STAR: David Galarza , Co-Founder of La Casita Comunal

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: David Galarza, co-founder of La Casita de Comunal, has proven himself an indispensible asset to the community of Sunset Park over the last 10 years. A social justice activist, he is involved in the New York Justice Committee as well as the National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights.

Galarza is most noted, however, for his leadership in La Casita de Comunal—a program that aims to focus on the prevention of police misconduct, creating an educational space for young people, and providing a cultural outlet for Sunset Park residents.

“When I saw that there was no leadership in the community, I sprang into action, using all that I had learned from years of working with other activists. I had learned so much, and I decided to put those lessons to good use by providing a resource where folks could go to learn that they have a voice against police corruption,” Galarza explained.

Since then, Galarza has received an overwhelming response from members of the community. “It’d be nice if we could wave a magic wand and make it all end, but the reality is that it’s going to take a lot of work,” said Galarza. Despite the amount of work, Galarza remains determined and hopeful to help citizens exercise their voices in the community.

CAREER: Galarza has worked in the Communications Department of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) for 10 years. He graduated from Fort Hamilton High School and Long Island University. He ran for City Council in 2005, coming in third.

PERSONAL: Galarza attributes his success to the support of his family. In particular, Galarza paid homage to his wife, Inez, who works as a special education teacher. Galarza acknowledged the lack of recognition that special education teachers receive. “They deserve a lot more credit and recognition. I’m amazed at the work they do.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: While Galarza says that his success has been a “culmination of a lot of little victories,” he recalled his efforts on behalf of the Peña-Herrera family, four of whom died in 2001 when they were hit by a mini-van driven by an intoxicated police officer who was not initially arrested. Galarza, incensed, organized a group of 400 people to protest the lack of action and demand that the officer be arrested. Galarza’s eventual victory, culminating with the officer’s 10-year sentence, was one of his most proud achievements.

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