Avery Mendez’s Story
Survives The Season
Paybarah, Gregory Bresiger, Lisa L. Colangelo,
and Dahlia O’Callighan
Every year the Tribune dedicates its Thanksgiving editorial to the
memory of a man the paper knew very briefly, but who affected us
profoundly. His name was Avery Mendez.
The death of Avery Mendez,
a homeless man and familiar face
in Flushing, has been a Tribune symbol of the City’s
In 1987, the Tribune interviewed and
told the story of this homeless man who was a familiar sight to
passersby at 40th Road and Main Street.
And just after his story ran, the chilling winter air that
attacks people who live without walls, blankets or hot food took its
Mendez’s body temperature dipped to 30
degrees below normal. When his body was found, the conclusion was that
he had suffered from cardiac arrest in the cold.
It was a time in New York history where there
was tremendous opposition to the proposal to construct 10 homeless
shelters citywide, and for the Tribune, this man became a symbol
of a problem that has no quick or easy solution, but for which a
solution must be found.
In memory of those without names, homes, food
or hope, the Tribune retells Mendez’s story in its editorial
each year, but the tradition began in the Dec. 3, 1987 edition, in which
the editorial read, “He was our symbolic victim of New York City’s
bureaucratic ineptitude. For
each of the five years Mendez lived on the streets, we have been writing
that the homeless make headlines with the first frost and disappear from
thought with the spring. The
City has failed to deal with the problem adequately.
Now Mendez is dead.”