Follow Up Letter to the Community on the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center

Dear Constituent:

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.


Melissa Mark-Viverito

13 thoughts on “Follow Up Letter to the Community on the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center

  1. If Taller Boricua had truth on their side why is it that what they are doing and saying is so disingenuous: like giving the impression that they are being driving out of the building altogether, as if Taller Boricua’s gallery exhibitions and the use of their office spaces all constitutes the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center. The control of the community room (where Salsa Wednesdays take place) and the Theatre on the second floor is what they are losing; they also said there would be no Salsa Wednesdays to give the impression that this was also being taken away immediately to raise red flags and galvanize support. Oh, they want to give the impression they are only charging $5. As a salsero who has gone there once in a long while, I know they charge $5 for women only till 6 PM, then it goes up to $10 for them while men pay $10 all the time.

    One thing I would like to do if I had the space would be to hold monthly Forums to educate the community on a variety of social justice and environmental issues with guest speakers and documentary films.

  2. Melissa,

    Thank you very much for the report back and major clarification to the community that Taller Boricua WILL NOT LOOSE an inch of its space at Juilia de Burgos.

    Just control of spaces that are not theirs and are supporsed to have been available to the community, for goodness sake!!

    Who sits on their board of directors? are they from the community? I’d like to see their bylaws. It’s accountabilty time folks!!

  3. I fully support Melissa Mark Viverito’s efforts as stated her message on the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center
    September 29, 2010.

  4. So many OTHER cultural organizations from El Barrio could be using those spaces, the multi-purpose room PLUS the 2 classrooms in the back, and this just on the first floor that it seems ridiculous that the only continuing programming is on Wednesday nights while the theatre on the second floor remains shuttered.

    What about monday nights, tuesday nights, thursday nights, friday nights AND saturday nights? What about the rest of the day? What are the 2 classrooms behind the multi-purpose space being used for?

    The real problem has been, as Marcos Dimas of Taller Boricua admitted publicly in the Daily News, that they have used their “discretion and based on a sliding scale” to rent out the space.

    Well, the fact has been that for 15 years they, and only they, could pick and choose who they rented to and for how much. Nothing was ever been posted on their web site. Not the calendar of availability nor the rental rates. If they did not like someone, then they would not rent to them, or simply charge some arbitrary higher rate.

    The community of El Barrio now says: Enough is Enough.

    BTW, has anyone looked at Taller Boricua’s tax returns? Has anyone wondered about that empty lot they own on East 106th Street, where Fernando and Marcos park their cars and collect rents from a few others? Why don’t they build their own building there? Its that empty lot next to the apartment building with the H&R Block store, and the apartments are supposed to be for artists of El Barrio? What artists live there now? Who is on the Board of Taller Boricua?

    Taller Boricua should just focus on doing their exhibitions, they can still use their own four gallery spaces for other rental income and they can keep their administrative offices upstairs. Activate those spaces. Or better yet, they ought to do their own fundraising, beyond city and state funding, so they can do more.

    The time has come to let other cultural groups into the building to do more programs to make it a more vibrant place seven days a week!

  5. As a community cultural art center it is important that Julia de Burgos have a multi-disciplinary arts advisory group to assist with programming in spaces that are community spaces. This will provide a wide range of activities creating a wholistic arts programming addressing the varied cultural arts expressions in El Barrio.

  6. It is important that an advisory art committee comprised of representatives from varied art disciplines assist in the programming of areas designated for the community. This will provide wider programming reflecting the cultural needs of the broader community.

  7. To All:
    My fear in all this is that it might go to individuals and/or organizations that turn around and cut out the Puerto Rican community altogether. El Museo del Barrio among others is an example where we lost what our community struggles created.

    If that happens I promise to be in the front line of the fight to get ii t back! Don’t care who is in the front of or back of this move.

    Other then that I agree with Glorias question/statement: “Who sits on their board of directors? are they from the community? I’d like to see their bylaws. It’s accountabilty time folks!”

    Graciano Matos

  8. It is important that spaces like Julia de Burgos be easily available and utilized by all members of the community. Those of us that are not necessarily an arts organization would love to have availability for our programming.

  9. Buenos Dia a Todos

    I truly beleive the movement of EDC is necessary and support Melissa totally .

    The Julia DE Burgos is not being used to it’s fullest for our people or teaching any cultural things to our youth; where will the P>R> culture be tomorrow if it’s not taught. All they are seeing that the Wed Salsa night is not there anymore.

  10. As a long-time resident of East Harlem who grew up in the neighborhood, an activist and artist, I would like to thank you for asking the community to design the prospective change in the management of the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center.

    However, the issue goes beyond present matter of discussion and reveals deep problems with the development of East Harlem.

    The Taller Boricua / EDC case puts names behind the gentrification of East Harlem and finally gets people talking about what has been happening to art organizations in the neighborhood. Chica Luna, AHA, Carlito’s Café, DeLa Vega’s studio are among the art entities that have been kicked out of the neighborhood. As divided as the room was on Monday’s meeting regarding this issue, all speakers echoed a similar chant- They want El Taller Boricua to continue to play a role in the preservation of the Latino cultural heritage of the neighborhood. And to that extent, I support and unite to the fight.

    Nonetheless, bureaucracy makes it difficult for individual artists and local nonprofit organizations to utilize the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center. The community does not have access to it, period. The mismanagement of the space is something that needs to be addressed, as many clearly stated throughout the meeting.

    Like many others, I am torn. Hence, I turn to you, as my elected official to address this issue effectively:

    1) I hope that you balance the economic development of El Barrio while supporting the preservation of culture and providing opportunities for its low-income residents. Development CANNOT lead to displacement.

    2) I hope that you respond to the demands of the people who elected you and pave the way to a cultural space that belongs to the community.

    3) I hope that you use this instance to address the underlining issue of this matter: The Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center does not belong to East Harlem. This leads local artists and organizations to battle each other for the little piece available out this vast space. This would be real social change and I trust you to lead it.

    Junior Manon

  11. I totally support Councilperson Melissa Mark-Viverito in her stewardhsip of proactive initiatives and direction for the Julia de Burgos Center.

    As a supporter of East Harlem community organizations, I recongnize the importance of adding diversity to the limited resources available by allowing additional parties to rise to the surface, giving them the opportunity to also have their voices heard and provide new activities previously unavailable. Sometimes it is important to have some step aside and make room for others to participate also. It’s called sharing the wealth in order to benefit community, which should be the ultimate goal.

  12. How about offering movie night,FREE, or, at discount prices of classic movies in both English & Spanish on a Friday, or, Saturday night?

    How about excercise classes for youth & senior citizens for FREE, or, at a discounted prices?

    How about providing crucial information at least once a week on how we can preserve El Barrio & offer “real” connections & instruction on how to write to congress or the senate so that we have an “active” voice on what is happening to affordable housing in our Barrio without fear of recrimination for speaking our minds.

    How about offering our homeless a place where they can get a hot meal during the holidays?

    We must reach out & let people know they aren’t alone in their struggle to keep up with the times, people are literally dying or killing themselves because no one listens.

    About those classrooms, I’d be willing to volunteer my services to teach Adult ESL classes.

  13. What exactly has Taller Boricua done in the last 4 years?

    Besides Salsa Wednesdays, which is not produced by them, and the exhibitons, which no longer are concentrating on artists from El Barrio, what have they really done for the community? Its not like they are being evicted. They still own, yes OWN, 3 other properties in El Barrio, besides the Julia de Burgos rental.

    How many people go to their openings? How many people even visit the galleries? What artists studios are they renting out? How many art workshops for children and seniors have they done?

    Zero! EDC should have done this years ago. Its time for a new generation with fresh ideas to be given the chance to do more cultural programming in El Barrio. Let this transparent process begin to breathe fresh air into our culture.

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