By Paula Katinas
Editor’s Note: The Bay Ridge Eagle has been profiling “The Real Women of Bay Ridge” for several months in response to a controversial “reality” show that caused a local uproar. Now we are proud to expand our profile series to include men — and women — who are indeed “Neighbors Making News!”
Brian Kaszuba’s lifelong love of politics and his strong Catholic faith have blended together for his job.
Kaszuba, a lawyer, is the director of special projects for the Catholic Citizens Committee, an organization that strives to make Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn more politically aware.
“We work in conjunction with the Diocese to help spread the teachings of the church,” said Kaszuba, a graduate of Xaverian High School and Saint Peter’s College.
The committee’s current project is to register voters in time for the November election. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has stated that he wants more Catholics to become part of the political system by voting, Kaszuba said.
“The Bishop wants to get more Catholics to register to vote. He believes Catholics should have their voices heard and that they should be mindful of their faith when they vote,” Kaszuba said.
Kaszuba has been leading the voter registration drive. Outside many churches following Sunday mass, the Catholic Citizens Committee has a table set up to help parishioners register.
“We also ask them to sign up for our e-mail list. We send people information on important issues. And we’ll send them a reminder to go and vote,” he said.
“It’s a bit revolutionary,” Kaszuba said, referring to the voter registration drive. “We’re one of the few dioceses across the country doing it.”
To date, hundreds of Catholics have registered to vote with help from the committee. And more than 1,000 people have signed up for the e-mail list.
Kaszbua, who attended masses at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Fifth Avenue and 60th Street as a child, also attended the parish’s elementary school, located around the corner from the church. He attended sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at OLPH School. Prior to that, he was a student at P.S. 105 on 59th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway.
As a young man, he considered becoming a priest. He eventually decided against it, but found other ways to express his faith.
Kaszuba, who was born in Bogota, Colombia, was adopted by an American couple. He grew up in Sunset Park in an Irish-Catholic family, for whom faith and politics were dominant.
“I was a John F. Kennedy buff when I was young,” he recalled. “He encouraged young people to get involved.”
He took the advice to heart. Fresh out of high school, he got a job working for Vincent Gentile, who was a Democratic state senator at the time.
“It was a great hands-on experience. I did constituent work, wrote proclamations and helped write speeches. I did that all through college. I didn’t drive, so I was taking the train every day from Bay Ridge to Jersey City, where my college was located,” Kaszuba said. “I was encouraged to do it by my scout leader, Bob Buonvino. I was a member of Boy Scout Troop 20. Bob knew I was interested in politics and he pushed me to work for a politician.”
Kaszuba is also an Eagle Scout.
He stopped working for Gentile while attending New York Law School.
“I wanted to concentrate on my studies,” he said.
Gentile is now Bay Ridge’s city councilman.
After earning his law degree, Kaszuba had internships at the Brooklyn district attorney’s office and then at the Charter Commission of New York City.
“It was interesting to work at the charter commission. It was interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. This was the time nonpartisan elections were being considered,” he said.
Kaszuba said he has been impressed by the elected officials with whom he has worked.
“Often the negative stuff takes center stage in the media. But my experience working with elected officials has been positive. A lot of the time they are doing what they believe is right for the community. And I think this is true of elected officials in both parties. There are always going to be differences of opinion. But everyone is doing their best,” he said.
Kaszuba worked at a law firm following completion of law school and passing the New York State Bar exam.
“I worked mostly on personal injury cases,” he said.
But politics has never left him. Kaszuba, who volunteered on Gentile’s political campaigns years ago, has also run campaigns. He was a campaign director for Stephen Harrison when Harrison ran for Congress. Kaszuba was the political director for Thomas DiNapoli’s campaign for comptroller.
“Being behind the scenes of a political campaign is exciting. In the beginning, it’s usually just a few people. As the campaign goes on, more people get involved. All campaigns get bigger down the end. The campaign headquarters gets busy. It becomes your life,” he said. “One of the saddest days is the day after Election Day, win or lose. You realize the intensity is all over. You literally wake up and have nowhere to go after months of constantly being on the go.”