“We’re leftovers,” said Joe Igneri, the self-proclaimed babysitter of the members of the Society of the Citizens of Pozzallo. “Leftovers.”
For nearly a century the club has anchored the Italian community in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. In a neighborhood that once housed clubs for every group of relocated Italian immigrants, this society, strictly for ex-residents of Pozzallo, a fishing village of nearly 30,000 in Sicily, is all that is left.
Since 1919, men have gathered to spend their evenings drinking espresso, playing card games, reading the local Italian daily and telling stories of their youth. At its peak, nearly 500 members frequented the club, but as the neighborhood gentrified, membership dropped and is now at an all time low of less than 200.
There were only 13,876 residents of Italian ancestry living in Brooklyn’s Community District 6, an area that includes six neighborhoods including Carroll Gardens, in 2010, or 11.8 percent of the total population, according to estimates from the Department of City Planning.
In an attempt to secure any type of future, members worked to have the society designated a non-profit organization and opened up membership to women from Pozzallo. What was once a predominantly male organization is focusing their efforts on expanding their appeal to both women and the younger generation. Members are hoping that with the new changes they will endure and hold on to the last remaining Italian social club in Carroll Gardens.