Born in horse-drawn era, Abate turns over CB1 reins

The Brooklyn Paper
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The gruff-but-sometimes-lovable head of Community Board 1 has stepped down after 27 years.

Vinnie Abate, 91, presided over his last meeting as chair of the North Brooklyn neighborhood group on Tuesday, capping a career that turned the war veteran and lifelong community activist into a Williamsburg figure as recognizable as the Domino Sugar sign.

“It’s the best organization you can find in the city of New York,” said Abate of the board that he chaired from 1980 to 1982, and 1984 to 2009.

One of the neighborhood’s other symbols, the Williamsburg Bridge, is only five years older than Abate.

Abate — known for his gregarious personality, quick wit and, sometimes, anger — relinquished his position as chair to Chris Olechowski, a former member-at-large who defeated Public Safety Committee Chair Mieszko Kalita, 27-18.

“I know you’re going to do a good job because you’ve been sitting next to me for a long time,” Abate told Olechowski after his victory.

Board members presented Abate with an honorary gavel, which he examined for misspellings before promising that he wouldn’t put it in the cellar with all of the other plaques he has received over the years.

For his part, Olechowski told board members that he would work to unify the community group as a single voice that can more effectively lobby for Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

“I want to be a chairperson for all of our members,” he said. “I hope I can carry the torch farther and do [Abate] justice.”

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

ML from Williamsburg says:
Is that all you have to say about that CB1 meeting? nothing about the Broadway Triangle protest group? or the Kent ave Bike lane/ North 11th street Truck rerouting issue??>?? where is that article? ok, Maybe you are working on it right?
June 11, 2009, 10:38 am
Gersh Kuntzman (Brooklyn Paper) says:
We are working on a big Broadway Triangle story, one that goes far beyond a mere shouting match at a community meeting.

And our coverage of the Kent Avenue bike lane controversy is second to none, thanks to Ben Muessig's "Mean Streets" coverage, all of which is archived here:

Thanks for the comment.

The Brooklyn Paper
June 11, 2009, 11:50 am
Goyo from Los Sures says:
It's about time. He was the reason McCarren Park pool was a dump.
June 11, 2009, 1:13 pm
tara from greenpoint says:
Abate wasn't the reason for McCarren Park Pool being a dump. Blame the racists who held up the pool restoration because they didn't want blacks and Latinos using it. Thank god the ones that are still alive are outnumbered. One good thing about hipsters, they're not KKK material.
June 11, 2009, 2:23 pm
Joey Bots from Bots Ball says:
why was i blessed with this musical talent?
June 12, 2009, 1:47 pm
Steve from Williamsburg says:
The Williamsburg Bridge was begun in 1896 and opened in 1903. Abate is 91, which means he was born in 1917 or 1918, depending on when he celebrates his birthday. The bridge is more than five years older than Vinnie.
June 18, 2009, 8:59 am

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