Remembering a Brooklyn Advocate Who ‘Didn’t Wish to Lose One other Child’ to Violence


After Brooklyn-born group organizer Luis Backyard Acosta died on Tuesday at 73, New York Metropolis Mayor Invoice de Blasio wrote on Twitter that the town had misplaced “a tireless group activist” who “by no means stopped combating for a simply and peaceable world.”

The Brooklyn-born Backyard Acosta initially studied to turn into a priest, however he left the seminary to check public well being, considering it a extra tangible approach to assist folks.

By 1980, at 34, he was the director of group medication on the Greenpoint Hospital, which served Brooklyn neighborhoods grappling with the exodus of jobs in earlier many years and the accompanying poverty and gang violence. Backyard Acosta frolicked within the hospital’s emergency room, he advised The New York Instances in a 2009 interview. Throughout one stretch spanning 1979 to 1980, within the predominantly Latino Southside part of Williamsburg, 48 younger folks died violent deaths, he recounted.

Immediately, Williamsburg is internationally related to a kind of trendiness and gentrification. Again then, earlier than the monied actual property pursuits gave the neighborhood a second thought, Backyard Acosta noticed the parade of bullet-ridden our bodies go into the ER. Most of them have been boys and younger males of colour like himself, the son of a Puerto Rican mom and a Dominican father, and most have been lifeless on arrival. He had attended Harvard Medical college so he might assist folks, however he couldn’t assist them.


One time, he recounted, a 19-year-old girl named Sugar was introduced in. The physician tried to resuscitate her, to no avail.

“Do it once more,” Backyard Acosta advised the physician, and mentioned it once more three extra instances.

“And I began crying,” he recounted to the Instances. “And that’s once I determined that this might finish.”

He left his profession in medication and in 1982 based El Puente, a multi-pronged group group centered totally on native younger folks. 

The group — whose title interprets to “The Bridge,” a reference to the close by Williamsburg Bridge and the symbolic bridges amongst teams it sought to builld — grew to incorporate an alternate highschool college, the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, which obtained consecutive “A” grades from New York Metropolis’s Division of Training within the years earlier than the town discontinued assigning faculties letter grades in 2014. (Backyard Acosta’s spouse, Frances Lucerna, co-founded El Punete with him and was the varsity’s founding principal.)

In the meantime, Backyard Acosta labored to close down Japanese District Excessive College, an incubator for among the neighborhood’s gang violence, and spearheaded the creation of 4 smaller faculties that changed it.

The group additionally emphasised environmental advocacy in an space that has among the highest bronchial asthma hospitalization charges within the metropolis. (A 2011 examine by the SUNY Downstate Medical Heart discovered aged space residents have been hospitalized for bronchial asthma 3 times greater than different Brooklyn residents their age.)

“At the moment the setting was extra the province of older white males on horses, the Sierra Membership, definitely not of inner-city youth, or folks of colour,” he advised the New York Press in 2008.

Thanks largely to the efforts of El Puente and different group advocates, crime plummeted within the space because it did throughout New York Metropolis. This made the world ripe for gentrification, which had its draw back: Most of the longtime, largely Latino residents who had labored to stabilize the neighborhood might not afford to stay there.

Amidst the displacement, El Puente fought for reasonably priced housing and emphasised cultural pleasure. Its annual Three Kings Day musical manufacturing, commemorating a day extra vital in lots of Latino households than Christmas, drew a citywide viewers.

At backside, El Puente’s objective was to foster a way of pleasure in younger folks. Their group cared about them, even when many indicators — displacement, substandard rental properties, dilapidated faculties, violence surrounding them — advised a lot of the world didn’t.

He impressed a number of generations, however his inspiration remained the tragedies contained in the Greenpoint Hospital emergency room. As he defined to the Instances, “I didn’t need to lose one other child.”

Backyard Acosta is survived by Lucerna and his two daughters, Arianne Backyard Vazquez and Raísa Lin Backyard Lucerna.

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