New civic group hopes to foster community participation

BATH BEACH — If Ray Denaro gets his way, residents in three Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods will become a lot more active and engaged in their communities over the next couple of years.

Denaro is the founder of a new organization, the Bath Beach, Bensonhurst & Gravesend Alliance, which he started to promote civic engagement, perform acts of charity for the less fortunate and serve as a sounding board for residents with concerns about quality-of-life issues.

“Our goal is community advocacy. We want people to become more engaged in their neighborhood,” Denaro, a lifelong Gravesend resident, told the Home Reporter.

Denaro was quick to credit a buddy of his, Steven Patzer, with helping to get the alliance off the ground. Patzer said he was happy to do so.

“I helped Ray kick-start the alliance because it came from my heart. It will encourage neighbors to meet each other, enroll the community to step up and strengthen Southern Brooklyn civically,” Patzer told the Home Reporter in an email.

The idea of forming a new civic organization has been in the planning stages for a while, according to Denaro.

“Steve and I have been talking about this a long time. We wanted to get started around the holidays, when people are thinking of ways to give back to the community. We wanted to give people that opportunity,” Denaro said.

The alliance, which was officially formed a week before Thanksgiving, is off to a fast start.

The group sponsored a highly successful Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 28 at Salt & Sea Mission on Stillwell Avenue, where the owners of Nick’s Lobster House fed a large crowd mouthwatering servings of swordfish, calamari, chicken wings and penne ala vodka.

The alliance is going to be busy during the holiday season with a toy drive and a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

The toy drive is set to take place on Tuesday, Dec. 17 in Coney Island.

The alliance is hosting a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 20, at Lady Moody Triangle on Avenue U between Van Sicklen Street and Lake Street in Gravesend, at 6:30 p.m. Hot chocolate, candy canes and cookies will be given out at the ceremony.

Denaro is hoping that the holiday events entice local residents to come out, meet their neighbors, and become more engaged. “Bath Beach, Bensonhurst and Gravesend are close, tight-knit communities. Sometimes, people want to get involved but they don’t know how,” he said.

In the future, the alliance will be holding civic meetings to give residents the chance to voice concerns about quality-of-life issues.

The new group is getting a warm welcome in the community.

The Rev. Michael Louis Gelfant, pastor of Saint Finbar Catholic Church in Bath Beach, applauded the alliance on Twitter. “It’s about time!! Our community needs representation, resources and leadership. Time to get out of the shadow of Bay Ridge and Coney Island,” he tweeted

The alliance has already proven to be capable of bringing Democrats and Republicans together to work in a bipartisan way. Denaro and Patzer are both politically active but are on opposite sides of the fence.

Patzer, the former president of the Thomas Jefferson Young Democrats Club, recently announced his intention to run for City Council in the 47th Council District in 2021. The seat, which takes in Coney Island, Gravesend and parts of Bensonhurst, is currently held by Democrat Mark Treyger, who is term-limited.

Denaro ran against Treyger on the Republican and Conservative lines in 2017. He lost, but said he found the experience of running for public office to be valuable.

For more information on the alliance, email:

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