Focus on Bay Ridge: Ret. Justice Gerard Rosenberg is taken by coronavirus at 85

Civic leader, legal scholar and devoted family man

The loss of retired Kings County Supreme Court Justice Gerard Rosenberg this past week has stirred sadness and very fond remembrance in two Brooklyn communities where his lifelong dedication to causes he held dear enriched the lives of others.

“His death is a loss to the entire Brooklyn legal community,” Acting Administrative Judge Ellen Spodek said. “Our sympathies go out to Harriet [his wife] and their sons, and so many more who had come to know and admire him over the years.”

Gerard Rosenberg Bay Ridge Cleanup
Back in 2000, Hon. Gerard Rosenberg (second from left) took part in one of Greater Bay Ridge's legendary cleanups. Also shown (left to right) are future state Sen. Marty Golden, Jay Sessa, Chuck Otey and U.S. Rep. Susan Molinari. Photo courtesy of Chuck Otey

Starting out as a trial lawyer after graduating from Brooklyn Law School, Rosenberg found time to provide leadership in Bay Ridge to the 68th Precinct Youth Council baseball agenda for many years. Today, there are thousands who will fondly recall the work he did to make their fields playable, their equipment the best and their teams always competitive.

Rosenberg’s dedication to the rule of law and a singular sense of what we call “justice for all” inspired him to go a step further and seek election to the Civil Court bench. After serving as court attorney to Justice Aaron Koota and, later, to Justice Irving Rader, he entered the Democratic judicial primary in 1984, running against the establishment, in a way, because he was running against sitting Judge Patrick Bonomo.

Rosenberg’s candidacy was bolstered by his civic and courtroom experience, but observers felt his election was secured when he received the coveted endorsement of The New York Times, which stated, in part, “We warmly endorse Gerard Rosenberg in the Fifth District over Judge Patrick Bonomo, whose term runs out this year.”

All of this, of course, was with the total support of his wife Harriet, sons Mark and Arthur, and scores of friends and admirers, this writer among them.

Solid service earns Supreme Court judgeship

After successfully disposing of a record number of cases through settlements and trials in the lower court, his achievements were recognized in 1999 when he ran and was elected a justice of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term in the Second Judicial District of New York.

Recognizing his extensive trial experience — earlier as an attorney, later as a judge — he was designated by then-retiring Justice Joseph Levine to take over the challenging, controversial and complex court assignments of the Kings County Medical Malpractice Part, which Justice Levine had handled for several years.

Retired Justice Levine’s thoughts were shared by many upon learning of Rosenberg’s passing: “He was one of the nicest guys I have ever known in the practice of law. I had full confidence when he took over from me to assume control of the Medical Malpractice Part.”

Not only did Rosenberg follow Levine into the Medical Malpractice Part, at Levine’s suggestion he and Harriet began to take up part-time winter residence in Longboat Key, Florida, where several other Brooklynites also reside.

That’s one reason why Levine was in close touch when his friend and fellow justice was rushed by ambulance to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where at first the diagnosis seemed to be a heart attack. In the next 13 days, it became apparent to his friends and family that Rosenberg, who marked his 85th birthday while in the ICU, was battling a foe to which many younger and healthier man had already fallen.

Joined in Bay Ridge cleanups, ‘started’ Kings Inn of Court

While still on the bench, Justice Rosenberg pitched into local causes such as the Greater Bay Ridge Clean-up Campaign and the Bay Ridge Forum. In addition, he was active in the Brooklyn Bar Association, the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association, the Columbian Lawyers Association and the Brooklyn Brandeis Society.

One of his major interests was the proper training of young attorneys, so, in 2001, he joined with fellow jurists — Justice Marcia Steinhardt and retired Justices Ed Rappaport and Abe Gerges — to form the first chapter here of the Kings County American Inn of Court, which thrives to this day. One of its primary aims, reflecting a theme of the ancient London Inns of Court, is to give actual courtroom training to new and even veteran attorneys.

He may have officially retired in December 2011, but Rosenberg’s service to the rule of law and his community continued up until his final days.

Adelphi’s innovative approach to distance learning

Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, like so many other local schools during this trying time, has been forced to think differently about education and day-to-day operations in the age of coronavirus.

The historic Bay Ridge private school, which has spent an incredible 157 years in dedicated service to the education of “the total child,” implemented an innovative distance learning program to help stay connected with its students and their families amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Teachers are now using the latest video chatting software to conduct virtual lessons with their entire classes in real time, according to Academy officials.

Students at Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn have been able to stay in contact with their classmates and their teachers during the pandemic using top-of-the-line technology. Photo courtesy of Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn

“We wanted to keep things as close to normal for our students as possible during this difficult time,” Head of School Iphigenia Romanos said. “Utilizing the latest technology, Adelphi was able to quickly implement a state-of-the-art distance learning program that allows teachers and their students to connect in real time and keep up the routine of ‘going to school,’ albeit remotely.”

The response, she told us, has been overwhelmingly positive. In its first week alone, Middle School students conducted a timely virtual science experiment to show the effects of soap and water on a substance, while Lower Schoolers enjoyed a virtual trip to the aquarium and gathered for group story time with their teacher.

The early success of this program and cooperation from students, families and staff shows how Bay Ridge families and professionals can come together and show strength in any time of crisis. The days of this pandemic are certainly numbered, but it is good to see that no time is being lost educating Bay Ridge youth in the meantime. They are a resilient and inspiring bunch!

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