Grace Under Pressure

Grace Perez built an influential domestic-violence program. Then she was fired.

In the April 21 statement, Selenikas suggests that the internal problems stem from the staff itself—and Perez. "Her conduct in the last 21 days, together with the participation of the management team in communicating inaccurate information to VIP's funders, is injuring the organization and the people it serves." She tells the Voice that the board is moving forward on its search for a new executive director. "It's my hope as well as the hope of the board of directors that the organization will be able to look forward to a new executive director and the expansion of programs for the women and children we serve."

Perez, for her part, isn't ready to move on yet. Since her firing, she's tried to drum up support for her reinstatement among domestic-violence colleagues. On a recent Friday afternoon, she met with five advocates at an East Harlem agency and laid out her version of events—how hard she worked to build up VIP; how close she was to giving it a home; how fast it all fell apart.

"So the building and the money are all gone?" one advocate asked in disbelief.

Grace Perez, anti-domestic-violence champion, and the building that proved her undoing
photo: Chad Griffith
Grace Perez, anti-domestic-violence champion, and the building that proved her undoing

"I can't say," Perez replied. "I find it too hard to accept."

Days later she was talking about "that fantastic building"—how she could salvage that deal. Then she was delivered the bad news: The building was sold in March. "It's just painful," Perez says, choking up. "But Mr. Diaz and the board did not have that vision. Only I did."

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