DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN – Performing in front of packed room at Brooklyn Borough Hall Thursday afternoon, ten seniors competed to be crowned winner of the inaugural BK Sings Karaoke – Platinum Edition. The finalists were the winners of series of karaoke contests held at senior centers that kicked off on August 14th and saw 150 seniors participate.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself an avid karaoke fan, started the BK Sings competition in 2016. The event was held at bars and clubs throughout the borough and drew seniors who wanted to compete but weren’t enthusiastic about the nightlife aspect. Adams heeded their call and this year the Platinum Edition of BK Sings was brought to 22 senior centers in 18 communities throughout the borough.
Nan Blackshear, Community Affairs Director for the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, cohosted the event with Special Assistant to the Borough President Marcus Harris. Blackshear called the seniors “the jewels of the community” and said events like this are important because they entice people who are not currently involved in senior programs to come out and get engaged.
Despite being competitors, the contestants were supportive of each other. The energetic seniors cheered and danced during the performances. The audience sang along and waved their hands in the air. Judges from previous contests were in attendance and took notes on the competitors, even though they were not voting on a winner that day.
The contest was judged by a panel of volunteer Brooklynites that included a fashion stylist and an opera singer. Cristobal Garcia of of Ditmas Park took home first prize with a version of “Mas Que Tu Amigo” that got people out of their seats and on the dance floor. Second place went to Ana Mercado from Sunset Park and third to Vincent Clarke of Bed-Stuy.
But there were no sore losers at Borough hall. Contestant Richard Kahn of Canarsie said the event “was just a matter of having fun.” Kelly Ng of Bensonhurst enjoyed the event and said, “even though I’m the loser, I’m okay. I’m happy.”
Blackshear said the BK Sings event was about more than just fun. President Eric Adams is working with the Age Friendly Commission to make the entire borough of Brooklyn welcoming for older adults. Surveys were passed out to seniors at the contests, asking for their feedback on issues like housing, public safety, and health care. Blackshear hopes the Office of the Borough President will be able to report on the results in 2019.
The NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA) partnered with Brooklyn Borough Hall on the event. The DFTA provides in-home support to aging New Yorkers and funds nearly 250 senior centers.
Zenovia Earle, DFTA Director of Public Affairs said, “We’re thrilled to partner on events like the karaoke contest because these events open the door to other services.”
Blackshear said President Adams was “amazed at how well it was received.” Harris told the seniors “some of y’all are karaoke crazy.” He is already planning to bring the contest back next year.