Western Brooklyn

Five Questions For Brooklyn Chamber’s Carlo Scissura

Courtesy of Carlo Scissura
Courtesy of Carlo Scissura

Brooklyn Chamber’s Carlo Scissura knows Bensonhurst.

A Dyker Heights resident who grew up in the neighborhood, Scissura has served on Community Board 11, Community School Board 20, and Community Education Council 20. He also made his mark in local politics on the staffs of Vincent Gentile (during his State Senate days) and Assemblyman Peter Abbate. Most recently, he served as chief of staff to former Borough President Marty Markowitz.

In 2012, Scissura was seen as a likely frontrunner to replace Markowitz as borough president, but dropped out of the race to head the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, one of the fastest growing business advocacy and economic development organizations in New York State. Scissura is credited with revitalizing the Chamber, advancing the Brooklyn brand, and pushing to include less hip neighborhoods in the borough’s booming economy. In the last year, the Chamber has launched the craft beverage festival CHEERS NY at Industry city, created a snazzy new Explore Brooklyn tourism guide, and formed key partnerships with Google and Airbnb.

Scissura is also the president of the Federation of Italian-American Organizations (FIAO), where he is spearheading the building of Il Centro, an Italian cultural community center on 18th Avenue set to open in 2016. Despite his busy schedule, Scissura agreed to chat with us about southern Brooklyn’s business economy, FIAO, and why Bensonhurst in awesome:

1. So you are from the neighborhood… Tell us a little about yourself.

Born and raised in Bensonhurst. My parents came there probably in the late-60s from Italy, and it was during the time when there was a big wave of Italian immigration to that area. So I grew up there, went to local schools, and spent most of my life there.

2. What is special about Bensonhurst?

I think the best thing is that it will always be an immigrant community. And it doesn’t matter what the immigrants look like, or where they’re from. But it will always be a great immigrant community, and I think that’s what excites me the most about the neighborhood.

3. Over the summer, the Chamber published an assessment of Brooklyn’s economy. Can you share some of the study’s findings in relation to the business economy in Bensonhurst and the rest of southern Brooklyn?

I think one of the things that came out the most is that we are retail starved. So we need more stores. A perfect example is the whole Waldbaums thing on New Utrecht Avenue. And we are working now diligently to make sure that site remains a supermarket, because it’s too important of a site.

And that’s just one example. We need more stores, we clearly need more jobs in southern Brooklyn. We need more schools in southern Brooklyn. I was proud that during my years on the school board and on the community education council, I was able to get the largest capital investment of any district into district 20 and which you now see all those schools being built, and that’s very exciting.

4. If someone is starting a small business, why should they join the Chamber?

We’re a mix: big business, small business, and everything in between. So we’re basically to help your business grow regardless how big you are or how small you are. Obviously, as a southern Brooklyn resident, I’ve been doing a big push to get more of that community into the Chamber.

I’m also working on Il Centro, which will be an Italian community and cultural center in the area, so that will be a big boon to the Bensonhurst area. And we’re working with merchants to restart a merchant’s association on 18th Avenue, put some money into community resources there. So it’s really a mix of everything.

5. There’s been some handwringing over the changing neighborhood — particularly in the comments on Bensonhurst Bean. Folks are worried that the bulk of the Italian American community is dying out or moving away. As president of FIAO, has the organization’s mission shifted at all, and what are your thoughts on the future of Italian culture in Bensonhurst?

I think our mission is to serve all. For me it doesn’t mater if your from Italy, Russia, or China — we’re here to serve you, and were here to help students and after school programs. We’re here to help seniors. And yes, there will be a cultural component that will be Italian — and that’s as it should be.

As for people who comment about the changing neighborhood, it changed 45 years ago when my parents and that generation came. And people said, “Oh my God, these Italians, what are they doing here?” Change is part of New York City. I’m a product of that immigration wave and I’m proud of it. If people don’t want things to change, they should move! They shouldn’t stay put. But when you move, things change, and that’s OK; it’s a good thing.

You know, I shop in southern brooklyn a lot, and I was on recently on 18th Avenue at Bari’s Pork Store, which is an old-school Italian sausage shop with deep roots in the neighborhood. Then, right down the block, I notice this very cool, very trendy coffee shop. I go inside and I see tons of young people — Italian, Asian, Hispanic — sitting there on their laptops and mobile devices. It was amazing to see, because young people are realizing that Bensonhurst is a transportation center. Who wouldn’t want to live here? Anyone who says Bensonhurst’s days are over are living in the past.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. You can tell this guy is a politician, because he didn’t acknowledge one actual problem with Bensonhurst.

  2. ” we’re working with merchants to restart a merchant’s association on 18th Avenue”

    Bring back the Christmas lights!

  3. Mr. Scissura does not mention in his discussion about working for the Brooklyn Borough President and the fact that he and the Brooklyn Borough President were involved in a conflict of interests case.Both Carlo and Marty Markowitz were fined for this. I believe Mr. Scissura wanted to run for the Brooklyn Borough President but when this conflict of interests case was brought to the attention of the public-Mr. Scissura thought that he would not win.
    Mr. Scissura does not mention in this article regarding the FIAO Community/Cultural Center – that all the contractors hired to construct this Center were all of the ITALIAN descent (THIS IS DISCRIMiNATION). This is a quote from G. Jack Spatola (Chairman of the Board for the FIAO) in which he spoke at their Topping off Ceremony. This article was written in the Home Reporter by Denise Romano titled – Wishing buona fortuna to Il Centro. Mr. Scissura does not mention that this Community Organization is extremely politically affiliated and their prime concern is their political affiliations, not the residents of this Community. You would think that a Community Center would care about the residents that live in their Community but instead this Center will cause our community a toxic environmental impact. The FIAO will take away our quality of life due to their long hours of operation (7AM to 10PM/7 days a week and later on weekends. The FIAO has also encouraged more motorists traffic to this location by having 2 parking lots for their clients. This will increase the traffic, noise and emissions. There already is much too much traffic, noise and emissions due to all the businesses located in a 2 block radius of this Center. In addition this Center will also increase pedestrian traffic which will cause more loitering and littering. None of these FIAO Board Members live close to this Community Center. This Center will take away our quality of life and enjoyment of our homes, as well as change the character of our neighborhood. I believe that they put this Center at this location was because that knew they could get away with murder because many of the residents living close to this Center do not speak English and these people are afraid to make complaints. I believe this is ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM and INJUSTICE. Mr. Scissura admits to living in Dyker Heights. None of the other FIAO Board Members live anywhere close to this Center..
    Mr. Scissura has done a great job kissing up to the businesses in Brooklyn and also causing more businesses to come here. Carlo and his peers have caused a toxic environmental impact on our Community and possibly hazardous health issues for the residents that live near his Community/Cultural Center. Mr. Scissura, G.Jack Spatola, Monsignor David Cassato, etc., etc., will enjoy their nice quiet evenings in their homes while we the residents that live near their Community/Cultural Center will live in less then desirable conditions (living Hell).

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