Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez Accepts Praise
For an Idea He Knows He Stole!
What else do you expect from Roba Camara?
By Miguel Pérez
Among Hispanic TV journalists in New York City, he is known as "roba camara." And now I understand why! This man is in dire need of attention!
But Ydanis Rodriguez not only "steals the camera" by sticking his neck in front of every TV reporter, he also steals ideas — even when they are already well-known academic projects.
The New York City Transportation Commissioner is Tremendously Shameless!
En español: Comisionado Ydanis Rodríguez acepta elogios ´por una idea que sabe que se robó! Qué más esperarías de Roba Camara?
On Thursday, Oct. 13, Rodriguez stood at a press conference, announced that the nearly-abandoned medallions on the Avenue of the Americas would be restored and — with a straight face — accepted all kinds of praise for an idea he knows he stole. He announced that 300 new medallions, representing the nations of the Americas will be installed starting in January.
But he knew about the "Save the Medallions" campaign I started with my former students almost six months earlier, and he never even mentioned us.
"Roba Camara" wanted to hoard all the credit.
Of course, we were happy to see it happen. We felt like we won a huge battle! On social media, our supporters celebrated! But wow, we had to ask ourselves, how slimy can politicians get?
The "Save the Medallions" (click) campaign began when I wrote a column, published on this website on April 28 and republished on May 2 in (click:) The Bronx Journal, a community news website produced by the journalism program at Lehman College. I reported on how I had walked the entire length of the Avenue of the Americas and found only 18 medallions left, out of an original 300. Since some countries still have more than one medallion, I reported that only 14 countries are still represented.
I had gone there to search for the medallions with the intention of assigning my Lehman College students more (click:) NYC Hispanic Landmarks to photograph and write about. On that page, over the past few years, my students have compiled an impressive guide to the city's Hispanic monuments, streets and institutions. Check it out. We are very proud of it! (click:) NYC Hispanic Landmarks.
But when I saw how few and deteriorated the remaining medallions were, I had to start by writing a column calling the problem to the city's attention.
The column was widely distributed on social media and our campaign was covered by several NYC news media outlets in print, online and TV both in English and Spanish, especially because, after the Spring semester was over, some of my former Hispanic history students became involved in a petition drive to "Save the Medallions."
On May 5th, our project was the lead story on the front page of IMPACTO, and on their website's homepage on the following day. On May 22, I was on BRONXNET's Diálogo Abierto, with Javier Gomez, discussing my idea.
On April 28, Rodriguez reacted to my idea: “Como Ciudad, es importante que reconozcamos y preservemos simbólicos icónicos que representen nuestro origen inmigrante. Como descendiente de latinos, estaré analizando este asunto de cerca”, he told NY1Noticias. ("As a city, it is important that we recognize and preserve symbolic icons that represent our immigrant origin. As a descendant of Latinos, I will be looking at this matter closely”). See for yourself. (Click:) NY1Noticias.
On June 7, (click:) City and State New York reported that "an online petition started by Miguel Perez, professor of journalism and Hispanic American History at Lehman College at CUNY, is calling on the Adams administration to take action." It also reported that "when asked for comment," Rodriguez "said in a statement that, “As a city it is important that we recognize and preserve symbolic icons that represent our immigrant origin. As a Latino descendant I am looking into this matter closely.”
Yet at the pathetic Department of Transportation press conference and in a press release by the agency, people were lining up to shower Rodriguez with praise for his "initiative."
Amazingly, instead of sharing the credit, instead of saying that there are young Latinos who had collected-petition signatures for this, it was Roba Camara who showed up at the press conference.
What would you call this kind of behavior? LOL In the interest of brevity, I'll let you think of something, because my list is too long!
Back in the Spring, when I saw that Rodriguez was sticking to his original statement about the medallions, sending the same couple of sentences to other media outlets that inquired about my idea, I wanted to hear more. And so on June 27 I sent a "Press Inquiry" email to the Department of Transportation press secretary.
"I’m seeking Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez' reaction to the column I wrote and the new online petition drive calling on New York City to “Save the Medallions on the Avenue of the Americas,” I wrote to the press secretary. "This issue is rapidly gaining attention in the news media, and in social media networks, and it begs for the commissioner's attention!"
I sent him links to, click:
• My original column: "Let's Save the Medallions."
• Our online PETITION on Change.org.
• NYC Hispanic Landmarks, the guide to Latin New York created by my students and the academic project that had led us to the medallions campaign.
Repeating some of what I had written in my April 24 column, I asked: "Are you aware that, out of 300 original medallions only 18 remain? Did you know that (since some countries still have a couple) only 14 countries are still represented, and 34 countries are no longer there? And that a huge number of New Yorkers came from those missing countries, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, Ecuador and even the United States? And the 18 medallions that remain, have you seen that they have become rusty pictures of neglect?" (See full email on this page.)
Even in a July 4 (Click:) NBC4 report about me and my students, Rodriguez issued the same statement acknowledging that he would be looking into our idea.
Yet, when he looked, he liked it so much that he decided to steal it. Amazingly in spite of all the people who already knew about our "Save the Medallions" campaign, he thought he could get away with this gigantic dishonesty.
There is a popular phrase in Spanish that applies very well here: “Es imposible tapar el sol con un dedo.” — “It is impossible to cover the sun with one finger.”
Now I know why his press office never responded to my email. They were trying to cover the sun! The moment Rodriguez heard the idea, he decided to make it his own! He obviously thought this kind of dishonesty would impress his boss, NYC Mayor Eric Adams, who was quoted in the (Click:) DOT press release praising Rodriguez's great accomplishment.
"Our administration is so excited to honor Hispanic Heritage Month by doing something that the city's immigrant communities have been asking for so long: restoring the national medallions along the Avenue or the Americas," said Adams. "These medallions represent the best of New York City — people coming from all over for a better life, helping to make this the greatest city in the world."
But I wonder if Rodriguez had told Adams that he stole the idea. I wonder if the mayor's own press office told him that I had requested his response to my column several months before he came out in support for Rodriguez' theft. I wonder if he knows about the amazingly unprofessional way they handled my request for his response. (If he wants to see, I could show him!)
I know my questions got to the mayor's press office, but even now, I still don't know if my questions ever got to the mayor. So, I wonder if the mayor was kept in the dark by his own press office, and fooled by his Tremendously Shameless DOT commissioner.
The same goes for Rep. Adriano Espaillat, who showered Rodriguez with unfounded praise at the press conference. Was Espaillat duped?
I have known Espaillat for many years. But if he is the honest politician I thought he was, this is his time to show it. If he doesn't disassociate himself from Rodriguez' blatant dishonesty, well there is another popular phrase in Spanish that applies very well here, "Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres" — "Tell me with whom you walk, and I'll tell you who you are."
But let's face it. We should have all known this was bound to happen with a politician who sticks his head in front of TV cameras, whether or not he is being interviewed.
A retired New York Spanish TV journalist read about Rodriguez' attention-grabbing maneuver and sent me message explaining that she had to edit some video reports just to crop out Rodriguez' unwelcomed image. "What else do you expect from Roba Camara?" she asked.
"Wow!" I thought. "What a great headline!"
COMING SOON, Part 2:
What happened to the Puerto Rico medallion?
Of Our Medallions Campaign
HiddenHispanicHeritage.com April 24, 2022
THE BRONX JOURNAL May 2, 2022
Rodriguez's repeated response to media inquiries about our "Save the Medallions" campaign:
MY FORMER STUDENTS MAKE POSTERS AND VIDEOS, AND THEN RECRUIT OTHERS TO PARTICIPATE:
NBC4 NEW YORK July 4, 2022 Watch video:
PATHETIC PRESS CONFERENCE Oct 13, 2022