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The Brooklyn Bar Association celebrates first Holiday Party in 50 years

December 17, 2021 Robert Abruzzese, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Brooklyn Bar Association took a major step towards a return to normalcy on Thursday when its Foundation hosted a Holiday Party, the first major event inside the building in nearly two years and its first holiday party in over 50 years.

It wasn’t quite like a party from 2019, but it certainly was festive. Approximately 100 members came through the doors on Thursday night. Some came at 4 p.m. immediately after work, a few came later to avoid the early crowds. Everyone was vaccinated and enough of our guests brought new unwrapped toys that we filled more than two Toys for Tots boxes.

More than a dozen old suits were also collected and will be donated to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, who gives the suits to men coming out of Rikers Island as part of its reentry program.

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Many members in attendance have not been inside the building for nearly two years. Some in attendance on Thursday joined over the pandemic and had never been in the building at all. For the few who have been to 123 Remsen St. over the last two years, they were treated to a nearly empty building instead of its typical bustling hallways so Thursday night was certainly a transformation.

The BBA managed to collect more than two boxes full of new and unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots.

There was plenty of food, mostly Italian food, which was ordered by Past President Hon. Frank Seddio. Appetizers were passed around all night and near 7 p.m. Italian classics like eggplant parmesan, penne a la vodka, and chicken francaise were served.

Traditional holiday music played through the night and was only interrupted by Hon. Lawrence Knipel, the administrative judge for the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, and Kwok Kei Ng, two members with a passion for music, played a brief set. The pair have been practicing recently with other members while they put together an unofficial BBA band.

With COVID being a concern even in the future, the BBA doesn’t expect to hold many in-person events within its halls until at least the Spring so it was nice to be able to come together like this, even while none of us have put away the hand sanitizer.

The COVID pandemic has been extremely harsh on the association. Almost overnight, our members went from relying on the BBA for their continuing legal education needs and for platforms to network at in-person events to one with no events and virtual CLE. Suddenly there was no reason to come to Remsen Street.

Hon. Lawrence Knipel and Kwok Kei Ng playing the guitar and drums, respectively, at the Holiday Party.

To make things worse, the early confusion of the pandemic, and a partial shutdown of parts of the court system, meant that the BBA wasn’t having any events at all for a few months. Our membership numbers plummeted. There was concern about the future of the association.

The situation no longer seems dire. The BBA is not losing members every month, but is slowly gaining some of them back. There still are no in-person CLE events, but virtual CLE over Zoom has proven popular and we now occasionally get crowds of over 100 people in attendance. It legitimately could take the BBA years to fully recover, if it ever returns to the membership numbers it once boasted, but at least things are trending in the right direction.

Having our members back in the building for a major event, the first since District Attorney Eric Gonzalez was here in March 2020, was more than a Holiday Party. It was a sign that the association has a future beyond Zoom meetings, and a sign that lawyers in Brooklyn are eager to come together again, even if they must take precautions against COVID.

The Brooklyn Bar Association wants to thank its sponsors for helping to make the event happen: Northfield Bank, Lexitas Legal, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, President Armena Gayle, President-Elect Richard Klass, Arthur Aidala, Martin Edelman, David Hernandez, Andrea Bonina, Hon. Richard Montelione, Adam Roth, Darran Winslow, Lisa Rispoli, Gregory LaSpina, Adam Kalish, Daniel Antonelli, Carrie Anne Cavallo, Hon. Frank Seddio and Gregory Cerchione.

From left: Pamela Walker, Hon. Genine Edwards, Natoya McGhie, Hon. John Ingram and Kwok Kei Ng.

Not the Only Party in Town

The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association was actually the first group back inside the BBA building on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights when it held its own Holiday Party on Tuesday night.

The BWBA had nearly an identical hiatus as the BBA over the last two years, maintaining a mostly online presence and not hosting any major in-person events since February 2020. On Tuesday night you could hardly tell its members hadn’t seen each other in so long as nearly 70 of them joined together to celebrate the holidays.

President Madeline Kirton continued the tradition of hosting the party along with a charity raffle that always gets the guests excited.

There will be one more Holiday Party hosted at the BBA building when the Kings County Criminal Bar Association’s members take it over on Tuesday, December 21 at 6 p.m.

From left: Adam Kalish, Kraig Severino, branch manager at Northfield Bank, Anthony Vaughn, Jr., and Daniel Antonelli.

Robert Abruzzese is the former Legal Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the current Director of Member Services at the Brooklyn Bar Association. Now as a legal columnist for the Eagle, Abruzzese writes for the BBA and the local legal community. For information about joining the Brooklyn Bar Association, you can reach him via email at [email protected].

From left: Carrie Anne Cavallo, Joy Thompson and Natoya McGhie at the BWBA Holiday Party.
Photo courtesy of the BWBA

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