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BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus
Sunset Park welcomes Chancellor Carranza with celebration.

It was a warm welcome in Sunset Park for New York City’s new Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and the Consulate General of Mexico in New York hosted a reception for Carranza in the gymnasium at Sunset Park High School, 153 35th Street, on Monday, April 16.

Members of the community were invited to enjoy music from mariachi bands and food as well as to hear from the new chancellor, who spoke of his heritage and issues the city’s schools face.

“It’s very important that we understand we have a voice not only here but in America,” he told the large crowd, referring to Sunset’s diverse community. “I’m going also to speak in Spanish because I want everyone here to understand how incredibly honored I am to be in New York City, how honored I am to be here in Sunset Park and be a part of a vibrant community.”

He told that crowd that he comes to the important position humbled.

“I don’t come to this role having all the answers. Far from it,” he said. “We’re going to talk. But I want you know that I’m looking forward to that talk. I’m looking forward to understanding what the needs are, not only in this community, but in all the five boroughs. I want you to understand that I come to you with a very humble heart. ”

He also hinted at how he may handle certain issues, in particular, discrimination.

“We have all we need to find the solutions to our challenges right here in this room and community,” he said. “I’m happy to be a part of that but I’m also going to tell you that we’re going to call it like we see it. If there are issues of discrimination, we’re going to call it discrimination.”

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Menchaca also spoke.

“Tonight we get to meet him but more importantly he gets to meet you,” he said. “Already I’ve seen him talk and listen to folks and hear the voices of our community and that is one of the most special things we do here in Sunset Park. This community has been speaking and they have been speaking loud. So much we do is because of our community. We have so many things we need.”

After the speeches, the mood was festive as Carranza — the grandson of immigrants from Mexico — performed with NYC Mariachi, which surprised him with a performance.

“The fact that he’s Mexican-American is especially symbolic and special in a community like Sunset Park,” Chairperson for Community Board 7 Cesar Zuniga told this paper,“not for any other reason than we need to give these young kids real examples of what is possible. To have a face that resembles the faces in this community is really special.”

Jennifer Gonzalez-Funes, who was born and raised in Sunset Park, and is now principal of Staten Island’s P.S. 10, a school with a large population of Mexican-Americans, was proud to be a part of the festivities.

“My ties are really deep in this neighborhood so to meet [Carranza] here in the hometown with the Hispanic community in a celebration, it’s amazing,” she said.

Although it was a celebration, residents made it clear they hope Carranza will enhance the city’s education.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to hold him accountable, that we’re not going to recognize that he has a big and tough job,” Zuniga said. “We’re really going to be counting on him and holding him accountable to make sure we are doing the right thing by these kids, particularly in a place like Sunset where we have issues like overcrowding. We’re excited but we also want to have a meaningful working relationship with him.

“I know the mayor and the administration are really working hard on Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4 but we also need to start thinking about supporting kids earlier  before they come to school, so I want to get him focused on that,” Zuniga went on. “I want to get him focused on English language learners and how we are still under-resourced.”

“I hope he can bridge that gap, especially for the immigrant community, and be an inspiration for us,” added Gonzalez-Funes.

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