On January 13 the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) removed the Graham Av-Av of Puerto Rico sign on Moore Street and Graham Avenue. It didn’t take long for the community to raise an alarm and fight to bring that sign back. Local elected officials called on DOT to return the sign. The sign was returned not too long after its removal, at 1:15 p.m.
U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez was one of the elected officials who sprang into action to have the sign returned. “I first want to thank la comunidad de la Avenida Puerto Rico for alerting me to this matter. It is unconscionable that elected officials were never advised about this action,” she said.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso also informed the community that he’d spoken to the DOT. They had said it had been mistakenly taken down, and that it would be returned as soon as possible.
When announcing the sign had been returned NYS Assembly Member Maritza Davila said, “As a Boricua woman who has lived in this community her entire life, I know how meaningful this sign is to us diasporans as it directly reflects our culture, our history, and ultimately our presence. This will always remain ‘Avenida de Puerto Rico’”
At El Puente’s Three Kings Celebration performances many expressed their sadness or concern that the sign was taken down.
At the time of this writing, many in the community are still asking, “Why?”
So far, the only answer is that it was a mistake. DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said at a January 23 rally of community members who wanted answers, “We recognize that the agency made a mistake. As the person that leads this agency, my job is to correct it.”
But this answer isn’t satisfying community activists, and for good reason. As gentrification has been making its way east, on Graham Avenue one can see how brick affordable walk-ups have been transformed into glass and steel market-rate housing — how family businesses have been replaced by corporate entities. This mistake has impaled an open wound that time is only making bigger. They want the name of the person who ordered the sign to be removed, and they want an apology.