Brooklyn Community Services wraps 150th anniversary in grand style
Venerable Nonprofit Bestows Awards on Sports, Entertainment, Corporate and Education Leaders
Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) celebrated the finale of its sesquicentennial anniversary year in the East River waterfront’s newest “eco-luxe” lodging, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. Monday night’s gala, themed “For the Love of the Community,” bestowed honors to philanthropists Aaron and Deborah Dean, the Philips-Van Heusen Foundation, Vice Chairman Edward Gentner Jr. and the staff, students and administration of The Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service.
Emcee for the evening, actress and activist Debi Mazar, pulled no punches in her comments: “This evening is a community of love,” Mazar declared, before introducing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as a “true blue Brooklyn motherf—-r.”
“I’ve been called a lot of things,” Adams said moments later to laughter and applause. “But that one really hit home.”
Adams continued: “I like to think of this as a Brooklyn Bridge moment — 16 years before that beautiful edifice made of steel and stone was built, BCS was doing its thing. It was the original bridge.” Recalling his own family’s struggle with poverty and homelessness — he used to sleep alongside a garbage bag to prevent his clothing from being taken — Adams reminded the audience, “There’s an Eric Adams out there waiting for his neighbor to come and say, ‘You matter … being destitute doesn’t mean you lose dignity and respect!’ Homelessness is not just Bill de Blasio’s problem. It’s all of New York’s problem!”
“He keeps it real!” Mazar added after Adams concluded his remarks. “And we need to support his realness!”
BCS provides a wide array of services to Brooklyn residents, including support for mental health services, after-school programs, early childhood education, employment training for disabled persons and advocates for affordable housing. The last is acutely needful as Brooklyn property values continue to rise and gentrification threatens to destabilize many long-established communities.
Released earlier this year, “The Forgotten Farragut” is a BCS-produced documentary short focused on Farragut Houses, a 10-building NYCHA property adjoining the more affluent DUMBO and Vinegar Hill neighborhoods. Most of the economic revitalization that has characterized its neighbors and also the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard, bypassed Farragut, where, according to BCS documents, median income is one tenth that of DUMBO and unemployment is more than 12 percent.
Last year BCS, in cooperation with NYCHA, launched the BCS Farragut Cornerstone Community Center. On site in the complex, the center provides resources and support to Farragut residents.
Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, the BCS Arts & Entertainment Leadership Award honoree, oversees operations for the Barclays Center as well as managing the NBA Brooklyn Nets.
“People who don’t maybe eat together will go see a game together,” said BCS board member and CNN contributor Michaela Angela Davis, introducing a short film about BSE. “Barclays Center brings excitement and action to Brooklyn, but it doesn’t take anything away. It contributes.”
“Some of my earliest memories are of BCS,” said 15-year-old Sydney Dean, introducing her parents Aaron and Deborah Dean as they accepted the BCS Philanthropic Leadership Award.
After an impromptu shoutout to Jacob Riis for his work on behalf of immigrants, MC Mazar brought BCS Executive Director Marla Simpson to the stage to present the Outstanding Service Award to BCS Vice Chair Edward F. Gentner Jr.
“Without Ed,” Simpson told the audience, “I don’t think I’d ever have had the chance to be here … He is essential to every part of BCS operations.”
“On a fundamental level, I’m a Brooklyn guy,” Gentner acknowledged. “It’s certainly an honor to be awarded for doing something I feel privileged to be allowed to do anyway!”
“This is a team of hope and hope builders!” exclaimed BCS Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service Principal Georgia Serves while accepting the BCS Program Award on behalf of the students and teachers assembled behind her.
The evening ran late, as such events often do, prompting BCS Executive Director Simpson to call for dinner to be served while the awards were still underway. While accepting the award for corporate leadership, Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation Foundation President Guy Vickers lamented, “I had a really great speech prepared, too. But dinner’s more important.”
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