Woodside street named after late Puerto Rican activist

By Madina Toure

A street in Woodside has been renamed in honor of Alice Cardona, a prominent Puerto Rican women’s rights activist from Woodside who died in 2011.

Cardona, a leader in New York City’s Puerto Rican and Latino community who advocated for women’s rights, minority rights and bilingual education, died in November 2011 at the age of 81.

From 1983 to 1995, she served as assistant director of the New York State Division for Women during then-Gov. Mario Cuomo’s administration, where she fought to combat HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and domestic violence.

She was also involved in the city’s first Head Start program, served as a counselor for ASPIRA and was an active member of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women.

In February 2015, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) passed legislation renaming 56th Street between Woodside and Skillman avenues “Alice Cardona Way.”

“It is an incredibly important thing that we do today to honor and thank Alice, and to remember that she is never forgotten here in Woodside or anywhere,” Van Bramer said.

Debbie Quinones, a personal friend of Cardona’s, was an advocate for having the street renamed and was fundamental in organizing the weekend ceremony.

Sandy Moya, coordinator for SCO Family of Services’ SCO Queens Single Stop program, also played a role in the effort.

Diana Cruz, Alice Cardona’s sister, said she was “in a state of shock and in a state of numbness” about the street being renamed for her sister.

She said she was in the background witnessing all of the work that Cardona was doing.

“We used to live down here on 57th Street and then we lived over here around the corner,” Cruz said. “But Alice was nonstop, nonstop, nonstop. Idea, idea, idea.”

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Cardona was her mentor and founded a lot of the organizations that are important to Puerto Ricans in the city.

“For me personally, it was important to be here,” Mark-Viverito said. “I came to New York in ’87. One of the first people I met was Alice in terms of activism and she really paved the way for me and many others, so it was a personal reason that brought me here today.”

Cardona also co-founded Hacer/Hispanic Women’s Center to help Latinas achieve their personal goals. She donated her papers to El Centro Library at Hunter College and was the first Latina to receive the Susan B. Anthony Prize.

State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) said she first met Alice at the 1974 Democratic State Convention. Nolan also mentioned that in 1984, shortly after Cardona went to work with Cuomo, she helped her in her first run for the Assembly.

Cardona organized the effort, particularly among women and Spanish-speaking voters, Nolan said.

“She really, really knew her stuff and it made a tremendous difference in the primary… I think we all know the difference that Alice made in my very first election, and we always kept in touch through that,” she said.

Michelle Centeno, president of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women’s New York chapter, described the street renaming as an “auspicious moment.”

“I have to say, when she told me that she was going to stop working, I was like, she’s sick,” Centeno said. “I remember when she said, ‘I’m going to stop’ and I said, something’s wrong here.”

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

More from Around New York