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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

6th Car Crash Victim Identified

The 6th passenger who was killed in the crash that took the lives of five Norwood siblings was identified. The Daily News reports that Sahadeo Ugashwar, 24, of Richmond Hill, Queens, was identified through dental records. He was with the five Gopaul siblings who died in the crash--Anderson, Emmanuel, Jessica, Anthony and Putrina--whose ages ranged from 11-24.

News Roundup for July 31

Apparently the United Nations is just as problematic a construction project as the Croton Water Filtration Plant. After some false starts, the Swedish construction firm Skanska AB, one of the contractors involved in the filtration plant, was selected by the UN to manage the renovation of its headquarters in Manhattan. Reuters has the details of the $7 million initial contract that could yield $1 billion for Skanska over time.

Gotham Gazette has a feature by a high school student from New Youth Connections , about efforts to expand mental health services and counseling in the public schools.

The New York Post looks at Joel Klein's five years as schools chancellor and his accomplishments so far. None of his predecessors has lasted that long since the post was created in 1970.

A Daily News story reports on another uninhabitable city-subsidized apartment. Tenant Steven Berry was forced to move his asthmatic kids out of the Valentine Ave. apartment because the power was cut off and he can't plug in the kids' nebulizers. Councilman Joel Rivera is calling for the Department of Homeless Services to withhold rent in situations like this.

And Bob Kapstatter reports in his Bronx Boro News (supplement to the Daily News) column (not on-line yet) that Bronx District Attorney is running unopposed again, at this point, and that Adolfo Carrion has been fined $6,875 by the Campaign Finance Board for campaign finance violations.

Monday, July 30, 2007

News Roundup for July 30

The New York Times ran a story yesterday on the controversy over the fence around the Jerome Park Reservoir, where neighbors are upset that they will not have access to the water or even a running path along the reservoir. The Norwood News did an in-depth story on this topic earlier this year, and an April editorial provides historical context.

There's more information in Gothamist on the car crash that killed five Norwood siblings last week.

Today's NY Sun looks at Adolfo Carrion's mayoral prospects, focusing on the Bronx's development boom.
In response, the Neighborhood Retail Alliance's blog criticizes Carrion's role in the displacement of the Bronx Terminal Market.

And Errol Louis at the deplorable conditions in the city's public housing complexes in his Daily News column yesterday.

And News 12 reports that elected officials protested an Army-sponsored concert at Orchard Beach Sunday, arguing that it's an inappropriate recruitment tactic.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Celebrating African Culture and Presenting a United Front

Today's African United Day was meant to be held in Claremont Park, but the weather had other ideas, and when the rain storm came revellers relocated to the Gambian Socity on Jerome Avenue, to enjoy music, dancing, and a fashion show.

The event was the first of its kind in the city. "With Africans in the past we haven’t come together under one umbrella," said Sadatu Mamah-Trawill (pictured), who's Ghanian.

“There’s so many African associations but they are weak on their own," added Togo-born Baba Taraore. "We’re trying to create a united front with a strong voice."

Organizers - who recently created the African Peoples Alliance to help the city's growing African population adapt to life in the U.S. - hope that July 29 will become an official day of celebration for Africans living in New York, and eventually a parade to rival the Puerto Rican Day Parade and others. (Photo by James Fergusson)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Local Reaction to Deadly Car Crash in VA

The neighbors of the young people who were killed in a horrific car crash in Virginia Tuesday are trying to absorb the news and support the devastated mother of the victims. At 3395 Reservoir Oval West in Norwood, a temporary shrine has been set up with flowers and candles for the six who died. (Five are confirmed as the family of Pamela Ramharrack, and the sixth is still unidentified.)

According to police reports, Petrina Gopaul, Anthony Gopaul, Rawlins Gopaul, Anderson Gopaul and Jessica Gopaul were on their way to North Carolina when their Honda Accord crossed the median, and ran into a truck. The siblings ranged in age from 11 to 25. Neighbors said that they were good, respectful kids who never hung out in the street or got into trouble.

When their mother heard the news, she called the children's father in Trinidad, where the family is from, and he had a heart attack, according to the Gothamist account of the events.

The Gopauls' neighbors in their building are planning to take up a collection to help the family with funeral expenses. We'll post more details as they become available.

Dinner with Obama and other political notes

Couple of quick political notes.

Earlier this week, I had a long conversation with Haile Rivera, a University Heights activist who was one of four people picked to have an intimate dinner with senator and presidential candidate Barrack Obama in DC a few weeks ago. He says he was randomly picked to attend the dinner after donating $25 (not a huge contribution but a relatively big chunk of change for Rivera) to Obama's campaign.

Though Obama, who was in Iowa earlier that day, didn't show up until 10 p.m. (Rivera joked to an Obama aide that, at this hour, they should all just go out for beers and shoot pool), Rivera said the Senator from Illinois was very thoughtful, modest and easy going during their meal at the District Chop House and Brewery. Rivera said they had a great conversation, a portion of which aired on the Today Show, that ranged from war (one of the diners was the wife an American soldier serving in Iraq) to poverty and teen pregnancy.

Toward the end of the meal, Rivera gave Obama two gifts: a book on the history of the Domincan Republic (Rivera's home country) and a Bronx baseball cap. He then invited Obama to visit the Boogie Down as a presidential candidate and Obama replied: "Let's make that happen."

Now Rivera is working to create a pro-Obama movement here in the Bronx and citywide called New Yorkers for Obama (New Yorkers con Obama in Spanish) because he believes in him.

In addition to his duties working for the New York City Food Bank, Rivera has started his own nonprofit and is also contemplating a City Council run in the slot soon to be vacated by the term-limit departure of Maria Baez. Rivera wants to be the first Dominican council member in the city, he says. Rivera's never worked in politics before, but says that is a positive.

"I'm not anti-establishment," Rivera told me, "but at the same time you gotta get some fresh blood in there."

Speaking of fresh blood, I also spoke earlier this week with Council member Koppell's right hand man, Jamin Sewell, who told me he's already created a fundraising committee with an eye on taking his boss' job when his term, like Baez's, runs out next year.

From the looks of it, next fall should be a lot of fun.

Update: Thanks to a couple of readers for accurately pointing out that Guillermo Linares (1991-2001, Washington Heights) was the first Dominican elected to the New York City Council. However, and this is what Haile Rivera said and what I meant to write, there has never been a Dominican elected to the City Council from a Bronx district (Linares actually grew up in East Tremont, but now lives in Marble Hill, according to a 2006 NY Times story). And now, with the Dominican population in the borough growing rapidly and up to an estimated 200,000, Rivera said in an email that he thinks it's time their interests were being better represented.

Green Space in Unlikely Places

Bedford Park is full of little gardens where you least expect them, like this one on Bainbridge and 201st that's part of the Bronx Green-Up program:

And this garden that was planted in the lot next to 2965 Marion and is tended by a tenant in the building:

Bloomberg Visits the Bronx, Announces New Youth Program

Mayor Bloomberg visited the Citibank at Creston Avenue near Fordham Road earlier today to announce a new program that will provide financial education and support to youth "aging out" of the city’s foster care system.

The Youth Financial Empowerment (YFE) – a collaboration between Citibank and agencies including New Yorkers for Children, and the United Way of New York City - will begin this fall, offering money management skills and financial incentives to 450 kids in their late teens. For every dollar participants deposit into Individual Development Accounts, the program will invest $2.

The administration hopes to test whether the program’s bank accounts and supportive financial education will result in improved savings and higher rates of high school graduation, college enrollment and employment among these youth, said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs in a statement.

Coalition pushing for school S.E.A.T.S

Wednesday morning, organizers and youth from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (aka the Coalition), lamenting chronic overcrowding and its effects on education, stormed City Hall to demand more school seats in the Bronx and citywide.

In the process, the Coalition announced its S.E.A.T.S (Schools Exploding at the Seams) initiative, which is designed to pressure the education department, using the City Council as a lobbying arm, into adding more school seats for the current Five-Year Capital Plan, set to be revised in November. The City Council has an opportunity to weigh in on any capital plan revisions when it approves the city's budget in April.

The overcrowding issue has festered in the borough since last fall when the DOE announced it would be eliminating 1,700 Bronx seats from the capital plan, which many activists, parents, students and local politicians considered a slap in the face. For more background check out this story from the Norwood News.

The Coalition spent the morning pitching council members and then gathered on the steps of City Hall for a press conference where Coalition leaders, with a backdrop of 30 slogan-chanting students, laid out the case for more seats.

The goal, Coalition vice president Ronn Jordan said, is to make overcrowding a citywide issue. Jordan added that they were already getting a very positive response from council members, many of whom have already pledged their support for S.E.A.T.S.

Upper Manhattan's Robert Jackson (head of the education committee) and Brooklyn's David Yasky (looking like a math teacher in khakis and a pink button down) joined the Bronx's Oliver Koppell and Joel Rivera in speaking during the press conference.

Here's some video from the event.

Stay tuned, this will be an issue the Norwood News will be all over in the coming year.

News Roundup for July 27

Tragic news about a northwest Bronx family that was killed in a car crash in Virginia on Tuesday. Pamela Ramharrack lost five of her six children in the accident, the Daily News reports. We just learned that the family lives at 3395 Reservoir Oval West, just a couple doors down from the Norwood News. Stay tuned for more updates on this sad tale.

Another fire hit Morrisania last night, sending two people to the hospital, according to 1010 WINS.

City Limits explores a "unique and peculiar" clause that has allowed landlords to skirt rent regulations on some apartments for years. Under Spitzer's administration, the interpretation of the clause will be stricter. It's something tenant advocates have fought for for years.

And the NY Sun spotlights canoe trips on the Bronx River sponsored by the Bronx River Alliance.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

News Roundup for July 26

The organization Rocking the Boat and Joseph Rachlin of the Lehman College biology department are featured in a story about efforts to restore urban rivers in the current issue of the Nation. A preview is available here.

NY1 has an update on a fire that gutted some Jerome Avenue stores in May. The police are searching for a group of teens that were captured in a surveillance video.

Bronx parents, students and council members rallied at City Hall yesterday to protest overcrowding in the schools, News 12 reports.

News 12 also reports on plans to improve bus service in the Bronx. The changes come 6 months after State Senator Jeff Klein released a study criticizing express bus service.

The Daily News reported yesterday about the contentious search for a new home for Peace and Diversity High School, which outgrew its space on Lehman's campus last year.

And the NY Times looks at the Diabetes epidemic in the city, noting that "New Yorkers in East Harlem, Williamsburg-Bushwick and certain parts of the South Bronx are hospitalized for diabetes at 10 times the rate of residents of the Upper East Side."

Showcasing Latino Shutterbugs

Miriam Romais and Marisol Diaz of the Bronx nonprofit En Foco are featured in the August edition of Latina magazine.
En Foco used to be based on Kingsbridge Road -- now they're housed the Bronx Council on the Arts offices in Morris Park. But regardless of where they sit, the work is the same -- giving Latin and other minority photographers exposure and their proper due.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

University Woods: Restore a Discarded Treasure

This opinion piece in the Mount Hope Monitor by Greg Fuchs, the development director for the New York Rowing Association and a Morris Heights resident, calls for the renovation of University Woods Park, a long neglected and troubled spot not far from the Harlem River. (Photo by Greg Fuch)

It also includes some fascinating history about BCC's nearby campus...

University Woods: Restore a Discarded Treasure

Recently, my wife and I moved to the Bronx after living in Brooklyn for more than a decade. She teaches at Bronx Community College (BCC). I left working downtown to direct the development of the New York Rowing Association (NYRA), which is changing the lives of youth by promoting healthy development and social responsibility.

Last year we purchased a modest wood-framed house built on a steep slope where Undercliff Avenue splits from Sedgwick Avenue, in Morris Heights. The front door is 15-feet above the sidewalk. From the elevated stoop I have a bird’s eye view of NYRA’s home, the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse, floating on the Harlem River on the shore of Swindler Cove Park, a former dumping ground that’s become a restored wetlands teeming with animal and plant life. This idyllic cove was created through the chutzpah of Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project.

My daily trek from Morris Heights to Inwood takes me north on Sedgwick Avenue, west on 179th Street, then north on Cedar Avenue until I hit Fordham Road. Then it’s over the University Bridge. Walking on Cedar I pass University Woods Park. I have become increasingly fascinated with this majestic park filled with enough trees to earn its name. The city’s Parks Department describes it as "a forested area situated on a steep slope overlooking the Harlem River. It commands an impressive view of Upper Manhattan, the Hudson River, and the New Jersey Palisades."

... more here in the Monitor.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More and More Dominicans Coming from the Island of.... Manhattan!

Regarding the Daily News story on the increase in the Dominican population in the Bronx(mentioned in the previous post), one point that bears emphasis is that much of the influx is not coming only from the Island of Hispañola, but also from the north end of the Island of Manhattan.

"Dominicans are coming not only from their native island, but from Washington Heights, a longtime Dominican enclave. 'In a few years from now, there's not going to be a Washington Heights,' said David Medina, regional manager at Health Plus, a yearly sponsor of the Grand Dominican Parade. 'Everyone's moving here to the Bronx.'

In mentioning that "foreign-born Dominicans are among the poorest groups in the Bronx," the article reinforces the notion that (contrary to what the New York Times Real Estate section wants you to believe) the vast majority of people moving to the Bronx are low-income. Instead of "the gentrification of the South Bronx" or young wealthy Manhattanites moving to the west Bronx corridor, it's poor families from Washington Heights, East Harlem and other gentrifying neighborhoods who are being forced into the Bronx; the thousands of Dominicans moving to the Bronx is an excellent example of this real trend.

(By the way, if you want to see actual demographic evidence against the gentrification of the Bronx, check out the second chart on page 14 of the UNHP report on Shrinking Affordability.)

News Roundup for July 24

The NY Times City Room blog looks at the city's continued practice of hiring emergency housing providers without contracts. The substandard conditions many Bronx families have been placed in were documented in a June Highbridge Horizon story.

The Daily News reports that Dominicans are the fastest growing group in the Bronx, increasing their numbers from 133,000 in the 2000 census to 200,000 in 2005.

Another Daily News story announces that Community Board 8 (Riverdale and Kingsbridge) has hired a local activist and former mayoral staff person as its district manager. CB7 has just begun its search for a new manager.

NY1 reports on the Straphangers Campaign's Annual State of the Subways report, which named the 1 train the best in the city. The MTA plans to buy 620 more trains to replace the ones that break down a lot.

And there's lots of coverage of the event yesterday at 1520 Sedgwick demanding it be granted landmark status as the birthplace of hip hop. Here's the Newsday story.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Officially, The Birth Place of Hip Hop

Despite a steady downpour this morning, Congressman Jose Serrano, Senator Chuck Schumer, local residents and a handful of Bronx hip-hop legends showed up in the West Bronx to celebrate New York State's formal recognition of 1520 Sedgwick Ave. as the official birth place of hip hop.

The celebration was also an opportunity for the lawmakers to urge that 1520 Sedgwick remain affordable housing and to push for more affordable housing citywide. In February, the owners of the Birth Place of Hip Hop announced their intention to convert the property into market-rate housing. The 100-unit building is currently part of the city's Mitchell-Lama program, which keeps rents affordable, but is being phased out by owners throughout the five boroughs. Here's the Times' David Gonzalez's piece for some more background and depth.

Housing advocates say some 39,000 units may lose their Mitchell-Lama designation soon, forcing out many long-time tenants, unless Mayor Bloomberg puts a moratorium on buy-outs of all city-funded Mitchell-Lama buildings until a suitable preservation strategy can be created and implemented.

In the basement of 1520 Sedgwick, the hip hop music genre was born under the guidance and creaivity of DJ Kool Herc (aka Clive Campbell) in the 1970s. Herc and his sister, Cindy, threw parties in that basement featuring the first forms of hip hop music and dance. Since then, the Bronx has spawned hip hop icons such as Afrikaa Bambataa, Grandmaster Flash and KRS-One, to name just a few, and the genre has exploded across the globe.

News Roundup for July 23

A report released Friday by watchdog group Good Jobs New York reveals that taxpayers will be subsidizing the new Yankee Stadium by $100 million more than originally reported. WNYC looks at the influence of former and current elected officials on the controversial project's approval, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Assemblyman and Democratic County Chair Roberto Ramirez, and Bronx political operative Stanley Schlein. Read the full report here.

Officials declared that the Bronx is making a comeback at the groundbreaking for the Metro North station at Yankee Stadium, the Post reports.

And today's Post talks about the Bronx's construction boom, with an estimated $965 million invested in new developments this year.

The Bronx Times explains the dispute between First Tee of Metropolitan New York and the Parks Department. First Tee, which runs the Mosholu Golf Course, was reimbursed last year for revenue it expected to lose due to the filtration plant construction on the site. Now the city says First Tee underreported its revenue.

The Daily News features two stories about schools in the Evander Childs building on East Gunhill Road. Students from the High School of Computers and Technology are pairing up with Bronxwood Nursing Home to set up a computer lab for the seniors, and students from the Bronx Lab School area headed to China and will blog about their experiences there.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dominican Day Parade

This Sunday sees the city's 18th annual Dominican Day Parade. It starts at 1:45 p.m. at the Grand Concourse and 184th Street and finishes at 166th Street. More here in the Daily News.

Bronxnet will cablecast the festivities on Channel 67 from 2 p.m. onwards. And they'll repeat the program in July, August, and the first week of September, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.

Keeping Cool in the Neighborhood

With tempertures climbing in the 90s last Tuesday, Mount Hope residents (and pets) looked for ways to beat the heat. (Photos by Laura Sayer)

Jazz in the park

Jazz legend Lou Donaldson, 80, performing at last week's jazz festival in Echo Park in Mount Hope, a free event put on by Mount Hope Housing Company and Chase Bank. (Photo by David Greene)

In the 1980s this four-acre park - the only green space in the area - was a dumping ground and a haven for drug dealers. Most of the apartment buildings at the park's north end, on Burnside Avenue, lay abandoned. In recent years, however, things have taken a turn for the better, and in 1997 Mount Hope Housing Company began holding an annual "Drug Free and Proud To Be Day" - a day of fun, food, and festivities for all the family. The aim is to encourage local residents to take a stand against drugs in the neighborhood. Last year 3,500 people attended. This year's event is on Saturday August 11. If you wish to be a sponsor, you can call Tee Lawton at (718) 299-2051 ext. 16.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

WNYC Reports on Foreign Real Estate Investors in the Bronx

WNYC's Cindy Rodriguez has a piece today on how big real estate firms, often from abroad, are buying up apartment buildings in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan. Fueled by the weak dollar, foreign firms are purchasing properties "this cheap stock of housing that’s far from luxurious."

But at the current rents these buildings are barely profitable (if at all), so they still can't be considered bargains even for someone buying with euros or pounds. The deals only work for the investor when they can raise the rents.

While the piece is not very detailed, she does interview Benjamin Dulchin from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), who highlights the mass law suits used to force low rent tenants out, similar to the tactics used by Pinnacle, reported on by the Norwood News. (Read about the new lawsuit against Pinnacle on racketeering here).

Rodriguez also interviews an NYU real estate professor who mistakenly says, "They can’t just raise rents and push tenants out..." Obviously this professor is not aware of increases landlords can take when performing Major Capital Improvements (MCIs), or the change in rent stabilization regulations a few years ago that allows landlords to do away with preferential rents whenever a lease is up. (Why do they interview professors from NYU about what's going on in the Bronx, anyway?)

The piece is entitled, Big Real Estate Firms Buy Up in Poor Neighborhoods. But if you'd like to read an in depth report on the topic, check out the Shrinking Affordibility report by University Neighborhood Housing Program.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Restaurant Workers Press Joel Rivera on Legislation

A group of restaurant workers showed up at Councilman Joel Rivera's office today to urge him to hold a hearing on a bill that would help protect restaurant workers from abuses in the workplace. The Responsible Restaurant Act was introduced in the City Council on May 9 and would allow the city's health department to consider employment law violations when deciding whether to renew a restaurant's operating permit.
The Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), a workers' rights group, and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition co-sponsored a town hall meeting today at the Belmont Boulevard Apartments on East 185th Street, and organizers expected Rivera to attend. When he didn't show up, the group marched to his office on Southern Boulevard and presented his staff with over 200 "menus" signed by area residents that order the Council to take action on the bill.
The bill was referred to the Health Committee, which Rivera chairs, so advocates are now waiting for the councilman to set a hearing date.

News Roundup for July 18

Three people were shot yesterday in a bodega on 166th and Summit, across from PS 126, according to Gothamist.

The New York Times has details on the school funding plan released by the Chancellor yesterday. District 14 in Queens would receive the most money of any district under the proposal--$14 million. District 10 in the Bronx also gets a big influx of new funding, almost $9 million. Most of the funds will go to reduce class size.

There's no deal in Albany on Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, and the NY Post speculates that state legislators didn't want to take risks because some of them will face tough races against council members who are termed out in 2009.

Today's rainstorms caused service changes and delays on the Norwood-bound D train and the Metro North trains, the Daily News reports.

The Daily News reported yesterday on an argument between the Comptroller's office and First Tee Metropolitan Golf, which manages the Mosholu Golf Course, over money it owes the city.
In the same issue, the News writes that the New York Junior Tennis League is returning to the Bronx to offer free tennis lessons in Co-op City. The League used to run a summer program in Mullaly Park, but the courts were shut down for the Yankee Stadium construction.

On the NYC Indymedia website, a Local 608 carpenter criticizes the pre-apprenticeship program for the Croton Water Filtration plant and other projects, arguing that it's part of a historic system that keeps people of color from moving up in the union and making living wages.

Paradise in Hands of Utopia

The latest issue of the Norwood News is now on-line featuring a story on the new proprietors of the Loew's Paradise Theater (pictured), now called the Utopia Paradise. Also on-line: Illegal Club Plauges Block, New Noise Code Aims to Put a Lid on It, Murder on Kingsbridge Brings out Sky Watch, CB7 Begins Search for New District Manager and much more!

Serrano on Political Dynasties

State Senator Jose M. Serrano, son of Congressman Jose Serrano, responds to criticisms of political families on the Room 8 blog.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stabbing death in University Heights

Last Saturday night, David Fuentes, 30, of 2300 University Avenue was stabbed to death in a basement apartment nearby, at 2285 University Avenue. Police say he was stabbed multiple times in the torso and that the investigation is ongoing. The NY Times put a small brief about this in its Metro section yesterday.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yankees, eventually, do the right thing

Maybe the Yankees aren't so heartless after all.

My home town of Seattle was buzzing with disdain for the Big Apple last weekend after it was reported that Paul Robinson, a tourist from Kirkland (an eastside suburb of the Emerald City) broke his neck during a Yankee game when a man fell on top of him after tumbling from his seat in the upper deck of Yankee stadium. Geoff Baker, a great sportswriter for the Seattle Times linked to a story about the incident in his blog, writing, "Here's another reason to hate the Yankees. As if you needed another. Injured guy is from Kirkland and didn't even get an apology. Pathetic behavior." (FYI, all Seattle Mariner fans worth their salt are ingrained with a deep hatred for the Bronx Bombers)

The Daily News reported that the "lout" who fell on Robinson was probably drunk and was whisked away by friends without apologizing or even asking if the man he had landed on was injured. However, other Yankee fans helped Robinson and called for emergency medics. He was taken to Montefiore Medical Center, where he underwent two and a half hours of surgery to place a screw in his neck. Doctors said the junior high school teacher was lucky to be alive, not to mention having the full use of his limbs. They said he should recover fully.

It wasn't until Friday, July 13, five days after the incident, that the Yankees decided to help the Robinsons (Paul was with his wife and 13-year-old son when it happened) by chartering a private plan for the family back to Seattle. Robinson, however, said he held no grudges against Yankees fans or New York City. He told the News: "We've been around long enough to know there are a few bad apples in every town." Typical Seattle niceness.

While the Yankees have managed to climb back over .500, they remain nine games behind the Red Sox and are a long shot to make the playoffs. Is this latest horrific incident at Yankee Stadium yet more evidence of the Macombs Dam Curse?

By the way, the Seattle Mariners are 51-38, three games out of first place and six games ahead of the Yankees for the wild card. And they didn't destroy any beloved public parks on their way to building their new stadium, Safeco Field, nine years ago.

News Roundup for July 16

The Westchester Journal News reports that since Bee-Line buses started accepting Metrocards in April, a huge number of riders are boarding the buses to commute between Westchester and the Bronx.

The New York Times profiled 1150 Grand Concourse in yesterday's Streetscapes column, describing "Horace Ginsbern’s fantastical but neglected 1937 art moderne essay" as a mosaic that has escaped vandalism and grafitti all these years.

The Times reported Saturday on a rule change for the state's Industrial Development Agency that may threaten funding for the proposed garages at the new Yankee Stadium.

Liz Benjamin analyzes the 11th hour congestion pricing battles in the Daily News.

And the Daily News reports on the last hours of a father who was stabbed to death in University Heights Saturday.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pinnacle in trouble again

The Pinnacle Group, a controversial landlord who owns a slew of apartment buildings in the west Bronx, was hit yesterday with a federal racketeering lawsuit, according to the New York Post. The lawsuit, says the Post, charges that the company is "waging 'an attack' on affordable housing with thousands of illegal evictions aimed at jacking up rents beyond what the law allows."

The New York Times also has the story. The newspaper says the charges are unusual because "Racketeering allegations are more commonly used by the federal government to prosecute organized crime figures and drug traffickers."

This isn't the first time Pinnacle has been in the news for allegedly harassing tenants. In 2005/06 the Norwood News wrote a series of articles about the company and owner Joel Wiener. If you missed them, here are some links:

Company Gobbles Up Bronx Buildings
Investor's Tactics Worry Tenants
Full Court Press: Pinnacle Sues Hundreds of Bronx Tenants
Manhattan Tenants Also Report Problems With Pinnacle
Controversial Landlord Fined for Illegal Rent Hikes
Dinowitz Says Pinnacle Harasses His Constituents

For revealing and documenting Pinnacle's practices, the Norwood News and reporter Heather Haddon won an investigative reporting prize at the New York Press Association's annual convention in April.

Subway Construction

As some of you may have discovered by experience this week, the 4 train is only running express from 167 St. to Woodlawn from July 9-13 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., stopping also at Burnside Ave. To get to 170 St., Mt. Eden Av., 176 St., Fordham Rd., Bedford Park Blvd. and Mosholu Pkwy take the 4 to Burnside Ave. or Woodlawn and transfer to the Manhattan-bound 4, which will be running as usual.

Additionally, Kingsbridge Rd. and 183 St. stations are currently closed due to construction. Both will be open starting at 5 a.m. July 16. In the meantime, the MTA website suggests taking the D or 4 to Fordham Rd. and transfering to Bx32 or the shuttle bus to get to Kingsbridge, but only after 3 p.m. when the 4 starts running local again. To get to 183 St. take the 4 to Burnside Ave. and transfer to the Bx32 or shuttle bus or take the D to 182-183 Sts. and transfer to the shuttle bus.

For more information about what has been done to the Kingsbridge Rd. station, as well as updates on subway construction, click here.

News Roundup for July 12

On the City Room blog yesterday, NYT reporter Jonathan Hicks looks at Joel Rivera and Ruben Diaz Jr., close friends who he says could become rivals if they both run for Bronx Borough President.

In other political gossip, the Politicker reports on Haile Rivera's dinner with Barack Obama. He was one of 4 small donors (Rivera gave $5) who were selected to have dinner with Obama in D.C. Rivera has said he's interested in running for City Council in district 14 (currently represented by Maria Baez).

The NY Sun reports that a civil rights organization is criticizing Mayor Bloomberg and schools chancellor Joel Klein for not taking a stance on the recent Supreme Court decision on school segregation.

And the Daily News's Bronx Boro section this week has 2 stories on Montefiore Medical Center, on its plan to buy Mercy Medical Center and on a $12 million gift to the Children's Hospital.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

News Roundup for July 11

The New York Times reported on a plan to put up an office buildings on Fordham Road, a traditionally commercial strip, across from the Metro North station in the space where the Sears building is currently covered in scaffolding. We wrote a story on this exact subject in February. Unfortunately, the link isn't working, but believe us, we were all over this.

In today’s Daily News, it was reported that Montefiore Medical Center can now move ahead and buy Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center. The north Bronx hospital would be taking over Mercy as well as responsibility for its debt.

There was yet another power outage in the Bronx this morning, this time affecting East Tremont and Hunts Point areas. According to 1010Wins, 650 customers were still without power by 9.a.m, down from the 1,250 without power by 6 a.m. The cause is still unknown.

A NY1 article mentioned yesterday the city’s plan to build a 911 call center in the Bronx.
The area, however, has been recognized by the Office of Emergency Management as likely to flood in hurricanes, so there is a question of the location’s reliability in times of need.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

News Roundup for July 10

Manny Fernandez wrote a colorful story in the Times on the recent problems at the Bronx Marriage Bureau with couples being turned away before closing time.

On the City Room Blog, authors Jonathan Mahler (Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning) and James Goodman (Blackout) are taking questions from readers on the '77 blackout.

City Limits takes an in-depth look at the Housing Help Program based at Bronx Housing Court that has now been adopted in Brooklyn.

In Newsday, there's a story about a prominent activist in the Bronx, Victor Toro, who was detained by Border Patrol in upstate New York. After fleeing the military dictatorship in Chile, Toro founded La Pena del Bronx to assist the city's poor, youth and immigrants.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Today's Power Outage

Power was out from 3:21 to 8:55 a.m. this morning between University and Aqueduct from W. Fordham Road to 192nd St. According to Con Edison, 375 customers (units) lost power, 3,800 people total.

News Roundup for July 9

In the News...

Friday's NY Times checks in with the city's "noise police"--environmental agents and police officers enforcing the new noise code--and the Mr. Softee drivers they're confronting. We'llhave a story in this week's Norwood News about all this.

In a somewhat related story, Dalton Walker looks at an innovative program at Montefiore Medical Center, where they created a quiet floor to reduce patient stress.

Coverage of ESPN's "The Bronx is Burning" miniseries dominates the entertainment sections. The series is based on Jonathan Mahler's book that intertwines the stories of the Yankees, the Son of Sam murders, the hotly contested mayoral race and the massive blackout in the 1977. Here's Newsday's review. Appropriate that this comes out on a day that the Bronx is apparently suffering its second blackout of the summer. We just heard about this from the borough president's office, but we'll get more details on the blog soon.

City Council Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson and education activists said the city's proposal to reduce class sizes by hiring an additional 1,300 teachers is insufficient, according to Metro New York.

And Liz Benjamin examines the heated debate over congestion pricing in the Daily Politics. The post includes a video sent by anti-congestion pricing lobbyists to all 212 state legislators about our overcrowded subways. The editorial in the current issue of the Norwood News makes a similar point.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

News Roundup for July 5

The Daily News has an update on the 2 kids who were hospitalized when the building they lived in collapsed Sunday. The 10-year old, Damian, is having his leg amputated today, and his 12-year-old brother Frank is recovering from a broken arm and leg, smashed ribs and punctured lungs. Developer Gerald Lieblich, who also owns the Loew's Paradise, is listed as the owner in city records, but he is claiming he has no interest in the company that owns 2260 Grand Concourse.

This summer, New Yorkers will have access to 69 schoolyards from 8 a.m. to dusk. It's part of a $111 million initiative to open almost 300 schoolyards to the public. In the West Bronx, PS 15, IS 391, PS 279, PS 306, PS 340 and PS 246 are open to the community.

A plan to paint all the subway stations is stalled, according to the Daily News.

And from Tuesday's News, Jeffrey Dinowitz was named Chair of the Assembly Committee on the Aging.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

This Week's Diversions: Fun Times in the Bronx

Here's a quick highlight of what's happening in the northwest Bronx through this weekend:

The Bronx Arts Ensemble gives a free holiday concert Wednesday, called a Salute to George M. Cohan, at 2 p.m. at Van Cortlandt Park's Rockwood Drive Circle. Info: (718) 601-7399.

There's Barefoot Dancing Thursdays in July on the Van Cortlandt House Museum Lawn from 7 to 8 p.m., with free dance instruction. This week, Jerry O'Sullivan and Friends play live with the Uilleann Pipes of Ireland. Info: (718) 430-1890.

Wave Hill's Kerlin Learning Center hosts a family art project – making puppets with recycled materials – Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Info: (718) 549-3200.

Stretch your legs with the Bronx River Alliance on Sunday with a 5-mile bike tour along the Bronx River Greenway. Info: (718) 430-4636.

News Roundup for July 3

You heard it here first.
And now it's a done deal. The Bronx Times and Bronx Times Reporter have been gobbled up by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, owner of the New York Post and, as of last year, a bunch of Brooklyn and Queen weeklies.
More on this later.

The Gotham Gazette has a report from Comptroller Bill Thompson on the lack of oversight of Beacon Centers. In the current issue of the Norwood News, we report on a local Beacon Center being taken over by Mosholu Montefiore Community Center (MMCC). The center at PS 86 was formerly run by the non-profit Aspira.

In the Daily News:
A team of Daily News reporters learned that the owner of the Grand Concourse building that collapsed Sunday morning, critically injuring two kids, is Gerald Lieblich, the developer who owns the Paradise Theater and the Russian Tea Room. Lieblich faces a hearing on August 17 for allegedly failing to maintain the facade of the 1-story building. He would not comment for the Daily News story.

In "Around the Bronx," Patrice O'Shaughnessy profiles John Mateo, the city employee who died June 24 after being beaten into a coma on Kingsbridge Road and Morris Ave. a month ago. Mateo was a Lehman College graduate and a Latin jazz musician. A suspect has been arrested in the attacks on Mateo and several other men. (Not online yet)

The Bronx section also reports on a Bronx eviction prevention program that's being expanded to Brooklyn and an initiative by Councilman James Vacca to put all Buildings Department permits and applications online to help people monitor what's going on in their neighborhood.

And there's a farewell to CB 7 district manager Rita Kessler, who is leaving the board after 18 years. Here's the Norwood News' story on Kessler's retirement.

The Gotham Gazette has a report from Comptroller Bill Thompson on the lack of oversight of Beacon Centers. In the current issue of the Norwood News, we report on a local Beacon Center being taken over by Mosholu Montefiore Community Center (MMCC). The center at PS 86 was formerly run by the non-profit Aspira.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Norwood News On-Line

In the latest issue of the Norwood News, now on-line:
-Incumbent chair wins, but Community Board 7 undergoes tremendous change nonetheless.
-Armory proposals reviewed
-Our editorial take on congestion pricing
-Dion, Rita Moreno, Danny Aiello: Stars Come Out for Bronx Week.

News Roundup for July 2

Daily News reports that two Bronx boys were crushed and critically injured as a 10-foot stretch of parapet collapsed on them at 2260 Grand Concourse, near 183rd Street, Sunday morning.

NY1’s Dean Meminger reports the progress of the plan for a charter school in the old borough courthouse in Melrose. Building owner Henry Weinstein and Reverend Timothy Birkett, of the Urban Youth Alliance, who with Imagine Schools has applied for a charter, believe they’ll find the funding where many others have failed in the 30 years the building has been vacant.

Commercial Property News details a new development project in the Melrose section of the Bronx, backed by the Atlantic Development Group, which is one of the two main competitors on the armory project, and Boricua College. The 4.5-acre project, “slated to one of the largest and most ambitious community revitalization in the Bronx in recent years,” includes a new Bronx flagship location for the college and low and moderate income housing.

State Senator José Serrano blogs about his visit to Washington with Minority Leader Malcolm Smith as they prepare for the 2008 election. The Democrats need just two seats to overtake the Senate, and they’re looking for all the help they can get.