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NiLP FYI Masthead 

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito's Continuing Dance with the Tabloids

. . . and the Mural with 

the Fu Fu


Note: As the major New York tabloids continue their "hit jobs" on the candidacy of Melissa Mark Viverito for NYC Council Speaker, at least one has backed off a little, probably in part because of the efforts of our NiLP Network. The Daily News printed a follow-up article on the ridiculous charge that she put a curse on a political rival via a mural on the side of her building. In it, they write it up for the joke it is as opposed to the earlier piece that actually took it as a serious charge. 


But they also printed an editorial attacking Mark Viverito as a "hypocrite." What we can't find are any criticism of her rivals for the position. Some say that this is because she is a Puerto Rican woman and her main rival is a white male, but this is 2014 and that couldn't possibly be the reason. Apparently, unlike other politicians in this city, she is suspect as a Puerto Rcan for making legal investments and accumulating some wealth honestly. But, again, this is 2014 and this couldn't possibly be the reason. In today's edition, they write about Mark Viverito's failure to report rental income for 2009-12 and we await her response to those charges.


On the other hand, the New York Times all of a sudden wrote a glowing piece on Mark Viverito's main opponent, Daniel Garodnick. In it, they dismiss Mark Viverito as too political, while quoting a good friend of Garodnick's saying, "Pure politics isn't what drives him," he added of his friend. "In fact, I think he hates it."  Yeah, right! 


And then there are  our friends at the New York Post who continue to distort history to attack Mark Viverito's credibility by resurrecting an old questionable incident and providing one-sided attacks by her political enemies and angry projects she refused funding. On the 2011 incident they inaccurately showcase, we present below a column by Gerson Borrero of El Diario-La Prensa that gives both sides.


Finally, on the Mark Viverito curse charge, architect Warren James points out that no one has bothered to talk to the artist about the mural in question. He links us to Don Rimx' extraordinary "Los Muros Hablan" Project.


---Angelo Falc�n     



* "Council speaker hopeful Melissa Mark-Viverito pokes fun at rival's claim she put curse on home" By Stephen Rex Brown, New York Daily News (January 5, 2014)
* "Speaker hopeful Mark-Viverito called vindictive by critics" By Kate Briquelet,

New York Post (January 5, 2014)

* "Row over Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in El Barrio" By Gerson Borrero,

El Diario-La Prensa (March 2, 2011)

"On the Mural in Question: Don Remx and 'Los Muros Hablan' Project" By Warren James, The NiLP Network on Latino Issues(January 5, 2014) 


Council speaker hopeful Melissa Mark-Viverito pokes fun at rival's claim she put curse on home

A $1 million lawsuit claims Mark-Viverito had a mural of a decapitated chicken painted on the building where former opponent Gwen Goodwin lives. 'Darn! My little secret revealed!" Mark-Viverito tweeted Saturday in response to a joke asking if she was 'a voodoo temptress.'

By Stephen Rex Brown

New York Daily News (January 5, 2014) 


A $1 million lawsuit claims City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (pictured) had a decapitated chicken painted on the building where former primary rival Gwen Goodwin lives. The Council speaker hopeful took a jab at the suit on Twitter.


"Darn! My little secret revealed!" Mark-Viverito tweeted in response to a joke asking if she is "a voodoo temptress."


The favorite to be the next City Council speaker added the hashtag #cantmakethisup.


The $1 million suit, revealed Friday by the Daily News, alleges Mark-Viverito had a mural of a decapitated chicken painted on the East Harlem building where Gwen Goodwin, her former primary opponent, lives.


The mural on the side the East Harlem building where Gwen Goodwin lives. The suit says headless fowl serve as 'a curse and a death threat' in Caribbean culture.


Headless fowl serve as "a curse and a death threat" in Caribbean culture, the suit claims, without specifying a religion.


But Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, president of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute in East Harlem, told The News the claim is completely bogus.


 "This woman doesn't know what she's talking about," Vega said of Goodwin. "It's providing a negative context for a belief system that has nothing to do with the mural."


Speaker hopeful Mark-Viverito

called vindictive by critics

By Kate Briquelet

New York Post (January 5, 2014) 




De Blasio pushing hard for Mark-Viverito

Loser pol: Rival put a Caribbean hex on me

Bill de Blasio touts Speaker candidate Mark-Viverito

Mark-Viverito leads charter-halt suit


It was supposed to be a friendly talk about an East Harlem art space.

But when board members of the nonprofit Casabe Housing Development Fund met with Melissa Mark-Viverito, now front-runner for the City Council speakership, they faced a lashing out of left field.


"You used the occasion to rant against [board member Yolanda Sanchez] . . . because she had not actively supported you the first time you ran for City Council," Casabe directors wrote in a February 2011 letter to Mark-Viverito. 


"The clear implication that your office engages in 'quid pro quo' practices . . . completely shocked us."


The senior-housing group also wrote, "In your vitriolic rant, you voiced dismay that the African-American constituents consider you a racist and that the Puerto Ricans dislike you."


Many activists interviewed by The Post said they feared what would happen if Mark-Viverito headed the council - claiming that advocates who stand up to her are often blacklisted.


For Casabe, it all started when Fernando Salicrup's arts group, Taller Boricua, was evicted from a city-owned cultural center in 2011 after more than a decade.


Mark-Viverito said Salicrup wasn't running the space properly and asked the Economic Development Corp. to find a new operator. Casabe stepped in to propose their ideas, which the angry lawmaker rejected. The center now languishes vacant.


Salicrup could not be reached for comment, but a source said he was booted in retaliation over his support of now-Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez.


"Everyone in our neighborhood is afraid of Melissa," said Gwen Goodwin, an East Harlem activist who ran against Mark-Viverito for City Council last year. "It brings into question the discretion of the person you're asking to be the next-most-powerful person in the city."


The lefty lawmaker was the first council member to support the bid of Mayor de Blasio, who in return has been pushing her for speaker.


"It's too much power to put in her hands," said Jo Ann Lawson, who claims Mark-Viverito booted her from the community board in March 2013 after 10 years of service in order to add more Latino members.


Lawson said Mark-Viverito would often call board members and tell them how to vote.


Neighborhood resentment deepened in 2012, after the lawmaker helped cancel a city contract held by a Puerto Rican nonprofit for 20 years for the Leonard Covello Senior Center - giving it to an Upper East Side group.


While the wealthy councilwoman donned "99%" T-shirts during Occupy Wall Street protests, she's come under fire for taking advantage of tax breaks reserved for the poor.


The Puerto Rico-born politician, the daughter of a rich hospital administrator, 

owns $1.5 million in real estates. Yet she obtained an interest-free loan under a city program to help low-income people buy homes.


"It's a shame that Melissa has not only gotten [into office] but that she really is a fraud," said Goodwin, who last week filed a million-dollar suit against her.


Goodwin claims the councilwoman put a grotesque mural of an impaled rooster on her building while they ran for district leader last year. She says the painting is a "death threat."


Still, Mark-Viverito lavishes money on supporters, giving $65,000 in the past two years to low-income advocates Community Voices Heard and helping to push $160,000 in council funds to Picture the Homeless, run by her ally Lynn Lewis, according to budget data.


Franklin Plaza, a 1,632-unit co-op, received a $1-million grant from Mark-Viverito. The board posted flyers requesting residents re-elect her.


But Army veteran Sgt. Jose Sanchez, who lives at the co-op, says he hasn't been able to get the lawmaker to help fund a children's boxing club. The councilwoman canceled the last three meetings scheduled with El Barrio Boxing Association, he said.


"I was asked to vote for her," Sanchez told The Post . "I felt disgusted about it. She can give my building $1 million but not $40,000 for our group? This is for the kids of East Harlem."


A rep for Mark-Viverito called claims against her "false."


"While she can't help fund every group, Melissa has an outstanding . . . relationship with the overwhelming majority of community groups," said spokesman Eric Koch.


"It's demonstratively false to claim otherwise." 


NiLP FYI Masthead


March 5, 2011


Note: There has been some controversy for some time over charges of the mismanagement of the city-owned building housing the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in Manhattan's East Harlem. In a highly controversial move, alleging mismanagement by Taller Boricua, New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverto intervened to change the  management of the center working through the city's Economic Development Agency. This has caused major divisions in El Barrio's artistic community. The latest flare-up is reported below by El Diario columnist Gerson Borrero over allegations that the Councilwoman disrespected elder community leader Yolanda Sanchez at a recent meeting (in which Ms. Sanchez was not present).


Yolanda Sanchez, 78 years old, is an institution in the Latino community who has spent over thirty years in the development and management of diverse human services. She serves as the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs and is President of the National Latinas Caucus, past president of the East Harlem Council for Human Services and former director of the CUNY Office of Puerto Rican Program Development.  Ms. Sanchez is a former National Urban Fellow and a graduate of Harvard University's School of Business, and holds an MSW degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Social Work.


Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and was elected to the City Council in January 2006 to serve as Council Member for the 8th Council District. She is the first Puerto Rican woman and Latina elected to represent her district. During her first term, Melissa has sponsored several local laws to address tenant harassment and promote construction safety. Prior to her election to the City Council, the Councilwoman worked for the 1199 SEIU New York's Health Care Union, as well as several community organizations and political campaigns. Besides her professional life, Melissa has been very active in community affairs, founding Women of El Barrio-an organization that promotes the development of women as leaders in the economic, political and social life of their community.


---Angelo Falc�n


Bajo Fuego

Row over Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in El Barrio

By Gerson Borrero |  

El Diario-La Prensa (March 2, 2011)

translated from Spanish by NiLP


In a two-page letter, the Board of Directors of Casabe Houses accuses New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito of having insulted and threatened them during a meeting in her office in Manhattan in what was intended to be a discussion about  the future of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center.


As highlighted by the February 24 letter, signed by Frank Quiles in his capacity as president of the organization that provides housing and services to the elderly, Mark-Viverito "used the occasion to talk rudely of Yolanda S�nchez , who is a member of our Board and one of the most respected leaders of the Puerto Rican and Latino community of New York City over the past thirty years. "


Beyond the bickering that provoked the letter, it was signed by nine other members of the Board, including Ms. Sanchez, and accused of the City Councilwomen of the 8th District of telling them, "I've already made the decision," to support another group to take charge of the Cultural Center, which has been allegedly mismanaged by the current managers.


"They never approached me and did not let me know of their interest" said Mark-Viverito as she thundered against what she considered a lack of respect. According to the Councilwoman, "They came to the meeting with the intention of an ambush and trying to tarnish my reputation."


After calming down, Mark-Viverito in a telephone conversation admitted that she did tell them, "My support has already been given to another organization." However, she denied that she threatened them or insulted Ms. Sanchez.


"I was firm in my tone," said Mark-Viverito, who added, "I am a human being." She assured us that there will be a formal response to the group.


To all this we assume that once the Hispanic Federation, the theater group Pregones, Los Pleneros de la 21 and the Puerto Rican Travelling Theatre saw this aired in public, they will re-evaluate their participation in the Mark-Viverito coalition created to assume direction of the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center.


"Yolanda is 78 and Melissa, who is not even of El Barrio, disrespected her," said one activist who asked not to be identified but who is bothered by this rumor. Be seen as making the city agency, Economic Development Corporation, who could receive a formal complaint about what was supposed to come from the mayor. All pending.


"I was firm in my tone," said Mark-Viverito, who added, "I am a human being." The official assured us that there will be a formal response to the group.


We are waiting to see what the city agency, the Economic Development Corporation, who could receive a formal complaint about what the Councilwoman is planning. Let's wait and see.



In Search of "flamboyant Language"

By Albert Medina

El Diario-La Prensa (4 de marzo 2011)

translated from Spanish by Albert Medina


In an article on 2 March in El Diario/La Prensa, Gerson Borrero commented on a letter received from Frank Quiles in the name of the organization over which he presided, saying that Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito had commented "in showy language" against Yolanda Sanchez."


What were those flamboyant words?


He also wrote that an activist - not named - had told him that Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito -was not from El Barrio! (the neighborhood) What Puerto Rican is not from El Barrio? Even those born in the United States.


Celia Ramirez, who represents East River North Renewal HDFC, should also have been mentioned when he listed the organizations participating in the coalition supported by Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito.


The   values and material objects that make up a shared way of life: the intangible creations of human society; and the products which emerged out of the interactions of people - within the limitations of the then geographic boundaries that encompassed El Barrio, NY - is not something to be glossed over lightly.


Albert Medina

East River North Renewal




On the Mural in Question:

Don Rimx and 

"Los Muros Hablan" Project

By Warren James |

The NiLP Network on Latino Issues (January 5, 2014)


In the newspaper articles quoting Gwen Goodwin ("La Loca del Pueblo") there is no mention of the artist who designed & painted the mural on East 100th Street, one of many created as part of the 'Los Muros Hablan' project, and I find this extremely problematic.


His name is Don Rimx and he lives in Brooklyn.  As far I have read no one has bothered to ask him about his work and what it means and what inspired him.  A gross omission don't you think?


The art work has a title, an author, and to be mindful & respectful I think the records going forward must include this, and the context of the greater art project.


There is a web site for the project and the artist has an archive.  I cannot stand silently by any more than when the art works of Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe were vilified for political ends.