FIAO dedicates Il Centro in Bensonhurst
Bensonhurst has a brand new cultural center, thanks to the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, Inc., which hosted a dedication ceremony on Monday for Il Centro, its new headquarters.
Located at 8711 18th Ave., Il Centro will serve as a community and cultural center in Southwest Brooklyn. The newly opened facility has an indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium and an auditorium that will serve as a center for the performing arts.
The state-of-the-art facility also boasts a rooftop garden.
Il Centro is Italian for “The Center.”
The Rev. Michael Louis Gelfant, pastor of Saint Finbar Catholic Church, offered a blessing at the ceremony. The church is located block away from Il Centro.
Gelfant wrote about the ceremony on Twitter. “Today I was happy to bless Il Centro, @FiaoBklyn, our new Community Center for the promotion of the Italian Culture. This will be a great asset to our community,” he tweeted.
The dedication ceremony marked the end of a long wait for Bensonhurst residents. The Federation of Italian-American Organizations (FIAO) began construction of Il Centro several years ago. State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn) secured $2 million in the state budget as part of the startup money needed for the construction of the community center, according to FIAO’s website.
FIAO is moving its offices from its former home at 7403 18th Ave. to its new space at Il Centro.
Founded in 1977, FIAO provides education programs, immigration assistance and social-service referrals. The organization operates a Beacon Community Center, as well as after-school centers. FIAO also provides scholarships to high school graduates on their way to college.
In addition, the FIAO is the sponsor of the annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade, which takes place every year on 18th Avenue. For the past few years, the parade, which begins on 18th Avenue and 60th Street, has ended in front of Il Centro.
FIAO’s goal is to establish Il Centro as a center serving as a cultural resource for the Italian-American community.
But the opening of Il Centro comes at a time of enormous changes in the cultural landscape of Bensonhurst. Known for decades as an Italian-American stronghold, the community is now a mixture of residents of several nationalities, primarily Chinese, but also including people from Russia, Central America and the Middle East.
A 2015 article in amNewYork noted that a study done by New York University’s Furman Center concluded that Bensonhurst was one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in New York City. The neighborhood was also ranked fifth among communities in New York with the largest numbers of residents born outside the U.S., according to amNewYork. More than 50 percent of Bensonhurst residents are foreign-born, the study found.
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