Longtime Carroll Gardens activist and former state Assemblyman Frank Verderame died on Dec. 17. He was 79.
Best known for his meticulous record-keeping, Verderame was a neighborhood gadfly who reminded current city officials of long-forgotten promises to build sports facilities on the contaminated Public Place site, at the corner of Fifth and Smith streets, now slated to become a large mixed-income village with open space. With the playing fields taken off the planning table, Verderame questioned if the cleanup would go far enough to make the land safe for housing.
“We’ve made plans before that couldn’t be done because the land wasn’t suitable,” Verderame carped to The Brooklyn Paper in November 2007. “How are they so sure before the cleanup is done that it will be safe for families to live there? They are putting the cart before the horse.”
Buoyed by historic property maps and legal rulings, he also charged that Billy Stein’s condo project on Second Place and Smith Street overstepped his boundaries into the beloved Paris-style plaza outside the subway entrance, now hemmed in by scaffolding.
His younger brother said he had a lifelong interest in civic affairs.
“From day one, he was active in the community,” said John Verderame, also of Carroll Gardens.
Verderame attained neighborhood prominence by rising through the local Democratic Party machine in the 1960s, eventually being elected to the Assembly in 1970.
But the party leadership threw him overboard when his district was redrawn, according to another South Brooklyn mainstay, Buddy Scotto.
Scotto said that then-local boss James Mangano — the last sheriff of Kings County — rejected nominating Verderame, the incumbent, for re-election in 1972 in order to nominate the son of a local judge and consolidate his authority in the newly remapped district.
“Everybody was in shock,” said Scotto, who often found himself on opposing sides of local issues with Verderame. “They essentially sold him down the river.”
Verderame, with a St. John’s law degree, went on to work as an accountant and real estate agent. He died of apparent natural causes in his sleep and is survived by his sons, Frank Jr., Joseph and John.