A Franklin Square private investigator and an Elmont attorney, both of whom have demonstrated their commitment to the community in recent years, were among the 36 business owners honored at the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce’s 35th annual Businessperson of the Year and Legislative Breakfast on Oct. 18.
When Thomas O’Neill graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in security administration in the early 1990s, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with it. He tried working in private security, he said, but didn’t think there was much room for growth. Then he got a job with a private investigation firm.
“I’ve done all types of investigations,” O’Neill recounted. He founded Introspect Investigations USA Inc. in Franklin Square in 1998, and the firm has since provided the public with timely and reliable investigative services.
But O’Neill is not like the P.I.’s of film noir. He doesn’t sit around a black-and-white office wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar before chasing down a suspect — although he noted that other private investigators do spend more time in the field. Instead, O’Neill said, he mainly combs through documents to collect information.
He predominantly works with lawyers, other private investigators and small businesses, and much of his work, he said, focuses on investigating limited-liability corporations and providing background checks for people applying for banking licenses.
Every year, O’Neill also attends private investigation trade association conferences to learn more about new technology that he could use in his investigations, including new databases and methods to collect phone records, as well as new interviewing strategies.
Outside of work, O’Neill is involved in scouting, and has been the committee chair of Boy Scout Troop 240 in West Hempstead since 2013. He is also a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 20 and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
But it is his involvement in the Franklin Square Chamber of Commerce that earned him the title of Franklin Square’s Businessperson of the Year. O’Neill has been a member since 2013, and now serves on the board of directors. Additionally, he has previously served on the banners, business expo and nominating committees.
“I try to do as much as I could for the chamber,” O’Neill explained, saying he tries to promote the chamber and encourage residents to attend the meetings. “I just think it’s important.”
At chamber meetings, O’Neill is “very professional” and always offers good advice, according to First Vice President Lisa DelliPizzi. “He has a mind of his own,” she said of her decision to nominate him. “He doesn’t go with the crowd.”
Once she and the other four previous honorees officially chose him as the Businessperson of the Year, O’Neill got a call from President Bruno Caracciolo announcing the news, and said he was “very surprised” because he doesn’t volunteer with the chamber to receive recognition.
Then, at the breakfast, O’Neill posed for photos with local officials and was introduced to the crowd before receiving a citation for his work. “It was kind of overwhelming,” he said, although he noted that it was “a really good time.”
“It was inspiring to talk about local businesses,” he explained, “and everyone was excited to be there.”
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, Annabel Bazante landed a job as a legal assistant in the trusts and estates department of a mid-size Manhattan law firm, where she continued to work as she put herself through Brooklyn Law School.
“Law school was a challenging period,” Bazante recounted, “because I worked full-time, attended class at night, and served both as an editor of the Brooklyn Law Review and as a competitor on the international moot court team.
“By the time I graduated law school, I realized I liked trusts and estates, because it’s a family-oriented practice area which affords me opportunities to get to know my clients and their families, while helping them navigate sensitive legal matters.”
By 2010, Bazante had founded her own law firm in Elmont and moved to the neighborhood. She has since become the chair of the Friends of Alley Pond Park and a member of both the Franklin Square and Elmont chambers of commerce.
“She’s been very active in our community events,” Paul Sapienza, the Elmont chamber president, said. She has hosted Medicare and Medicaid planning sessions at the Elmont Memorial Library, he said, and regularly participates in chamber meetings.
Additionally, Sapienza said that he, along with the past honoree, nominated Bazante for the award due to “her participation and how she got involved in everything,” adding that “it’s rare for new members to get so involved.”
Bazante said she was honored to be selected as the Elmont chamber’s Businessperson of the Year, and said she appreciates the Nassau chambers’ efforts to promote a “healthy business climate on Long Island.”