BENSONHURST — Christopher Columbus would be proud of the FIAO!
The Federation of Italian American Organizations kicked off its annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade, which will take place on Saturday, Oct. 12 and run along 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, with a festive brunch at which its grand marshals were honored.
The event, held at Sirico’s, 8023 13th Ave., on Sunday, Oct. 6, honored this year’s grand marshals: 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.
Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade Committee Executive Chairperson Jack Spatola served as master of ceremonies for the brunch.
President of FIAO and brunch chairperson Carlo Scissura said he was delighted with the multicultural aspect of the parade and the caliber of grand marshals selected this year, who were all chosen based on their exceptional service to the community.
“I think it’s an opportunity to celebrate the Italian culture, celebrate the community, celebrate the fact that our Columbus Day Parade includes all different ethnic groups and religious groups and people from across the communities,” Scissura told this paper.
“And we’ve highlighted some amazing people that are serving as grand marshals this year. We’re just excited about a great day on Saturday when the parade comes alive and everyone comes together,” added Scissura.
One of the topics discussed at the brunch was the refusal of the city to honor Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini with a statue for her many contributions to the city.
“The Italian-American community has contributed so much to our city and state, and in particular the contributions of Mother Cabrini should be recognized in the form of a statue and I’m an advocate of that,” Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis told this paper.
“And just like we were successful in preserving and landmarking the Christopher Columbus statue in New York City, I’m hopeful that we will be successful in our battle to get Mother Cabrini a statue which garnered the most votes in New York City’s ‘She Built NYC’ contest,” she added.
Also attending the event were U.S. Rep. Max Rose, Assemblymember William Colton and City Councilmembers Justin Brannan and Mark Treyger.
“The FIAO has served residents for over four decades and established Il Centro, the first Italian-American cultural community center in New York City,” Treyger told this paper.
“All year long, FIAO provides essential social services that improve the quality of life for Brooklyn residents. This past budget cycle, with my advocacy, along with the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson, the Council was able to secure a significant amount of grant funding for FIAO to ensure that the organization can continue serving residents with vital programming and promote Italian-American culture that reflects the vibrant diversity of our community,” added Treyger.
Ciulla said he was honored and humbled to have been selected as one of this year’s parade grand marshals. “As a son of Italian immigrants, I realize the importance of celebrating and honoring our rich culture, heritage and tradition,” he said. “It is so important to come together as a community every year for the parade to celebrate all of our achievements.”
Brannan said he was grateful to the FIAO for keeping this tradition alive. “This is about celebrating the heritage, culture and achievements of Italian-Americans,” he noted. “It is so important that we all honor and cherish our personal immigrant story because this is what makes Brooklyn and America so special. I look forward to marching in the parade this weekend!”
The pre-parade mass will be celebrated at St. Athanasius Church, 2154 61st St., at 10:15 a.m., followed by a reception in the St. Athanasius school auditorium at 11:30 a.m. The parade will kick off at 1 p.m. at the corner of 61st Street and 18th Avenue and it will end in front of Il Centro, 8711 18th Ave.
For more information, visit www.fiaobrooklyn.org.