I've always admired people who "bloom where they are planted." Perhaps because my family was uprooted when I was 12 and moved like a rhododendron bush from Cleveland to Pittsburgh along with Alcoa's Technical Center, I've had a fascination with the success of those who remain in the place where they were born and raised, rearing their own children within the warm familiarity of longtime family and friends. There's something intriguing about it.
Keith "Bugsy" Goldberg is one such person. If you read The Wave, or your children attend school or play sports in the western part of the peninsula, you've really been skimming the surface if you are not aware of Bugsy. Because he's been Deputy Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade (2005); he's been the Graybeards Man of the Year; and just last week, he was presented with the Scholars' Academy Parent Leadership Award, for his years of devoted service as PTA officer, School Leadership Committee chair, and cofounder of the Seawolves Athletic Association.
Bugsy accepted the Scholars' Academy award from Principal Brian O'Connell on the stage of Beach Channel High School, probably close to the spot where he received his diploma from a different principal, 31 years ago. At Beach Channel, he was captain of the tennis team, and it is rumored that he graduated with an average above 90.
He went on to study at Colgate University, but returned to the community after graduation. He "followed in the footsteps" of his parents, Joseph and Catherine, who were PTA officers and sports coaches in Rockaway dating back to the 1960s. Bugsy started coaching St. Francis de Sales Catholic Youth Organization basketball in 1982. He remains involved to this day. He is also one of the key organizers of Rockaway's beach volleyball league, as well as the running races sponsored by local notfor profit groups like the Graybeards.
In 1991, Bugsy and Marybeth Flanagan married, and they have three sons, James (15), Patrick (14) and Alexander (11). For years, Bugsy served as vice president of Roxbury USA, a knitting mill owned by local residents that was formerly located on Beach 101 Street. He was in charge of purchasing, production and part of the sales operation. He now works for the Diocese of Brooklyn as Assistant Director of the Catholic Youth Organization.
He works and plays hard. It is said that he must need very little sleep, because he accomplishes so much. A self-effacing person, he always attributes his success to the legions of others in the community who volunteer their time along with him. It is true that the peninsula is blessed with great talent, energy and resources in its schools, churches, arts and recreation groups. But I don't know of anyone in Rockaway who has achieved more success in as many domains as Bugsy. He's been an integral part of building so many of the great things residents take for granted.
When it comes to the schools, I was a very active parent volunteer alongside Keith. Since I didn't grow up in Rockaway, or graduate from PS 114 like he did, it took me about five years to realize that nobody calls him "Keith!" In my opinion, there is probably no parent who volunteers more of his or her time to the schools in a more effective fashion than Bugsy. Everyone defers to him, particularly in contentious situations. When the PTA at PS 114 took a pretty drastic step (as far as PTAs are concerned) and decided that it could no longer work with a former principal back in 2002, Bugsy's opinion really counted to those involved. He has written several very thoughtful pieces for The Wave over the years on issues of importance to the community, suggesting improvements in the schools, public transit, and community facilities.
But don't get me wrong. He's not a one-sided, sports and schools "geek," as you could probably discern from his nickname. He also excels in music. Bugsy worked as a local DJ for 12 years and now performs in a popular rock and roll band called the Gray Riders. His icon is recording artist Van Morrison. He is beloved in the community because he's a fun guy. He works hard but he also knows how to play!
The St. Francis de Sales Summer Classic, which Bugsy founded and has built continuously for almost 25 years, has been written about in The Wave by those who know it better than I. My son was mainly a baseball kid, and didn't shoot hoops until age 14, so he just started playing in the Classic last summer.
I truly look forward to the summer weeks of exciting outdoor basketball played under the lights in the schoolyard at Beach 129 Street and the Boulevard, just as I used to relish all the neighborhood camaraderie of the Rockaway Little League at Fort Tilden for many years.
When you visit the Summer Classic — and even a modest basketball fan would enjoy it, in my view — you have to be impressed by how smoothly it runs, for such a massive operation. There are four games going on simultaneously, which takes an enormous outpouring of volunteers, and a huge amount of backup. That task is Bugsy's.
He has served as Commissioner of the League almost continuously since its founding. Even more surprising, he not only organizes the whole thing, but he then sits down and writes up many of the activities in articles for The Wave, which gives the children and their coaches much-needed encouragement. His success with this league is no mystery — he started with a great idea, and added years of hard (probably tedious) work!
Although both of his parents have passed away, his Dad in 1992, and his Mom in 2008, I know they would be proud of their son and all that he has given to the community. Bugsy's efforts to build the sports programs at Scholars' Academy are now giving him a wider circle of influence — he is helping to benefit children throughout the entire peninsula and the many who are drawn from the mainland to attend the gifted and talented school. Just as his Dad traveled from Brooklyn to spend his summers at the storied Marcel's Court bungalows back in 1958, and stayed to build a life in Rockaway.