Star of Brooklyn: Steve Barrison
PRESIDENT, BAY IMPROVEMENT GROUP
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Steve Barrison does so many things in his spare time that civic activism is practically a full-time job.
The attorney and native Sheepshead Bay resident not only serves as president of the Bay Improvement Group and executive vice president of the city’s Small Business Congress, but also is a member of the nonprofit New York Main Street Alliance and co-founded Preserve Our Waterfront (POW) – a coalition of eight business and civic groups that serve neighborhoods along Brooklyn and Queens’ southern, Superstorm Sandy-hit coastline.
“My civic activism started in February, 1983, when I walked into my first community board meeting and heard their early planning stages to put in a movie theater, which is now the UA Theater,” said Barrison. “After a few months, I finally opened my mouth and asked about parking and they thought I was a troublemaker. Next, I fought to get a yield sign in the neighborhood – that’s when I realized it’s important to do these little things.”
In the 30 years since, Barrison has continued to dedicate his time towards “helping the south shore and main streets, especially after Sandy, and preserving the waterfront and struggling to save mom and pop [small businesses].”
MOTIVATION: “My problem is I care,” explained Barrison of his ever-busy schedule. “Everyone thought I was running for office 30 years ago, but I have no agenda. You’ve got big business and corporations running the country and there’s a problem when there’s never enough money. The people hurt are the rest of us.
“There comes a point when enough is enough,” he continued. “So I just try to level the playing field and make things more reasonable. I try to clear up the noise. It’s important that people get facts and know why it’s important to be active and vote.”
CAREER: Barrison’s day job is as an attorney at The Barrisons law firm. He describes his practice as “not just advocacy for small business, but also coops, condos, houses, mom and pops, businesses, landmark approvals, liquor licenses” and more.
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Landmarking Lundy’s was huge,” said Barrison of the historic restaurant, the building of which now houses several businesses at 1901 Emmons Avenue. “On a larger scale, keeping Walmart out of New York for 20 years was huge.” Other triumphs, said Barrison, include, “Fighting congestion pricing which only hurts people in the boroughs and working class, fighting the Olympics in the proposed West Side Stadium, and beating [then-Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani in his megastore plan to come in without public neighborhood review in the mid-90s.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Getting Sheepshead Bay and southern Brooklyn’s residents – including the diverse immigrant populations – involved in civic activism and volunteering is his biggest challenge.
“So much can be accomplished when more people get involved,” he said. “We need more people to help us with graffiti removal, cleanup, free concerts and our toy drive for battered women and children” – the next event of which is being held this December.
PERSONAL LIFE: His community and law work aside, Barrison describes his “tight-knit family” as wonderful and something he is proud of. His mother also grew up in Sheepshead Bay and his father moved there in the 1950s.
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