Luis Garden Acosta Interviews

Series, Luis Garden Acosta Interviews
Part of: CENTRO: 100 Puerto Ricans Oral History Project, 2013- > Luis Garden Acosta Interviews
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Luis Garden Acosta is mostly known for founding El Puente, a community-based youth development organization and the school created from this organization, El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice. The Academy is located in Brooklyn and is open to students citywide.[1] In 1982 Luis Garden Acosta founded El Puente which “is a community human rights institution that promotes leadership for peace and justice through the engagement of members (youth and adult) in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness and environmental action”.[2] El Puente is based on twelve fundamental principles which are present in all of the programmatic components of the organization, including the Latino Climate Action Network (LCAN) which Garden-Acosta founded in Puerto Rico on February 28, 2013. LCAN organized Puerto Rico’s first climate summit on Climate Change which eventually lead to impacts within the policy of climate change of Puerto Rico. [3]  El Puente has been an essential component for the empowerment, advocacy and education of the Puerto Rican and Latino community, within Williamsburg and beyond even making an impact on the island of Puerto Rico. On their website they highlight the many initiatives and accomplishments they have made within the communities they serve.
In addition to El Puente and El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice Luis Garden Acosta was also an active member within the Puerto Rican community during the civil rights era in NYC. He was a member of the Young Lords Party and prior to his founding El Puente he worked as an executive at Greenpoint Hospital, in Brooklyn NY. As an executive at this hospital Garden Acosta realized the dire need to create a space for youth, in an effort to address the high murder rates of youth. As a way to address the violence directly and target the root cause of the problem Garden Acosta created El Puente. In addition to creating this space for youth he was also part of many community initiatives which included bridging connections between ethnic groups within the Williamsburg community of Brooklyn to address the overall needs of the youth in the area. This included a one month protest, demanding the dismantling of a wall within PS 16 that segregated students.[4] His community involvement also included the creation of the Community Alliance for the Environment CAFE which was in collaboration with “UJO and NYPRG that toppled the development of a legislated, 55-story incinerator in Williamsburg”.[5] Garden Acosta and El Puente are also recognized for “reaching out to 5,000 of its Southside neighbors in a three-year asthma study that resulted in the first scientific, peer-reviewed article written by a community organization ever published by The American Journal of Public Health”.[6]
Garden-Acosta is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent. He was a leader in the Young Lords Party where he took a stand on the independence and self-determination of Puerto Rico.[7] He has also been part of the struggle for community control of schools, and was a member of the Wednesday Night group, which consisted of Puerto Rican leaders from different fields to discuss the goals and need of the Puerto Rican community. He also had a radio show where he was referred to as Dr. Salsa. Through this radio show Garden Acosta took advantage of the platform to raise awareness and spread knowledge on health issues concerning the Puerto Rican and Latino communities. Garden Acosta always has environmental, health and wellness issues always present within his initiatives, such as the Greenlight District program at El Pente, which is “strategic ten-year initiative to sustain, grow, green, and celebrate Williamsburg’s Southside community”.[8]In 1999 Garden Acosta and his wife, Frances Lucerna were honored for their commitments and efforts within the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The couple was awarded $250,000 and they appreciate this recognition and consider it a validation of the work they do.[9] Garden Acosta is also the author of academic publication titled “Asthma and Latino Cultures: Different Prevalence Reported Among Groups Sharing the Same Environment”.[10]


[1] http://schools.nyc.gov/schoolportals/14/k685/default.htm

[2] http://elpuente.us/content/about

[3] http://elpuente.us/content/latino-climate-action-network-overview

[4] Video interview with Garden Acosta for Centro/PRVoices.

[5] http://elpuente.us/content/history

[6] http://elpuente.us/content/history; Article found here R J Ledogar, L G Acosta, and A Penchaszadeh.  Building international public health vision through local community research: the El Puente-CIET partnership. American Journal of Public Health December 1999: Vol. 89, No. 12, pp. 1795-1797.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.89.12.1795

[7] Video interview with Garden Acosta for Centro/PRVoices.

[8] http://elpuente.us/content/green-light-district-overview

[9] http://www.nytimes.com/1999/01/27/nyregion/5-new-yorkers-win-prizes-for-unsung-work.html

[10] Asthma and Latino Cultures: Different Prevalence Reported Among Groups Sharing the Same Environment The American Journal of Public Health, June, 2000, Vol.90(6), p.929 [Peer Reviewed Journal] Ledogar, Robert J. ; Penchaszadeh, Analia ; Garden, C. Cecilia Iglesias ; Acosta, Luis Garden
 

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