Named after the respected Puerto Rican poet, the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center (CSV) was established in 1993 with the mission of nurturing and developing Puerto Rican and Latino arts in the Lower East Side.
In 1993, Edgardo Vega Yunqué, Nelson Landrieu and Mateo Gómez, all of whom are actively involved in the Latino arts community in New York City, founded CSV. At the time, Teatro La Tea, established by Landrieu and Gómez, was the only functioning theater in the building that now houses CSV. Less than a year later, after much hard work and payment of an outstanding debt of more than $30,000, the devoted trio acquired the lease to the City-owned building, on 107 Suffolk Street, from Solidaridad Humana, a community-based education and human services organization.
CSV's building is the foremost architectural landmark in that part of the Lower East Side still known as Loisaida (as opposed to the East Village, the area above Houston). The Dutch Neo-Gothic building is a former public school (PS 160) constructed in 1898. By the mid-1970s the building had ceased to serve as a public school and during the early 1980s it became Solidaridad Humana, a revolutionary community-based comprehensive bilingual education program that carried out a visionary "Literacy in Spanish" teaching effort. It can be said CSV continues, albeit in a more cultural vein, via Solidaridad Humana's legacy of commitment to the Puerto Rican/Latino community.