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Celebrating 62 years of community spirit

Marking the organization’s 62nd year, leaders of the Bay Ridge Community Council held their annual presidents’ luncheon, drawing community activists, elected officials and local leaders to the Bay Ridge Manor on Saturday, January 26.

Among those present for the event were U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, New York City Comptroller John Liu, and a roster of Brooklyn politicians – Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes, State Senators Marty Golden and Eric Adams, Assemblymembers Peter Abbate, Alec Brook-Krasny and Nicole Malliotakis, and City Councilmember Vincent Gentile.

But, the star of the afternoon was the BRCC as a whole – an umbrella organization founded in 1951 by brothers Walter and Vincent Kassenbrock that has been a stalwart in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton for decades, sponsoring annual events such as a Halloween Art Contest, an essay contest and a picnic while also advocating on issues of importance to area residents.

“I think Walter and Vincent Kassenbrock would be absolutely shocked to know that the Bay Ridge Community Council is still a vital and serious and alive organization,” remarked Executive Secretary Arlene Keating. “I don’t think, in their wildest dreams in 1951, that they thought that 62 years later we would still be here. I think that’s pretty darn good.”

The elected officials spoke warmly of the council’s efforts.

“How much has changed since 1951, and we still have the Bay Ridge Community Council,” said Gentile, who noted the perseverance of the organization was a “testament” to the Kassenbrocks’ vision. The best way to pay people back is to pay it forward and really continue to do the type of work BRCC is known for – that’s what we are celebrating here today, and what we plan to do for many years to come.”

“You are the backbone of America,” Schumer told the assembled crowd. “All you want is to have a good life for yourselves and a better life for your kids.”

Liu concurred. “This is really one of the organizations here in the city of New York where you have incredible activism and collaboration. Bay Ridge retains its character, identity and cohesiveness. It is a bedrock foundation for Brooklyn and New York.”

The neighborhood also came in for its share of good words. “Bay Ridge is just a great testament that America is wonderful place for people with different backgrounds,” noted Brook-Krasny, himself an immigrant from the former Soviet Union.

As for the efforts made by Ridgeites in the wake of Sandy, Brook-Krasny, Malliotakis and Golden were effusive in their praise. “Bay Ridge did an outstanding job,” said Golden, while Malliotakis pointed out that numerous people from this area had called her after Sandy. “I will never forget those of you who called me to offer assistance and support,” she said.

“I am so proud of this community,” added BRCC President Renee Dorsa. “Between the elected officials, business owners and member organizations, you all want to get involved and help. We have seen incredible volunteerism and donations given because of Sandy, unbelievable dedication, love and support. We are truly one big family.

“Many residents of Bay Ridge who moved to be by the shorelines of our great city all came back here to Bay Ridge when, sadly, their homes were destroyed,” Dorsa went on. “What did Bay Ridge do? We welcomed them home with open arms.”

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