Star of Brooklyn: Robert Cassara
CO-FOUNDER, BROOKLYN HOUSING PRESERVATION ALLIANCE
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Bob Cassara is a life-long community activist, serving as a member of Community Board 10 for around eight years and as president of the Bay Ridge Community Council in 2007. In that time, he has “seen the many changes occurring in my community,” such as increased traffic, dilapidated roadways and illegal home conversions.
“My activism began when the truck traffic on Bay Ridge Parkway became overwhelming and as trucks passed by, the houses would shake,” Cassara explained. “I began my anti-truck crusade and discovered that trucks were not allowed on parkways and had to remain on designated truck routes.” He successfully pressured police to issue tickets and politicians to increase the fines for truckers who violate the law.
As a member of the Gowanus Stakeholders Group, Cassara worked with other local activists to get state funds to “hire an engineer to create an alternative plan to replace the aging, deteriorating elevated Gowanus Expressway.” The plan was never implemented, though.
Most recently, Cassara and his neighbors established the Brooklyn Housing Preservation Alliance “to fight against the illegal conversions of one- and two-family houses into multi-family/SRO dwellings. “While this began as a local issue, we have come to learn that this issue plagues many other areas in New York outside of Brooklyn.”
MOTIVATION: “[I have] a basic love of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights [and] like many other community activists, I feel that I have the capacity and the ability to serve my community in the hope of making a real, positive difference,” Cassara said. “People say or ask, ‘What can one person do?’ I say a lot. It only takes one person to act as a catalyst for an entire civic movement.”
CAREER: Cassara, retired now, has worked as an electronics technician, engineer and sales representative for electronics and high-end photo-developing equipment companies. Between 1964 and 1969, he served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War as a Second Class Petty Officer and Aviation Electronic Technical Specialist in charge of repairing radar and navigational systems on various aircraft.
BIGGEST OBSTACLE: “Plenty of people are willing to tell me that they support the work I am doing and wish me the best of luck in my efforts,” Cassara noted. “However, the difficult part is convincing others to get up and actually get involved.”
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “By far, my biggest, and proudest, achievement is graduating from college. I spent six years studying and going to school at night, while also working full-time,” said Cassara. “As a result of my hard work – and with a little help from my then-girlfriend, now-wife – I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in economics from Brooklyn College in 1981.”
PERSONAL LIFE: Cassara is a lifelong Bay Ridge Parkway resident and lives a block away from his childhood home, raising two sons and a daughter with his wife Susan, to whom he has been married for over 27 years.
Now that he is retired, Cassara spends his time “engaging in the local political arena by serving as an advocate for serious community issues.” His hobbies include working on home and antique automobile restoration projects.
BY HEATHER J. CHIN
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