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News + Views

Cecilia Cacace Has to Move

By Lisa M. Collins

Is the old Carroll Gardens dead?

It — a place of large Italian families and dock workers, and where Italian was spoken on every street corner — has been dying slowly during the last 20 years, as rents and property values spike straight up, and longtime residents and business owners struggle to hold on, or sell their property to the highest bidder. New owners buy up buildings, build anew and rent at market value, or above, if possible. Reports have surfaced of Court Street landlords asking for as much as $15,000 a month for retail storefronts – come on!

Now some startling news: Cecilia Cacace, the fire-brand senior who many old-timers call the “mayor of Carroll Gardens,” born and raised here, and hot-with-fiery-tongue when asked about the neighborhood’s newcomers, who she does not, in general, care for (“yuppies, guppies and puppies,” she calls us) may have to move to Wisconsin.


This is news. Shocking news.

And, therefore, in accordance with another element of our life in CG: The city papers vied on Wednesday to claim ownership of the “breaking” news that Cecilia may have to move. The New York Post reported it as an “exclusive,” giving info about a fund-raiser at Mama Maria restaurant on Court Street to raise money so Cecilia can stay.

Then it was reported in The New York Daily News, and picked up by The Brooklyn Paper. Regardless of who was first, the story goes that Cecilia is preparing to move after her rental building on 1st Place was purchased and the new owner is doing away with her $500 apartment, which she rented from a relative, according to the News.

Cecilia, a regular at Court Street’s Happy Pants Café, thus may have to co-habitate with one of her sons, who lives in rural Wisconsin.

Now, previous to this, I thought the strongest symbol that Carroll Gardens was forever a new, different place was when a national-franchise, upscale children’s play space and shop called Kidville replaced the Eileen Duggan Senior Center, and the seniors had to move into the basement of the building.

But Cecilia Cacace priced out of Carroll Gardens: That takes the symbolic cake.

I don’t agree with Cecilia, by the way, when it comes to her stance that “yuppies” have ruined Carroll Gardens. The changes here have made it cleaner, safer, improved the schools — and also, made it more diverse. Maybe because I’m one of the newcomers she claims to despise, I feel like it’s every human’s right, in a way, to inhabit New York City in any way possible, if they so wish, and are so able. Why so many of us want to is often beyond anything we can understand.

It’s always been that way, at least for 300 years. Why shouldn’t it be that way now.

The city is a living, breathing organism; alive; changing always so it doesn’t die.

Yet, I can’t imagine what it would feel like to spend 76 years in Carroll Gardens and then be forced to move. It’s cruel.

As a six-year-resident, a renter, I’m already getting nervous for the day, not soon I hope, when rents go above what is reasonable or possible for me to pay.

I hope I won’t feel hateful, and remember that New York City is the world’s city, and that I only rented space here. Or maybe I’ll feel terribly hurt, robbed, sad and angry .

If you see Cecilia, say Hello, say Good-bye, say I’m sorry, or attend her fundraiser.

I can’t image she will like the cheese in Wisconsin. Hopefully, she can stay in the land of fresh mozzarella.

To RSVP for the fundraiser, held by Community Board 6 at 718-643-3027

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Readers' Comments

January 16, 2013
11:48 PM

“The essential challenge for political leaders and policymakers is to try to ensure that the long-term residents of the community are not displaced and are able to benefit from the positive changes underway.” Clyde Williams

That clearly is not happening here and, if goes unchecked, then alot of the reasons people move to an area in the first place will disappear. The Caputos, the small markets, the old pizza joints.. it will just turn into a strip mall of overpriced burgers, CVS, Chase, etc.. then people will move and fuck up another historical area. There has to be balance and only the gov. can help facilitate that. And they should. Like some cities keeping out chains, the city should make sure long time residents and business’s dont get shafted. Its only fair and sensible.

January 14, 2013
10:51 AM

I woman who hates those who are not like her and bitterly resists change. What will the neighborhood do???

January 11, 2013
9:24 PM

Great, she hates people like me. I’ll be so sad to see her go.

Maria Pagano
January 10, 2013
4:14 PM

Great perspective! enough material here for an on going community discussion. Thanks!


January 10, 2013
10:20 AM

I hope everything works out for her. Surely there must be a friend with a room at the very least? I often think of the long time renters in the area and feel for them…I’m not sure what I am – Cecilia would look at me with my puppy and guppies and say I’m a yuppy. However, our family roots in Brooklyn go back to the 1820’s, about 40 years before our home near the Gowanus was built. Irish – the folks who lived here and built the neighborhood before our Italian friends moved in. I’ve been in CG’s since 1999 and have seen and been priced out of apartments myself, fortunately we’re owners and fortunately there’s been a ‘border’ zone to CG where we and others like us have been able to move when we ‘cashed out’ and our buildings were turned into luxury condos for people making two and three times what we do to snap up. One truism about NY is there is ALWAYS someone who has more money than you no matter how much you have. We found affordable real estate near the canal (hmmm…wonder why?) but as the yuppy playgrounds of Carroll Gardens and Park Slope merge in the Gowanus neighborhood that’s changing fast.