September 4, 2006

Don Otilio Diaz 1930-2006

Don Otilio Diaz, executive director of La Casa de la Herencia Cultural Puertorriquena, died peacefully on Monday, August 21, 2006. He was 75. Mr. Diaz had no children, but is survived here in New York City by a sister, a nephew, and many nieces and cousins.

Photo of Don Otilio DiazA public memorial was held Wednesday, August 30 and Thursday, August 31 at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center in East Harlem. Religious services were held Friday, September 1 at Saint Cecilia's Church. Mr. Diaz will now be buried in his hometown of Guayama, Puerto Rico.


Otilio Diaz was born 1930 in Guayama, near the southern coast of Puerto Rico. He earned a B. A. from the University of Puerto Rico and an M.S. in Educational Administration from Fordham University.

In 1981, Mr. Diaz joined La Casa de la Herencia Cultural Puertorriquena, Inc. as its Executive Director. Over the next 25 years, he worked diligently to promote traditional Puerto Rican arts and culture, including folkloric dancing and music - and to welcome frequent visitors from Puerto Rico and other Latin American nations. Intensely proud of his heritage, Mr. Diaz was also instrumental in the agency's acquisition of thousands of books and artifacts from and about Puerto Rico. As a result, La Casa is greatly appreciated by many in the Puerto Rican and Latino community.

The board of directors of La Casa de la Herencia Cultural Puertorriquena, Inc. has held several meetings to discuss the agency's future, and will now begin moving forward to implement their Strategic Plan. For more information, call (212) 722-2600 or visit

This press release was provided by La Casa and special thanks to Ms. Marina Ortiz.

Posted by Jose at 12:09 PM

June 30, 2003

Rafael Flores In Remembrance

Raphael Antonio Flores (1947-2003)
Eulogy & Remembrance by Kelly Vilar

When the son of man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right. Come, you who are blessed by my father take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me. Mathew 25: 31-36

He was the Ralph who cared.

He'd travel to the ends of the earth to help souls in need….

Raphael Antonio Flores was born March 10, 1947. His mother Carmen Delia Araujo Flores keeps the fondest memories of his childhood. At about 8 years old Ralph was attached to his little red wagon. He took it everywhere with him. He would carry it up the five flights of stairs of 1559 Lexington Ave, the tenement where he grew up in El Barrio right between 99 and 100 Street. He brought it down the stairs to help his mom carry bags home from the supermarket…to his mom, he will always be the little boy with his red wagon. Even up to his last days Raphael and his mom had such a closeness…She became his personal secretary taking care of all the papers and things he carried around with him…just like he did in his little red wagon.

Ralph is also survived by his father Vladimiro Flores who like Raphael was a man who stood tall, broad and proud in stature. His brothers and sisters were Richie, Vladimiro, Jr. also known as "Blado", Orlando, Paula, Juana and Ramona. Each had a special place in Ralph's heart who they affectionately called "Fello." In addition, to simply being their "Bro" Orlando recalls they always had good times as kids as long as Ralph stayed on his sloppy side of the room. Juana remembers how Fello was always ready to help anyone who asked.

As Ralph takes his journey with the lord, he leaves us his favorite person in the whole world…His beautiful daughter Monique…who had many special moments including achieving a recent dream her dad always had for her…to earn her Master's degree and graduate from college which was just days before his passing. Working side by side with Monique and raising their two beautiful children is Ralph's son in law Mike. Ralph's grandchildren Sean and Madison were yet another joy in Ralph's life. He loved spending time with them and making them laugh.

Additionally, Ralph was survived by several cousins, nieces, nephews and hundreds of friends and adopted family members who each shared special times with him.

Ralph enlisted in the United States Army in 1966 where he served as a SPEC4 (a specialist in equipment repair and inventory). He was stationed in Colorado and then over 15 months in Fairbanks, Alaska, which happened to be where his brother Richie was working on the pipeline. Ralph received an honorary discharge in 1968.

One of Ralph's loves was his Barrio. The land he loved so much. Ralph loved everything about El Barrio….the café con leche, the congas playing on hot summer days, even the six floor walk up to his old apartment on 105 street and let's not forget to mention the brick walls…To Ralph this was nature and the great outdoors.

While Ralph was not one to sit in a classroom, he did eventually take various college courses and certifications in substance abuse treatment and counseling. Raphael graduated from Harran High School and always boasted how he had perfect attendance. He also attended Commander Shea right on 111 Street…a school he was so proud to be a part of. But no degrees or certifications could put a value on the vast amount of information and knowledge he had when it came to getting down to the nitty gritty in helping people and doing what no one was doing….touching the hearts of people! Helping people right where they were, not behind a desk. He made countless trips to escort drug addicted teens to out of state drug treatment facilities to get clean; walked for miles to help someone find housing; or spent nights and days counseling and listening to homeless HIV positive people deal with the realities of getting medical care or shelter. So Ralph may not have had a PhD from Harvard or Yale….but hands down he was the Doctor of Crisis Intervention, the Master of Counseling, the Professor of Substance Abuse Treatment, the Dean of Streetwork Outreach and the Rhodes Scholar of Eliminating Red Tape.

Not a story could be told about Raphael Flores without mentioning his compassion for others. In the 1970s Ralph founded and was the executive director for more than 25 years of the first and only crisis intervention center run by youth and for youth. He, along with a group of teenagers from El Barrio created Hot Line Cares in response to the growing need for drug addicted youth to gain access into drug treatment programs. Raphael led the way and for many years Hot Line Cares using a youth development through youth involvement approach helped thousands find drug treatment and become drug free; counseled hundreds of runaways who gained access to housing; removed red tape allowing many people to get medical care, entitlement services or simply a hot meal. Raphael paved the way for new corridors for poor people to get services…He touched so many lives…broke up so many bureaucratic channels…and set trends in human services in so many ways. As a result Raphael leaves behind an incredible legacy in the volunteers, staff, clients and board members of Hotline who were also called "la familia," a term Ralph used often when talking about the people Hotline touched…

Unlike anyone else we'll ever meet in our lifetime, Raphael believed with all his heart that anything was possible; he had a childlike enthusiasm; was authentic in character and always said what he believed. He took tireless action to help others and loved people endlessly.

Raphael was a believer.

He believed in the lord, in El Barrio, in its people, in salsa, in Hotline, in helping others, in good cuchifrito, in laughing, in crying, in listening, in praying, and most of all He believed in you.
Raphael Antonio Flores
La Pana Del Barrio
We'll miss you

To my loving Father…
from Monique Flores

My father was a man who gave his life for others, putting his needs to the side. As a child growing up all I knew was my father's work at Hot Line Cares…the countless days and nights that were spent helping people in need. He had a certain charisma about him, one that drew people to him. He had a way of making people laugh.

I will never forget my father for he taught me how to love others and put God first. To never forget who I am and to always give back.

Dad was a dedicated man not only to his work but to his family as well. I truly believe he was a godsend to people in need and now god has called him back home to continue his journey.

Dad, your work, dedication, and perseverance will never be forgotten. The many lives you touched, make you alive in us everyday.

The love he shared with his grandchildren Sean & Madi will forever be an imprint on who they become when they grow up.

You dad, are one of the very few people who get a chance in life to know their purpose and to truly be remembered forever. I have been blessed to have you as my father and best friend whose memory and purpose will always live within me.

So friends and loved ones do not be saddened by his departure. Let's celebrate the life of my dad for he would not want any of us to grieve, but to rejoice for he is with our heavenly lord. He's only resting and I look to the day when we will be together again.

Te Quiero,


Posted by Jose at 5:21 PM

January 1, 2001

Miosotis New District Manager

Photo of Ms. Miosotis MunozEast Harlem - January 1, 2001- Miosotis Munoz, a former East Harlem resident has been chosen by the Community Board # 11 District Manager search committee to become the next CB # 11 District Manager.

East Harlem Online appreciates that a Hispanic was chosen. And we wish Miosotis Munoz well. Being District Manager is not an easy task and East Harlem Online extends itself to her if she ever needs technical assistance. (Computing). Ms. Munoz has been nothing but a friend to East Harlem Online. She deserves all our full support.

All that remains is for the full board to vote Ms. Munoz as District Manager in its upcoming January 3, 2001 meeting at La Guardia House (see calendar for details)

Update: East Harlem - January 4, 2001 - Ms. Munoz was voted on and accepted as the next Community Board # 11 District Manager at the January 3, 2001 meeting of the board (under executive session). The board's decision will be announced at the January 16, 2001 board meeting. Good Luck Miosotis.

Update: East Harlem - February 7, 2001 - East Harlem Online erroneously reported that Ms. Munoz was a Washington Heights resident. Actually, she is a former East Harlem resident. We apologize for this error, and continue to wish Ms. Munoz the best in her new position.

Update: East Harlem - June 2001 - Ms. Munoz has resigned from her job as District Manager and has found employment with the office of Congressman Charles Rangel. The search for a new District Manager is on again.

Update: East Harlem - March 2002 - Board # 11 is still seeking a District Manager.

Update - January 2004: CB #11 has a new DM and Ms. Sotis is still at Congressman Rangel's office.

Posted by Jose at 4:56 PM

January 1, 2000

Oscar Garcia Rivera

It takes great pleasure and pride to include Oscar Garcia Rivera, the first Puerto Rican to hold elective office in the continental United State, as the first Inductee in the East Hall of Fame.

This writer learned about Oscar Garcia Rivera quite by accident. I happened upon the unveiling of a historic exhibition during Hispanic Heritage Month on September 14, 1987 on a day off while stationed in Albany, NY (U.S. Navy). I sat fascinated as the late assemblyman's life was told by those were close to him.

A small ten page booklet was handed out to those in attendance and this writer was lucky enough to get one. It was promptly carefully stored away. Throughout the years I have pulled the booklet out and marveled at the life that Assemblyman Rivera led. It seemed unfortunate that most of today's generation knows little about him. When the idea of having a Hall of Fame for East Harlem Online occurred to me, Oscar Garcia Rivera seemed like the right person to the first inducted.

East Harlem Online hopes you enjoy reading about the history of this truly extraordinary person
(This history is totally taken from the small booklet handed out during the unveiling of a historic exhibition at the Empire State Plaza on Monday, September 14, 1987.)

State Assemblyman Oscar Garcia Rivera
Oscar Garcia Rivera served in the New York State Assembly from 1937 to 1940. He was the first American of Puerto Rican heritage to be elected to public office in the continental United States.

Born November 6, 1900 in the City of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Garcia Rivera demonstrated at an early age exceptional scholarship and leadership qualities. These were evidenced by his selection as valedictorian at the Escuela Central Grammar (Junior High School) and his subsequent election as President of the High School of Mayaguez in 1925.

In 1917 an event occurred that had a profound effect on Garcia Rivera's life. President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Jones Act, granting United States citizenship to some 1,800,000 residents of Puerto Rico, This act also opened the doors for Puerto Ricans to hold public office in the United States mainland.

Soon after his graduation from the High School of Mayaguez, Garcia Rivera traveled to New York for the first time. While there he became concerned with the needs of the poor and working class of the city. Although the son of a wealthy family that owned a coffee plantation in Puerto Rico, Garcia Rivera left that life and returned to New York in 1926. This time he would stay, determined to fulfill his dream of becoming a lawyer and representative for the poor and working class.

In 1926 he held a part-time job at the Boerum and Pease Binder factory in Brooklyn, while waiting for the results of a Postal Clerk's examination. Scoring 98.4% on that test, Garcia Rivera immediately was appointed to the City Hall Post Office which was considered to be a prestigious assignment.

While there, he organized the Puerto Rican and Hispanic employees and encouraged them to become active in the Postal Clerks' Union of America. As this previously untold story unfolds, it will unveil his labor activities, which earned him the respect and support of the most prominent labor leaders in the country.

In 1930, Oscar Garcia Rivera became one of the pioneer law graduates from the St. John's University School of Law, which had been established three years earlier. Several decades later, that prestigious institution would become the Alma Mater of many prominent and influential lawyers, including the Honorable Mario M. Cuomo Governor of The State Of New York.

After his graduation from St. John's, Garcia Rivera practiced his legal profession before State and Federal courts. He established his own law firms at Wall Street, Mid Manhattan and in the Spanish Harlem section of the City. "Spanish Harlem" was the nickname for the upper east side of Manhattan County, where approximately 20,000 Spanish speaking Americans lived during the early 1900's At his law office in Spanish Harlem, he often offered pro-bono representation to the poor who could not afford to defend themselves in the courts.

During the Great Depression, employment opportunities were scarce across all of the United States, but in Spanish Harlem joblessness was devastating. The high rate of unemployment gave rise to a high crime rate. Frustration and resentment were increased by the fact that public service jobs created by Tammany Hall were not offered to the Puerto Rican community. Schools in Spanish Harlem were overcrowded, housing was severely limited, and the residents of the area were the objects of police brutality and discrimination by neighbors and government officials. To compound all of these problems, the language barrier made communication and representation a constant difficulty for residents of Spanish Harlem.

Hoping that he could eliminate these conditions, Oscar Garcia Rivera launched his candidacy for public office. His leadership qualities were demonstrated by the diverse and bipartisan support which he mustered for his campaign. (Fun fact; Oscar Garcia Rivera was a Republican).

The list of supporters included: New York City's Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, New York City District Attorney Thomas Dewey (later Governor of the State), and Union leaders like Michael J. Quill, TWU, George Meaney, AFL/CIO, Alex Rose and Benjamin MacLauren.

In 1937, Garcia Rivera was elected to the New York Assembly becoming the first Puerto Rican in history to be elected to public office in the continental United States. He was reelected in 1938 and continued to serve in the state Assembly until 1940.

A review of some of the historic correspondence from The Oscar Garcia Rivera files reveals the way in which his candidacy was held by labor and other significant organizations. We include some of the quotations of the day:

October 27, 1938

"We are extremely happy that you decided to become a candidate for reelection ... (our) ... endorsement comes with profound feeling that in your election, we shall have in Albany a true and tried representative of Labor"

Michael J. Quill
International President,
Transport Workers Union of America

September 29, 1938

"...after a careful analysis of the records of the candidates running for Member of The Assembly .. a favorable report on your record ... entitles you to Labor's support."

Thomas OLeary, Chairman
Central Trades and Labor Council-AFL

August 24, 1938

"(We) have the pleasure of informing you ... (that) by unanimous vote (we) ... extend (our) sincere appreciation and thanks...for your earnest and constant support of Labor legislation."

George Meany, President
New York State Federation of Labor

September 27, 1937

"I am delighted on behalf of the State Executive Committee to officially inform you of your nomination by the American Labor Par- public office.

(Our) active campaign in your behalf by our membership .. will result in your victory .. on November 2, 1937."

Alex Rose State Campaign Director American Labor Party

Assemblyman Oscar Garcia Rivera was a tireless supporter of Child Labor and labor services and protective laws. On February 3, 1939 his Unemployment Insurance Bill was accepted by the Assembly. The provisions of the bill would:

1. Make all employers, instead of those employing four or more persons, liable for contributions to the unemployment insurance fund.

2. Provide for payment of full 16 weeks' insurance benefits to claimants qualified by 18 weeks employment in any one year.

3. Reduce the necessary unemployment period, after application for benefits, from five to two weeks.

4. Make benefits available to anyone earning less than $5.a week instead of $2 a week.

His other labor related bills, although not adopted at the time, provided for:

* Penalties for violators of the State's Labor Relations Act;

* Establishing minimum wages and minimum hours for men, women and children;

* Establishing a division of hours and wages (within the Labor Department) and

* The creation of a Wage Board.

* Bill calling for two days rest in seven for certain (Government) employees was also submitted by Assemblyman Oscar Garcia Rivera in January 17, 1939. Other labor related bills submitted by Garcia Rivera provided for:

* Certificates of Incorporation of Labor Organizations

* The right of employees to organize and negotiate on grievances, and

* An appropriation to The State Labor Department for its responsibilities of certifying private employment agencies.

Quite a small district, wasn't it.

The Assembly Chamber at the time Oscar Garcia Rivera served as East Harlem's representative. Click on the image to see a larger version of this map

The New York State Department of Labor and the Office of General Services, together with the Governor's Office for Hispanic Affairs, take great pride in presenting this publication in recognition of the late New York State Assemblyman Oscar Garcia Rivera.

His tireless and excellent work on behalf of the underprivileged and the working class is worthy of such recognition.

Upon his death in 1969 in his hometown of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Assemblyman Oscar Garcia Rivera left us with an enviable record of achievement for all of labor to emulate.

The information provide in this biography was written and compiled by Mr. Jose Angel Noriega, President, Committee to Commemorate Oscar Garcia Rivera, for the New York State Department of Labor, 1987. East Harlem Online would like to thank the family of Oscar Garcia Rivera and Mr. Noriega, for the information provided herein. We proud to have former Assemblyman, the late Oscar Garcia Rivera as our first inductee into the East Harlem Online Hall of Fame.

Editor's Note:
On February 22, 2002 the East Harlem "Hellgate" post office was renamed the Oscar Garcia Rivera Post Office. Below are links to pictures of El Diario's newspaper coverage of the event.
El Diario Picture Caption - March 6, 2002
El Diario Article Page - February 22, 2002

Posted by Jose at 2:52 PM

December 1, 1999

Henry Comas

December 1999 - Mr. Henry Comas, a life long resident of New York City, has dedicated himself to improving living conditions in his community through his work in youth services and housing and economic development. A 40-year-old father of one, Mr. Comas is fully bilingual and bicultural.

In the winter of 1999, Mr. Comas was chosen to participate as a US Department of Housing, Urban and Development Community Builder Fellow. The program was designed to advance the department's mission and to serve as the initial point of contact and critical link for communities to the full range of the departments' programs and services. HUD interviewed over 8,000 potential candidates across the United States, Mr. Comas was one of 400 selected to participate as a fellow. He is responsible for specific program areas and cross-discipline roles representing HUD at all public events, educating customer groups and general public on HUD Programs and serve as the initial point of contact with all elected officials and Congressional staff.

Mr. Comas joined HUD after working for the East Harlem Council for Community Improvement (EHCCI) as both Youth Program Coordinator and Project Development Coordinator for Hellgate Management Corporation, a subsidiary of EHCCI. In his former role, Henry coordinated 4 NYC-Department of Youth Services and Housing Authority youth programs specializing in the prevention of juvenile delinquency (City Sports, City Initiatives RFP II, Career Readiness Entrepreneurial Workshop and the Beacon Initiative). As Project Development Coordinator, he was responsible for the development and implementation of housing and economic development programs designed to preserve and upgrade neighborhood-housing stock.. More specifically, Mr. Comas hired all program directors, assign work schedule, supervision of scope of work duties and staff performance evaluations under both titles.

Mr. Comas spent many years with the NYC- Department of Housing Preservation and Development. From January 1986 to June 1991, he was the acting Associate Real Estate Property Manager. Here he supervised five Real Property Managers; eight clerical and ten maintenance staffs in day-to-day operation and management of an excess of 1,000 residential and commercial city owned properties.

Apart from his diverse and vigorous employment interest, he is also an active volunteer in the community. Some past experiences include participation with the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Taskforce, which provided guidance and public recommendations in the submission of the EMZ application to HUD. Also he has participated on the La Marqueta Task Force and the Pathmark Supermarket Project, which ensured community input in the redevelopment efforts of The New York City Economic Development Corporation for La Marqueta and the 125th Street Corridor. He has been a member of Community Board #11 since 1990

Mr. Comas received his BA in Urban Planning from the State University of Buffalo in 1984 and in 1999 participated in the Executive Education Program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is a certified Registered Apartment Manager (RAM) and Certified Property Manager (CPM)

Webmaster Note: As you can see, East Harlem has been home to many well educated and experienced people. We are not lacking for the best. And Mr. Comas, Henry is among that group. East Harlem Online eagerly awaits Mr. Comas' return to our community after his fellowship is complete.

Posted by Jose at 12:23 AM

July 15, 1999

The Sharman Visit East Harlem

East Harlem Online received a beautiful visit from two southerners, Russell and Cheryl Sharman. The Sharmans are looking to relocate to New York City and one of the first places they checked for information was this web site.

The Sharmans arranged to meet with East Harlem Online founder, Jose B. Rivera at his apartment. The Sharmans it turns out are originally from the great state of Texas. They lived in Oxford, England while Russell completed his Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology. They also lived in Costa Rica for a year (this is where they picked up their Spanish skills). Cheryl wrote for an English newspaper and hopes to continue writing while in our community.

After meeting the Rivera family and a brief exchange of histories, Jose and the Sharmans went out to see East Harlem. The first thing the Russell and his lovely wife Cheryl wanted to see was some of James De La Vega's art. They visited De La Vega art on East 111th Street and Lexington Avenue, on 110th and Lexington, on 104th and on 103rd streets. They also saw the Hope Community, Inc. wall, restored by Manny Vega on the corner of East 104th and Lexington Avenue, and Graffiti Wall of Fame on 106th Street and Park Avenue. An attempt was made to visit Mr. De La Vega at his 103rd Street office, but (we later found out) he was busy being interviewed for a New York One (local cable news channel) piece featuring him as the New Yorker of the Week. Congrats to Mr. De La Vega.

After all that walking, the Sharmans and Mr. Rivera decided to take in some food. So they went to the Caribbean restaurant located on East 105th Street and Lexington Avenue. Where they meet up with no other than Willie Soto, a veteran of the war on Poverty and staunch defender of Puerto Rican rights. Mr. Soto questioned the couple and left. He wished them luck and offered them assistance in locating an apartment in our community. The meal was excellent (we had Cuban sandwiches) and the Sharmans went home for the day (they are staying with friends until they find a place in our community).

Russell and Cheryl Sharman would like to live in East Harlem. They have a particular dream. They are a Christian couple and their dream is to help house artists. In housing the artist they hope to free them from the worry of finding and paying for housing, and allow the artist to do their art. In return, these "housed" artists would give of their time to community residents who wish to learn more about art and how to do it. To accomplish their dream, the Sharmans need to purchase a building in which to house the artist. They admit it is a bit of a stretch as they can not currently purchase a building outright. But they have a deep abiding faith in God, whom they feel has given them this vision. Nothing is impossible, especially with faith. East Harlem Online welcomes the Sharmans to our community and wishes them well in their dream to house artists. If you can help the Sharmans find an apartment or obtain a building, send e-mail and East Harlem Online can arrange a meeting with them.

Posted by Jose at 3:15 PM

July 1, 1999

Anallisa Torres

July 1999 - Analisa was born in Manhattan in 1959 to Supreme Court Justice Frank Torres and granddaughter of the late Family court Judge Felipe Torres. Analisa is also the mother of 8-year-old Elena.

Ms. Torres began her working career as an attorney in private practice in major New York City law firms, including Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler 1988-1992; Coudert Brothers (1985-1987); Kaye Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler (1984-1985). She also taught Spanish, English and Introduction to Law at De La Salle Academy, a junior high school for gifted children from low-income families in 1987. Analisa was appointed by Mayor Dinkins to Commissioner to the New York City Planning Commission (1992-1995).

Ms. Torres attended Harvard College, and graduated with high honors, receiving an A.B. in 1981. Analisa then attended Columbia Law School under a Charles Evens Hughes Fellowship and graduated with J.D. degree in 1984.

Community Service
Below are some the the community services which Analisa has and continues to provide.

Volunteer Attorney to Women's Housing and Economic Development Corp. (WHEDCO), which helps women and their families by building affordable housing and providing job training, job placement and supportive services. WHEDCO built its first apartments in the South Bronx in 1997 in the old Morrisania Hospital, with 137 apartments for low-income and homeless women. (1991-Present).

Board Member, Lawyer's Alliance for New York, which provides free legal assistance to non-profit organizations serving New York City (1990-1994).

Representative of Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Museum of the City of New York Board of Trustees (1995-Present).

Chair of Volunteer Lawyers Committee, Puerto Rican Bar Association (1994 - Present). Board member, (1994-1997)

As you can see, Analisa Torres is quite a powerhouse when it comes to community activism and the law. .She recently campaigned to become a Civil Court Judge and won!. You can reach Analisa via her e-mail address at:

Posted by Jose at 12:17 AM

June 1, 1999

Henry Calderon

Mr. Henry Calderon is one of East Harlem's strongest business leaders. He runs a travel agency, insurance agency and real estate business.

June 1999 - Henry M. Calderón was born and raised in New York City, where he has continuously operated his business for over 20 years. Mr. Calderón studied at Baruch College, where he graduated in 1971 with a concentration in business administration and advertising. Since then, he has focused his energies on becoming an entrepreneur and representing the Hispanic business interest, not only in his daily business endeavors, but also via strategic appointments with other organizations.

Mr. Calderón, has been an aggressive advocate for the Hispanic business community at a local and national level. He is currently President of the East Harlem Chamber of Commerce, past President and founder of the New York State Federation of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (NYSFHCC), and currently represents Region V of the USHCC.

Mr. Calderón is recognized for his contributions and commitment to his community and was named Business Man of the Year for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and Man of the Year by the Boy Scouts of America.

Most recently, as it pertains to East Harlem, Mr. Calderón has been a staunch supporter of development. He in favor of the East River Plaza Project and also supported the development of the East 125th Street Pathmark.

Picture at right shows (left to right) Mr. Calderón with Guillermina Colón, Hispanic Market Specialist from the US Postal Service, and Aida Alvarez, Administrator for the Small Business Administration.

Henry Calderón is currently a member of Community Board # 11. And although he has been asked to lead this body, he has chosen to continue to improve and advocate for the business community. Mr. Calderón is currently a member of the Economic Development Zone (EDZ), CO-chair of the Bell Atlantic New York State Consumer Advisory Council, and a member of the Manhattan Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He also owns and operates the Calderón Travel Agency, Donrell Reality Corporation, and Calderón Brokerage.

As you can see, Mr. Calderón is a busy and active member of the East Harlem community. He has given of himself unselfishly. East is proud to know him.

Posted by Jose at 11:59 PM

May 1, 1999

Juana Ines Pacheco

May 1999 - Juana Ines Pacheco was born and raised in Washington, DC. While not a native East Harlemite, she has come to be known and respected as a community leader in just a few short years.

A graduate of Princeton University, Ms. Pacheco has dedicated her entire professional life to community and economic empowerment for Latinos, both on the West and East Coasts.

Ms. Pacheco was special assistant to the President & General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. Juana attributes Ms. Antonia Hernandez's dedication and commitment with inspiring her to pursue social justice issues, geared specifically for Latino empowerment. While not of Mexican heritage, Ms. Hernandez and the Latino community in Los Angeles were welcoming and nurturing to her as a young woman beginning her career.

After a number of years away from her family, Ms. Pacheco moved back east to Washington, DC to work as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill advocating for campaign finance reform. Working with the Ralph Nader group, Public Citizens' CONGRESSWATCH,

Photo to right - Juana Pacheco addressing the audience during the May 26 Community Board # 11 Public Hearing on the East River Plaza Project.

Juana researched FEC reports and other campaign documents to see the role that money plays in election results. She created position papers and reports on how campaign spending greatly affects women and people of color seeking to hold public office.

After a few years inside the Beltway, Juana began her graduate studies here in New York City as part of the National Urban Fellows program. Juana thanks Mr. Luis Alvarez and the Urban Fellows for the role they played in advancing her professional development with the Masters in Public Administration degree conferred upon her. Not only did the program provide a degree, they provided her with a tremendous network of mentors and role models which have served to provide her feedback and guidance in other pursuits. Most notable among these are Mr. Alfred Ramirez, Mr. Henry Cisneros, and Ms. Yolanda Sanchez.

Juana acknowledges the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs (PRACA) and most importantly Ms. Yolanda Sanchez in assisting her in her pursuit of community empowerment post Urban Fellows. Ms. Sanchez enabled Ms. Pacheco to begin her career in East Harlem, and also introduced her to her future husband Mr. Gilberto Cintron. After PRACA, Ms. Pacheco began raising her family, while also writing a book entitled Handsome Dividends - A Guide to Demystify the US Hispanic Market. This book was designed to show corporate America that the Latino community has very specific needs that should be acknowledged, especially in their marketing campaigns.

Photo at left - Juana Pacheco and Mark Alexander, the Executive Director of Hope Community, Inc., are all smiles after the May 26th Community Board # 11 meeting in which the board approved of the East River Plaza Project

Most recently, Ms. Pacheco was the Associate Director of the Office of the Governor of Puerto Rico here in Manhattan. During her tenure at the Governor's office, she was able to secure over $300,000 in grants for various community groups throughout the state. In addition, she supervised a staff of 6 that dealt directly with community issues - such as birth certificates, death certificates, job placement, translations, etc.

As the proud mother of 2 little girls, Ms. Pacheco would like to begin her own business venture sometime in the near future in order to spend more time with her family. Ms. Pacheco sits on the Board of Directors of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Community Board #11, Mt. Sinai Community Advisory Board, Metropolitan Hospital Community Advisory Board, and most importantly is the Vice President of her children's day care center's Parent Association, Taft Day Care Center.

Editor's Note: (April 2000) - Juana Pacheco has moved to Washington, D.C. where she works at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Good Luck Juana!

Posted by Jose at 11:49 PM

September 1, 1998

Gilberto Cintron

September 1998 - Gilberto "Gil" Cintrón, community resident, activist, multimedia producer, and cable show director.

gil_cintron.jpg (40087 bytes)Early History
Gilberto Cintrón is a life long resident of East Harlem. He was born in Mother Cabrini Hospital on July 16, 1954 to Wilfredo Cintrón, a barber, and Maria Esteves Mercado-Cintrón, a housewife, both from Lajas Puerto Rico. In 1956, the Cintrón family was one of the first to move into the Jefferson Houses on 112th Street between First and Second Avenues.

Gilberto, or Gil, as he prefers to be called, is a product of the New York City Public School System, more specifically, District Four. He attended P.S. 102, Jefferson Park Junior High School 117, and Benjamin Franklin High School.

At the time Gil was growing up, America was facing a civil war. Militant African-Americans (the Black Panthers) and Puerto Ricans (the Young Lords) were demonstrating and at times rioting in an effort to be recognized, and drugs ravaged the community. Many in the community fell victim to this disease. Eventually, Gil dropped out of High School and got involved with street life.

Years later, Gil obtained a high school equivalency diploma and his life changed. While reading gangster novels he realized that it was through community organizing that the Italian, Irish, and Jewish communities were able to change their lot in life. His thirst for knowledge was rekindled, and he read every book he could get his hands on, including Rules for Radicals, and Reveille for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. In an effort to resume his formal education, Gil enrolled in several Colleges, including, Miami Dade College, New Paltz University, and John Jay College for Criminal Justice, before transferring to Boricua College where he was finally able to obtain a Bachelors degree.

While attending Boricua College, Gil embarked on various community organizing ventures. He became a member of the 112th Street block association, and got involved in local politics with Angelo and Bill Del Toro. The first organization Gil created was while he was a participant in a program for ex-offenders created by the Del Toro brothers, JUST-US. This program taught building maintenance and management. Gil organized a construction crew which he called "Rican-struction", and went after sub-contracts from the large general contractors doing business in the East Harlem Community. Next he organized the Jeffersonville Homesteaders Association to fight against displacement due gentrification. As a result of an aggressive stance this organization took against local drug dealers, a new community based organization was born under the leadership of Gus Rosado, El Barrio’s Operation Fight back".

While Gil was involved in founding many organizations, one is of particular importance and significance to him. The East Harlem Council On Public Safety (The C.O.P.S.).

The C.O.P.S.
In the early 1980's, Thomas Jefferson Park, one of the largest public parks in East Harlem, had fallen victim to the local gangs and drug dealers. Where once this park was bustling with children and families, it was now a haven for thugs, local drug dealers and all other forms of anti-social activity. The lights in the park were broken as quickly as the park officials were able to fix them. Drug sales were common, and dead bodies were found there almost on a weekly basis.At this time, Gil was working as a community organizer at the Manhattan Legal Services Corporation on east 116th Street. Using the tactics and skills taught him by Ramon Jimenez, the Community Development Attorney at Manhattan Legal Services, Gil organized the East Harlem Council On Public Safety. This organization was a mix of the Young Lords and the Guardian Angels. Armed with Citizen Band radios (C.B.’s) members of the C.O.P.S. patrolled the area around the Jefferson Houses, including Thomas Jefferson Park.

Because of his street savvy and gumption, Gil was able to forge a relationship with the gangs leader "Blackie".

gil_jbr.jpg (20266 bytes)From terrorizing the community, this gang, which now aligned itself with the East Harlem C.O.P.S. , became the parks greatest projector. The then Mayor, Edward Koch and the parks Commissioner, Henry Stern met with this unlikely union and presented them with awards for "Outstanding Citizenry". The local Council member, Carolyn Maloney, remarked that "Gil Cintrón and the East Harlem Council On Public Safety were a remarkable team and at the vanguard of taking the community back".

Photo at right - Gil and the author review tape to be shown on cable TV.

By now the C.O.P.S. who were recognized by all local groups and police precincts obtained the very first volunteer permit from the NYC Department of Parks for Thomas Jefferson Park, and embarked on a course of revitalization. Later under the leadership of Gil and a member of the 112th Street Block Association, Thomas Teamo, an organization called "The Friends of Jefferson Park" was created and many other community groups joined to force the City to renovate the Thomas Jefferson Park. Today, while the East Harlem C.O.P.S. is no longer in existence, and the Friends of Jefferson Park is inactive, there has been over fifteen million dollars worth of renovations made, and the Thomas Jefferson Park stands as a beacon of hope for all East Harlem residents. As a testament of this communities accomplishment, The East Harlem Gladiators, under the leadership of Rafaela "Negra" and Mickey Rosario, a wife and husband team, operate one of the most successful boxing gyms in all of Manhattan.

Gil went on to pursue higher education, and obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work. Today he is a Certified Social Worker, a father to two beautiful little girls, Atabex and Cemi Cintrón, and his wife, Juana Ines Pacheco-Cintrón.

East Harlem Online is proud to highlight the good work that Gil has done for El Barrio. We will no doubt be hearing a lot more of Mr. Cintrón's accomplishments in the years to come.

Further Information:

Gilberto Cintrón, CSW
Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service
New York, N.Y. Master ’s Degree in Social Work
Boricua College, New York, NY, Bachelor of Science

Founder and President El Barrio Broadcasting Corporation

A non-profit organization to offer Latino youth opportunities in radio, video, and television production.

Co-Founder and Executive Director, Talent Unlimited Corporation

Co-founded this youth organization to offer young people alternatives to substance abuse and violence. Administered the day to day operations of this dynamic youth organization.

Chief of Resident Programming

Division of the Drug Elimination Program

New York City Housing Authority

Administered a five million dollar budget. Developed and implemented guidelines geared to helping residents of the New York City Housing Authority plan and develop programs to eradicate drugs from within their developments. Coordinated "Operation Safe Homes", police activities in developments geared toward eradicating, and curbing drug abuse problems. Prepared by-weekly reports for the Mayor of the City of New York, collected monthly crime, and arrest statistics for the purpose of compiling biannual reports for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

Social Work Supervisor

Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs, Inc. (PRACA)

Began as a caseworker within the emergency foster boarding home program where he provided crisis intervention to families whose children had been placed in foster care. He was promoted to supervisor where he was charged with the responsibility of administering a kinship foster care unit consisting of 4 social workers and 1 case aide servicing caseloads of 25 families each. In 1992 he created and implemented a specialized foster care unit that dealt with children that were either HIV positive or suffered from other catastrophic illnesses due to their mother’s substance abuse history. In April 1994, Gilberto was awarded the "Outstanding Child Welfare Worker Award" for the Mid-Atlantic Region, by the Child Welfare League of America for the creation and implementation of this specialized unit.

Community Advocate/Organizer

Manhattan Legal Services

Organized tenant and other community groups. Mobilized the community in anti-drug rallies. Represented clients in tenants' court, social security, Medicaid and HRA fair hearings.

Volunteer Work Experience
Member Community Board # 11, committee assignments included:Chairman Cultural Affairs, Member City Property/Housing, Chairman By-Laws Committee
Member East 112th Street Block Association
Cofounder The New 112th Street Block Association (NOSBA)
Founder East Harlem Council on Public Safety (the C.O.P.S.)
Founder/President Despierta/East 112th Street Block Association
Founder/Chairman Boricua College Pre-Law Society
Cofounder Jeffersonville Homesteaders Association

Member National Association of Social Workers
Member Alliance of Hispanic Social Workers
Member National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors
Member Central Park Conservancy Advisory Committee

Editor's Update: (January 15, 2005) Mr. Cintron has moved out of the East Harlem community and is sorely missed.

Posted by Jose at 11:36 PM

Jorge Vidro

Jorge Vidro, community activist, legal representative of State State Senator Olga Mendez.

vidro.jpg (10753 bytes)Early History
Jorge Vidro was born in New York City. He attended primary , junior and high school in East Harlem. After graduation from Benjamin Franklin High School he entered the United States Marine Corps where he reached the rank of sergeant in a record two and one half years. He left the military to attend Siena college where he received his bachelor's degree in political science. Mr. Vidro was awarded a fellowship by the Washington based Council on Legal Education and attended the Albany Law School of Union University where he received his Juris Doctorate.

Community Service
Mr. Vidro was legal assistant to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District and then served as assistant council to the commissioner of Social Service. Mr. Vidro left this position to assume his present position as Counsel to State Senator Olga Mendez. He has worked at this position for the past seven years.

Mr. Vidro is active in community affairs as a member of several community organizations. He is currently an elected member of Community School Board District # 4. He has been a member of Community Board # 11. Jorge Vidro has also served as a member of the board of the East Harlem Community Renewal Agency. He has also served and continued to serve in the following:
Board Member - Boriken Neighborhood Health Center
Board Member - Upward Fund Program
Board Member - Touro College Advisory Board
Board Member - Julia Del Burgos Cultural Center
Board Member - Advisory Board of the Upper Manhattan Emerging Leadership Roundtable, Inc.
Board Member - East Harlem Labor Task Force

Political Office
Jorge Vidro has run for elected office in East Harlem. He ran for School Board in 1996 and won. He recently ran for City Council (1997) and lost to Philip Reed. He continues to serve within the Democratic Party. Where he has made a difference in the past as he will continue to do in the future. Expect Mr. Vidro to run for office in East Harlem in the not too distant future. His straight forward logical thinking and grasp of how things work will serve him well as an elected official. Not to mention his easy going conversational style. Mr. Vidro is one of East Harlem's best thinkers.

Posted by Jose at 10:12 PM

July 1, 1998

Harry Rodriguez

Mr. Harry Rodirguez has been a friend to the East Harlem community. He has been active in various community institutions and is also active in the political life of the community.

Early History
Mr. Rodriguez was born on September 20, 1954 in East Harlem. He attended P.S. 109 and Junior High School 99, both District # 4 public schools. He attended high school at Julia Richman. Mr. Rodriguez went on to attend Baruch College and Fordham University.

Community Service
Mr. Rodriguez has given over twenty-five years of his life to community service. Besides his pleasant personality, he has done the following. He has contributed over 10 years as a member and sometimes officer of the local Area Policy Board. He has been Vice Chair and Chairman of Community Board 11. Before becoming Chairman of Board 11 he chaired the Housing, City Properties and Economic Development committees of the board. Harry also served as President of the Washington Houses Community Improvement Council. He is the former director of the New York Bilingual Institute.

Mr. Harry Rodriguez is the President of Harry Rodriguez and Associates. A housing development consulting firm. He is responsible for over 700 new units of new housing throughout East Harlem. It almost seems that anytime new housing is constructed in East Harlem, that you can find Harry Rodriguez at the bottom of it (literally as he tends to want to oversee how things are done, bottom floor that is.)

You would think that all of the above sited activity would be enough for one person, but not for Harry Rodriguez. He has a politically active side to him too. He has helped many candidates who have run for office in East Harlem. Mr. Rodriguez ran for Democratic District Leader (Part B) in 1997 and won. He is now one of eight Democratic Party District Leaders in East Harlem. Mr. Rodriguez makes no secret of the fact that he wishes to run in the 8th Councilmanic race in 2001.

Family Man
In addition to community, business and political life, Mr. Rodriguez managed enough time to have a family (remarkable!!). He has two children, Jehan-Paul age 18, who attending college and Michele Marie 15. It is a rare occasion when Mr. Rodriguez does not mention his children in normal conversation. He is very proud of them.

Mr. Rodriguez counts politics as a hobby so it will be included here. He also loves to read adventure and mythology books, loves to listen to Jazz, dance the mambo, and is quick to participate in sports, (mainly basketball and baseball). And lastly he likes to help under privileged children.

East Harlem Online is glad that people like Harry Rodriguez continue to enrich and assist our community with their many talents. We are indeed very proud of him.

Editor's Update: (January 15, 2005) Mr. Rodriguez continues to represent the local Democratic Party as one of it's District Leaders. He may run for East Harlem's City Council seat in 2005.

Posted by Jose at 11:30 PM

June 1, 1998

Gustavo Rosado

June 1998 - Gustavo "Gus" Rosado, has been active in the East Harlem Community since his teenage years. Mr. Rosado is the Executive Director of El Barrio's Operation Fightback, Inc. An organization that literally builds the community one brick at a time.

Early History
Mr. Rosado was born in Metropolitan Hospital in the mid 50's. He was raised in our community and is a product of the Community School Board District # 4 school system.

Community Service
Twenty years of his life has been spent dedicated to community service in East Harlem which includes service in youth programs, senior citizens programs and housing development. As one of the original founders of El Barrio's Operation Fightback he has, since 1985, brought the organization from a $20,000 per year operation to an organization that has developed over $14 million in housing renovation for the East Harlem community.

His housing efforts began in 1983 when a group of tenants chose to fightback a drug dealing occupying their building. After a long and complicated court battle the tenants eventually won and today that building stands as a low income co-op owned by the tenants. During the mid 80's when the City of New York was faced with wide spread landlord neglect most of his housing efforts were focused on on tenants rights, tenant organizing, building crisis intervention, and housing advocacy. His desire to have a wider impact on the community's preservation and development led his efforts towards housing renovations.

Housing Renovation
During the early 90's, recognizing his commitment and dedication to the East Harlem community, the New York Enterprise Foundation awarded El Barrio's Operation Fightback a contract to renovate 3 vacant city owned buildings. Since that time Mr. Rosado has led the charge in housing renovations in East Harlem and has become the largest Hispanic housing developer in the community. To date he has been involved in the rehabilitation of 18 buildings, yielding over 225 new housing units for the East Harlem community.

Renovating Lives
In addition to continuing his housing development efforts which includes the renovations of 3 additional buildings scheduled to begin construction in November 1995, he has established a community youth center and also conducts a social services component geared to assist formally homeless families and individuals.

Mr. Rosado's work has been building homes and assisting to build people's lives. He unlike most activist can point to and touch what he has done. The product of his work are not tenuous. They are real. It is not work for everyone, nor a mission just anybody can undertake. Mr. Rosado can be very proud and satisfied with the work he has done. Keep up the good work Gus.

Posted by Jose at 11:25 PM

May 1, 1997

Lisa Cortes

May 1997 - Lisa Cortes is a community activist and a leader. She has chosen to work on the hard issues which affect our community. And has kept away from the politics which so often can alienate many in the community.

Early History
Lisa Cortes was born and raised in East Harlem. She attended the State University of New York at Albany, NY., where she received a Bachelor of Arts, in English and Theater.

Community Service
Ms. Cortes became an Administrative/Legislative Aide to State Senator Olga Mendez in late 1993. Here duties included being responsible for reporting on relevant committee legislation and representing the state senator at various committee and Legislative Task Force meetings. She also conducted legislative research and the tracking of relevant bills in the areas of health, social services, commerce, economic and small business development.

After graduating from college Ms. Cortes went to work for E.H.C.C.I. (East Harlem Council for Community Improvement, Inc.) as an anti-violence adolescent program coordinator. She recruited and trained youth to become Peer Educators and she coordinated workshops.

Lisa Cortes is more recently known for her Public Relations / Outreach work at her current place of employment at the Boriken Neighborhood Health Center. Her fair and exceptional outreach work have earned her the respect of all who come in contact with her. While at Boriken, Ms. Cortes has created and Published the Boriken Newsletter, furthering her outreach's scope and usefulness.

Albany Welfare Reform Rally
Ms. Cortes recently organized a huge rally for Welfare Reform. She initiated, coordinated, and got all necessary pieces and people together to accomplish her task. Ms. Cortes even got the local elected officials to provide buses for residents to use to get to Albany for the rally. Many local non-profit organizations also fell under Ms. Cortes organizational magic and lent their support to this endeavor. The rally was a huge success, thanks to Lisa Cortes.

Moving On
Ms. Cortes has accepted employment with the Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Borinken's loss is Mt. Sinai's gain. One can expect to see Mt. Sinai's community outreach to be enhanced beyond that it already is now. Congratulations Lisa!

Lisa Cortes has a gift for organization, for dealing pleasantly with all she comes in contact with and for getting things done. She has resisted attempts to bring her into the fold of various political factions in our community without hurting herself in the process. She is a sought after commodity (honesty and goodwill rolled into one).

Lisa's chosen hobbies reflect her high intensity and active lifestyle. She loves roller blading, rock climbing and dancing Salsa among other things. One wonders if Lisa does anything not requiring a lot of energy output? If Lisa puts as much effort into rock climbing as she does into organizing rallies you may not want to climb with her. Like, who could keep up with her?

East Harlem Online congratulates Lisa Cortes on her new job and the for doing a good job in our community. She personifies what is good in East Harlem as much as she personifies its hope.

Editor's Note: (January 15, 2005) Ms. Cortes left the community to further her education. We await her return.

Posted by Jose at 11:18 PM

April 1, 1997

Federico Colon

April 1997 - Federico has been active in the life of the East Harlem community for the last few years.

Early History
Federico Colon was born in Salinas, Puerto Rico. He came to New York at the age of 17. Federico graduated from Brandeis High School. From there he attended Mechanic Institute, and the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Community Service
As a resident of New York City Housing Authority's Douglas Houses on the West Side's Manhattan Valley, Federico became a community activist. He was President of the Parents and Teacher's Association at his children's school. He is an active member of the board of the Children's Aide Society. He was a spokesperson for the Save Our Schools program. He served briefly as a member the Metropolitan Hospital Center Community Advisory Board. Lately, he assisted East Harlem community activist, Lisa Cortez with the East Harlem Welfare Reform Rally held in Albany during March 1997.

Chief of Staff
Federico currently works at Councilman Adam Powell's district office as the Councilman's Chief of Staff. As such he serves as a Councilmanic representative to Community Board 11 in Manhattan, Community Board 1 in the Bronx, and as an ex-officio member of Metropolitan Hospital Center's Community Advisory Board.

Candidate for City Council
Mr. Colon is a candidate for Councilman Adam Powell's 8th Councilmanic seat, in the 1997 Democratic Primary. Councilman Powell did not run for reelection because he is running for Manhattan Borough President. And Councilman Powell can not run for both seats at the same time.

Editor's Update (April 19, 1998): Mr. Colon lost election as the Democratic nominee for city council. He came in second to Democratic District Leader Philip Reed.

Posted by Jose at 9:15 PM

March 1, 1997

George Espada

March 1997 - George L. Espada has had a history of community participation. Starting as a youngster and continuing till this day.

George was born in Salinas, Puerto Rico but raised in East Harlem. He attended Public School 57, James F. Cooper Junior High School and Patrick Henry High School. Although he never attended college, George feels that there are many jobs and employment opportunities which exist without the need for higher education. He feels that if you care enough about the community, you can do anything.

Entertainer and Entrepreneur
It seems that Mr. Espada is an entrepreneur. As a young boy he would buy shopping bags for 2-3 cents and go around selling them for 5 cents to lady shoppers who seemed like they needed one. His profit from this enterprise was enough to allow him to pay his own way to the movies. He also made sure he shared his earnings with his mother.

Morris Wittenberg (of Morris Toyland fame) told George that George was in an entertainer at heart. George took up the advice and started his own musical group "Flash and the Dynamics". This group started by sounding pretty bad, but with practice ended up having a Spanish station number 1 hit record.

After his musical career, George became a semiprofessional wrestler. He toured with professional wrestlers including his brother and Antonio Rocca.

Community Activism
When George's wrestling career ended he turned his attention to El Barrio. George observed the workings of community politics. He saw that the only ones making money in the community were the politicians and some businessmen who did not live in the community. He described these businessmen as "Mercenaries". As for the politicians are concerned he believes that "They have sold out to a mechanism/structure that buys votes as opposed to encouraging people to vote." He has also noticed the current medium of exchange which has existed since the early 60 and has served local officials well; programs of dependency in exchange for votes. (Editor's explanation: Politicians create programs which they say will help people with current problems. These programs foster dependency and never alleviate the root problems for which they were created. People dependent on the programs then need to keep these same elected officials in power or loose that which they are dependent upon.") "The local politicians will use any tool to stay in their elected offices."

Of course the elected officials which George mentions are not part of the poorness of the
community. "You will find that the political person in El Barrio basically just has a house somewhere upstate and an office in government building where you can't even go to find them."

George L. Espada working knowledge of East Harlem politics has not prevented him from doing good in the community. He served as the Chairman of the Lexington Avenue Planning Coalition, Chairman of the Happy Hill Community Association which help to beautify empty lots and the Commissioner of the El Barrio Baseball League.

Elective Office
Lately George has been active in community politics. He was elected Republican District
Leader in 1988. He continues in that capacity today. There are over 5,000 Republicans in the East Harlem community. It is a rare individual that bucks the community trend by not enrolling as a Democrat. There are over 55,000 registered Democrats in East Harlem.

(Editor's Note: A two party system in East Harlem would benefit the community by allowing voters to pit both parties against each other in an effort to see who can deliver the most promises to them. Accountability on various community programs would also benefit all in East Harlem.)

During the last decade George has run for various elected offices so no one is surprised
to see him running for City Council in 1997. He is running for the office which Councilman Powell is leaving to run for Manhattan Borough President. George is running
as a Fusion candidate, hoping to garner both Democratic and Republican party votes.

Most would not give George a shot a winning the race, but for someone who is "under educated" and who has risen from poorness to become an entertainer, pro wrestler, entrepreneur and community leader it is not hard to imagine him overcoming his latest challenge to become a city councilman

East Harlem Online wishes this gentle soul the best in all his endeavors.

Some of the biographical information in this article was obtained from the book by Gary Batson titled "George L. Espada, The Quest for Truth". We thank the author for their use.

Editor's Update: (April 19, 1998) George did not win the 1997 City Council race, but we can expect to continue to see him running for office and giving it his best in 1998.

Editor's Update: (January 15, 2005) Mr. Espada continues to be a Republican District Leader and is still very active in our community.

Posted by Jose at 11:11 PM

February 1, 1997

Felix Rosado

Mr. Felix Rosado is one of East Halem's better educated and involved individuals. He has been active in the political arena and has sought to improve the lives of all of El Barrio's residents.

February 1997 - Mr. Rosado is currently a Democratic Party District Leader in the 68th Assembly District.

Mr. Felix Rosado was born and raised in the East Harlem community. He attended public school in district 4. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and received his Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University. Mr. Rosado received his M.B.A from Columbia's Graduate School of Business.

A Belief in Education
Felix Rosado is a staunch advocate of children and their education. As a young man Felix Rosado provided remedial reading and writing classes in English to Spanish speaking youngsters at St. Edward the Martyr Church in East Harlem. He also escorted young men and women through his offices at Arthur Young & Company in an effort to motivate them to stay in school. Felix also taught beginner classes in accounting to high school students at a program called "The Door" in lower Manhattan. He is an eighteen year member of the board of directors at Union Settlement Association in East Harlem.

Community and Political Life
Mr. Felix Rosado has a long history of service to his community having provided countless hours as a volunteer in a variety of capacities. He was appointed Assistant Deputy Comptroller in 1993, at that time representing the highest ranking Latino to ever serve in the Office of the State Comptroller. Mr. Rosado was also appointed to Community Board # 11 in East Harlem, where he served as the Chair of the Health Committee. In 1993 he ran and was elected to Community School Board # 4.

In 1995 Mr. Rosado was elected District Leader in the Democratic Party in the 68th Assembly District. In 1996 Felix Rosado managed a write in campaign for three members of Community School Board # 4, who were thrown off the ballot by a local political machine. His work paid off as all three were elected to the School Board and so were two other candidates which he supported. He was a candidate for State Senator in the 28th State Senatorial District in 1996 where he came within 18 percent of the vote needed to win that office. District Leader Rosado says he will try again in 1998.

(left to right) East Founder Jose B. Rivera,
Congressman Charles B. Rangel, and 68th AD District Leader
Felix Rosado during the 1996 Manhattan County Democratic Dinner.

Mr. Rosado both dedicated and selfless in his commitment to the communty.

Editor's Update: (April 19, 1998): Mr. Rosado went on to win reelection to Democratic District Leader in September 1997.

Editor's Update: (January 15, 2005) Mr. Rosado remained District Leader until 2003, when he ran for City Council and came in 2nd behind incumbent Councilman Phil Reed. It is likely that Mr. Rosado will run for East Harlem's City Council seat in 2005.

Posted by Jose at 11:00 PM

January 1, 1997

Evelyln Castro

January 1997 - Evelyn Castro, Superintendent, Community School Board District # 4 has dedicated her life to bettering the education of the children of East Harlem and to improving the educational system of the district at large.

No one has worked longer hours than Ms. Castro. She is well known for working past 9:00 or 10:00 P.M. after getting to work before 9:00 A.M. She is also known for her fairness when dealing with parents, teachers and staff.

The most amazing thing of all is that in a time when people constantly move from job to job, Ms. Castro has spent her entire career in East Harlem.

Early History
Evelyn Castro was born and raised in Bronx, NY. After receiving her teaching degree, she started to teach in East Harlem's P.S. 101. The year was 1974. From there she was sent to PS 108. In 1982 Evelyn was summoned to the District Office to become the Executive Assistant to Superintendent Anthony Alvarado. Evelyn learned the Educational system well and soon became the Assistant Director of Funded Programs.

Principal of PS 102
In 1991 Evelyn became the Principal of PS 102 where she stayed until she was again called by the District Office to become Director of Operations for the district. In 1995, Ms. Castro was called upon to be the Acting Superintendent when the former Superintendent retired.

The 1996-1999 Community School Board members decided that Ms. Castro had done an excellent job as Acting Superintendent and appointed her Superintendent in 1996. In May 1997 the same board appointed her to a three year term as Superintendent.

Superintendent Evelyn Castro with her immediate staff: (left to right) Deputy Superintendent Camille Aromando, Superintendent Castro, Director of Funded Programs Hilda Sanchez and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Robert Gyles Ph.D.

Ms. Castro has picked an excellent staff to assist her in her work. She also has the political savvy necessary for the job. It's not an easy task juggling the demands of 9 school board members, staff, teachers, union officials, parents and students. One must be part educational professional and part politician. Her skills in these areas are second to none. Ms. Castro must also deal with "Central Board", their staff, policies and demands on her time. Evelyn Castro has been skillful in dealing with everyone that she must deal with, in a professional, disciplined, hard working yet kind manner, East Harlem Online is pleased that Ms. Castro is the person overseeing the education of East Harlem's children.

Editor's Note: (January 15, 2005) Ms. Castro has been re-assigned within the new Department of Education after the local school boards were dismantled (The School Boards were dismantled no thanks to input from the United Federation of Teachers, who apparently don't believe in decentralization and who could care less about parents having a say in their children's education. It is not hard to see why the New York City Public Schools are in such bad shape. Full credit should go to the U.F.T.).

Posted by Jose at 10:45 PM

December 1, 1996

Francisco Diaz, Jr.

Former Assemblyman, Francisco Diaz, Jr. has been active in the East Harlem community since his teens. His ability to think things through have served him and our community well.

December 1996 - Francisco Diaz, Jr. was recently defeated seeking reelection to the state assembly in the September 1996 Democratic Primary and the November 1996 general election. Francisco currently lives on East 102nd street between Lexington and Park Avenues. With the birth of his daughter last year and a recent illness to his wife, Idi, Francisco has been busy caring for his family.

Mr. Diaz is featured on these pages for his willingness to try, for his overcoming an initial life of poverty and for having served the East Harlem community with integrity and honesty during his short tenure in the New York State Assembly.

Political Life
Francisco Diaz, Jr. was elected Assemblyman of the 68th Assembly District during a special election held on March 14, 1995, to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Assemblyman Angelo Del Toro. Mr. Diaz won by beating William Del Toro, Assemblyman Del Toro's brother. In an almost unheard fashion, Mr. Diaz, an independent, beat Mr. Del Toro, the Democratic Party nominee. This is unusual for such a totally Democratic district like East Harlem/El Barrio. None the less, the voters who loved to return Angelo Del Toro to office every two years, did not quite trust his brother William to the same fate.

Jose B. Rivera and Francisco Diaz, Jr. Photo - fdjbr.jpg - 12.7 KFrancisco Diaz Info
Francisco Diaz Was born on March 13, 1959 and attended school in East Harlem. He majored in Economics and minored in Business at LaGuardia Community College, where he received his B.A. But even before finishing college, Francisco Diaz had already "done time" in his community. Volunteering in his Church's (St. Edward the Martyr) youth group, and being one of the directors of the board of another youth program (Youth Action Program - Y.A.P.)

He was appointed to then Community Planning Board # 11 in the late 80's and went on to become its Vice Chairman in 1989. In December of 1990 Francisco resigned from the board to become its District Manager, a post he held until January 1995, just two months before his election to the Assembly.

Assemblyman Diaz was immediately put to work by the Assembly Democrats, his first daunting task was to quickly familiarize himself with the budget process.

Committees Assigned while in the Assembly
The Standing Committees to which he was assigned were as follows:
Children and Families
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse

Organizations involved in while in the Assembly
He was a member of the following organizations:
Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force - Member
New York State Black and Puerto Rican Caucus - Member
New York Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators - Vice Chair

As mentioned above, Mr. Diaz was defeated in his reelection bid after having served almost two years in office. He was defeated by Nelson Antonio Denis, who is the current Assemblyman for the 68th Assembly District - East Harlem. Although he is out of office for the moment, many expected him to return to public life shortly. East Harlem Online wishes Mr. Diaz success in his future endeavors, and our prayers go out to him and his family.

Editor's Update:
(April 19, 1998): Mr. Diaz has been busy taking care of his two young children while his wife recuperates from illness. Mr. Diaz is now working as the Chief of Staff for Councilman Philip Reed.

Editor's Update: (June 5, 1999): Mr. Diaz has left the employ of Councilman Reed and now works in the private sector.

Posted by Jose at 10:31 PM

November 1, 1996

Walter Torres

Walter Torres can be described as one of the "hearts" of East Harlem. He is active in the life of the community, cares about others and acts when he feels that action is needed.

Picture of Walter Torres - walt2.jpg - 7.8 KEarly History
Walter Torres was born at Beth Israel Hospital in 1960 . His parents were residents of East Harlem where Walter was raised. When he was of school age, Walter attended headstart at P.S. 168 and then grammar school at PS 168 and PS 83. After grammar school he attended the prestigious Philip Andover Academy in M.A. Completing his studies at the Academy, he briefly attended Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C.

Political Activism
Mr. Torres has yet to finish his college studies, but after leaving school he returned to East Harlem. Walter immediately set out in a career in community service. Walter Torres has volunteered his time to various community groups and political campaigns. In 1991 he became part of the William Perkins for City Council campaign. In 1992 he gave his time to the local School Board Elections. That year he also joined the Nelson Denis for State Assembly campaign. 1993 saw Walter with then Community Board 11 district manager Francisco Diaz, Jr. in Mr. Diaz's city council campaign.

Walter also helped to coordinate the Dinkins campaign effort in East Harlem that year. He was the day to day coordinator of the 1994 Rangel for Reelection campaign (East Harlem sector). 1995 saw Mr. Torres championing the Jose B. Rivera for District Leader (yes me) campaign. When that effort failed, he joined Mr. Rivera in supporting Democratic District Leader candidates; Felix Rosado, Carmen Quiniones and Cedric McClester. Mr. Rosado, Ms. Quiniones and Mr. McClester won that election and Mr. Torres star has been rising ever since.

In 1996 Walter, joined the Nelson Denis for State Assembly campaign and became one of the its most active participants. He was instrumental in Mr. Denis' win over Assemblyman Francisco Diaz, Jr. Walter made sure that all the Denis campaign posters stayed up on lamp post or were quickly replaced when needed. He also strongly advocated for Mr. Denis wherever he went.

Community Service
Walter Torres has also volunteered his time to The Boys Club, located at East 111th Street between First and Second Avenues. And as a member of the People For A New East Harlem he contributed to the group with his raw honesty. In fact, Walter Torres is well known among East Harlem activist for his bluntness and passion. He is not one to pull any punches when it comes to how he sees an individual or any issue. His knowledge of world affairs is also extraordinary. He can tell you the ins and out of South African politics without hardly a moment to ponder as he recalls the facts so readily.

Picture of Walter Torres Directing his soccer league - walt.jpg - 11.5 KMr. Torres is currently involved with the People's Forum For Change and is a member of St. Cecilia's Church. His goals include completing his college education, finding his soul mate and continuing his quest in the search for truth and God's will in his life. You could say, Walter is a good Catholic. He is also a member of the board of the Neighborhood Advisory Board in Manhattan and a member of Community Board # 11.

Sports is also one of the passions which Mr. Torres enjoys and shares with others. He co-founded an East Harlem Soccer League for boys which is in its second year. He has coached youth soccer teams for over 15 years. Mr. Torres is also a cross country bicyclist enthusiast. He enjoys sharing his knowledge about this mostly European sport to anyone who will listen. He also enjoys soccer, jogging, listening to music (good rock and roll collection), salsa, stamp collecting and going to the movies. Oh, the life of a bachelor!

The East Harlem community can expect to see Mr. Torres and his brand of activist passion for some time to come. He is a catalyst among activists and not someone you wish to do battle with if you are unprepared. Walter is well loved among all who know him.

Posted by Jose at 10:20 PM

October 1, 1996

John Rivera

John Rivera was born and raised in East Harlem and has been a resident ever since then. He is the October 1996 East Harlem Online Person of the Month by virtue of his community service.

BiographyJohn Rivera picture - johnr.jpg - 2.8 K
John Rivera was born in 1962. He attended public school in East Harlem. When he became a teenager he started to become active in life of the community. The first community organization he became part of was the Youth Action Program (Y.A.P.) As one of the directors of the board of Y.A.P., John strove to learn the dynamics of leadership within a community based organization.

John Rivera during 1996 Assembly candidates' debate - johndeba.jpg - 7.4 KLater, Mr. Rivera was chosen to attended a training on the principles of leadership at a summer session of the Industrial Areas Foundation (I.A.F.) leadership school. What impressed John were the strategies which Sol Alinsky used to effect change on ineffective governmental and community power structures. Mr. Rivera has held on to this way of thinking ever since learning these strategies.

As a life long resident of East Harlem, Mr. Rivera has served by volunteering on many agencies which affect change in the community. For instance, he has worked with the Community Service Society, Casa Mutua, Inc., Hotline Cares, Inc., the Neighborhood Based Alliance and The People For A New East Harlem to name a few. As a Co-Conveyor of the People For A New East Harlem, John Rivera steered the group to having monthly educational forums. Forum topics included; Assembly Candidates Debate 1995, The PathMark Issue, School Board Elections 1996, Health Issues and others. Because of Mr. Rivera, attendance at the People For A New East Harlem forums grew and remained high.

John Rivera moderating assembly candidates' debate 1996 - johndeb2.jpg - 10.1 KMr. Rivera currently lives in Wagner Projects with his wife and son. He works during the day and attends school at Hunter College. He will complete his requirements for a B.A. in political science in 1997. But what he misses most of all while attending school is providing education forums on diverse topics to the East Harlem community. He can not wait to get back to it. The last forum Mr. Rivera organized was the 1996 68th Assembly District Candidates' Debate.

John Rivera has proven that he cares about East Harlem by being involved and by taking the time to try to edify it's residents. Like many other committed community activist, John Rivera wishes to make a life in our community. He is committed to staying.

Editor's Update: (April 19, 1998): Mr. Rivera completed his studies at Hunter College and received his BA He continues to work for the betterment of the East Harlem community.

Editor's Update: (April 14, 2001): Mr. Rivera is currently running for Democratic District Leader in East Harlem.

Editors Update: (March 22, 2002) Mr. Rivera currently serves on the board of directors of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.

Editor's Update: (January 15, 2005) Mr. Rivera currently works as a community representative at the office of Congressman Charles Rangel.

Posted by Jose at 9:49 PM

September 1, 1996

Nelson Antonio Denis

September 1996 - Mr. Denis has earned this distinction through his hard work, ferocious campaign style and mostly for achieving the unexpected. He won the 68th Assembly District Democratic Primary held on September 10, 1996. By doing so he took the nomination of the party away from an incumbent assemblyman.

Candidate Denis shaking hands with elderly voterPersistence
Mr. Denis started campaigning for the democratic nomination a full 4 weeks before Assemblyman Francisco Diaz, Jr. For the whole month of August he could be seen and heard daily. His Denis "truck" moving up and down the streets and avenues of East Harlem. By campaigning tirelessly and incessantly, Mr. Denis slowly but surely ingrained himself in the minds of El Barrio's voters as the perceived "winner" before the election was actually held. This author witnessed this change of mind set throughout the last six weeks of the campaign.

A History of Campaigning
Nelson Antonio Denis has been campaigning for this Assembly seat since 1992. nelpath.jpg - 10.1 KHis first opponent, Assemblyman Angelo Del Toro barely won re-nomination in 1992, winning that primary by only 500 votes. When Mr. Del Toro died unexpectedly in December 1994, Mr. Denis ran for nomination in that race. But Nelson Antonio Denis did not protect his flank by not petitioning as an independent candidate. Instead, he relied on the Liberal Party to put him forth as their candidate. When the Liberal Party chose Community Board # 11 District Manager, Francisco Diaz, Jr., Mr. Denis was left with a spot on another state wide party, who Mr. Diaz also took away from him after a long court battle. Nelson, as his friend call him, was left without a place on the ballot and Mr. Diaz won election to the state assembly.

Defeat and Triumph

Since that cool day on March 14, 1995, Nelson Denis was determined not to be denied in his next election battle. He first won election to the Democratic Party District Leadership (his first victory), he then went on to help elect 3 of the current school board members. (Estrella, Stewart and Vidro, although he also supported Jose B. Rivera).

Candidate debate Sept. 5, 1996 at PS 50Campaign '96
Right after the school board election, Mr. Denis was off and running. Putting up his campaign posters way before petition legal challenges were over. This early campaigning did the trick. During the September 5, 1996 Assembly candidates debate held at P.S. 50, Nelson Denis and Assemblyman Francisco Diaz battled it out. The audience was packed with Diaz supporters, but Nelson Denis did not seem to mind. Most of his supporters were out in the field, preaching to the unconverted.

The Long Sought Victory
After all was said and done, 10:00 PM hit hard at the Diaz headquarters. Election district after election district showed what appeared to be a lot of lost ground for Diaz. Most election districts were pretty close, tied, or a 5 to 15 point lead for Mr. Denis. The overall count was Diaz ahead by 19 votes. And the results from the last voting booth to be counted were not available and definitely not in Diaz territory. It did not look good for Assemblyman Diaz. While at the Denis headquarters, happiness flowed like water over Niagara. The Diaz headquarters closed shop a little after 11:00 PM and supporters went home before the final outcome was available. The Denis crowd, stayed on, and knew they had won. New York One, a local New York only TV news station, announced Mr. Denis's apparent victory by 11:30 PM.

Nelson Denis addressing questions from audience at podiumThe Work Ahead
Mr. Denis has a lot of work cut out for him. He will have the task of bringing the East Harlem Democratic Party under his wing. If he learns from the past, he may be able to do it. He may even face opposition in 1998. Factionalization has always been a thorn in the side of East Harlem politics.

Editor's Note:(April 2001) Mr. Denis was defeated in his 2000 reelection bid by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. IV. Mr. Denis continues to work in our community in as a community lawyer. It is likely that he will again seek elective office in our community.

Editor's Note:
(March 22, 2002) Mr. Denis is currently fininshing a movie project which he filmed in the community.

Editor's Note: (January 15, 2005) Mr. Denis completed his movie "Vote For Me" which did well in during various film festivals. Mr. Denis ran for State Senator during the summer of 2004, but lost in the Democratic Primary in September 2004 to City Councilman Jose Serrano, who went on to win in the November 2004 General Election.

Posted by Jose at 9:18 PM