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.”