BY CHARLES OTEY
He’s more than just ‘the festival guy’
As election night results suggested that a “red wave” was rolling throughout this part of Brooklyn, the final vote — which still isn’t final, by the way — showed that former Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis had won the acceptance (and ballots) of Greater Bay Ridge.
With her decisive win over incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Max Rose, she almost outpaced President Donald Trump and most likely provided the coattails for fellow GOP candidates Mark Szuszkiewicz, Michael Tannousis and Vito Bruno, whose fight to unseat incumbent State Senator Andrew Gounardes is the tightest, to enjoy unexpected success. (Note: While Rose did concede to Malliotakis, ballots were still being counted at press time that could very well reverse the fortunes of the three Republicans mentioned above.)
What should our new congressmember do with her hard-earned victory? How about leading a movement to unite around one of the most respected and valued members of the Greater Bay Ridge community?
I speak, of course, of Chip Cafiero — the only slightly oversized living legend who has been a major force behind just about every worthwhile event or cause in these parts for decades!
His graying beard atop a relentless smile, bellowing presence and love of community single him out at Ragamuffin Parades, Pioneer Receptions, Third Avenue Festivals, Fifth Avenue Festivals, Summer Strolls, Haunted Halloween Walks and, in recent years, any number of outreach programs at Adelphi Academy of Brooklyn, where — on top of all else he does — he serves as director of external and community relations.
Cafiero’s long road to recovery from double knee surgery
Cafiero has thousands of followers on Facebook and elsewhere simply because he has met — and helped — thousands of local residents throughout his lengthy service here.
While his sole political affiliation has been as the events liaison for then-State Senator Marty Golden, he has avoided partisan politics and thus has won the respect and support of officeholders and leaders of all parties.
He is recovering now from double knee replacement surgery, which carries with it an enforced lack of mobility that Cafiero cannot and will not accept. Recovery for a normal person of his (retirement) age would be about three months or more. I predict he will be out there in time to lead the Merchants of Third Avenue’s Summer Stroll on 3rd program in 2021.
Meantime, the call is going out to rally around Cafiero’s challenging recovery as a way of giving back to this man who has played an incredible role in defining this unique community on the Narrows.
Malliotakis, who knows Cafiero well, and other elected officials — even the retired ones like Golden and former Councilmember Vincent Gentile — along with civic leaders like Bob Howe, Al Corhan, Dan Texeira, Sandy Vallas, Ralph Succar, Ted General, Sheila Brody, Maria Ingardia, Jeanine Condon, Kelli Kilbride, Chrisie Canny, Fran Vella-Marrone, Gerard Kassar, Anthony Cerretti, Rose Gangi, Colleen Golden, Barbara Slattery, Pat Gilbride, Barbara Vellucci, Lori Pedone, Ilene Sacco, Tom Casatelli and others should rally around his recovery to help him and to begin the road to recovery following a divisive period where too often politics ruled over reason.
Councilmember Justin Brannan (and some legislators to be named later) will find no greater or worthwhile common cause than supporting Cafiero on his road to recovery.
By the time we get Cafiero out there — running, walking or wheeling — a lot of the rancor hereabouts will cease being a barrier to healthy civic life.
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Breaking News: As this newspaper went to press, it was learned that incumbent Democrat State Senator Andrew Gounardes had apparently surged ahead of Republican challenger Vito Bruno in overall votes despite the latter’s healthy lead on election night. We’ll react to the official word in next week’s edition of “Focus on Bay Ridge.”