TALLER BORICUA AND THE JULIA DE BURGOS CULTURAL CENTER
The New York City Economic Develolpment Corporation (EDC) manages the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center. Taller Boricua's lease of the multicultural space within the building is at risk.
Taller Boricua was one of the founders of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center 14 years ago and has been an ideal tenant ever since (paying rent, insurance and upkeep). Taller Boricua's provides cultural programming to the community in accordance with the original vision for the Julia de Burgos Ciltural Center. addition to Taller Boricua, the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center houses the Heritage Schooland three Puerto Rican not-for-profits, including LosPleneros 21, the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, and Taller Boricua.
The Heritage School was located in the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center as a temporary solution to maintain a steady cash flow while the not-for-profits that originally applied to be in the building were able to acquire funding.
On September 17, 2010,l EDC informed Taller Boricua that a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) would be issued for its leased multicultural space in the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center.
EDC issued the RFEI on September 30, 2010. The RFEI sates that EDC has the authority to select any group of its choice to take over Taller Boricua's leased space without consideration from current tenants in the Julia de Burgos Cultual Center. Taller Boricua, Community Board 11 (CB11), or the greater community of East Harlem.
EDC's rationale for the RFEI is that the Julia de Burgos theater space should be rented together with Taller Boricua's multicultural space because of the lack of soundproofing between spaces.
Should EDC follow through with its plan and terminate Taller Boricua's tenancy of the multicultural space, it will potentially cripple Taller Boricua's community arts and cultural programming, including events associated with its art exhibitions. Apart from Taller Boricua's own programming, the multicultural space is used by the community to celebrate milestones in their lives as well as by other not-for-profits in Spanish Harlem to further their programming.
This is not the first time EDC has taken such unilateral action without community involvement. La Marqueta faced a similar RFEI. The RFEI is just one more step towards the gentrification of Spanish Harlem and the continual dismantling of the efforts won by the Latino Community.
Community Board 11 has written EDC requesting EDC put a halt to the RFEI so as to discuss alternative solutions with the community.
Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito strongly supports the RFEI. Her reasons are broad and subjective such as "limited access" and "underutiliazation." At her visioning session, many community leades requested a halt to the RFEI to discuss the issues within the community. She ignored the cries of the community. She has not approached the current tenants of Julia de Burgos Cultural Center to discuss the issues. She has not attempted to relocate the Heritage School so as to make room for other local and cultural not-for-profits.
Members of the Cultural Affairs Committee to CB11 have officially recused themselves from handling matters concerning the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center due to a conflict of interest. Cultural Affairs Committee Board members Aurora Flores and Celia Ramirez intend to apply under the RFEI issued by EDC.
The issue has caused controversy and in-fighting among East Harlem community members, dividing the Latino community rather than unifying them through positive collective development of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center.
TALLER BORICUA'S LEGACY OF COMMITMENT TO EL BARRIO, SPANISH HARLEM
Taller Boricua's mission has always been for positive and growth for Spanish Harlem. The "issue" of soundproofing the theater is an opportunity for jobs for workerfs in Spanish Harlem and a revival of the theater's use - not a cause for dividing the community.
Starting in the 1960s, a time when Spanish Harlem was ignored and ostracized socially, economically and politically, Taller Boricua fought for our community, dedicating the organization to the improvement of living conditionsand providing arts and culture programming to El Barrio.
The founders and current directors of Taller Boricua, Fernando Salicrup and Marcos Dimas, have always been involved in bringing basic public services as well as the arts to the such as: working with Operation Fightback to create and keep affordable housing; being part of the original founding board of El Museo del Barrio and assisting Boys Harbor's move to Spanish Harlem. They also helped more recent not-for-profits art groups such as Art for Change and Media Noche start-up in the community. Taller Boricua's goal was and still is to build a "cultural corridor" from Museum Mile into Spanish Harlem.
Apart from Taller Boricua's own programming (Salsa Wednesdays, open poetry nights, film screenings,l lectures and panels.) the multicultural space is used by the community to celebrate milestones in their lives (memorials, weddings, baptisms and birthdays) as well as by other not-for-profits in Spanish Harlem to further their programming. To name a few: New York Latinas Against Domestic Violence, Danisarte, Community Works, Los Pleneros de la 21, Harlem Community JusticeCenter, 100 Hispanic Women, Hope Community, Pathways to Housing, Art for Change, Friends of Claridad, Cerni-Underground, Community Planning Board, Absolutely on 2/Latino Dance with Carmen Marrero, Little Sisters of Assumption, Community Voices, The Field, The Renaissance School, Artist in the Schools, The Puerto Rican Travelling Theater, ArtCrawl Harlem, Zon de Barrio, Yerba Buena.
ONGOING PATTERN OF GENTRIFICATION
The EDC's issuance of the RFEI is just one more step towardsthe gentrification of Spanish Harlem and the continual dismantling of the efforts won by the Latino community. We have lost manyimportant groups inthe past few yeasr such as Chica Luna and the Association for Hispanic Arts (AHA). The deliberate and unilateral action of EDC gives the impression that there is a concerted effort to erase our culture in El Barrio.