Death of an era: Scotto no longer group’s ‘Buddy’

Buddy Scotto, longtime community activist and owner of the funeral home that bears his name, was saddened to hear that a major local community group would no longer meet in the undertaker’s wake room
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

A neighborhood group’s macabre tradition of meeting in a local funeral home has passed away.

The Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association held its last monthly meeting in the Scotto Funeral Home on First Place last week and will relocate to St. Mary’s Star of the Sea on First Street — a move from not only Buddy Scotto’s funeral home, but also, perhaps, from Scotto himself.

Officially, the group said its meetings have grown too popular for Scotto’s wake room, with recent meetings overflowing capacity.

But behind the scenes, members said that the Association wants to distance itself from its activist host, who has been involved in Carroll Gardens politics since the 1960s.

The group apparently does not want to be seen as melded to the positions Scotto has on contentious issues, like the rezoning of the Gowanus Canal area.

Scotto welcomes private residential development, possibly with tall buildings, in the canal zone, in exchange for affordable housing — not the most popular stance.

“They’re concerned because some people see me as a controversial figure in the neighborhood,” said Scotto.

Finding neutral ground at St. Mary’s might make it easier to attract more people to the meetings, said Association member Glenn Kelly.

“As Buddy himself put it, he’s a controversial figure,” he said, and “we are sometimes held back by our association with him.”

Holding meetings at Scotto’s was always a little odd, but it wasn’t the constant reminder of man’s mortality that drove the group to look for a livelier home.

“That is without a doubt the strangest place to have a meeting,” said Kelly, who added that he was “not creeped out by it.”

Veteran reporters on the community newspaper scene said there were advantages to covering meetings at the Scotto Funeral Home, which has also been home to the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, the American-Italian Coalition of Organizations, and many other community gatherings.

“It was always an easy place to hear what was going on,” said Patrick Gallahue, a former reporter for The Brooklyn Paper now with the New York Post. “I don’t know if it was the carpeting, but the sound carried really well.”

Plus, Scotto provided comfortable seating and complimentary coffee, two things not usually found in meeting places like school auditoriums or church basements, said Gallahue.

Another group member, Gary Reilly, liked meetings there because it felt “small townish.”

Scotto will continue to be a part of the group though, and he’s ready to offer the Funeral Home to new groups like the Court Street Merchants Association.

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