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Friday, September 28, 2007

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 28

The Times has finally written about the exploding costs of the Croton Water Filtration Plant being built in Van Cortlandt Park. They've come to the story a little late - the Norwood News ran a similar piece last November - but it's good to see this important issue getting some much needed coverage.

There was an attempted murder-suicide in Kingsbridge Heights yesterday.

More on the new Yankee Stadium parking garages.

The gap between the health of rich New Yorkers and those living in poverty is widening, according to a new study.

Bronx hip-hop pioneer, Afrika Bambaataa, is one of the nominees for the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Bronx Housing Squeeze makes it to Prison Radio

Imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal's most recent piece on prisonradio.org, The Latest Battle in the War Against the Poor, focuses on housing struggles around the country.

In many cities, the forces of gentrification are weighing not only on home-buyers, but on renters, for as the price of housing properties increase, so does the price of rental properties in a market that is bursting through the roof. But, for many, the bubble has burst.

It's also evident that Mumia has been reading the West Bronx Blog and/or the UNHP report on Shrinking Affordability:
In New York City, homeowners are spending between 30-- to -- 50% of their income to pay for the mortgage. The prices, even of rents, drives people from Manhattan, from Brooklyn and from Queens, into the Bronx.

Nice to get a shout out from death row!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rockin' the Bronx River

We just liked this photo from our latest issue. Outside the frame of it, there was a terrific party under way celebrating the Bronx River Alliance and the new Hunts Point Riverside Park. Here's an editorial about it.
(Photo by Jordan Moss)

Latest Norwood News ...

We're still fine-tuning our brand new Web site, so we're a little late with this post, but the latest issue of the Norwood News has stories on what a new building will mean for PS 94 in Norwood, a visit by the Council Speaker to the Kingsbridge Armory, a cafe that is bridging the digital divide with free wi-fi access, and much, much more.

Mitchell-Lama Task Force to Meet Tomorrow at Fordham University

The Bronx Borough President's Office, Tenants and Neighbors, and the Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition will host an educational session for Mitchell-Lama residents tomorrow (Saturday Septmber 29) at Fordham University. The event will be held in the McGinley Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

According to the Bill Egbert's article in the Daily News, "The talks will center on how to organize building residents, how to stop a buyout and how residents can make their voices heard in the legislative process now surrounding the Mitchell-Lama Housing crisis."

A similar event was held back in May.


Crain's is reporting that the New York State Housing Financing Agency (HFA) will

"offer low-cost financing to owners of Mitchell Lama developments, in an effort to keep them in the affordable-housing program. HFA also said it plans to offer up to $15 million of zero-interest repair loans to Mitchell Lama developments in need of immediate improvement."

This move by Spitzer may keep some buildings in the program and improve conditions in others, both of which are good things.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bronx News Roundup for Sept. 26

According to the Village Voice, Highbridge residents are unimpressed with their new park, a temporary replacement for the much-loved Macombs Dam Park which was destroyed to make way for the new Yankee Stadium.

On WNYC New York Public Radio, this morning, State Senator José M. Serrano defended new DMV policies which will allow undocumented immigrants to apply for New York State driver's licenses. Listen here.

Bronx Democratic boss Assemblyman Jose Rivera, and his daughter, Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, were in China earlier his month, with Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith. The delegation was looking at ways to encourage foreign trade, says the Associated Press.

The Bronx Institute for Career Training and Development, on Ogden Avenue, has been charged with selling fake certificates to unqualified home-health-care aides.

A man is dead and three people are injured following three separate shootings.

A Few Housing Updates for September

On the multifamily/rental front, a City Limits article this week exposed how Public Money Helps Fund an Expensive Housing Flip. A report by Tenants and Neighbors and UHAB showed that both the city employees’ retirement account and the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System are investing tens of millions in real estate funds that provide capital to the Putnam Holding Company to purchase five expiring Mitchell-Lama properties for almost $1 billion this past May.

With a purchase price that high, there's little doubt rents in these properties will rise dramatically in the coming years. One Assembly Democrat criticized "the investment of retirement funds for city and state employees in 'private equity groups that purchase former Mitchell-Lama developments and make them unaffordable to those same workers.'"

On the homeownership side, Andrew Beveridge in the Gotham Gazette documents the housing bust in New York City, and low income communities of color like the west Bronx will get the hardest. In New York City in 2006, a quarter of Hispanic/Latino homeowning households paid an astounding 81% of their incomes on homeownership costs (mortgage, taxes, utilities). Half of African American homeowners in the City paid more than 44% of their income on homeownership costs.

"Those most at risk of losing their homes because of high housing costs are more than proportionally minority, less educated, either very young or very old, and most especially with much lower incomes than those living in affordable situations. The median income of those paying less than 30 percent of their income on housing is $120,900. For those paying between 30 and 50 percent of their income, though, the median is $74,390, and for those paying over 50 percent the median income is $39,900."

In other words, the less money you make, the more of it goes towards housing. As a result, neighborhoods like the west Bronx will have a higher proportion of homeowners paying a big chunk of their paychecks towards their mortgages, taxes, insurance, fuel, water & sewer, and other costs paid by homeowners.

Finally, the New York Law Journal last month reported on lawsuits by eight black first-time homebuyers in Brooklyn against the real estate company United Homes. The lawsuits all claim that United Homes "oversaw a conspiracy to defraud minorities" looking to become homeowners.
"The plaintiffs' allegations share numerous common elements. After responding to ads on the subway or local newspapers promising 'We Make Dreams Come True,' the plaintiffs were rushed through a streamlined process in which the various defendants conspired to sell them overpriced, defective houses at unfair mortgage rates based on a succession of misrepresentations, according to the complaints."

According to Eastern District of New York Chief Judge Raymond J. Dearie, the plaintiffs claim that United Homes was behind a "fraudulent property-flipping scheme," and that they "bought damaged properties at foreclosure auctions or estate sales[,] performed some cosmetic repairs and, shortly thereafter, sold the properties, often at double the purchase price." The lawsuit targets both the company and their affiliated lawyers, appraisers, and lenders who participated in these schemes. A major accusation in the lawsuit is that these practices were targeted racially.

While it's not surprising that these types of practices were going on in Brooklyn in recent years (and most definitely in the Bronx as well), it is surprising that the allegations have stood up in court thus far. A recent motion to dismiss by the defendents was thrown out by the judge, and one of the plaintiff's attorney's reacted by stating,
"The decision is probably the first time a New York federal court has come to grips with this issue -- the intersection of predatory lending and race discrimination -- and Judge Dearie has made a clear statement that will have strong precedential value in this area."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Diaz on Filter Plant: 'We've Been Misled'

Bronx Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr., a candidate for Bronx borough president in 2009, told talk show host Gary Axelbank on Monday night that he and his colleagues were "misled" by the city when they voted to allow the city to dig a giant hole in Van Cortlandt Park for a water filtration plant. "We need to come to grips that we've been misled," Diaz told Axelbank. "If we had known then what we know now, we would have voted differently."
What he knows now is that the pricetag for the plant has escalated dramatically from $1.2 to $2.8 billion; that over a million gallons of water from the site are being discharged into the sewer system; and that the project has produced many fewer Bronx jobs than promised. Diaz said that he had forwarded the applications of 31 constituents to the DEP but that "not a single person has received a job."
He said that Jeffrey Dinowitz, the only Bronx assemblyman to vote against the plant, was right to do so.
Diaz is the first assemblyman to express regret over voting for the facility. His comments are likely to put Council Member Joel Rivera, another likely Bronx BP candidate, on the spot. Rivera's father -- Bronx Democratic Party chair Jose Rivera -- made the parks-for-plant deal with the city that paved the way for the project -- and as Council Majority leader, Rivera supported a measure that cleared the path for the legislation in the state legislature.
Diaz made his comments on "BronxTalk PrimeTime" which is rebroadcast on Cablevision channel 67 (Bronxnet) all week at 9 p.m.

BP Hopeful Diaz on BronxtTalk Tonight

Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr., a candidate for Bronx borough president in 2009, appears on BronxTalk PrimeTime tonight at 9 p.m. with Gary Axelbank on Cablevision channel 67 (Bronxnet). The show is rebroadcast every night this week at 9 p.m.
Axelbank, who has been vocal in his opposition to the water filtration plant, says Diaz will be asked about his current position on the plant. Diaz voted for the deal that allowed the city to dig a giant hole in Van Cortlandt Park in return for $200 million in park improvements. Now that the project's costs have escalated significantly and the DEP has come under criticism in a number of areas, it will be interesting to hear if Diaz and others from the Bronx Assembly delegation have anything new to say about the project hey championed.

Vacant New Homes Spreading Throughout City

The Times' David Gonzalez has a feature piece out on the spread of vacant newly constructed homes, especially in Far Rockaway, but also spreading out to neighborhoods in the Bronx.

Since most of these homes were built or planned before the recent subprime/credit catastrophe, the market for them has dried up significantly. Many single family homeowners who decided to cash out in the past few years and leave the neighborhood opened the door to developers to tear down their houses and build (usually ugly) 2 and 3 family homes. If you'd like to see how a block can change, visit Davidson and Grand Avenues in Kingsbridge Heights.

Gonzalez also interviews a Bronx homeowner that was a victim of deed theft, a practice that is now illegal in New York State.

The Daily News also is running a story in the Money section on homeowners in Queens that have been scammed. It's a good read to get the feel for how people are lured into these traps.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bronx News Roundup for Sept. 21

Cops shot and injured an armed man in Williamsbrige early Friday morning. The man, a passenger in a stolen car, was wielding a kitchen knife, cops said.

New York City's unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in August, unchanged from July, but up 1 percent from August 2006. The Bronx has the highest rate out of all the boroughs - 7.8 percent in August, down from 8.1 percent in July.

The Bronx Borough Board still hasn't voted on the new Yankee Stadium parking subsidy deal, according to StreetsBlog. Here's a Norwood News editorial about the parking garages.

Yesterday's Sun looked at how the Mets and the Yankees are getting on with their new ballparks. Construction crews, say the paper, are working at breakneck speed to get ahead before winter comes.

Bernie Williams, the former Yankees outfielder and now a guitarist in a jazz band, performs tomorrow night at Utopia's Paradise Theater, on the Grand Concourse. The evening also features a play starring Williams' former teammates, Jim Leyritz and Darryl Strawberry. Proceeds will go towards the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club of America. Kips Bay, by the way, are looking at opening a new community center in University Heights, in the long-vacant Hebrew Institute.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

News Roundup for Sept. 20

Jose, Calderon, the teenager accused of killing 4-year-old Quachaun Browne a year and a half ago in Norwood, is about to stand trial. Norwood News coverage of the incident is here.

Three Bronx pols – Ruben Diaz, Jose M. Serrano, Joel Rivera – and one aspiring one – Haile Rivera – have been named among 40 political rising stars under 40.

The father of the Highbridge fire victims gets to stay in the country for at least another year.

A Bronx soldier who paid a man $500 to shoot him in the foot to avoid going back to Iraq faces a year in jail.

Politicians and community leaders want to form a drug free school zone in the Community Board 6 area (from the Bronx Zoo south to Tremont, from Southern Blvd. to Bronx River Pkwy.) with security cameras and safe havens.

Nice. In addition to many Bronx library branches now being open six days a week, the Bronx Library Center will now be open 7 days a week, 12 hours a day!

A sign of a heavily depleted stockpile of food for the hungry can be found at a warehouse in the Bronx.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Surprise: More people move out of NYC than move in!

The New York City Comptroller’s Office recently issued a report on New York’s Delicate Migration Balance, co-authored by Frank Braconi (formerly of the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council) and Farid Heydarpour. Based on the 2005 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census, the report presents some surprising information on who is leaving the City, who is coming to the City, and how the City’s population still manages to expand.

2005 was the first year that detailed information on migration was available in a non-decennial census year -- it's nice not to have to wait until 2010 for this type of information. UNHP also used this same data earlier this year to show migration patterns within New York counties, and how the median income of those moving to the Bronx was actually lower than those of current Bronx residents.

What is perhaps most surprising about the 2005 data is that more people left the City than arrived here, especially domestically. International immigration and (more significantly) a high birth rate are what keep the City’s population growing.

Overall, there is a high level of turn-over in the City’s population – about 4% per year, meaning more than 1/3 of the population will change over the course of a decade. Much of this turnover, both incoming and outgoing, is comprised of highly educated folks.

Some interesting trends arise when looking at the income levels of those who decide to leave the City. In sheer numbers, more low-income households (annual income under $40,000) leave the City, but only because this income category comprises 40% of all NYC households; their actual out-migration rate is average.

While there are much fewer moderate-income households ($40,000 - $59,999), they are actually much more likely to move out of the City, and often move to the South (the Carolinas, Florida and Georgia), where many of them buy homes (for a lot less than what they cost here). They are also more likely to be between 30 and 45 years old and single.

“Typically, they are young householders with a high school diploma and some college experience… Their high exit rates may reflect a regional economy that creates relatively better job opportunities for people at the high end and the low end of the educational spectrum.”
High-income households ($140,000 – $249,999) were also more likely to leave the City, but most often stay in the region, often moving to the NYC suburbs, and frequently continuing to work in the City, while their children attend suburban schools.

Middle-income households ($60,000 - $139,999), on the other hand, were less likely to leave, as were very wealthy households ($125,000 and above). It would be interesting to link the trends of these income groups to housing prices.

In terms of those who are migrating into the City, a whopping 62% of the 127,000 of the domestic arrivals in 2005 were aged 20 to 39, the bulk being in the 20 to 29 category. Those arriving are also more likely to be highly educated that current residents, and about half of them are white. They are also more likely not to have children.

But that doesn’t mean young people aren’t leaving the City. While the percentage of those leaving that are young is smaller, the total number of young people leaving is actually greater than those arriving.

One shortcoming of the data that the authors acknowledge is the undercounting of immigrants, especially the undocumented. While impossible to know the exact number, much of the growth in the City’s population that is visible through lower housing vacancy rates is due to this influx of undocumented immigrants.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Section 8 Troubles? Not good news for the Bronx!

Both the Daily News and Post are reporting on HUD's budget shortfall, causing the government's housing agency to miss payments to affordable housing providers this August. According to Senator Schumer, about 7,000 apartments in the New York State(4,000 in the five boroughs) didn't get their subsidy check that keeps rents at 30% of household income.

While not 100% clear in the articles, it sounds like the problems are currently affecting the project-based Section 8 program -- not the vouchers that tenants use widely throughout the west Bronx. Even still, the implications are great for providers of affordable housing, and could encourage some providers to opt out of the program as contracts expire, meaning a loss in the number of subsidized apartments.

If the problem does spread to the voucher program, the West Bronx would be in deep trouble, as 18% of all rental units in 2005 were occupied by a Section 8 voucher holder (Community Boards 3, 4 5, 6, and 7). If you are interested, check out UNHP's 2005 report on the West Bronx's reliance on Section 8 Voucher subsidies.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

News Roundup for Sept. 13

Ever wonder why some garbage cans have the names of City Council members on them? Here’s an explanation.

A permanent exhibit of Tito Puente’s life and work at Hostos.

See first hand all the amazing work being done in and along the Bronx River.

More great Bronx Eats.

The latest chapter in the never-ending saga of the Melrose Courthouse.

The Times takes a look at the Ghetto Film School in Mott Haven. Student films will be shown tonight at Lincoln Center!

Bronx Renters Shelling Out Highest Percent of Paycheck for Rent

In today's New York Times, Manny Fernandez takes a look at the recently released census data to confirm the trend that most of us already know about -- more Bronx renters pay half their income on rent than renters in the other boroughs.

The article, Housing Takes Bigger Bite of New Yorkers’ Incomes, Census Data Shows, reports that about 1/3 of all Bronx renters pay at least half of their income on rent. (2005 Housing and Vacancy Survey data shows that the percentages are much higher in the West Bronx.)

Fernandez does a good job at reporting on how this trend affects real families, in real ways like making the decisions to give up cable tv, or (much worse) cutting back on grocery shopping. He also cites the recent UNHP report that showed newcomers to the Bronx making less than current residents, according to the 2005 data. I've started taking a look at the 2006 data, and it shows that this trend is continuing, but also that all of the other boroughs except Brooklyn are experiencing an influx of lower-income families, albeit to a lesser degree than the Bronx.

The article also touches on the homeowners who are shouldering similar burdens. While it mentions Brooklyn having the highest percent of homeowners paying 50% of their income on mortgage costs at 31.0%, the Bronx is in a virtual tie at 30.7%. All of these numbers will most likely rise as adjustable mortages made in the past two or three years reset at higher rates.
Earlier in the week, City Limits went right at one of the main reasons renters are finding themselves in this squeeze in WHEN WALL ST. COMES TO 139TH ST., TENANTS WORRY. While profiling the plight of tenants in a Harlem building, the strategy of newer Wall Street-backed apartment building owners is having major effects throughout neighborhoods like the West Bronx, where owners look to raise rents through a variety of means. Since the demand is so high, they are still able to get away with this. But when you put two and two together (the Times article and the City Limits article), you have to wonder where all of this is going. Tenants will eventually reach a breaking point where they can't afford the rent increases, and then what happens?

On a similar theme, NY1 also has a piece on the housing crunch. According to their recent polling:

Nearly 80 percent of residents who've lived in the city 15 years or more say they're spending more of their income on rent than they did back in 1992, and the crunch is happening across the board.

At least two-thirds of every economic, racial and geographic group said they're giving up more of their paycheck to rent or mortgage. And more than 60 percent of New Yorkers saying it's chipping away at their overall quality of life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September 12 News Roundup

South Bronx Band Plays Last Show

Even if you haven't heard of ESG, chances are you've heard of artists influenced by ESG: The Wu-Tang Clan, the Beastie Boys, and Gangstarr are reportedly among the hip-hop acts who have sampled the band, whose sound is described as something of a fusion of hip-hop, post-punk, and soul.

According to this item from pitchforkmedia.com, the group formed in the mid-1970s after the mother of the Scroggins sisters--Renee, Valerie, Marie, and Deborah--decided to buy her daughters musical instruments to give them somewhere to go besides the streets.

After three decades of music, ESG plays its last show Friday September 21.

No Vote Yet on Yankee Parking Lots

Yesterday, the city delayed voting on whether to approve $225 million in tax-free bonds to subsidize construction of new parking garages for Yankee fans. The city Industrial Development Agency board met yesterday as planned, but postponed voting on the parking lot subsidy to a special meeting , at an unnamed date and unspecified location; it was announced that board members had concerns about the issue.

The board isn't alone in that regard-- Highbridge residents testified at a hearing last week that the parking garages would bring exhaust fumes and heavy traffic into a neighborhood that already suffers from high asthma rates. Even Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr., a supporter and key driving force of the Yankee Stadium project, said through a representative at the same hearing that his office lacked essential information about the proposed parking space construction.

Indeed, it seems even the basic details of when the matter will next be formally discussed are hard to come by.

Stanley Richards profiled in Daily News

Yesterday's Daily News spotlighted Stanley Richards, the Bedford Park resident who overcame drug addiction and incarceration to become the chief operating officer of the Fortune Society, a Manhattan nonprofit.

The Daily News article comes a couple of weeks after a more comprehensive profile of Richards written by Norwood News Deputy Editor Alex Kratz.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 Candle Light Vigil

Just thought we'd pass this along. At 7 p.m., in memorial of the tragedy at the World Trade Center six years ago, St. Ann's Church is holding a candle light vigil in its parking lot on Bainbridge Avenue and Gun Hill Road.

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 11

At least one of the three bullets that injured an undercover police officer on a Bronx subway platform, Friday, was fired by a colleague, police have confirmed.

On Wednesday and Thursday parts of the Bronx and Staten Island will be sprayed with pesticide to kill mosquitoes and ward off the West Nile virus.

Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel is one of many Democrats taking issue with what they see as the misguided optimism of General David Petraeus, America's top military man in Iraq. Petraeus, who's currently testifying on Capitol Hill, says the surge strategy is working.

The Bronx Cultural Trolley, a free monthly trolley run by the Bronx Council on the Arts, has been named the best in the city. The trolley, a replica of an early 20th Century model, ferries culture fans from one South Bronx art spot to another. It usually runs on the first Wednesday of every month. For more information, see here and here.

With community boards back in session after their summer hiatus, here's a look at when and where the Bronx's 12 boards are next meeting.


Memories of the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 are as crystal clear to us as the weather that day. After pausing to overcome some of the initial shock, reporter Hannan Adely (now at the Journal News) and I just walked around the community talking to people. Here's what we found.

Feel free to post your thoughts and memories about 9-11 here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Community Board 7 meeting on special night

Usually reserved for the third Tuesday of the month, Community Board 7's general meeting in September will happen to tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Bedford Park Senior Center, 243 E. 204th St.

The first meeting since June's elections should be action packed as the board has lots to discuss, including rezoning options that would make way for proposed developments, new bi-law amendments and possibly news about the search to fill the Board's vacant district manager position.

[By the way, that link above sends you to a new story now on the sparkling new Norwood News Web site. We hope you're as excited about it as we are. Here's another link to the site just for fun!]

Another note on the Board meeting. Council candidate Haile Rivera (14th District), who has been showing up in this space often over the past few weeks, sent out an email press release today saying he would be going to all CB7 meetings and most of the CB5 meetings (he has a scheduling conflict), "because I care of the issues in my community and I want to do something about them. There is no better source to know what the issues are then to hear them directly from those affected."

We've been trumpeting the value of local Community Boards for years and elected officials generally pay attention to what happens there, but it's nice to see someone else echoing us. Check it out for yourself at the meeting tonight.

Bronx News Round-up, Sept. 10

Welcome to Monday, hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. Here' some links to news stories that should get you going and informed this week.

The big story over the weekend was a bloody shootout on Friday night between an undercover transit policewoman and "a parolee with an extensive criminal record" on the 4 train at the 176th Street stop. The story in the Times is kind of convoluted, but basically it appears the "parolee" put a female officer in a headlock when she and two other cops tried to escort him off the train for violating transit rules. The suspect then started shooting at the two other officers, who returned fire, with 13 shots, and killed the gunman.

The female officer was shot three times, but is in stable condition. It's unclear whether the female officer was the victim of friendly fire or was hit by the now-deceased gunman.

More tragic news came last night/early this morning, when a fire took the life of an unidentified 22-year-old woman in Williamsbridge. The woman was sleeping on the second floor of a small two-story house on East 224th Street. Two other residents were injured and taken to the hospital. NY1 reported that more than 100 firefighters showed up to fight the blaze and that three of them were injured.

Bunch of stories out today about how bank branches are popping up all over New York City, except for in the city's poorest neighborhoods. From 2000 to 2006, 168 banks branches opened citywide. Of those, only 24 opened in the Bronx, according to a report released by Queens and Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner and Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James.

The report also said the banks were concentrated in wealthy neighborhoods. In Murray Hill there a bank for every 1,500 people, while in Tremont, here in the Bronx, there is one for every 69,000 people.

Weiner and James pointed out that the disparity means people in poorer neighborhoods are forced to cash paychecks at rip-off check cashing shops (which are not surprisingly more prevalent in those poorer areas) and also that people in places like Tremont will “have less take-home pay, are less able to accumulate long-term and emergency savings (making them more vulnerable to high-interest loans), and have a harder time establishing credit or qualifying for a loan.”

Here's links to the stories on the Times blog, The Post, and the Daily News

And also, while we're talking about money, here's a story int the Daily News about Bronx boy turned international fashion icon, Ralph Lauren, who was born Ralph Lifshitz. He celebrated his 40th year in fashion on Saturday night in Central Park.

Congrats Ralph! Don't forgot about us!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Bronx Technology Fair

Mount Hope Housing Company's annual technology carnival is being held today. The free community event, on 179th Street between Morris and Walton avenues (three blocks north of yesterday's shooting), boasts computer classes and a video game competition. There's also a barbecue, music, dancing, and a raffle - prizes include a flat screen TV and a Nintento Wii.

The aim of the day is to show local residents how technology - especially computers and the Internet - can help in their everyday lives.

The Bronx, outside of Riverdale, has been slow to embrace the on-line world. Organizations like Mount Hope, who recently wired its 1,250 apartments for high speed Internet access, are working to correct this, and in March, Bronx Community College held a brainstorming conference that looked at ways to bridge this digital divide. (Photos by James Fergusson)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Speaker, Back in the Bronx, Tours Armory

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn ventured into the Bronx for the third time this week, to take a tour of the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory, a giant castle in the middle of Community Board 7.

In October, the city will decide on one of two developers -- the prolific Peter Fine's Atlantic Development Group or Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff's friends, the Related Companies -- to turn the Armory into a mixed-use development.

Representatives from the Retail Workers Union, the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) joined up with an armada of Bronx politicians, including Council members, Joel Rivera, Oliver Koppell and Maria Baez (the first time, after nearly 15 months on the job here in the northwest Bronx I've ever seen her in person) and also Bronx Democratic Chairman and State Assemblyman Jose Rivera (catching all the action with his hand-held video camera). Borough prez Adolfo Carrion showed up for a brief cameo.

For Quinn, the tour was an educational exercise. She didn't want media attending the tour (I attended because I found out about it and tried to act as un-journalistic as possible) and claims to have no position, yet, on what the Armory should contain or bring to the community.

"I'm looking at my schedule today and I'm thinking, 'Who's Kara?,'" she said, drawing a laugh from the crowd of about 35 aides, organizers and city agency employees.

But for the stakeholders, the union, KARA, NWBCCC and the council members, this was an opportunity to lay out their redevelopment vision -- living wage jobs, environmental sustainability, added school seats, ample community space, etc. -- to the head of the City Council, which will have a chance to a chance to approve or rejects plans for the Armory during the land review process, likely to happen sometime next summer or fall.

The biggest pushes appear to be to add school seats (the DOE dropped plans to build two schools at the site), assure good jobs for people in the community (the developers balked at including living wage job requirements in their original proposals) and the signing of a community benefits agreement.

Recently, the developers revised their original plans to accommodate recommendations from the Armory Task Force (an advisory group set up by the city), KARA and CB7, but the community has yet to see what those revised plans look like.

Someone from the Economic Development Corporation, the city agency managing the Armory project, said the city would choose a developer sometime in October.

(Above, a photo of the massive Kingsbridge Armory hovering over the 4 train station at Kingsbridge Road) -- By Alex Kratz

Bronx News Roundup for Sept. 7

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz lays out his rationale against congestion pricing in The Riverdale Press (which is finally on-line).

The Times dissects the buzz that has elected officials, including Latino politicians in the Bronx, encouraging Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion to run for comptroller rather than mayor. The rationale goes something like … African Americans supported Freddy Ferrer twice. Now it’s our turn to support a progressive African American, i.e. current comptroller William Thompson — a friend and admirer of Adolfo—in his bid for Gracie Mansion
But the message the reader takes away from the Times’ City Room post is that the Bronx BP is focused like a laser beam on being mayor.
Hey, John McCain was once a friend and admirer of Fred Thompson.

This is interesting. A Carrion staffer makes a statement at a public hearing on the Yankee parking garages complaining that his office has still “not received vital information regarding the details of the Bronx Parking Development Company financing.”
Keep in mind that Carrion was the cheerleader-in-chief for the controversial Yankee stadium deal. The least he probably expected in return was a free flow of information.
This should get even more interesting. You can almost hear the cacophonous cries of “I told you so,” from neighborhood residents and other activists who opposed the deal. (And in fact some of the comments to this StreetsBlog post say just that, though a lot less nicely.)

Here’s the Norwood Newsrecent editorial on the Yankee parking garages.

Here’s video, via the Politicker, of State Senator Jose M. Serrano talking about why there should be public financing at the state level, like there is in the city.

And here’s video of Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr., a candidate for Bronx BP in 2009, talking about the endless nature of recent campaigns.

By the way, the new issue of the Norwood News is out on the streets, and will be on-line by Monday, which is when we debut our brand new Web site. We’ll announce it here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Bronx Food

Here's a great thread about people's favorite Bronx restaurants.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

It's official, Haile Rivera enters Council race

Ending weeks of speculation, Haile Rivera, a University Heights activist and city Food Bank employee, officially announced his candidacy for Maria Baez's City Council seat (which will be up for grabs in 2009) in an email press release earlier today.

Cosette Morillo, Rivera's campaign manager, sent out the release, which talked about Rivera's credentials as an activist and founder of the non-profit group Hands on New York. It also includes a long quote from Rivera about why he wants to run and what he thinks he can bring to the table. At the end, Rivera recounts the struggles he went through as a youngster in the Bronx. Here's a snippet:

"I come from a a very poor family, raised by a single mother and being the father-figure for three younger brothers. I have had some rough times in my short life. Circumstances led my mother and all for us to live in shelter as we ran away from an abusive partner. I have had times when I found a roof as my bedroom for the night. I know what is like to go to sleep on an empty stomach, sometimes several times during the week. I have lived, and continue to live, the struggles of an average person. I know what it takes to get the job done and make sure our community is well represented in City Hall."

Rivera made news earlier this summer when he had an intimate dinner with presidential candidate Barack Obama in DC.

Much like the presidential race, this Council contest is getting off to an early start. As we report in our newest issue, out on the street tomorrow, Rivera already has a potential opponent in Fernando Cabrera, the pastor of New Life Outreach International Church, which is near the Kingsbridge Armory. Cabrera has formed a fundraising committee and is talking to Bronx Democrats about his potential candidacy.

City's Foreclosure Prevention Efforts to arrive in the West Bronx for 2008

Just about two years ago the City began a pilot program to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The partnership, funded by a number of banks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and administered in partnership with a number of neighborhood and citywide housing nonprofits and legal service organizations, has been active in a number of targeted neighborhoods, primarily in Brooklyn and Queens. PACE, as the pilot is known, was rolled out to the northeast Bronx last year in partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services of the North Bronx.

Through the program, homeowners in targeted neighborhoods could call the City's non-emergency information line (311) and speak to someone about their mortgage problems. The intake person at the City would then refer the person out to the appropriate neighborhood group for counseling, loss mitigation, and/or legal assistance.

UNHP's report on the State of Homeownership in the Bronx (April 2006) offered a number of ideas for expanding PACE citywide so areas like the West Bronx (that have no homeownership counseling groups) could get access to resources. According to an article in City Limits, it looks like PACE will finally expand to the entire city in 2008 (and not a moment too soon).

In the meantime, West Bronx homeowners in distress can contact UNHP to find out about resources to help avoid foreclosure.

Quinn Visits Botanical Garden Greenmarket

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (pictured) was at the New York Botanical Garden's popular greenmarket this morning, to bring attention to the growing number of farmers markets that accept food stamps.

"Right now there's a real issue with obesity and hunger in New York City," Quinn said. "They're two sides of the same coin." Quinn, who's toured several markets over the past weeks, said that readily available fresh produce can only have a positive affect on the community's health.

In the past, market vendors didn't have the technology to take food stamps, even if they wanted to. Now, thanks to $300,000 in additional funding from the City Council, many markets (including this one) are equipped with wireless scanners which shoppers use to swipe their EBT cards in return for tokens.

"You can't put a price on quality," said Perry Avenue resident Melinda Mendoza, who was at the Garden earlier today picking up greens for the six kids she has living at home. (She has nine in all.) "Over here it's all fresh and crisp... I was by the broccoli and you could really smell it, it's not like that in a supermarket."

The market - one of only half a dozen or so in the Bronx - is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday through October. Set up in 2002, it's been a big success say vendors. "The traffic here is fantastic," said Joseph Bates, who runs The Little Bakeshop, which sells pies, brownies and quiches. "I always sell out, this is the place to be."

Bates, who's based in Rockland County, likes the Garden too. "At most farmers markets you're standing in a parking lot, here it's different," he said, eyeing the trees.

Quinn, for the record, bought some green beans and a melon.

(Photos by James Fergusson)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bronx News Roundup for Sept. 4

In today's Metro, Patrick Arden has the story on how, a full-year after the new Yankee Stadium's groundbreaking ceremony, the non-profit that was supposed to dole out $800,000 to other Bronx non-profits (a kind of compensation package for the borough's loss of parkland), has yet to be set up.

Mayor Bloomberg has announced that all Bronx residential and municipal waste will now leave the Bronx by train not truck. In theory this will improve air quality and traffic congestion.

On Saturday night, a woman and four men died in East Tremont after the SUV they were travelling in crashed and slammed into a lamppost.

There were numerous upbeat back-to-school stories in today's papers. This article in the Daily News paints a darker picture of students' academic futures. Dropping out remains a "persistent and pervasive problem" in much of the Bronx, says the paper.

Also in today's Daily News Bronx Boro section, is this piece about Dominicans leaving Washington Heights for the Bronx. In the past few months there's been several stories about this trend. See here and here. Both examine how high Manhattan rents are responsible for the migration. Today's story says Dominicans are also moving because the Bronx is safer, and because there's a better quality of life on offer.

Again in the Daily News, there's more on the mayor's congestion pricing proposal. Apparently there's been grumblings that the Congestion Pricing Committee doesn't have a single Bronx elected official on it. And here's an opinion piece by Assemblymen Jeffrey Dinowitz on the Croton Filtration plant fiasco.

The Mount Hope Monitor's Out

The latest edition of the bilingual Mount Hope Monitor hit the streets last week. Stories include a profile of CB 5's new chair, and a look at how cops from the 46th Precinct attempt to keep the noise down in one of the city's noisiest neighborhoods. We'll link to the articles when they're on-line.

You can pick the paper up at local banks, stores, restaurants, community organizations, and libraries. But if you're struggling to find it, e-mail your address to mounthopenews-at-gmail.com, and we'll send you a copy for free, while supplies last. Also, if you own a business in the area, and would like a stack for your customers, let us and we'll be right over. Similarly, if you live in an apartment building, and there's a an appropriate drop off space in the lobby or the laundry room, let us know.

First Day of School

Here's a glimpse of the first day of school at PS 15, 2195 Andrews Ave:

See more photos in Thursday's brand new issue of the Norwood News and online when our new website premieres later this week.

(Photo by Laura Sayer)