While digging through our archives, we found these old polaroids of what Columbia Street looked like back in the days, before the Carroll Gardens Association was formed to turn vacant and dilapidated buildings on the Columbia Waterfront into permanent affordable housing. Wow!
We interviewed Buddy Scotto, CGA Founder, to couple these vintage photos with a bit of neighborhood history.
Salvatore “Buddy” Scotto grew up in Carroll Gardens back in the days when it was still a rough, working class Italian neighborhood. Columbia Street was a bustling commercial street with many small Italian businesses and longeshoremen working on the waterfront. After World War II, the construction of highways, the G.I. Bill, and mortgage loans encouraged many families to move out to the suburbs. However, these policies were extremely disciminatory and prevented non-white families from moving out of the cities.
With this “flight to the suburbs”, urban neighborhoods started emptying out. Columbia Street deteriorated and was dotted with abandoned buildings. Buddy’s family, however, wanted to stay in the neighborhood where they were rooted. Buddy started the Carroll Gardens Association (CGA) to try to improve the neighborhood instead of leaving.
In the 1970s, CGA was designated as a “Neighborhood Preservation Company” by the New York State DHCR agency to develop affordable housing on the Columbia Waterfront and Red Hook. In the 1990s, the City of New York turned over several neglected, vacant buildings on Columbia Street to CGA to rehabilitate them and turn them into permanently affordable housing.
Today, CGA owns 150 units of affordable housing, managed by the property management Grenadier. New York City is in a housing crisis and many neighborhoods across the boroughs are gentrifying very fast, pushing out long-term tenants. We are committed to preserving affordable housing in the community to ensure that those who have layed down roots here can stay.