He’s raising a red flag.
A Sunset Parker has lined the Fifth Avenue entrance of Sunset Park proper with Latin American flags and signs urging locals unite against the yuppies that threaten to invade the nabe. The installation celebrates Sunset Park’s cultural diversity and aims to rally locals against gentrification, which threatens to displace the neighborhood’s cultural identity, according to the concerned local behind the display.
“Sunset Park is a diverse neighborhood, which is a beautiful thing,” said longtime Sunset Parker Junior Allende. “But I hear people in my community being forced out, and they feel there is nobody speaking up for them. So this stands to unite the Latino community, unite Sunset Park.”
Since mid-April, Allende has put up more than a dozen flags. Banners from a handful of Latin American countries including Venezuela, Mexico, and Argentina wave in the breeze over Fifth Avenue. He adds one or two each week, picking up the flags from various corner stores for about $5 each.
The inspiration struck when the 30-year-old began hearing more and more stories from nervous neighbors afraid of being booted from Sunset Park now that a wave of development is sweeping the area.
“People are afraid,” said Allende, whose parents migrated from Puerto Rico to Brooklyn in the ’70s. “So, I’m basically putting it out there that we have to unite, and stay strong. We can’t give in to people trying to come into our community and buy us out. We have to stick together.”
The ensigns are wired to the chain link fence bordering the thoroughfare, along with signs in English and Spanish proclaiming, “Our community is not for sale” and “Sunset Park unite.”
Perched on a hill, the flags can be spotted from blocks away and have become something of an icon for locals.
“It’s like a symbol of solidarity,” said Sunset Parker Catalina Camilia, who regularly hikes up to the park with her one-year-old son. “There’s something really comforting — with all the changes going on in the neighborhood — about seeing flags from our different groups together. I like the message.”
And Parks Department workers seem to agree — leaving the installation untouched.
The flags cut through language barriers and serve as a universal symbol for Sunset Park, said Allende.
“You don’t need to speak a certain language to understand a flag,” he said. “They give people hope.”
Allende is slowly making his way through different regions of the world, but started with Latin American since the nabe is dominated by locals with roots in that part of the world.