Pat Singer Is the Mother of Brighton Beach

Champion of Brooklyn's 'Little Odessa' Doesn't Speak Russian

Mother Knows Best: Pat Singer, of the Brighton Neighborhood Association, has a desk filled with tchotchkes and a Rolodex filled with the names of public officials.
Ari Jankelowitz
Mother Knows Best: Pat Singer, of the Brighton Neighborhood Association, has a desk filled with tchotchkes and a Rolodex filled with the names of public officials.

By Tanya Paperny

Published February 22, 2013, issue of March 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 4 of 4)

Singer is aging along with the very population she serves: “Tomorrow I could be the ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ person!” She laughs a self-deprecating chuckle, which belies the stresses and traumas she’s experienced. In 2001, a flood devastated the BNA office and much of its equipment. Then there was Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I was lucky to get a tour before Sandy struck, when she showed me the years of BNA’s life charted haphazardly on her cluttered walls. Singer breezed over articles called “This and That With Pat,” “Special Honorees Make Brighton Neighborhood Life Grand” and “Singing the Praises of BNA Founder.”

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy — when homes and businesses in Brighton Beach were flooded and badly damaged; when the smell of leaking gas crept through the streets, and pounds of sand from the beach lay on sidewalks — Singer worked in the dark without heat, using her cell phone to help those stranded in buildings without working elevators. Recently, she temporarily lost government funding and had to lay off her part-time staff, the bilingual outreach workers who connect her to the newer immigrant groups. Still, she persists.

Some elevators in buildings with high elderly populations are still not working, even months after the storm as landlords wait for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or insurance money. Singer has been posting daily updates written in capital letters on Facebook about the status of these repairs, shaming delinquent landlords. It’s actions like these that make her friends and colleagues note her tireless dedication. State Assembly member Steven Cymbrowitz remembers her walking through vacant and dilapidated buildings in the 1970s with the same fiery determination that she has now: “She shows no fear,” he says.

And she shows no sign of letting up or retiring. Each day brings something new. Maybe she’ll explain Section 8 housing waiting lists to a crying Russian who can’t afford to live in the area anymore. Maybe she’ll stuff goodie bags for the annual senior Christmas party. Maybe she’ll gossip over the phone and watch TV.

What she originally saw as a duty to fight drugs and crime has now shifted. “Now I deal with leaky faucets.” I asked her once if she felt like she’d made a difference, and she said: “My only regret is not taking out a pension plan 30 years ago. I love what I do and that’s the end of it.”

Tanya Paperny is a writer, editor and translator. Her work has appeared in The Millions, The Literary Review and Campus Progress. Visit her at tpaperny.com.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.