Bay Ridge

Opinions & observations: Focusing on those who ‘built’ Bay Ridge: attorney, civic leader Bob Howe

February 24, 2022 Chuck Otey
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In this ongoing series focusing on pre-pandemic builders of Bay Ridge, we again direct your attention to the true leaders whose volunteerism ‘built’ Bay Ridge into a juggernaut of civic activity that reached its peak prior to the internet invasion. If you go back through the pages of this newspaper to the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and early into this millennium, you will learn that Bay Ridge was built at a time when scores or even hundreds of residents would flock to meetings of the Bay Ridge Community Council, the Fifth Avenue Board of Trade and the Dyker Heights Civics Association. In fact, it was on a sunny Saturday morning back in the ’90s when leaders like Bob Howe (this week’s Bay Ridge builder), Fran Vella-Marrone, the late Mike Behlen, Larry Morrish, Marty Golden and the late Peter Killen staged the largest community clean-up on municipal record: more than 1,500 volunteers, working in conjunction with city agencies, manned shovels, brooms and paintbrushes throughout Greater Bay Ridge to spruce up their hometown. 

These clean-ups continued for years, dwindling somehow only when the internet — Facebook, Google, et al — morphed into our stay-at-home community centers. This week, our Bay Ridge builder of choice is Howe, who led the Merchants of Third Avenue for 30 years, sparking clean-ups, graffiti hunts, festivals and the city’s best Summer Stroll program, along with waging war against a mosquito invasion with Golden, Jim Khoury, the late Larry Morrish and others. As noted last week, this series will hone in on those who actually left the comfort of their home to go out and take part in a community clean-up or attend a Bay Ridge Community Council meeting, long before the dreaded pandemic made almost all of us shut-ins more than two years ago. 

Battling mosquitoes, graffiti, street debris, Bob Howe was there

When the new millennium arrived, so did the mosquitoes, which spurred leaders like Bob Howe (far left) to highlight the danger-bearing insects, demonstrating how the invaders could gather into colonies in the well of a wet tire. Others, left to right, are columnist Chuck Otey. Then-Fifth Avenue Board of Trade President Marty Golden, Don Clark, Peter Killen and Larry Morrish.

Then-Merchants of Third Avenue President Bob Howe (seated, center) leads a Third Avenue clean-up initiative with solid backup. Also seated, front, are then-Merchants Executive Secretary Chuck Otey and Clean-Up Committee Co-Chair Larry Morrish. Among those standing (left to right) are Peter Killen, Gloria Melnick, James Vavas, Mary and Patty Fazio, Marty Golden and Patricia Killen.

Howe is pictured at a meeting of the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association with BRLA President William Gillen and Investor’s Bank executive Brian Chin (left to right). 

Then-Merchants of Third Avenue President Bob Howe (seated, center) leads a Third Avenue clean-up initiative with solid backup. Also seated, front, are then-Merchants Executive Secretary Chuck Otey and Clean-Up Committee Co-Chair Larry Morrish. Among those standing (left to right) are Peter Killen, Gloria Melnick, James Vavas, Mary and Patty Fazio, Marty Golden and Patricia Killen. Photos courtesy of Chuck Otey

Can Rose beat Malliotakis in new district remodeled to favor Democrat?

Two years ago, Republican-Conservative challenger Nicole Malliotakis defeated incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Max Rose by about 6 percentage points in a congressional district that included all of Staten Island, most of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

Since then, a Democratic legislature has reapportioned the 11th Congressional District, removing most of right-leaning Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, then slicing north to add Democratic-leaning Sunset Park even into Park Slope.

How do the congresswoman’s supporters feel about this? 

“So long as we [Nicole] have all of Staten Island, Nicole will beat Max Rose in November,” one longtime backer told us, asking anonymity.

Republicans are furious at the way the 11th C.D. was cut up. Radical “cutting” is not uncommon for Staten Islanders and many in Brooklyn. One-time Democrat U.S. Rep. Jack Murphy was extended all the way from Staten Island to Manhattan to ensure his victory.

In 1962, late Gov. Hugh Carey made his entrance into Bay Ridge politics in a district including all of Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, ending at Fort Hamilton. He thumped U.S. Rep. Frank Dorn, another Park Slope resident.

Will Trump hold sway in new 11th C.D.?

The previous 11th C.D. voted for President Donald Trump by a margin of nearly 10 percentage points in 2016, but Rose — a beneficiary of the short-lived “Blue Wave” —flipped the district in 2018, beating the Republican incumbent, Dan Donovan, by a margin of more than 6 percentage points. 

Malliotakis defied Trump by voting for the vital infrastructure bill, but he has since indicated he will back her against Rose. Democrats are hoping Trump will be indicted (or worse) before November, while Republicans are counting on a late-October Trump-Malliotakis motorcade starting in Fresh Kills, circling the island, then crossing the Verrazano and ultimately coming to a dramatic closing moment on scenic, prosperous Prospect Park West.


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