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January 17, 2019

Founder of Brooklyn human rights group dies

January 10, 2019
Community activist Luis Garden Acosta is seen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 2010. (Linda Rosier / New York Daily News)

Luis Garden Acosta, a prominent environmental justice advocate and founder of the Brooklyn-based human rights group El Puente, died Tuesday night. He was 73.

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Born in Fort Greene in 1945 to a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father, Garden Acosta rose to prominence in the ‘80s after founding El Puente to curb gang violence in Williamsburg.

The group went on to help found the Latino Commission on AIDS, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and successfully pushed to end the bombing in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

His passing was acutely felt throughout the city’s activist and political circles as an outpouring of remembrances and condolences flooded social media Wednesday.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez, whose district includes Williamsburg, remembered Garden Acosta as “a friend and confidant who I could always count on for comfort and wise counsel.”

“I was heartbroken to hear of the passing of Luis Garden Acosta,” she said. “He was a steadfast champion for civil rights, education, our young people and a stalwart advocate for addressing climate change.”

Mayor de Blasio described him as “a tireless community activist, organizer, leader and, most of all, a friend.”

“He never stopped fighting for a more just and peaceful world,” he said in a tweet.

In recent years Garden Acosta focused much of his effort on El Puente’s work in Puerto Rico, where he worked to unite activists there with allies in New York City.

Among his colleagues at El Puente, he was revered and remembered as a leader with a unique talent for uniting people from different backgrounds, as he did in the late ‘90s, when Hispanics and Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg came together to protested an incinerator proposed for the area.

“He’s someone I can’t imagine meeting again,” said Mark Colon, the chairman of El Puente’s board of directors.

Garden Acosta leaves behind his wife, Frances, and daughter, Raisa Lin.

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