LITTLE ITALY — A lifelong Little Italy resident wants to take back his family’s donation of a statue to the Italian American Museum because of its plans to evict an 85-year-old woman who has lived in her apartment for more than 50 years.
“Why should [museum founder and president Joseph V. Scelsa] have a piece of our history if he’s trying to get rid of a piece of history?” said Ernest Magliato, 34, whose family donated a more than 100-year-old statue of Madonna del Soccorso to the museum in 2009.
Magliato said his family was upset over the museum’s decision to evict Adele Sarno, who has lived in her apartment at 185 Grand St. for 53 years, so it could move forward with plans to expand the museum by selling the building to a developer and relocating into a new structure.
“It’s absolutely terrible,” Magliato said.
He said his family hasn't told the museum of their decision yet because they needed to find a place to store the 4-foot religious sculpture, which weighs more than 150 pounds.
The museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Magliato said his family donated the statue — which depicts the patron saint of Sciacca, Sicily — to the museum in 2009.
Immigrants brought the statue to Little Italy at the turn of the century and celebrated Madonna del Soccorso's June feast day on Elizabeth Street until the 1970s, he said.
When the chapel that housed the statue closed about five years ago, Magliato’s aunts — who were members of the Society of the Madonna del Soccorso — acquired the monument and donated it to the Italian American Museum.
“We wanted it be displayed,” Magliato said. “At the time we thought [donating it to the museum] was the best for it.”
But when they heard about Sarno’s plight, they decided to take back the religious sculpture.
“It came up in conversation that we should really take it out and anybody who’s given anything [to the museum] should also take their stuff out,” he said.
Sarno said she was supportive of Magliato's decision.
“I think it’s a good idea. It was so devastating, what happened to me after 50 years here. I’m trying to get an apartment and it’s very hard,” she said.