Millions for FIAO center - Group has funds to build Italian-American cultural facility

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Brooklyn’s Federation of Italian American Organizations (FIAO) can soon break ground on their planned community center thanks in large part to the recently passed 2009 fiscal year city budget.

The organization received $5.4 million in capital money for the project through City Councilmember Domenic Recchia, plus another $1 million in capital funds through Borough President Marty Markowitz.

“Now we have sufficient funds to build the Italian-American Community and Cultural Center,” said FAIO Chair Jack Spatola.

Spatola said the organization already owns the site for the center, which is on two adjacent lots – one on 8711 18th Avenue and the other on 1827 Benson Avenue.

The first parcel was bought in 2006 and the second on April 25, 2008, he said.

Spatola said that, once constructed, the center will be open for everyone from the community and beyond. It will include a swimming pool, gymnasium, library, classrooms and office space for the non-profit services the organization already provides, he said.

Spatola said there may be fees involved for activities, where instructors and supplies are needed, or for the swimming to pay for a lifeguard, but most uses in the facility will be for free.

Spatola also acknowledged Senator Marty Golden, who was able to get $2 million in state money, Markowitz, who previously got the organization $1.5 million for the project, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who procured $250,000 and Assemblymember William Colton, who got $100,000 in state money, all for the cultural center.

Spatola said FIAO raised an additional $2.5 million for the project and now has enough money to break ground at the end of this year and complete the project.

“Now we’re on our warp speed and hoping to raise an endowment of between $2 and $3 million for maintenance of the center,” he said.

In total, about $23.5 million of the Council’s capital items were solely sponsored by Recchia, who chairs the Cultural Affairs Committee.

Unlike the Council’s discretionary funding, the capital funding is doled out entirely at the discretion of Speaker Christine Quinn’s office.

About $17.6 million of Recchia’s funding went to citywide or other cultural projects outside his Brooklyn district.

Other capital funding that Recchia doled out within his district included $2 million for the new YMCA and affordable housing project located on West 29th and 30th Streets, and between Surf and Mermaid Avenues in Coney Island.

Also in Coney Island, Recchia got $300,000 to put a new roof on the Roberta Bright Day Care Center on West 37th Street and Surf Avenue.

“I also got money for Lincoln High School, which is putting in a brand-new football field. Last year we gave them $3.5 million and this year we gave them $500,000 to finish the job,” Recchia said.

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