Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1930, enjoys revival

Williamsburg & Bushwick Were Always Part of Greenpoint Chamber Mission

June 24, 2016 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Eagle
Members of the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce board of directors pose in front of Norm Brodsky’s bungalow with state Assemblymember of the 50th District Joe Lentol (center). Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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It was more than just a picnic. It was a rustic East River setting, where old pilings from a former pier provided perches for seabirds. It was far upriver from the sea, on the Greenpoint/Williamsburg waterfront, where the independent spirit of small business — commerce where rubber meets the road — was being nurtured.

Under the guidance of Elaine and Norman Brodsky, successful entrepreneurs, the 86-year-old Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce was being revived.

“We’re here today to celebrate the beginning of summer, meet new people and help spread the word about the chamber,” said Elaine Brodsky, the voice and public face of the organization.

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Many young, budding entrepreneurs and professionals were present as active leaders and board members, and new members were recruited, expressing great hope for the future. The Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce is thriving.

But for the Brodskys, who have struggled through several decades of property neglect and non-existent development in Greenpoint, the turnaround is personal and up close. In January 2015, their successful storage business was destroyed when their massive warehouse complex burned and smoldered in a weeklong conflagration. It was the largest loss of property in New York City since the 911 attacks.

The Brodskys have not yet rebuilt on the large, open waterfront tract after the fire. Instead, they placed a temporary structure to serve as home base while rebuilding the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce. There, in a homey but efficient air-conditioned trailer, they run their new business: entrepreneurial consulting and online education. Young business owners in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick could not ask for better mentors.

“I did not want to lose my connection to small business,” said Norman Brodsky, a columnist for Inc Magazine and author of two books. Inside the trailer’s comfortable conference room, he said, “I wanted to create a place that would make me smile when I arrived to work … a place that felt homey enough to foster the new friendships we seek as we rebuild the business fabric of this neighborhood.”

Proof of his creativity lies on the north side of his office trailer: the borough’s largest privately owned outdoor bocce court.

But on this first official day of summer, the south side of the trailer was the busy side. A networking picnic was in full force at river’s edge.

“Community is more than just people who live in houses,” Assemblymember for the 50th district Joseph Lentol told members of the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce outside as they gathered to celebrate the arrival of summer. “Business life is also an integral part of a community.”

Chamber of Commerce members were encouraged to bring non-member entrepreneurs and managers to the ultra-casual dockside party. Generous helpings of stuffed mushrooms, fried chicken wings, hummus and Brooklyn Brewery ales and pilsners helped foster networking opportunities. Proprietors came from a wide range of services and technologies.

For-profit endeavors mingled with nonprofits; traditionalists such as YMCA of Greenpoint Executive Director Kendall Charter sucked locally sourced suds with founder Lewis Schiff. Dentists chatted up family medicine providers. Advocate for the homeless Pat McDonnell was on hand with Ted Neuman, who plans to create a mobile soup kitchen for people in need of nutritional support. Psychotherapist and business coach Diana Zelvin recounted spearheading the construction of a hydroponic rooftop classroom, the first of its kind in Brooklyn, at P.S. 84 where her children attend classes.

It’s tempting to picture the atmosphere at a typical business soiree thick with barely suppressed careerism and frantic zero sum networking, but the Brodsky’s early summer get together evoked a sweet easiness as people relaxed there on the river to take stock of their lives, their endeavors and their opportunities.

“We’re very happy with our direction and our momentum, “said Chamber of Commerce board member Paul Salmuski. It was fitting that his business, an East River Ferry service, is one that has for centuries made possible the vitality of waterfront commerce and settlement.


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