Despite backtracking and returning the sign, Brooklynites are demanding answers from the city after they removed the ‘Graham Ave-Ave of Puerto Rico’ street sign at Graham Ave and Moore Street in East Williamsburg.
At a rally held outside San German Records on Moore Street on Jan. 21, activists demanded answers from Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodríguez and Mayor Eric Adams, as well as an apology.
Alejandro Zayas called on Adams and Rodríguez to start a full investigation into who signed the dotted line on the work order.
“I don’t want no Twitter. I don’t want no press conference,” Zayas said. “I want him to come to us, come here in front of San German, and do something publicly. I want to see that paper that says this order came from whoever. Did it come from the commissioner of DOT? Did it come from the mayor’s office?”
Radames Millan, the owner of San German Shop on Moore Street, witnessed the take-down of the sign on Jan. 13 and immediately called a slew of elected officials, including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.
“Apparently, [the phone calls] did work because after two hours, the signs were back up,” Millan laughed.
In a Twitter feed on Jan. 13, the DOT said they mistakenly took the overhead sign down. However, many Puerto Rican activists don’t believe the removal was an accident.
Borincanos say that real estate developers, with the help of elected officials, have long wanted to erase their culture and contributions to the city and push them out of their neighborhood to make room for gentrifiers.
“You will not come in our community and continue to dictate to us who and what and where we are going to be,” Cynthia Perez said. “This is the Avenue of Puerto Rico, and it will remain here for another 100 to 200 years.”
Long-time activist Jason Cruz recalled how Puerto Ricans came together in 2019 and successfully ousted Puerto Rico’s corrupt Governor Ricardo Rosselló. He said those who took down the sign had to answer to the Puerto Rican community.
“You will answer to the Puerto Rican community because we are not weak,” Cruz said. “If there is anything we’ve shown you with ‘Ricky Renuncia,’ when we come together, we’re powerful, and we’re strong. You’re not going to take any more signs. You’re not going to take any more of our communities that we have established.”
Raul Rivera, the founder of ‘NYC Drivers Unite,’ asked why the mayor wasn’t at the press conference.
“If you can get on a plane this past summer and visit the motherland, why aren’t you here in Brooklyn?” Rivera asked.
He even accused Dominican-born DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodríguez of bigotry.
Addressing Mayor Adams, Rivera said the buck should stop with him.
“We know Ydanis Rodríguez is your guy. He’s the head of the DOT. He cannot bring his people up by bringing other people down. If nobody here will say it, I will. I smell bigotry from the DOT. If you know when a sign is going up, you should know when it’s coming down. It’s not a mistake.”
David Aviles, founder of “Puerto Rican Flags Up,” said the removal of the street sign was “disrespectful.”
“What is the problem?” Aviles asked. “You have a problem with the Puerto Rico community of New York, then let it be known because we’re gonna keep fighting for it.”
At an unrelated event on Saturday, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodríguez remarked about the incident.
He stressed that as soon as he was told that the sign had been removed, it was back up three hours later. The commissioner also said he would never tolerate any sign of any group being removed.
“My responsibility as an elected official was to call the agency as to what happened. I just wanted to resolve the problem,” Rodríguez said. “Was the sign removed? Yes. Was a mistake made? Yes. Did I fix it? Yes.”