The 11 to watch in Southern Brooklyn

Pols play ‘Stall-mart’ to keep retail giant from Brooklyn
Photo by Paul Sakuma

Many people make resolutions. Others make predictions. But we at Courier-Life make lists of the people who will make news in the new year. So without further ado, here are our 11 to watch in ’11.

11. Kevin Peter Carroll

The Democratic district leader in Bay Ridge beat a beloved incumbent in September, and now the baby-faced 24-year-old is eyeing his next tussle. With Republicans now holding the Congressional, state Senate and Assembly seats in his neighborhood, he won’t have to look very far. Look for Carroll to work with local Conservatives this year to redraw the neighborhood’s Assembly districts, so that Bay Ridge is represented by one person instead of five. The downside for Carroll? That would leave four fewer seats to run for.

10. Georgine Benvenuto

The quintessential Bay Ridgite with a camera, Benvenuto not only captures the neighborhood with her unique photographic perspective, but is also working to expand the arts in the community. The founder of Gallery 364 on 72nd Street, Benvenuto stages monthly competitions for local artists. In 2011, she’ll be launching a program to integrate art into the healing process for victims of bullying and domestic violence. Three solo shows for Bay Ridge artists are also in the works.

9. Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan

What new culinary feats can hungry Brooklynites expect from Cortelyou Road’s cutting-edge Filipino fusion restaurant Purple Yam? Besa and Dorotan fled SoHo to open shop in Ditmas Park in 2009. They’ve already started cooking classes and a guest chef series, and 2011 will see excursions into the foods of India and Trinidad, as well as a cooking class with the joint’s own Korean-born chef, Haegeen Kim.

Purple Yam [1314 Cortelyou Rd. between Rugby and Argyle roads in Ditmas Park, (718) 940-8188].

8. Jan Rosenberg

A Cortelyou Road broker since 2005, Rosenberg — who brought in such white-hot retailers as Toy Space and T.B. Ackerson — wants to extend Victorian Flatbush’s cool zone north and south, to Newkirk Avenue and Church Avenue. And, she says, entrepreneurs who can’t find affordable space elsewhere are champing at the bit. How about a café on Newkirk Avenue? If Rosenberg has her way, it could be right around the corner.

7. Natasha Holiday

The Harvard-educated founder of Flatbush’s New Heights Community Initiative is positioning herself to be the neighborhood’s next Cory Booker. Sure, she fell 106 votes short in her September effort to capture a district leadership slot, but that didn’t stop her from signing up 60 volunteers a few months later to kick off an education task force to fight state cuts. Look for her to help parents born in non-English-speaking countries navigate the labyrinthine school system so their children reap the benefits.

6. Allowey Ahmed

Shoot the Freak owner Anthony Berlingieri is increasingly becoming the public face of Coney Island resistence.
Photo by Paul Martinka

The property holder for the controversial Sheepshead Bay mosque had his faith tested in 2010, what with seemingly weekly protests at the site of his proposed cultural center on Voorhies Avenue. This year, the difficulties will continue, what with having to scare up more money to complete the $1-million building, address a mounting legal challenge and, of course, deal with the fervent anti-Islamic opposition. They say God is great, but even He would have trouble pulling this one out.

5. Anthony Berlingieri

The owner of Shoot the Freak is the face of the Coney Island Eight — the owners of the last remaining vestiges of the old Boardwalk who were evicted last year to make room for the supposedly bigger and better amusement park. Though the bars Ruby’s and Cha Cha’s get a lot of attention, it is Berlingieri who will lead the fight, both in the court of public opinion and in the courtroom.

4. Ira Zalcman and Alan Ditchek

The rival Manhattan Beach civic leaders are the neighborhood’s Biggie and 2Pac. These community group stalwarts have been feuding for the past two years, but in 2011 they may be found squashing their beef by joining together at a city-hosted summit to improve traffic safety. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen next, but we are predicting a double-album produced by Puff Daddy.

3. Daniel Cavanagh

Gerritsen Beach’s own Thomas Paine outed neighborhood rascals for their Halloween hooliganism last year, so all eyes will be on the reviled — at least locally — blogger in 2011, as the new year will present countless opportunities for youthful indiscretion. Cavanagh is tough — or simply oblivious. He weathered the slings and arrows of scandalous personal attacks by his neighbors with the stoicism of Zeno, and posted them red-handed — and ultimately red-faced — on his blog, gerritsenbeach.net. We expect Cavanagh and his camera to chronicle the next wave of Southern Brooklyn mayhem, whatever forms it may take. After all, as Paine once said, “An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.”

2. Wally Backman

The skipper of the 2010 Brooklyn Cyclones led his fiesty minor leaguers to the brink of the championship, so the entire borough is pulling for the Mets organization to bring him back to finish the only job that matters: winning a New York–Penn League crown. This winter, the Mets declined to summon Backman to Flushing to waste his talent on the talentless Mets, so its clear that the big league club knows that the Brooklyn job is more important anyway. If Backman returns to Coney Island, he’ll take the Cyclones all the way — then get the demotion to the Mets that he so richly deserves.

And the number one thing to keep your eye on this year is:

1. Block 4452, lot 490

The address above is city jargon for a big patch of land in the Gateway II Plaza in East New York where Walmart is still hoping to open its first New York City outpost. This year looks to be the year when the stars align and the city gives its green light to the Bentonville behemoth, which is hated by local politicians despite polls saying that a huge majority of Brooklynites want the low prices. Of course, the retailer’s arrival will spark outcry and protest from small businesses, but that’s just one more reason to keep an eye on this particular bit of real estate — and the politicians and developers who are working it.

Democratic District Leader Kevin Peter Carroll — watch him pal up to Vito and fight for redistricting.
Photo by Bess Adler