Bronx city-planning activist and founding member of Nos Quedamos/We Stay, Yolanda Garcia died of a heart attack February 17, at the age of 53.
Garcia and other concerned South Bronx activists founded Nos Quedamos, a nonprofit community development corporation in the South Bronx neighborhood of Melrose Commons, back in 1993. Faced with a massive displacement of residents due to the city’s urban renewal plans, they hoped to provide a community voice that could compete with those of politicians, wealthy developers and city planners. Nos Quedamos partnered with small businesses, architects, borough leaders and city bureaucrats to create positive change in the Bronx.
“I can’t think of another time where the city came into the community affected [in order] to do the planning,” said Petr Stand, an architect with Magnusson Architecture and Planning, who worked with Garcia since 1993. As the group’s executive director, Garcia helped build thousands of new housing units, green spaces, and supermarkets, and fought for cleaner air in response to the neighborhood’s asthma crisis.
At the time of her death, Garcia was spearheading the development of multiple projects including a senior citizen residence and a 124-unit moderate-income housing complex with a C-Town supermarket located on Melrose Avenue. Garcia’s daughter, Yolanda Gonzalez, has now taken over her mother’s position as the organization’s acting director.
Garcia left “well over a million square feet under construction and development,” said Stand, who credits her with improving quality of life in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. “Not only did I lose a good friend, but the city lost a luminary.”
A wake for Yolanda Garcia will be held Tues., March 1, from 4-10 p.m. and Wed. March 2, 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Ortiz Funeral Home 2121 Westchester Avenue, Bronx. A service will be held Thurs. March 3, 10 a.m., Holy Cross Church, 600 Soundview Ave. Bronx. Donations to the family can be sent c/o Yolanda Gonzalez, P.O. Box 542369 Stadium Station, Bronx, NY 10452.