Bipartisan Political Leaders Form Civic Engagement Group

West Brooklyn Neighborhood Club Has Gop, Dem, Reform Members

In a push back against the divisiveness of the Trump era, a bipartisan group of political figures from Bay Ridge and Sunset Park has teamed up to form a grassroots organization with the goal of encouraging dialogue and developing civic improvement projects.

The new organization, called the West Brooklyn Neighborhood Club, is the brainchild of five men: Craig Eaton, former Brooklyn Republican County chairperson; Ralph Perfetto, Democratic district leader of the 64th Assembly District; Bob Capano, Brooklyn Reform Party chairperson; James McCall, a GOP activist; and John O’Hara, a Sunset Park Democratic activist.

The club has not announced the date of its first meeting, but the leaders have issued a mission statement on behalf of the new group.

“In light of the hyper political divisiveness that is out of control, it is time for more civility and unity. We welcome anyone to join us because there is much more that unites us as Brooklynites than divides us. Our goal is to bring together residents to exchange ideas on improving our communities with respect in a social atmosphere,” the statement reads.

“It’s not a political club,” Eaton told this newspaper. “It’s a civic club. Politics has gotten so divisive and vicious. When politics reaches that level, it impedes our ability and the ability of our elected officials to conduct business and succeed in helping the community. Basically, this is five very savvy political people coming together to see what we can do to make the community better.”

The inaugural meeting will likely take place later this month or in November and will probably be in a restaurant somewhere in Brooklyn, according to Capano. “We wanted to have an outlet for people to get together socially,” he told this newspaper.

While the first few meetings of the West Brooklyn Neighborhood Club will feature informal settings, Capano said the group will quickly move toward conducting formal meetings on a regular schedule with guest speakers.

The club will also begin to plan community improvements projects over the next few months.

“We want to meet somewhere in the middle and decide on projects that will work best for our community,” Perfetto told this newspaper.

But the organization’s immediate focus is to grow a membership from the ground up, Capano said.

Eaton,  Capano and Perfetto never mentioned President Donald Trump by name during interviews with this newspaper. But all three lamented the current political climate in the nation and at the grassroots level in Brooklyn.

“Everybody’s in their own political camp. Nobody wants to compromise. The lack of cooperation and flexibility is leading to a point where there is no civility left,” Eaton said.

Bay Ridge is a good place to launch a bipartisan organization, according to Perfetto. “Bay Ridge is unlike a lot of Democratic communities. Here, people are pretty middle of the road. And there is a willingness by people to go beyond politics and work with the other side,” he said.

The club’s five founders have all known each other for decades and have worked together on non-political community improvement projects in the past.

Capano, who was a Republican before joining the Reform Party, was a top aide to Democrat Marty Markowitz when Markowitz was Brooklyn borough president. Capano worked closely with community leaders on both sides of the political aisle during his time in the borough president’s office.

Capano also used to meet regularly with civic leaders when he was off-duty.

“We used to get together socially to talk about our families and non-political stuff,” Capano said. “A few months ago, I was talking to Craig and Jim about the idea of bringing that feeling back and we came up with the idea for this club.”

Eaton, who is a former chairperson of Community Board 10, whose catchment area includes Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, said the board is an example bipartisanship in action.

“You have Democratic members and you have Republican members. They’re all working together. When I was the chairman, Vincent Gentile, a Democrat, was the councilman. We worked together on a number of things,” Eaton said.

The Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights area has numerous organizations that work to improve the quality of life, including the Bay Ridge Community Council and the Dyker Heights Civic Association, both of which Eaton admires.

“But we’re not looking to compete with anyone. And we’re not looking to duplicate anyone’s work. We’re going to do our own thing,” Eaton said.

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