Armando Perez, community activist, district leader, and co-founder of Lower East Side cultural center CHARAS, was killed last Saturday morning in Long Island City. He was 51.
Born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Perez moved to the Lower East Side with his family as a baby. As a young man, he started up CHARAS/El Bohio in 1979 with activist Chino Garcia, playwright Bimbo Rivas and others. The community center became a focal point for Loisaidan culture.
Perez remained a well-known figure in the neighborhood: He served for nine years on the Community Board and was elected District Leader three years ago. But he was best known for his work at the community center, where he befriended both tough street kids and the artists who rented studio space at the center. Every night since his death, vigils at CHARAS have drawn hundreds of Lower East Siders.
Beyond his politics, many remember Perez for his warmth, generosity and passionate spirit, especially in the ongoing fight to protect CHARAS. “He was very straightforward to talk to,” remembered Garcia. “You could always trust him–he was very dedicated, and strongly opinionated on certain points. But he was also a very funny, happy-go-lucky type with his friends and coworkers.”
The death is still under investigation, said a spokeswoman for the police Medical Examiner’s office. Perez is survived by his mother, father, wife and son.
The funeral will be held today, Monday, at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Pitt and Stanton Streets. Donations to cover the cost of the funeral can be made to: Armando Perez Memorial Fund c/o Lisa Kaplan, 52 East 1st Street #2A, NYC, 10003.