Big Al’s Legacy: Unveiling the History of The Legend of Harlem

Big Al is a lifelong resident of Harlem.  He was born in Harlem Hospital and later sold flowers in front of the hospital as a boy.  As a schoolboy, Al worked in a supermarket on 135th Street, and delivered papers on 138th Street, famously known as Strivers Row.  While he delivered papers, he told himself that one day he’d own a house on Strivers Road.  Today, he actually owns three.

          In 1956, Al left Harlem to join the United States Marine Corps, against his mother’s wishes…(The Sergeant assured him the Captain called the President, and he needed to start on Friday) 30 years later, Al retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant and returned to Harlem to open a business as a beverage distributor. Within a couple years, Al expanded as a wholesaler, and then Master Wholesaler in charge of all of New York.  He later expanded even further, going international.  He was the President and CEO of Consolidated Beverage, Inc., a firm servicing the East Coast of the US, as well as a Senior Consultant at Herald National Bank, and Chairman of the Board of Oak LLC, a waste paper recycling company. Currently, Al is the President of the Tri-State Law Enforcement Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting to the children of fallen officers through scholarships, grants, and providing individual achievement awards to fraternal, religious, and ethnic organizations.

          As Al enjoyed success, he immediately began giving back to his community, including its first responders.  In 1987, Mayer Ed Koch asked Al if he could donate money for FDNY’s Harlem Hilton Firehouse to purchase a Rabbit Tool.  Al said yes without any hesitation, and a week later that very tool was used to pry open 29 apartment doors in a catastrophic fire, and saved countless lives. 

          Around the same time, the 32nd Precinct invited Big Al to a 10-13 racket to raise money for an Officer who was paralyzed due to a vehicle accident.  During the party, they approached Al and told them they had a problem: They ran out of beer!  That wasn’t a problem for Al, who loaded them up in a truck and took them to his warehouse, where he donated 300 cases of beer to be sold at the racket to benefit the officer

After the tragic events of the 1993 Ramada Hotel Drownings, when three teenage boys, George, Vincent, and Winston Chin, died in a swimming pool accident at a Ramada Rolling Green hotel in Andover, Massachusetts, one of Al’s staff members who knew the family mentioned to him that the family had no money to cover the funerals for the departed children. Al stepped up and covered the cost without a second thought.

On September 11, 2001, Al received a phone call from Police Headquarters around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  Beekman Hospital in Lower Manhattan was treating victims of the attack, but desperately needed water because they didn’t know if their supply was contaminated.  Al was soon en-route with a truck, and he delivered half his load-over 1,000 cases- to Beekman Hospital.  His next stop was to 1 Police Plaza, where he delivered another 1,000 cases of safe water for the first responders to use for decontamination.  Later that evening he arranged for three trailers of food to be delivered, and set up food stations on the 8th floor of 1PP.  Over the next six months, Al continued to coordinate with restaurants and distributors, and provided meals for over 15,000 rescue workers at Ground Zero. 

          Giving is a way of life for Big Al.  For 40 years he has been instrumental in the Toys-For-Tots program.  Each year, needy children in over 30 hospitals, shelters, schools, churches, and community organizations benefit from Al’s toy donations.  Among these are NYPD’s 32, 25, 26, 28, 30, and 47 Precincts, as well as PSA5 and PSA6. 

          Al has devoted his life to sharing his success with those less fortunate.  He serves on the Board of Directors of nine separate not-for-profit organizations, and founded the Bernice Riley Thompson Scholarship Foundation. 

Law Enforcement has always held a special place in Big Al’s heart. He’d been honored by hundreds of agencies including 32 Precinct (Cop and Business Man of the Year), Ellis Island (Businessman of the Year), and New York Chamber of Commerce (Business Man of the Year). In 2010, he founded the Tri-State Law Enforcement Foundation, with the express purpose of supporting and honoring local, state, and federal law enforcement and their families.  As well as honoring numerous Law Enforcement professionals, Tri-State has granted over 50 scholarships to students since its inception.