Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge Community Council cancels luncheon

Leaders cite money woes

January 13, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge Community Council members Arlene Keating (left) and Mary Ann Walsh were part of the committee at last year’s Presidents’ Luncheon. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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A time-honored Bay Ridge tradition is biting the dust. The Bay Ridge Community Council has decided not to hold its Presidents’ Luncheon, an event that has attracted mayors, borough presidents, city commissioners and other top officials over the years.

The luncheon took place each year, usually on the last Saturday in January or the first Saturday in February, to honor the presidents of the community council’s member organizations.

But it will not be held this year, community council leaders said. And its future is in doubt.

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Robert Kassenbrock, a member of the community council’s board of directors, confirmed the cancelation in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle on Jan. 12. “The board voted at its last meeting to cancel the President’s Luncheon for January 2015. At this time there are no plans to hold a luncheon in 2015,” he wrote.

Kassenbrock blamed finances for the decision to cancel the event. “We no longer have the financial wherewithal to spend $5,000 or $6,000 to have a luncheon. We would love to maintain it, but the finances are just not there. We won’t be holding it this year and we’re not sure what will happen next year,” he told the Eagle.

Founded in 1951, the community council is an umbrella organization representing nearly 100 groups in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton — everything from church groups to PTAs to local hospitals.

In recent years, the luncheon took place at the Bay Ridge Manor at 476 76th St. The luncheon was considered the place where Bay Ridge’s elite met to eat.

Community council members always enjoyed the luncheon.  “It’s always a wonderful event,” Jane Kelly, a past community council president, told the Eagle last year. “It gives you the opportunity to talk to community leaders about what is going on in the neighborhood. And all of our local elected officials always come and speak.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer rode his bike from his Park Slope home to the Bay Ridge Manor almost every year for the luncheon. Former Borough President Marty Markowitz was also a regular at the event, and current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was invited last year.

The invitations are so coveted that members of organizations often fought over who would represent their particular group should the president be unable to attend, several community council members told the Eagle. An organization’s president was permitted to delegate someone to attend the luncheon in his or her place.

The Presidents’ Luncheon doesn’t date back to the council’s beginnings, but it was established several years later, according to Kassenbrock.

In the early years, the luncheon took place in the cozy confines of the Hamilton House, a restaurant on Fourth Avenue and 101st Street. As the council membership grew, the luncheon was moved to the Bay Ridge Manor, a large catering hall.

The event also gave the president of the community council the opportunity to offer a type of State of the Council address to the gathering. The current president is Vincent Bocchino.


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