal of Uptown Gambit, Inc., a real estate brokerage and development firm located in Harlem, where he manages real estate sales, finance, and developments. Michael is a graduate of the University of Florida.


Barbara Askins

Board Director

Barbara Askins serves as President and CEO of the 125th Street Business Improvement District in Upper Manhattan (Harlem) in New York City. She has over 20 plus years of experience in the field of improving cities as a public involvement specialist on transportation, environmental, and facility planning projects, working on major projects in several cities that included reconstruction of highways and city streets, upgrading rail and bus systems, improving sewage-treatment facilities, creative public spaces, and sport and convention centers.


 Ms. Askins successfully created the first and only Business Improvement District in the Harlem community. She is serving as the Chair of the International Downtown Association (IDA), Vice-Chair and Treasurer of New York City’s BID Manager’s Association, and Chair of Manhattan Community Board #10 in Central Harlem. Ms. Askins serves as a member of the CUNY School of Public Health Dean’s Advisory Council, a community partner with Columbia University CovidWatcher, and IDA’S Past Chair Council member. She has participated in a TEDTalk series and served as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the Journal of Place Management and Development (United Kingdom) and Global Urban Development. 


She has guided the BID’s vision to become a multi-dimensional regional center through the organization, public improvement infrastructure, design, marketing, retail, and real estate development activities. Under her leadership, Harlem has been the recipient of many pioneering projects - the first cultural bonus incentive in NYC to be used to shape the future of 125th Street as a cultural destination; the first LED streetlight to be used in a commercial district; the second pedestrian footfall counter in the country bringing real-time pedestrian count data; the first community-based app in the United States to connect those who live, work, visit, and invest, and a banner project designed to showcase the artistic talents of the community. The BID has continued its efforts to create conditions that allow for the creation of events similar to the Harlem Holiday Lighting Celebration. Her efforts were realized worldwide when the American Planning Association named 125th Street one of the ten best streets in the country in 2007. 

Ms. Askins has received numerous proclamations, citations, and awards for her contributions.

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Robert Horsford

Board Director

Robert Horsford, President and Chairman of Apex Building Company, is a third-generation real estate professional, having cut his teeth in the industry while working with his immigrant entrepreneur grandfather, Victor Horsford, founder of Victor Horsford Realty Corp., a real estate fixture in Harlem since 1945.   Robert earned a Bachelor's in structural engineering and business economics from Brown University. Before founding Apex in 1997, he worked as a project manager for Verizon Global Construction and as a project engineer at Gilbane Building Company. Robert sits on the Greater Harlem Real Estate Board and the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. 


Apex Building Co. is a Harlem-based, full-service, MBE-certified general contracting, construction management, and real estate development firm. The Company actively works to strengthen and revitalize urban communities in New York City and the greater Tri-State area by developing new and restoration of existing affordable and mixed-income housing. The Company has completed more than $200 million in new and moderate construction, thus adding or preserving more than 2,300 affordable residential units in New York and New Jersey. As a developer, Apex has commissioned more than $65 million in mixed-use and solely residential housing.


Though a for-profit enterprise, Apex's mission is to address a pressing need for housing for heavily rent-burdened lower-income earners through strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations with access to capital, land, and/or supportive services. To that end, Apex continues to collaborate with organizations interested in making high-quality residential, institutional and commercial projects to house and support our community’s most vulnerable populations. Today, Apex is distinguished as an experienced general contractor and developer who delivers mixed-used and affordable housing on time and budget.