COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: As founder of Bay Ridge Cares, president of the Bay Ridge Democrats, member of the Third Avenue Merchants, former member of Community Board 10, and former board member of BRAVO Volunteer Ambulance, Justin Brannan has done more than his fair share of giving back to the Bay Ridge community.
Aside from cleaning up local parks, raising money for kids with cancer, collecting toys for kids in need around the holidays, running a fundraiser for five local families recovering from a devastating house fire, and delivering over 26,000 meals to areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, Brannan has also had a positive political impact on the community by registering people to vote, organizing a debate for the 2013 mayoral candidates, raising money to help save the Kings County Memorial Day Parade in 2010, and bringing citywide candidates and elected officials to Bay Ridge.
In addition, Brannan has helped organize and coordinate Summer Stroll since its inception, served as a Third Avenue Festival marshal, and organized the neighborhood’s first electronics recycling event. He’s also hosted free art shows and pie socials to raise money for The Guild.
“I live and breathe Bay Ridge; it’s like no other place on earth!” Brannan said.
MOTIVATION: After performing in over 50 countries across five continents as a professional musician, Brannan stopped touring and decided to follow his passion into the world of charitable giving. “I really believe it is our responsibility to leave this world a little better than we found it,” Brannan said. “And I just love helping people. It feels good. So I believe if you can, you must.”
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: Brannan’s favorite community project was seeing Bay Ridge come together in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but his biggest achievement, he said, has been winning his wife’s heart. He and his wife, Leigh, have been married for three years. “I wake up every day with a smile. My wife is truly a light that never goes out.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Brannan said that “finding enough time in each day to do everything I want to do” is his biggest challenge. If he had an unlimited amount of time, Brannan would catch up on his reading. “We buy books because we think we’re buying the time to read them,” he said.
PERSONAL LIFE: Brannan was born in Brooklyn, and grew up in Bay Ridge, where he attended P.S. 185, McKinley Junior High School and Xaverian High School. He and his wife currently own the Art Room, an art school for kids in Bay Ridge.
“Being a small business owner means never having a day off and always worrying about your business,” Brannan said. “But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it. Teaching kids about Mondrian or Basquiat makes all the worry worth it.”