BENSONHURST — It was an absolutely spectacular sunny day on Saturday, Oct. 12, with temperatures hovering around 70℉ for the Federation of Italian American Organizations’ 38th annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade. The parade, billed as the longest in New York City, started at 61st Street and 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst and ended at Il Centro on Benson Avenue and 18th Avenue.
It all began with a pre-parade mass at 10:15 a.m. at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church at Bay Parkway and 61st Street with celebrant Rev. Msgr. David Cassato. The parade kicked off at 1 p.m. with school bands, elected officials, sponsors and proud Italians marching along the parade route.
This year’s grand marshals were Francesco Genuardi, consul general of Italy in New York; Dr. Salvatore Cumella, executive vice president Lenco Diagnostic Laboratory and president and CEO of Cumella Professional Services; Capt. Anthony Longobardi, commanding officer of the 62nd Precinct; Robert Ciulla, principal at Dyker Heights Intermediate School; and Denise Daniello, director of admissions and community liaison at the Bensonhurst Center for Rehabilitation.
“We express a deep sense of pride at today’s parade,” said Genuardi. “I think it’s the highest moment of the year to recognize how important contributions of Italians are to America and to the borough of Brooklyn. And I’m personally proud of all the Italian immigrants who came from Italy to Brooklyn, for what they did, what they’re doing and what they will do,” he added.
Elected officials marching in the parade included U.S. Rep.Max Rose; State Sen. Andrew Gounardes; Assemblymembers Peter Abbate, Bill Colton and Nicole Malliotakis; and City Councilmember Justin Brannan.
Also attending was Father Michael Gelfant of St. Finbar Catholic Church, who offered the benediction, and former City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who was recently honored by the members of the New York City Council at its Italian Heritage Celebration.
Carlo Scissura, president of FIAO, hosted the event from a reviewing stand set up directly across the street from the federation’s Il Centro headquarters.
Scissura thanked the 62nd Precinct for helping with the parade security, welcomed guests and said, “Finally, a Columbus Day with no rain,” to which Gentile added, “God must be Italian.”
Scissura asked everybody to turn around and face the Il Centro building. “Do you remember when everybody said we would never build an Italian community and cultural center in Brooklyn? Well, you’re looking at it, everybody. We built it, it’s running and people love it,” he added.
Participating groups included the Bikes of Brooklyn and the New York City Police Band, which led the parade. Other marchers included parade sponsor Investors Bank, Tottenville High School in Staten Island, the Junior ROTC from Roosevelt High School, Ben-Bay Kiwanis, the order of the Sons of Italy in America, the Knights of Columbus, Italian costumed dancers from St. Athanasius, and the Dyker Heights Intermediate School Marching Band, which performed the Italian national anthem.
Frank Naccarato, past president of the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, said, “It’s a beautiful day, not just for the Italians but for the entire community. We’re very proud of what we have accomplished through the years and we are counting on the community to support us. We’re already looking forward to next year and just having a great day today.”
When asked what the parade meant to him, Lenny Aronica, an active member of Il Centro, said, “It means I’m proud to be an Italian-American and it gives me a thrill to see everybody so happy. I come to Il Centro every day and the people here treat me like a king. I’m just very lucky to be here,” he added.