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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bronx Public Hearing Tonight On Congestion Pricing

The city’s Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission will hold a public hearing tonight at 6pm, at Hostos Community College, on Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. The commission will take testimony from local politicians, and both supporters and opponents of the plan.

While open to public attendance, persons interested in presenting testimony have to fill out a form ahead of time. Those wanting more info on how to do this can call Andrea Miles-Cole at the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission: 212 383-7234

The Bronx hearing, similar to those held in the other four boroughs and White Plains, will be at Hostos’ Main Theater C, 450 Grand Concourse (149th Street).

Teaser for Highbridge documentary

Highbridge resident José Gonzalez is hard at work on the pilot for "Highbridge: Past, Present, and Future," a documentary he is making about the hidden history of his neighborhood. In the meantime, you can check out this teaser for the film right here.

BREAKING NEWS: Assembly Delegation Seeks Filter Plant Probe

Read all about it here.

Scary Thought for Section 8 Voucher Holders

It took years and years for new Section 8 vouchers to be issued in New York City, but many of the new 22,000 voucher holders are having a hard time finding an apartment in the hot rental market (2005 data showed the Bronx rental vacancy rate at a citywide low of 2.6%, and most vouchers are concentrated in the west Bronx - see the map). According to an article in the Times today, landlords posting availability of apartments often include the restriction, "No Section 8 or other programs."

Activists and organizers featured in the article claim the anti-voucher discrimination could be a mask for racial or class discrimination, while landlord groups claim the reason is the program’s "payment delays and other administrative problems." They are both right - the program has administrative problems, but not taking the vouchers is an easy and legal way to discriminate.

Part of the problem is that so many new vouchers were released at once into a tight rental market. Landlords in gentrifying neighborhoods won't take the vouchers since it won't maximize their rent increase strategies. In the neighborhoods of the west Bronx, rents are among the lowest in the City, leading to an extremely small number of vacant units. So while owners here generally accept the vouchers, there just aren't enough units to go around for all of the new voucher holders.

Councilman Bill de Blasio has introduced a bill to prohibit this type of discrimination - and laws like these exist in many other large cities and New Jersey. This could be a good idea if it's accompanied by changes made to the administrative side of the program improving the process for the landlords involved.

The worst part of the whole deal is that if a voucher holder can't find an apartment, the voucher is terminated; about 1,400 have been terminated so far this year. In this market of shrinking affordability, such losses make the situation even more dire.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Advocates of Congestion Pricing Argue It'll Help Bronx

Supporters of Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal gathered today at the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse, arguing the mayor’s plan would benefit low-income Bronxites and allow for expansion of the city’s public transit system. The small group who turned out for this morning’s press conference included State Senator José M. Serrano (D-28th District) and representatives of several public-transportation- advocacy organizations.

Under Bloomberg’s plan, motorists would be charged $8 to enter Manhattan below 86th Street. Advocates of the plan said that a very small percentage of Bronx residents would feel the burden of this cost because the vast majority of those who work in the Congestion Pricing Zone (CPZ) commute there by public transit, not by private vehicle: Veronica Vanterpool, policy advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign—a group that works to reduce automobile use in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut—pointed to 2000 U.S. Census Data indicating that only 3.7 percent of Bronx workers drive alone to the CPZ.

But Vanterpool and others argued it’s not just that congestion pricing would not hurt Bronx residents—they said it would help these residents as well: Advocates said the funds generated by congestion pricing (or, specifically, by the Department of Transportation grant that would result when the proposal is implemented) could be used to relieve overcrowding of buses and subways.

“This is the only plan that has an ongoing funding stream for transit improvements,” said Noah S. Budnick, deputy director for Transporation Alternatives—a group that advocates for public- transportation- use in the city.

Bronx resident Sandy Noel, administrative assistant for Walter E. Houston--member of Community Board 4 and president of the 167th Street Business and Professional League-- said these improvements were much needed: “I’m on the trains all day,” Noel said, adding that her daily commute from Claremont Parkway and Washington Avenue to lower Manhattan often takes several hours because several trains and buses that are filled-to-capacity pass her by.

The congestion-pricing supporters further argued that public transit expansion would particularly help low-income Bronxites, since wealthier New Yorkers tend to use public transporation less frequently.

Their support for reducing vehicle traffic from the Bronx to Manhattan having been voiced, the advocates were asked by a reporter about congestion going in the other direction—specifically, traffic that will be generated when new parking-lots are built in the South Bronx as part of the Yankee Stadium project.

Serrano suggested that the forthcoming construction of the new Yankee Stadium Metro North station would encourage fans to take public transportation to Yankee games rather than drive cars.

“That way,” Serrano said, “they can drink more beer at the games, I guess.”

Monday, October 29, 2007

Serrano and the Politics of Spitzer's Drivers License Plan

Talk about team players. State Senator Jose Serrano has been one of the most outspoken legislative supporters of Governor Spitzer's plan to provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, even going on CNN to serve as Lou Dobbs' punching bag.

Spitzer scaled back the plan over the weekend, making new enemies out of his staunchest immigrant supporters. Serrano is disappointed, but he refuses to take issue publicly with his fellow Democrat. According to Liz Benjamin at the Daily Politicker, Serrano was one of those invited to breakfast with Spitzer yesterday.

And while he differs with Spitzer's shift on the issue, he wouldn't be drawn into a public fight, lest it give ammo to Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno in his all-out war with the governor.

"I let him know that I can't change my position, I won't change my position," Serrano said. "But I'm not going to bash the governor. I'm not going to engage in a public fight. That's exactly what (Senate Majority Leader Joseph) Bruno wants us to do.

Bronx News Roundup October 29

A young Highbridge woman was one of two people murdered last Thursday at an apartment building near E. 170th Street and Grand Concourse. Ludmily Rosado, 20, of 103 W. 165th Street, was fatally shot in the head, as was Daniel Newton, 34, of Manhattan. A third victim is in critical condition. No arrests have been made.

Patrick Arden of Metro News reports that nearly half of the 27-plus acres of “new parkland” the city has promised as part of the Yankee Stadium project really isn’t new—it is already-existing parkland that is being renovated. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: “I guess it depends on what your definition of ‘new’ is.”

Could a new charter school soon be opening in the South Bronx? On Friday, the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) approved the application of Green Dot Public Schools, the largest charter-school operator in Southern California. Green Dot is partnering with the United Federation of Teachers on the charter school plan, which must now be approved by the state Board of Regents.

It’s official… almost: In deciding on their new manager, the New York Yankees picked Joe Girardi over Don Mattingly, thereby selecting a former catcher who won three rings as a Yankee over a former first baseman who won zero rings as a Yankee. Girardi will reportedly accept the position.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Stories in the Monitor

The next print edition of the Mount Hope Monitor will hit the streets in early November. Here’s a taster of what you’ll find inside:

Following Death of Principal, P.S. 209 Teachers and Parents Look to rename School in her Honor
Community Leaders Balk at Plans for Hotel on Jerome
Mount Hope Housing Company to Benefit from Citgo Grant

All the above were written by students of the NYCity News Service, which is run out of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Nadia, Amy, Joe – thanks a lot.

Also, check out this opinion piece by Greg Fuchs, a regular contributor to the Monitor. Fuchs would like to see a weekly Greenmarket in Cedar Playground, and a plaque erected to celebrate the playground's importance in the history of the hip-hop movement.

(UPDATE: We're having some technical issues. If the above links take you through to a blank page, click on switch region at the top of the page, select New York, and then choose West Bronx News Network.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pardon Our Appearance as We Remodel

As regular readers of this blog will note, we're tinkering with its look. Please comment in the next couple of days as we try various templates, etc. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bronx News Roundup Oct. 24

The case against two cops from the 44th Precinct, who allegedly beat a man outside a Yonkers bar in September, could be falling apart after the injured man failed to pick them out in a police line-up, says the Post. More on the attack here.

Mayor Bloomberg wants to make each and every borough responsible for handling its own trash, but his plans took a setback yesterday when Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver stopped a key vote. It's now looking unlikely that a recycling transfer plant will be built in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, at least in the foreseeable future. That's bad news for the Bronx. As Assemblyman Ruben Diaz told the Times, "There’s still going to be thousands of trucks and tons of garbage coming into the Bronx that isn’t from the Bronx."

In yesterday's Daily News, there was more on the alleged drug deal inside Our Lady of Refuge Church in North Fordham. CBS also picked up the story. Also in the Daily News was this story about community opposition to affordable housing, and a profile of Mount Hope Housing Company by former Norwood News intern, Heather Appel. Mount Hope celebrates its 21st anniversary at a gala this evening in the northeast Bronx.

We missed this at the time, but here’s a Bronx Times’ article on University Woods, a four-acre wood in University Heights that’s routinely named "the city’s worst park." The story follows on from Greg Fuchs’ opinion piece in the August/September edition of the Mount Hope Monitor. For more about the park check out Friends of the Woods.

Ok, so this has nothing to do with the Bronx, but readers may be interested to hear that the Guardian, Britain's left-leaning broadsheet, has launched a new Web site called Guardian America. It's an attempt to pick up more American readers, and, no doubt, more advertising revenue, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Turf Battle at Oval

Any of you living in Norwood will have noticed the bulldozers in Williamsbridge Oval. The reconstruction of the field and track is under way.

It would appear to be too late for an argument about whether the synthetic turf field is the best idea or not. Nonetheless, just such an argument has erupted on the Norwood News letters page. It started with this letter from a member of the Bronx Greens, who believes there are safety and health risks of the material.

But William Crain, a City College professor, wrote in a Times op-ed that the rubber granules that simulate dirt are made of hazardous materials. Here's an excerpt:

For starters, synthetic turf contains highly toxic chemicals. The tiny rubber granules that contribute to the turf’s resiliency are primarily made from recycled tires. Because these granules often lie on the turf’s surface, children and athletes come into frequent contact with them.

Junfeng Zhang, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, has found that the granules contain worrisome levels of zinc and lead, as well aspolycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are likely to be carcinogenic. Some preliminary research by others suggests that it might be difficult for these toxic chemicals in the granules to get into the body through skin contact, ingestion or inhalation, but more research is needed.

Meanwhile local park advocates like Annette Melendez wonder where the Greens were during several community meetings about the Oval rehab work.

It's an interesting issue and one we're certain to hear more about, as more and more synthetic fields get installed around the country. But as we look out our office windows at the Oval construction here at the Keeper's House on Reservoir Oval, we can only surmise that any consensus on this issue will probably not come until the Oval's new carpet is laid down and open to all next spring.

Monday, October 22, 2007

School Budget Boost

The City and New York City are getting more aid over the next four years, starting this year. Here's a look at the numbers from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity:

2007-2008 State Education Budget and Reform Act
School Aid Increase:

Over the next 4 years: $7 billion in total school aid, out of which $5.5 billion is foundation aid.

This year (2007): $1.76 billion total, $1.1 billion in foundation aid.

New York City
Over the next 4 years: $3.2 billion total, $2.2 billion foundation aid.

This year (2007): $710 million total, $470 in foundation aid (ultimately reduced to $258 million for inflation and other adjustments)

We want to hear your thoughts on how that money could be best put to use.

Bronx News Roundup, Mondary Morning, Oct. 21

Good morning (early afternoon) everyone. Here's a few news links to accompany your cup of coffee today. Some hot topics to discuss.

The NY Times is obsessed with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's link to the Bronx, well, specifically the South Bronx. In any case, this story in yesterday's Metro section examines the quasi-socialist leader's relationship with the Bronx, where he has donated discounted heating oil and millions for development programs through Venezuela's oil company, Citgo.

This quote sums up the Times' angle on the story: "It is an unlikely flow of largess, from an oil-rich South American country where much of the population lives in poverty to one of the neediest pockets in the seat of American capitalism."

Here's a look at the organizations and programs that will benefit from the Chavez money.

Some weekend crime stories:

Two men were stabbed, one to died, during a robbery in Mt. Eden early Sunday morning.

After an earlier stabbing death in Fordham on Saturday, a man was arrested and charged with murder.

Also on Saturday, a 7-year-old girl was hit by a car in Baychester.

Jose Calderon was convicted last week of manslaughter in the beating death of Quachaun Brown, 4, in Norwood last year. The jury acquitted Calderon of the more serious murder charge. He faces up to 15 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 1.

The NY Post and Gothamist report on a dogfighting "lair" here in northwest Bronx on Valentine Avenue. Warning: there are some graphic and unsettling images with these stories.

And, finally, here's a Times City section story about Mexican immigrants who fear for their safety in the North Fordham area here in the Bronx. Father John Jenik, of Our Lady of Refuge Church, is quoted in the story.

Often Jenik is alone in decrying the violence and drug activity in that troubled neighborhood. In an email sent to the Norwood News yesterday, Jenik said that, for the first time ever, drug dealers were conducting transactions in his church. Not a good sign.

Note: Please feel free to weigh in here on Bronx crime and safety concerns, Hugo Chavez or anything else you feel is of concern. We want to ramp up the discussion and hear from everyone.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Norwood News Out Now

Peep the new issue of the Norwood News, out on the streets and online now. (We're still working out some issues with the pdf copy and a couple other things, but for the most part, it's good to go.)

Here's a quick preview:

Kingsbridge Armory activists say it's not too much to ask retailers who set up shop in the soon to be renovated facility to pay their workers a living wage, or $10 an hour.

Part One of our annual School Preview. Part two (high schools and private schools) will be in our next issue, which comes out Nov. 1.

A new environmentally-friendly affordable housing development was unveiled on Webster Avenue here in the Bronx on Monday. Somehow movie stars Edward Norton and Owen Wilson involved.

An update from the trenches of the war against graffiti here in the northwest Bronx.

Editorial: Why we need to be actively protecting our neighborhoods from unwanted developments.

Check out all these stories and more on our Web site.

[Quick congratulations to James Fergusson, the editor of the Mount Hope Monitor. This exciting new paper received some great news today and will now be bringing more stories and information to the news-deprived Mount Hope area (Community Board 5) and on a more consistent basis. Look for more updates from James here on the blog. Cheers, mate!]

Local news from UNHP's Notes

Local nonprofit housing group University Neighborhood Housing Program's newsletter is out. Here's what you'll find in this edition of NOTES:

Water and Sewer: The News Just Gets Worse
An unprecedented 18% mid year water and sewer increase is proposed by DEP and could also lead to the establishment of stand-alone water lien sales.

Loan Fund Updates
To date, UNHP has made more than 100 loans with a value of over $4.5 million, and has recently updated its loan software.

New Resources Added to Community Resource Guide
Seven years after its creation, UNHP has developed a new section for CRG on Community Resources to help New Yorkers learn about the resources and benefits available to them.

A Remedy for Rising Foreclosures
The Northwest Bronx continues to display an alarming number of foreclosures, and it is against this backdrop that UNHP continues its outreach efforts to distressed homeowners.

BIP-ing the City
UNHP's Building Indicator Project Database will be automated this fall and will help identify distressed multifamily rental properties throughout New York City.

The West Bronx Online
There have been some exciting developments in the world of news about the West Bronx in the past year, including the West Bronx News Network and the West Bronx Blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bronx News Roundup, Wednesday, Oct. 17

Here's a little late afternoon post to tide you over before the Norwood News hits the street and the Web tomorrow morning.

North Fork opened up a student-run bank on the Theodore Roosevelt High School campus. All the money made will go to paying the student workers who will make $11 an hour -- more than the so-called living wage of $10 an hour.

A little story about this weekend's Tour de Bronx. If I can get a bike, I'm there.

More coverage of the Quachaun Brown murder trial. This Times story basically says everyone was at fault.

(For those unfamiliar with the sad tale, 4-year-old Quachaun was beaten to death in Norwood in early 2006, allegedly by his mother's teenage boyfriend, Jose Calderon. The mother, Aleisha Smith, has already pleaded guilty and faces seven and a half years in prison. Calderon, looking at the possibility of 25 to life, is currently on trial.)

Kapstatter's Bronx political notes. Pedro Espada: Welcome to the neighborhood! We look forward to hearing from you.

Bronx Senator Jeff Klein sorta, kinda endorses Spitzer's immigrant driver's license plan on The Observer's blog.

More great Bronx news coming in tomorrow's Norwood News. We'll go over the stories on the blog and have everything available on our beautiful new Web site.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Will tenants long suffering at the hands of slumlords—in the Bronx and throughout New York City—soon find some relief?

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will hold a press conference Wednesday at 11am at the City Hall steps to introduce legislation that will make harassment of tenants illegal, and allow tenants to seek recourse—including fines against their landlords—in housing court. A press release issued by Benjamin Dultschin, deputy director for the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development (ANHD) speaks to concerns echoed by many West Bronx residents: “As market rents continue to rise in neighborhoods across the City, there is more and more incentive for landlords to use non-legal methods to push out tenants who are paying less then the market will bear,” the release states.

This, in fact, was the very claim made by Highbridge resident Carmen Vasquez earlier this year, prior to her eviction by property manager Alliance Housing Associates II.

More news about Quinn: Yesterday’s New York Post reported that she supports state Senator Jeff Klein’s proposal to punish establishments caught serving alcohol to minors. Klein’s proposal would not only take liquor licenses away from said establishments, but would strip lottery licenses as well. In addition, the companies issuing fake ID’s could face civil penalties for any damages caused by underage drunks.

Today’s Daily News has an article about Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión’s recent declaration of support for the Yankee Stadium parking garages. Carrión had initially expressed serious concern that his office did not have enough information about the city’s plan to subsidize the garages to the tune of $225 million. However, he says a presentation by the city Economic Development Corporation won him over.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Joel Rivera on Filtration Hot Seat Tonight

Council Member Joel Rivera, a likely candidate for Bronx borough president, will be on Gary Axelbank's public affairs talk show tonight on Cablevision, channel 67. The BronxTalk PrimeTime host, who is also an activist on the filtration issue, is certain to ask Rivera if he believes, like Assemblyman Ruben Diaz does, that he was "misled" by city officials who promised that the project would use Bronx workers and that it would cost $1.2 billion (the estimate is now $2.8 billion) and if Rivera supports holding hearings on the cost and jobs issues in the City Council.
The show airs at 9 p.m. and is repeated at the same time throughout the week. Viewers can call in during the live show.
Here's a recent article and editorial about the issue in the Norwood News.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hall of Fame for Great Americans

Here's a shot of the Hall of Fame on Bronx Community College's campus, taken this afternoon. If you haven't been - and I hadn't - it's worth a visit. Even if the busts don't take your fancy, the views will. And if you like peace and quiet, this is as good as it gets - in this part of the Bronx anyway.

More about the Hall of Fame here, here, here and here. (Photo by James Fergusson)

Health Fair at PS 226 and the School's Plans for a Gym

PS 226, an elementary school on Sedgwick Avenue in University Heights, held its first health fair today, with the aim of encouraging healthy minds and bodies among students, parents, and the wider community.

Representatives from Morris Heights Health Center, Jacobi Medical Center, and others, gave out information on asthma, nutrition, childhood obesity, adult and childhood literacy, parenting, and more. The Hunts Point Farmers Market provided free fruit. The New York Road Runners Club organized relay races for energetic kids.

The fair, which was organized by PS 226 health teacher Robert Romano, was held in the school's playground, where, teachers hope, a gymnasium - something the school lacks - will one day stand. So far they've raised $300,000, most of which was gathered at a celebrity golf tournament in Los Angeles. Actor Don Cheadle was among those who played. How did the school get Hollywood bigshots involved? Well, Romano's got connections: his older brother is Ray Romano of "Everyone Loves Raymond" fame.

Still, there could be a long road ahead. The gym - which will double up as a community center for the whole neighborhood to enjoy - is going to cost more than $3 million. It's sad, said Romano, that many students who are excited about the plans will likely have moved on by the time it gets built. (Photo by James Fergusson)

Bronx News Roundup for Oct. 13

A Bronx laundromat owner sues Verizon for mooching off her power supply for a cell phone tower.

Dick Gidron, the first African American car dealer in the city, and a mover and shaker in Bronx and city politics, is dead at 68.

The Campaign Finance Board’s executive director discussed the fines leveled against Council Members Larry Seabrook and Annabel Palma in the Observer’s political blog.

Friday, October 12, 2007

New Addition to Local Blogosphere

We welcome The Riverdale Press to the Bronx Blogosphere.
The Press now also has a Web site.

Report on Last Night's Bronx Congestion Pricing Forum

Here's Streetsblog's take on last night's congestion pricing forum in Riverdale hosted by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.

Bronx News Roundup for Oct. 12

The principal at the Bronx High School of Science is facing a student protest over her introduction of more tests and streamlining syllabi.

Confidential records of 150 DeWitt Clinton High School students were apparently stolen from a guidance counselor, found and mailed to the Daily News. The chancellor wants a probe of the incident.

Leading the push to extend Council term limits to 3 terms (12 years) is the Queens delegation which faces a 92.8% turnover rate in 2009 if the current 2-term limit holds.

The New York Sun says the Citizen’s Union is about to come out with a report detailing how much taxpayer money Council members use to take out advertisements. They also say the Council is expected to halt member ad spending completely. Campaign ads would obviously not be affected, as they are funded by campaign contributions from supporters.

Bronx Council Member Larry Seabrook, no stranger to controversy, was fined $500 for using public campaign matching funds to buy $20,000 worth of office furniture and equipment.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Quinn's Thinking on Term Limits

All the discussion on this blog and elsewhere about candidates seeking City Council seats in 2009 depends almost entirely on the assumption that term limits will kick in then. That's a fair assumption, since that's the law. But when she ran for Council speaker, Christine Quinn indicated that she wanted to extend term limits to three 4-year terms instead of two. I've been wondering lately what became of all this. I haven't heard anything. Until now. Liz Benjamin of the Daily Politicker brings us an update.

Congestion Pricing Forum

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is hosting a forum on congestion pricing tomorrow night in Rivedale. From his press release ....

The forum will be held at Riverdale Temple, located at Independence Avenue and West 246th Street. Speaking in favor of congestion pricing will be Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. Speaking in opposition to congestion pricing will be Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.

Residents of the Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Van Cortlandt Village, Norwood, Woodlawn and Wakefield communities will be given an opportunity to ask questions and make statements on this important issue. I urge you to participate.

Congestion Pricing Forum

When: Thursday, October 11th – 7:30 p.m.

Where: Riverdale Temple – 4545 Independence Avenue

(Independence Avenue and West 246th Street)

Bronx News Roundup for Oct. 10

The murder trial of Norwood resident Jose Calderon is into its second week. Calderon, 19, stands accused of killing Quachaun Browne, 4, the son of his then girlfriend. Yesterday, Quachaun's older sister described the savage beatings Calderon unleashed onto Quachaun in the weeks leading up to his death. The family lived on Kossuth Avenue. Here's how the Norwood News reported the tragedy at the time. Quachaun's mother, Aleshia Smith, has already pled guilty to first degree manslaughter.

Bronx Borough President and mayoral hopeful Adolfo Carrion gets profiled in today's AM New York. It's a mostly positive look at the former school teacher, but it does touch on one of the major controversies of his time as BP, namely the allegation that he removed several Community Board 4 board members for voting against the new Yankee Stadium.

The 2008 Zagat guide for New York City restaurants is out, as is the Michelin one. In the Zagat survey, the Bronx has 28 entries, up from 25 in 2007. Meanwhile, Steve Cuozzo of the Post takes issue with the whole process in a column titled "Take both of these books and stuff' em."

NY1 has a potentially interesting piece about Bronx GED students getting the runaround from an alternative school. Strangely, there's no mention of the school's name or where it is.

According to the The New York Sun, the New York Botanical Garden is about to "unveil the most extensive display of chrysanthemums cultivated in the imperial style that has ever been seen outside of Japan." The exhibit opens on Oct. 20.

The Bronx, not known for its proud soccer tradition, may be harboring the next Freddy Adu in the form of JFK sophomore and goal machine Karamba Janneh.

Who knew? Everyone knows J-Lo was born in the Bronx, but LiLo too? Wikipedia confirms it, so it must be true. Here's a list of other famous Bronxites.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Younger Serrano on Lou Dobbs Tonight

State Senator (and part-time blogger) Jose Marco Serrano, son of Bronx Congressman Jose Serrano, will appear on immigration-obsessed CNN host Lou Dobbs' show tonight between 6:30-7. He will be defending a new DMV policy that allows New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, to apply for a driver's license.

News Roundup, Tuesday, Oct. 9

The most disseminated story coming out of the Bronx is the sad tale of a 17-year-old who is facing charges in the death of his infant son in West Farms. According to reports, the young father wrapped the crying child in blankets, which suffocated him.

Here's a Daily News profile of Donna Futterman, who run the HIV/AIDS program for Monterfiore Medical Center.

The Monroe-Clinton rivalry is the best high school baseball rivalry in the city (though Monroe usually prevails. Soon, two players, one from each school, will ship off to Oklahoma to pursue their baseball dreams at a community college there. Danny Almonte, who gained national notoriety after dominating the Little League Series as a pitcher several years ago until it was discovered that he was two years too old, will be joined by Clinton's Juan Carlos Perez.

The Aquinas Housing Corporation, which is supported partially by City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera, unveiled 73 new affordable housing units yesterday in West Farms.

Two dozen struggling Bronx middle schools will receive extra funding from the city.

Here's a more in-depth look from the Times at the Million Trees Initiative that kicked off in Bronx earlier today.

Bette Midler Brings Trees to the Bronx

Call it the "Wind Beneath Our New Trees."

Performer Bette Midler, who founded the NY Restoration Project (NYRP), Mayor Bloomberg and a slew of other city officials and characters (including two deputy mayors, the cast of Wicked and Big Bird, to name a few) made their way to the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx to plant trees as part of a new city initiative.

Backed by public and private money, the Million Trees NYC iniative is part of the city's PlaNYC, which is designed to make Gotham into the Big "Green" Apple. Bloomberg says the trees initiative will increase the city's "urban forest" by 20 percent.

"To walk under the branches of a tree that you have planted connects you to the roots of our past and the aspirations of our future," Midler said, according to a press release.

At the event, where Bronx officials were scarce (save Bronx Parks Chief Hector Aponte), workers planted about 50 trees at the intersection of 164th and Teller.

Just 999,999,950 to go.

Update: Whoops. Make that 999,950 to go. (Still a rough road ahead though, according to reader Nick.)

Monday, October 8, 2007

News Roundup for Oct. 8, 2007

Here’s an update on when the High Bridge will reopen.

The News and The Times highlight affordable, renovated apartments in Parkchester.

Council Majority Joel Rivera and Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion are among those backing a radio ad campaign addressing NYC’s high school dropout crisis.

On Oct. 15, Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation will formally announce the opening of Jacob’s Place, an affordable housing development on Webster Avenue. This blog item points to actor Owen Wilson’s indirect connection to the building’s solar power.

Murder on Decatur

Continuing a recent uptick in violence in the northwest Bronx, a 25-year-old man was shot to death late Friday night on Decatur Avenue in Norwood. The victim was shot several times during what police believed was a home invasion. The name of the victim has yet to be released and police say the investigation is ongoing.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Links and News Round-up, Friday, Oct. 5

Here's a few links and news stories as the week comes to an end here in the Bronx.

A couple crime stories to get us started:

U.S. Marshals arrested a Bronx man in Wilmington, Del. for allegedly shooting a 24-year-old man who was sitting on milk crate in Williamsbridge.

Two brothers from the northwest Bronx were convicted earlier this week for drug trafficking and murder. According to evidence presented at the trial, Pedro and David Gonzalez operated a large drug depot, selling marijuana and crack cocaine at East 196th Street and Crescent Avenue. Pedro was implicated in the murder of Eugene Soto, who was shot to death on Valentine Avenue in 1996.

A little local politics: The Daily News' Bob Kapstatter reports that Bronx Dem Boss Jose Rivera is throwing his weight around to help his son, City Council Majority Leader Joel, in his upcoming race for Bronx borough president against Ruben Diaz (and possibly Jose Marco Serrano).

Some sports: As everyone probably knows by now, the Yankees fell hard in the their postseason opener, getting shellacked by the Cleveland Indians, 12-3. Here's a story from an Australian paper about how Yankees fans expect nothing but big things (read: a championship and a clutch performance) from $25 million-a-year superstar Alex Rodriguez. Good quotes from local fans, but also a serious lack of baseball knowledge.

Yanks-Indians, game two, starts a little after 5 p.m.

And finally, a little history: Great story today in the Times Metro section by Manny Fernandez about the turnaround on Charlotte Street in the South Bronx. Thirty years ago today, President Jimmy Carter visited this devastated block of rubble and vacant lots. It looked like Berlin after World War II, but it was really just the victim of city/landlord/tenant neglect and extreme poverty.

For more on the Charlotte Street turnaround, read Jill Jonnes' seminal book about the trials, tribulations and, finally, triumphs of the Boogie Down: South Bronx Rising. An updated version now contains a whole chapter about the efforts of activists in the northwest Bronx. This should be required reading for everyone living or working in the Bronx. You can read most of South Bronx Rising here. Seriously, you should read this.

Have a great weekend. Bronx Columbus Day parade starts at noon on Sunday at Morris Park and White Plains Road.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

New Norwood News

Check out the latest issue of the Norwood News on-line.

UNHP Responds to DEP’s 18% mid-Year Water Rate Proposal

DEP’s threat to go to the Water Board for an 18% mid-year rate increase has placed the cost of water in New York City back in the spotlight. City Hall and DEP are apparently hoping to get the City Council to enact legislation to allow the sale of stand alone water liens to bolster revenues from water bills. (Currently, water liens can only be sold if there is an accompanying tax lien.)

Everyone interested in maintaining a safe water supply that is affordable to all New Yorkers should take advantage of the opportunity offered by this political gamesmanship to publicly raise the real issue: the cost of water is out of control and threatens the economic futures of many New Yorkers.

Water bills currently pay for (1) the operation of the system, (2) the debt service on bonds for capital projects related to water and (3) a rental payment to the City of New York. Better collections will help DEP’s financial picture, but other steps must be taken. For instance, the Water Board’s rental agreement with City could be re-negotiated. Few people know that the Water Board’s rental payment this year is $154 million; reducing or eliminating that payment would be a big help this year for the Water Board budget.

Additionally, DEP’s capital budget needs to be examined to determine the necessity of certain projects, the timing of projects and the real costs of projects in construction. For example, the filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park started out as a $1.2 billion job and now the costs are estimated to be $2.8 billion.

The importance of preserving the infrastructure to maintain an ample source of clean water is obvious. But the existing housing stock is an equally important part of the city’s economic infrastructure. Neither can be replaced and both require long-term capital investment. The housing infrastructure’s capital needs will be starved by the cumulative effect of water rate increases that are now being forecast.

We urge the Mayor and City Council to work with the community to develop a comprehensive answer to the water issue.

Jim Buckley, Executive Direcor
Gregory Lobo Jost, Deputy Director

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bronx News Roundup for Oct. 3

Two detectives from the Bronx Warrants Violent Felony Squad were injured this morning in a shootout in a alleyway off Webster Avenue at 188th Street. The assailant, who was uninjured, was arrested at the scene. Both cops have now been released from hospital. The incident comes less than month after a undercover transit worker was shot and badly hurt on a Bronx subway station.

The Bronx has the city's highest infant mortality rate at 7.1 deaths per 1,000 babies born, according to 2006 figures released yesterday. The city average is 5.9 deaths per 1,000 born. The national average is 6.8.

Two cops from the 44th Precinct turned themselves in Sunday to face charges that they assaulted a man outside a Yonkers bar after a bar fight spilled out onto the street. Both men say they're innocent. The 44 serves Highbridge and the surrounding neighborhoods in the southwest Bronx. While crime is down 5 percent on 2006 figures, it's been a difficult 12 months. Last December, approximately 100 people gathered outside the precinct to protest what they saw as police brutality in the fatal shooting of Timur Person, a 19-year-old local resident who reportedly had a gun in his waistband.

The second trial of Edgar Morales, an accused gang member charged with the 2002 murder of a 10-year-old girl, began Monday at State Supreme Court in the Bronx. Morales is being charged not only with murder but with terrorism, under a state law passed just after 9/11. He is thought to be the first gang member charged under the new law. Prosecutors claim that Morales was part of the St. James gang, whom they say committed a string of crimes in the west Bronx. Morales’ lawyer says his client was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, and is being sacrificed to protect the real shooter.

The New York Post reports that the son and daughter of a Norwood woman killed by a city bus last year is suing New York City Transit for negligence. The November 2006 death represented the third time in less than a year that a pedestrian had been killed at Bainbridge Avenue and Gun Hill Road.

Bronx schools are better accommodating the needs of their growing Muslim student populations, according to the Daily News. It comes at a time when a coalition of local and citywide groups is trying to get the Department of Education to incorporate two Muslim holidays into the official school calendar. More here in the April 19 edition of the Norwood News.

Two Norwoodians’ Perspectives From Afar

Thanks to their proud parents, I just came across the blogs of two young men – native Norwoodians – who now live very far away.

Mike Dunford, a Hawaii-based graduate student, posted this beautiful piece about the lasting impression and life lessons of his Little League coach.

Here’s an excerpt:

When I was a kid, baseball was very important to me. It was very important to most of the boys growing up in my neighborhood. Almost all of the boys (and a handful of the girls) at my school signed up for Little League most years. The season started with a parade - and what kid doesn't like to be in a parade - and ended with everyone getting a trophy. It was great.

The only problem was that I wasn't very good at baseball. That wasn't much of a handicap the first couple of years, but as games got more competitive I found myself spending less time playing, and more time sitting. And sitting takes a lot of the fun out of the game. Little league went from being something I loved to something I didn't care about. But then I wound up on Mr. Preda's team.

Read more here.

And Aaron Charlop-Powers writes insightfully about his experiences and impressions of life in India, where he now works for the American World Jewish Service.

Today is Gandhi’s birthday. My roommates ask me if I know who he is, smirking as they poke the helpless American, a test and a joke. I am almost offended that they might think I don’t know who he is, parts of me want to ask back, do you know who Gandhi is? It is just a question and it is meant to test me in part but they mean well. Still, this question screams of a deeper problem: no one knows how to relate to me, understand what I am doing, or how I am here. Sometimes the phrasing of this fellowship is hollow despite its best intention to sloganize our work here, and yet there is no resonance at all, from hollow language or my attempts to tell people what I am doing. American Jewish World Services (AJWS) has devolved into just another acronym, pronounced like ‘address’ with a j instead of the double d sound. That I could be a college graduate who has read about Gandhi, who is understanding of his message and sympathetic to the people he tried to uplift just does not register with my roommates or anyone else I meet, the culture of my good will butting heads with the dominant culture of this city.

Read more here.

Monday, October 1, 2007

News Roundup for Oct. 1

Gothamist recently had this tasty feature about a couple of good spots to find bánh mí--Vietnamese sandwiches-- in the Bronx. While the article tends towards Christopher Columbus journalism -- i.e., "discovering" what is already well-established-- it is still worth the read.

A Bronx County Family court judge has agreed to permanently resign after landing in hot water for violating court rules and frequently insulting those who entered her courtroom. The state Commission on Judicial Conduct had been investigating Judge Marian R. Shelton for incidents such as referring to a Carribbean man's appearance as "bizarre" and his braids as "stupid things" ; and referring to another man as a "pig." Incidentally, Shelton was appointed by Mayor Guiliani in 1998.

Last Tuesday, The ESPN miniseries "The Bronx Is Burning" -- about the whirlwind year that was 1977 in New York City -- was released on DVD. To mark the occassion, the Web site undergroundonline.com interviewed two members of the '77 Yankees ; Graig Nettles and Mickey Rivers. Read what they had to say about the accuracy of the ESPN miniseries.

Aspiring South Bronx filmmakers have garnered some media attention over the past few weeks. On the heels of Ben Sisario's September 13 article about Mott Haven's Ghetto Film School, yesterday's New York Times had this piece by Joseph P. Fried about two Bronx high-schoolers working on autobiographical short films. The two students are part of the Media Fellowship, a program offered by the Downtown Community Television Center.

A Remedy for Rising Foreclosures

Foreclosures in the Bronx jumped to an all-time high for the 3rd Quarter of 2007, according to Bronx nonprofit University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP). 441 one-to-four family homes went into foreclosure during the most recent quarter, topping the previous high of 438 set in the 1st Quarter this year.

While the majority of the foreclosures occurred in the East Bronx, both the Northwest Bronx and the South Bronx continue to display an alarming number of foreclosures, despite having fewer 1-4 family homes. In fact, the largest percent increase in the most recent quarter was in the Northwest Bronx, where filings jumped 39% to 74.

It is against this backdrop that UNHP will host its Homeownership Preservation Workshop, Thursday October 4th from 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Bronx homeowners will learn what they can do to avoid foreclosure, and have the opportunity to speak to foreclosure prevention counselors from local non-profits. In addition, two large area lenders, Chase and Washington Mutual, will also be on hand to speak with their borrowers. The workshop is free, and will be held at Concourse House, 2751 Grand Concourse at the corner of E 196th Street.

For more information please contact Eric Fergen, UNHP’s Outreach Coordinator at 718-933-2539 or fergen@unhp.org.

Founded in 1983, University Neighborhood Housing Program is a nonprofit organization working to create, preserve and finance affordable housing in the Bronx.