Locals question fate of Bay Ridge Community Council

After the Bay Ridge Community Council cancelled its annual Presidents Luncheon, a tradition for decades, some have begun speculating that the organization is on its way out.

The group that once had upwards of 110 member organizations is down to 80, sources say, and officers have acknowledged that it is financially strapped – the main reason, they say, that the lunch, which the BRCC pays for, was scrapped.

“We are not having the Presidents Lunch due to financial difficulties,” said First Vice President Mary Ann Walsh. The next big event, the dinner dance held each year in June, is still planned to take place, she said.

Jane Kelly, BRCC’s parliamentarian, explained that the council had “spent a lot of money last year. The lunch costs over $5,000, so we decided to skip it this year,” to save money for events that members value, including the Essay Contest, the Police and Fire Awards and the Halloween Art Contest, all of which connect the group to the larger community.

In addition, Kelly said, the organization is going to look at raising dues for member organizations, which have been $50 since the council was founded in the 1950s – something, she said, that had never previously been considered.

BRCC isn’t on the point of folding, Kelly said. “There’s just one person that feels that way,” she told this paper. “No one else agrees. We felt if we canceled the one event, it would put us in a fine position.” After the dinner dance, Kelly added, “Everything should be all right.”

Bob Kassenbrock, a member of BRCC’s board of directors, concurred, telling this paper that, while the question of folding the council had been “talked about, we are not exploring it at this point.

“We are very much aware we have a financial problem,” Kassenbrock added, as well as “a situation where the board and officers are rather elderly and as such, there’s a lack of a certain dynamism and energy, but at this point we can certainly continue to function,” he asserted. The group also “does not want to see” the council’s programs “disappear.”

But, not everyone agrees. While no one predicting the demise of the BRCC was willing to go on the record, several sources said they believed that the group’s days were numbered. “It’s my personal opinion that the time has come to close it down,” said one person who had been involved with the group for years. “It doesn’t serve any function anymore.”

“There’s no support, and no money left,” a former member agreed. “It’s just over. It serves no purpose anymore.”

The BRCC was founded over 63 years ago by Walter and Vincent Kassenbrock, who envisioned an organization of organizations which could advocate on behalf of the community and help maintain the quality of life. In its earlier years, the council fought redistricting which divided up the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton into multiple electoral districts, as well as against overdevelopment, and was a key part of the effort that led to the creation of the Bay Ridge Special District, which helped maintain the area’s small town feel.

But, said one source, now much of what the council did is accomplished by the local community board, rendering the BRCC superfluous.

Should the council end its run, it will certainly leave a gaping hole. “It’s a great thing,” remarked community activist Larry Morrish of the council, noting he had been involved with the BRCC “since high school. I hope they can preserve it.”

Former BRCC President Peter Killen concurred. Calling himself a “staunch supporter” of the organization, Killen said, “I want it around for ever and ever and ever.”

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