Celia Cacace loses cheap rent in Carroll Gardens, may be forced to move to Wisconsin

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A lifelong Carroll Gardens icon can no longer afford to stay in her Brownstone community — and if her neighbors can’t find her an apartment on the cheap she will be forced to move to Wisconsin, of all places.

The $500-per-month arrangement that lets Celia Maniero Cacace keep her First Place apartment will come to an end on Jan. 14 when a new landlord takes over.

Unless a miracle-worker can snag an inexpensive apartment in an increasingly posh area where one-bedrooms go for $2,000 per month, the activist known to many as the “mother” of Carroll Gardens must shack up with her son in the rural Midwest.

“I’m sad that I’m being priced-out of where I was born and raised and where I chose to stay,” said the widowed 76-year-old, who spent the past few months looking for leads on cheap apartments. “I never imagined this would happen.”

The civic leader has never lived outside of the now-trendy neighborhood she still calls “South Brooklyn,” and has resided for the past 12 years in an apartment where she managed to pay far less than market-rate because a relative owned the building, the Daily News reports.

Cacace wouldn’t get into the specifics of the property sale and city records for the home have not been updated since 2006. But she says the sweetheart deal won’t continue — so friends are calling in favors and trying to raise money to keep her from boxing up her possessions and moving 900 miles west to her son’s home in Waterford, Wis.

“Communities are held together not just by buildings, but they’re held together by people and culture and memories and tradition and history,” said longtime friend Carolina Salguero. “She’s a huge part of that for this place.”

And there sure are a lot of memories when it comes to Cacace. She served on Community Board 6 for more than 20 years and led the push to make Red Hook’s Valentino Pier a public park before she got booted from the group because she opposed the Atlantic Yards mega-development. The Carroll Gardens stalwart is so recognizable in the community that even children know her name.

Pals and allies from her years of activism are throwing a tribute for Cacace on Sunday at Mama Maria’s Restaurant on Court Street to celebrate her contributions to the area and perhaps find Brooklyn’s equivalent to the Holy Grail: a super-cheap apartment.

“Celia is an institution in the neighborho­od,” said Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association director Maria Pagano, who has put calls out to politicians, senior housing centers, realtors, and landlords. “If we lose people like her what will we have?”

The tribute will likely kick off a fund-raiser, considering that Pagano has already received calls from big-hearted Brooklynites who want to donate money.

But for now, Cacace is preparing to say goodbye to Carroll Gardens next week. She has already given her vast collection of community board notes, official documents, and old newspaper articles to an archivist.

Her son Robert says Cacace will thrive when she moves into his five-bedroom, riverside home in the nation’s dairy capital.

“I’m sorry she’s being forced to move, but I think it will be a great thing for her,” said Robert, who plans to teach Cacace how to drive and has already been scouting out volunteer opportunities at the local library. “It will be some change she’s never had.”

Celia Maniero Cacace’s tribute party at Mama Maria’s Restaurant [307 Court St. in Carroll Gardens]. Jan. 13. 3:30 pm through 6:30 pm. $30. $10 for seniors. To help, e-mail Carolina Salguero at or Maria Pagano at

Updated 5:38 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

VLM from Park Slope says:
So she was paying 25% of market rent and, instead of looking around for another place in Brooklyn, has decided to up and move to Wisconsin? This is more than just your typical gentrification story. What else is going on here?
Jan. 9, 2013, 10:52 am
ty from pps says:
VLM - Nothing. She had a sweet deal because her relatives owned the building and gave her cheap rent. They relatives sold the building for probably a crazy amount of money... probably plenty that they (the relatives) could pony up the $100,000 or so she would need to finish her last few years on this Earth and pay $2,000 a month. But they're not doing that. So she's going to live for free with her son in Wisconsin.

Now, New Yorkers have given something like $4 million to those teenage girls because their cop dad was killed... not sure what college education costs that much, but even after they had well over a million, the NY Post kept pushing for more donations... so, I'm sure everyone will rush to give this lady the $100k she needs. Right? Right?
Jan. 9, 2013, 12:14 pm
John wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
I hope you'll forgive me for the suggestion, but perhaps a room mate, with the edtion of a paper route could help?
Jan. 9, 2013, 3:47 pm
Barry from Flatbush says:
There was a time in Brooklyn when, in such a situation, some community-minded gentlemen would pay a friendly visit to the new owners of the building, and explain to them that the current arrangement with Mrs. Cacace will need to be continued indefinitely. How sad that those times have passed.
Jan. 9, 2013, 4:01 pm
ty from pps says:
Yes, Barry. So sad we no longer value extortion, threats of violence and other such things any more. So sad.
Jan. 9, 2013, 4:34 pm
Eazy D from Sheepshead Bay says:
Perhaps Natalie and the Brooklyn Paper can put her up. At least they'll have a scoop. I am sure Gersh is considering it.
Jan. 10, 2013, 1:32 am
Old Timer from Carroll Gardens says:
ty from pps says it will cost $100,000 to keep her in a $2,000 apartment for life? That would last less than 5 years. Why doesn't she apply to the neighborhood projects?
Jan. 10, 2013, 8:47 am
ty from pps says:
Old Timer... She's 76 years old.
Jan. 10, 2013, 9:45 am
ty from pps says:
Also, it's about 5-1/2 years... or isn't she willing to keep paying the $500 herself?
Jan. 10, 2013, 12:36 pm
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
If the landlords had any common sense they'd keep her.

I own a multi unit building. I have an tenant who's been renting from us for close to 15 years. He's a retiree - quiet, clean and never fails to call us when there's a problem. His rent is 1/3 of the other tenants.

The reasons for such a low rent? He's been a loyal tenant. he sweeps, the walk. Plants a flowers every year (we pay for them). And always calls us immediately if there's a problem with the buidling.

Given the irresponsible, and immature nature of today's tenants - who more than likely will destroy your property - it's good to have a watchdog tenant in the building.

We make a bit of money off our property. Although the other tenants pay much, much more they're losing propostions because of the extensive work needed for repairs, fumigations, replacing things, etc. After they move out. We are one tax hike away from going in the red. Their security deposit doesn't even cover the cost of new carpeting.

We're not slumlords. We do due diligence, check references and cross check them with a realtor. It's not that these are lousy, irresponsible tenants. These are what tenants are today. They don't give a cr*p.
Jan. 11, 2013, 7:42 am
Chuck from South Brooklyn says:
I wonder how many benevolent landlords like Pat I. are left around here. Damn few. I'm the "house watchdog" of my building and don't expect to be living in Brooklyn much longer.
Jan. 11, 2013, 8:53 pm
Bob from Queens says:
These greedy spiks always expect someone else to pay for them. Lo siento biatch, but for the first time in your life you might have to actually pay for yourself.
Jan. 12, 2013, 9:30 am
where are the relatives? from PS says:
I wouldn't point fingers at new owner(s). I'm sure they paid good money for the place and so they should be able to rent to whom they want, even if it's at a higher premium.

What I am curious is her so-called relatives whom sold the building. Why didn't they negotiate something for her within the contract or possibly help her find a place with the good money they took in for selling the place? If her own relatives won't even look out for her, then can you really blame strangers for that? If her son welcomes her, it's she stay with him. I'm sure it's better to spend time with family instead of being alone at old age anyways. Wish her the best!!!
Jan. 14, 2013, 9:17 am
Jcannon from New Jersey says:
I myself was born and raised in South Brooklyn !At a time when everyone looked out for one another. When you could Waik down the street at 2am and not have to worry.And every family knew one another ,and on Sunday you could smell the meat sauce creeping out of the brownstones ! And people hanging in the street mingling with one another and we would play stoop ball ,fistball, ringalevio. Etc ! And I remember always seeing Cecelia walking around the neighborhood doing her best to keep us out of trouble ! She is a good Woman ! Personally the neighborhood has changed tremendously and isn't worth 10 cents to me .As the years have past I watched many people forced out .i wish her well and lots of luck.
Jan. 23, 2013, 9:24 am

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