Welcome to El Barrio, Speaker! But, watch out for the “Trampilla” that may get you on your way out!

Dear Speaker Quinn:

I know you’re not here tonight, but hopefully you are listening.

If you recall, we welcomed you to East Harlem when you came to hear our concerns about affordable housing. (Of course, you ignored the solution we proposed to turn thousands of vacant lots and empty buildings in El Barrio and elsewhere in the city into homes for those in need.)

Many of our stakeholders continue to welcome you at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for big-box malls whose commercial clients have failed to meet the local hiring thresholds they’d promised … or private charter schools developments built on public housing land at the expense of tenants’ gardens and picnic areas.

Some even welcomed you back to East Harlem last Friday to kick-off our Three Kings Day parade, which ended at La Marqueta – the cultural landmark your commission had planned to remove from our district during the first go-round.

Personally, I do not support your record with regards to my neighborhood and I oppose your current plan to decimate my community with the new Council District 8 map that you’re proposing.

I am appalled that you would jeopardize our constitutional right to have equitable representation at the City Council level for what some say is straight-up political retribution.

As you may know, Speaker Quinn, I was a plaintiff in two lawsuits that successfully prevented the city from contracting with private schools to grant them exclusive after-school access to public ball fields on Randall’s Island.

So, I take personal issue with your plan to remove 40% of our public parkland – 265 acres – from our district. Randall’s Island is our backyard and it is the people of East Harlem who should have a say about what happens there.

Randall’s Island is also home to up to 1,500 homeless adults who can’t afford to live in their own district, or anywhere else in the city. What would happen, I wonder, if each and every one of those folks were to register to vote for the upcoming mayoral election?

Do you think this mostly African American and Latino constituency would appreciate the fact that you gave control over their well being to an unseen, unknown legislator from Queens?

Do you honestly think Latinos in El Barrio and throughout the city will ever forget that you allowed our home – our cuna – to be carved up and handed over to the Harlem, Bronx and Queens political machinery?

I implore you to reconsider your plan. Our community is about much more than real estate and political vendettas. It is about a history that must be preserved and will not be erased!

You have the power to turn this around, just as voters have the power to decide who will be the next mayor.

Testimony presented at the January 7, 2013 Manhattan Districting Commission Hearing at Hunter College by Marina Ortiz, East Harlem resident.

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