By Charles F. Otey, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
For many of the last several years, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce (BCC) had been feeling the ill effects of the economic downturn that was spurred by rampant misbehavior on Wall Street and endemic fraud throughout the worldwide banking community.
Despite a slow recovery, BCC members knew that they needed a leader with business, political and civic experience — someone who knew the challenges of meeting a weekly payroll, the intricacies of power policies at the borough, city and state levels and who was also aware of the critical role that local businesses play in the preservation and progress of the borough’s myriad and disparate communities.
The ideal selection, many agreed, would be someone young enough to deal effectively with the daunting challenges of the digital age, but with the maturity to realize the importance of established institutions that are often under the control of women and men whose daily lives are not dominated by the latest postings on Facebook, or burgeoning Twitter twaddle.
There was one candidate who stood out among the others and had the resume to demonstrate that he possessed the background and style to meet all of the above requirements. And he just happened to be a practicing attorney by the name of Carlo J. Scissura.
We all know that the BCC has been booming over the past two years, but not that many people are aware of President Scissura’s unique background.
A Pace Law School graduate, he grew up in the classic Bensonhurst neighborhood in which community bonds are valued and small businesses greet their customers on a first-name basis. He spent all of his spare time getting involved in social and civic associations and was a champion of the mom-and-pop shops that provide the lifeblood of any thriving neighborhood.
With a neighborhood law office on 13h Avenue, he gained a legal perspective on local problems and capabilities and this convergence of skills and interests in a bright young attorney attracted political officials to seek his support and counsel.
He gained more prominence by serving on the District 20 Community Education Council for five years, rising to CEC president — a position from which he inveighed as an outspoken force for increased parental involvement.
A Cool Head During A Red-Hot Mall Crisis
Shortly thereafter, he was on the staff of then Sen. Vincent Gentile and, later, was a top aide to Assemblyman Peter Abbate. Scissura was the very well received representative of these two legislators at community meetings. Some of these gatherings often required him to deal with very “hot” topics, the most notable of which was an ill-conceived proposal to erect a mile-long shopping mall using the “air rights” above the Long Island Rail Road’s 65th Street track bed.
Thousands of nearby residents — including those in Dyker Heights and part of Bay Ridge — were owners of one- and two-family homes who had lived for decades in a stable, middle-class environment. Construction on such a huge scale, with heavy trucks, pile drivers and large cranes disrupting the streets and the air, they feared, would ruin their neighborhood. When — and if — completed, thousands of cars and trucks would trundle over local streets, as the mall would draw increasing auto and truck traffic 24 hours a day, almost seven days a week.
In a victory for small businesses and “neighborhood values,” mall planners surrendered and gave up after an irate citizenry rose up to defend its way of life and ensure that the small businesses in Borough Park, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst wouldn’t be wiped out, their commercial vitality sucked dry by a mammoth shopping mall astride their very doorstep.
Community organizer Scissura emerged as a skilled communicator with a true understanding of the singular value of local businesses in sustaining a neighborhood and maintaining traditions for which places like Bensonhurst are so well known. (He later served as emcee at 18th Avenue’s tradition-laden Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade.)
Markowitz Taps Scissura as Counsel, Then Staff Chief
Borough President Marty Markowitz wisely engaged attorney Scissura to serve as his general counsel in 2008, a position in which he excelled. From a very visible Borough Hall, serving as center stage, he was able to demonstrate his executive as well as legal skills. Later that same year, when he was promoted “in the field,” so to speak, and became the BP’s chief of staff, he quickly helped to restructure the Markowitz operation, bringing it fully into the digital age and developing more intimate ties with each and every Brooklyn neighborhood.
As Markowitz approached the end of his final term, it was clear to him and other leaders that his top aide would make an excellent Chamber of Commerce president, so he seamlessly moved into that vital position in September 2012.
Under President Scissura, chamber membership has climbed impressively. Recently, he was able to report that the BCC has a “record” 1,700 members, having added 200 new members in a brief, five-month drive.
Observers agree that there is something of the Marty Markowitz style in Scissura because, like his former boss, Carlo is constantly engaging businesses and other institutions in his subtle campaign to sell Brooklyn as the best place to start a business, or grow a university.
He played a key role when then Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced the arrival of the “Made in NY Media Center” in DUMBO and has done more than his share of work in helping this ultra-modern facility begin to feel at home here.
“There is no better place than DUMBO to bring professionals from the film, advertising, new media and gaming industries together in one central location,” he said later. “This new center is also wonderful for Brooklyn businesses as a whole because it ensures that the borough continues to attract the best and the brightest from around the world.”
In the few years before he became BCC president, there were many who encouraged him to “run for” borough president. Yet it became clear that the best place he could truly help and guide his quickly developing borough was through the chamber. His first two years have proven that fact.
The still-youngish BCC head maintains a close working relationship with Borough President Eric Adams and is still able to roam the borough, issuing his own positive call to arms with a slight, reassuring echo of the man who put “Fugheddaboudit!” into the national lexicon.
BBA CLE Director Sees Summer as Time for “Last-Minute Credits”
Members of the Brooklyn Bar Association won’t be surprised that its popular Continuing Legal Aid director is pushing them to consider winning credits by signing up for some of her “CD/DVD Order Options.”
“Have a birthday this summer and need some last-minute credits?” she wrote to members recently. “Miss a CLE with one of your favorite speakers? The BBA is offering an incredible discount this summer before live CLEs start up again in the fall!”
Meredith Symonds has structured this timely offering so needy attorneys can “Mix and Match Up to 12 Credits” and enjoy certain cost savings. She’s got a lot more to say about this and can be reached at 718-624-0675 or [email protected].
The BBA, for those who didn’t know, is now under the certain-to-be-inspirational leadership of President Rebecca Woodland, whose expertise and delivery style have made her a much-sought-after cable television commentator on criminal matters.
Other “new” officers include President-elect Arthur Aidala, First Vice President Hon. Frank Seddio, Second Vice President Aimee Richter, Secretary Dave Chidekel and Treasurer Hon. Frank V. Carone. All of the above will benefit from the ongoing guidance of Executive Director Avery Okin.