Antonio Pagan died on Sunday, he was only fifty years old-and even though he hasn't been in office since the late nineties, he will still be sorely missed. Quite simply, Antonio was the fiercest fighter for Hispanic and small business that this city has ever known. As we told City Room: "Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist who worked with Mr. Pagán on issues affecting small businesses, called Mr. Pagán an “incredible force.” “Whether it was fighting for independent supermarket operators in East Harlem against a subsidized Pathmark, or battling the discriminatory pricing policies of Anheuser Busch on behalf of local beer distributors, Pagán was always there to fight on behalf of the little guys,” Mr. Lipsky said."
Pagan took on all of the tough fights-leading the successful effort to derail Giuliani's megastore plan. And, although he was criticized by activists for his controversial views on gay rights (although gay himself) and housing (some Lower East Siders didn't like his support for gentrification efforts), there is no small business leader who would say a single negative thing about Antonio.
Pagan was fiercely passionate about the fights he undertook-circulating petitions and getting in the face of critics; and none more so then Guillermo Linaris, a councilman from Washington Heights during the Pathmark fight. Pagan never trusted Linaris, someone who was Dominican just like the store owners who were threatened by the subsidized supermarket. And when Linaris switched his vote at the last minute( he had been the "leader" of the opposition up until that point), Pagan nearly leaped across the table down at the borough board hearing, calling Linaris a "vendido," or sellout.
There's a line we always use when discussing Linaris-it actually comes from Pagan. Antonio said that he always knew that Guillermo would ultimately stand up for his people; but until that crucial vote, he just didn't know who his people were. Pagan, unlike the traidor Linaris, would never be a vendido; and we sorely miss his brand of uncompromising representation today when over forty percent of the city's small business are Hispanic owned-and are being treated as beneath contempt by Bloomberg's small business commissioner, an oxymoron if there ever was one, Rob Walsh.
So let the psychologically unbalanced and hateful bless Pagan's passing-check out the psychotic ravings of some of the commenters on City Room's blog-but for us, there has never been, and probably never will be again, a fighter for the little guy with the kind of uncompromising zeal that Antonio Pagan brought to any fight. May he rest in peace.