2002-08-15 / View From the Middle

View From

The Middle
Maybe We
By Charles Rogers

The Middle

Maybe We’re Getting "Night Out" Right — Again

By all counts, the annual "Night Out Against Crime" observance here was a great success. Our reporter-photographer Marsha Sereno, who covered the event from start to finish, gave glowing accounts of the turnout, noting officials said the count totalled "at least 350."

That’s good. Very good.

Does this mean there has been a turn-about in the involvement of Canarsiens and others in such events? I think so.

Oh, how many, many times I wrote disparagingly the day after "Night Out" observances, noting the low attendance and the apparent apathy prevalent, not only at that event but at others here as well.

There was a time when community involvement was, well, rampant in Canarsie. Everywhere you look-ed there was a block association or civic association or a society holding a meeting of some sort.

Frank Seddio, who is now our State Assembly-man, was at the forefront of many of the community efforts at the time, having helped organize the Can-arsie Volunteer Ambulance Corps and then serving as district manager of Community Board 18. Seddio, along with a handful of others, including some of the stalwarts from the Jefferson Democratic Club and American Legion Post 573, like Harry Appel and Victor Giuliani, were able to cajole others to become active in local events.

Of course, right up there on top of things was the 69th Precinct Community Council, with its still-ac-tive Mary Salogub and Cathy Krivorchuk and Lew Krieger, Jean Rugnetta, Louise Cappolino and Louise Strumwasser. I remember Giuliani and Appel and Salogub and Stanley Gershbein (who now writes for that — ugh — other paper) organized Canarsie AWARE to help drug and alcohol-addicted kids get the fuzz out of their brains.

Not to be forgotten in all this was the Supreme Organizer Alan Weisberg, who was the first director of the now-defunct Canarsie Neighborhood Devel-opment Corp. Through our elected officials, such as Tony Genovesi and Herb Berman, Weisberg received government funding to help various organizations, starting up Canarsie’s Meals on Wheels and dozens of senior citizen clubs, as well as civic groups. He was responsible for organizing the Avenue L and then Rockaway Parkway Merchants Associations and virtually scores of other social service groups. Of course, we can’t forget the fantastic Avenue L festivals he organized. I remember it had an attendance for a couple of years running of more than 100,000. What an active community we had at the time.

Then — almost all of a sudden — all the getting together stopped. Legionnaires died and were not replaced because, well, there were no wars and, thus no veterans. People moved out and the ranks of some organizations diminished to nothing because they weren’t replaced.

"Night Out Against Crime" was attended, sometimes, by only a handful of people, standing solemnly holding candles on a mound in a Seaview Park ball field, cheering into the silent night with few people listening. Apathy had won.

This year it was different — and it wasn’t only because of the September 11th tragedy.

Oh, sure, there’s no doubt that infamous event heightened our vigilance; no doubt people became more aware that their surroundings — their own neighborhoods — are of the utmost importance and should be protected and, yes, loved.

Another reason things were different this year is, however, that we seem to be getting back to that old spirit. The Community Council continues to do its thing by coordinating community activities with the police and new, different civic groups, like the Informed Voices Civic, Friends United Block As-sociation and the United Canarsie South Civic, with their large memberships, are taking an active hand in getting things done. And they’re doing it with fervor and patriotism and, well, togetherness.

And isn’t that what "Night Out" is all about?

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