Sometimes, it’s good to have connections in high places, an exceptional academic and professional background, and an array of skill sets. Such was the good fortune for Heidi P. Hirschfeld, who, after being brought in by a friend to serve on the board for the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled (BCID), soon was hand-picked by the outgoing president to take over the top position, knowing it would be in capable hands. The board voted yes, and since 2013, she has been president of the board of directors for the non-profit BCID, which is approaching seven decades of empowering persons with disabilities by improving the quality of their lives and fostering their integration into mainstream society—a mission Ms. Hirschfeld believed worthwhile when she first joined as a board member.
Earning the Certificate of Advanced Study as a school business administrator from the New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; a Master of Arts in educational psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University; a Master of Business Administration in computer application information systems from the New York University Stern School of Business; and a Bachelor of Business Administration in statistics with a minor in mathematics and economics from Baruch College, Ms. Hirschfeld is well equipped for her current position responsibilities of oversight, strategy, examining financials, and sometimes fully operating BCID, a grass-roots organization operated mostly by people with disabilities for people with disabilities since 1956 and dedicated to guaranteeing their civil rights. She also works with the BCID executive director to help improve the quality of life for Brooklyn residents with disabilities through education and awareness programs, services, and advocacy for systems to change by removing physical, attitudinal, and communication barriers. In her role, Ms. Hirschfeld takes pride in her duties at the only independent living center in Brooklyn, a large and diversely populated borough of New York City.
In another high-profile role, Ms. Hirschfeld was elected to be the national chair of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) for the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 2017 to 2019, at which time she was proud to have helped effect positive policy changes for taxpayers. Previously, during her multifaceted work history, she was an assistant professor at St. John’s University, a business consultant with the Tuckahoe Union Free School District, and a software developer at Accenture. While at BCID, the memory that stands out most to Ms. Hirschfeld is when an executive director resigned and then she had to run the organization’s daily operations until a replacement was found. This reality was compounded by a potential internal financial crisis that many people thought would result in the closing of BCID. Yet, after several months, Ms. Hirschfeld helped restore its financial health, found a new executive director, and served as an ongoing reliable source of information, questions, and clarifications for the new hire and a champion to the organization.
Ms. Hirschfeld believes her success comes from years of her determination. She recalls women not being respected when she started working, especially in the computer field, but that never deterred her. Other characteristics that separate her are that she genuinely cares about people and her ability to communicate effectively resulting from her teaching career, which helped her professional growth while wearing many hats as the BCID board president. She also credits only doing things that she finds interesting and benefits others. When she was teaching, for instance, she covered beyond what was included in the curriculum to broaden her students’ views and encourage them to always love learning. Ms. Hirschfeld’s personal reward came repeatedly whenever her students suddenly understood her lessons and began answering questions.
In the coming years, Ms. Hirschfeld expects to continue to apply her talents where and when they may be needed. The Queens, New York, native is the mother of two sons and has three grandchildren. She most enjoys family activities as well as hiking, traveling, and collecting stamps.