I want to thank all of those who attended the visioning discussion I held on Monday, October 4th regarding the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center. I was very encouraged by those who spoke about what they would like to see come into the space as a result of the Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) process, such as the importance of opening up regular arts programming for youth in our community, as a strategy to address the rise in violence we are witnessing. I hope we can continue to have this dialogue as the process moves forward so that our community’s input is taken into account seriously by the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and I will ensure that this happens.
Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of misinformation about the RFEI and its implications on the current operations of the space. First, Taller Boricua is not being ejected from the Cultural Center. The City will continue to renew Taller Boricua’s lease for the gallery space on the first floor and the offices on the second floor. The RFEI is for the operation of the multicultural and theater spaces only, paving the way for enhanced arts and cultural programming that will bring the Center closer to reaching its full potential, and presenting an opportunity to a greater number of cultural organizations to share this hard-fought-for community asset, which belongs to the greater community.
Additionally, it has been purported that the City has forced Taller Boricua to suspend Salsa Wednesdays. I have verified with EDC that they have never pressured anyone at the Center to terminate these activities. I am a strong supporter of Salsa Wednesdays as an important program that has brought members of our community together each week in a positive way to celebrate Puerto Rican culture. Taller Boricua’s current lease of the multicultural space (where Salsa Wednesdays is held) will be renewed month to month until the new operator is identified. Understanding the community’s strong support for this event, I am committed to ensuring that whoever is selected through the RFEI process will continue this tradition.
My support for EDC’s decision to release an RFEI for these spaces does not negate my deep respect and appreciation for the historic work and contributions that Taller Boricua has made to El Barrio. However, I feel strongly that we must also be realistic in looking at processes of succession and organizational planning for our neighborhood institutions to ensure that El Barrio continues to grow and thrive while also maintaining our community’s identity.
I continue to welcome productive comments going forward on this matter as to how individuals and organizations in the community would like to see this vital community resource utilized. Please feel free to continue to contact me via our District Office or through our blog.