Gravesend street named for Italian group

March 14, 2018 Victoria Merlino
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One man’s dream has finally been realized.

Van Sicklen Street was christened with a second name on March 10, as local politicians and the community gathered to see the “Association Caggianesi D’America Way” street sign raised on the corner of Van Sicklen and Avenue T.

Joseph Caggiano, an early president of the Association Caggianesi D’America, was the first person to push for the sign’s installation, said his son, Mario Caggiano. Joseph lived on Van Sicklen Street for 53 years. Like many families on the block and around the neighborhood, the Caggianos are Caggianesi, that is, people whose families hail from Caggiano, a village in the Italian province of Salerno.

“In many ways, growing up in this neighborhood was like living in the small town of Caggiano. Everywhere you turned, you bumped into a ‘paisan.’ Walking down the block felt like strolling down the hill in Caggiano — where everyone knew each other,” said Mario in a speech at the co-naming ceremony.

The co-naming took seven or eight years to complete from conception to installation, said Mario in an interview. His father brought the concept before the community board multiple times, Assemblymember William Colton, Councilmember Mark Treyger, the Department of Transportation and even an Italian newspaper to push for the honor. Treyger and Colton were in attendance at the ceremony.

While his father died in October, 2017, Mario was happy to see Joseph’s wish fulfilled. “It was close to my father’s heart,” he said of the sign.

“My father always said he wanted to see Van Sicklen Street renamed. To see his wish finally come to fruition is emotional. I know that he is looking down on us today with a big, glowing smile. I’m lucky enough to say that my father and mother are both proud Caggianesi,” said Mario in his speech.

The Association Caggianesi D’America’s goals are to promote Caggianesi culture and link with other, similar Italian organizations. The group hosts annual social events like parties and picnics, and has partnered with the village of Caggiano to host student and adult exchanges. The organization boasts 92 members representing 300 families across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

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