Ridge luminaries shine at annual luncheon

A bitter chill prevailed outdoors, but, within the Bay Ridge Manor, all was warmth and fervor, this past Saturday, as the movers and shakers of Bay Ridge and surrounding neighborhoods gathered together, as they do every year, to celebrate the community’s long and vibrant history of activism.

The occasion was the Bay Ridge Community Council’s annual Presidents Luncheon, in which BRCC’s 99 member organizations were saluted for their contributions to making Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton better places in which to live.

The plethora of groups dedicated to maintaining the quality of life in the neighborhood contribute greatly to its livability, stressed numerous speakers during the afternoon-long event.

The organization and the groups that make it up are “the lifeblood of the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights communities,” asserted Andrew Windsor, BRCC’s president. The organization’s traditions, he added, “still link us together with those who came before us and hopefully with those who will come after. Every group in the council has a place and voice, and together we make each other stronger and richer.”

Such organizations, noted Senator Charles Schumer, “are the glue” that holds communities together, and “give an extra special something to our lives.”

With its abundance of civic groups, Schumer went on, “Bay Ridge is among the best, and your civic council is among the best civic organizations we have.”

Congressman Michael McMahon concurred. “I salute you and thank you for making this such a great place to represent in Washington,” he told the assembled activists. Whenever he casts a vote, he added, “I ask myself, first, what would my wife think? Second, why would my parents think? And, third, what would the people of Bay Ridge think?”

“Every year, the Bay Ridge Community Council comes down to the same thing, serving the best needs of the community,” added City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who once served as BRCC’s president, and who arrived at the luncheon from his own ceremonial inauguration.

“I learned to be an activist through BRCC,” he went on, noting that, “without the council, I might not have been sworn in today.”

The neighborhood’s strengths will be called on, going forward, as city, state and federal governments confront record budget shortfalls, some of the speakers told the group.

Assemblymember Felix Ortiz announced that, despite the severity of the budget crisis, he would not support any cuts to either education or prevention programs.

“I do believe we should not play games with education,” Ortiz contended. “I spend time at the schools in my district every Friday, I can see the desperation going on inside the classroom.”

As for prevention programs, Ortiz asserted that they were imperative from preschool on, because they “help our families and children to stay away from the jail system.

“I have come to ask you for help,” he concluded. “We need to work together.”

State Senator Marty Golden told his listeners that local organizations and their members are going to have to stay alert to cuts that will impact their way of life. In particular, he urged them to ready themselves for a battle against the MTA, which has proposed deep cuts in local bus service that, he said, “would devastate our businesses, devastate our community.

“We’re in some of the worst times we’ve ever seen,” Golden continued. “Cuts have to happen, but they have to be the right cuts that don’t strangle our community.

“We’re only as strong as the organizations that are represented here today,” he concluded. “We are only as strong as the people who live in the community and stay together. The stronger we are, the more that can be done for the people who live here and this great community.”

The Bay Ridge Manor is located at 476 76th Street.