Past President Hon. Frank Seddio and current President Armena Gayle helped organize the first Holiday Party in at least 50 years at the Brooklyn Bar Association. The party was the first major in-person event at the BBA building since March 2020. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
The Brooklyn Bar Association took a big step back to normal on Thursday when its foundation threw a year-end party, the first major event inside the building in nearly two years and its first. end of year party in over 50 years.
It wasn’t quite like a party of 2019, but it was definitely festive. About 100 members walked through the doors Thursday evening. Some came at 4 p.m. immediately after work, a few came later to avoid the morning crowds. Everyone was vaccinated and a sufficient number of our guests brought new unwrapped toys that we filled over two boxes of toddler toys.
More than a dozen old costumes have also been collected and will be turned over to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, which is handing over the costumes to the men exiting Rikers Island as part of its back-to-school program.
Many members present have not been inside the building for almost two years. Some people in attendance on Thursday joined the pandemic and had never been in the building. For the few people who have been to 123 Remsen St. in the past two years, they were treated to a nearly empty building instead of its typical bustling hallways, so Thursday night was certainly a transformation.
There was a lot of food, mostly Italian food, ordered by the outgoing President, the Hon. Frank Seddio. Appetizers were handed out all night and around 7 p.m. Italian classics like eggplant parmesan, vodka penne and French chicken were served.
Traditional holiday music was played throughout the night and was interrupted only by the Hon. Lawrence Knipel, administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Civil Term, and Kwok Kei Ng, two members with a passion for music, performed a short set. The couple recently trained with other members as they formed an unofficial BBA group.
With COVID being a concern even in the future, the BBA doesn’t expect to host many in-person events in its venues until at least spring, so it was nice to be able to get together like this, although neither of us never did. put away the hand sanitizer.
The COVID pandemic has been extremely hard on the association. Almost overnight, our members went from BBA for their continuing legal education needs and for networking platforms at in-person events to an event-free and virtual CLE. Suddenly there was no longer any reason to come to Remsen Street.
To make matters worse, the early confusion of the pandemic and the partial shutdown of parts of the justice system meant that the BBA had no events for a few months. Our membership has dropped. The future of the association raises concerns.
The situation no longer seems dramatic. The BBA does not lose members every month, but slowly recovers some. There are still no in-person CLE events, but the virtual KEY on Zoom has proven to be popular and we now occasionally host crowds of over 100 people. It could legitimately take years for the BBA to fully recover, if it ever returns to the membership numbers it once boasted of, but at least things are heading in the right direction.
Our members’ return to the building for a major event, the first since District Attorney Eric Gonzalez was here in March 2020, was more than a Christmas party. It was a sign the association has a future beyond Zoom meetings, and a sign Brooklyn lawyers are eager to meet again, even though they must take COVID precautions.
The Brooklyn Bar Association would like to thank its sponsors for contributing to the making of the event: Northfield Bank, Lexitas Legal, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, President Armena Gayle, President-elect Richard Klass, Arthur Aidala, Martin Edelman, David Hernandez, Andrea Bonina, Hon. Richard Montelione, Adam Roth, Darran Winslow, Lisa Rispoli, Gregory LaSpina, Adam Kalish, Daniel Antonelli, Carrie Anne Cavallo, The Hon. Frank Seddio and Grégory Cerchione.
Not the only party in town
The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association was actually the first group to return inside the BBA building on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights when they threw their own holiday party on Tuesday night.
The BWBA has experienced an almost identical hiatus to the BBA over the past two years, maintaining a predominantly online presence and not hosting any major in-person events since February 2020. As of Tuesday night, you could barely tell its members had not seen each other in as nearly 70 of them gathered to celebrate the holidays.
President Madeline Kirton continued the tradition of throwing the party with a charity raffle that always arouses the enthusiasm of guests.
There will be another holiday party hosted in the BBA building when members of the Kings County Criminal Bar Association take over on Tuesday, December 21 at 6 p.m. ET.
Robert Abruzzese is the former legal editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the current director of member services for the Brooklyn Bar Association. Now a legal columnist for the Eagle, Abruzzese writes for the BBA and the local legal community. For more information on membership in the Brooklyn Bar Association, you can reach him by email at [email protected].