By Mark Naison
I just learned that Ramon Jimenez, one of the most dedicated and effective defenders of the poor and powerless who ever graced our city, passed away. What a great loss for all of us. I first met Ramon when a group of Bronx community leaders and defenders of public recreation organized a “People’s Opening Day” at Yankee Stadium in 1976 to protest the absence of community development funds in the Yankee Stadium renovation project, which the city financed.
One of a kind, Ramon — a Harvard-trained lawyer — returned to the neighborhood where he grew up to hang up his shingle in an office up the stairs on 149th Street just west of the Concourse. Spurning the corporate path, he did the grunt work of a true neighborhood lawyer: taking immigration cases, employment disputes, tenants’ rights issues … and setting aside time to defend neighborhood institutions under attack.
A major figure in the campaign to protect Hostos College, he fought to preserve park spaces for neighborhood residents, challenged environmental racism in all its forms — including the campaign to locate Fresh Direct in the Bronx — and fiercely opposed Stop and Frisk.
Whenever a powerful institution attacked people in the Bronx, you could count on Ramon Jimenez. He challenged the Bronx Democratic machine when Jewish, Irish, and Italian politicians abused their authority and fought it just as hard when it Blacks and Latinos ran the show. He had no patience for corruption and for self-aggrandizement. He expected those with talent to serve the people.
When I heard that Ramon contracted a terminal illness, it shocked me. I will miss him, but will smile when I remember his passion, his generosity, his warmth, and his courage.
In a world where many sell their souls, Ramon Jimenez was the Conscience of the Bronx.
R.I.P. my friend. May a new generation of young people follow your example.