Tag Archives: Sunset Park


Click below to watch a documrntary trailer for “CopWatch : What’s your badge number?” specifically documenting the history of Sunset Park Brooklyns communities police problem:

CopWatch / What’s your badge number?


As summer begins in NYC, the weekends get filled with cultural parades and an array of activities that is distinct to each community and neighborhood in NY.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade brings millions of people alongside 5th Ave on the east-side of manhattan. Many who return from the main parade continue to celebrate in their neighborhoods as we pour out onto the streets waving flags, salsa music blaring from speakers and conga players drumming those African Rhythms of our roots.

In communities such as Sunset Park in Brooklyn, a mostly Puerto Rican neighborhood, year after year, local youth are all too familiar with the aggressive confrontations of police officers who greet them with shoves and batons to the head. Many are corralled and pushed around from block to block as cops claim that these are disturbances to the quality of life in the community.

CopWatchers have documented these mistreatments, videotaping police shoving youth right in front of their own homes who aggressively told that they must clear the streets immediatley or face arrest, many clearly never even getting the opportunity to walk away.

Droves of young people get assaulted. Including an 8 yr. old girl who was shoved onto a gate in June of 2004. Teenage girls were maced, chocked and manhandled by NY’s Finest, 72nd pct. 19 young people were assaulted and charged for misdemeanors including disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, all of which eventually got dropped because police officers failed to prove why they were charged.

None of the officers were ever charged. All continue to work 72nd pct in the same community. Year after year, police aggression during the Puerto Rican Day Parade have escalated to levels reminiscent of those same images taken in the 50’s and 60’s of police violence.

As a result, in 2006 community members/local clergy and cultural workers organized a free concert which at the same time served as a campaign to educate folks on their rights when dealing with police conflict. The concert was called “El Grito de Sunset Park” and it went on, even though the 72nd pct. police community affairs officers and the commanding officer refused to grant them a sound permit.

That year, no one was arrested, even with all the police provocation. Irish communities in NYC have not recieved the same level of aggression from the police during their st. patricks day parade. Copwatchers have also documented the NYPDs tolerence for public intoxication and have also witnessed the blind eye police give to their selected communities. Could it be that the NYPD favors selected ethnic groups? Is it because the NYPD has historically been an Irish dominated run department within the state.

This is not to take away from the Irish community from peacefully celebrating their pride and culture, but one would like to believe that everyone has the opportunity to have a day in which they can celebrate without being discriminated against because of their race and culture. So once again, the community will come together for “El Grito de Sunset Park 2, 2007” along 49th St. and 5th avenue @ 6:30pm in Brooklyn despite the 72nd pcts. commanding officers attempt to deny the community members its sound permit. And despite the fact the the NYPD has permanently installed survelience cameras at all the places were CopWatchers documented police violence in years past. Are those cameras there to document police conflict? Or are they there to selectively chose video for manipulation as an excuse to the NYPD’s violence?

But just like 2006, the community will gather for a peaceful day to enjoy music, celebrate its pride and ultimately a showing that this community can police itself without the need of the NYPD.



NOVEMBER 15 TRIBUTE: A non-stop, ongoing reading of Ed Vega’s “The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle” — Magical Realism comes to Loisaida (and now El Barrio)! Bring your copy!


September 9, 2008
Edgardo Vega Yunqué, Novelist of the Puerto Rican Experience in New York, Dies at 72

Edgardo Vega Yunqué, whose novels and stories about life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan were picaresque, combustive and sometimes flamboyantly comic expressions of the Puerto Rican experience in New York’s multicultural maelstrom, died on Aug. 26 in Brooklyn. He was 72 and lived in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The cause was probably a blood clot, said his daughter, Alyson Vega, who said that he died suddenly during a visit to the emergency room at Lutheran Medical Center and that his family had not been immediately notified.

Mr. Vega Yunqué, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico at the age of 13 and spent his teenage years in a Puerto Rican and Irish neighborhood in the Bronx, resisted characterization both as a writer and as an individual. Angered by the expectation of Latin writers either to document ghetto life or to “dabble in magic realism,” as he put it, he was known as a contentious man with a philosophy founded on the sanctity of self-expression, and he wrote with a voice that was lyrical, insistent, irrepressible and often scathingly satiric.

In “The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow Into the Impenetrable Loisada Jungle,” (Overlook Press, 2004), he cast a comic, sardonic eye on the American response to the Sept. 11 attacks. His latest book, “Rachel Horowitz, Puerto Rican Sex Freak,” an earthy send-up of sexual politics, was scheduled for publication this summer but Overlook canceled it after a dispute with him.

“He was an iconoclast of the first order,” said his agent, Tom Colchie. “Ed was always cantankerous about editing. He would say, ‘I’m not going to be any publisher’s fuzzy-wuzzy.’ ”

With a counterculture-ish perspective and a penchant for florid turns of phrase and hyper-punctuated sentences, he had a literary relative in Tom Robbins, though his work often had a political fierceness about it as well.

His best-known book, “No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain’t Never Coming Home Again” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), is a sprawling tale of two families, one Puerto Rican and one Irish, and their intertwining over several generations. The Vietnam War plays a central role and so does American jazz, not only thematically — one main character is a pianist who walks away from the chance to play with Miles Davis when he joins the Marines — but stylistically as well, with narrative strains wandering improvisatorily away from the main tale and finding intricate paths that bring them back again. Julia Livshin, writing in The New York Times Book Review, said it was a “powerhouse of a novel” that “brings vividly to life, with its polyphony of voices, the simmering ethnic stew of the great American city.”

Edgardo Alberto Vega Yunqué was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on May 20, 1936, but he was raised in the town of Cidra. His father, a Baptist minister, moved the family to New York in 1949 when he took over a Spanish-speaking congregation in the South Bronx. Mr. Vega Yunqué was a radio operator in the Air Force, and during one home leave, he was asked by his sister to help clean out an estate in central New York. In the attic he found hundreds of paperback novels — by Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway and others — and he began reading them voraciously. That spurred him to write novels.

Mr. Vega Yunqué attended New York University and worked as a community organizer before publishing his first novel, “The Comeback,” in 1985. His other works include two collections of stories and the novel “Blood Fugues.” (HarperCollins, 2006.) In 1994, he founded the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center on the Lower East Side as a home for theater artists, dancers and visual artists, and he ran it until 2000, when he stepped down, his tenure marred by fierce disputes between the mostly Hispanic theater artists and the mostly white visual artists over the center’s management.

Mr. Vega’s marriage to Pat Vega ended in divorce, the culmination of what his daughter, Alyson, and his stepdaughter, the singer Suzanne Vega, described as a tempestuous home life. Her stepfather was passionate about knowledge and passed that zeal on, Suzanne Vega said. “But the thing that made him a great writer was the thing that also made him dangerous,” she added. “Any boundary or restriction he took as a red flag.”

In addition to Suzanne and Alyson Vega, both of Manhattan, Mr. Vega Yunqué is survived by a son, Matthew, of Amagansett, New York; a brother, Jay Vega, of Cape May, N.J.; a sister, Abigail McGlynn, of Queens; and a granddaughter.