‘Il Centro’ of the World in Bensonhurst

At Il Centro (Photo by Vanessa Etienne via Bklyner)

As the former site of a historic Italian church makes way for a school and the last Italian record store hangs on in Bensonhurst amid demographics changes in the once heavily-Italian Brooklyn neighborhood, Il Centro opened on June 21 after a decade-long effort by the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn (FIAO). The center’s mission is to preserve Italian-American culture but in doing so they’re also opening their doors to more recent immigrant communities and younger generations. On its website, Il Centro describes itself as the “first Italian-American multicultural community center in New York.”

Vanessa Etienne writes in Bklyner:

Jack Spatola, the federation’s chairman of the board, wants to prove through Il Centro that Italian-Americans are not just in the family, but in the community.

“It’s an Italian-American flavor,” said Spatola. “In the media, we have been portrayed as people that are not open and not community-minded and we wanted to share that it’s not so.”

The community center has over 1,000 memberships in a variety of age groups and backgrounds including Russian, Mexican, Chinese, Caribbean, Arabic, African and more. Memberships range from $30 to $60 monthly with available package deals. The center offers programs and services to members that include fitness, education and language classes.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who contributed $500,000 to the construction of the center, underscored this diversity at an Italian heritage event. Go to Bklyner to read his comments, as well as those of a Salvadoran mother, an Il Centro member, who brings her children to the center.

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