Sure Manhattan’s Columbus Day Parade is great if you’re a fan of being crushed by hordes of tourists, but Brooklyn’s celebration of the late great Italian explorer isn’t just more intimate and community-centric, it also takes place on an avenue bearing Columbus’s name.
Unbeknownst to many, 18th Avenue is co-named Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard, and has been since shortly after Brooklyn got its own Columbus Day Parade.
The parade was started 35-years-ago, in 1981, by the Federation of Italian-American Organizations (FIAO), who were given the idea by a local bank official. “He came to us as well as to a variety of different businesses on 18th Avenue,” Federation of Italian American Organizations board chairman and Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade committee executive chairperson Jack Spatola said of the bank official, who’s name was Bob Bush.
“He wasn’t Italian-American, but due to the prevalence of the Italian-American ethnic presence in the area, Bob felt a parade coming from within the community would be of great value to the youth,” Spatola went on. “Two years hence he was transferred to another bank in Westchester and FIAO has been running it since.”
As for 18th Avenue’s alternate title, that came to be in 1987. “It was an initiative with a former Council Member. He lived in Dyker Heights. He came to the Federation with the proposal and we thought it was absolutely wonderful,” Spatola recalled.
To Spatola’s knowledge, Brooklyn’s Cristoforo Colomobo Boulevard — which runs from 60th Street to Shore Road — is not only the longest dedicated avenue in New York City, but also the only venue bearing Christopher Columbus’s Italian name.
This year’s parade will take place tomorrow on Saturday, October 8. It will be preceded by a celebratory Mass and reception, followed by a march down 18th Avenue from 60th Street to 84th Street.