Jack J. Cambria, former commander of the NYPD’s Hostage Negotiation team, was honored at the event.
Italian-Americans from across the Brooklyn came out to Borough Hall on Thursday to celebrate their heritage as part of the third annual Italian-American Heritage Festival, part of Italian-American Heritage Month.
“We’re always proud to be Italian, but especially during this month,” said Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello during the opening ceremony’s invocation.
Over 18 area restaurants offered up traditional Italian eats and sweets at Borough Hall as part of the celebration, which also included a performance of the Italian national anthem by award-winning singer Crstina Fontanelli and dancing from the Jete’ Dance Center.
“People forget that Italians are immigrants,” said Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and a first-generation American by way of Italy himself. “Our parents came here not speaking English and somehow, like so many in this room, opened businesses, moved up the rank of politics, did extremely well, and that’s what Italian-Americans are. They continue to be leaders in New York, and America.”
Three Italian-Americans were honored at the event: Jack J. Cambria, the lauded former commander of the NYPD’s Hostage Negotiation team, who stepped down in August; Ornella Fado, the host and producer of NYCTV 25 show Brindiamo!, which explores Italian cuisine across the United States; and Cesare Perfetto, president and founder of the decades-old Perfetto Contracting Co.
With 47 percent of Brooklynites speaking a language other than English in their home, Borough President Eric Adams said Italian-Americans were part of a rich history of culture throughout the borough.
“There are so many first-generation Brooklynites,” said Adams. “[It’s important] to celebrate the contribution of Italian-Americans, the first generation going through the difficult years and then what they have produced, what they have given back to this city.”
Kings County Democratic Chairman Frank Seddio lauded the contributions of Italian immigrants to the United States and to the borough.
“Brooklyn Italians, what could be better?” he said. “No one has given more to the United States of America than Italian-Americans. I remember my grandfather who got off the boat in Canarsie in 1919. He was literally one of the carpenters who helped build a little church on East 86 St. in Canarsie.
“And it’s that way all over Brooklyn,” he added. “We are truly the melting pot of the world and it’s what we’ve given to this country that’s made us so great.”