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         News and Events - October 2014


San Vincenzo in NYC

 The 113th Feast of San Vincenzo in New York City on Sunday Oct. 26th will be significant, marking either the last event held at St. Joseph’s Church or a celebration of the Church’s continued operation.  The Archdiocese of New York, in evaluating their structure, anticipates announcing closings of some churches this fall. Regardless of the decision about St. Joseph’s Church, the Feast of San Vincenzo will go forward.

This year’s event continues the time honored tradition with a noontime Mass celebrated by Msgr. Nicholas Grieco. Adding to the beauty of this special Mass will be soprano Susan Mello’s singing.  After the Mass, we will gather in St. Joseph’s Church hall to enjoy a fantastic buffet of classic Italian foods, Aglianico wine from the Basilicata Region, and our beloved Amaro Lucano.  

 Also, there will be a special visit from San Vincenzo—in the form of a figurine that will be available to attendees.   These unique hand-painted custom made figurines of San Vincenzo, which are copies of the upright processional statue in Craco, will be sold as fund raising items. The proceeds will go to the San Vincenzo Fund that was designated for preservation of the San Vincenzo statue, relic, and related materials in New York.

 Italian celebrations of this type are experiencing a decline in popularity. Yet maintaining them is vital to preserving history, culture and traditions. San Vincenzo Martire isn’t widely known or venerated in any other places than Craco and New York City, his feast day celebration is as important now as it ever was.   And although he isn’t as popular as other well known saints—he is our saint!

 Consider this event as an opportunity to bring your family and friends together to experience and enjoy a Cracotan gathering that celebrates a centuries old custom from the town of our ancestors. Showing support for San Vincenzo and St. Joseph’s Church honors all who came before us and helps those who attend connect with them.  If you haven’t made your reservation yet, don’t delay!

Saint Joseph's Church News  

We are sharing information about St. Joseph’s Church that everyone who signed the petition to Cardinal Dolan to keep the church open should be aware of.

 Fr. Lino Gonsalves, Pastor at St. Joseph & St. James Parish, received a letter from Bishop John O’Hara about announcements for parish plans in the Diocese’s “Making All Things New” pastoral planning initiative.

 In the letter printed in St. Joseph’s Bulletin, Bishop O’Hara advised that the decisions about specific actions will not occur until at least November.  He said that additional information and details became available recently that should be considered. Based on the schedules of the Archdiocese leadership, the opportunities to evaluate and factor these into a decision will not be possible until later in the year than was originally announced.

 Keep your prayers and good wishes coming to save this historic building which is one of the few remaining venues of Cracotan history in New York City.


Roosevelt Street

A primary location for Cracotan history in Manhattan was Roosevelt Street.  Although it is now gone and available to us only in photographs, memories, and on The “Lost Neighborhood” tour, a question about it is always how it got its name.

Those from New York would assume it was named after one of the famous Roosevelt family members, Teddy or Franklin who served in many state offices and as United States presidents.  However, the street name goes back to the earliest Roosevelt who arrived just as our ancestors did as immigrants, only in the 1600s.

 Claes Maartenszen van Rosenvelt, was the first arrival and his son or grandson had a mill in the area that would become Roosevelt Street. It is believed that the street name came from them and their mill there.  You can read more about this and other bits of New York history at “The Bowery Boys” blog.

Over the years, Roosevelt Street changed from a dour place by the South Street piers to the home of early 20th century immigrants.   In 1958 Roosevelt Street was erased with the creation of the Alfred E. Smith Houses.

The Crachesi in 1950's America

The 1950s marked a significant decade for the Crachesi in New York. It saw the disappearance of old institutions, the dispersal of many families from the tight-knit New York neighborhoods and a cultural shift as a new generation emerged.

 During this decade, as in the prior one, the deaths of many of the first generation immigrants changed the make-up of the Crachesi in America. The majority of second and third generation Cracotans had never been to Craco and only knew of it from stories. Although some of the second generation was fluent in the dialect and could converse in Italian the third generation was totally devoid of this cultural connection—English was their sole language which  added a barrier to understanding their heritage.

 The tempo and objectives of the 1950s American culture led the second and third generation away from established traditions without their realizing it.

After the long period during WWII, the Società S. Vincenzo, Martire di Craco was unable to restart the feast day procession that had been held prior to the war years and generate the participation that it enjoyed previously. Due to inactivity, the society was dissolved by the State of New York on October 15, 1952.  This change in support was a symptom of the times as people were moving from the area seeking better living conditions, improved opportunities, or simply being forced out due to redevelopment.

 A victim of the New York City redevelopment was St. Joachim’s Church and the whole area that included Roosevelt Street. Although there was a protracted fight to save the church building, which included politicians and celebrities, it proved unsuccessful and the church was closed at the end of 1958.

 The historic statues of San Vincenzo dating back to 1901 that resided at St. Joachim’s Church were moved from the building by the Gallo family on their paper stock truck and kept in their home until another church could be found to house them.

 Deriving the benefits available to them from the hard work of their parents, the second and third generation Crachesi were able to take advantage of educational opportunities and subsequent economic gains to seek professions and residences in areas beyond New York City that included New Jersey, Connecticut, and even further. Some of the older generation also chose that route.

Nicola Roccanova joined his Son Vincent in Sacramento, California in 1955.  There, although plagued by breathing difficulties for being gassed during WWI, Nicola became a successful real estate developer.

 Michael Camberlango became a successful manager in the gold and silver milling industry in Blanding, Utah before starting his own construction business.

 The John A. Sarubbi Construction Company expanded, allowing them to diversify into projects that included building churches, schools, rectories, convents, apartment buildings, and industrial plants. The business management now included the next generation of John Sarubbi’s family, his sons Angelo, James, John, Jr., and son-in-law Paul Motola.

 Frank Muzio, continued to operate his restaurant business but made sure his son, Joseph N. Muzio got into Columbia University in 1950. That same year, Frank’s daughter Maria  married Bernard Russell and in 1958 she gave birth to David O. Russell . Joe Muzio completed college, entered the Marine Corps and married in 1957 before entering a career in education. Unfortunately, Frank would pass away in 1958 before the birth of his first grandchild, David Russell who would become an Academy Award winning filmmaker.

 Others benefitting from education opportunities during this period included Henry Antonio Camperlengo who completed his medical schooling in 1958 and began his residency in psychiatry.  Also, Frank Lunati moved from Brooklyn to Long Island in 1951, met his wife Connie while they were both in high school there, and went on to college. In 1958 after he and Connie married they went to Italy where Frank studied medicine at the University of Rome.

 Dominick F. Rinaldi (b. 1914 NY) the son of Pietro Rinaldi (b. Craco 1884) and Angela Rosa Cantasano (b. Craco 1887) was also in Rome in 1958. He completed his college education and joined the US Department of Justice in the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1938 before enlisting in the US Army in 1945, assisting with immigration issues during WWII.  After the war, he returned to the INS and was sent to Rome to establish an immigration office there. Shortly after arriving with his family, he visited Craco taking the first color home movies of the town.

 Also struck by change that would have growing impact over the next four decades, was the paper stock business. Since the early part of the 20th century, New York businesses were required to pay for waste disposal. The two waste streams, garbage handled by carting companies and recyclable waste (i.e., paper, rags, metal, etc.) created opportunities for small businesses and allowed the Crachesi to dominate the waste paper portion.

 In 1956 the Department of Sanitation of the City of New York changed the laws regarding waste disposal, closing a loophole that existed for businesses in residential areas who could get free garbage disposal by the City which picked up the residential and business trash in some areas. This added 50,000 new business customers and created an opportunity for a criminal cartel to organize and grow until closed down by law enforcement. But as the cartel grew, it was a factor, along with other changes that began impacting the small family owned paper stock businesses which had provided a livelihood for so many Cracotan immigrants’ families.

 While growing prosperity and governmental attempts to improve conditions were changing the old order in New York, similar situations in Italy would impact Craco and create changes during the next decade that doomed the old town but also created a new wave of Crachesi immigrants who would bring with them the traditions and culture that were being lost by third generation Crachesi in North America.

Craco News

“La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno,” a Basilicata regional newspaper, recently published an article highlighting growth in the number of visitors to Craco.  Mayor Giuseppe Lacicerchia reported 3,800 visitors through August 2014 compared to approximately 2,800 for the entire year prior. Visitors come from Italy (80%) and the remainders are British, American, Dutch, Brazilian and small groups of Japanese.

 “The activation of the Craco card,” said Lacicerchia, “and a safe path that allows visitors to reach much of the old town, to discover places and monuments, which still have their charm intact, has contributed to a growing interest in our picturesque village.”

 He added, “Cultural events and entertainment have reinforced this trend.  In the fourth week of October, in combination with the Chamber of Commerce of Matera, the feast of San Vincenzo will focus on innovation in agriculture, food and wine, and this will create an additional element of attraction.”


Click here to view A Year in Craco.  Events in Craco for every month are listed.  Thank you to Joe Rinaldi in Canada for his contribution to this page.

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