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Friday, August 31, 2007

Bronx News Roundup for Aug. 31

Opposition to Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan is growing, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, and it's strongest in the Bronx, where 74 percent of residents are giving it the thumbs down.

Details of a new exhibit coming to the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and featuring work from Quisqueya HenrĂ­quez, a Cuban artist, have been announced.

One of the officers involved in the 1999 Bronx shooting death of unarmed Amadou Diallo, has lost his bid to carry a gun and be reinstated as a full-status police officer, according NY1.

The Daily News has a story about a murder-suicide in Williamsbridge last night. Earlier this month, there a similar tragedy in Mount Hope when Mabelyn Arriola, 18, was stabbed to death by an ex-boyfriend who then killed himself. As the Village Voice later pointed out, Arriola's death was largely ignored by the city's media, who in the same week wrote dozens of articles about the Greenwich Village murder (again at the hands of a boyfriend) of Boitumelo McCallum, the beautiful daughter of an NYU professor. It's always interesting what makes the papers and what doesn't. In a recent (and excellent) editorial the New York Times explored another case of selective news-telling. (You'll need a TimeSelect account to read it).

Talking of what gets attention and what doesn't, feel free to link to any Bronx stories we might have missed in this news roundup, in the comments section.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

News Roundup August 30

Today's Daily News reports that the floating pool in Brooklyn--which attracted tens of thousands of visitors this summer while open for less than two months--may be moved to the Bronx next summer. The Parks Department plans to rotate the pool to a different borough every year, and next year it may be relocated to Tiffany St. Pier in Hunts Point.

A city health department survey of high-schoolers released Wednesday by the city health department found that teenage girls in the South Bronx were almost twice as likely as girls nationwide to have unprotected sex. In addition, the survey reported New York city teens are about 10 percent less likely to use birth control than teenagers in other parts of the country; the rate among sexually active New York teens is 8 percent, as compared to 18 percent nationally.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

News Roundup for Aug. 29

Surprise, the gap between rich and poor is yawning in New York City, where the Grand Canyon-like chasm is wider than in any other major metropolitan city, according to a 2006 census report. The Bronx remained the poorest borough with 29.1 percent of people living in poverty (though it was down from 29.2 in 2005!). The NY Times article didn't mention the Bronx, except to say that an astounding 54 percent of South Bronx kids are living in poverty.

Here's a funny (actually, sad) post from a Palm Beach Post sports reporter heading back to somewhere "nice" in the Bronx on the 10 bus after the U.S. Open (Riverdale, we assume). The post from his blog is titled: "The Scenic Bronx at 2 a.m." Bronxites are used to this kind of crap, but you'll want to read this anyway. It takes mindless Bronx bashing to a whole new level.

The Daily News scooped us with this story on millions of gallons of underground water being pumped into the overworked sewer system from the Croton Water Filtration Plant project in Van Cortlandt Park. The DEP insists it was prepared for this, but it's yet more fuel for outspoken filter plant critics who wanted the plant built above ground in Westchester rather than below ground in the NW Bronx.

According to the article, Jim Morgan, an NYU professor, predicted the water issue, writing a letter to former DEP commish Chris Ward, saying: "What you're buying here, if you persist on building this thing in Van Cortlandt Park, is the mother of all leaky basements."

We'd also like to point out that the Daily News story, although it doesn't mention her, originated with the activism of Karen Argenti, a relentless Bronx environmentalist, who filed a Freedom of Information Law request (FOIL) with the state Department of Health. The info about the millions of gallons of water at the site would never have seen the light of day, if she hadn't exercised her rights as a citizen and requested the information. Nor would it have gotten any ink, had she and other like-minded activists not badgered reporters about it. Good work, Karen.

Newest Norwood News Stories

First of all, check out all the latest Norwood News stories here. And here's a quick preview:

We've got the story of a former crack head/hustler turned leader at a big Manhattan non-profit who now lives in Bedford Park.

Also, here's the story of a Norwood mother dealing with the death of five of her children in a Virginia car crash. Despite the depth of this tragedy, the story was largely ignored by other media.

The NW Community and Clergy Coalition is taking a new route, through City Hall, in its fight to get more seats, in the Bronx and citywide, included in the DOE's capital plan.

A developer for the Kingsbridge Armory won't be chosen until at least October.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A local murder and some news links, Aug. 28

Late last night a man police identified as 30-year-old Nino Ganan was shot and killed near West Fordham Road and Aqueduct Avenue. Police found Ganan shot twice, once in the back and once in the leg. EMS workers pronounced him dead at the scene. Cops say no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

According to police, Ganan lived nearby the scene of his death at 83 W. 188th St., just a block or so away.

Here's NY1 reporter Dean Meminger's story on a one-year anniversary ceremony commemorating the deaths of the two Bronx firefighters who died fighting a blaze on Walton Avenue. Go to yesterday's post for more on this.

More fallout from the Deutsche Bank building debacle. According to a NY Post report, Greg Blinn, the CEO of the John Galt Corp., a little known entity doing demolition and asbestos abatement, will remain part of the project because he is also vice president of Regional Scaffolding & Hoisting. Both Regional Scaffolding and the John Galt Corp. are located here in the northwest Bronx on Webster Avenue.

The Daily News reports that John Galt can still make millions by scrapping metal from the project.

And we couldn't resist putting in this little tidbit that showed up in the LA Times yesterday about Jeff Flake, the pork-fighting Republican from Arizona, who continually gets put in his place by Jose Serrano for bashing the Bronx congressman's local earmarks. The LA Times put in a Flake quote from 2006 about a $300,000 grant for the Bronx Council on the Arts.

Here's a few exerpts from the actual exchange on the house floor:

Flake: "Mr. Chairman, my amendment would strike funding for the Bronx Council for marketing local arts initiatives. My staff and I were befuddled as to what the Bronx Council originally was. It appears that a Bronx Council got money last year in the same section of the bill, but the earmark was called, $150,000 for the Bronx Council for the Arts for its Arts Cultural Corridor Project to promote local arts initiatives.''

Serrano: "But, first of all, I notice that three of the gentleman's 10 amendments are directed at New York. I do not know what you are angry about; the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the World Series, so you shouldn't be that upset. But the fact of life is that the more you get up on these, sir, the more I realize that you do not know what you are talking about because you seem to spend so much time on either the wording or how it appears when, in fact, you do very little to understand what it is."

Serrano (later): "I make no excuses about getting the Federal Government to earmark dollars into that district. Let me repeat that again: I make no excuses about the fact that I earmark dollars to go into the poorest congressional district in the Nation, which is situated in the richest city on Earth."

Monday, August 27, 2007

News Roundup for Aug. 27

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for an end to the deceptive ad practices of mortgage brokers who have contributed to the subprime crisis. And state Sen. Jeff Klein (north Bronx, Westchester) calls for mandatory education of mortgage customers before they sign on the dotted line.

Even buyers with good credit, like these folks on E. Tremont Ave., are facing mortgage difficulties.

A year after a Walton Avenue fire claimed the lives of two firefighters, family members are still awaiting an official report on what led to their deaths.

Just Another Afternoon In the West Bronx



...and a rooster.

(Photos by Laura Sayer)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Big Surprise: Post Gives Giuliani Way Too Much Credit

Sunday's New York Post opinion piece credits former Mayor Giuliani's policing tactics for the turn-around in the Bronx over the past decade and a half:

"The Bronx's boom is the direct result of the tough policing started in the Giuliani years and largely continued under the present administration."

What about the fact that the Bronx is home to some of the largest and most successful community organizing and community development work in the country's history? The extensive history and critical impact of this work is clearly not on the radar of the Post's editorial board.

One may wonder what happens when a Giuliani-style policing takes place in another scenario -- a City without a history of community organizing and development. Well, look no further than what happened when Giuliani was called into Mexico City (click here if you prefer to watch instead of read).

Plus, if you really want to get into the crime data, maybe we were all duped into thinking the City was safer than it really was.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How will the Subprime Fallout effect the West Bronx?

The recent dramatic changes in the real estate market -- ignited by the realization that making loans to folks who could never repay them was (also) bad for investors -- are slowly beginning to have an effect on the west Bronx housing market.

Up until very recently, New York had been mostly immune to the real estate downturn (dare I say bubble collapse?) occurring in the rest of the country. So while foreclosures are dramatically up in the City, the effects of them are mostly invisible (unless you know a victim), as troubled owners have been able to do a pre-foreclosure sale for more than the value of their mortgage (even if it's to a property-flipping 'we pay cash for houses'-type place). The main point here is that houses haven't been going vacant or boarded-up in recent years because there has been an out.
But while the City's economy remains strong, the troubles on Wall Street may be a sign that New York's real estate market may soon join the nationwide dive. Much of the subprime lending and "creative financing" that inflated this housing bubble is now drying up, as the secondary market (mostly Wall Street investors, but also Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are no longer interested in packaging or purchasing these riskier loans. That means that fewer potential buyers will have access to the type or amount of credit to pay the asking prices (pop! goes the bubble?).
Another similar issue that is especially relevant to the Bronx is the recent jump in jumbo mortgage rates. Because of concerns in the secondary market (the bank that gives you a mortgage often sells it so it can continue to make new mortgages) interest rates on mortgages above $417,000 have recently spiked. This phenomenon may not last, but if those rates do stay higher, buyers will have a harder time financing the two- and three-family homes for sale in the Bronx. In fact, some of the developers of the new-construction 3 family homes (often posted on craigslist.org) have begun dropping their asking prices lately, and many of these homes still have not sold.
If home prices in the Bronx fall below levels from two or three years ago, many homeowners going into foreclosure won't be able to sell for more than what they owe (most foreclosures are on mortgages made in the last two-five years). The result of this could be more properties actually going to auction, and potentially ending up owned by the bank until they could be resold. This is actually what is going on with distressing frequency across the rest of the country, especially in rust belt cities like Cleveland and Syracuse.
As for the specific foreclosure numbers, last week RealtryTrac reported on the rise in foreclosure rates comparing July 2006 to July 2007. The nation as a whole was up 93%, while NYC was up only 55%. The Bronx was up a measly 54.3%, from 208 filing in 07/2006 to 321 filings in 07/2007. UNHP's tracking of foreclosure data in the Bronx also shows increases in all parts of the borough, including the West Bronx.

On the multifamily side, Crain's is reporting that "financing for almost all large commercial and residential projects in the city has dried up," (subscription required) due to the lack of investor interest on Wall Street (another secondary market issue). However, this is mostly influencing deals outside of the Bronx (office and condo deals in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn).

The majority of banks and thrifts that finance Bronx apartment buildings keep their mortgages in-house, so they may actually be able to pick up some of the business the secondary market is giving up, Crain's also reports. However, it is possible that many of these lenders will tighten their underwriting guidelines in current mortgage climate.

Overall, things remain fairly stable for owners of Bronx apartment buildings, in terms of their access to credit, but the question remains: What will happen in properties that have recently sold for high prices where the new owners need to raise rents to make their bottom line? Even in this recent strong economy, wages for most working class New Yorkers have stagnated, meaning more and more families pay upwards of half of their income on rent or are forced to double-up. An overall downturn in the economy may spell trouble for everyone, including new building owners who be forced to sell at a loss.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An Editor's Note

Hello everyone.
Just wanted to let you know that we'll resume more frequent posting here shortly. Between staff vacations, the departure of our terrific crop of summer interns here at the Norwood News :-( and our return to print publication (new Norwood News hits the streets tomorrow, and new Mount Hope Monitor and Highbridge Horizon come out next week) we've just been less able to get breaking news and the like up on the blog.
One more thing: If you like this site, we'd really appreciate it if you would tell just one or two friends about it. The more readers, the more interesting the conversation and the greater potential to have an impact with what we post here.
As usual, we'd love to have your ideas as to how to make this site better and more useful.
Hope you're all having a great summer!
Jordan Moss
Editor, Norwood News

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Joining Miles and Duke

Legendary jazz drummer Max Roach will be buried in the Bronx at Woodlawn Cemetery on Friday. Miles Davis and Duke Ellington are buried steps from each other in the same cemetery, which is known for being the final resting place for many famous Americans.

Adolfo in the Granite State

BP Carrion stumps for Hillary in Manchester New Hampshire at Latino Fest.

Does the Bronx Need a Slogan?

Spurred by the proposal by two businessmen to erect a huge red sign that reads, "YES, The Bronx," the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC this morning invited callers to suggest other potential slogans for our borough.

Many of the callers (and emailers) in to guest host Errol Lewis were not from the Bronx. Still, there were a few decent suggestions (the green borough; the bronx: cheer; the bronx is better; and a few variations on the boogie-down) but a number of really bad ones. (My own suggestion: The Bronx - just barely getting by.)

A caller and an emailer (neither from the Bronx, of course) both brought back the old Ogden Nash line, "The Bronx, No Thonx." This quote reminds me of an old article on Anne Devenney, long time Northwest Bronx Coalition member and "mother," which juxtoposes Nash's line with her own saying: "We’re not movin’. We’re improvin’."

All of this makes me wonder about this whole idea of inorganically creating a slogan for the Bronx, a borough that has been through many highs and lows and has pulled through thanks to grassroots efforts in many neighborhoods.

For those who stuck around and fought the good fight to improve the Bronx over the past 30 years, how do you feel about this naming process? Does the Bronx need a slogan? Do we really need/want to sell ourselves to folks from the other boroughs or suburbs? Plus, with such a tight housing squeeze already, do we really want to try to attract more people here?

Friday, August 17, 2007

News Roundup for August 17

Several papers reported on the Mayor's new Street Conditions Observation Unit, or SCOUT. It's a team of 15 inspectors who will patrol the city in small golf-cart-like vehicles to look for unfilled potholes, overflowing trash basins and other quality of life complaints. This is a way for the city to take more initiative in finding and resolving these problems, rather than depending on irate New Yorkers to call 311. Here's the New York Times coverage.

The Times also has an item on the 19-year-old leak in the tunnel that carries half of NYC's water supply from the Catskills. A report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli estimates that the spilled water costs the city $24 to $28 million a year. Added to the constantly growing costs of the Croton water filtration plant, and this could represent another burden for ratepayers.

The Sun takes a shot at the dozen city commissioners and elected officials who take off early on Fridays in the summer.

Newsday reported yesterday that New York's unemployment rate is up to 4.9 percent, with the City's unemployment up to 5.7 percent and the Bronx at 8.1 percent.

The Daily News reports that a Bronx Family Court judge caught the attention of TV producers after reports that she's been called before the state commission on judicial conduct for allegedly making rude comments toward lawyers, court officers and litigants.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

News Roundup for Aug. 16

Woodlawn residents are trying to pry loose Fire Department records that indicate whether or not response times have gone up since the Department closed a firehouse in that neighborhood a year ago and moved its units to Wakefield. The city said at the time that it would analyze response times in a year.
The issue was of concern to residents outside of Woodlawn as well, since the Woodlawn units -- Ladder 39 & Engine 63 -- would be the first to respond to an emergency at Croton filtration plant, now under construction in Van Corltandt Park.
Meanwhile, in a move likely to further anger the Woodlawn residents, the city announced yesterday that it was locating a new EMS station at the old Woodlawn firehouse.

Some Soundview residents said they were taken by surprise by the pesticide spraying for West Nile Virus in their community.

South Bronx residents and environmentalists are not happy with the city's seemingly greener method of transporting Bronx waste out of the borough - by rail rather than truck.

The trucking industry had its day in court this morning to protest stricter weight rules on Bronx and other area bridges in wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

Streetsblog wonders why the Henry Hudson Bridge spanning Inwood in Manhattan to Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx will be closed to bicyclists for 3 years, longer that it took to build the bridge itself.

New Health Center and Housing for Seniors to be Built on Burnside

Community leaders converged on a Morris Heights sidewalk, this afternoon, to celebrate the beginnings of an exciting new project that will see a six-story building - home to a health center and 70 units of affordable housing for seniors - rise on what has long been an abandoned lot.

Morris Heights Health Center (MHHC) and Mount Hope Housing Company are behind the venture, which is being built at the northeast corner of West Burnside and Harrison Avenues. Today marked the start of a demolition job that will flatten the existing tumble-down buildings on the site. Construction will begin in October and, assuming all goes to plan, finish in December 2009. Most of the money has been raised, but according to Verona Greenland (pictured speaking), president and CEO of MHHC, the costs have skyrocketed and they're still hunting for $9 million. In October, they're holding a fundraiser.

They'll be more about the "Harrison Circle" project (Harrison, because it's on Harrison, and Circle, because, well, it'll be shaped like a circle) in the next print and on-line editions of the Mount Hope Monitor. (Photo by James Fergusson)

More on the Early Start to the BP's Race

As the Times reported in July, City Council Majority Leader, Joel Rivera, 28, is planning to run for borough president in 2009, a decision that’s likely to put him on a collision course with close friend Assemblyman Ruben Diaz.

When asked for an update, Rivera, who attended a press conference this afternoon to mark the beginnings of a new health center on Burnside Avenue, said he’s getting close to formally announcing his campaign, adding that he’s already raised $200,000.

“At the moment I have 140,000 bosses,” he quipped, in reference the population of the District 15. “In 2010 I hope to have 1.4 million.”

Rivera (pictured) will be trying to do what his father, Bronx Democratic boss Jose Rivera, never managed. (Rivera Sr. stepped aside for Adolfo Carrion in 2001.)

So far, no one’s officially said they’re running, and with the election two years away anything can happen, but other possibles include State Senator Jose Marco Serrano and Council Member Helen Foster. (Photo by James Fergusson)

Who are your favorite Vendies?

Summer, especially, is the season of street vending. While street umbrellas are at hand when it rains regardless, and there's almost always coffee or a hot dog to be had, commodities like Italian ice or fresh fruit have definite temperature constraints.
To an outsider, one halal cart might look like any other, and to the restaurant it sits in front of, the cart may be a nuisance. But to the customers who frequent these stands day in and day out, these vendors are a familiar and welcome site. They may even become a part of the landscape itself.
On Sept. 29, these vendors will be recognized at the Third Annual Vendy Awards, a cook-off and fundraiser for the Street Vendor Project, a non-profit for street vendor rights.
Residents from the Northwest Bronx and across the city must nominate their favorite vendors by Sept. 1, but it would be great to also mention them here, in the comments.
The Norwood News will publish a special supplement in the fall and would love to include your feedback on the area's best and beloved street vendors. (Photos by Laura Sayer)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

News Roundup For Aug. 15

The city has announced a new method for transporting trash from the Bronx. The system, which eliminates transportation by truck, will move the 2, 000 daily tons of municipal and residential waste onto trains at the Harlem River Yards to be sent out by rail, the Daily News reports.

For a limited time, A Bronx Tale will run on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre with Chazz Palminteri starring. The show, a Broadway play in 1989 and then a movie, is back on the stage. Previews to begin Oct. 4, with regular season running from Oct. 25 for 18 weeks.

According to a Daily News article, DE Smith Corp., a marketing and merchandising firm in Manhattan is proposing to install a three-story tall red, metal sign that would say "Yes the Bronx" on Manhattan-facing waterfront in the Bronx. The campaign is meant to improve the image of the Bronx; however, Councilman Koppell is not a huge fan of the proposal, suggesting something more muted, like landscaped bushes.

Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr. is considering a run for Bronx borough president.

And Bronx Dem boss and Assemblyman Jose Rivera is "looking forward to endorsing Hillary before the end of the summer."

Drug Free and Proud to Be at Echo Park

Organizers from Mount Hope Housing Company celebrated their 11th Annual "Drug Free and Proud to Be Day" at Echo Park, last Saturday.

The day-long event featured ventriloquist Wayne Garland and sidekick Charlie, and old-school rapper Stone of Funky Four and Double Trouble. There was also a basketball tournement and a bubble-ride for youngsters (pictured). Volunteers cooked up 1,000 hamburgers.

The purpose of the event, much like National Night Out, is to encourage local residents to take a stand against drugs in the community. On display were anti-drug essays written by kids enrolled in Mount Hope's Project READY, a youth development program. (Text and photo by David Greene)

Following April Fire, Tenants Continue to Wait for Repairs

In April a major fire tore through 1749 Grand Concourse, a cavernous 278-unit apartment building known as the Lewis Morris. More than 40 people were injured and one person died. Thanks to fire proofing most of the apartments escaped unscathed, but the building’s lobby, and corridors on several floors, were badly damaged.

Today – some four months later – tenants are still waiting for many of the repairs to be done. They're without cooking gas (they’re using hot plates instead). There’s still a strong smell of smoke. Approximately 20 windows remain boarded up (pictured below right), according to Nilsa Rivera, the president of the tenants association. At least one stairwell is still blocked off. Several corridors have yet to be cleaned and given a paint job (pictured above). Several apartment doors have yet to replaced (pictured bottom). One of the elevators is still broken. Apartments on the lower floors still have problems with damp caused by water from the firefighters hoses. The building’s fire alarm system isn’t yet up and running. Meanwhile, the building’s HPD violations are creeping up. Before the fire there were 400; as of this morning there's 527.

In truth, there has been some progress. The alarm system is currently being installed. Most of the 70 or so apartment doors that were burnt in the blaze have been replaced. Several corridors have been refurbished. Work has been done on the building’s soot-cloaked lobby. Management is working to get the gas turned back on – a painstaking task that involves installing new gas pipes in each and every apartment.

But tenants are still angry – as they were in May when we last wrote about the building – with what they see as a slow, stuttering, and amateurish clean-up operation.

Last Thursday, Earl Brown, the deputy Bronx borough president, toured the building. In a telephone interview yesterday he said: “Management appears to be acting in good faith, but there are some concerns… tenants have a right to be frustrated.” In particular, he said, the broken and boarded up windows could have been replaced sooner, and the blocked stairwells reopened. Brown said that the borough president's office had been meeting with tenants and the management company, SG2 Management LLC, to ensure management keeps to some sort of schedule.

Since February the building has been owned by city investors Stephen Siegal, Andrew Goldberg, and Jeffrey Goldberg. The purchase was part of a bigger deal that saw 51 apartment buildings and something close to $300 million change hands.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

News Roundup For Aug. 14

The Times featured the Fordham neighborhood in its Sunday Real Estate section. They call it a "Neighborhood in Waiting."

Good Jobs New York releases a report taking aim at the tax breaks being granted to the Yanks for parking and other construction costs. The Daily News reported on the report today in the Bronx Boro News.

The Ford Foundation has selected Luis Ubinas, a native of the South Bronx, to be its new leader.

Monday, August 13, 2007

News Roundup for Aug. 13

The feds are still fining the city $30K a day for not inking a deal yet with construction firm Skanska to build the Croton filtration plant, according to the Times.

The Times uses the opportunity to report on some rather old news (the Norwood News ran this story on the same subject in May) concerning the massive cost overruns on the project.

Newsday has the AP story on the filter fines.

By the way, we ran into Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz the other day in Riverdale and he said he wasp planning to sit down with the city’s Department of Investigation soon in hopes of getting them to, yes, investigate the project and the cost issue.

Likely mayoral rivals Adolfo Carrion, Jr. and William Thompson marched together at the Dominican Day Parade over the weekend, the Observer reports. The progression of their relationship in the coming months will be closely watched. Thompson has always spoken highly of Carrion, beginning with the latter’s days as councilman. We’ll see how long it lasts as they each eye Gracie Mansion. Or maybe they will eventually form a powerful Black-Latino ticket -- Thompson for mayor, Carrion for comptroller.

Lots of Giuliani dissection this week. A lengthy profile in the New Yorker and over at the Village Voice Wayne Barrett takes a look at “Rudy Giuliani’s 5 Big Lies About 9/11."

WNYC reports that the city will be spraying the borough’s southeastern nabes with pesticide on Wed. night to deter West Nile Virus.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Partying Despite the Pushers

In a kind of passive resistance, neighbors across the 46th Precinct celebrated their sense of community in the face of crime Tuesday night by participating in National Night Out.
Neighbors shared food, teenagers enjoyed good clean fun and clowns transformed babes into butterflies, as local communities joined thousands of others across the country to give neighborhood drugs and crime a “going away party.”
With three sites– the most in the city – these blocks laid claim to their neighborhoods, holding up a vision of community as a united front. Community groups staged block parties on Tiebout Avenue between 182nd and 183rd Streets, the same block on Morris Avenue and at Roberto Clemente State Park “to show the pushers we’ve had enough,” said Nero Graham, of Morris Community Action Programs.
At the Morris Avenue party, resident Angelo Vega said, “they have a slogan around here somewhere,” but whatever it says, the night is really just about taking back the community.
For him, as well as for Graham, neighborhood children freely running about epitomized the point of the evening.
“The kids are really enjoying themselves, and that’s what counts,” Vega said. “You only see a hose spraying water, but it’s so much more to them.”
National Night Out is a time for kids to play without fearing guns or drugs, to really feel “it’s their block,” Graham added. (Photos by Laura Sayer)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fire on Mosholu Parkway

A fire on East Mosholu Parkway killed an 81-year-old woman yesterday afternoon in Norwood. The victim, Marsha Goldberg, lived alone on the fourth floor of her building, and started the fire by smoking in her bed, the Daily News reports. ABC News also reported on this fire yesterday.

Manhattan-Bound Mosholu Pkwy 4 Station Closed for Construction

The 4 train's Manhattan-bound Mosholu Pkwy station will be closed for rehabilitation starting 5 a.m. Aug. 13 to 5 a.m. Nov. 12. To travel downtown from this station, take a Bronx-bound 4 to Woodlawn and transfer to a Manhattan-bound. For more information you can visit mta.info or pick up a take-one flier in stations.

Benjamin Backs Obama

In a move likely to further alienate his former patrons in the Bronx County Democratic Committee, South Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benjamin has announced his support for Barack Obama, joining only Helen Foster in the small club of elected officials in the borough not backing Hillary Clinton.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dept. of Education Info Session Tomorrow

From Inside Schools:

"Ask Martine and Friends" is an information session for families who have questions about the Department of Education and the upcoming school year. The event provides the most up-to-date information by bringing together public school families and DOE personnel to listen to their concerns and suggestions, as well as answer questions.

Chief Family Engagement Officer Martine Guerrier and DOE personnel will each give a three-minute overview of their offices and share contact information with families. Following the remarks of DOE personnel there will be a Q&A session where question cards written by parents in the audience will be answered by the panel.

6-8:30 p.m.
Bronx School For Law, Government and Justice
244 E 163rd Street, Bronx

August 8 News Roundup

Due to the rain and flooding, most of the subway lines have been affected. Among those, the 4 train is suspended in either direction between the 125th Street and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stations and the D train is suspended in either direction between the 145th Street and Norwood-205th Street stations. The Metro-North is back on track. For updates, check out MTA's website.

The Daily News reports on a remarkable young Morris Heights resident who has won a Gates Millennium Scholarship that will pave the way for her to attend Albertus Magnus College in the fall. The student, who is a student leader and activist at her high school, dreams of being a senator some day, spends her free time volunteering. She was nominated for the prestigious scholarship by her education adviser at the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

The City Room Blog reports that 4,000 Con Ed customers were without power today because of power lines damaged by the storm. One fourth of those customers were in the Bronx.

Mexicans are the third largest immigrant group in New York after Dominicans and Chinese, says an article in AM New York. The growing number of Mexicans in New York is partially due to high birth rates as well as the lift on protections of Mexico's corn industry to take place next year. This lift would make it harder to grow corn, forcing people to leave the countryside.

The Daily News reports that the Pelham Bay Landfill, closed in 1978, could be opened to the public soon, but local residents don't think it's safe.

The Crotona pool between East 172nd and East 174th streets has been named a landmark.

Water Shut-Offs Coming to NYC Homeowners

The New York Times is reporting that DEP has issued shut-off notices to 11 NYC single-family homeowners. DEP hasn't threatened shut-offs to non-commercial customers in the past, and some feel this is partly why the agency has been unable to collect about $600 million in unpaid bills. Unfortunately, many water bills are questionable and DEP acknowledges this by not sending the shut-off notices to homeowners who are more than 18 months in arrears.

Instead, the 11 homeowners, scattered throughout the City, owe a combined $53,000 -- small change compared to others who haven't paid bills in decades.

DEP is also targeting single family homeowners so that renters, who don't pay for water, won't be the victims of their landlord's nonpayment.

These shut-off notices come on the heels of the recent 11.5% water rate hike this summer. DEP projects similarly high rate hikes for the coming years.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Vasquez eviction case adjourned until Thursday

Monday afternoon in Bronx County Housing Court, during a proceeding lasting about 15 minutes, Judge Pierre Turner addressed the arguments of Highbridge resident Carmen Vasquezwho was evicted by city marshals on Friday—why she should regain possession of her home.

During a post-eviction hearing, Vasquez stood behind her attorney, Eric Pilotti, and Marybeth Hotaling, counsel for Alliance Housing Associates II, as Turner and the two lawyers discussed the case for roughly 15 minutes. It was Pilotti's first time representing Vasquez ; Vasquez said Pilotti worked with her regular lawyer, Joseph Altman, who is currently out-of-state.

In the end, Turner declared the majority of Vasquez' arguments to be either improperly raised or invalid on their merits. However, he adjourned the case until Thursday for further discussion of one of her claims: that her landlord forfeited the right to bring eviction proceedings against her by accepting rent payments after terminating her lease.

Hotaling said in court that Alliance Housing Associates II was not conceding that such rent payments had been accepted.

There appeared to be very little discussion Monday of the heart of Vasquez' argument for why her eviction was improper: that her landlord sabotaged her efforts to recertify her public assistance eligibility by stalling in submitting necessary documents to the city and refusing to meet with Vasquez for a required interview. (Once Vasquez' eligibility expired, her rent was raised from $277.00 per month to the market-value figure of $1132.00 per month) .

Turner said there had been ample time—six months— in between when the court entered a judgment of possession against Vasquez and last Friday, when city marshals evicted her. "She got more than she bargained for," Turner said.

Earlier in the hearing, he said giving tenants such a time window was appropriate. "In the Bronx-I'll stand behind what I said years ago," Turner said. "We do not sit around and let tenants get evicted immediately."

After the hearing, Carmen Villa-Lugo—court attorney for Judge Turner—indicated there were three possible outcomes to Thursday's hearing: First, that the matter would be adjourned again ; second, that Judge Turner would reserve the decision to rule on the case at a later date; or third, that he would issue a ruling from the bench on Thursday.

Villa-Lugo said the last option—a ruling from the bench—was the most likely.

Landlord denies Nos Quedamos claims

Miriam Rodriguez, managing agent for Alliance Housing Associates II, contacted the Highbridge Horizon Friday to deny recent claims made by the Bronx housing advocacy group Nos Quedamos.

Lucy Martinez, a project coordinator for Nos Quedamos, told the Horizon last week that Rodriguez had contacted her pretending to be a tenant in order to gain information about a meeting of actual Alliance Housing Associates II tenants being held at the offices of Nos Quedamos . (Rodriguez did not attend the meeting, and neither did most tenants, causing it to be postponed).

In a statement emailed to the Horizon, Rodriguez not only denied placing a call to Nos Quedamos, but said she was unfamiliar with the organization, and unaware that her tenants were meeting there. "I have been in business for many years," Rodriguez wrote, "and have never disguised myself in order to gain information that pertained to me or my business."

Rodriguez also responded to the statement of Yolanda Gonzalez, executive director for Nos Quedamos, who said that several voice messages seeking to meet with Alliance Housing Associates II about Vasquez case were not returned.

"The reason why she did not receive a response is because we did not receive a call," Rodriguez wrote. "As far as I am aware, she did not call or leave any messages with my staff."

Rodriguez also suggested Gonzalez should have tried contacting her by email or regular mail if she was not getting through by phone.

Rodriguez closed her email by indicating her latest statement to the Horizon will be the last on this topic for the foreseeable future: "At this point, I have consulted with my attorneys," Rodriguez wrote, "and have been advised not to respond to further questioning."

Lawyer in eviction case: "I'm nobody."

Three days after city marshals evicted her and changed her locks, Woodycrest Avenue resident Carmen Vasquez was in court on Monday, along with attorney Eric Pilotti, arguing that her eviction should be set aside and her home should be restored to her.

An attorney for Vasquez' landlord, Alliance Housing Associates II, was in the courtroom as well, though her presence there was apparently news to her: Following a roughly 15-minute proceeding that ultimately resulted in Judge Pierre Turner adjourning the case until Thursday, a reporter approached the lawyer and asked for her name.

She replied, "I'm not the lawyer. No comment. I'm nobody. I don't count," before quickly exiting the courtroom.

Following the exchange, Carmen Villa-Lugo —court attorney for Judge Turner—confirmed that, in fact, the woman in question was the attorney for Alliance Housing Associates II. Villa-Lugo identified her as Marybeth Hotaling, of the Brooklyn law firm Cohen, Hurkin, Ehrenfeld, Pomerantz, and Tenenbaum.

Check out the most recent Highbridge Horizon

While the next issue of the Highbridge Horizon is right around the corner, check out our most recent issue here. We've got stories about the city's comprehensive lawsuit against landlord Hamid Kahn, the owner of a building on University Avenue that racked up more than 2000 open violations from the city; the efforts of a Woodycrest Avenue resident to put her past history of drug use behind her, rebuild her life and regain custody of her granddaughter; and an update on the construction of replacement parks and recreational facilities as part of the new Yankee Stadium project.

You will also find three hard-hitting opinion pieces: Tawana Prunty's column about the recent fatal police shooting of Fermin Arzu, an unarmed Honduran immigrant ; Maria Simmons' piece expressing frustration with what she sees as poor communication and lack of planning on the part of the local community board in relation to the recent closing of the Highbridge library; and Vanessa Truell's call for the city to pursue construction of a new middle school in Highbridge with the same vigor that it pushed for a new baseball stadium and other development ventures.

News Roundup for August 7

The Daily News has two stories today on school construction plans in the Bronx with very different outlooks. Patrice O'Shaughnessy's column looks at a plan by the nonprofit New Settlement Apartments to open a k-12 school on a neglected strip of W. 172nd Street.
The front page of the Bronx Boro News section covers the neighborhood's reaction to the Kingsbridge Armory plans that are moving forward with no schools included. The Norwood News's coverage of this issue is available here.

Gotham Gazette examines whether NYC's fiscal boom is reaching neighborhoods outside Manhattan.

NY1's Dean Meminger reports on $3 million in grants to South Bronx nonprofits from Venezuela's Citgo Oil Company. Congressman Jose Serrano deflected criticism for opening the doors of the Bronx to Venezuela and Citgo.

City Limits shows the obstacles facing some of the 22,000 people who received NYCHA Section 8 vouchers when the list was reopened after 13 years.

Monday, August 6, 2007

SheridanSwap Blog Launches

A new Bronx blog has been launched by the groups organizing to get the little-used Sheridan Expressway decomissioned and dismantled. The goal of the SheridanSwap Blog and the groups behind it is to transform the land occupied by the highway into affordable housing and open space along the Bronx River. Some of the groups involved include the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance (Mothers on the Move, Nos Quedamos, Sustainable South Bronx & Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice) along with the Pratt Center for Community Development.

News Roundup for August 6

A Kingsbridge tenant survived a two-alarm fire yesterday at 2840 Bailey Ave., the Post reports.

The Post also profiles Montefiore surgeon Samuel Weinstein, who donated his own blood to an 8-year-old child he was operating on in El Salvador.

Gotham Gazette
looks at the congestion pricing debate in the City Council, with a detailed list of council members and where they stand. Joel Rivera and Helen Foster are undecided, and Maria Baez and Oliver Koppell are leaning in favor of it. Rivera and other undecided pols say their support depends on mass transit improvements.

Mommy Poppins, a New York parents' blog, recommends the Bronx Trolley for families looking to explore new neighborhoods. Click here for details on the weekend trolley.

And NY1 reports on Senator Schumer's warning that New York's bridges and tunnels are underfunded.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Highbridge resident fights to overturn eviction

In the May and June issues of the Highbridge Horizon, we wrote about Carmen Vasquez, a Woodycrest Avenue resident fighting to stay in her home of roughly ten years. Vasquez' landlord, Miriam Rodriguez, moved to evict Vasquez after she said her tenant failed to recertify her eligibility for public assistance (Rodriguez therefore raised Vasquez' rent from $277.00 per month to the full market value, $1132.00, a sum Vasquez says she cannot afford).

Vasquez, on the other hand, alleges that she did in fact submit recertification documents in a timely fashion, but that her landlord deliberately stalled in submitting these documents to the city until the deadline had passed. Vasquez also says Rodriguez refused to schedule an interview to discuss her recertification.

A judgment of possesion was entered against Vasquez in early 2007 in Bronx County Housing Court, and since then, the eviction has been stayed several times while she has lived in fear of city marshals coming to order her out of her apartment.

This past Friday, that finally happened -- Vasquez was evicted and marshals changed the locks to her home.But the final word on the matter has not been written.

Even after she was kicked out of her home, a Bronx County Housing Court judge stayed the eviction and ordered both Vasquez and her landlord back to court on Monday morning at 9:30 am.

Read about all the latest developments in this story here

Friday, August 3, 2007

News Roundup for August 3rd

NY1 reports a pregnant Bronx mother and her boyfriend face charges that the pair abducted the mother’s six children form their grandmother’s custody. Madeline Cotto, 28, of Burke Avenue, and her boyfriend, Malik Martin, 24, were arrested in Baltimore yesterday, where they had been living with the children.

This week the Daily News highlighted the 55 open building violations of 2126 Valentine in Tremont and the housing woes of former residents, the Berry family. City Councilman Joel Rivera has vowed to help the family, long deprived of electricity, with relocation efforts.

The New York Blood Center is calling on Bronx residents to help replenish the city’s blood supply. A Daily News article talks about the blood shortage and local donation drives.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

News Roundup for August 2

This week's New Yorker includes a Talk of the Town item on a nonprofit kennel club for hunting dogs run by the New Tabernacle Church near the Cross Bronx Expressway.

State Senator Jeff Klein weighed in on the Spitzer scandal and the possibility of appointing a special prosecutor, according to the Journal News.

Governor Spitzer signed over 100 bills into law today and vetoed 27, City Room reports.

Streetsblog reports that famed Danish urbanist Jan Gehl was hired as a consultant for Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiatives. Some of Gehl's goals are to make the city more pedestrian-friendly and improve public transportation.

NY Sun
education reporter Elizabeth Green looks at the city's aggressive plan to close a bunch of public schools to make space for more charter schools.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

In the Norwood News

The latest issue of the Norwood News is on the streets now. Here's a rundown of the stories that you can find online.

After promising to build two new schools at the Kingsbridge Armory, the DOE is now saying there is no plan to build schools there because there is no need. Activists and elected officials disagree. Read more.

Since a shooting in early May injured four young men outside of Tracey Towers, community stakeholders (elected officials, community groups, tenant associations and residents) from two rival neighborhoods have been working to alleviate some of the underlying tensions. Read more.

Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz met with DEP chief Emily Lloyd hoping to get some answers pertaining to the massive cost overruns in the building of the Croton Water Filtration Plant in Van Cortlandt Park. Read more.

To read more about the controversial filtration plant, click here.

Restaurant workers press Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera. Read more.

Pinnacle, a controversial and fast-growing ownership and management group, is being sued in federal court by a group of tenants. Read more.

Our next issue comes out August 23, but check here for more news posted daily.

Upscale Nightclub Coming to Tremont Avenue

New in the Mount Hope Monitor is a story by Joe Hirsch about Daddy O's, an upscale nightclub that is coming to 369 E.Tremont Ave.

News Roundup for August 1

Gothamist interviews Omar Freilla, founder of Green Worker Cooperatives in the South Bronx.

Last week on Bill Moyers Journal, he interviewed poet Martin Espada, who worked with students at Dreamyard Prep, a small school in the former Taft High School building. The transcript is available here, or you can watch the interview.

The founding president of Lehman College, Leonard Lief, died Monday at the age of 83, the Daily News reports. Under his tenure, Lehman expanded to include 62 bachelor's degree programs and 29 master's programs, in addition to a doctoral program in plant sciences.

And Newsday reports that the Transit Authority will now provide online alerts to tell commuters which elevators and escalators are out of service in the subway system, good news for people who depend on elevators to get in and out of the stations.