“He was like, ‘Don’t ride with your earbuds in,’” Restrepo recalled. “Also, sign this petition for safe streets in Manhattan.”
The man turned out to be a volunteer with the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. He convinced Restrepo to join the organization’s mailing list.
Restrepo attended a meeting in Queens, and soon was volunteering to work on a specific campaign. Two years later, Restrepo is now a Queens organizer with Transportation Alternatives.
The first campaign he signed up for was the street safety improvement plan on 111th Street in Corona. He knocked on doors, asked residents to sign petitions and pushed for street changes at the local community board.
After a long-fought campaign, Restrepo was relieved to hear last week that Mayor Bill de Blasio will push through the plan despite some community opposition. But he felt fatigued and a bit frustrated by the community board’s deterrence and delays.
“You can collect 1,000 signatures from an area, yet these people will find it unimpressive or nitpick the data to death,” he said. “That’s the frustrating part of advocacy.
“The majority of people who organize and volunteer, they spend years and years butting their heads against the wall,” Restrepo added. “Almost always you get what you want, but it’s the years-long grind that’s so hard to overpass.”
Now living in Ridgewood, Restrepo said his favorite aspect about his home borough is its diversity and the never-ending list of things to experience.
“My personal favorite part of Queens, hands down, is that you never feel like you’re done exploring,” he said. “There’s always something else to see.”