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TJ Cares stages initial event amid flame and smoke in Bergen Beach

Newly formed non-profit offshoot of Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club to focus on local philanthropy

 “Great chefs need great helpers. Where are the full-size buns?” asked Frank Seddio, as he stood amid smoke and flames and the sizzle of cooking meats on Tuesday, September 3. “I’m making sausage sandwiches here, and you’re handing me half-cut buns!” 

The frustration of the Kings County Democratic chairperson was that his sous chef for the moment, a volunteer named Detective Sam Maria from the 69th Precinct, had delivered buns cut the wrong way. Maria scurried back into the kitchen of St. Bernard Catholic Academy, on East 69th Street in Bergen Beach, to rectify the issue.

“How am I going to make sandwiches with half-buns?” Seddio proclaimed to no one in particular. Co-grillmaster Alan Weisberg nodded sympathetically. 

Sue Ann Partnow, Alan Weisberg and Frank Seddio supervise grilling.

Growing pains were in evidence all around. The day’s event was a barbecue luncheon in honor of the recently formed TJ Cares, an offshoot of Brooklyn’s Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, which encompasses the 59th Assembly District, including Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Georgetown, Mill Basin and Canarsie.

“This was the perfect location,” said Sue Ann Partnow, JASA program director and female state committee member for the 59th.  “The academy’s set right in the center of the 5-9.”

As she spoke, a bus from the Canarsie Senior Center off-loaded a substantial group led by center President Ruth Cohen. “We’re looking forward to TJ Cares,” said Cohen. “This is our first event with them, but judging by the turnout, it won’t be our last.”

“We wanted to do more community-based activism,” said Mitchell Partnow, Sue Ann’s son and former president of the Thomas Jefferson Young Democrats. “We told Frank [Seddio] we wanted to do quality events — maybe not as frequent, but when they do take place, they would be memorable, and people wouldn’t see attending as a duty, but as something they’d really, really want to do. And Frank really loved the idea.”

The day was a letter-perfect late New York City summer day. The prior day’s rain, which had prompted concerns over having an outdoor barbecue, was already long-forgotten. The sky was a clear blue with only the mildest punctuation of clouds. Seddio’s ire soon lifted as the half-buns were corrected with a full tray of whole ones, and more sizzling meats made their way from grill to bun to table.

Frank Seddio and former president of the Thomas Jefferson Young Democrats Mitchell Partnow preparing the food during the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club’s barbeque.

State Senators Roxanne Persaud and Andrew Gounardes appeared, along with Councilmembers Alan Maisel and Rafael Espinal.

“There is so much that’s special about this part of Brooklyn,” Maisel told the audience. 

“The work you do,” said Espinal, “reflects on the character, integrity and generosity of the people here.”

“This is a true suburb,” said Seddio. “Sure, over in Downtown, Williamsburg, Park Slope, etc., all the new buildings are going up — the architecture, the new businesses, cutting edge development is in play — but here you have the people who take time from their schedule to volunteer. They’re what make this part of Brooklyn really special.”

“Our next action will be a canned food drive, for Thanksgiving,” said Partnow. “People can bring donations to club headquarters at 77 Conklin Avenue. There’s a lot of food insecurity right now. We believe this will be timely and very worthwhile.”


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