Robert Kassenbrock President of the Bay Ridge Festival of the Arts
JOB: For 35 years, Robert Kassenbrock taught both elementary andjunior high students in New York City public schools. Retired nowfor six years, over his long career, Kassenbrock was a teacher inthree boroughs — Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Kassenbrock’s family has been actively apart of the community since the 1950s and 60s. He grew up with hisfather and uncle both dynamic influences in the neighborhood,having founded the Bay Ridge Community Council (BRCC) in the 1950s.When speaking about his involvement from such a young age,Kassenbrock said, It’s in my genes. He started volunteering inthe 60s, when he was in high school, at the Union Church Art Showwhich is now the Bay Ridge Festival of the Arts. His father said tohim, Go up and help them in hanging the paintings. That was in1966; he has been committed to the cause for over 40 years, nowbeing the organization’s president. Being active in the communityis Kassenbrock’s passion. He is a core component of manyorganizations, including BRCC, where he co-chairs the PhotographyCommittee. He is on the parish council of St Anselm’s RomanCatholic Church and is the chairperson of the journal committee forthe 90th anniversary celebration that the church will be holding inApril. He also is a volunteer with the Guild for ExceptionalChildren (GEC), a non-profit organization devoted to dealing withthe needs of children and adults with developmental disabilitiesand their families, as well as with the Regina Opera, a localmusical organization that has been in existence since 1970.
POINTS OF PRIDE: Kassenbrock takes pride in the numerousorganizations in Bay Ridge that are bringing young people together.Parents are too focused on getting everything done, he says.Kassenbrock believes that these organizations are a way for theyoung people in the community to learn the values that many peoplein Bay Ridge espouse.
FAMILY: Of Irish and German descent, both sides of Kassenbrock’sfamily came to America in the late 1840s. His mother grew upworking hard, with no electricity, on a farm near the Hudson Riverand relying on either a boat or a sled to get around. When herfather died, Kassenbrock recalled, no one wanted to continueworking on the long-established farm, leading her to Brooklyn andnursing school. Kassenbrock’s father’s family settled in downtownBrooklyn in the 19th century. In 1922, when the extension of thesubway was built, it brought the Kassenbrocks to Bay Ridge, wherehis mother and father would meet.