Tag Archives: Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center


Questions prepared by Mary Boncher, psychologist, poet and long-time El Barrio resident. Responses from Marilyn Navarro, long-time El Barrio resident.

QUESTIONS LOOKING FOR ANSWERS: I just read a quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the New Yorker (October 25, 2010 page 81) that seems quite applicable. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts”

Development of the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center
1. Which organizations and individuals were involved in the conception and early planning (1992-1995) for the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center? What roles did they play?

Johnny Colon – Music School, Ecuelecua – Maria Mar, Teatro LaTea, Taller Boricua – Fernando Salicrup, Edwin Marcial – Teatro Puertoriqueño, A Dance group, and another theater group I have to see if I have the name in some of my older files. The board chair was Carmen Vega Rivera the ED of EHTP at the time. The fiscal conduit and often mediator between EDC, the City, and the groups, was AHA. AHA provided space for their board meetings, and an administrative assistant to support the board of directors.

Side Note… someone should find out who houses the records for the Association of Hispanic Arts, while they are no longer in existence they may have kept copies of the board meeting minutes for the JBLCC board. We called the project the JBLCC project.

2. What was the original idea(s) for the Center?

The Julia de Burgos Latino and Cultural Center – JBLCC

It was suppose to be the mecca for the arts in El Barrio. It was suppose to provide a home to arts organizations struggling to find affordable space to teach, perform, and house Latino Arts in East Harlem. It would have a community Theater that the groups would share and also rent out to other arts organizations, gallery space, classrooms for teaching arts, and spaces for lectures and workshops. While the idea was that the center would be a Latino Arts Center, over 75% of the organizations being considered for moving in, and on the board were Puerto Rican organizations with deep roots in the East Harlem community.

3. In what ways were these ideas modified by the process of opening the Center?

4. What were the financial arrangements? What agency or organization owned (15 years ago) and now owns the building? What agency financed the renovations of the building?

It was owned by the city no one agency owned the space. The city would be leasing it to the organizations who were on the founding board. The organizations would pay rent based on the square footage they occupied. The city financed, but I cannot remember what city agency. I want to say DCA and EDC, but my memory does not carry that far back. A general manager would be hired to run the space. EDC and the City would have oversight for some time (amount of time I cannot recall), but eventually the space would become it’s own entity if they maintained compliance and operated well with some supervision from external agencies for a predetermined amount of time. The rent collected had to be enough to pay the mortgage, cover the operational expenses, and create a reserve. This is what determined the cost per square foot. Many of the organizations on the board who were hoping to move into the space could not afford the rent based on this square footage. There were conversations and the then board chair believed that through fundraising, with a good general manager they would be able to sustain, but overall the groups going in would have to agree to pay the square footage cost that was set, as they could not rely on fundraising when they had not even received the keys to the building, or the okay to move in. They had to prove to the overseeing agencies listed in number 5 below that they could sustain the building based on the only income that was guaranteed at the time… rent.

Side note…. You must all remember this was at a time where Cuomo was governor. The arts were not largely supported. Funding to the arts was not strong at all during this time. The fear of the larger institutions involved, overall, was that the groups moving in did not have the financial resources to be able to afford the rent, and that eventually the consortium would falter, because they would not be able to pay the mortgage, build reserve, and cover operations expenses in general.

What agency signed for and has carried the mortgage?
What were the terms of the financing?
How much money was spent? How much money is still owed?

5. What was the role of the following in the conception and launching of the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center?
New York City Cultural Affairs Commission
Economic Development Corporation
Borough President
City Council Representative
District 11 Community Board

Granting Leases for Space in the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center – What happened in 1995?
1. What entity determined which organizations were granted leases?

The organizations on the original board submitted applications with extensive documentation that was reviewed by members of the organizations outlined in question #5 above. They were supported by AHA in preparing their applications. Those organizations that met the criteria established by the those in #5 above were suppose to move in.

2. What was the basis for determination?

3. What were/are the conditions of the leases?

4. In particular, what are the conditions for the leases granted for the multi-purpose space?

5. How was it that two floors in the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center was rented to the Department of Education for a school??

6. What entities oversee the Julia de Burgos, legally and operationally?
What have they done to ensure that the vision for the Center is actualized?
What power do they legally have?
Who has power over them?

7. What specifically is the role and function of the Economic Development Corporation? Who sits on the board of the EDC? How are they elected/appointed and for what term? To whom are they accountable?

8. What is the relationship between the Economic Development Corporation and Community Board 11, our City Council member, other political entities that affect El Barrio? How does it all work and fit together?

Our Council Woman’s Request to the EDC
1. What complaints/criticisms lead our Council Woman to go to the EDC to ask them to discontinue current lease for the multi-purpose space and to put out an RFEI?

2. What if any discussions did our Council Woman have with Taller Boricua about these complaints and possible solutions?

3. What was/is our Council Woman’s assessment of the responsibility of EDC for the conditions she has identified as problematic with the use and utilization of the multi-purpose and theater space at the Julia de Burgos?

Taller Boricua and the Multi-Purpose Space
1. How has the space been used?

2. Who has and who has not had access to using the space?

3. What does the Taller understand as the complaints/criticisms of the use and utilization of the multi-purpose space?

4. What is the Taller’s response to these complaints/criticisms?

Current Issues from a Broader Perspective
1. What is the EDC’s responsibility in relation to the current situation with the Julia de Burgos?

2. What are the long term ramifications of the following statement in the online NYC Procurement Opportunities

This RFEI is not a formal offering for organizations to locate at the Site. However NYCEDC reserves the right to enter into negotiations with the organization(s) on the basis of the responses to the RFEI without engaging in further processes. NYCEDC and the City reserve the right, at their sole discretion, to withdraw the RFEI; to choose to discuss various approaches with one or more respondents (including those not responding to the RFEI), to use the ideas or proposals submitted in any manner deemed to be in the best interest of the NYCEDC and the City, including but not limited to soliciting competitive submission relating to such ideas or proposals; and/or undertake the prescribed work in a manner other than that which is set forth herein. NYCEDC and the City likewise reserve the right, at any time, to change any terms of the RFEI.” (darkened area not in original)

3. What is the potential negative cost to the Puerto Rican community in El Barrio of yet another “in-fight this time between our Council woman and her supporter and the Taller Boricua and its supporters?

4. What options, if any, are there for the community to handle the differences over the Julia de Burgos spaces in a less contentious manner?

5. What if anything have we learned from past battles over institutions in El Barrio and the ensuing loses to the Puerto Rican Community

6. What mistakes were made in those battles/confrontations? What do we need to learn?

7. What does this all have to do with gentrification?

What visions do we have for how to handle differences within El Barrio so that we do not lose what is left of El Barrio for the Puerto Rican Community.

1. What visions are there for how we can work more cooperatively, forge a stronger community, and combat gentrification?

2. What middle forces are available in the community to mediate the current conflict which presents as quite polarized

Side note…. From what I remember there was a general sense even then in 1993 – 1997 when I worked directly with these individuals, that Taller Boricua monopolized the overall process. While perhaps well intentioned in wanting to be a part of such a historic project and wanting to be in the space, other groups felt that their voice was not as prominent in the process as that of those who represented Taller Boricua. What started out as a collective of arts organizations taking part in a historic projected ended sadly. When those doors opened, the only group that went into the space – from the original organizations on the board – was Taller Boricua. My memory may be wrong, and if it is, not more than one or two others from that original board ever went into the space.

M. Navarro,
Puerto Rican Resident of El Barrio for 38 years
Born and Raised


looking for answers
structuring seeing

to know

to understand
what is

knowing seems
as easy as answering
a question

where from
the question

how is it
to be asked

how is it

how is it



An Open Letter to City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito Concerning the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center

I am writing to you on behalf of my husband, myself, and all our friends who have been attending the Latin dance night at Julia de Burgos Cultural Center. We have been dancing there since the site opened. It’s a wonderful way to preserve the rich history of Latin music and dance, especially since most of us are over 50 and remember Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Joe Cuba, whose wake we attended, Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe,and many others.

I can’t think of a better way to promote harmony among people than by congregating at Burgos every Wednesday night. There are dancers from so many varied ethnic and religious backgrounds that it is an excellent representation of multicultural activity. I have never witnessed a harsh word, argument, or altercation in all the years I have dancing there. People come for their love of Latin music and dance. We socialize, talk about old times, eat, drink, take photographs together, and most importantly, share our passion for mambo, cha cha, and merengue. And it is a passion! Every week someone celebrates a birthday with a huge cake, which is offered to friends and acquaintances alike. I celebrated mine on November 17, and I was so happy to have such a spot where camaraderie is at its height.

Unfortunately, you have a reputation of being unsupportive of small business, low-income tenants, and affordable housing, in favor of big business and multinational corporations. I suppose that closing Burgos is in line with your present political leanings and aspirations. If I am wrong about this, please respond to this email. I would like to hear your side.


Jan Mayrick