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Port Chester Woman Dubbed 'A Rising Star' For Public Activism

From Peru to Port Chester, Blanca Lopez has accumulated life experience and a resume that earned her recognition by the Business Council of Westchester.

As an eight-year-old girl, Blanca Lopez left the familiarity of her native Peru when her family immigrated to the U.S., settling first in Rye and eventually in Port Chester. 

Lopez knows what it's like to arrive in a new country, with all the challenges of adjusting to a new language and culture. As an adult, her childhood experience helps her relate to recent immigrants who are trying to find their way in a strange new country.

Lopez, 35, a community activist and school board member in Port Chester, was honored recently as a "Rising Star" by the Business Council of Westchester. She was nominated by Andrea Kocsis, executive director of Human Development Services of Westchester.

The council named "40 Under 40 Rising Stars," a diverse group that includes sharp financial minds, tireless volunteers, dedicated educators and advocates for local arts and music. The 40 honorees were feted at a June 9 celebration in Purchase.

As a former congressional staffer for Rep. Nita Lowey and former campaign manager for Port Chester Mayor Dennis Pilla, Lopez has experience in public policy and local politics. Her resume also includes prominent current positions -- Lopez sits on Port Chester's Board of Education and is director of neighborhood preservation at Human Development Services of Westchester.

Lopez was the first Latina elected to public office in Port Chester, and her work for Lowey put her in a position to advocate for the urban community on issues like immigration and housing.

Although awards and recognition were the furthest things from her mind when she began her career as an activist, Lopez says "it's quite an honor."

“I was very humbled and excited,” she said of hearing the news.

Lopez’s roots began in Lima, Peru. After about a decade living in Rye, her family moved to Port Chester around the time Lopez began college studies.

Majoring in Latin American and Latino Studies during her undergraduate career at Fordham University, she decided to work at National Council of La Raza, in Washington, D.C., before going on to graduate school. Specializing in policy and civil rights, Lopez developed her passion for her advocacy work.

“I got my feet wet in social issues, not only with immigrants, but with Latino and Latino born citizens in this country,” she said. 

After completing her masters degree in urban policystudies and management at the New University, she went to work for Lowey in 2002 as a community affairs representative. Lopez specialized in housing and immigration, serving as a go-between for Lowey and her constituents. She accomplished this mainly by communicating and discussing issues within the community, issues ranging from veteran affairs to housing. She said her focus on the urban community was of great importance, especially since she often times had the opportunity to talk to people from those neighborhoods and listen to what they had to say.

“Working for Lowey opened doors for me, especially for learning about volunteering, getting to know great people and networking,” she said.

The two-and-a-half years she spent working for the congresswoman helped her get to know her community and the issues its people face.

Today, Lopez works for the Human Development Services of Westchester, which provides low-income housing for people of all backgrounds.  The non-profit organization helps more than a thousand people every year.

For more information regarding the ceremony, visit www.westchesterny.org.

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Saverio Terenzi June 27, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Congratulations to Ms. Lopez, it is always nice to have people from our community recognized for their efforts in making Port Chester a better place. Hopefully Ms. Lopez can use her position as a community leader to educate our citizens that Port Chester is a model community for the assimilation of all ethnic backrounds. She must understand that she stands on the shoulder of all immigrants that have made Port Chester what it is today. A solid school system,safe housing along with safe streets will insure that our community will prosper. Ms. Lopez is in great position to help create change in Port Chester, it's not easy, but it's worth trying.
PC Native June 27, 2011 at 05:31 PM
Great, just what we need, another rabble-rouser in Port Chester. Look what Cesar Ruiz did to us and this voting debacle. @Sam, I beg to differ that Port Chester has "a solid school system, safe housing and safe streets." I'm dying to sell my house but not only will I take a HUGE loss but NO ONE wants to buy here because we have the contrary -- terrible schools and an unsafe community (read The Port Chester Patch each day to see how many people got mugged on Haseco Ave in June 2011 alone!) Thanks to Blanca and her "advocacy" efforts, PC is rolling out the red carpet for illegal aliens and taxpayers are paying -- in more ways than one!
Greg Tart June 27, 2011 at 06:21 PM
Very valid points Sue; the Democrat party caused the justice dept. suit in the first place by first nominating a Hispanic and then telling people not to vote for him. Democrats pose as a champion of undocumented persons because it 1. inflates the census so they show population growth so they hold on to their seats 2. they are totally unaccountable on this basis to voters. Rich Liberals like Lowey view middle class concerns like property taxes, undocumented people living twenty to house, people driving without licenses , property values as beneath them- besides it detracts from defending Elmo and PBS. I can see arguing for increased legal immigration; I can not find any merit in arguing against assimilation. You can bet if Port Chester had not previously been majority Italian, Polish, et cetera that the Democrat Party would be so keen to condone illegality.
Saverio Terenzi June 27, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Dear Sue, My comments were clearly to Ms. Lopez in the context that without those core principals in place; a solid school system,safe housing along with safe streets then our community will never prosper. I am quite clear on her progressive record and I clearly don't agree with the majority of the issues she supports. My point is that there should be some give and take on issue that are on the margin, but certain things must be protected. Her position on the cumulative voting case I certainly don't agree. She is living proof that Port Chester is far from a racists community, she was elected in a school board election where I'm sure a great deal on non-hispanics voted for her. Like it or not Ms. Lopez is in a position to make change, let's see what the future brings.
Bea Conetta June 27, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Dear Sam, You were absolutely right in congratulating Blanca Lopez for the recognition that she received. She is a highy intelligent woman who cares about our village and hopefully, she will see that we continuue going forward in PC. Sue misread your comment. You didn"t say that we have "a solid school system, safe housing and safe streets." What you said was that Blanca Lopez can work towards reaching those goals. Why are people so eager to critisize instead of seeing the good in something like this? Blanca was elected to the BOE, and she is representing all the people of Port Chester. I personally think that this girl will go far in the political world. She has the drive and the stamina to advance herself, and she has the convuiction to do what is right. Thank you, Sam, for being the first to congratulate her. That was good of you. I will be the second and hopefully not the last.
Saverio Terenzi June 27, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Dear Bea, I really love this quote by Teddy Roosevelt. "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly;who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion,who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievment and who at the worst, if he fails,at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid sould who know niether victory nor defeat" A little over the top but I think it's a great way to go through life. I guess I'm getting mellow in my old age.
PC Native June 27, 2011 at 10:25 PM
That's right... keep endorsing these Latino-domination social engineering efforts (she's affiliated with La Raza for crying out loud!) and we may as well just hand over the keys to the kingdom. Bea, you're a sweet old lady but have your head in the clouds. I hope Blanca's relegated to the PC Board of Ed. We don't need her driving the welcome wagon with green cards in-hand for all these people who actually refuse to assimilate -- and that's a fact.
Greg Tart June 27, 2011 at 10:26 PM
Mr. Terenzi, and Ms. Concetta- I certainly respect your opinions- as I find them typically intelligent and a proper appraisal of what is going on in Port Chester. What is off putting to me was Ms. Lopez's characterization of "Port Chester 2007 and Selma Alabama 1950". I certainly agree that improper rental arrangements are exploitative and dangerous, as recent events prove. Democrats such as Lowey steer money to "non profits", such as the one which Ms. Lopez works at, ostensibly for affordable housing , and then we find "studies" done secretly showing "racism" in renting and selling homes in Westchester. I accept your opinion that Ms. Lopez is deserving of this award, I just hope it does not represent an endorsement of this philosophy which democrats use as a smokescreen for that the fact that their policies in New York inflate costs, cripple business , keep energy expensive.....
PC Native June 27, 2011 at 10:27 PM
keep feeding into each other and sooner or later you believe the hype. adios (is that what you want to hear Sam?!!)
Blanca P. Lopez June 28, 2011 at 09:11 AM
Dear Mr. Terenzi and Ms. Conetta, Thank you for your comments. It is definitely nice to be recognized by a distinguished organization such as the Business Council of Westchester. I agree with Mr. Terenzi that our village is a model community of diversity and acculturation. Much like earlier groups of immigrants, new immigrants are adapting to a new culture while still retaining their native cultural traditions. Just like you, Mr. Terenzi. Your parents named you Saverio but everyone (at least to my knowledge) calls you Sam. (it's a bit harder to Americanize my name.) While we may not agree on many things, we do agree that serving the citizenry of this village is an honor and a great responsibility. Problem solving approaches may differ, but ultimately we all want what is best for Port Chester; and we can find solutions by being respectful with each other. Susan, you do not know me, but it is a free country and you are entitled to your own opinion. My family, education, and life experience have made me the person I am today. If you want to attack my affiliations or call me names, suit yourself. I hope it helped to relieve your stress. Mr. Tart, my comment criticizes the idea that citizens are denied the right to vote because of their race and/or ethnicity. We should be moving forward, not backwards. I don't comment on these forums because I am busy but do enjoy reading them when I can. Have a great day!
George Datino June 28, 2011 at 10:57 AM
Ms. Lopez, I am glad that you decided to comment and hopefully have time to answer a question. I have never been able to get an understanding as to what the village was doing that was hindering the rights of citizens to vote based on race or ethnicity. I've asked others the question and have not been able to get an answer. I am only guessing by your comment that you felt this was the case, so I am hoping you might be able to shed some light as to what was going on? Let me preface this by pointing out I would think that hindering people's rights to vote would be some sort of physical obstruction to allow people to vote, to not have polling locations equally convenient throughout the village, maybe offering free rides to one segment of the popultion while not to others, etc. So I am hoping you might be able to shed some light to some things that might not be known or maybe things that might not be as obvious on their face value. I appreciate and look forward to helping me out.
PC Lover June 28, 2011 at 11:29 AM
Sue, I wish you the best of luck and great success in the selling of your house.
Cadeyrn June 28, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Unfortunately, Sue's correct. Too much of this issue gets thick shellac and is absent blunt talk. It's real ... what Sue sees, we all see. Can't stay allergic to reality forever and just hope for good things for the village.
Cadeyrn June 28, 2011 at 02:21 PM
I'd like to hear her comments on building & code enforcement, illegal housing ... and the crushing burden this places on all of us. And why PC has an unfair share of new arrivals. Why pester us? ... what's wrong with Rye and Harrison and Blind Brook? Sam ... dd they speak Italian in your elementary school? You certainly have solid oral and written skills. Happy accident, I guess.
Saverio Terenzi June 28, 2011 at 04:17 PM
The elementary school I went to had 52 kids in the class. Almost half of the class went to Catholic HS after graduating 8th grade. It was a different time back in the 60's & early 70"s, Port Chester had neighorhoods of children that all got along. Black, white, Italian,Cubans & Puerto Ricans. What we learned on the streets molded the way we lived the rest of our lives. A sense of community, loyalty and everyone watched each other's back. Will it ever be the same, no. Does anything ever remain the same. The only responsibilty I have is to instill some of the values that I grew up on my family and hopefully my kids will carry on those values. I'm proud to be a Port Chester resident and proud to have had my office on Westchester Ave. since 1984.
Saverio Terenzi June 28, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Blanca, After observing the immigration situation in PC since the early 80's I believe there has been a shift in philosphy. I think the immigrants who came here in the early 80's were coming from areas that even if they landed in PC and were living in unsafe housing it was better than where they came from. A generation has passed and their children have a different prospective of what it is to be an American. I'm sure they want a piece of the American dream and will fight for good schools,safe housing & safe streets. My issue has been for years that PC has always taken a bad rap as being anti immigration and therefore anti-hispanic, etc, etc. My issue has been if the federal government doesn't want to control the iommigration system then why has our Village taken the brunt of the problem. Where are neighbors from Harrison, Rye & Greenwich is sharing the burden. Trust me if a real estate broker even tried to rent or sell to people that the town felt didn't meet their standards they would be out of business. I have always taken exception to some of these goodie two shoe organizations that have all these Board members from the lily white communities telling us how to treat our residence, I always felt they were keeping an eye on the situation to make sure none of our problems leached out into their towns.
Bea Conetta June 28, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Dear Sam, What an absolutely beautiful quote by Teddy Roosevelt. I knew you had a soft side to you beside the rude and crude "what you see is what you get." Teddy was one of our greatest presidents who wasn't afraid of doing what he thought best. God bless those brave souls in Port Chester who actually try to do something to advance our village. They might not always be successful, but they have the courage to try. The many critics that we have here find it easy to criticize, but I wonder how many of them really do anything to help our village. I thank God for giving me the courage to stand up for what is in the best interest of PC. We have had tremendous corruption here for many years, but thanks to our new leaders, we are finally making strides to get rid of it. With everyone working together, who knows what we can accomplish.
Nik Bonopartis June 28, 2011 at 04:56 PM
My name isn't Americanized either. My friends in college used to joke that my middle name must be Aristotle, and thanks to My Big Fat Greek Wedding I've heard all the jokes about how every other Greek guy is named Nikos. Regarding La Raza, I'll admit I'm mostly ignorant except for reading a few articles here and there, and catching half of a Bill O'Reilly segment some years ago which mostly involved O'Reilly raging for an extended period of time. At the same time, I think one reason it makes people uncomfortable is because there's a perception of allegiance to country of origin, rather than the U.S. The translation ("the race") certainly doesn't help. Blanca, do you think the group receives a bad rep? What do you tell people who ask about the organization and your time there?
Ephinz June 28, 2011 at 05:40 PM
Just curious. Does not moving out of Port Chester count as doing something to advance the village?
Greg Tart June 28, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Well, Port Chester is a beautiful town; its hard to believe that it was once called saw pits. At the turn of the century Rye blamed Italians for polluting Blind Brook until the health department determined that Rye also was contributing to effluent in the water. The problem then was less ethnic prejudice, though of course that was a factor, than severe overcrowding. That's the situation now ironically. If I am a taxpayer, facing high property taxes, dependent on my home for my net worth, I could well ask why are my concerns worth less than those of non citizens to the democrat party? Port Chester should study what localities benefit mostly from day labor, and petition those localities to pay a special tax; lets see what Nita Lowey would say about that.
Aidan June 28, 2011 at 06:46 PM
"Port Chester should study what localities benefit mostly from day labor, and petition those localities to pay a special tax; lets see what Nita Lowey would say about that." Take a Rip Van Winkle nap. I'll call you when that happens.
John B June 28, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Congratulations Ms. Lopez.
Greg Tart June 29, 2011 at 05:28 PM
Very Good Aidan. You are right. The Democrats are like this fable: Voter: I might shop more in Port Chester. But many residents are undocumented, and have not insurance. Democrat: Racist, Bigot Voter: But you don't understand- If there is an accident.... Democrat: Let me run out and start a non profit to study the problem of racism....
Rick June 30, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Sue, I'm sorry that if you sold your home you would have a huge loss. This is not a Port Chester problem as much as you might think. The housing market was bound to correct itself sooner or later, just like the Stock market did a few years ago. The problem will correct itself in time as time has prov-en it. When my wife and i brought our home in the early eighties we were stretched to make the payments each month due to the wages that we were earning then.Then you have the home prices raise to a three bedroom nice home going for over $550000.It had to stop raising and hit a wall. Yes the home prices in Greenwich ,Rye and Harrison have fallen also.Get the banks to give out loans to people in the amounts that they can afford, and stop giving the funds out to bail out other banks bad loan dept. If you brought your home when the prices were threw the roof, you should have known it had to stop sooner or later. The housing price boom was the only thing holding up the economy now it also has fallen.
Blanca Lopez August 11, 2011 at 02:39 AM
The Mother: Here and there ,we find people that uses a public window to write what they have in their minds.Sorry that few of them only have hate and hate is what the give to the others. I pray for them. I feel very proud and happy for Ms, Lopez for her success in life. WAY TO GO GIRL!
dc August 11, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Beware of Lopez - her goal is rid the village of all the true Americans that remain and turn the village into the next Mexico - well we are heading in that direction are we not? We have politicos like Terrenzi who for some reason are swayed into the Lopez trap and swoon at her requests. Be very wary of this women!! And now that she has been elected President of the school board her ultimate goal is to eliminat classes being taught in English and entirely in spanish. Also she is in the pocket of the teachers union. Hold on to your wallets taxpayers the worst is yet to come.
Blanca Lopez August 12, 2011 at 02:21 AM
- The Mother --It must be very,very hard for"dc" to see a very well prepared lady like MS. Lopez shine under the spot light. I still pray for you.

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