Focus: ‘Summer Stroll’ Tops Bay Ridge Agenda in 2012

By Chuck Otey

What’s not to like about the city’s “Summer Stroll” program? That’s where a string of blocks is closed — except to cross traffic — on a warm night, say, Fridays in July and/or August, and people have a grand time.

Experience in other neighborhoods indicates that “Summer Stroll” is proven to get people out and strolling on a summer night, which is good for local spirit and helps local business. Properly handled, it’s a win-win endeavor.
We’re pleased to announce that a delightful “Summer Stroll” series is likely in the offing for a portion of Third Avenue, supported by the Merchants of Third Avenue with the bipartisan backing of Republican-Conservative state Sen. Marty Golden and Democratic Councilman Vinnie Gentile.
Scheduled to appear at a press conference on “Summer Stroll” this Friday are MTA President Bob Howe, MTA Marketing Director Bina Valenzano, who would be in charge, as well as the aforementioned elected officials.
“This is not a festival” said Valenzano, co-proprietor of The BookMark Shoppe along with Christine Freglette. “It’s an evening devoted to pleasant music, the arts and the excellent food for which Third Avenue’s restaurants are so well-known.”
The next step in the ambitious agenda will occur on Feb. 7, when “Summer Stroll” gets its final review from Community Board 10.
Other Third Avenue officers are First Vice President Jay Sessa of McLaughlin & Sons Funeral Home, Second Vice President Wade Jabour of Jabour Realty, Corresponding Secretary Rhea McCone of Harbour Abstract, Treasurer Cathy DiTirro of Capital One Bank, Secretary Lloyd Berg of Verrazano Vision, and Recording Secretary Leigh Holliday of The Art Room. In full disclosure, this writer serves as executive secretary and pioneer chair. 
The fabled Third Avenue Festival — the largest, longest-running and safest in the city — managed by “Festival Guy” Chip Cafiero will bring a few hundred thousand walkers to Third Avenue on Sunday, Sept. 30.
While the festival is celebrated for food, drink and amplified bands, “Summer Stroll” will feature artistic performers, ranging from violin players to concert singers to accordion players. (Will Karen Tadross bring out her “12 base?” Probably not, because as head of the Bay Ridge Community Council’s Arts & Culture Committee she’ll be helping local groups to prepare popular skits and selected dramas!)
Georgine Benvenuto of Gallery 364 and Victoria Hofmo, housing preservationist and Scandinavian historian, aided by Justin Brannan from the staff of Councilman Gentile, will be assembling the main arts and music portion of “Summer Stroll” along a nine-block stretch of Third Avenue, from 81st Street to 89th Street.
‘Summer Stroll’ Showcase
For Bay Ridge Real Estate
Playing big roles will be highly skilled leaders such as Dawn Marie Hansen, Anthony Marino (brooklyONE Theater), the legendary Jeff Samaha, Chandra Hira (Bay Ridge Festival of the Arts), the above-mentioned Leigh Holliday, Ann Gubiotti and Susan Huizinga (they’re doing a wonderful job with the Narrows Community Theatre), Michael Coluccio, violinist Anne Marie-Wiesner, photographers Larry Nicosia, Doug Opalski, Michelle Del Prin, Doug Schwab and Anthony Almeida, with artist John Antonucci. We’re hoping singer-songwriter Lisa Scherma — of Gallery 364 fame — will also perform!
With institutions like the Narrows Community Theatre, The Ridge Chorale and the Bay Ridge Festival of the Arts joining in, Third Avenue will use “Summer Stroll” to put Bay Ridge on the city map as it hasn’t been before, so it is sure to receive the backing of local realtors under the leadership of Wade Jabour.
Also showcased will be the excellent dining establishments that have earned Third Avenue the justified title of Brooklyn’s Restaurant Row. 
Of course, we expect AARP leaders and “Senior Idol” creators Al and Gail Asfazadour to produce a number or two from those who sing, dance and play to the joy of more than 500 people annually at Xaverian High School.
Stay tuned!
2012 BRCC Presidents’ Luncheon:
So Good We’ll Need Two Parts!
(Prologue: Because it’s fun and important — and involves a lot of local leaders — this is Part I of our report on Saturday’s Bay Ridge Community Council Presidents’ Luncheon.)
Only in Bay Ridge, folks. Only in Bay Ridge!
While it’s difficult for people in other parts to even conceive of an umbrella civic organization with 85 member organizations surviving and thriving for almost 60 years, that’s just what the Bay Ridge Community Council is doing, as it demonstrated so eloquently by the very successful Presidents’ Luncheon held Saturday at the Bay Ridge Manor.
Bringing the elite gathering to order — she loves order — was Executive Secretary Arlene Keating, who appropriately introduced a host of noted guests as well as the “unsung hero” volunteers who compose this unique unit, headed by President Alex Conti, who gave one of the best talks about the BRCC we’ve heard in recent years.
There were two senators (New York’s Chuck Schumer and Bay Ridge’s Marty Golden), an assemblywoman (Nicole Malliotakis, skilled at ping-pong as well as making new friends), and a councilman (Vincent Gentile, a past BRCC president). Kings County District Attorney Joe Hynes and even City Comptroller John Liu showed up for a round of hand-shaking, as did Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who got there earlier than our own treasured B.P. Marty Markowitz!
Politicians went back and forth with good-natured allusions to their great ping-pong challenge held at the last Third Avenue Festival, wherein many of them, notably the lithe Ms. Malliotakis, showed admirable initiative and athleticism.
Giving due respect to those who police our streets and protect us were Capt. Richard DiBlasio (the highly regarded commander of the 68th Precinct), his boss Chief Thomas Chan, and leading officers of the FDNY.
Since it was by invitation only — that’s the council’s way of saying, “Form a group, lead that group, join the council and we’ll welcome you here!” — heads of member organizations were there en masse.
Among those we chatted with were Bill Guarinello, president of HeartShare (we’re fortunate that as a volunteer, Bill shares his executive acumen with Bensonhurst’s Community Board 11 and heads the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee); Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association and a BRCC Civic Award winner; Dr. Ahmad Jaber, president of the Arab-American Association of New York; Dan Texiera of St. Anselm’s Holy Name Society; Justice Arthur Schack (who at one time headed Community Board 10); Gene Brody, president of the Bay Ridge Federal Credit Union; Bay Ridge Eagle Editor-in-Chief Rick Buttacavoli and Managing Editor Paula Katinas, and Democratic District Leaders Kevin Peter Carroll, Dilia Schack (a former Ragamuffin Inc. president) and Joanne Seminara (who now heads Community Board 10).
Speeches by elected officials were meaningful, mercifully brief and appropriately focused on the many achievements of the council. Bay Ridge Manor host Patrick Golden’s chef and staff performed flawlessly (improvement in food over earlier management) and have boosted the establishment’s image to the top in Brooklyn.
Notable was the presence of Conservative Party officeholders — Mike Long, state chair; Jerry Kassar, Kings County chair; and the above-mentioned Fran Vella Marrone, Bay Ridge district leader, whose consistent volunteer involvement here has kept Bay Ridge “right” without the need for the Tea Party.
Mike Long, in particular, helped Bay Ridge find its voice and name when he helped found and lead the Voice of Bay Ridge Business, which played a vital role in the unique relationship between local businesses and the civic community that has characterized Bay Ridge for more than 20 years. 
Maureen’s BRCC ‘Colors’ 
Were Beige and Pink
All of this gave us plenty of time to hobnob with the likes of Eagle Sales Manager Marc Hibsher — an online whiz who’s noted as the “Restaurant Wrangler” of the Annual Pioneer Reception of the Merchants of Third Avenue, led by President Bob Howe, who was there, of course, sitting with Justice Matt D’Emic, Peter Clavin, Helen Galette (president of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association, a charter member of the BRCC). Also there was Eagle columnist Larry Morrish, who, with Jack Malone, held a big Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Parade event on Sunday, hosted by John Keegan and Bob Daquara at the Greenhouse Café.
We sat with the colorful (beige and pink) Maureen Stramka, a past BRCC president; Fort Hamilton High School Natatorium founder Tom Greene, another past BRCC president; Dave Whitebook; former Democratic leader Ralph Perfetto; Marjorie Sullivan, an outstanding but very modest leader of the council and the Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, who will graciously chide me for this public praise, which she eschews; and the very impressive Ruth Masyr from the Bay Ridge Jewish Center, another BRCC charter member.
Bay Ridge, Etc. authors Jack La Torre and Ted General (Home Reporter columnist) were having a great time, while explaining that their third collaborator, Peter Scarpa, was laid up with knee surgery. (While it’s selling big-time, there are additional copies of the latest Bay Ridge Historical Society book available at The BookMark Shoppe on Third Avenue.
Pleasantly provocative Linda Lupia represented very popular Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, who was laid up with a seasonal illness and whose moving speeches have been a highlight at previous Presidents’ Luncheons. Veterans’ affairs leader Howie Dunn, known for his much-appreciated campaign to have more places display the U.S. flag here, enjoyed his time at a table that also included Robert Kassenbrock, whose dad Walter and uncle Vincent founded the BRCC back in 1954, and past BRCC President Gloria Melnick.  
Bob Kassenbrock has also been a consistent, sustaining force on behalf of the Bay Ridge Festival of the Arts and his great work has been assumed by new President Chandra Hira. Bob has been a proud standard-bearer for the Kassenbrock name, which represents what Bay Ridge is best known for: volunteer community work!
To be continued…
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See the “dramatic conclusion” to this report in Part II of “Focus” in next week’s edition of the Bay Ridge Eagle!
February 2, 2012 - 1:25pm



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