John Abi-Habib honored by Bay Ridge Center for community service
New Bay Ridge Center plans also unveiled, slated to have 20,000 square feet
It was a great turnout as the Bay Ridge Center’s annual Summer Celebration of Giving event honored Bay Ridge civic leader John Abi-Habib on Saturday, June 25.
The event, held at the backyard of the Lutheran Elementary School, 440 Ovington Ave., featured live music, food, raffles and remarks. It also unveiled plans for its new center slated to open this fall.
“John has done so much for the Bay Ridge community,” said Bay Ridge Center Executive Director Todd Fliender. “We are so happy to celebrate him and all of the great things he’s done for the community.”
“We decided to honor him because he is spearheading the campaign for a new building,” said Gerri Brooks-Cassone, a member of the center’s community advisory board. “He’s been a pillar of the community and has been so generous to Bay Ridge for the past three decades. He is an entrepreneur. He is just the epitome of service. He’s involved in so many different things and he’s a credit to our community.”
Kings County Conservative Party Chairperson Frances Vella-Marrone was also happy to be there.
“John couldn’t be a better honoree,” she said. “He’s somebody who’s been in the community, generous with his time and funds. That’s something we should all be celebrating. I know the work he’s done in all sorts of organizations.”
Assemblymember Michael Tannousis spoke about his memories of Habib before Tannousis started his political career.
“I’ve known John since I was a child,” he said. “When I was fresh out of college, he helped me get a job working for then-city Councilmember James Oddo. John helped me get that first glimpse into political life, which I am forever grateful for.”
Habib, who had families and friends in attendance, spoke about the history of Ovington Avenue and the importance of senior centers.
“I thank Todd and the team that entrusted me and thought I was worthy of this award,” he said. “I do my work in the community because I love to do it. I just like to be there and be part of the activities. Thank you for your commitment and this award.”
He also looked back at the past, as he helped the center when he was on the Fifth Avenue Board of Trade.
“The Bay Ridge Center came to the Board of Trade and said we have this vision in which we distribute meals to those at home that may not be able to come here,” Habib said. “We pledged to give them the first Meals on Wheels van and the story continues for more than 25 years. Right now, it covers thousands of Bay Ridge residents unable to go outside.”
The event also featured renderings of the new Bay Ridge Center building slated to open at 15 Bay Ridge Ave. It will be two stories, encompass 21,000 square feet and include several more activities for seniors.
Currently, the center is located in the basement of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, which has around 5,000 square feet.
“This is going to change our seniors’ lives,” Fliender said. “It’s going to be amazing. Bethlehem Lutheran has been a wonderful host to us for 46 years now. But unfortunately, being in the basement of a church with only around 5,000 square feet has really limited the kind of programming we can do for our seniors and the services we can provide.”
He added that last year the New York State Office for the Aging has given the facility the funds for the new site.
“It’s going to allow us to do the kind of programming and services our seniors want,” he said. “Everyone in Southwest Brooklyn should have a stake in the new Bay Ridge Center; they’re either going to be a senior there or have family members who are going to be seniors. We are talking about the future of our older adults here. Let’s make something really amazing happen.”
“The new center is going to have many services and programs to keep the senior population active,” Habib added. “I’m proud to be part of this program and to lead the campaign to make sure the center gets what it wants, because it deserves it. We deserve all the services. We work hard for 40 years plus, and it’s time for the nonprofits to make sure we get the service activities we deserve.”
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