Buddy Scotto is a reporter's dream come true. He is a treasure trove of information and a man of many words.
But Buddy Scotto is also a spokesperson of sorts for Carroll Gardens. A lifelong resident, except for a stint in "lily white" Bay Ridge, Scotto is involved with nearly every facet of life in the neighborhood. He runs a family business, , is a founding member of numerous civic and political groups, attends meetings almost every night and has influenced the neighborhood in uncountable ways.
Scotto has always fought hard for affordable housing. In the 60s and 70s he worked to found the Carroll Gardens Association and the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, non-profits that still exist today and still work to better the community. Both organizations have developed housing for seniors.
And Scotto is still fighting hard for housing. Before the Gowanus Canal became a federal Superfund site, affordable housing was set to come to the shores of Carroll Gardens. According to Scotto, as well as Mayor Bloomberg and other city officials, affordable housing would be required in all new developments along the canal. But with the Superfund designation, all development was stopped indefinitely.
Scotto also dabbled in politics. He formed the Independent Neighborhood Democrats in the 70s, and opened a storefront campaign headquarters on Court Street.
Scotto seems to understand the line between old school and new school Carroll Gardens.
There is a feeling among native Carroll Gardens residents that the newcomers don't understand exactly what it is that makes this neighborhood so great, he said.
"We're a family, an extended family," he explained. "There is a different kind of strength inherent in a community where people feel connected to each other."
"And when we don't get that reaction back," he warned, "We pull back, and there's conflict."
Scotto says he hopes newcomers pick up on it.
"It's why they feel good about the neighborhood," he said.
Questions for Buddy Scotto
1. What do you like best about Carroll Gardens?
"The people and the history, and our interactions with each other."
2. Currently, what is your favorite restaurant in the neighborhood?
"Even if I had a favorite, I wouldn't say it because it would hurt the others! All the restaurants are top notch in different ways."
3. Where do you like to shop for food?
"My wife, she goes shopping, not me. She's as yuppie as they come, she's from Leechburg, Pennsylvania, she was an airline stewardess. Elaine likes good food. She goes to big box stores, which i'm not happy about because it isn't the mom and pop you can relate to. Those stores tell people to go shopping in their cars, we have a problem with cars."
4. Are you afraid of the Gowanus Canal?
"I don't understand the question. The government said everyone should be afraid when they made it a Superfund. God damnit after all the money we spent cleaning it up? The environmentalists want it natural, access to the waterfront, bicycle paths, but there's no mention for how to maintain it from an economic point of view. You've gotta do something to generate income."
5. What's the best (or worst) change you've witnessed during your time in the neighborhood?
"I'm getting old. I hate to say that but it bugs me. I can't afford to get old before we get that god damned canal developed the way it should be, as an asset."