J.T.s Restaurant was packed to the rafters on May 3 for the sixth annual Brooklyn Democrats for Change dinner, at which Howard Schoor, Ilene Sacco, Katherine Khatari and Peter Killen were honored for their efforts in their communities.
Democratic leaders such as State Senator Diane Savino, Councilmembers Domenic Recchia and Vincent Gentile; the Democratic Organization of Richmond County; local activists and members of the United Federation of Teachers were on hand for the festive evening.
Democratic candidates — including Mark Murphy, who is running for Congress; John Mancuso, running for State Assembly and Andrew Gounardes, for State Senate — had the opportunity to express their views.
Ten years ago, we would have never been able to fill a room, Gentile said. What a long way we have come.
Dilia Schack, Democratic district leader for the 46th Assembly District, gave Howard Schoor, Brooklyn borough representative of the UFT, the Labor Leader of the Year award. The two met while working in the school system 39 years ago. We were going through some tough times when this man came in to give his time to solve the problem, Schack said. This is a great young man, a great educator and a great activist.
Democratic District Leader Kevin Peter Carroll gave the Civic Leader of the Year award to Ilene Sacco, president of the 68th Precinct Community Council.
You know that famous saying, It takes a village? It really does, Sacco said. Whatever it is we do to make our community work, we are working together.
Gentile presented the Community Leader of the Year Award to Katherine Khatari, who is a Community Board 10 member and community activist. She has become an integral part of our neighborhood. When I want an extra pair of eyes and ears, I turn to Katherine Khatari and she always has information, he said.
Khatari, who was suffering from laryngitis, kept her remarks brief. You guys are lucky tonight, she joked. Its a pleasure to receive this award. May I continue to work hard.
Janie Groff presented the Democrat of the Year award to Peter Killen, member of Brooklyn Democrats for Change and president of the Bay Ridge chapter of the AARP. How do you become Democrat of the year in Brooklyn when you live on Staten Island? Killen asked the crowd. One way is by maxing out your EZ Pass by coming over the Verrazano Bridge into Brooklyn to fight for the candidates and causes that are important to Democrats.
Killen spoke about against hydro fracking and the Stand Your Ground Law which allows anyone who feels threatened to defend themselves, even if it means committing murder, and not get prosecuted. He expressed his support for micro stamping and for unions.
As Democrats, we believe in not a minimum wage but in a living wage. One that allows us to buy a car, buy a home, raise a family, save for college and for our retirement, Killen explained. And this award, Democrat of the Year, is not mine alone, it is ours. We are all Democrats of the Year.