Educator Who Allegedly Sexually Abused Students Ran for City Council

By Meredith Hoffman on September 9, 2013 9:19am 

 Juan Martinez was accused of sexually abusing students at Progress High School.
Juan Martinez was accused of sexually abusing students at Progress High School.
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New York City Campaign Finance Board

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — The well-regarded educator accused last week of forcing his student to give him oral sex in his Williamsburg office ran for City Council twice and has ties to prominent North Brooklyn politicians, sources and public records revealed.

He also previously led the entire North Brooklyn school district and served on the community advisory board for Bushwick's Woodhull hospital, sources confirmed. 

Juan D. Martinez, 51, sexually abused students at East Williamsburg's Progress High School while leading an after-school program he founded there in 2009 and 2011, an investigation by the Special Commissioner of Investigations for the New York City School District alleged last Wednesday.

And Martinez — whose alleged actions were denounced by the Department of Education as "reprehensible" last week and whose case is now being examined by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office — not only had a position of power within the school, but he has a history of influential roles in the district.

Martinez ran unsuccessfully for office in North Brooklyn's 34th District in 1991 and 2001, receiving donations from Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, the United Federation of Teachers, and dozens of staff from the Department of Education and Woodhull Hospital, campaign finance records show.

And just last year in politics Martinez worked on State Assembly candidate Jason Otano's campaign, whose kick-off party Martinez co-hosted along with other members of the North Brooklyn political sphere, according to sources and a Facebook invitation.

Martinez "is considered a North Brooklyn power broker...[who] used his position as the head of Progress, Inc. to not only boost his own political career but those of many others as well," a source with longtime knowledge of the neighborhood said.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez donated $100 to his campaign and the UFT contributed $1,000 in 2001, records show, and Martinez collected a total of $183,083 for his campaigns.

 Progress High School is part of the Grand Street Campus on the corner of Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue. The former assistant principal allegedly raped and molested students in his office in the school.
Progress High School is part of the Grand Street Campus on the corner of Grand Street and Bushwick Avenue. The former assistant principal allegedly raped and molested students in his office in the school.
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DNAinfo/Meredith Hoffman

Martinez also served as the president of North Brooklyn's School District 14 for five years, sources confirmed, and he served on Bushwick's Woodhull Hospital community advisory board.

Martinez — who was accused of the abuses along with the former assistant principal of Progress High School, who was also accused of rape — was also the founder of Progress Inc., the after-school program at Progress High School where he worked during the alleged incidents.

Martinez, whose case has been referred to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, did not answer multiple calls requesting comment, and the United Federation of Teachers and Woodhull Hospital did not return calls and emails requesting comment.

Otano also did not respond to emails requesting comment.

A spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney's office said they were looking into the case, and the Department of Education did not comment on the new findings but said Martinez was ineligible for jobs with the agency following the release of the Special Commissioner of Investigation's findings.

A spokesman for Velazquez would not comment on questions about her affiliation with Martinez, but said she called on the DA's office to "thoroughly and carefully review the findings."

“We all have a responsibility to keep our children safe. The...report raises troubling allegations and, if proven true, there can be no tolerance for this type of behavior," the Velazquez spokesman said. "Should the DA determine there is evidence supporting the report’s findings, the parties involved must be held legally accountable.”

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