Volume 76, Number 15 | August 30 -September 5, 2006


Esther Cartagena, 60, a leader in renovating housing

By Albert Amateau

Esther Cartagena, a Lower East Side community activist and former president of Loisaida, Inc., who was instrumental in rehabilitating several E. 10th St. tenements and converting them to tenant ownership, died Aug. 11 at Coler-Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island.

She was 60 and had been diagnosed with lupus 19 years ago, according to her son, Julio.

“She was given five years to live, but she told us then that she would go when she was ready, not when the doctors said. That’s the kind of person she was,” her son said.

She served on Community Board 3, appointed by then-Councilmember Margarita Lopez, and was active on the board’s Housing Committee until her health deteriorated a few years ago.

Esther Cartagena spent her life in community activism, working with Lower East Side Coalition Housing Development in the 1980s. Councilmember Rosie Mendez recalled her as a mentor to activists in the 1980s in Williamsburg where Cartagena worked for Community Service Society teaching community organizing. She was also active with the Committee for Puerto Rican Rights.

Later, she became involved in the rehabilitation of the buildings on Avenue B between E. 10th and E. 11th Sts. and on E. 10th St. between Avenues B and C where she eventually lived with her family.

Congressmember Nydia Velazquez said, “Throughout the years, I have witnessed Esther’s extraordinary leadership and I’m honored to have called such a remarkable individual my friend. The efforts she made as a community board member in addition to the advocacy work on behalf of the city’s immigrant community have made the Lower East Side a better place to live.”

Esther Cartagena was born in Puerto Rico in Caguas to Juana Carceres and Serafim Garcia. The family moved to Gurabo where Esther was raised with two sisters and a brother. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico and then went to Harvard in Boston to study at a physical therapy program.

She moved to New York with her husband Julio Cartagena in 1980 and went to Pratt University where she earned a master’s degree in community development.

Her daughter, Laura, survives in addition to her son Julio and her former husband, all of Manhattan. Two sisters, Milagros Garcia and Noami Garcia, both of Puerto Rico, and a brother, Efraim, of Zellwood, Fla., also survive.

The funeral was held at Provenzano-Lanza Funeral Home on Second Ave. on April 15. Her ashes will be scattered in a private ceremony.

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