Focus on Bay Ridge: Greater Bay Ridge community halts! So does rest of world

By Charles F. Otey

Events like Pioneers reception, Kassenbrock fundraiser fall to COVID-19 pandemic

We know that the raging COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting and endangering lives the world over, but let’s pause for a moment and see what’s happening here.

How are Bay Ridge leaders handling the coronavirus challenge? Pretty well if you take the case of Merchants of Third Avenue President Bob Howe and Pioneer Committee Co-Chair Lori Pedone, who faced a tough decision about the 26th Pioneers Cocktail Reception that was set to be held March 16 at the Bay Ridge Manor.

“It’s canceled,” Howe told us several days prior.

The effervescent Pedone, who serves as director of academy development at Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, added, “We’re all set to do it again as soon as we can. We’ll do it again in a matter of months.”

Rest assured, the 26th Pioneers Reception will take place as soon as this contagion is cleared.

“Our honorees have been concerned and yet gracious in handling news of the cancellation,” Pedone said.

The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association — the oldest and most successful organization in the state — will be canceling its upcoming meeting, according to President Mary Ann Stathopoulos, who, coincidentally, was to be honored at the March 16 Pioneers event.

Our esteemed Bay Ridge Community Council, led by Ralph Succar, has canceled a meeting and likely may have to change the date of its June dinner-dance, which has been one of the biggest galas here for more than 60 years.

Our local businesses of all variety are certainly taking the brunt of the pandemic. Notably among them is a veritable institution in terms of promoting healthy lives — the Green Spa & Wellness Center, where Sheila Brody and Maria Ingardia have directed a professional team that has brought pain relief and better health to thousands over the years.

We received this message several days ago: “After a great deal of careful consideration and following the guidance of state and local health officials, the Green Spa & Wellness Center will temporarily suspend services effective Monday, March 16.

“We support our communities in their efforts to get ahead of this disease and lessen the spread. We feel it is our social responsibility to eliminate nonessential contact with each other in order to prevent a wide-scale spread that would prevent hospitals and doctors from managing the influx of patients during this current health crisis.

“We will continue to reevaluate the situation and plan on making decisions regarding when we will reopen on a week-by-week basis and continue to follow the guidance of the CDC, state and local officials.”

Kassenbrock luncheon rescheduled for July 26

“Based on the issues facing the world and concerns about events with large numbers of people, we have postponed the annual Kassenbrock Brothers Memorial Scholarship Fund luncheon, which was going to take place on Sunday, March 22,” Ilene Sacco and Kate Cucco announced in a joint statement. “The new date will be July 26, 1 p.m. at the Bay Ridge Manor. We hope that everyone will be able to join us as we honor Jane Kelly and Karina Costantino.”

Sacco and Cucco are administrators of the Kassenbrock Brothers Memorial Scholarship Fund, which has been a boon for more than a thousand aspiring young students here for four decades.

How we covered the 1968 Hong Kong Flu

Hong Kong flu made front-page news on Dec. 13, 1968. Image courtesy of Chuck Otey

As we now fight to stay stable and safe during this historic pandemic, it’s important to know that we’ve survived these germ tsunamis before. In 1968, we were scared, even though the toll around here was not serious; a few patients were confined to Victory Memorial Hospital “out of the [traditional] abundance of caution.”

This writer served as executive editor of the newspaper then and I recall there was a sort of panic. No stores or bars or other public places were closed, but, as Herman Wreiden of the former Neergaard’s Pharmacy told Marian Leifsen [now a noted author], “We have sold some masks; not many.”

For the record, the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968, was a global outbreak of influenza that originated in China in July 1968 and lasted until 1969-70. The outbreak was the third influenza pandemic to occur in the 20th century; it followed the Asian flu pandemic of 1957 and the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 (also called Spanish flu).

The Hong Kong flu resulted in an estimated one million to four million deaths, far fewer than the 1918-19 pandemic, which caused between 25 million and 50 million deaths.

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