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Pro Bono Barrister for June 15, 2012

With right touch of humor, Columbians enter Codispoti era
 
A packed house cheered Friday night as Bruce Codispoti gave a spirited, bold, stemwinder speech after being inducted as the new president of the Columbian Lawyers of Brooklyn.

Codispoti, succeeding Dominic Famulari as presdient, spent a full minute rousing and teasing the judges, lawyers and guests at the Columbians’ 44th Annual Dinner Dance held at the El Caribe.

He called for initiative, dynamic involvement on the parts of officers and members to the clear pleasure of all in attendance — then, following a well-timed pause for effect, he turned toward Justice Anthony Cutrona, a founder of the Columbians 44 years ago who has been active and involved ever since.

Focusing directly on the distinguished jurist who served as emcee for the big night, Codispoti proudly declared "We’re not going to change a thing! We have a great organization thanks to Justice Cutrona and all of those who have preceded me. We’re going to do things just the same!"

This was followed by a huge roar of approval.

Codispoti, the son of a Remsen Street barber — "When I was 9 years old, I started sweeping hair off the floor of his shop" — articulated his long links with the Downtown courthouse community. He paid a tasteful, touching tribute to Justice Cutrona, whose dedication has helped launch the careers — legal, civic and political — of hundreds of Kings Columbians and others.

Outgoing president Famulari, who long maintained an office in Third Avenue, Bay Ridge, with his own father, appropriately singled out the elder Famulari and Justice Cutrona, for the roles they had played in his life — and proudly presented his wife and children.

Deservedly center stage were the other Columbian officers, namely First Vice President Robert J. Musso, Second Vice President Bartholomew Russo, Third Vice President Rose Ann C. Branda, Treasurer Mark Longo, Corr. Secretary Dean Delianites, Recording Secretary Linda Locasio and Historian Aldo Alleva.

Thanks to Justice Cutrona, his highly organized Secretary Lucy Sullivan and Columbian officers the entire event was one which blended the humor of new President Codispoti with tributes and due recognition of the scores of notable jurists and other leaders.

* * *
A host of leaders from Kings legal establishment

We were there with Eagle Executive Marc Hibsher, who had the pleasure of greeting a number of the new and not so new stars on the Kings Legal scene such as Presiding Justices of the Civil and Criminal Courts the Hon. Sylvia Hinds-Radix and Hon. Barry Kamins, Justice Arthur Schack and Dilia; Justice Carolyn Wade, Justice Carl Landicino, Justice Guy Mangano Jr., George J. Siracuse (still one of the state’s top trial lawyers), County Clerk Nancy Sunshine with Justice Jeffrey Sunshine, Justice Mark Partnow, Justice David Vaughan (who, like Justice Schack above, started out as a Community Board Chair in Bay Ridge), Justice Lawrence Knipel, Justice Donald and Nina Gerges Kurtz, Justice Miriam Cyrulnik, Justice Matt D’Emic, Justice Patricia DiMango, incoming Kings Chamber of Commerce President Carlo Scissura, BBA President Domenick Napoletano, Peter Mollo and his delightful friend "Anna," Lawrence DiGiovanna and Dr. Regina DiGiovanna,and veteran barrister Louis Meringolo.

The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association was well represented by Hon. Beth Bonina, Steve Chiaino, Rosa Pannitto, Lisa Becker, Steve Spinelli, Andrea Bonina, Helen Galette — who has done a splendid job heading the BRLA the past year; Catholic Lawyers President Sara Gozo and Annalise Cottone.
* * *
Dennis Holt, 77, newsman, leaves a unique legacy
 
My first thought when I got the news that Eagle colleague Dennis Holt had died was, "I hope Dennis had a good start on his book!" We often talked about his Brooklyn background — in politics and journalism — and I actually volunteered to assist in putting it together.

Very few people have the information, experience and writing skills as did this true journalist who left us last week at 77 due to a series of problems ignited by a fall in his home which left him with broken ribs and head injuries.

Dennis stood out in this so-called Information Age because he really did have information — gleaned and refined when worked for Downtown’s Brooklyn Phoenix newspaper almost 30 years ago.

I had known Dennis then and when he served on the staff of former Congressman Steve Solarz. Lanky, bespectacled, always neatly attired, Dennis resembled a diplomat more than a scribe. Back in the ’80s and ’90s when we would often meet on Court Street to discuss the issues of the day, Dennis always looked dapper. And he always smiled.

With his sophisticated style — topped off with his trademark moustache — Dennis remained one of those guys who could finish off his outfit with a straw boater or a fedora. And I swear that one day he wore full deer-slayer regalia — a la Sherlock Holmes complete with hunting cap and Meerschaum pipe on his way to the Eagle office.

We often discussed the old days in Brooklyn — I’d been writing for local papers since 1962 so we had a lot in common — but usually in terms of current events.

Dennis interpreted and recorded, as only a skilled print journalist can, the renaissance of downtown Brooklyn. He was one of a select class of writers who didn't have to consult Wikipedia to learn the exact order and significance of every development here, starting with the construction of the new Brooklyn Law School on Joralemon Street and its opening in 1969.

Many of our discussions concerned a book he could write using a compilation of his often-prescient Brooklyn Broadside columns over the years. He was pleased to learn that my own voluminous archives contain a number of his articles, including a piece on the ill-fated Gowanus Tunnel back in the mid-1990's.
* * *
Phoenix comes to roost at the Brooklyn Eagle

His columns and features — reaching back to the Brooklyn Phoenix where he worked with publisher Mike Armstrong until joining what would ultimately become this Brooklyn Eagle — will become a unique and irreplaceable window into the era of stunning renewals.

Due to his almost relentless reportorial nature, Dennis just had to learn the connections — social, civic and political — that linked southwestern Brooklyn neighborhoods stretching from Bay Ridge through Brooklyn Heights to DUMBO, Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

Many people expressed their respect and admiration for Dennis in an excellent article written by Editor Ranaan Geberer. Typical was highly respected veteran newsman Henrik Krogius, editor of the Heights Press, who noted that "Dennis was a tremendous booster and he had a really extraordinary understanding of its politics and development. It will be a great loss."

He talked often and fondly of his wife Susan, son Matthew, daughter Deborah Taylor of Westchester and grandsons Graham, 11, and Cooper, 7.

Dennis’s work could be continued, in a sense, if a seasoned journalist and TV producer such as the aforementioned Henrik Krogius could produce a book entitled "Dennis Holt’s Broadsides — Making Politics & Civic Good Work."

There are many of us here who would like to help Henrik. What Dennis knew and recorded so faithfully is too valuable to be consigned into the dusty archives of cyber space.

* * *

Mayor does the right thing challenging obesity epidemic

Mayor Mike Bloomberg is doing an immense public service with his campaign to combat the alarming obesity outbreak, which is ruining millions of lives and costing us billions of dollars. When he inveighs against super-sized soft drinks, he is striking at the core of our diabetes crisis as well.

As noted in the New York Times Sunday, "Between the early 1970s and 2000, obesity rates as a percentage of the population doubled in adults and tripled in children."

Admittedly it's anecdotal and unscientific, but you can't walk from Court Street to MetroTech, or just through the busy hallways of Kings Family or Criminal Court, without seeing a least one teenager who weighs well over 400 pounds.

Even more concerning is to spot a mother holding the hand of a toddling tot who is already morbidly obese and facing a life foreshortened by diabetes and a host of other crippling diseases. The discussion surrounding the 16-ounce sugar soda rule will become much more vital than the regulation itself. Now, by the way, Mayor Bloomberg is decrying the huge popcorn cans — a half-gallon or so of salted, buttery kernels — on sale in movie theaters.

Some may reflexively condemn his initiative as a "Nanny State" move but it’s well known that the state — at least the federal government — provides tax breaks to the manufacturers of corn to be converted into sugary syrup. It won’t hurt to use some of that tax money to expose this obesity crisis which, in its own way, is every bit as serious as infantile paralysis was a few generations ago.

It’s important to recall the immense concern and energy which went into the very public battle against polio highlighted by the March of Dimes launched to raise funds for medical research into that scary disease. Obesity is not as visibly dramatic as polio was, but we are probably spending more public and private monies to combat the insidious super-sizing of a growing portion of our population, especially poorer kids than we did finding the Salk vaccine.

* * *

PRO BONO BARRISTER is a weekly column dedicated to telling about the good that lawyers do. Send your comments or suggestions to this writer care of this newspaper or to COTEYESQ@aol.com.
Notice: Readers seeking legal representation on a Pro Bono Publico basis should not contact this columnist. Rather, they should seek out the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project at 718 -624-3894.

June 14, 2012 - 11:15am


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