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Monday, April 26, 2010

A Neighborhood Unites to Protect One of Its Own

A little over a week ago the cultural soul of Melrose received an eviction notice - Coqui Mexicano, which in less than two years since it opened has become not just a restaurant but a myriad of things to a people as diverse as its offerings.  

Melrose residents have long enjoyed frequenting Coqui Mexicano, or Coqui as it is affectionately known by locals, not just for the deliciously healthy and affordable food which they offer (yes - it sounds like an oxymoron that a Puerto Rican/Mexican fusion establishment can be considered healthy but alas it is achieved through the use of high quality ingredients, including the use of olive oil in all recipes instead of the lard and artery clogging oils that other restaurants in the area use) but they also come for the live music which spontaneously, without warning just comes together or for the free literacy project which Danisha, the coqui aspect of the name, started to combat the dearth of bookstores in our area.

Coqui also is a community dining room where friends converge and discuss anything from politics to love and just life in general so it was with great shock to the residents and family - for all who come here are considered to be part of an extended family, that they were on the verge of losing their beloved restaurant. 

This past Friday, April 23rd, patrons including Henry Weinstein, owner of the beloved "Old Bronx Courthouse" and Fred Connelly of Real Estate Financing, Inc. (REFI) and members of the South Bronx Food Cooperative all converged to raise funds for Coqui and was organized by the Bronx Defenders (the non-profit 501 (c)(3) public defenders located in Melrose) who are always fighting for the underdogs of the South Bronx.  For an organization always representing the little guys they truly were there, en masse, vowing that all will fight for the survival of Coqui Mexicano.  

Just as positive things are happening in the neighborhood with residents of Jardines de Seline moving in (the first development with mixed, low and middle-income units), the 400 middle-income apartments of the 700 unit Boricua Village called Northrose scheduled to begin occupancy beginning June 2010 through August 2010 and Courtlandt Corners, another massive project of 343 units of mixed, low and middle income units as well beginning occupancy around October 2010 residents are concerned that this may be a sign of things to come otherwise known as the dreaded "g" word: gentrification.  Many were quick to comment that it all seems too big of a coincidence that they receive the eviction notice just when almost a 1,000 new units are about to come online within the next 6 months and not to mention that business had picked up at Coqui considerably.

In the meantime, locals will continue to rally alongside Coqui Mexicano and fight to make sure cultural gem of Melrose remains open and for those of you who have yet to taste what it's all about, come on down and step into our kitchen. 

Oh and don't forget to sign the online petition! It literally takes less than 1 minute to do so!

Coqui Mexicano
871 Brook Avenue (where Third Avenue meets 161st Street and Across from the Old Bronx Courthouse)
Bronx, NY 10451

Mon-Fri, 7:30AM to 6PM
Sat, 8AM - 6PM

Proud Owners, Diego and Danisha

Henry Weinstein, owner of the Old Bronx Courthouse
speaks with Diego

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