Campaign aims to bring Celia Cacace back home to Carroll Gardens

January 8, 2013 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Celia Cacace, a Carroll Gardens activist for decades, has been forced to moved to her son’s house in Wisconsin because the building where she had her most recent apartment is being sold, and rents in the area are largely out of the range of seniors on fixed incomes.

The neighborhood hasn’t forgotten Ms. Cacace, however, and her friends and colleagues are bringing her back for a party in her honor on Sunday at Mama Maria’s Restaurant, 307 Court St. They also hope they can help her move back to the neighborhood.

Cacace, 77, is a product of the old, solidly Italian-American Carroll Gardens (which she still called “South Brooklyn Red Hook”). She also is a product of a time when many people spent their entire lives in one neighborhood. Her most recent apartment on First Place was one of a half-dozen in the neighborhood where she lived at various times – all within walking distance.

Cacace was best known for her tenure on Community Board 6, on which she served from 1982 to 2008. She was known as a maverick on issues like Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Atlantic Yards. She was, and is, an active Catholic, and helped both her own and other churches.

She helped organize festivals on Carroll Street, and was active in the successful campaign to build the Valentino Pier and Park on the Red Hook waterfront. According to a letter sent to neighborhood residents, she was widowed in 1979.

“Celia was a champion of the disenfranchised, and she was very much a people person,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6. “With Celia, everything comes down to people.”

Buddy Scotto, a longtime community activist and proprietor of the Scotto Funeral Home, said that Cacace, like his own mother, was among those Italian-Americans who refused to sell their homes or move out during the 1960s and ‘70s.

“There came a point,” said Scotto, “when the Italian poor suddenly weren’t poor anymore. Some moved to Long Island, some moved to Staten Island, those who had businesses in the area moved to Bay Ridge,” he said.

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Cacace, he said, was very suspicious of the new people who were moving into the neighborhood, mainly “upscale” professionals, and wanted to keep the area the way it had been for most of her lifetime.

Hammerman added that the group of people who are sponsoring Sunday’s party are seeking to find an affordable apartment for her. Fund-raising, he said, will come later.

The party will take place on Sunday, Jan. 13 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Mama Maria’s Restaurant, 307 Court St.

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