Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce hosts forum at National Sawdust

Annual meeting: Innovative, informative, covering culture & biz in North Brooklyn. New ID: North Brooklyn C of C

March 30, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photos by Ken Varga except where noted
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Monday night at National Sawdust, home of an extraordinary high-tech renovation for recording, performing and, well, partying, the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce morphed into a broader-based role as the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. And they had a great time  doing it.

Elaine Brodsky, co-founder and  chair, and Paul Samulski, president, created an annual meeting that turned into a real celebration of the past present and future of three unique communities. (And more later on their team and the merging of biz interests in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick.)

The star attraction of the evening was the panel led by the brilliant Scott Stedman. While bios of the panelists are shown below, let it be said that Stedman’s insights were clear in his round of introductions, as each panelist was asked to tell the price of their first apartment in NYC. (Lowest figure: $400/month.)

Among the highlights: Artist Mihael David said that Brooklyn has the most painters, the most artists, of any location any time in the history of the world. But the property values in North Brooklyn prevent most of them from living and working in Greenpoint or Williamsburg. “Most of them,” he said, “see Williamsburg as a safe, clean bourgeois neighborhood.”

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George Flanagan, manager of Rough Trade, added, “At the same time, a 50,000 square-foot record store like mine could perhaps only exist in Williamsburg.”

Only two of the panelists actually live in Greenpoint/Williamsburg.

Said Blair Papagni, “I am sure there are young people moving to New York City but feel they are getting pushed to the outskirts, unless they have help paying their rent.”

Countered Stedman: “Just because I know creative and artistic people leaving the neighborhood, doesn’t mean I don’t know many others who are coming to the neighborhood.”

Part of the program was a presentation of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Anchor Award, presented to Charles Ryan of Brooklyn Bowl.

A hard-working board member of the C of C, Ryan said, “When I look at this award I will think not of the work we’ve done, but of the work we can, should and will do in the future.”

Other highlights of the evening included introductions of City Councilman Stephen Levin (a proud new dad) and Andrew Hoan, the brand new president of the borough-wide Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which is celebrating a centennial in 2018. Hoan praised Elaine Brodsky as the impetus behind the strong partnership between Brooklyn C of C and the newly named North Brooklyn C of C.

Brief bios of panelists:

Scott Stedman is the founder (with his brother Daniel) of Northside Media Group, Brooklyn Magazine, L Magazine, the Northside Festival, Taste Talks, Northside Innovators and NExT, the first NYC innovation event to celebrate “what’s next” through the lens of entrepreneurship. In 2015 he was voted one of Brooklyn’s Most Influential People as well as one of Biz Bash’s Top 20 Innovators. Scott is also the recipient of a Thomas Watson Fellowship and is a member of the Board of Directors of Made in NY Media center, The Greenpoint YMCA, and Open Space Alliance.     

Michael David is an American painter who was born in Reno, Nevada, but raised in North Brooklyn. He’s best known for his encaustic technique, which incorporates pigment with heated beeswax, and he’s also known for for his works in mixed-media figure painting, photography, and environmental sculpture. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Jewish Museum of New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Michael was the youngest artist ever to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he has also received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award. His series of paintings the “fallen Toreadors” and his environmental sculpture undertaking, the Green-house Project are among his most critically praised works. He has been referred to as “the most innovative master of immediate surface since the abstract expressionists.” Back in the 1970s, Michael was a founding member of the band    The Numbers, which was a fixture in the early NYC punk scene,  often sharing the stage with the likes of Television, Blondie, and the Ramones.  They eventually became the Plasmatics, backing up lead singer Wendy O. Williams. 

Blair Papagni

Blair Papagni is a partner in popular local dining establishments Anella, Jimmy’s Diner, and two Lucha Lucha locations, one in Bushwick and the other in Bedford-Stuyvesant. She is also a partner in PRODUCTION, a future North Brooklyn-based craft brewery, a spin-off of Stillwater Artisanal.  A 2016 recipient of the Brooklyn Foodie Lifetime Achievement Award, Blair is also a board member of NYC Together, an organization  that provides an opportunity for students of color and NYC police officers to support one another in collaborative efforts to increase civic engagement, foster leadership, and strengthen communities.  A longtime North Brooklyn resident, an artist and the mother of three children, she’s also a very recognizable force in the community when it comes to volunteer involvement.  Her projects range from helping at-risk teens find jobs after graduation to feeding the homeless and those in need every week at the food pantry operated out of the Greenpoint Reformed Church.

George Flanagan

George Flanagan has lived, worked and played in bands in North Brooklyn since 1999.  He’s currently the store manager of Rough Trade, NYC’s biggest record store, and his apartment is regularly in danger of being swallowed by his vinyl collection.  When not slinging records and scouring the untapped depths of the music universe for new talent, George plays guitar in the band Flying Pace.  He and his wife Jessica have a 3-year-old son who will undoubtedly grow up respecting the value of great music as well as the importance of vinyl.

Ceil Hunter. Photo by Taji Ameen

Ceil Hunter is an 11-year veteran of Vice Media and its current head of content.  This position that has her overseeing operations across their mobile and digital platforms and directing Vice’s digital presence across the web, including its video and editorial arms, as well as on platforms like Snapchat, Verizon’s Go90 and variety of new and emerging platforms.  Ceil is also responsible for content integration with the Viceland TV network and contributing, on an executive level, to the launch of the new Vice digital sites covering health, gaming, travel, LGBTQ, money, and sustainability.  She began her career at Vice Media as an intern and during her rise she held the position of lead creative director of the Creator’s Project. This was followed by Executive Creative Director of Vice Media where she led the company’s music channels (Noisey and Thump) and also oversaw talent relations.  In addition, Ceil led strategy and partnerships with YouTube, Apple Music and Live Nation TV.  Just prior to her promotion, she led the effort to build out Vice’s virtual reality projects, managing Viceland’s partnership with Samsung to produce VR content. In her new position, she was instrumental in the creation of the recently formed content distribution partnership between Vice Media and Getty Images.

Frances Lucerna is a pioneer of community arts and education. She danced professionally and in 1980 founded the Williamsburg Arts & Culture Council for Youth. In 1982 she co-founded El Puente, a nationally recognized holistic leadership development organization. She developed “El Puente Arts” North Brooklyn’s premier hub for pre/professional arts training and a recognized model for community driven, culturally rooted arts for social change. In 1998 El Puente received the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ “Coming Up Taller Award”.

In 1993 Lucerna became the founding principal of the El Puente Academy for Peace & Justice.  It was the first public school in the USA dedicated to Human Rights and is a nationally recognized community school model. Her awards include “Celebrating Success” from the Children’s Defense Fund, the Brooklyn Arts Council’s “Arts Advocate Award”, El Diario’s 2010 Mujeres Destacadas Award and the 1998 Heinz Award for the Human Condition.

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