By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn is a bustling hub of 2.5 million people, but nestled within it is Montague Street, a four-block stretch in Brooklyn Heights that has more of a small town feel than most would imagine is possible in this vast borough.
That hasn’t happened by accident, and is largely the result of the dedicated people who own property, stores and apartments there. One of the dedicated groups that helps to maintain the neighborhood is the Montague Street BID, which held its annual meeting at Borough Hall on Wednesday where Borough President Eric Adams issued a call to action.
“You have done it right; the Montague Street BID has always been a great component to the community,” Adams said. “I need you to help me educate those BIDs and local community business entities in East New York, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant and those areas that really don’t have your expertise.
“When young people in those communities are able to go to school and receive their degrees, the first thing they do is to move out. Those communities need some of this energy and knowledge so they don’t have that brain-drain. I don’t want the borough to be lopsided and the entire borough can benefit from what we have here. They need to learn how to have a successful BID.”
One of the people who has helped to make the Montague Street BID such a successful organization is Estela Johannesen, of James Weir Floral Co., who was presented with the Maria Foffe Award in recognition for her outstanding community service.
“I had the pleasure of serving on the board with Maria Foffe,” said Diana Dolling-Ross, president of the BID. “She was a longtime Brooklynite having grown up above her parents' famous Foffe Restaurant where Weir Florist is today. She understood what made Brooklyn Heights so unique and worked hard to continuously improve the district.
“In honor of Maria's memory, I am proud to present the Maria Foffe Award to my fellow board member and vice president, someone who continues to beautify Montague Street with her flowers, her personality and her beautiful smile, Estela Johannesen,” Dolling-Ross said.
Johannesen was emotional upon receiving the award; Foffe, who was her landlord, was also a close friend. “She told me so many stories about growing up on Montague Street and the building that I am in. I'm so lucky to have an extra ghost in the building,” she said through tears.
Following the award presentation, Brigit Pinnell, executive director of the Montague Street BID, gave the director's report that included new initiatives and achievements, as well as goals for the next year. She mentioned that the BID is very focused on beautification of the block and again thanked Johannesen and her flower shop. Pinnell added that the scaffolding and construction sites on the block are merely "growing pains to what we will see as a boon to the district."
Pinnell also discussed future programming the BID will have, including a Christmas shopping event as well as another photo contest, as the event was so successful last year. A major event upcoming is Summer Space, including the Dog Show, which will be expanded and held on Sept. 21 this year.
One point of concern was bicycle parking and the fact that bikes are often chained to the tree pit guards that run up and down the block, which can damage them. To address this, the BID wants additional bike parking racks added to the block
Paul Yanacopoulos from HomeStories, an upscale home furnishing and design store, discussed his move from Switzerland and how he and his wife travelled around New York City by bike until they found the Heights and decided to open his store there. He described the Montague Street BID as integral in getting his shop running.
“Montague Street is so much more than just a street; it's a village,” Yanacopoulos said. “It's beautiful and multicultural with so many wonderful restaurants and shops. It took us about two months to find a place to rent and we were delighted when we finally did.”
Committee member Melissa Kelly read the audit committee's report covering the years 2012 and 2013. The total liabilities and net assets were $70,397, which is down just $2,141 from 2012. The BID's net assets increased $725 during that same span from $62,821 to $63,546.
Treasurer and Financial Committee Chair Adam Alshawish went over the 2015 fiscal year budget. It's a balanced budget without much change since 2014. One of the few changes is that the BID is paying $2,400 less in rent due to a change in the sanitation crew's storage area.