Opinions & observations: How will Bay Ridge come back after coronavirus?


Defining institutions like Ragamuffin, Summer Stroll on 3rd are key
to revival, as are restaurants serving as revered community centers

Someone asked me this week if I thought Bay Ridge would come back to anything like it was — the leading civic volunteer neighborhood in the city — after the pandemic virus.

My answer was quick: yes.  

The comeback details? It’s complicated.

For decades, Bay Ridge has been a leading New York City volunteer neighborhood. It has had community cleanups here that have brought out more than 1,500 Ridgeites on a single Saturday morning.

For more than 50 years, the volunteer-led Ragamuffin Parade Committee has staged more than 50 parades involving tens of thousands of happy children and even more parents and smiling spectators. (Though this year’s march was forced to be canceled due to lingering COVID-19 concerns, rest assured it will be back!)

Each summer for almost a decade now, thousands have enjoyed “Summer Strolls” on both Third and Fifth avenues, thanks to volunteers who aid the Fifth Avenue BID and the Merchants of Third Avenue. The latter has been ably led by attorney Bob Howe, whose dad owned Howe’s Steak House, which rivaled Peter Luger’s back in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. (Much like the Ragamuffin Parade, these too will be back and better than ever!)

We even have a leading volunteer civic body in the Bay Ridge Community Council, which in many ways ran things here for 30 years until the community boards came on the scene.

Most of these traditions — for instance, the Ragamuffin Parade Committee, led by Rose Gangi — are already planning 2021 events. But, it will take a lot of work and the kind of dedication that is seriously challenged by a crisis like the pandemic.

Underlying all of the above are our community centers — the scores of restaurants whose owners and employees usually make their homes in Greater Bay Ridge and give generously to sponsor parades, Summer Strolls and other vital, defining events.

All of us are looking forward to a safe and well-attended reopening of indoor dining on Sept. 30.

#ShopPinkBayRidge on Oct. 3 a day of community awakening

Those getting restarted will have one more complication that older traditions like cleanups, Summer Strolls and parades didn’t have to face. That’s the internet — a blessing to billions and a challenge perhaps to a civilization trying to deal with issues far beyond the purview of a neighborhood columnist.

Locally, we have noted (even before the pandemic shut us in) that many erstwhile civic volunteers came to believe that they could achieve civic goals with the mere flick of a computer button. Let’s face it, many of us have become spoiled by the ease with which we sign an internet cleanup petition, then click onto the next and, likely, more provocative topic with no intention of going out and picking up a shovel or a paintbrush to carry out an actual community cleanup. 

These folks have to follow the example of leaders such as Sheila Brody of The Green Spa & Wellness Center, banker Brian Chin, restaurateurs John Keegan and Bob Daquara, broker Dan Texeira and many others who know that a “flash mob” is not an organized community endeavor.

We’re pleased to report that many here are successfully deploying internet forces to conduct “The 3rd on 3rd,” an event led by Chrisie Canny, whose Wixx on Third was very popular and who now operates Vented in Brooklyn, an aromatherapy jewelry company that gives back to cancer patients with every purchase.

Out of necessity, Canny and Jeanine Conden of Charmed, along with their team, will have to rely largely on the internet, but their endeavor will take physical form on Oct. 3 when participating stores are bedecked in bright pink, sending out the hopeful symbol so valued by and inspirational to those stricken with cancer.

For more information on “The 3rd on 3rd,” contact Canny at 917 301-0201.

President Howe is working with Merchants of Third Avenue members to take part in any way they can while strictly observing pandemic-imposed safety standards. 

“I’m asking those who can to get in touch with Jeanine or Chrisie and #SHOPPINKBAYRIDGE,” Howe said.

We don’t expect, or necessarily want, crowds out there on Third Avenue come Oct. 3, but what happens on that upcoming Saturday will actually be a first step and a learning experience for those of us who want to see a return to better times and are willing to offer personal support by showing up that day.

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