It would be easy for the Nottingham Association to just roll over and die — to be overtaken by modernity like so many shrubs growing over the now hidden plaque commemorating the former site of Ebbets Field.
The group’s members could easily cancel their bimonthly meetings at Savor Cafe and sell off their patrol car, and no one would mind. They could also disband their board of directors, go their separate ways, and find a new hobby — gardening maybe, or even yoga.
But the leaders of what is arguably the oldest civic group in the borough did not give in when faced with declining membership, a sharp shift in demographics, and neighbors that seem to no longer need them.
Instead, they called me.
“We’re looking for Kings Courier to help get the word out,” said Nottingham member Len Nurkin on a recent Thursday, unaware that the story you’re reading — his story — would be published in this space, as part of the sure-to-be critically acclaimed “Sunday Reading” column on BrooklynDaily.com (and page 2 of all our newspapers!).
Sure, Nurkin had a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it, because it’s a story that is not just about a Brooklyn I’m not old enough to remember, it’s a story that gets right to the heart and soul of this borough — where neighbors always have each others’ backs.
Back when the Duke was still patrolling center field and kids were playing Johnny-on-the-Pony on every corner, the Nottingham Association was the premier social group in Midwood — filled with a vibrant cast of energetic locals who wanted their neighborhood to be the best in the borough.
But those glory days have gone the way of ’Dem Bums, and now the 90-year-old civic group is starting to look its age.
“A longtime member who used to be president just quit, Others have just died off,” said Helen Rosen, the group’s president. “The board of directors is downright elderly.”
Creaking hips and weakened bladders have brought on a malaise at the group’s meetings, where the anemic attendance barely breaks a dozen on a good night — a far cry from the booming 1960s when half of the neighborhood from Avenue K to Kings Highway between Nostrand and Ocean avenues was active in the group.
New homeowners are no longer joining in droves like they used to, and now the group has cut back on regular meetings: from once a month to once every two months.
“Most of the members are seniors and they don’t really want to get involved,” said Len Nurkin, 72. “They come down and they talk, but they’re not willing to speak at functions and go out.”
Of course, back when the “Make Believe Ballroom” graced our airwaves, the members vigorously debated neighborhood issues like zoning, beautification, and how to improve their little slice of life.
“Forty years ago, when I first started living here, it had a membership of 1,000 out of 2,000 homes,” said Rosen. “They had their end-of-the year parties at Fort Hamilton Army base at the officer’s club.”
About 20 years ago, the group even got together enough money to buy a Nottingham Association patrol car to help make sure neighbors could sleep worry-free at night. Back then, volunteers took turns patrolling the neighborhood in that car, which would still hits the streets today — if anyone wanted to volunteer their time.
But no one does, so the group had to hire a pair of able-bodied men to patrol the streets for seven hours every day of the week— a pricey endeavor that costs nearly $30,000 a year, a staggering sum it can no longer afford.
So, quite simply, what Nurkin and his brethren are looking for is new members — members that will show up at the meetings, members that will take an interest in their community, and members that will drive that car.
So if you live in the neighborhood, and you care about the neighborhood, and you want to have your neighbors’ backs, give them a call and join the club.
The Nottingham Association could use a few good men — and women.
They could use you.
The Nottingham Association is giving out free flu shots to people over 50 or with medical conditions at Savor Cafe [2925 Avenue P between Nostrand Avenue and E. 29th Street in Midwood, (718) 258-8348], Oct. 26 at 7:30 pm.