Brannan’s Bay Ridge: Ask not what your neighborhood can do for you

I think seeing surgery performed on a human body may have been the closest I’ve ever come to witnessing a miracle.

Many years ago, a good friend studying medical forensics asked if I’d be interested in watching her assist senior medical staff with several exploratory surgeries. And, years later, the one thing that sticks with me above all else was the insanely complex symphony that is the human body’s operating system.

What amazed me more than anything was realizing how many astonishing things need to happen in mysterious, immaculate sequence over and over and over again just for you and me to exist for one moment, let alone 80 or 90 years, because if just one of the instruments in this intricate orchestra hits the wrong note or misses its cue, it will throw everything off, if not stop the show completely.

I immediately went searching for the allegory in this real-life rendition of Scriabin’s “Mysterium” that I’d witnessed. I started thinking about all the work that goes into the many events held in Bay Ridge this time of year, most of which require months of planning and a small army of loyal and selfless volunteers. Not unlike the symphony I witnessed, where every individual link in the chain must do its job in perfect order, every single time, many hands make light work behind the scenes.

That’s why fall in Bay Ridge is really spectacular. It starts with the weekend of the Chris Hoban Memorial Run. The run, a bona fide September tradition, is held in honor of NYPD Officer Christopher Hoban who was killed in the line of duty back in 1988 when he was just 26 years old.

Like me, Chris was a Xaverian alum so the run holds a very special place in my heart. The run not only keeps Chris’s memory alive, it also supports the Hoban Scholarship which provides tuition assistance to the sons and daughters of New York City police officers attending Xaverian High School.

The Ragamuffin Parade is next. This year, we celebrated 50 years of smiles along Third Avenue with a street renaming, a gala and another fantastic parade where Leigh and I got to close out the procession as Mr. and Mrs. Claus (shhhhh! Don’t tell the kids!) with a jolly belly full of breakfast, thanks to George Kabbez and his annual pre-parade brunch at the Salty Dog, where I also enjoyed a fascinating conversation with Eleanor Schiano about the Upper Third Avenue Merchants of yore.

The Ragamuffin Parade is followed the very next day by the Third Avenue Festival, another Bay Ridge institution. Then you’ve got the Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade on 18th Avenue, and the Narrows Botanical Gardens Harvest Festival, followed by Chip’s famous Halloween Walk and the NYC Marathon.

And it goes on and on as fall in Bay Ridge moves forward at a seemingly breakneck speed until we light the Christmas trees on Shore Road and in Owl’s Head Park. And even then we aren’t done yet because a bunch of Bay Ridge neighbors will go out on Christmas Day to deliver meals to those in need. That is a special experience for both givers and receivers.

This is the true spirit of Bay Ridge and this time of year it really comes alive as residents, businesses, religious, community and political organizations band together to plan and realize a host of activities throughout the autumn months, coming together in a finely tuned effort, not so unlike the symphony I witnessed many years ago in that operating room.

The respect and admiration I have for Bay Ridge’s matchless history of community service and volunteerism past, present and future knows no bounds. We are lucky to live in a community where this much activity is commonplace and where people stepping up to help make magical memories for others is just something that we all do.

If it’s autumn  in Bay Ridge, it’s time for many folks to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to make our community a little warmer, a little more caring, a little more generous and cheerful. So ask not what your neighborhood can do for you, ask what you can do for your neighborhood! See you on the avenue!

Justin Brannan is a community activist, born and raised in Bay Ridge. He and his wife Leigh own a small business on Third Avenue.

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