Christopher Caputo installed as president of Columbian Lawyers Association
The Columbian Lawyers Association of Brooklyn couldn’t host its annual dinner-dance this past June, so instead it honored its outgoing president and installed a new one during a Zoom meeting on Thursday night in appropriate 2020 fashion.
“I want this to have a real El Caribe feel to it,” said Steven Bamundo, a past president and the association’s coordinator, who moderated the event.
Outgoing president Susanne Gennusa was honored for her work in keeping the association together and active throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Afterward, an installation was held for the new officers and trustees, including incoming president Christopher Caputo.
“Although I hope and expect our festive and well-attended annual dinner dance will take place again next year, the executive committee felt that it would be important to express our gratitude for a great year under our outgoing president Susanne Gennusa and to welcome with enthusiasm and optimism our new president, Chris Caputo,” Bamundo said.
Members were not thrilled to have what is an annual celebration turned into an online meeting. However, they still tried to keep spirits high. Bamundo joked that he was going to blame past president Bruno Codispoti for any technical errors, people joked about getting cannolis delivered to them for the meeting, there was piped-in audience cheering after people were introduced, and Frank Sinatra sang “America the Beautiful” via YouTube.
Bamundo admitted to everyone that behind the scenes, Gennusa was nervous about taking over the association as president and said that he felt badly when the pandemic started. At that point, he explained that he felt badly that Gennusa’s term was cut short, but added that he was glad to see that she was able to host events and keep the bar association active during the rough spring months.
“With her signature grace and class, Susanne continued her duties as president during the shutdown,” Bamundo said. “She was fully engaged and not only was she concerned about the relevance of our association, but also about our membership. Thus, we instituted the newsletter, which was our way of staying in touch with the members and to let them know we are still around.
“It is easy to be a leader during the best of times, but it is special to be a leader under difficult circumstances, and madam president, you did that,” Bamundo said.
Gennusa spoke briefly and explained that she still had a fulfilling experience as president even though the association had to cancel two monthly meetings, an Atlantic City seminar and an annual dinner-dance held at El Caribe in Mill Basin.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t extend my sympathies to those of us who have lost people in this,” Gennusa said. “Together we’re saddened by the loss of members, colleagues and friends. I’m thankful for those of us who have fallen ill and recovered, and those of us on the road to recovery.
“Today we are celebrating and have cause for celebration because although our year was cut short, I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak with one of you one last time as president and thank you all for your encouragement, support and participation,” Gennusa said.
She, of course, thanked Lucy DiSalvo, the association’s executive secretary. “Without you, I not only wouldn’t have gotten on this meeting, but I wouldn’t have gotten through the year,” she said.
Gennusa also said that the association is in good hands with Caputo due to his fierce loyalty, infectious smile and “unique” brand of humor.
Hon. Carl Landicino, a justice of the Kings County Supreme Court and a past president of the association, conducted the installation ceremony.
The new slate of officers who were installed included Maria Aragona, who recently won the Democratic primary for Civil Court judge in Brooklyn, as the first vice president; Salvatore Scibetta as the second vice president; Yolanda Guadagnoli as the third vice president; Mark Longo as the treasurer; John Dalli as the corresponding secretary; Mario Romano as the recording secretary, and George Siracuse, who was re-installed as the historian.
Grace Borrino and Giannin Tribuzio were also added to the board of directors, class of 2022 and class of 2023, respectively.
Past president Annette Scarrano introduced Caputo, and Justice Landicino performed the installation, in which Caputo was presented with the association’s official presidential gavel. Justice Landicino said that when he was president, he was so nervous about losing the gavel that he left it underneath his bed for a year.
After the installation, Caputo thanked Gennusa and recalled some of the members and friends of the association who died in the past year including Hon. Johnny Lee Baynes, Hon. Noach Dear, Hon. Gerard Rosenberg, John Milano and meeting regular Pamela Allred.
“COVID-19 has done a number on us, on our city and the cities of our families back in Italy, but it has not beaten us, has not forced us into submission and it has not won because tonight we celebrate,” Caputo said. “We celebrate our comradery, the friendships that we’ve made, the beautiful faces, smiles, and laughter that we all miss, but we will see again soon under the banner of our rich heritage.
“I promise to remain faithful and loyal to the purposes and goals of this association including to promote and preserve the values and traditions of our Italian heritage,” Caputo concluded.
Following the event, Caputo hosted a separate “after-party” Zoom meeting that was much less formal. For nearly 90 minutes, members of the bar association stepped into the virtual conference to offer congratulations to Caputo as well as the other officers, Gennusa and judicial candidate Aragona.
“All members are ordered to begin practicing karaoke,” Caputo joked. “Remember, no members other than Bart Russo can sing ‘Copacabana.’”
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