“I want to take this opportunity to thank all the founders who are still here and to the blessed memory of those who are not here,” said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol. He served as emcee along with Jan Peterson, and Maria Aragona at the celebration of Conselyea Street Block Association founders in acknowledgement of their golden anniversary and their efforts to build a day care center, an unpopular idea at the time. The Assemblyman acknowledged that at first he was one of the ones who worked against the building of the center at 211 Ainslie Street, but realized he was wrong and was turned around by the dedication of the founders.
The Swinging Sixties dining room was packed with founders, their friends, and families. After the guests dined on the delicious specialties provided by a bevy of local businesses: Carmine and Sons (358 Graham Ave), Lorimer Market (620 Lorimer St), Patrizia’s Restaurant (35 Broadway), C-Town (Graham Avenue), Tony’s Pizzera (355 Graham Ave), Manhattan Special (342 Manhattan Ave), La Lacanda Restaurant (432 Graham Ave), Bahia Restaurant (690 Grand St), Anthony & Sons Panini Shoppe (433 Graham Ave), and Napoli Bakery (616 Metropolitan Ave). The formal program started off with a short documentary of the forming of the Conselyea Street Block Association and their struggle to build the center that this celebration was hosted in. The awards presentation then commenced. This gave the founders and their survivors the opportunity to tell of their experiences and inspirations on accepting the plaques of recognition.
“She made us the strong women we are today. It was a family affair, and the neighborhood came together. When you get together for the right reasons it will happen,” said Roseanne LaCioppa (Principal of PS 250) speaking for her mother, Carmela “Millie” LaCioppa, an original founder who was present.
Founder Margaret LaPolla was represented by her daughter, who said, “In her final hours at hospice, a smile came to her lips and she clearly uttered the words: Conselyea Street. She wore this pin proudly, which I’m wearing right now, and it reads, ‘Well behaved women rarely make history.’ I’m glad back then women and some supportive men had the courage and determination to change the community for the better and in their own small way, as this button says, make history.”
“I came here as a young woman who thought I was coming here for a short time, but this neighborhood changed me forever. Because of it there is not a moment that I don’t realize that I was able to grow to do what I have done because of what I was offered by working with all of you,” said Jan Peterson, original founder and organizer of the Conselyea Street Block Association, founder and director of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women, and Chair of the Huairou commission.
The night also brought the sad news that Annamay Pecora, one of the founders, had died earlier that day. In addition the builders and the founders, original Small World and Swinging Sixties staff were honored.
The event ended with hope that this reminiscence of the founders’ efforts will inspire more block associations to form and community activism. Cake provided by Fortunato’s Brothers Café (289 Manhattan Avenue) was served as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played.
For more information about the story of the Conselyea Street Block Association Founders visit: Smith College Archives & NeighborhoodWomen.org