Ralph Perfetto was a towering figure in Coney Island. Community-minded, kind, funny, and caring, Ralph was instrumental in saving the Italian residential section of the neighborhood from urban renewal destruction in the 1960s. His confrontations with Borough President Abe Stark, and Planning Commissioner Donald Elliot, led to the City’s reversal of their plan to demolish every block west of Stillwell Avenue. Ralph also was the driving force behind two neighborhood improvement groups including Associated Tenants and Landlords, which later became Astella Development Corporation, a non-profit community-based organization that provided affordable housing and commercial revitalization of the Coney Island neighborhood.
Ralph remained active in politics and became a private investigator, always sharply dressed, resembling a private eye in a Dashiell Hammett novel. “Ralphie from 16th Street,” as he jokingly called himself, was an important part of my book, Coney Island: Lost and Found, and he was also an instrumental voice in my forthcoming documentary about Coney Island Creek. In the oral history that I recorded for the Coney Island History Project in 2007, Ralph begins by telling the story of his birth in Coney Island twenty-two years to the day after his mother in the same house. Coney Island will never be the same without him. He will be missed. -- Charles Denson
Services will be held at Scarpaci Funeral Home, 1401 86th Street, Brooklyn, on Sunday, July 16, from 2-7 PM. Mass at St. Andrew the Apostle Church, 6713 Ridge Blvd, Brooklyn, on Monday, July 17, at 10:45 AM.
Ralph with his granddaughter, Lynda Perfetto, Little Miss Mermaid winner, 1985 Mermaid Parade.
Ralph reminiscing about his childhood on Coney Island creek. Photo by Charles Denson