Lower East Side History Month is in full swing with a wide variety of cultural events taking place throughout the neighborhood. Last night, the organization’s steering committee hosted the second annual Lower East Side Community Hero Awards at University Settlement. The honorees included:
- Nelson Valentine, senior court advocate at the Andrew Glover Youth Program.
- Mateo Gomez and Nelson Landrieu, the founders of the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center.
- Paul Garrin, a media and technology artist who created WiFi-NY, a cooperative broadband network.
- Chino Garcia, community activist and founder of the CHARAS community center
- Joyce Mendelsohn, Lower East Side historian and author
- LES Ready, the neighborhood coalition working on sustainability issues and emergency preparedness.
In their own ways, all of the award winners last night have dedicated their lives to helping to preserve the Lower East Side’s authentic character. One of the recipients, Joyce Mendelsohn, delivered a pointed message during her acceptance remarks.
She alluded to the incredible pressure the neighborhood is under due to the real estate boom. “We cannot become discouraged,” Mendelsohn said. “We have to fight on, knowing that money cannot buy everything.” Referring to the tensions that sometimes exist among community activists with different priorities, she added, “It’s time tonight, right here this minute, for affordable housing organizations and preservation groups to work together. All of us who care about protection and livability on the Lower East Side know it is a tough battle but we cannot give up. We have to fight back.” Mendelsohn, co-founder of the preservation group “Friends of the Lower East Side,” went on to say, “a number of local organizations are supporting the idea of an historic district below Delancey Street.” She noted that many downtown groups had signed on in support of the initiative and she urged people in the audience to do the same.
If you would like to check out the LES History Month schedule, click here.