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Hand-over-the-heartland! Brooklyn community boards divided over Pledge of Allegiance

A borough divided: Blue boards do not say the Pledge of Allegience, red boards do.

Brooklyn’s red-blue divide runs far deeper than Hil Country and Trump Village — it is the Mason–Dixon Line between civilians who do and don’t place their hands over their hearts before community board meetings, according to the dramatic results of a new investigation.

Boards in Brooklyn’s conservative Southern regions devoutly recite the Pledge of Allegiance before their meetings, but those in the left-leaning northern and Downtown areas dive right into their civic gatherings without first rising to salute the flag, a poll by this paper reveals.

Each 50-person board gets to set its own customs, but leaders of the Pledge-eschewing panels say their members just aren’t interested in saluting Old Glory before getting on with the important work of debating liquor licenses and zoning rules.

“Nobody has ever requested it,” said Craig Hammerman, who is the district manager for Community Board 6, which includes Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and Red Hook. “It’s never been a tradition — I’ve been here for 27 years and no board members or members of the public have ever asked to do it.”

Community Boards 1 (Williamsburg), 2 (Downtown), 3 (Bedford-Stuyvesant), 4 (Bushwick), 5 (East New York), 8 (Crown Heights), 9 (Prospect-Lefferts Gardens), 14 (Ditmas Park), 16 (Brownsville), and 17 (East Flatbush) all also forgo the oath — although 3 has a pastor say a prayer.

Meanwhile, 7 (Sunset Park), 10 (Bay Ridge), 11 (Bensonhurst), 12 (Borough Park), 13 (Coney Island), 15 (Sheepshead Bay), and 18 (Marine Park) all enthusiastically partake in the time-honored tradition — a divide that reflects the voting habits in the recent Presidential election and the communities’ proximity to the Republican heartland of Staten Island.

In fact, in Bay Ridge, reciting the Pledge is considered such a high distinction, a notable member of the community is chosen to perform “the honor of the Pledge” each month.

“I think it’s an important tradition and it’s nice way to start our meeting — it’s an honor to be recognized by your community and we really try to recognize civic leaders, organizations, and just anyone that is doing good,” said Community Board 10 district manager Josephine Beckman.

The members of the volunteer boards don’t have to be citizens (they do have to be legal residents), but the head of Downtown’s Community Board 2 says it’s not a matter of patriotism, anyway — he just doesn’t think it’s all that necessary for an arm of the city government to pay tribute to the federal flag.

“We are city agencies, not federal agencies,” said district manager Rob Perris. “I’m not sure that making a national Pledge of Allegiance is necessarily even relevant at this level of government.”

Indeed, city agencies do not say the Pledge before meetings, although Council does before its full meetings.

Still, now that we mentioned it, one low-level Democratic pol and board member from a deep blue district said he would like to adopt the tradition.

“I’m for the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Williamsburg Democratic district leader Tommy Torres, who also sits on Community Board 1. “We gotta see which one of our committees would take this up rules, I think it’s important.”

The borough’s commander-in-chief, however, refused to take a hard stance on this divisive issue.

“Any gathering of this magnitude should be a place to reinforce our patriotism through the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Borough President Adams, who appoints half of each board’s members, and approves all of them. “That said, each board should have the ability to make its own decision.”

For an “alternatively factual” take, see our sister publication Brooklyn Daily’s take.

— with Julianne Cuba, Colin Mixson, and Ruth Brown

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Patriots: Community Board 7 recites the Pledge of Allegiance before its monthly general meeting.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

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