2020 LES Heroes Next Door: Eric Diaz
LOWER EAST SIDE HERO NEXT DOOR
Nominated by Carolyn Ratcliffe, Artistic Director, Art Loisaida Foundation
“Eric Diaz is director of Vision Urbana, has organized and is delivering food bags to seniors as well as sponsoring other services to youth and seniors in the LES. Eric serves as Secretary of CB 3. He is a Loisaida resident with his wife and child. He has been active in organizing the food bag delivery to seniors, which is particularly important in the time of COVID-19. As a person, Eric is outgoing, warm, engaging and friendly to everyone I have seen him interact with.”
– Carolyn Ratcliffe
“I am humbled to receive this recognition a time when so many amazing people are hard at work helping thousands of families in the Lower East Side. I am just one of them! However, as the Director of Vision Urbana, Inc. and with the support of our board leadership we were able early on to marshall all that we had to meet this COVID crisis. Without the infrastructure of Vision Urbana, its Pantry Program, and the solid commitment of staff and especially our amazing team of volunteers, thousands of families would be without food, hungry and wanting of that connection that lets them know that we care for them. It is mind blowing to think that a small organization like VU in a sea of many amazing CBO’s, NYCHA and other Tenant leaders, local businesses, and helping neighbors working collaboratively can organize and mobilize effectively and have such a great impact on our most vulnerable residents. It just goes to show the absolute importance of grassroots organizations like Vision Urbana, and others, with a 24/7 ear to the ground and able to adapt and respond to crises quickly and without hesitation to address the immediate and critical needs of our residents. I am proud to work with them all and to be a born and bred son of the LES.”
– Eric Diaz
Eric Diaz was born and raised on the Lower East Side, and has family roots in this neighborhood since 60 years ago, when his grandparents moved from the countryside of Puerto Rico to the NYCHA projects of Loisaida in Baruch houses, where Eric would later be born and raised.
Eric has always been involved with his community. He attended the Childrens Workshop School and P.S 34. He received his high school diploma in 2006 from Murry Bergtraum HS for Business Careers, and in 2010 earned a BS in Organizational Management and Leadership from NYACK University. As a youth he volunteered at Loisaida, Inc. to educate other local youth on STD prevention and teen pregnancy, and when, later on, Loisaida faced possible closure, Eric Diaz banded together youth from the neighborhood to attend community board meetings and helped save the organization. Every year since 2009, Eric has actively organized and participated in the annual Loisaida Festival. Eric has worked with youth for over 13 years as an after school and summer group leader for organizations such as Henry Street Settlement, The University Settlement, and Vision Urbana Inc., usually ending his days volunteering at a boy’s mentorship program called Royal Rangers and a youth development program called DESTINY at the Primitive Christian Church.
Beginning in February 2013, and on the heels of the tragic violent murder of 16 year old Sadonte Ward, Eric began to work for Vision Urbana Inc. to establish a one-on-one and group youth mentorship program for LES youth called The Empire Mentorship Initiative, which provided hundreds of youngsters with mentorship services and leadership activities. In 2015, Eric Diaz officially became the Executive Director of Vision Urbana Inc., which beyond it youth program, serves hundreds of older adults through its senior center, NORC and case management programs. As a natural extension to its Healthy Living Initiative, which presents monthly bilingual forums and workshops on Health & Nutrition and chronic desease prevention, in 2018, VU established a needed Pantry Program located in Seward Park Extension, which has grown significantly to predominantly serve our seniors and families of color, immigrants, and residents of NYCHA, 202, and Section 8 housing developments.
Eric is a member of CB#3 and also a member of the Gouveneur Hospital Advisory Board. He considers his marriage to Leslie, and his new role as father to their first born son, Emmaus, his greatest achievement so far. In the spirit of the LES, Eric and his wife celebrated their anniversary this year providing Vision Urbana home delivery food pantry to senior residents.