Forget two hurricanes that left Puerto Rico flattened and without power, two earthquakes in Mexico and impending construction safety legislation that still needs tweaking before it goes in front of the City Council for a vote this week.
City Council member Carlos Menchaca, the darling of the Democratic progressive caucus, flew off to Paris for a holiday following his recent primary election victory and has yet to return, according to sources.
“He [Menchaca] had some vacation time after the primary and decided to take it,” said Menchaca’s Communication Director David Estrada, who wasn’t sure of his boss’ whereabouts.
But while the city’s first Mexican-American city councilman was enjoying his European holiday, his main primary opponent Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has spent sleepless nights coordinating efforts with Brooklyn community organizations in Sunset Park to collect food, clothing and supplies for victims of the Mexican earthquake and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Both lawmakers represent the largely Puerto Rican and Mexican-American district including Sunset Park and Red Hook.
“We have to get critical supplies to the victims in this time of crisis” said Ortiz, whose father, sister and other close relatives are among the entire island of Puerto Rico left without power since Hurricane Maria struck the island five days ago. “We are in special need of flashlights, generators and batteries. Please bring what you can.”
Ortiz said he started the relief effort following Hurricane Harvey over three weeks ago in helping Texans bail out from flooding, and has continued the ongoing effort. “My Sunset Park office was loaded from front to back with supplies and we’re putting another container up for supplies outside 4906 4th Avenue,” he said.
Ortiz said he has also reached out to both the Muslim and Chinese-American communities in the district, and both have donated space to gather much-needed supplies to help the relief effort.
Ortiz said that his office has also been inundated with calls from Puerto Ricans and Mexicans in the district worried about loved ones.
“The community has responded outstandingly. We have a lot of people helping and one of the guys just found out this morning that his mother and father died and we managed to help him get a flight home,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz said people from the island that have concerns about family should call his office at 718-492-6334 as he has direct communication with the Puerto Rican governor’s office. The Mexican government is a little easier to reach and residents can call the Counsel General of Mexico office directly and that office can get them any information that’s needed, he said.
Ortiz said other resources for residents citywide and in the district should go to his Facebook page FelixWOrtiz or visit the Telemundo tv station at www.univision.com.
Meanwhile, Estrada forwarded a press release from Mayor Bill de Blasio with a list of local fire stations that are taking donations including Engine 271/ Ladder 124: 392 Himrod Street, Engine 277/ Ladder 112: 582 Knickerbocker Avenue and Engine 218: 650 Hart Street all in Bushwick; and Engine 201/ Ladder 114: 5113 4th Avenue and Engine 228: 436 39th Street – both in Sunset Park.
Estrada also forwarded an advisory that Menchaca will celebrate Mexican Independence in the City Council chamber at 5:30 p.m., this Thursday, September 28. To RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Menchaca is due back in town from his holiday retreat tomorrow, and is expected to vote on the controversial legislation he co-sponsored related to construction safety at the City Council’s stated meeting on Thursday.