First-ever Williamsburg Wine Bash benefits The Firehouse N. Bklyn. Community Center

July 6, 2017 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Assemblymember Joe Lentol with former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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The first-ever Williamsburg Wine Bash recently brought in a vibrant crowd showing the same kind of enthusiasm that helped save a North Brooklyn firehouse from closure on more than one occasion. More than 350 attended this June 26 fundraiser for The Firehouse North Brooklyn Community Center held at Brooklyn Bowl.

The Williamsburg Wine Bash featured tastes from 60 prestigious wineries curated by Sherry-Lehmann wines, food from renowned North Brooklyn restaurants and an auction of rare wines. Auctioneer for the evening was Kevin Zraly, James Beard Award winner, and founder of the Windows on the World Wine School.

Oysters, provided by Billion Oyster Project, and prosecco were offered to guests as they made their entry into Brooklyn Bowl.

The Firehouse North Brooklyn Community Center is a nonprofit organization that will serve North Brooklyn and beyond. It is sited at the decommissioned Firehouse 212 at Wythe Ave and North 8th Street in Williamsburg.

During the worst of the recession in 1975, New York City moved to shutter Firehouse Engine 212. Locals responded in protest, by fully occupying the building around the clock, for 16 months. The city eventually acquiesced and re-opened the neighborhood firehouse in a major victory for the North Brooklyn community.

But, in 2003, the City again announced that the firehouse would be closed. And again, the community responded—this time uniting behind a proposal that the firehouse become a community and cultural center.

“This repurposing will make the Firehouse first of a kind cultural institution in North Brooklyn—a hub for community activity with a unique dedicated public space for the arts, performances, events, educational programs and topical forums,” according to Diana Zelvin, Development Director.

The Firehouse will also serve as a permanent home for two neighborhood social justice organizations, Peoples Firehouse Inc. (PFI) and Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG). They will continue their advocacy and direct services for tenant rights and housing issues, and environmental justice issues for neighborhood residents.

The Firehouse project seeks to unite a rapidly changing North Brooklyn community, bringing together new and long-time residents, while insuring that North Brooklyn retains its activist spirit and artistic soul.

This vision has captured the excitement of the North Brooklyn community, including local elected officials, who have all committed significant funding for the conversion. The Firehouse is very close to its final goal, having raised more than $2.5 million through donations and events like the Williamsburg Wine Bash in addition to City and State funds.

That night, 60 high-end wines were on-hand for visitors’ pleasure. A dozen or so wine vendors, affiliated with event co-sponsor Sherry-Lehmann Wines, worked on tables set in the center of the Bowl’s dance floor, where reps opened and poured an array of roses, blancs, cabernets, merlots, chardonnays and Reislings into tulip-shaped wine glasses.

Several of North Brooklyn’s most prominent restaurants prepared tastings of their signature dishes. including Chef Andrew Cardellini of William Vale, Chef Al Di Meglio of Barano, Lorenzo and Francesco Panella and Chef Emanuele Baldassini of Antica Pesa’s Chef Pete Lipson of All Hands, The Williamsburg Hotel, Robert Arbor’s Le Gamin Café and Wylie Dufresne’s Du’s Donuts.

“I’m in Brooklyn now,” said Dufresne when asked what brought Du’s Donuts to the event. “I want to sell donuts here. This is a good place to meet people and sample our products.”

“We plan to be here for a long time,” explained Al Di Meglio of Barano. “So, we’re always looking for ways to give back to the community.”

Auctioneer Kevin Zraly presented seven lots up to bid, which included a tour and tasting of Napa Valley, a Champagne lesson and tasting at the Williamsburg Hotel, a VIP tour of the Macari vineyards on Long Island’s North Fork and a Willow 3 European-style bicycle.

All attendees went home with a swag bag with a Sherry-Lehmann gift card and a bottle selected by Zraly. In addition, guests were treated to entertaining opening remarks by former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, live music from indie-soul artist Danielia Cotton with world renown guitarist/producer Tony Bruno, as well as a DJ set from Brooklyn’s own Caroline Polachek previously of the band Chairlift.

“We could not think of a better way to support the Firehouse project than bringing together some of the greatest leaders in food and wine that Brooklyn has to offer for an unforgettable night at Brooklyn Bowl,’ said Firehouse board chair Del Teague. “It’s not often that you can have so much fun and support a worthy cause—all at the same time. The North Brooklyn community deeply appreciates the support of Sherry-Lehmann, Brooklyn Bowl, and all of the participating local restaurants to help build our community and cultural center.”

While Brooklyn Bowl hosted the first annual Wine Bash, the Firehouse is host to Brooklyn’s annual Taste Williamsburg Greenpoint event, a block party style tasting event attended by thousands of New Yorkers and other visitors which features sample tastes from more than 40 of the neighborhood’s best restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries.

—Additional reporting by Francesca Norsen Tate

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