City names Gravesend corner in memory of teen program founder

Friends say Barbara Dattilo helped hundreds of young people

June 17, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Clergy members and leaders of the Our Lady of Grace Teen Group join members of the Dattilo family at the unveiling of the new street sign. Photo by Gabriella Consolo

A Gravesend woman who founded a program for teenagers at her local church and served as a mentor to hundreds of neighborhood young people over the years was posthumously honored by New York City which officially dedicated a new street sign in her name.

A sign declaring the corner of Avenue W and East 2nd Street as “Barbara Dattilo Way” was unveiled during a ceremony on Sunday attended by members of her family, leaders of the teen group she founded, and priests from her parish, Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church.

Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) sponsored the legislation that paved the way for the street dedication. He spoke at the ceremony about Dattilo’s impact on the community. 

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“Barbara Dattilo was an incredible friend, neighbor and an inspiration to so many people across Gravesend and southern Brooklyn, so I am proud that the community was able to honor her legacy. She worked tirelessly and away from the spotlight to mentor our young adults and help them become productive and caring members of society. Barbara was a true leader who always put others ahead of herself, and her contributions will always be remembered by our community,” Treyger said.

Dattilo, who died of breast cancer in 2014 at the age of 64, was the founder and director of the Our Lady of Grace Youth Ministry program, known as the Teen Group.

“She was a second mother to all of us,” Priscilla Consolo, a parishioner of Our Lady of Grace told the Brooklyn Eagle. Consolo, a community activist in the Gravesend-Bensonhurst area, is a former member of the Teen Group.

Consolo estimated that Dattilo helped hundreds of young people during the 17 years she served as the Teen Group director. “Barbara was always there, showing an understanding for every young person she met,” Consolo said.

Dattilo was easy to talk to and would offer valuable advice and counsel to teens, according to Consolo.

“Barbara helped me realize what was important in life. She talked a lot to young people about how to make good, healthy decisions in life,” Consolo said.

At the ceremony, the Rev. Vincent Chirichella, pastor of Our Lady of Grace, offered the invocation, blessed the new street sign, and announced that the church plans to create a scholarship fund in Dattilo’s memory to help children at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School.

The new street sign is located on the corner outside of the school.

In addition to Consolo, former Teen Group leaders Patrick Cleary, Steven Eriquez and Joseph Lanzarone spoke at the ceremony about the positive impact Dattilo had on their lives.

Dattilo’s husband Tony; her sons Michael and John; her daughters-in-law Eva and Desiree; and her three grandchildren, John Jr., Lucy, and Michael Jr. all attended the street dedication ceremony. The Dattilos were married in Our Lady of Grace Church in 1971.

Barbara Dattilo was actively involved in Our Lady of Grace’s parish and school for many years. In the early 1990s, she did volunteer work for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program, helping young adults and teens who wanted to become members of the Catholic Church.

It was out of her RCIA work that that the Teen Group was formed, according to Consolo.

“Barbara said that she saw so many troubled young people and that she felt she had to do more to help them,” she said. Dattilo came across young people whose lives were impacted by divorce, substance abuse, domestic violence and financial problems and vowed to help them.

In 1997, with the help of the Rev. Dominick Cutrone, who was the pastor of Our Lady of Grace at the time, and the Rev. James Tighe, a parish priest, Dattilo founded the Teen Group.

Dattilo was certified as a youth minister by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. She served as the Teen Group’s director until her death in April of 2014.

Dattilo’s legacy continues to be felt in the Our Lady of Grace community, Consolo said.

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