May 11, 2017

Bay Ridge Unity Task Force = It’s Really the Bay Ridge Breakfast Club!


The Bay Ridge Community Task Force was established in 2000. Newspapers credit former District Attorney, Charles Hynes for initiating the task forceThere is very little information about the Bay Ridge Task Force online – no website, FB page, etc.  While the group was started with good intentions to encourage unity across different religions and cultural backgrounds,  it appears the group settled on being a “Once a Year Breakfast Club that takes a picture for the paper” rather than a Task Force which takes action and solve problems.  It’s obvious the original plan for this Task Force wasn’t to meet ONCE A YEAR and keep unity in the community by eating breakfast – everyone knows that wouldn’t be effective.


The Task Force in the Early Years


In the earlier years, the group held community events as this book referred to a picnic that was held at Owls Head Park to strengthen ties in the community.  In the years that followed Vinnie Gentile, Marty Golden and some Bay Ridge store owners continued to hold a Fourth of July picnic in the Shore Road Park. In 2011, there was a dispute over the music being played at that picnic (more here) and some felt unwanted because of the conflict over music.  The politician sponsored picnics continued until 2015 (videos here). The Task Force also organized a Community Cleanup Day, but that may have been a one time event.


The Task Force Hasn’t Met for Over a Year!

The last time the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force met was February 2016,  at The Bay Ridge Jewish Center. Rabbi Dina Rosenberg concentrated on the community “doing something.”  I am not Jewish, but her synagogue does a good job in being welcoming to the community as it shares a lot of cool events they have throughout the year.  Rosenberg seems to understand the need to meet people half way and I have seen members of her synagogue running events outside of the synagogue (even at a local store). 


Task Forced Evolved into Free Breakfast 


The members  on Bay Ridge the Task Force seemed to enjoy the free breakfast. I don’t know who the leader is for this group, but they obviously don’t have any leadership skills or they would have served coffee and muffins AND PUT PEOPLE TO WORK!  One paper states that the breakfast has traditionally attracted religious leaders, police brass, civic activists and business leaders. Yes, free breakfast does that.


Marty Golden sent his staffer, John Quaglione to represent him.  Move the video to 2:43. Quaglione says, “By being together at the number of events, it allows us the opportunity not only to talk about being together, but actually be together.” WHATTTTTTTTTTT? Did you understand that jibber jabber?



Being together with people from other cultures and

religions isn’t hard. Every day this happens in

public schools across the city!  


It’s  May 2017 and the last time the Task Force met was in February 2016. It’s apparent that the members aren’t that interested in responding to issues in the community (such as this, this, this and this).  A few incidents of hate happened this year and the Task Force didn’t do anything about it. How can it be a Task Force if there is no response to the problems in the neighborhood? In July 2016, when an incident from Sunset Park overflowed into our area, the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force did not do anything. The task force was supposed to come together and stomp out hate and mistrust, but it didn’t do anything.


The Task Forces Needs to Restructure and Be a Task Force


What needs to happen is for the group to restructure and become a Task Force rather than a group of adults who like to eat breakfast! Here’s some things that should have changed over the years if the Task Force was to stay viable. 


 1. It’s odd that the Bay Ridge Task Force has no young adults on it.   Their voice is important in our community and the teens will bring a fresh set of eyes, ideas and energy to the community. I’m not talking about adding all honor students to the group, I’m talking about adding students of various cultural and religious backgrounds who are interested in civic service in their community.  


2. Someone stated that the Movers and Shakers were on the Task Force. That can’t be correct because anyone moving and shaking is working at the time in the morning. It must be a lot of retired members of the community on the Task Force. Move the meeting to the evening and  allow for more people to attend the Task Force – rotate the members of the Task Force so it stays fresh and continues to be a task force that does more than just eat breakfast. 


3.  One year, the breakfast was sponsored by Maimonides Hospital. Why would anyone from Maimonides be included in the Task Force Breakfast if MAIMO is on 48th Street and far from Bay Ridge?   This sounds like a political move as I don’t understand the connection to MAIMO.  If the task force had an evening meeting, everyone can bring their own coffee or water so outside businesses don’t need to be present.


bay ridge unity task force


Click below to see the History of the Bay Ridge Community Task Force


The Bay Ridge Task Force ate breakfast and discussed Trump’s comments about Muslims while he campaigned for President (picture in paper is from 2014).  Two religious leaders met with a graphic designer to make a logo. I couldn’t find the logo online and I don’t recall seeing it in Bay Ridge.

In 2015, Bay Ridge resident Ralph Succar spoke to press about ISIS Sleeper Cells. The Task Force took no action. Even our local newspapers didn’t touch the subject.




August 19, 2014 – The Bay Ridge Task Force met to eat breakfast (More info here)

Linda Sarsour said she was glad to join the Next Generation of Unity Task Force Members.


Hate crimes in Bay Ridge in 2014:

1) On July 14, 2014 an incident with Chaim Weiss, who drove up to the Islamic Society in a car with Israeli flags and played loud music while Muslim worshipers were inside reciting Ramadan prayers. In October 2014, Weiss was ordered to do community service.

2) Chris Papadimitriopoulos, a 55 year old man who vandalized some places of worship –  St. Anselm had their Virgin Mary statue destroyed, Hold Cross Greek Church that was vandalized and the Jewish Center has also been attacked.

3) September 2014 – While intoxicated, Brian Boshell threw a garbage pail at the Director of the Arab Association, threatened and harassed her. He was charged with a hate crime, but the Director of the Arab Association of NY agreed to allow Boshell to have a jail alternative option.



 No sign of the Task Force – no story/photo. Now this may not mean they didn’t meet for breakfast, but maybe a camera wasn’t available.



Marty Golden talks about the NYPD’s surveillance of the Muslim community

Vandalism at Visitation




December 2011 – The BRTF met and commemorated 10 years since 9/11   

In 2011 – the breakfast was held at the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church.    Charles Hynes is quoted as saying, “We decided we were going to make a statement. We decided we were not going to let the haters win.”  Again, if these people consider it “ground-breaking” to have  breakfast in a building owned by a different religion, we can see where the problem is.   Senator Marty Golden jib jabs about the meeting in true politician style.

This newspaper noted that the Bay Ridge Task Force is religious groups coming together to celebrate unity.



 No sign of the Task Force – no story/photo  

But I found this article where a 14 year old Muslim girl explained that she loved Bay Ridge, despite some xenophobic comments:  “I love Bay Ridge,” said Miriam Rimawi, 14, who was walking down 5th Avenue with a friend yesterday afternoon. Both were wearing headscarves. “I feel at home here. Sometimes we get nasty comments, usually every year on September 11. But whenever I can, I explain to people about my religion and I love being able to talk about it.”   




One article mentioned something that may or may not have never taken place in Bay Ridge (there’s no record of the event so it may not have gotten past the planning stages).A “Human Rights Conference” in Bay Ridge was being planned to keep open-and improve-the lines of communication among all segments of our neighborhoods,”   this latest initiative will “follow the good work of the earlier Bay Ridge Unity Task Force and reach out in the most comprehensive way to establish harmony through understanding.


 No sign of the Task Force – no story/photo


 No sign of the Task Force – no story/photo


 No sign of the Task Force – no story/photo


 No sign of the Task Force – no story/photo


 No sign of the Task Force – no story/photo



August 2003 – A unity picnic takes place in Owls Head Park. (story on the top right of page 6)


A joint prayer service was held at Good Shepherd Church was held with 100 people from three faiths. (Also mentioned here)

  • “Husam Rimawi, president of the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge said, “By having these services, we demonstrate that we can sit together. We can talk. We can agree. I think what we are doing could be a role model.”   SERIOUSLY? Most people in Bay Ridge can sit with people from other faiths/religions so something isn’t right here.


After 9/11, some people said that non-Arabs didn’t shop from Muslim owned shops. Yet, I found this information which explained that the slow economy  was the cause of slow business . “Many local ethnic business owners explained that the strain they felt is not a result of racism, but instead of the larger economic downturn since the attack. At a Middle Eastern restaurant run by a Palestinian family, the proprietors even stated that they have felt encouragement, not hatred, from the community since September 11th.” (Source)



In December 2015, the task force met at the  Beit Elmaqdis Islamic Center at 6206 Sixth Avenue and the task force members vowed to work as a group and as individuals to stamp out hate and mistrust by promoting the importance of unity. Some leaders spoke out about the incident, but the Bay Ridge Task Force took five months after the incident to convene.  

The Bay Ridge Community Task Force held a Community Cleanup Day.  Excellent – why didn’t this continue in future years?



Reverend Khader El-Yateem said, “We can eat and talk honestly about the issues that bother us.”   THAT’S NOT A TASK FORCE……that’s called community group therapy over breakfast. A task force actually DOES SOMETHING.


At the March 16 get-together, held at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Fourth Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway, the task force debuted its new campaign, #MustLove. The slogan #MustLove is terrible as people can’t love what they fear. It’s strange that no one on the Task Force could say that, but maybe it’s hard to speak in front of clergy.


El-Yateem and other group members reiterated their intentions of creating an atmosphere which encourages residents to recognize the similarities that unite them rather than the differences that might set them apart.  WHAT DID THEY DO TO HAVE PEOPLE SEE THE SIMILARITIES?  


Unity campaign reaffirmed at task force meeting




Whose on it?

I couldn’t even find a list of all of the members and some members were only on the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force for a short time.




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