Focus: BRCC, Ragamuffin Can Boost Adelphi’s Goal of Restoring Civility

January 26, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Chuck Otey

I returned to the corner of 86th Street and Third Avenue twice this past week to see if a noisy group of youngsters would be there again, repeating the discouraging display of nasty language and behavior they demonstrated last week.


They weren’t there, probably because of a much-needed and very visible police presence.


It’s painful to watch teen boys and girls, of many visible backgrounds, cursing at each other in the vilest terms. As mentioned here, it’s time we got the word out to a wider market about the vital and timely “Civility Project” launched last year by Adelphi Academy President Dr. Roy Blash.


While none of the teens were from Adelphi, we remind readers how the venerable institution, led so ably by Dr. Blash and Executive Director Al Corhan, is helping to lead the way for those of us who refuse to surrender to the deepening coarseness of this age.


We know that Dr. Blash and his team will do their job. But, it’s time to carry further the message to enlist the hundreds of volunteers who meet regularly under the banners of almost 200 active organizations.

For starters, we would ask the Bay Ridge Community Council, led by Alex Conti and Executive Secretary Arlene Keating, and some of its leading member organizations — the Ragamuffin Parade Committee (President Colleen Golden), and the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (led by former NYPD officer Jim Clark) — to come up with civility agendas.


The council has its “Acts of Kindness Day,” which is a very good start. But, the council reaches our children in many ways (e.g. its essay and photography contests and its very effective Halloween art window painting contest, which represents a 59-year-old “civility” agreement between the storeowners of Bay Ridge and youngsters who feel a strong need to express themselves toward the end of October).


Message to Chip: Push Civility at BRCC Luncheon 


Last Friday, the 86th Street corner of Third Avenue was calm — probably due to the presence of a pleasant, uniformed police officer stationed there by Capt. Richard Di Blasio of the 68th Precinct. We credit the response of Capt. DiBlasio, but the battle for civility should start in the home and be reinforced in the schools.


The other vital area is civic organization — especially the above-mentioned BRCC, which holds its prestigious annual Presidents’ Luncheon this Saturday, starting at noon at the Bay Ridge Manor.

This luncheon, a “must-go” for leaders here since the council was founded in 1951, is by invitation only (“Focus” readers know this because we printed an invite from Arlene Keating a few weeks back). I strongly urge Chip Cafiero, Adelphi’s idiosyncratic director of external relations at Adelphi, to use the Saturday event to help spread the cause of civility to the hundred-plus BRCC member organizations. 

You can do it, Chip!


Georgine’s Gallery 364 

Offers an ‘Eclectic’ Theme


We would also point out that notable artistic endeavors, such as the highly respected Gallery 364 created several years back by photographer Georgine Benvenuto, could devote some of its efforts to the civility cause.


Thanks to Georgine’s skills and perspicacity, Gallery 364 has become a prime mover on the Bay Ridge scene. We all know that the past five years have been particularly harsh for small businesses. Yet, it seems that Georgine has just the right formula for survival and success in these troubled times. 


Gallery 364, known as “Bay Ridge’s First Fine Arts Gallery,” is holding a special art competition this week (Thursday, Jan. 26) and is sure to draw lots of excellent artists and supporters to Georgine’s place at 364 72nd St. 


The simple, basic theme is “Eclectic,” which, based on her past successes with scores of artists, will draw works in all mediums. 


“We believe in giving just a keyword to our artists so we can see what they come forward with in terms of visual artwork,” she said. “Criteria for judging is as follows: Beauty (symmetry), composition, proportions, framing.” 


Special guest judges include award-winning photographers Anthony Almeida and Prof. Doug Schwab, aided by noted watercolorist Doug Opalski. They’ll make their decision based on an outline that cites “Skill, Meaning, Uniqueness and the Internet.” All of the art will be on display at Gallery 364 until Feb. 9. 


Sponsors for the tasteful, catered event are Rhea McCone (Harbour Abstract), an officer of the Merchants of Third Avenue, with Maria Ingardia, Maureen and Sheila Brody of the Green Spa & Wellness Center on Third Avenue. All have been recognized as Pioneers of Third Avenue. Georgine and Gallery 364 have enjoyed the full support of the MTA since the beginning. Other MTA officers are President Bob Howe, First Vice President Jay Sessa, Second Vice President Wade Jabour, Treasurer Cathy DiTirro, Marketing Director Bina Valenzano, Secretary Lloyd Berg and Recording Secretary Leigh Holliday. This writer serves as executive secretary.


Print is ‘Alive and Well’

On Third and Beyond!!


Civility was certainly the order of the night Saturday when The BookMark Shoppe proprietors Bina Valenzano and Christine Freglette hosted a book-signing for the excellent Bay Ridge, Etc. — the most recent print product of the Bay Ridge Historical Society.


Authors Peter Scarpa, Ted General and Jack La Torre regaled the very civil assemblage with tales of old and new Bay Ridge — how floods of immigrants, starting with the Dutch 300 years ago to the new Mideast and Far East populations of the 21st Century have come to Bay Ridge.


They underscored how current developments — such as the surprise overnight destruction of a valued historic house — can negatively affect our quality of life. Such wanton acts, done in this instance with almost no public discourse, merit more deliberation, the authors suggested.


It was my pleasure at that point to interrupt the program to distribute a print newspaper, the Bay Ridge Eagle, with a timely, large color photo of the demolition site of the very same Ridge Boulevard home (also showing its former owner) that had been destroyed! (Credit Eagle Managing Editor Paula Katinas and Editor-in-Chief Rick Buttacavoli for the timely publication!) 


Bay Ridge, Etc. we quickly add, is a printed book; one of its authors, Ted General, has written for a print newspaper, the Home Reporter, for 40 years; and our lovely hostesses were featured on the very same print Page One of the Bay Ridge Eagle last week; scores of book buyers flocked to BookMark — a buzzing marketplace that successfully sells products that are printed.


We know that some people live entirely on Social Media and Kindle. There is no question that existing print media must coexist, co-opt and interact with the Social Media and e-books. But any business that indulges totally in either one, to the virtual exclusion of — and in reflexive opposition to — the other, is taking foolish risks. 


I’m pleased that “Focus” appears in print and online (the Eagle has an excellent web operation) and is often echoed throughout the Social Media — in Bay Ridge Press and numerous other sites and blogs.

Many merchants are befuddled these days when they decide how to spend precious dollars to advertise and publicize their wares or services. No one can ignore web advertising options. And, small business owners, who have succeeded here, are well aware that thousands of copies of this newspaper and several others are bought and paid for at newsstands each week.

Print journalism is indeed alive and well in Bay Ridge!


Joy and Fred Fields Have 

Timely Web Messages


Bina and Christine’s well-catered event drew an impressive list of guests. Verena and I were pleased to be welcomed warmly by the authors, hosts and other guests, including Inna and Paul Trinidad of Kaleidoscope; Leigh Holliday of The Art Room with her partner, the peripatetic Justin Brannan, who serves a valuable role on the staff of Councilman Vinnie Gentile; Democratic Leader Kevin Peter Carroll — at 24 the youngest member of the Bay Ridge Historical Society; Marc Hibsher, sales executive of the Bay Ridge Eagle, who serves as “Restaurant Wrangler” for the MTA’s Annual Pioneer Reception, which provides delicious food by leading Third Avenue eateries; prolific Eagle writer Harold Egeln; and Chandra Hira, president of the Bay Ridge Festival of the Arts.


Verena and I were especially enlightened by a pleasant and eye-opening discussion with an enthusiastic young mother by the name of Joy Fields, who heads a firm dedicated to boosting local business via the internet. She attended with her husband, Fred Fields, who heads his own business which aims to bring the bounties of the Internet to senior citizens.


As we advised them, almost 25 percent of the Bay Ridge population is composed of senior citizens, most of whom don’t know a PC from a Mac.


Mrs. Fields, the very articulate proud mom of two kids (awaiting her imminent return to their Windsor Terrace home), graciously demonstrated how instant iPhone bursts of information can generate business. For instance, she said, simply sending, “Hi, we’re here at The BookMark Shoppe!” can actually make one’s many contacts aware of The BookMark Shoppe, while staying in touch with friends.


While I’ve been in the “print” business for some time, I’ve learned the value of combining the internet with those thousands of printed Bay Ridge Eagles and Brooklyn Daily Eagles that hit the newsstands here on a regular basis.


Ms. Fields’ company is a relatively new endeavor, but when she demonstrates how to e-mail one’s location and activity instantly to scores of friends and others, she has an impressive command of a new vehicle which has become a necessary addition to existing advertising outlets.


Husband Fred is COO of OATS, a firm geared to aiding senior citizens to enter the cyber world for fun and profit, another endeavor whose time is near. Fred also serves as project director for the Connected Communities project, a partnership with the City of New York in which OATS is expanding and upgrading public computer centers and providing digital literacy and multimedia training at senior centers throughout the city, with a special focus on high-poverty neighborhoods.

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