Brooklyn community boards divided over Pledge of Allegiance

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

Patriots: Community Board 7 recites the Pledge of Allegiance before its monthly general meeting.
Brooklyn Paper
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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 or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

Reader poll

Should community board meetings begin with the Pledge?

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Idea from Bay Ridge says:
Why not pledge alligience to the New York City flag? That should please everyone. Write a new pledge to be said to the city flag. Something like : we pledge to serve the people of the City of New York, blah blah blah, civic duty, blah blah blah
Jan. 24, 2017, 6:30 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
So ...slow news day, now we gotta haul this one out of moth-balls?
Jan. 24, 2017, 7:46 am
We aare one nation .Failing to pledge allegiance reinforces the rights stereope of my fellow liberals as being unpatriotic. This was more important in Trump's victory than the russian hacking
Jan. 24, 2017, 9:45 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
...what's a "stereope"
Jan. 24, 2017, 11:04 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
All you leftist America haters should go protest, so you can slapped with a felony and forever barred from inflicting your hatred on real Americans in the voting booth again.
Jan. 24, 2017, 11:05 am
Tyler from pps says:
So... protesting is a felony now?
Jan. 24, 2017, 11:32 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Please add a link or something that connects to information about the 1943 United States Supreme Court case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette so people can find out what that is before they make some comment based on fallacy.
Jan. 24, 2017, 11:32 am
schaz from Greenpoint says:
I pledge allegiance in my own way to America.
A true patriot who believes in what America stands for does not force his definition - or rituals - of patriotism on someone else.
It's not the rituals tha count- it's how we live our daily lives to protect and expand American ideals and freedoms for everyone, and make them a reality.
Especially in the age of Trump, when these bedrock ideals and freedoms will surely will be threatened.
Anyway- who needs South Brooklyn and Staten Island? :-)
Jan. 24, 2017, 11:41 am
Manhatman from Nubrucklyn says:
Community boards 7 - 18 throw the Roman salute -"Heil Trump!"
Jan. 24, 2017, 11:52 am
Tyler from pps says:
When I visited my sister on her Army base in Missouri, we did the pledge at the community movie theater before watching Happy Feet.

At least a community board meeting is a slightly less odd setting than the start of a cartoon about dancing penguins.
Jan. 24, 2017, 11:56 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I guess what we've learned is that the promises and commitments of members of the southern community boards last only a month, while the members of the northern ones are able to make a pledge that lasts a lifetime (excluding Tommy Torres, whose word is only good for a month).
Jan. 24, 2017, 12:02 pm
Mike from Slope says:
Loyalty oaths are creepy.
Jan. 24, 2017, 12:34 pm
This is for Henry Ford, how dare you label "liberals" as unAmerican because their organization doesn't salute the American Flag before their meetings. I am a so called "liberal" and find that you and others like you are the most unAmerican group in this country. I care more about people having healthcare, wars, the environment, and many other things that you right wingers seem to not care about.
Jan. 24, 2017, 12:37 pm
giovanni the geographer says:
Can we get the map updated, maybe cross-hatching would work, to show where the Brooklyn Paper is distributed relative to the red and blue districts?
Jan. 24, 2017, 1:03 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Yes, Ty. I know we are moving quickly here, but try to keep up.

Ah Rosalie, another liberal that hates America. Don't want to salute our flag? Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
Jan. 24, 2017, 1:10 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Henry -- Protests are felonies? This is what you are stating. Protest = felony

You've written some weird things in the past, but nothing this ignorant.
Jan. 24, 2017, 1:39 pm
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
in my opinion, my community board (#2) is fully of dummies...they should have take a literacy test!
Jan. 24, 2017, 1:40 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Yes Ty, unauthorized protesters will now be arrested, and charged with economic terrorism, which is a felony. Meaning the terrorist will be in jail for 10 years, and lose their right to vote. Permenantly. It's all part of making America great again. The days of allowing a bunch of terrorists to wreak havoc in our cities and keep taxpayers from conducting their business are over. Thanks, Trump.
Jan. 24, 2017, 2:23 pm
Wanda from Park Slope says:
Firstly, the pledge is offensive to illegal immigrants, women and muslims. Secondly, it would by lying to pledge when you hate America, as many of us in the Park Slope Community Board do. I think that instead we should un-pledge the flag. Begin each meeting by chanting death to America! Death to Capitalism!
Jan. 24, 2017, 2:43 pm
Dave from Brooklyn says:
@ Henry Ford.

Are your parents also your cousins?
Jan. 24, 2017, 3:50 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Aww, poor butt hurt liberal. Your condescending snark is exactly why your ilk has no say in how this country will be run from now on. I'm looking forward to drinking your tears again in 2018 when you are in shock that Republicans gain a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, to go along with controlling all aspects of government for the rest of your sad existence.
Jan. 24, 2017, 4:05 pm
Dave from Brooklyn says:
Bay Ridge - reinforcing the stereotype since time immemorial.
Jan. 24, 2017, 4:15 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Just because there are those who don't stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, it doesn't make them hate the country. I'm really tired of how extreme nationalists are telling me how I should like my country. I feel those that understand the country's flaws and stand up for them are the ones who really care for it. The case that Jim mentioned is how about the two girls who happened to be Jehovah's Witnesses in that they normally stand for this due to their beliefs, and that the US Supreme Court ruled that states can't pass laws that infringe any individuals' or groups' US Constitutional rights such as flag salute. BTW, it's not just liberals that don't feel that everyone needs to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, the Libertarian Party makes that claim as well, and they aren't that liberal last time I checked.
Jan. 24, 2017, 4:20 pm
Dave from Brooklyn says:
OMG. Tal made a valid and coherent statement.
Jan. 24, 2017, 4:46 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Henry.... Hmm... now it's just specifically "unauthorized protests"?
Jan. 24, 2017, 5 pm
Tyler from pps says:
By the way, thanks Tal. (When you're right, you're right.)
Jan. 24, 2017, 5:01 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
C'mon Tyler, you're trying to split hairs now. Go read up on what the D.C. Protesters are being charged with, then check out the economic terrorism bill in Washington state. Real America isn't putting up with vandalizing terrorists wreaking havoc any longer. You can also keep laughing at Trump talking about 3-5 million illegal voters, but I guarantee you that he will ensure that the days of massive Democrat voting fraud are over. Look to North Carolina as a template of how elections will be conducted from now on.
Jan. 24, 2017, 5:19 pm
Frank from Furter says:
My father served in what became the cia in wwII. He refused to sign a loyalty oath. I always thought someone just signed it for him. It's Meaningless anyway.any spy would just sign it. The pledge was modified in the fifties to add under God. I'm as patriotic as many but think the national anthem should be God bless America..written by an immigrant.
Jan. 24, 2017, 5:37 pm
TOM from Brooklyn says:
I hear in Ridgewood Queens they sing the Horst Wetzel song after the meetings but only when the meetings are held at the bund.
Jan. 24, 2017, 5:46 pm
Morris from Mill Basin says:
Everyone who commented here needs to be killed in the most painful way possible.
Jan. 24, 2017, 7:03 pm
Ben Franklin from Philadelphia says:
Anyone who has ever worked on a college newspaper knows that journalism attracts a large number of smart-alecks (keeping it clean here.) Articles like this, last line in particular, are an example of that.
Jan. 24, 2017, 8:55 pm
Pepe's Dad from Bensonhurst says:
Jan. 24, 2017, 10:51 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Henry, oh dear sweet Henry...
Over 3 million people protested on the streets across our great country on Saturday. How many people were arrested? DC reported ZERO arrests on Saturday. Zero arrests in NYC. etc. etc. etc.

And, no, I'm not laughing at Trump's absurd lies about 3-5 million illegal votes (among other ridiculous claims) It makes me sad. He's the president of the United States. He's supposed to be our leader. Instead, he lies to prop up his pathetic little ego rather than doing the work of the nation. His thin skin is more important than the welfare of the country and the planet. Science and facts be damned!
Jan. 25, 2017, 11:27 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Tyler, you are missing the big picture. Trump is not telling "absurd lies" to prop up his ego, he is laying the groundwork for massive voter reform to remove "illegal" voters. Do I believe there was 3 (now 5) million illegal votes? Of course not. It's 2017, truth is obsolete now. The ultimate goal is a completely different landscape in the 2020 election, and Trump is well on his way to that goal.
Jan. 25, 2017, 12:14 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Henry -- Do you have any clue what you're saying?
Jan. 25, 2017, 1:13 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I feel there is more to supporting this country than just waving a flag let alone saluting it. I guess some feel that Jehovah's Witnesses, who usually don't stand for the pledge of allegiance, must be traitors even though their beliefs are the reasons they don't stand for it to begin with. BTW, the 1990 US Supreme Court case known as Texas v Johnson does consider flag burning an act of free speech just as long as that said flag belonged to the person that burned it and wasn't stolen from somewhere else. Now that I think about that, maybe I should burn a Palestinian flag to show how much I despise the actions of Hamas. Before anyone cries foul to that, don't forget that members of Hamas and their supporters do burn the Israeli flag a lot, so I consider this a taste of their medicine.
Jan. 25, 2017, 3:31 pm
Dave from Brooklyn says:
There is a less than zero chance that the person commenting here as "Henry Ford" is actually known internet troll Donald Trump.

Donald is that you?
Jan. 26, 2017, 2:55 pm
LM from Sunset Park says:
The article is quite wrong in saying that Community Board 7 is Trump territory. CB 7 is in Sunset Park, which voted 80% for Clinton. Not Trump. Never Trump.
Jan. 27, 2017, 3:47 pm
Liz from Bay Ridge says:
Not a chance "Henry Ford" is Donald Trump. Note the appropriate use of punctuation and spelling and NO CAPITAL LETTERS OR exclamation points after each sentence. SAD!!
Jan. 30, 2017, 1:24 pm

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