His parents, however, insisted on staying in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood they knew and loved. Somewhat reluctantly, Scotto remained in Brooklyn and took over the family business, Scotto’s Funeral Home.
Though he now lives in Bay Ridge, a nice neighborhood with a slightly suburban feel, Scotto soon discovered his heart had always belonged to his hometown of Carroll Gardens. His children would move there of their own accord when they got older.
“I decided that I was going to do what I could to convince the Italian-American community in Carroll Gardens that they did not have to flee to the suburbs, that we could improve conditions here in what we now call Carroll Gardens,” said Scotto, who formed the Carroll Gardens Association in 1964.
He made it his mission to clean up the filthy and foul-smelling Gowanus Canal. In 1975, he secured $458 million from the federal government to build the Red Hook Water Treatment Plant. He co-founded the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, an organization funded by the Department of Housing & Community Renewal, in 1978.
Scotto couldn’t be happier that the Gowanus Canal is now clean enough to actually have fish swimming in it, but his dream isn’t complete yet. Development along the canal still faces fervent opposition.
“It’s very difficult for me to understand how people could possibly be against development in this day and age, when we’re in the throes of a recession, that people were scared stiff we were going into a depression,” said Scotto. “We need economic development.”
Nonetheless, private developers are eager to move in. Scotto said the developers are waiting for Toll Brothers to begin building.
“We will continue to fight to support the developers in going in there and turning the neighborhood of the Gowanus Canal into a neighborhood that we can be proud of instead of being embarrassed over,” said Scotto.