There weren’t enough chairs for the approximately 200 people gathered yesterday at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew to remember Alfred Chiodo, who died last week. Family members, friends, colleagues and Brooklyn neighbors came to say goodbye to the former urban affairs director for Council Member and New York City Public Advocate-elect Letitia James.
“I loved Alfred; he wasn’t just a staff member,” said James, who began to tear up. “Alfred was a very dear friend, someone I protected, but I guess not enough.”
Police found Chiodo, 57, hanged in his Crown Heights apartment on Nov. 7 after he didn’t show up at work for several days. The police department is still investigating the death, and the city Medical Examiner’s office did not return phone calls to confirm Chiodo’s cause of death.
But during the ceremony, friends and colleagues preferred to dwell on happy memories, describing Chiodo as a kind and thoughtful man. Schellie Hagan, a neighbor and a friend, said he was “special to everybody who knew him.”
During the ceremony, a slideshow rotated photos of Chiodo in the neighborhood, attending meetings and supporting gay rights.
James said she knew Chiodo was agnostic but liked what the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew – damaged by a fire last year – represented.
“He always liked this church because this is a church of individuals who are looking for second chances,” James said. “Individuals who were formerly incarcerated. This church is always open to individuals who are homeless … all the individuals who are looking to have a better relationship with God.”
Chiodo joined James’ office after graduating from CUNY’s Hunter College’s urban planning program in 2005, when he was 49. When development of the Atlantic Yards project kicked into full gear, he became the 35th District’s expert on development issues such as traffic patterns, use of public space and affordable housing.
People who knew Chiodo, a Niagara Falls native, said he was passionate and very committed to Brooklyn, where he lived for many years. His longtime friend Jack Esterson said Chiodo wanted to make Brooklyn “the most wonderful place in the whole world.” Christine Washburn, Chiodo’s sister who attended the memorial service with Summer Nicole Booth, Chiodo’s niece, said he was passionate about preserving the community.
“I’ve been told recently about the little building that he helped preserved across from where we’re standing at the Admiral’s Row,” she
said, referring to the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s officers’ former home.
He cared about the “true meaning of affordable housing” and was obsessed with the Franklin Avenue shuttle, Esterson added.
Friends said Chiodo loved biking and exploring his neighborhood and beyond.
“I came one time to visit,” Washburn said. “Both of us being bicycle people, we spent 50 miles or – I don’t know – all over Manhattan, everywhere, every little neighborhood.”
Washburn recalled Chiodo building his own “city” in the basement as a child.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that he would want to be interested in anything urban,” she said.
Chiodo’s family recommended donations to Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit organization that advocates safer streets and encourages cycling and public transit, in lieu of flowers. They also suggested supporting the Rainbow Heights Club, an advocacy program that helps gay people with mental health services and the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals – all organizations that Chiodo supported.