By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A World War II veteran who helped pioneer the community board system in the 1970s has been given the city’s ultimate posthumous honor – a Brooklyn street corner was named after him.
The corner of Fifth Avenue and 80th Street in Bay Ridge has officially been renamed “Charles Ahl Way” in memory of Ahl, who served as the first chairman of Community Board 10 when the city established community boards in 1977.
Councilman Vincent Gentile, who shepherded the street corner renaming legislation through the council, presided over a ceremony at the site on April 26 during which the new street sign was publicly unveiled.
A large group of Ahl’s family members was on hand for the unveiling. Among them was Ahl’s son, Greg Ahl, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a Community Board 10 member and currently serves as its treasurer.
Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said that many civic leaders in Bay Ridge still remember Charles Ahl, who died many years ago at the age of 68, and still refer to him as “the father of Community Board 10.”
In the early days, when neighborhood community boards were fledgling “mini City Halls,” Ahl’s leadership skills set a tone of professionalism that helped Community Board 10 hit he ground running, according to longtime civic leaders in Bay Ridge.
The boards were established by the City Charter to serve as advisory panels to city government. There are 59 community boards in New York City. The boards have no real power, but offer the city advice on such issues as zoning and land use, sanitation and public safety in their neighborhoods. Each board has up to 50 members, all unsalaried. The boards also have district managers, paid employees who handle constituent complaints and work to ensure that local residents get proper city services.
Ahl was a hard worker, Gentile said. “Charlie seemed to touch everyone he came in contact with. No matter what the task, Charlie gave it his all. He selflessly helped and endlessly gave of himself – leading by example – and never once asking for anything in return. I can think of no better way to honor Charlie’s life and his contributions to our community than by renaming this corner after him,” the councilman said.
In addition to his role as Community Board 10 chairman, Ahl served as president of the Bay Ridge Forum and the Dyker Heights Civic Association. He was also a member of the Bay Ridge Community Council and was a scoutmaster at St. Ephrem Catholic Church for several years.
A pianist and self-acclaimed song and dance man, Ahl was a member of The Entertainers, a Bay Ridge-based troupe made up of other well-known residents who would perform shows around the neighborhood in the 70’s and 80’s to raise money for organizations like the Bay Ridge Ambulance Volunteer Organization (BRAVO) and The Guild for Exceptional Children.
Gentile noted that Ahl served in World War II. “Charlie really gave so much of his life to others – serving honorably as a sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II, fighting valiantly in the famous Battle of Normandy and all across Central Europe,” he said. “At heart, Charles Ahl was always a community man – so it is no surprise that he went on to serve as Community Board 10’s very first chair back in 1977 when community boards were brand new to the New York City Charter. He worked diligently to organize this new venture under the city charter – always focused on the quality of life in his community."