She’s going away — but she won’t be forgotten.
Longtime Carroll Gardens activist Celia Maniero Cacace will move to Wisconsin on Tuesday because she can no longer afford to live in her now-posh neighborhood — but those sad circumstances didn’t stop the community’s movers and shakers from throwing her the South Brooklyn social event of mid-January.
Nearly 100 attendees honored the 76-year-old in a sentimental bash on Sunday at Mama Maria’s Restaurant on Court Street, calling the civic leader the “voice” of the neighborhood and many people’s “second mom.
“I’ve been thinking of it as not a goodbye, but as a see you soon,” said Community Board 6 district manager Craig Hammerman. “We’re here because Celia brought us all together and that’s really what she does best.”
Neighbors were shocked to learn Cacace lost her $500-per-month First Place apartment after her niece sold the building — and were stunned to find out that the two-decade CB6 veteran would be forced to shack up with her son in the rural Midwest if she couldn’t find another sweetheart deal.
Big-hearted Brooklynites offered to donate money and even single rooms in their apartments to Cacace, but there was nothing practical or cheap enough in the now-gentrified area, where one-bedrooms go for $2,000 per month.
Cacace departs for her son Robert’s two-acre riverside home in Waterford, Wis. on Tuesday, but the search for a bargain will continue, say members of the “Bring Celia Back from Wisconsin” campaign.
“It is our sincere hope that whatever we collect she will use to come back,” said Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association director Maria Pagano, who plans to open a bank account to hold any funds raised for Cacace.
The tribute party brought out old friends and politicians, who remember Cacace for her hard-hitting, five-part questions at meetings.
“There are some people in our community who are the community,” said Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D–Cobble Hill), who gave Cacace a personalized proclamation recognizing her service. “I can’t think of an event in Carroll Gardens in which Miss Cacace was not there and present and loud and assertive.”
Borough President Markowitz didn’t attend the party, but his office gave Cacace a proclamation thanking the activist for her community service — a big surprise considering the Beep booted her from CB6 years ago because she opposed the Atlantic Yards mega-development.
Carroll Gardens natives who came to the party to make their teary-eyed goodbye-for-nows said Cacace leaves a void in the neighborhood.
“She’s going to be tremendously missed,” said Joan D’Amico, who runs the 74-year-old D’Amico Foods on Court Street. “Celia is Brooklyn. She has kept this neighborhood alive all of her life. It won’t be the same without her.”
Cacace was “overwhelmed” by her the outpouring of emotion from appreciative neighbors and says she wishes she could stay put.
“I don’t want to go,” she said. “I’m sad I’m leaving Brooklyn. As much as this place changed, it’s still my home.”
©2013 Community News Group
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