Bay Ridge

Third Avenue Merchants introduce Pioneer Award winners

October 15, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The officers of the Merchants of Third Avenue introduce the Pioneer Award winners. Pictured seated are Merchants member Rhea McCone, and Pioneers Donna Burg, Phillipa Morrish, Kathy Khatari and Anne Strafaci (left to right). Standing are Merchants leaders Bob Howe and Charles Otey and Pioneers Brian Chin, Anton Fallah, Giacomo Santangelo, Lisa Becker and Annette Fisher. Eagle photos by Paula Katinas

Business owners who have made Third Avenue their home for many years, surviving the ups and downs of the economy and staying true to small town feel of Bay Ridge, will be rewarded for their efforts by the Merchants of Third Avenue at a champagne cocktail reception on Oct. 26.

At a meeting on Oct. 14, the Merchants of Third Avenue formally introduced the winners of the Pioneers of Third Avenue Awards. The meeting took place at the Greenhouse Café at 7717 Third Ave.

The Pioneers of Third Avenue for 2015 are Annette Fisher, insurance broker for Ford Funding Corp.;  dentist Donna Burg; Brian Chin, vice president of Northfield Bank; Anton Fallah, owner of Best Care Pharmacy; Giacomo Santangelo, owner of Giacomo’s Restaurant; and Leigh Holliday Brannan, owner of The Art Room.

Holliday Brannan was unable to attend the Merchants meeting.

The winners will be the guests of honor at a Pioneer of Third Avenue Cocktail Reception on Monday, Oct. 26, at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476 76th St., at 7:30 p.m.

Merchants leaders said that in past years, the business group held its Pioneers events at restaurants on Third Avenue. But the event has grown so large and attracts so many attendees each year that the group had to move it to a catering hall. There are no catering halls on Third Avenue.

The Merchants group, headed by attorney Bob Howe, will also hand out Pioneer Civic Awards to individuals who are not business owners, but who have worked on behalf of community-wide issues in Bay Ridge.

The Civic Award winners this year are Lisa Becker, past president of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association; Phillipa Morrish, an etiquette expert and instructor; Anne Strafaci, director of development at Saint Patrick Catholic Church; and Kathy Khatari, a member of the Yemeni American Association.

Dozier Hasty, publisher of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and other newspapers, was a Civic Award winner in 2014.

The Merchants of Third Avenue represents the interests of 250 storeowners on the avenue between 68th and 95th streets. The group holds events throughout the year, including the Third Avenue Festival and Summer Stroll on 3rd, designed to showcase stores, attract visitors and increase the number of shoppers.

At the meeting the Merchants also heard from Greg Mihailovich, Staten Island coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, who described a feasibility study conducted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which concluded that a bike-pedestrian path on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is feasible.

The MTA estimated the cost of building the path at between $300 million and $400 million.

The bridge, which opened in 1964, is open to motor vehicles only and does not offer access on bike or on foot.

Mihailovich said Transportation Alternatives is working to make communities around the city “more bike-able and walk-able” and that a bike-pedestrian path on the bridge would be a positive step.

But residents shouldn’t expect to stroll across the bridge from Bay Ridge to Staten Island anytime soon, Mihailovich warned. A bike-pedestrian path is still years away, he said. “We’re looking at 10 years away,” he said, adding that the MTA still has more studies to conduct.

Still, the position of Transportation Alternatives is that the bike-pedestrian plan is “a thoughtful and elaborate plan,” according to Mihailovich.

The group is calling on the MTA to open the bridge to bike riders and pedestrians during off-peak hours to test the popularity of the idea of a bike-pedestrian path. By offering that access, the MTA will be able “to see what kind of usage they will have,” Mihailovich said.

The Merchants of Third Avenue has supported the idea of a bike-pedestrian path on the bridge for 20 years, according to Executive Secretary Charles Otey, who said that such an amenity would help to maintain Bay Ridge as a solid, middle-class community.

Several years ago, Otey came up with a name for the bike-pedestrian path, calling it the Verrazano Lifeway.