New ‘class’ of Pioneers lauded at annual Merchants reception

Ten local do-gooders were feted for their community activism at the 22nd Annual Pioneers of Third Avenue Champagne Reception, hosted by the Merchants of Third Avenue.

Five Third Avenue businesspeople—Leigh Holliday Brannan, Brian Chin, Giacomo Santangelo, Anton Fallah and Donna Burg—were lauded as Pioneers while five active community members—Anne Strafaci, Annette Fisher, Katherine Khatari, Phillipa Morrish and Lisa Becker—were honored as Civic Award winners.

The champagne reception took place on Monday, October 26 at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476 76th Street. The annual dinner played host to more than 100 guests—be they friends, family and colleagues of the honorees or simply involved residents looking to congratulate this year’s ‘class.’

“We have the real people of Bay Ridge who we honor each year; we keep the spirit going and we’ve been doing this for 22 years,” said pioneer of the Pioneers reception, Chuck Otey, “and there’s one reason we’ve been able to do it for 22 years and that reason is our president, Bob Howe.”

“Really, I’m one of like 1,000 people in the Bay Ridge community that make this place great,” Howe said in response, giving the thanks right back to Otey for conceiving the Pioneers reception—one that, today, serves as a Bay Ridge staple.

“Each year we celebrate all that is good and strong in Bay Ridge,” Howe said, calling the neighborhood the envy of the Big Apple. “Our philosophy on Third Avenue is to acknowledge the unsung contributors to our vibrant community.”

Being a merchant, Howe said, “is like having hand-to-hand combat every day,” but still—despite going to war with the economy, the government and, Howe made sure to add, the weather—there are more than 500 merchants on the bustling Third Avenue strip today.

To boot, there are more than 100 volunteer organizations there to lend a helping hand.

“What other community in New York City can boast over 100 volunteer organizations?” Howe asked.

Also on hand to congratulate this year’s awardees were State Senator Marty Golden, Councilmember Vincent Gentile and Assemblymember Feliz Ortiz.

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