Margarita Curet moved to Amsterdam Houses in 1960, so if anyone knows and loves the cluster of 24 buildings between 61st and 64th streets at Amsterdam Avenue, she does. When Curet arrived 48 years ago, two of her children were very small; another two were born at Amsterdam. Though all four have grown up and moved up, Curet refers to the development’s residents as “my extended family,” which is perhaps why she’s taken on the role of president of the Resident Association with such determination to effect change.
Curet already held the office of vice-president when she was elected a year-and-a-half ago.
“I wanted to see change, and I wanted to see more people involved,” she said.
So far, she seems to be accomplishing those goals. One of the biggest improvements of past year-plus has been an increase in attendance at monthly meetings.
“They’ve grown two- or threefold, from 15 to 50 or 70 at times,” marvels Rosalba Rodriguez, director of Council Member Gale Brewer’s district office.
“She took over an association that didn’t have many people attending the meetings,” Brewer said. “It’s really hard to build up an organization, but she has done that.”
Curet works to make it more appealing for residents to attend meetings by sticking to the agenda and by inviting speakers from other groups in the community, such the District Attorney’s office or Fordham University. In a nod to the development’s large Spanish-speaking population, Curet has made the meetings bilingual and has introduced the tradition of handing out minutes in both English and Spanish. She’s also created a staffed room where children can play and do homework during meetings, “so the parents don’t have an excuse not to come because of the children,” Curet explained.
Curet devotes a huge amount of energy to serving the association, according to Brewer.
“Very few people put in as much work as she’s putting in,” Brewer said. “She’s running around to a lot of other meetings. It’s very time-consuming, but she can bring information back and that helps people with their daily lives at Amsterdam Houses.”
Perhaps because she raised her own children there, Curet seems to be constantly thinking of the development’s kids. Over the summer, she organized a chess program and a Police Athletic League program, as well as excursions for both youngsters and older people, including outings to free events at adjacent Lincoln Square. She’s also introduced a quarterly newsletter and has lobbied for even more donations from community businesses for celebrating holidays.
Brewer is impressed with Curet’s ability to reconcile the demands of a development with upwards of 5,000 residents
“I can’t tell you how challenging it used to be and how much better it is,” Brewer said.
Curet herself admits to being pleased with the changes she’s been able to introduce.
“I can’t make miracles,” she said. “But so far I’m happy with what I’m doing.”
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