Tuesday, October 21, 2008

El Puente's New Bridge

I often go to visit Main Streets outside of New Jersey. On Monday, October 20th, I had a wonderful excursion to the "City of Brooklyn," as Borough President Marty Markowitz called it. I went to see the ribbon-cutting for a new school building developed by El Puente, a community human rights organization serving Northern Brooklyn and beyond. El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice has taken over Transfiguration Grammar School, a Catholic school that had educated generations of people from the Williamsburg neighborhood. Luis Garden Acosta, who founded El Puente in 1982, welcomed a long list of people who had helped in the struggle for the new home for the school. Among them was Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez who shared that she was heading back to Washington to work on the economy. "The country is depressed and you know why. This is a dose of optimism when I really needed it." Political and community leaders rejoiced in that Transfiguration School had been given new life. NYC Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who grew up in the neighborhood, told the youth in the audience, "You are surrounded on all sides by people who want to protect and nourish you. And that is what this icon of a building is: a place to nurture children. If these walls could talk, what stories they would tell of our community." The shining faces of the Academy's students were enough to light up anybody's day. Leaving the event, I reflected back on a speech I heard Acosta give at Body and Soul, the 2008 International Urban Parks Conference in Pittsburgh. At the end of his remarks, he asked the audience to rise and join him in chanting, "The people united will never be defeated!" That ribbon-cutting was certainly a case in point.

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