A swimming good time at St. Anselm’s

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On November 24, the St. Anselm Angels boys’ and girls’ swim teams lived every athlete’s dream when they got exclusive coaching and a private audience with Olympic gold medalist Jessica Hardy.

While in New York for the Golden Goggle awards, Hardy made special time for the kids and took her first-ever trip to Brooklyn just to preside over their practices for the day.

Giulia Surace, whose sons, Vincenzo, 11, and Giorgio, 10, are on the boys’ team, and whose daughter, Francesca, is on the girls’ team, said, “We are excited and happy for her to be here!”

John Adams, whose daughters, Caroline, 14, and Grace, 11, are also on the team, echoed her sentiments by saying, “This is awesome! This is really once in a lifetime here in Brooklyn. It’s so great to have her here at our pool, with our kids!”

For her part, Hardy also had plenty to say about her first experience in Brooklyn.

“How cool is it that it’s your coaches’ job to make you better at this sport?” she asked, thanking the coaches and organizers for inviting her to speak to the teams before continuing, “Swimming gets a bad rap, but I have a lot of fun doing it and I want to share that fun with you guys. If you practice, you get good, and if you get good, you have fun!”

Hardy addressed about 100 students and parents in the auditorium of Poly Prep Country Day School in between coaching sessions with both teams. During the sessions, there were relay races and exercises that included athletes attempting to kick their way across the pool with balloons under their chests. The kids were laughing and having a good time while learning valuable swimming skills.

Ted Ghorra, the head coach of the teams, was thrilled that after weeks of coordination, the event turned out perfectly. “Jessica lives in California, but she came here just for us,” he said. “She was awesome today!”

The theme of the day, as summarized by Hardy, was letting challenges in life bring out the best in you instead of getting the best of you, a lesson she passed on to the young swimmers during her time at Poly Prep.


Survivor chic takes to the runway

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On November 13, the Maimonides Breast Cancer Center upheld its mission of “leading the charge against breast cancer in Brooklyn,” and this time, did it in Vince Camuto heels!

This year’s Maimonides Pink Runway Fashion Show, a fun fundraiser for the center, was a huge success, according to Maimonides Medical Center Director of Public Relations Jodi Cross.

Featuring Maimonides President and CEO Pam Brier, and Director of the Breast Center Dr. Patrick Borgen, as featured speakers, this event was particularly special because the models who strutted their stuff in the fashion show were breast cancer survivors and doctors.

The fashions themselves were befitting of fierce warrior women, with Amarcord’s high-fashion vintage designs, Lucy Gabby’s hats and Sriya Karumanchi’s Catbird line all represented, among others. Ally Love, host and entertainer for the Brooklyn Nets, was the MC and host for the evening.

“This was a night for us to celebrate our breast cancer survivors and the team of breast experts that guided them through their treatment,” said Borgen. “Bringing awareness to the rest of Brooklyn was an added bonus.”

Local pols honor veterans, vow to do more

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“It’s no coincidence that Veteran’s Day is on November 11 and then Thanksgiving comes around the same time. This is a season of thanks, and it’s important to remember to be thankful to the veterans in our community.”

These words were spoken by Assemblymember Bill Colton at his Veterans’ Recognition Night on November 18. Standing in front of a poster that said, “Got freedom? Thank a veteran,” he addressed a crowd of about 40 people.

Councilmember Mark Treyger also spoke at the event, echoing Colton’s sentiments about being thankful for veterans.

“Enough of thanks with words,” Treyger urged. “It’s time for thanks with action!”

The evening’s agenda involved a color guard of veterans presenting the flag, speeches from elected officials, with each veteran in attendance receiving personalized citations of thanks from Colton and Treyger.

Army veteran Sal Pennisi was among the veterans honored at the event, which was held at the United Progressive Democratic Club, 29 Bay 25th Street. He said, “I’m here because I am a veteran. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican. I’m an American.”

Mark Ginsberg, also an Army veteran, periodically attends events at the clubhouse. “Colton does a lot for veterans. He’s someone we need on our side,” he said.

While attendees snacked on pastries and coffee, Colton spoke of his success in sponsoring a bill requiring the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs to develop the Veteran Speakers Bureau. His efforts got the bill signed into law and now there is a database of available veterans who are willing to visit schools and share their experiences with students.

Only by listening to veterans describe their experiences can kids truly understand their contributions, he said. His interest in creating the bureau is a result of attending P.S. 216’s annual Salute to the Veterans music program, which happened this year on the same day as Colton’s celebration. Many of the veterans had come from that event. Pennisi remarked that the performance was moving enough to bring the audience to tears.

“If you see homeless veterans, contact our offices immediately so we can reach out,” urged Treyger while discussing other ways communities can repay those who served.

“We haven’t done our job well,” concluded Colton. “We need to do a better job for our veterans like they’ve done for us.”

The Constitution Day Parade must go on

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On Sunday, May 19, Brooklyn’s Norwegian population was saying a collective “Uff da!” in the rain.

The annual Norwegian Constitution Day Parade kicked off at Third Avenue and 81st Street at 1:30 p.m., rain or shine, just like organizers promised.

Revelers lined Third Avenue waving Norwegian flags, St. Olaf’s pennants, and holding signs with famous Norwegian phrases like “Uff da!” Though most wore ponchos and had umbrellas, nothing could dampen the spirits at one of Bay Ridge’s most celebrated and anticipated events, where even the Third Avenue storefronts prepare by hanging Norwegian flags in the windows.

The parade is popular among all ages, but children play a big role each year. Dave Almroth, whose daughters Anna and Kirsten were enjoying their first parade from the dry safety of their stroller, said he’s happy the parade continued in spite of the drizzle and he’s excited to show his children their heritage.

“This is my third year,” said another attendee, Evelyn Radola. “But it’s even more special to me now that my little granddaughter is marching in it!”

Rudola’s granddaughter was one of many. Representatives from St. Olaf’s College in Minnesota marched along with the Fort Hamilton High School Marching Band and Miss Norway Greater New York 2013, Amy Lindland, was there to help cheer the crowds.

Radola is not Norwegian, but her daughter-in-law, Amanda, is, and they both agreed that on Constitution Day, “everyone is Norwegian!”

Even outside of Brooklyn, Scandinavian pride flares up mid-May. Karen Jansen and her family traveled from Connecticut to attend the parade to celebrate her and her husband’s anniversary, which falls on May 17, the actual Constitution Day of Norway, otherwise known as Syttende Mai.

“It’s great to see all these people out here,” Jansen said. “The costumes, the flags, all of it, especially in spite of this weather!”

The Vikings are coming: get a taste of Norwegian heritage in Bay Ridge this Saturday

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If you love Syttende Mai too much to contain your Norwegian heritage celebrations to one day, or if you’re not Norwegian but want to experience the country’s culture and history, with a taste of other cultures as well, we have a treat for you!

The popular Bay Ridge tradition of Viking Fest is back and will be held this year on May 18 at Owl’s Head Park, 68th Street and Colonial Road. It begins at 11:30 a.m., a half hour earlier than originally scheduled, so be warned!

The reason for the early start is that the event has become so popular that another group was added to the line-up after the original schedule was released. The Alta Chamber Choir (Alta Kammerkor) will be performing now in addition to the Lista Trekkspillklubb Accordion Club, Clann Eirann Pipers, Donny Golden Irish Step Dancers, Kellevik Mannskor and Young Dancers in Repertory.

There will also be games, re-enactors and a replica of a Viking ship, the Norseman.

Started in 2001, this event that is sponsored by The Scandinavian East Coast Museum continues to grow in size and popularity each year. This year, the Brooklyn Arts Council got involved and was helpful in providing even more publicity and outreach.

According to coordinator Victoria Hofmo, however, the event has gotten extremely popular through word of mouth, too.

“I was at the gym the other day and a woman was talking to me about the Viking Fest and how excited she was about it, but she didn’t even realize it was my event!” Hofmo said.

She also stated that she believes the event has become so important to the community because Norwegians love having a reason to celebrate their heritage. The parades in Norway are much smaller than the festivities here, so Europeans are coming to the United States to celebrate in a big way, Hofmo added.

This event has been scheduled to coincide with the Norwegian Constitution Day celebrations happening in Bay Ridge, with the holiday itself on May 17 and the parade taking place on May 19.

Parade preparations are underway!

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Bay Ridge and its famous Scandinavian population are getting ready for the annual Constitution Day Parade, otherwise known as Syttende Mai or the 17th of May Parade, scheduled to take place this year on Sunday, May 19.

Arlene Rutuelo, president of the parade committee, says that residents are already getting excited about the parade, with about 100,000 onlookers expected to throng Third Avenue for the event.

“The community really gets involved a few days before the parade and there’s a lot of activity,” she said. “Between churches, Sons of Norway and Viking Fest, there is so much going on! It’s fun to see everyone excited and coming back home to Bay Ridge.”

This year’s parade them is “Sharing Our Norwegian Traditions.”

Among the marchers, there will be two bands from Norway, the Vansa Brass Band, and Lista Trekkspillklubb (The Lista Accordion Club) along with Hellvik Mannskor (a Men’s Chorus), as well as the Sons of Norway and Miss Norway of Greater New York 2013, Amy Lindland.

They will all head to Leif Ericson Park, where the grandstand will be located and where the parade will conclude with a formal program highlighted by a special guest speaker, Rune Edvardsen.

Edvardsen is the director of the Dina Foundation, which is based in Norway and seeks to “provide aid and relief to refugees, victims of natural disasters and war without partiality to race, ethnic group, political beliefs or religion.” Edvardsen regularly travels to Africa and Asia to do good, and the parade’s organizers are excited to have him as this year’s speaker.

“We try to pick people to come and be a speaker who have done amazing work in the world. His organization has literally saved thousands of women and children from rape and brutalization,” said Rutuelo.

This year will be Bay Ridge’s 61st Constitution Day Parade, and with a recent increase in the Scandinavian population of Brooklyn, Rutuelo thinks there will be a great turn out.

The parade kicks off at 1:30 p.m., from 81st Street and Third Avenue.

For more information, go to www.may17paradeny.com.

When the Saints go batting in

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Two local little leagues faced off against each other in an early season match-up in Shore Road Park.

On April 20, the St. Anselm Cubs played the St. Ephrem Eagles at St. Patrick’s Field, 97th Street and Shore Road Park. Though the Cubs lost to the Eagles 5-9, it was a great day for everyone involved.

Sylvester Sichenze, commissioner of sports for St. Ephrem’s, said, “The atmosphere was good, very good! It was an exciting and well-played game.”

The 50 or so people in attendance enjoyed a relaxing weekend afternoon in the nice weather, cheering for the kids.

“This is going to be a great season,” Sichenze said. “I think it’s going to be great for every team!”


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COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger attends community events and speaks at them regularly, providing pictures and memorabilia from Brooklyn’s past, as well as leading walking tours, giving a new perspective of each neighborhood, even to people who have lived there their whole lives.

As Brooklyn’s historian, Schweiger uses his extensive knowledge of the borough and over 3,000 slides of old Brooklyn street scenes to educate its residents. He also takes Brooklynites and tourists alike on walking tours of historic neighborhoods and is currently working to make the Sheepshead Bay Footbridge a New York City landmark.

“Parts of that bridge are older than the Brooklyn Bridge,” he said. “It’s from 1880, it’s very historic and deserves to be a landmark.” He is proactive in his efforts to educate and inform the public, as well as do the most good for Brooklyn with his appointed position.

He was also appointed the president of his synagogue, Temple Beth Emeth, is now the president of the Brooklyn College Alumni Association and will be inducted as the president of the Society of Old Brooklynites on June 23.

PERSONAL LIFE: Schweiger was born and raised in Brooklyn. He married his wife in 1969 and they moved from their respective childhood neighborhoods in the borough to Flatbush. They have two sons together, both of whom live in Brooklyn.

As a resident of Flatbush, Schweiger developed an interest in Brooklyn history and was appointed homeowners’ association president even though he was a renter in the area!

CAREER: Before being appointed as Brooklyn borough historian by Borough President Marty Markowitz in 2002, Schweiger was a science teacher for 39 years, first at Public School 219 and then at Yeshiva of Flatbush.

Now that he is retired from teaching, Schweiger enjoys amateur storm chasing and even went on a storm chasing adventure through the Great Plains in 2006.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Schweiger says that his greatest challenge in life has been the completion of two major surgeries within the past three years.

“When you get older, it becomes like having an old car that you know really well. You know the sounds the car is supposed to make,” he explained. “When it acts up, you bring it in and replace a part. Once you do that, everything is fine again!”

He has stayed positive and says he feels fine now and that he is ready to continue studying Brooklyn and teaching its history to residents.

Olde Breukelenites reminisce

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There was a lot to celebrate on Sunday, April 14 for residents of Bay Ridge. Or should we say Yellow Hook, as the area was once known?

Curious residents gathered at Bay Ridge Jewish Center to see a slideshow and hear Borough Historian Ron Schweiger talk about the history of Brooklyn. There were old-time sodas, authentic egg creams, knishes and more to be eaten and popular toys and games from the 20th Century on display and for purchase.

Schweiger provided the event’s coordinators, Lynne Grant and Barbara Gershuny, with pictures for the tables and books for attendees to read through, highlighting everything from why sidewalks in Flatbush shift a few inches towards the street in some areas to why Bay Ridge was once known as Yellow Hook.

According to Grant, the history of the borough is very important to Brooklynites. “There are a lot of people with fond memories of growing up here,” she explained. “Brooklynites are very loyal to our borough and we love to reminisce, no matter what neighborhood we’re from.”

Attendee Diane Nicosia said, “I’m interested in Brooklyn’s history and I’m a Bay Ridge resident. I’d like to go to more things like this, I’m glad they organized it!”

The event, which was two years in the making, attracted a large crowd. Schweiger brought about 75 of his 3,000 slides of pictures of Old Brooklyn to show the audience. As he flipped through them, he shared tidbits about a variety of topics including the proposed subway tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island and how Bay Ridge was once a summer resort for the wealthy.

“It’s important to know our history so we can preserve it,” Schweiger said. “I do walking tours all around Brooklyn and people are always surprised about the things they don’t even know about their own neighborhood!”

Tommy Holiday, a Ridgeite whose family has lived on the same block since the 1890s, takes his neighborhood’s history very seriously. “I’m born and raised in this neighborhood; I want to know all about it,” he explained. “I come to these things as often as I can.”

The event was a success, with everyone in attendance enjoying their trip down Memory Lane.

“Brooklyn has such a fabulous history,” said Candi Friedman, a self-described “stalwart helper” at the event. “With such an influx of new people coming in all the time and even with people who already live here and take it for granted, we need to be sure our history keeps on living!”

And for those of you who couldn’t make it to the event, Bay Ridge was known as Yellow Hook because of the unique yellow sand along its shore. The name was changed, however, when an outbreak of Yellow Fever caused the overly cautious to shy away from the neighborhood in fear of catching the disease.