Focus: It’s Time To Move Ahead on Dr. Blash’s Civility Agenda

January 19, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Charles Otey

Standing at the corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue on Friday afternoon, I witnessed one of the saddest scenes I can imagine: a group of young teens, mixed in gender, race and probably religion as well, were cursing non-stop at each other, using coarse and racially bigoted language.

Despite the current demeaning of social intercourse erupting largely as a product of the say-what-you-will “social media,” we still expect a modicum of civility on public streets. Pathetically, these children befouled the air and physically menaced each other — and the occasional passerby — in the grotesque style of “Jersey Shore,” or “Mean Girls.”

If children weren’t being bullied to death across the nation, the vulgarity and verbal cruelty that shrink their ability to coherently communicate might arguably be viewed as academic, i.e., a problem to be dealt with in their schools and homes.

None of them wore the uniform of the Junior ROTC Tigers, a unit that former U.S.A. Col. Lee Anderson has successfully conducted for several years. Whenever a uniformed “Tiger” walks down Third Avenue, he or she does so with dignity.

The boisterous group at 86th Street behaved with no such restraint or self-respect. While cursing, most of the boys kept tugging at their underwear-exposing trousers, to make sure they didn’t descend below their knees. Based on their comments and jackets, they were clearly public school students. But, as we know, this lamentable behavior is not limited to public schools.

I am one of those intrusive adults who will admonish young people for outlandish behavior in public (“Your pants are falling down!” or “Would you talk to your mother like that?!”). But, last Friday, I didn’t say anything. The kids would have been embarrassed. What I did decide to do was to remind everyone I know of a well-conceived, realistic, if incremental, solution: the extremely worthwhile “Civility Project” instituted last year at Adelphi Academy by President Dr. Roy Blash with Executive Director Al Corhan and Director of External Affairs Chip Cafiero.

One of the city’s most erudite educational leaders, Dr. Blash has continued to address the “Civility” matter with his students. Having made many visits there, I can say that it’s refreshing to watch and listen to his students — in the school halls, or as they stroll down 86th Street on their way home. Corhan has won the respect of the student body and the community for the standards he has set at the historic education institution. We look forward to the next installment of the very much-needed Adelphi Academy Civility Agenda.

By the way, Cafiero may be best known around here as the “Festival Guy,” but one of the highest honors he’s achieved is the “Chipper Award,” which was a highlight of last year’s Merchants of Third Avenue Pioneers Reception! What If Third Avenue Hosted ‘Summer Streets’ on a Friday Night? People who know and shop in Bay Ridge know that no other Kings County commercial thoroughfare has a more outstanding history of recognizing the community’s special volunteer nature than the Merchants of Third Avenue, led by Bob Howe, Jay Sessa, Wade Jabour, Cathy DiTirro, Rhea McCone, Bina Valenzano, Lloyd Berg, Leigh Holliday, Gerry Morris and Steve Oliver and an executive secretary to be named later. Wait: What about Fifth Avenue? That’s another success story, with a more challenging history.

Seriously impaired by the devastating construction of approaches to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Fifth Avenue lost thousands of daily shoppers and tens of millions of dollars in income. Despite valiant efforts by leaders like Arnold Kruchkow, Fifth Avenue didn’t stage a sustained economic comeback until the 1990s, under the leadership of then civic leader (now senator) Marty Golden, Jim Clark, Mike Long, Jim Khoury, Zoe Koutsoupakis, Basil Capetanakis and John Logue.

Getting back to Third Avenue, we would point out the upcoming 39th Annual Third Avenue Festival, the popular holiday lights program, handled by Jay Sessa and paid for by members, and the 19th Annual Pioneers Reception. And, now — based on reliable sources — there is the real possibility of a very doable, classy and attractive “Summer Walk,” or “Friday Night Walk.” These events would take place on selected Friday nights this summer, when part of the avenue could be closed to cars and limited to pedestrians. (But open to controlled cross-traffic and valet parking!) Wow! What if that could happen? In addition to the flood of current gourmets who travel to Third to enjoy its fine, legendary restaurants, it would bring in current and new shoppers and diners. The wide “exposure” would reflect well on all of Bay Ridge!

A “Summer Walk” was considered last year, but was proposed too late for its proponents to get out an accurate message as to details and benefits — and meet other city requirements, according to our source. So, almost a year later, what if the “message” of a unique event to breathe new Friday night life into Third Avenue and the entire community did get out accurately? What if — just for starters — part of Third Avenue was converted into sort of pleasant, enriching, visually delightful promenade? And what if this idea was strongly backed by Sen. Marty Golden, Councilman Vincent Gentile and Third Avenue business leaders? The official name or title of this unique offering is yet to be revealed. But, says our source, “the concept is solid, has the vital support of our arts community, and will bring new shoppers and diners to Third Avenue for an evening of tastefully-paced artistic and culinary enjoyment.”

What if all the above happened with full and complete understanding and support from all of Bay Ridge? A further “what if” asks this hypothetical: what if it were spearheaded by an excellent modern, multi-media merchandiser — say, Bina Valenzano, who runs the fabled BookMark Shoppe with partner Christine Freglette — in addition to our official community planners? Sounds great to me. But, then again, I may be biased — I’m the to-be-named-later executive secretary and, after a long time on Third, I see “Summer … On Third … Twilight … Lites” as the most creative possibility here in a long, long time! Bay Ridge, Etc. Book-Signing Jan. 21 at The BookMark Shoppe Meanwhile, the young ladies at BookMark have “booked” a book-signing for our newest local work, Bay Ridge, Etc., which we had the privilege of reviewing in “Focus” a few weeks back.

Assembled for the Bay Ridge Historical Society by Ted General, Jack LaTorre and Peter Scarpa, Bay Ridge, Etc. artfully blends the history of modern Bay Ridge with the achievements and activities of community leaders. The book-signing will take place at The BookMark Shoppe, 8415 Third Ave., from 7 to 9 p.m. Further information can be obtained by calling (718) 833-5115, or going online to

Meanwhile, the BRHS wants us to help acknowledge the support of various local establishments, including Chadwick’s Restaurant, Frank and Eddie’s, McAteer Florist, Sancho’s Restaurant, Tanoreen Restaurant, Three Jolly Pigeons and the Yellow Hook Grille, where Robert Long and Steve Jackson helped stage the initial presentation of Bay Ridge, Etc. last week. The BRHS has become a vital cog in the Bay Ridge machine and is worthy of more support — volunteers should contact [email protected] to lend aid. Clearly, Pilo Arts Gifts Are What Women Really Want! Since the 1970s, Pilo Arts — operated by the lovely Elena Solitario and now her son and partner, attorney Jude LaBarca — has been a positive force of allure, drawing thousands (not each day) to Third Avenue and Bay Ridge.

We’re not surprised to learn that renowned Schwarzkopf Color has again singled out Pilo Arts for its Diamond Club Award. That’s one reason Pilo Arts is

ranked as a “Top 5 Color Salon” for New York and New Jersey. But that’s not the only reason we’re writing about Pilo Arts just a little more than three weeks after Christmas. Since one of the best holiday gifts — to ladies and guys, but particularly ladies — is a Pilo gift certificate, January is, unfailingly, the month I wait to hear back from my friends who are now rushing to use them! This is more than a plug — it’s a male reaction of relief at having given a gift that women really want. (Don’t believe Mel Gibson! He’s often wrong.) It’s just amazing how women who live in other, distant parts of Brooklyn and even Manhattan, literally love an invitation to experience Pilo! I’ve known this for years — if I say any more about the very happy responses from my select female Christmas

donees, Verena Otey will get on my case! By the way, her first gift to me was a gift certificate for a “Day of Relaxation at Pilo!” Unforgettable! While January is the month that the credit card bills for holiday expenses darken our mail, it’s nice to be reminded at the same time that some gifts just keep on giving!

News Flash: Al Fishman’s Alive and Well in Florida! Happy to admit this error! Getting ready for the big annual Bay Ridge Community Council Presidents’ Luncheon here, a recent “Focus” cited some past BRCC presidents depicted in a photo, taken about 1970. My error: One of them was described as “the late Al Fishman.” I stand gratefully and happily corrected after receiving the following e-mail from his daughter-in-law, Diane Fishman: “Dear Chuck, Al Fishman is alive, well and as funny and charming as ever! And so is his wife Amee. Living in Miami, not too far from their granddaughter, Julie Fishman Berkowitz, attorney and expectant mom! Jerry or I visit them monthly. He always asks about the BRCC because he doesn’t get invitations to the events anymore. If they need his mailing address, I would be happy to provide. He would be thrilled to hear from them. Happy and Healthy New Year to you and yours. All the best, Diane Fishman Thank you, Diane!

My best to Al and thanks again for all he has done for Bay Ridge. I’m passing his address along to the BRCC through Executive Secretary Arlene Keating.

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