New Immigrant Affairs head wants to ‘build bridges’

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"I couldn't think of a job more exciting than that, having been an immigrant and gone through all the challenges that immigrants have to face when you first land in this country," Linares said in a telephone interview.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the appointment of Linares, who became the first Dominican American to hold public office in the United States after being elected to the City Council in 1991, at a July 14 news conference.

"With a long record of motivating the immigrant communities of this city, (Linares) has the ability to carry out this agency's goals to serve our ever-growing and diverse communities by providing them with city services and ensuring that their needs will be heard and met," Bloomberg said in a release.

Over the course of his career, Linares has served on the board of the Hispanic advocacy group National Council of La Raza and helped found the Dominican Studies Institute at City College, the Audubon Partnership for Economic Development and the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

He starts Aug. 1.

Once in place, Linares, who served on the Council for 10 years, said he plans to familiarize himself with the policies of his predecessor, working to build on them.

The 53-year-old father of two plans to focus on building bridges between immigrants, their new home communities and the government.

"Whether you speak of families or neighborhoods where immigrant communities find themselves, there's a strong interest and eagerness not just to be accepted but also to be seen as part of the solution to the problems that face a neighborhood," Linares said while enjoying a little time away from the city to celebrate his 25-year-old daughter's birthday.

He said he will pay particular attention to the health issues that affect diverse communities, education, employment and social services.

Linares replaced former Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Sayu Bhojwani, who resigned her post in May to relocate to London. Bhojwani, also an immigrant, was instrumental in Bloomberg's creation of Immigrant History Week, which takes place in early May.

The Office of Immigrant affairs was created in 2001 as part of a sweeping series of reforms to the city's charter. Among its responsibilities are to inform immigrants about city services available to them, to connect newcomers with community-based organizations familiar with their needs and to counsel them on immigration procedures.

Linares arrived in the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1966, landing in the Bronx.

He attended City College, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees. He obtained a professional diploma in administration from Fordham University and is a doctoral candidate at the Teachers College of Columbia University.

His wife is also an educator. Linares has a 25-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son.

Linares said he is excited to begin work when he returns to the city.

"I think that the position I assume now ... will give me an opportunity to help bridge what I perceive is the goodwill of so many people in the government working in different agencies and the goodwill of the people working in communities."

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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