Paul Alvarez isn’t living the American Dream. He is the American Dream.
And the Pleasantville Dream too.
Alvarez went from the streets of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, with desperately poor, hungry people, robberies, and the possibility of getting kidnapped, to the streets of Pleasantville.
“In Quito,” Alvarez explains, “someone could grab you off the street and ask your family for ransom.”
In contrast, Pleasantville was quiet and safe.
“It was an awesome experience to walk to school,” Alvarez remembers.
Alvarez’s father, Guillermo, started working at the age of three, picking fruits and vegetables on farms. He worked in a plastic bag factory and bought and sold propane tanks. After Paul was born, Guillermo, also known as Bill, came to the United States in 1987, when Paul was five years old, to try to make a better life for his family.
Bill got a visa to fly to Mexico and was arrested there for overstaying the visa. His brother Walter, who was in the United States at the time, had to pay to get Bill out of jail. Bill traveled to the border, then crossed the Rio Grande to get in the U.S.
From there, Bill made his way to Pleasantville, where Walter was living.
“He was a dishwasher at a deli in the morning. He worked as a landscaper and he was a dishwasher and busboy at the Riviera, on Tompkins Avenue. He took whatever jobs he could get,” Alvarez recalls.
Alvarez’s mother, Maritza, came to the U.S. two years later. Paul was then cared for by his grandparents and uncles.
The first time Maritza tried to get into the U.S., she was arrested in Mexico and put in a Mexican jail, then deported back to Ecuador.
“We couldn’t find my mom for three months,” Alvarez says. His mom came back home, and the family tried again to get her to the U.S. Maritza was then able to get a tourist visa to the U.S.
Alvarez came to the U.S. in 1992, on a tourist visa too. The family lived in a house with three other families on Marble Avenue.
After Alvarez’s six-month tourist visa expired, “I was here unlawfully,” he says.
Alvarez’s father worked so hard at the deli that he earned a promotion to chef. The owner of the deli helped Bill obtain legal status here.
Paul started as a fourth-grade student at the Bedford Road School. He was nine years old.
“I was feeling like I was so behind everyone. I couldn’t speak English. The only thing I knew how to say was ham and cheese. One kid called me stupid.”
Alvarez, who was at the top of his third-grade class in Ecuador, worked hard to learn, with the aid of an ESL (English as a second language) teacher.
“What pushed me more, to learn more, I felt I was at a disadvantage,” Alvarez says. “I want to be the best at everything I do.”
It turned out that Pleasantville was the perfect place for Alvarez.
“I loved what the village offered. I had a really positive experience in Pleasantville,” he says. “I started doing sports and making friends.”
In high school, Alvarez became a varsity wrestler. He achieved All-Section Wrestling honors. Alvarez sang in the high school choir and was a drummer in the school band. Also, he volunteered at the Bedford Road School as a teacher’s aide.
Paul and his parents got permanent legal status to live in the U.S., in 1999. They all became citizens in 2005.
He earned a scholarship to SUNY-Oneonta in 2001, where he met his wife, Katie.
Paul remembers his father pushing him constantly to excel.
“My dad would make me read books at night. My parents have always strived for me to succeed.”
After college, Alvarez worked as an interpreter at the law office of Julie Mullaney, in Mt. Kisco. From there, he advanced to paralegal, then lead paralegal and office manager.
He didn’t do well the first time he took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). His father stepped in again and pushed Alvarez.
“Dad urged me to continue my education. He was like, ‘I didn’t struggle in this kind of job so you could settle.’”
Alvarez took the LSAT again and got a higher score. He was accepted at Pace Law School in White Plains. He finished in two and a half years.
His parents continued to work hard as well. They opened a commercial and residential cleaning service and purchased a building on Washington Avenue to house the business.
“I helped dad run his businesses,” Alvarez says. “We’re employing 20 people now.”
Alvarez moved Mullaney’s law practice to Pleasantville in 2020, then purchased it. He specializes in immigration, traffic, and criminal law.
“Everyone I employ here has an immigration story. We’re trying to give everyone else the American dream,” he says.
Alvarez has become a vice president at the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. Also, he ran for office as a Village Trustee for Pleasantville in 2020 and won.
Chamber of Commerce President Bill Flooks says of Alvarez: “He’s willing to give his time to make stuff happen. He’s very involved–he brings a lot of youthful ideas to the chamber. That’s great for Pleasantville. He’s a very, very big asset.”
“I started seeing how I could give back to the community,” Alvarez explains. “I’m the chair of the organization that does the Christmas tree lighting. I was the chair for the first-ever Pleasantville Oktoberfest in 2021 and I’m the chair for the Pleasantville Block Party in October 2022.”
Alvarez’s sister is a speech pathologist at a New York City private school. His wife, Katie, is a teaching assistant for the White Plains school district and bookkeeper for Paul’s father. The couple have a boy, six years old and a girl, who just turned three.
“My parents pushed us to be professionals,” Alvarez says. “My mom is humble, with family values and religious values. We’re trying to make this world a better place. She says, ‘that’s your purpose.’”
“I want to give everyone hope–you can see it with a little boy who came here without speaking English–anything is possible.”
“I love Pleasantville. I’ve invested my whole life here,” Alvarez says. “I want Pleasantville to be proud of me.”