New ‘class’ of Pioneers honored at 23rd annual Merchants reception

Celebrating Bay Ridge’s finest.

The Merchants of Third Avenue hosted its 23rd Anniversary Champagne Reception on Monday, January 9 to honor 12 individuals that have made a significant difference in the community.

The reception took place at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476 76th Street and played host to around 150 guests, which along with honorees, included friends, family, colleagues and residents.

“Each year, we gather to celebrate all that is good and strong in Bay Ridge,” added President of the Merchants Bob Howe. “Our philosophy on Third Avenue is to acknowledge the unsung contributors to our vibrant community. Our community is the envy throughout the city of New York and that is because we have a wealth of individuals who care about the community and invest their time and money to keep it that way.”

“We have honorable and honor worthy people here tonight,” said pioneer of the Pioneers reception Chuck Otey. “This event as you might know is sponsored, originated and created by the Merchants of Third Avenue, led this year as it has by the past quarter century by the esteemed Robert Howe.”

Five Third Avenue businesspeople — Anthony Rinaldi, Patrick Gilbride, Susan Chen, James Guan and Peter Lekkas — received a Pioneers award while six community members — Sandy Vallas, Essa Masoud, Joanne Seminara, Josephine Beckmann, Ted General, and The Home Reporter’s own editor Helen Klein — were honored as Civic Award winners.

The evening also featured the first annual Larry Morrish Award, which was given to local resident and public servant John Quaglione.

“I look around the room tonight and I see that there are 150 people here and there’s everybody in Bay Ridge who should be here,” added Howe. “Unfortunately, only 10 people will be acknowledged tonight, but 140 other people should also be receiving that same acknowledgement.”

Howe went on to discuss the importance of both civic and pioneer duties.

“Some of our merchant honorees tonight own, run or manage businesses that have been on the avenue for decades,” he said. “This contributes to the stability of our neighborhood. As we know in Bay Ridge, strong and stable commercial avenues make strong and stable neighborhoods. And our civic award winners have put their words and thoughts into action and volunteer in multiple civic endeavors.”

Recipients were honored to receive the awards.

“It has been my pleasure and honor to cover Bay Ridge and nearby neighborhoods for the past 20-plus years,” said Klein. “This amazing community is filled with fantastic people who continue to enrich my life. I am so grateful for being recognized for doing a job that is a joy.”

“It’s very nice to get this type of recognition,” added General. “I usually try to stay in the background. It’s really great that merchants recognize my community involvement and it’s outstanding to be part of a group of community leaders.”

The Morrish award proved to be an emotional portion of the evening.

“Larry did more to define Bay Ridge as a community than any living person,” said Howe. “He always stirred the community in the right direction. What he thought was, if you’re going to back something, really back it. Give it your heart and soul.”

“Tonight we have a new Larry Morrish award to honor his memory and wonder how one person could’ve been so involved in so many aspects of a community and to have had so much of an impact,” added Otey.

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