Third Avenue between E. 156 and E. 159 streets was renamed after community and environmental activist, and Nos Quedamos founder, Yolanda Garcia on Tuesday, February 17. The moving ceremony brought many who knew her to tears.
A presentation in which elected officials, community activists, and building partners spoke about Yolanda Garcia was held outside of Flynn Park before the unveiling of a street sign on the corner of Third Avenue and E. 156th Street – renaming a portion of the avenue, around Melrose Commons, “Yolanda Garcia Way.”
Garcia devoted every Tuesday to her non-profit group Nos Quedamos – Spanish for “we stay”.
The street renaming was preceded by speeches from friends, associates and family, as well as elected officials: Congressman Jose Serrano, Senator Jose Serrano Jr., Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, Assemblyman Rueben Diaz Jr., Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo and representatives from Governor Patterson, Mayor Bloomberg, and Borough President Carrion. Community Board 1 district manager George Rodriguez also spoke in a multilingual speech.
“Yolanda was a dynamite lady,” said Anna Vincenty, a longtime friend and assistant director of community relations for Nos Quedamos. “She thought that we had to think seven generations ahead of us – not just about ourselves but our children and our children’s children – like the Native Americans.”
Garcia was the driving force behind the creation of Melrose Commons, a group of approximately 1000 units of housing serving populations across the economic and demographic spectrum. Melrose Commons is located from E. 156 Street to 163 Street and from Brook to Courtlandt avenues. Nos Quedamos formed in 1993 to advocate for affordable housing in the Melrose area.
Melrose Commons, which includes mixed-income senior housing, condominiums, and rental apartments, was built using 97% biodegradable materials. One of Yolanda Garcia’s goals was to provide for the community many years from now, while not forgetting about present needs.
The dedication ceremony took place on the four-year anniversary of her passing, and but the street naming still drew tears to the eyes of her daughter – Nos Quedamos executive director Yolanda Gonzalez.
“All the work that my mother did created a great foundation from which we can work further to better peoples’ lives,” Gonzalez said. “Now, we can carry on with enthusiasm, honesty, and caring.”