By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Leaders of a grass-roots organization formed in the wake of Donald Trump’s election said they are hoping that a town hall they held on April 19 that drew hundreds of people can serve as a springboard to more political activity by those looking to resist the president’s aggressive agenda.
Fight Back Bay Ridge, founded by the mother and daughter team of Sally and Mallory McMahon, held a town hall at the Bay Ridge Manor at 476 76th St. that featured a panel of experts on housing, immigration, health care, education and the environment taking questions from the audience.
More than 200 people packed the Manor’s main ballroom for the meeting.
“I am very encouraged by this,” Fight Back Bay Ridge member Rebecca Goldberg told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday. Goldberg and Sally McMahon served as the moderators at the town hall.
“I think we gave people an outlet for hope,” said Goldberg, who added that the group’s leaders are hoping that the town hall could serve as a springboard for more residents to become involved in local politics.
The panelists included Jennifer Durkin, a partner in Durkin & Puri, LLP; Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference; Ally Hack, a board member of The Association of Muslim-American Lawyers; Mark Hannay, director of Metro New York Healthcare; Danielle Castaldi-Micca, director of governmental and political Affairs for the National Institute for Reproductive Health; Kit Kennedy, director of the Energy and Transportation Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council; Tori Lyon, CEO of The Jericho Project; Zakiyah Shaakir-Ansari, advocacy director of New York State Alliance for Quality Education; and Andrea Shapiro, program coordinator for the Metropolitan Council on Housing.
The audience members were active and engaged, Goldberg said.
While the town hall was originally planned as a protest against U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) for his refusal to hold an in-person town hall in Brooklyn, and despite the fact that the organizers placed an empty chair on the dais to represent the absent lawmaker, the event did not have an angry tone to it, according to Goldberg.
“There was a lot of positive energy in the room. We really wanted it to be positive and we wanted it to be a forum for conversation,” she told the Eagle.
Fight Back Bay Ridge invited Donovan to come and speak but he declined the invitation, according to the congressman’s office.
Mallory McMahon told the Eagle in a recent interview that holding a town hall and engaging constituents in person is part of a congress member’s job and that if Donovan refused to hold one, “then we’ll do his job for him.”
Trump’s immigration ban, his failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and his successful effort to get Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court are all sources of deep concern to many people in Donovan’s congressional district, according to McMahon.
Patrick Ryan, Donovan’s spokesman, said the invitation was declined because the Donovan questioned the organizers’ motivation.
“Their goal is to create a media and fundraising spectacle instead of engaging in substantive conversations,” Ryan told the Eagle.
“The fact is, Congressman Donovan has and will continue to meet with every single person who requests a meeting. He’s met with the founders and members of Fight Back Bay Ridge, as well as other progressive Brooklyn and Staten Island organizations. He's hosting conference calls that go out to 50,000 households,” Ryan said.
“We were really hoping Donovan would join us, especially since we were coming off the AHCA,” Goldberg said, referring to Donovan’s opposition to the American Health Care Act, the Republican-led bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The bill never came up for a vote because it was pulled by House Speaker Paul Ryan when it became clear it did not have enough votes to pass.
Fight Back Bay Ridge opposed the AHCA, putting the group on the same side as Donovan on the issue.