Local do-gooders win kudos from Citizens Committee

BENSONHURST — The Friends of New Utrecht Library, which created an art workshop aimed at helping LGBTQ+ young people express themselves in a safe, nurturing environment, was one of four local organizations receiving recognition from State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and the Citizens Committee for New York City at a recent ceremony celebrating grassroots activism.

Citizens Committee CEO Peter Kostmayer and Gounardes presided over a ceremony at the New Utrecht Library at 1743 86th St. on Oct. 1 and paid tribute to the Friends group, Bay Ridge Cares, the Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association and My Friends Place.

Gounardes, a former member of the Citizens Committee, presented representatives of each group with New York State Senate Citations.

The event also gave the community do-gooders a chance to describe their good works and to exchange ideas. The organizations had previously been awarded grants from the Citizens Committee to work on community improvement projects.

“We are tremendously grateful to Citizens Committee for New York City for their support of programs at New Utrecht Library. Across the borough, Brooklyn Public Library provides welcoming spaces for people from all walks of life and every age group,” said Tambe John, neighborhood library supervisor for the New Utrecht Library.

The Friends group is eager to welcome LGBTQ+ youth “to the library to work, create and find inspiration,” John said.

In May, the Citizens Committee awarded the Friends of New Utrecht Library a $1,690 grant to establish an arts workshop for LGBTQ+ young people at the library.

Johanna Dehler of Bay Ridge Cares said her group strives to “help those in need and foster the sense of a small town in a big city.”

The Citizens Committee’s grant program, “is truly important for small, grassroots groups like us and really help community groups make a big difference!” Dehler added.

Bay Ridge Cares was honored for its work refurbishing the lobby and kitchen of the Fort Hamilton Senior Citizens Center and for beautifying the outdoor area with new planters, plants and benches.

“This award from Sen. Gounardes is a validation of the work we do and we are grateful to all our volunteers who help us achieve our goals,” Bay Ridge Cares member Karen Tadross told the Home Reporter.

My Friends Place works to improve residents’ mental health through dance and aerobics. The Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association is leading community beautification efforts.

“Our mission is to empower underserved youth and their families to help them become confident and self-sufficient, and to increase awareness of mental health. Through the support of Citizens Committee, we were able to organize events including youth beautification projects at Milestone Park, a resource fair in Bensonhurst and a summer fitness class to get everyone from the community to enjoy some sweating in the park!” said Chih Ling Cheng of My Friends Place.

“The Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association is an active, involved group of neighbors working together. Thanks to all for supporting and helping projects including beautiful plantings, our beloved historic district, and our ongoing efforts to enliven the larger community,” said Linda Assini, a leader of Bay Ridge Parkway 400 Block Association.

Gounardes, a Democrat representing several neighborhoods in Southwest Brooklyn, said he was impressed with the grassroots organizations and the work they do.

“These groups demonstrate what ‘philoxenia,’ the Greek word for love of strangers, is all about,” Gounardes said.

Kostmayer said the award winners represent “the best of our city — residents coming together to address problems in their neighborhoods.”

The Citizens Committee for New York City is a non-profit organization that works to assist grassroots groups in their community improvement projects. The committee awards grants and provides expertise to the groups.

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