Robert Howe – President of the Merchants of Third Avenue CivicImprovement Association, former member of School Board 20,President of the Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst Beautification andPreservation Alliance
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Howe has been the president of theMerchants of Third Avenue for the last 16 years. According to theBay Ridge native, he didn’t seek out the job; rather it found him.I was a very comfortable couch potato when some of the merchantson the avenue asked that I get involved in the organization back inthe 90s, he recalled. He says the organization was in danger ofnot being able to afford its annual Christmas lights display, at acost of roughly $25,000. As a longtime presence on Third Avenue,first with his family’s steakhouse, which closed after threedecades in 1987, and then his own law practice, Howe was thenatural choice. The people who approached me felt it was time fora change, he said. Little did I know I’d be the front person, hesaid. Either I’ve been doing a good job for 16 years or else noone else wants the position.
JOB: For 30 years, Howe has run a private law practice in BayRidge, specializing in real estate law and estate planning. He sayshe has a strong bond to the neighborhood where he has spent hiswhole life. It’s what drives him to look out for the other businessowners on Third Avenue, even if his office is now 400 feet away. Iwas on Third Avenue for 25 years, he said. I moved around thecorner six years ago. Fortunately, our [Merchants of Third AvenueAssociation] bylaws allow you to be on the side streets also.
PERSONAL: Married for 32 years, Howe has a son, age 20 and threedaughters, ages 26, 27 and 30. At 57, he says his proudestachievement is first and foremost, having raised a family of four.Three are working and one is in college, he added proudly.Although his professional and civic life keeps him busy, he stillfinds time for tennis, golf and even an occasional bike ride alongthe Narrows. I also have politics as a hobby, he said, andalluding to his successful 1970s run for membership of School Board20, adding: I gave it up as a profession in my early 20s.
INSPIRATION: Although he says he couldn’t envision himselfliving anywhere else, he still sees preserving the vitality of theavenue as an enduring issue. I think the biggest challenge iskeeping the Bay Ridge commercial strip vibrant and healthy, hesaid. The Third and Fifth Avenue strips – even as a child Iremember them being a vital bloodline throughout the community.But for him, it’s just another reason to keep working to preservehis community. I have a stake with my family and my business, hesaid. I also have a lot of good friends and [know many] businesspeople within the community. Plus I feel every day brings adifferent look, a different challenge and something else todo.