A lifelong Carroll Gardens icon can no longer afford to stay in her Brownstone community — and if her neighbors can’t find her an apartment on the cheap she will be forced to move to Wisconsin, of all places.
The $500-per-month arrangement that lets Celia Maniero Cacace keep her First Place apartment will come to an end on Jan. 14 when a new landlord takes over.
Unless a miracle-worker can snag an inexpensive apartment in an increasingly posh area where one-bedrooms go for $2,000 per month, the activist known to many as the “mother” of Carroll Gardens must shack up with her son in the rural Midwest.
“I’m sad that I’m being priced-out of where I was born and raised and where I chose to stay,” said the widowed 76-year-old, who spent the past few months looking for leads on cheap apartments. “I never imagined this would happen.”
The civic leader has never lived outside of the now-trendy neighborhood she still calls “South Brooklyn,” and has resided for the past 12 years in an apartment where she managed to pay far less than market-rate because a relative owned the building, the Daily News reports.
Cacace wouldn’t get into the specifics of the property sale and city records for the home have not been updated since 2006. But she says the sweetheart deal won’t continue — so friends are calling in favors and trying to raise money to keep her from boxing up her possessions and moving 900 miles west to her son’s home in Waterford, Wis.
“Communities are held together not just by buildings, but they’re held together by people and culture and memories and tradition and history,” said longtime friend Carolina Salguero. “She’s a huge part of that for this place.”
And there sure are a lot of memories when it comes to Cacace. She served on Community Board 6 for more than 20 years and led the push to make Red Hook’s Valentino Pier a public park before she got booted from the group because she opposed the Atlantic Yards mega-development. The Carroll Gardens stalwart is so recognizable in the community that even children know her name.
Pals and allies from her years of activism are throwing a tribute for Cacace on Sunday at Mama Maria’s Restaurant on Court Street to celebrate her contributions to the area and perhaps find Brooklyn’s equivalent to the Holy Grail: a super-cheap apartment.
“Celia is an institution in the neighborhood,” said Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association director Maria Pagano, who has put calls out to politicians, senior housing centers, realtors, and landlords. “If we lose people like her what will we have?”
The tribute will likely kick off a fund-raiser, considering that Pagano has already received calls from big-hearted Brooklynites who want to donate money.
But for now, Cacace is preparing to say goodbye to Carroll Gardens next week. She has already given her vast collection of community board notes, official documents, and old newspaper articles to an archivist.
Her son Robert says Cacace will thrive when she moves into his five-bedroom, riverside home in the nation’s dairy capital.
“I’m sorry she’s being forced to move, but I think it will be a great thing for her,” said Robert, who plans to teach Cacace how to drive and has already been scouting out volunteer opportunities at the local library. “It will be some change she’s never had.”
Celia Maniero Cacace’s tribute party at Mama Maria’s Restaurant [307 Court St. in Carroll Gardens]. Jan. 13. 3:30 pm through 6:30 pm. $30. $10 for seniors. To help, e-mail Carolina Salguero at [email protected] or Maria Pagano at [email protected].