Spurred by C.B. 3 snub, Latinos launch a new group | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Spurred by C.B. 3 snub, Latinos launch a new group

Lower East Side Hispanic business owners and residents recently gathered in the Marta Valle High School yard for the kickoff event of the new Association of Latino Business Owners & Residents. There was music, burgers, hot dogs and ices, and games for kids. Photos by Clayton Patterson
Lower East Side Hispanic business owners and residents recently gathered in the Marta Valle High School yard for the kickoff event of the new Association of Latino Business Owners & Residents. There was music, burgers, hot dogs and ices, and games for kids.
Photos by Clayton Patterson

BY CLAYTON PATTERSON | Up until a few years ago, in the part of the Lower East Side where I live, between Houston and Delancey Sts., the only time one saw a politician was at election time. Gentrification may have changed the face of the area, but we still get almost no political representation. I am guessing it must be election time again since the politicians seem to be popping up everywhere in the neighborhood. But in the meantime, at least, one thing has changed on the political landscape.

Jose Orlando Rodriguez and Robert Payne felt that discrimination played a role in Community Board 3’s decision to deny them a liquor license for the upscale Latin restaurant they were planning to open at 106 Rivington St.

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Of course, the LES Dwellers made a solid point when they protested the license, saying 27 full liquor licenses within 500 feet of the planned eatery was beyond saturation. Orlando’s side argued that he and his partners grew up in the community and there were 27 licenses for non-Hispanic operators within 500 feet of their dream business. LES Dwellers argued these licenses have created a nightmare for the neighbors, which they call Hell Square. And, in my opinion, both sides have been discriminated against because of the complete sellout by our local politicians. How did we become an entertainment zone? How could we end up with 27 liquor licenses in just this limited area? How could this even be legal? Why is it that just about all of the new businesses are owned and run by people from outside our community, and so few are Hispanic? In fact, one more longtime, Latino-owned small business, JAE bodega on Stanton St., closed just last week.

Rodriquez, determined to do something about the Hispanic community’s lack of any political power, joined with Enrique Cruz and Johnny Marines to form a new civic and political organization. They call it the Association of Latino Business Owners & Residents.

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To quote their literature: “The Association of Latino Business Owners and Residents — ALBOR — will maintain and promote residential and business opportunities for our members. Our belief is that with a vibrant, cohesive community organization and power in numbers, we can ensure better services.”

In terms of what, specifically, the group will offer, their literature explains: “Business Owners: Legal Assistance, Immigration Assistance, Real Estate and Loan Assistance, Government Relations, Help Establish New Start-Ups, Small Business Assistance. And for Residents: Landlord-Tenant Defense, Albor Member Discounts, Education and Community Events, Neighborhood and Business Security, Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance.”

This may seem like a tall order to fill, but these men have a proven record of accomplishing their goals. Rodriquez is one of the few L.E.S. bodega owners who has made the successful transition from bodega owner to owner of a number of successful gourmet delis. Marines, a Latin music manager, is the leading force that guided Romeo Santos, the lead singer for the local group Aventura, to stardom as a Latin Billboard celebrity. Santos is also given credit for popularizing the Dominican music genre bachata, and is known as the “King of Modern Bachata.” Cruz, from a young age, has been involved in community projects.

As an association, their first community event was an overwhelming success. They took over the Marta Valle High School yard and filled the place with adventures for the local children, music for adults and free food for everyone. I got to the schoolyard as the event was winding down, and there was still a large gathering of mostly Hispanic locals. This type of event reminded me of the days when the Jewish Festival was a major success. The significant fact that made me realize this event needed to be taken seriously was, without mentioning names, the presence of a number of local politicians and candidates for office.

The Grand St. section of the community has, for decades, done well in preserving, protecting and having solid political representation in their area. My hope is that this new Hispanic group will be successful in helping our part of the community. It is about time we had some form of political representation. The business improvement district is not the answer.