The political stars of North Brooklyn descended on the dance floor Saturday night at Giando on the Water in Williamsburg.
With spectacular views of the East River in the backdrop, elected officials, including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, and City Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Antonio Reynoso competed in a Dancing with the Stars-style competition to raise funds for a new community center with after-school programs for children in North Brooklyn.
Organized by the School Settlement Association in conjunction with the St. Nick’s Alliance, both of which provide after-school programs for the community, the competition kicked off with three pairs of students from ballroom dance champs Middle School 577, entertaining guests with a series of numbers.
Over a hundred people turned up for the festivities that were hosted by Joseph Franquinha and Doreen Godfrey, both from the family that runs the Crest Hardware store on Metropolitan Avenue.
Judges included M.S. 577 Principal Marie Masullo, Desiree Decupe who runs a Zumba center in the neighborhood, Alicia Pieracini, a fitness instructor from Hoboken in New Jersey, and David Ganci, a teacher at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens.
Dressed to the nines, the contestants were divided into five pairs.
Rick Martinez and Taikisha Baker, representing the School Settlement and St. Nick’s Alliance, respectively, swayed with a Swing performance. Nancy Zapata and Manuel Acosta, who run Control Electropolishing, boogied to the Bachata. Lucky Lee and Ernie Ramos from Lucky’s Real Tomatoes shook a leg to Salsa. Reynoso and Reyna performed Merengue Tipico, a form of dance and music from the Dominican Republic. And Velazquez and Menchaca did the Tango.
Unfortunately just one team could walk away the winner, and it was the scintillating, salsa-performing pair of Lucky Lee and Ernie Ramos, who earned a perfect score from the judges and numerous praises for their chemistry.
“I’m a French-Italian woman, and just the chance to dance with these strong, sweet Latina women was amazing,” said Lee, one half of the winning pair. “I was so honored to be a part of that. It is really important that the school settlement, which has been here for 105 years keep going strong. This was a glorious night, and even though it was a competition it was all for fun.”
Even the losers walked away content regaling themselves with the memories of the dance-filled evening.
“I’m still out of the breath,” said Reyna, who along with Reynoso placed first runners up. “It was an exhilarating event and we had a full house but most importantly it had a purpose. Lucky Lee should really be on Dancing with the Stars.”
The event helped School Settlement raise $35,000 for the new community center, which will include a gym, classrooms, and a theater among other facilities. The organization is now just about half way through its goal of reaching $6.23 million for the community center.