Jan. 10, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez
Luis Garden Acosta, the longtime Williamsburg activist who founded El Puente, a community organizing group, died on Tuesday evening, according to the organization. He was 73.
Acosta, born in Fort Greene in 1945 to Puerto Rican and Dominican parents, founded El Puente in 1982 at a time when Williamsburg’s Southside was experiencing an “epidemic wave of violence,” the group’s page reads.
Acosta was driven to stop the gang violence, and with the help of several community leaders helped foster the youth development and leadership program, which would eventually grow into a robust environmental, education, and human rights organization.
The organization, for instance, co-founded the Latino Commission on AIDS and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. It also conducted a three-year asthma study, with its findings published by The American Journal of Public Health.
El Puente also helped bring an end to the U.S. Navy’s bombing range in Vieques, Puerto Rico, which closed in the early 2000s after being in use since the 1940s.
“Luis built El Puente, in part, to teach us that to live in community, we have a responsibility to serve,” the organization said. “And as each of us fulfills this purpose, we will forever be connected by the fact that his are the shoulders we stand on when we dare reach for our destiny.”
Acosta’s death shocked elected officials, leaders and activist groups far and wide, along the Puerto Rican community that El Puente continues to be deeply involved in over its decades of work. Many took to remembering Acosta’s life and tireless advocacy for Williamsburg.
“Luis Garden Acosta was a tireless community activist, organizer, leader and, most of all, a friend,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “He never stopped fighting for a more just and peaceful world.”
“Brooklyn is a safer place to raise healthy children and families because of community organizers like Luis Garden Acosta,” said Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President.
Council Member Antonio Reynoso said Acosta was his mentor, and that the city lost a hero.
“Acosta’s dedication to youth empowerment & environmental advocacy will continue to inspire & has shaped my work,” he said. “Thank you for revitalizing our community & paving the way for young leaders.”
Acosta’s long legacy in community organizing and service began years before founding El Puente in the early 1980s, with a background as a former seminarian, a member of the Young Lords, a Harvard Medical student, as a director of the former Greenpoint Hospital, among other roles.
Details on funeral arrangements will be shared in coming days, El Puente said.