BY CHARLES OTEY
The divisions that wrack this nation are mirrored and even deepened in our part of Brooklyn, where, unlike most other urban neighborhoods, there is a competitive two-party political system. This is evidenced by apparent Republican victories that will have ousted Democrats in Congress and the State Legislature.
One enemy of an otherwise solid community can be overly partisan politics, but here in our part of Southwest Brooklyn we have been gifted with a number of activities and traditions that have been shared and sponsored by people of all political parties.
Civic leaders such as former Republican State Senator Marty Golden and earlier Councilmember Vincent Gentile did not start out in clubhouse politics. Golden was a civic and business leader who guided Fifth Avenue back from decades of decay.
The Fifth Avenue business thoroughfare was once the prime shopping area in Bay Ridge, but thousands of local shoppers “seemed to disappear overnight,” one local merchant told this newspaper at the time.
Meanwhile, Gentile (after losing his senatorial post to then-Councilmember Golden) could point to his steady work as councilmember on behalf of the Bay Ridge Community Council and other volunteer cleanup and scholastic efforts.
Before the pandemic, most political aspirants arose from the civic arena, not the now almost forgotten political clubhouses. This and other unique factors — for one, our perch atop the scenic ridge overlooking the Narrows — combined to build Bay Ridge into the leading volunteer community in the city.
Both of these men were staunch supporters of the BRCC, which claimed among its members many leading business organizations like the Merchants of Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue BID, 86th Street BID, houses of worship, the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association, PTAs and block associations.
Together they backed the 53-year-old Ragamuffin Parade, the ultra-successful Summer Stroll on 3rd (then also on Fifth), cleanups, festivals organized by Chip Cafiero and a bevy of meaningful parades. A recent and likely new popular tradition saw young artists from Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn showcasing their work and talents in front of Gerard Bell’s Skinflints Restaurant on Fifth Avenue, perhaps inspired by the BRCC Halloween Window Painting Contest! This popup art walk, titled Street Moments, generated much buzz on the intersection of 79th Street and Fifth Avenue as pedestrians stopped and admired the original artwork created by local youth.
The question now confronting Bay Ridge: Will these traditions — some adjourned due to the pandemic — be able to regain their past stature to serve as unifying forces in a diverse community?
We have many here who have worked and served here for years and can help us pick up the pieces. Here are some of those whose names outshine their titles: Cafiero, Golden, John Quaglione, Jim Clark, Pat Condren, Colleen Golden, Tom Greene, Dr. Ahmad Jaber, Alice and Louis Peters, Linda Dahl, Bob Cassara, Jeff Samaha, Patrick Golden, Amanda Zenteno, Barbara Vellucci, Bill Guarinello, Carlo Scissura, Jane Kelly, Pat Colabella, Al Corhan, Basil Capetanakis, Pat Russo, Madeline Sbarra, Mary Nolan, Joanna Succar, Eleanor Petty, Arlene Rutuelo, Pat and Patricia Killen, Sandy Vallas, Josephine Beckmann, Dean Rasinya, Anthony Ceretti, Joann Monaco, Steve Spinelli, Jeanne Eisenhardt, Habib Joudeh, Lori Pedone, Dan Texeira, Greg Ahl, Larry DiGiovanna, Irene Hanvey, Andy Sichenze, Sylvester Sichenze, Steve Maresca, Joan Curran, Andrew and Laurie Windsor, Bob Hedlund, Dr. Husam Rimawi, Joe Bova, Ralph Perfetto, Mike Esposito, Ted Nugent, Mary and Vincent Bocchino, Renee Dorsa, Lloyd Berg, Ilene Sacco, Mary Ann Walsh, Linda Orlando, Peter Scarpa, Alex Conti, Ray Ferrier, Sheila Brody, Maria Makrinos, Janet Gounis, Joe Riley, Paul Cassone, Eleanor Sabbagh, Eileen Potter, Jeanine Condon, Ted General, Bob Kassenbrock, Arlene Keating, Rose Gangi, Pat Gilbride, John Keegan, Bobby Daquara, George Kabbez, Brian Chin, Ralph Succar, Rick Buttacavoli, Fran Vella-Marrone, Leigh Holliday Brannan, Wade Jabour, Jay Sessa, Christine Freglette, Zoe Koutsoupakis, Peter Clavin, Barbara Slattery, Gerry Kassar, Mike Long, Gerry Morris and Steve Oliver. Note: This is to name just a few who have been here, gained experience and would be capable of leading Bay Ridge out of its time of uncertainty.
We don’t know when normalcy will re-appear. But we do know the traditions and those charged with sustaining them are, in their own way, alive and well here in Bay Ridge. What we also have here is our own hometown Bay Ridge newspaper — your Home Reporter & Sunset News — which has been helping civic leaders create a better community for more than six decades!