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Lower East Side Activist Carmen Pabon Dies at the Age of 94

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Carmen Pabon. October 2016.
Carmen Pabon. October 2016.

Carmen Pabon, a beloved Lower East Side community activist, has died at the age of 94. According to a news release from City Council member Rosie Mendez, Pabon passed away Saturday night surrounded by loved ones.

Just last month, she was present at a ribbon cutting ceremony at a community garden on Avenue C that was named in her honor. Pabon was often referred to as “Madrina of Loisaida” (Lower East Side grandmother). She was a tireless advocate for the homeless and disenfranchised.

Pabon was born in Puerto Rico in 1922, moving to New York in 1946. She lived in the Bronx before settling in this neighborhood in 1955. Pabon lived all these years at the Lillian Wald Houses.

In the 1970s, she led a group of residents in removing rubble from abandoned lots on Avenue C near 7th Street. The garden, El Bello Amanecer, became a refuge for those in need of social services and food. In the 1990s, local residents were displaced from the garden to make way for Giuliani-era real estate development. Pabon led the battle to restore the garden. She finally got to see the fruits of those labors last month, 17 years later, when the new garden opened to the public.

In a statement, Mendez said, “I will miss her dearly. All of Loisaida will. I am grateful that she was here for the re-opening of St. Brigid’s Church and that we were able to clear all the hurdles to re-open her garden. I was so thrilled that she was able to go to the garden and cut that ribbon.”

Funeral & Wake Arrangements:
Wednesday, Nov. 16th 4-9 p.m., Ortiz Funeral Home, 22 1st Avenue
Thursday, Nov. 17th, 9:45 a.m., St Brigid Church, 119 Avenue B

The Lower East Side Biography Project told Pabon’s story a few years ago:

Carmen Pabon: The Lower East Side Biography Project, excerpt from 28 minute biography from Steve Zehentner on Vimeo.

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