Brooklyn Supreme Court institution retires after 36 years
After 36 years of serving the local court system, Carmine Cataldo, the 62-year-old blind man who runs the newsstand at 360 Adams St., is retiring.
On his final day in the courthouse, people were bringing him balloons, stopping by for one last hello and wishing him good luck in retirement.
“I struggled with this because you see how people treat me, bringing me balloons, treating me like family,” Cataldo said. “It’s hard. It’s like a big family, a big community here and I’m really going to miss it.”
Cataldo, who grew up in Gerritsen Beach and graduated from Nazareth High School and Brooklyn College, began working at the court through the Randolph Sheppard Vending Facility Program that helps visually impaired and blind people find employment in federal, state and local government buildings.
For Cataldo, this is a family business, though; his father ran the stand for 40 years before his son took over from him.
“I originally got a bachelor’s degree in psychology and I was a little resistant to do this because that’s what I wanted to do,” Cataldo explained. “But it was hard for me to find work and my father was doing this for a long time. He got me into it. When I was 26, I thought I would do this temporarily, but 36 years later, here I am.”
Cataldo explained that part of the reason why he stayed was because of the way court employees and members of the public treated him.
“You see how often we’re getting interrupted here,” he said to this Brooklyn Eagle reporter. “The people here are so nice. I have jurors come back years later and they still remember me and stop to chat. Honestly, I don’t even remember most of them, but they’re nice so I don’t mind.”
Cataldo explained that he went blind between the ages of 3 and 12 due to a condition called aniridia. It’s a hereditary condition that his father and uncles also suffered from. When he was three, he developed glaucoma which made the condition worse.
Nowadays, Cataldo is so used to it that he makes working and getting around look easy. He says he takes a bus and two trains to the courthouse every day, and he is able to serve the customers because he has memorized his inventory and where it is physically located.
“If someone asks for an Almond Joy, I know exactly where it is,” he said as he reached for the candy on the shelf. “The rule of thumb for anyone visually impaired — there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.”
He uses a small black machine to tell him which denominations of bills people hand him.
“Now that I’m retiring, I don’t even know what I’m going to do,” Cataldo said. “I’m going to retire and then see what happens. We have some events coming up in August; a lot of my family lives in the Lake George area so we’re going to visit them. People think I might move up there, but it’s too cold.”
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