Charles Musumeci, whose Raintrees restaurant on the corner of Prospect Park West and Ninth Street served as a portent of the South Slope’s bright future, died last week at age 63.
Police said he committed suicide by jumping off his Prospect Park West building on April 17. The medical examiner’s office confirmed the report.
Though he got his start in the hair-styling business, Musumeci was best known for Raintrees, which opened in 1980 in a classic, turn-of-the-century space that formerly housed the Lewnes Luncheonette.
From the outset, Musumeci served upscale French food in what was not only considered the fringe of Park Slope, but before a critical mass of fancy restaurants made the neighborhood a foodie destination.
“He was the first,” said Janice Cimberg, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens, which handled the sale of the Raintrees space after the restaurant closed in 1999.
“He was the one who gave the word ‘restaurateur’ meaning in Park Slope,” continued Cimberg, whose two sons were Raintrees waiters. “He was so ahead of his time.”
Musumeci was also good about making the dining room available for fundraisers for such local groups as the Prospect Park Alliance and Revitalization of the Southern Area of the Slope, which later merged with the Park Slope Civic Council.
“He was very generous with his space,” said Carl Kaiserman, who once headed ROSAS, but now lives in Florida. “He was a good community person.”
When the restaurant closed, the old luncheonette was torn down to make way for a condo building. Raintrees had been allowed to operate, despite zoning rules against a commercial operation at that site, because it had been grandfathered in under zoning that existed when Lewnes opened in 1906, Kaiserman said.
Musumeci is survived by his first wife, Rosemary, and his second wife, Brigid McGinn, and their four children.
Friends said that Musumeci hoped that donations would be made in his memory to the Prospect Park Alliance. To do so, go to www.ProspectPark.org or send a check to the Alliance at 95 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn, NY 11215. Remember to put Musumeci’s name on the check.