Op-Ed: An Untold Legacy Of An Out Going Elected Official From East Harlem

By Félix Leo Campos

At a time when men in high ranking positions in every field of endeavor are being accused of abusing their position of authority and its inherent influence and power, critics argue that there is a double standard, a war on men. “MeToo” gave women the regard of being courageous for stepping forward to expose the abuse and inappropriate (sexual) behavior. In the current social climate of disclosure and allegation that feminism has gone wild to the point that under the guise of “empowering women and young girls” all men are held under suspicion.

What will be the reaction to the news of a woman, in power, abusing her office or position? Women, feminists, especially, won’t take the news kindly. If the accuser is a man, he will be attacked as being “anti-feminist”, patriarchal, chauvinist, misogynist, etc. If a woman, she will be shunned for being weak and submissive to male authority. Another response is to discredit the claim and the accuser. The tactic is the deny and avoid any questions, argument, and admissions that incriminates. What shows itself here is that there isn’t anything in place to keep the pendulum of “shifting gender roles” from swinging from one extreme to the other.

Former NYC Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito (MMV) may be the first woman being accused of abusing her position and influence. That she is, technically, no longer a member of the NYC Council, less its speaker, or that prior to leaving public office, she had the managing property agency changed are ruses to throw the charges out the window but, that wouldn’t be the case if the public official is a man. Fair play and gender equality demand that holding someone accountable for what may have happened 30 years ago shouldn’t pose a problem to record the past eight.

The allegation stands on the history of effort of disclosure and several basic facts that raise questions of trustworthiness, transparency, corruption and usurpation. There were four principle groups of the Julia de Burgos Arts Alliance written into the proposal, East River North HDFC, Inc, Puertorriqueños Unidos, El Teatro Moderno Puertorriqueño, and AfterDark CATV PRO. Los Pleneros de la 21 joined and left just as quickly. The language of the submitted proposal, written by the Arts Alliance, identifies not only who the Julia de Burgos Arts Alliance is comprised of but also the role of the Hispanic Federation,

“The Hispanic Federation will serve as the fiscal conduit for the East Harlem Arts
Alliance and support the development and marketing efforts of the collaborative.”

Sadly, they did fulfill that role. Documented in the “SIGNATURE VERSION” copy I received from EDC of the lease agreement lists the “East River North Housing, the Hispanic Federation, and Los Pleneros de La 21” as being the Julia de Burgos Arts Alliance. Omitted are the members who conceived the Arts Alliance and who are authors of the submitted proposal, Puertorriqueños Unidos, El Teatro Moderno Puertorriqueño, and AfterDark CATV PRO.

“WHEREAS, in response to a Request for Expressions of Interest (“RFEI”) released
by NYCEDC on September 30, 2010, the Julia de Burgos Arts Alliance, consisting of
member organizations East River North HDFC, Inc., The Hispanic Federation, Inc.
and Los Pleneros de la 21 was selected (although effective as of May 24, 2012,
Los Pleneros de la 21 shall no longer participate in the Julia de Burgos Arts Alliance,
see the Los Pleneros de la 21 Letter of Resignation dated May 24, 2012 attached hereto as Exhibit F); and…”

Melissa Mark-Viverito is regarded as an example of what (strong) women and empowered young girls can accomplish. Give her props for all the legislation and representation that she has stood for and delivered. For me, that includes recognizing Oscar Lopez Rivera and all the others political prisoners released before him and those still incarcerated. Minus the reference to Puerto Rico, both gender equality and fair play demand that acknowledgment of good deeds and contributions be also said of Senator Al Franken and any other elected official acing accusations of inappropriate behavior, misconduct, and other charges. That would be having one standard that applies to all. Everyone would be equal.

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Melissa isn’t without a documented history of scorn, retaliation and retribution. In 2017, the most recent case of vendettas cut the budget of El Centro de Estudio Puertorriqueño’s (Center for Puerto Rican Studies) in half when its director, Edwin Melendez, opposed her decision to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera. In 2014, Executive Director of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP), Angelo Falcon, showed concern in a piece on “…The Impact of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito” as Council Speaker with the following,

“A recurring question is whether the new Speaker and her coalition will
be retaliating against her opponents in committee assignments, an issue
raised by the initial membership elected by the Speaker of the powerful
Rules Committee that determines these assignments.”

It was Melissa Mark-Viverito who had gotten rescinded the tenancy agreement El Taller Boricua/Puerto Rican Workshop had as the theater and multi-cultural rooms manager when its Director, Fernando Salicrup, had challenged Melissa with El Taller’s own ideas for use of a lot west of the Conrail elevated tracks. In 2010, she launched “El Gran Engaño”/The Great Deceit” with the announcement of the EDC Request for Expression of Interest Bid. There are a number of Youtube videos of a community meeting held at the Fiorello LaGuardia Memorial House where she is seen & heard announcing the bid and the goal of maintaining management in the hands of El Barrio/East Harlem. She would later orchestrate the corruption of the process entailing a front made up of three community board #11 members. I fell into this group unaware of the hidden agenda.

Any agreement that I was a part of was with the thought of moving the group forward in the bid process and in preparation for the day when the Julia de Burgos Arts Alliance would open the performance and exhibition spaces by being both a venue for and producers of events and activities. It was never my intent to permit an “estrangero” to take over the space considering the struggle to have “La Julia” and maintain it and other institutions in our community. That wasn’t the plan. Not mine anyway.

This is the reason for my fight against Melissa, the Hispanic Federation, and the “Man in the High Castle”, Luis Miranda, founder of the Hispanic Federation and founding partner in MirRam, a political consulting firm.

Without explanation or “due process” of any kind three long standing and active cultural groups in El Barrio/East Harlem have been wiped out and excluded in the final agreement. Only one, AfterDark CATV PRO, is saying “presente” and defend our place, history, community, its assets and resources. How does that happen and people not ask themselves that very same question. How did this happen? Who made/approved the decision? Where is it written?

More harm than good will come from any retribution from Melissa, the Federation’s and their supporters, including feminists, whose fear is of losing credibility as a movement and a symbol for empowered women, and the chance to raise women above men to the seat of gender dominance and the start of matriarchal rule. After all, a hero and a role model is being accused of acting just as men do.

Editor’s Note: Op-Ed articles in the magazine does do not necessarily reflect and/or express the view points of Harlem World Magazine. We always offer our platform for alternative views expressed in Op-Ed articles.

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