Wishing buona fortuna to Il Centro

Members of the Bensonhurst community celebrated the “topping off” ceremony marking the last stage of construction of Il Centro on October 18.

The six-story building at the corner of 18th and Benson Avenues was the brain child of the Federation of Italian American Organizations (FIAO). When it opens sometime in spring, 2013, the building will have a library, fitness center, high school-sized gymnasium, office space, rooms for community use, classrooms and a penthouse swimming pool with sweeping views of four boroughs and the ocean. It will be the city’s only Italian community and cultural center.

Jack Spatola, chairperson of FIAO, said that concrete work is already completed, electrical wiring is finished up to the second floor and plumbing is already installed up to the fourth floor. He noted that all of the contractors are locally based and of Italian descent.

“When we all get together and create something that’s everlasting, it represents contributions that Italian-Americans gave to Brooklyn,” Spatola said. “We are celebrating a huge milestone of topping off and beyond.”

Elected officials and community leaders were on hand to give remarks before an Italian flag was symbolically raised to the rafters.

“I’m a Jewish guy who has wanted to be Italian my whole life,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Brooklyn is still the center of Italian life in America, along with the suburbs of New Jersey and Long Island. This will bring the children back home to the motherland of Bensonhurst.”

Joe Monticciolo, president of the Italian Board of Guardians, said that his organization will have a new home in the building. “We have been in the community for 76 years but have fallen on hard times,” he said. “The FIAO opened up their arms and took us into our offices. They kept us alive. God willing, we will be a part of this new development.”

Assemblymember Bill Colton used the opportunity to address part of his new district. “I already feel at home here and look forward to great excitement,” he said, adding that Il Centro is a key part of “unifying the people and enriching that character that has made the neighborhood strong and great.”

State Senator Marty Golden hopes Il Centro will boost the area’s economy. “I want to make sure stores are filled along 18th Avenue. It’s all local people putting this building together,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be the Irish kid, with the Jewish last name and Italian soul who funded $2 million [for the building].”

Bill Guarinello, chair of Community Board 11, said, “In this economy, for folks to accomplish this project, is something the community should be proud of. I salute you.”

Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, noted that according to the 2010 Census, Italians are still the third largest ethnic group in the city. “When people say Italians are leaving New York City, just look at this building,” he commented.

Father Michael Gelfant, pastor of St. Finbar’s Church, gave a benediction before the flag was raised.

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