José Rivera, Mayor of Clinton St., dies at age 63
By Albert Amateau
José Rivera, a Lower East Side activist for more than 50 years who held court as The Mayor of Clinton St. in a little wooden shed known as La Casita in the community garden on Clinton St. near Stanton St., died March 2 in Beth Israel Hospital at age 63.
He had been ill for a year and a half and went to the hospital only two weeks before he died, according to his daughter, Gloria Webb.
A founder of United Businesses of the Clinton St. Area, he ran a driving school out of a Clinton St. office for several years and had a business preparing taxes until increasingly higher rents forced him to relocate in recent years.
In a New York Times article a year ago, he said that Latino businesses are having a tough time remaining on Clinton St. in the face of rising rents driven by the trendy clubs and shops moving into the neighborhood
José Rivera became a community activist almost as soon as he came to the neighborhood in 1959 from Baranquitas, Puerto Rico, at the age of 19. He met his wife, Maria, on E. Broadway where the two families lived next door to each other.
He was always a grassroots person, his wife said, recalling that he organized Poor Peoples Action of the Lower East Side.
He worked for a time as a school safety officer in P.S. 20 at Essex and Stanton Sts.
At his funeral two weeks ago at Ortiz Funeral home on Second Ave., there were tributes from elected officials whom he supported and with whom he worked over the years, including Congressmember Nydia Velazquez and Councilmembers Alan J. Gerson and Rosie Mendez and former Councilmember Margarita Lopez.
Burial was in St. Raymonds Cemetery in the Bronx.