Note: There has been some controversy for some time over charges of the mismanagement of the city-owned building housing the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in Manhattan’s East Harlem. In a highly controversial move, alleging mismanagement by Taller Boricua, New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverto intervened to change the management of the center working through the city’s Economic Development Agency. This has caused major divisions in El Barrio’s artistic community. The latest flare-up is reported below by El Diario columnist Gerson Borrero over allegations that the Councilwoman disrespected elder community leader Yolanda Sanchez at a recent meeting (in which Ms. Sanchez was not present).
Yolanda Sanchez, 78 years old, is an institution in the Latino community who has spent over thirty years in the development and management of diverse human services. She serves as the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs and is President of the National Latinas Caucus, past president of the East Harlem Council for Human Services and former director of the CUNY Office of Puerto Rican Program Development. Ms. Sanchez is a former National Urban Fellow and a graduate of Harvard University’s School of Business, and holds an MSW degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Social Work.
Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was elected to the City Council in January 2006 to serve as Council Member for the 8th Council District. She is the first Puerto Rican woman and Latina elected to represent her district. During her first term, Melissa has sponsored several local laws to address tenant harassment and promote construction safety.
Prior to her election to the City Council, the Councilwoman worked for the 1199 SEIU New York’s Health Care Union, as well as several community organizations and political campaigns. Besides her professional life, Melissa has been very active in community affairs, founding Women of El Barrio-an organization that promotes the development of women as leaders in the economic, political and social life of their community.
Angelo Falcón National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP)
Row over Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in El Barrio
By Gerson Borrero | Bajofuego@eldiariony.com
El Diario-La Prensa (March 2, 2011)
Translated from Spanish by NiLP
In a two-page letter, the Board of Directors of Casabe Houses accuses New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito of having insulted and threatened them during a meeting in her office in Manhattan in what was intended to be a discussion about the future of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center. As highlighted by the February 24 letter, signed by Frank Quiles in his capacity as president of the organization that provides housing and services to the elderly, Mark-Viverito “used the occasion to talk rudely of Yolanda Sánchez , who is a member of our Board and one of the most respected leaders of the Puerto Rican and Latino community of New York City over the past thirty years.”
Beyond the bickering that provoked the letter, it was signed by nine other members of the Board, including Ms. Sanchez, and accused of the City Councilwomen of the 8th District of telling them, “I’ve already made the decision,” to support another group to take charge of the Cultural Center, which has been allegedly mismanaged by the current managers.
“They never approached me and did not let me know of their interest” said Mark-Viverito as she thundered against what she considered a lack of respect. According to the Councilwoman, “They came to the meeting with the intention of an ambush and trying to tarnish my reputation.”
After calming down, Mark-Viverito in a telephone conversation admitted that she did tell them, “My support has already been given to another organization.” However, she denied that she threatened them or insulted Ms. Sanchez. “I was firm in my tone,” said Mark-Viverito, who added, “I am a human being.” She assured us that there will be a formal response to the group.
To all this we assume that once the Hispanic Federation, the theater group Pregones, Los Pleneros de la 21 and the Puerto Rican Travelling Theatre saw this aired in public, they will re-evaluate their participation in the Mark-Viverito coalition created to assume direction of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center.” Yolanda is 78 and Melissa, who is not even of El Barrio, disrespected her,” said one activist who asked not to be identified but who is bothered by this rumor.
Be seen as making the city agency, Economic Development Corporation, who could receive a formal complaint about what was supposed to come from the mayor. All pending. “I was firm in my tone,” said Mark-Viverito, who added, “I am a human being.”
The official assured us that there will be a formal response to the group. To all this we assume that once the Hispanic Federation, the theater group Pregones, Los Pleneros de la 21 and the Puerto Rican Travelling Theatre to see this aired in public, re-evaluate their participation in the Mark-Viverito coalition created to assume direction of Julia de Burgos.
“Yolanda is 78 and Melissa, who is not even in El Barrio, disrespected,” said one activist who asked not to be identified but who is bothered by the already rumored on the street. We are waiting to see what the city agency, the Economic Development Corporation, who could receive a formal complaint about what the Councilwoman is planning. Let’s wait and see.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
In Search of “flamboyant Language”
By Albert Medina
El Diario-La Prensa (4 de marzo 2011)
Translated from Spanish by Albert Medina
In an article on 2 March in El Diario/La Prensa, Gerson Borrero commented on a letter received from Frank Quiles in the name of the organization over which he presided, saying that Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito had commented “in showy language” against Yolanda Sanchez.”
What were those flamboyant words?
He also wrote that an activist – not named – had told him that Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito -was not from El Barrio! (the neighborhood) What Puerto Rican is not from El Barrio? Even those born in the United States.
Celia Ramirez, who represents East River North Renewal HDFC, should also have been mentioned when he listed the organizations participating in the coalition supported by Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. T
he values and material objects that make up a shared way of life: the intangible creations of human society; and the products which emerged out of the interactions of people – within the limitations of the then geographic boundaries that encompassed El Barrio, NY – is not something to be glossed over lightly.
Albert Medina East River North Renewal 212-427-3130.