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Monday, June 30, 2008

Bronx 'Gladiator' on TV Tonight

“Push your body as far as it can go,” read the text message from personal trainer Jessica Garcia’s father.

This was just one of the countless calls and text messages from friends, teachers and family members that the Bronx native and “American Gladiators” challenger has received the week before her upcoming debut on Monday night’s show.

“My mother always knew I was destined to do something big in fitness,” Garcia said in a phone interview. “She helps me remember where I’m from.”

Garcia, 25, spent her childhood living on Marion Avenue, but moved to Throgs Neck at the age of 9. At first, the peppy, pint-sized Puerto Rican found it difficult to fit in with the largely Irish and Italian neighbors, but became more outgoing and independent through cheerleading.

Read the rest of Stephen Baron's story here.

Bedford Park is HOT!!

The citywide media have discovered the appeal of Bedford Park. Time Out New York and the New York Times almost simultaneously featured the neighborhood in its pages over the last week. The Times highlighted it in its "If Your Thinking of Living in ..." series and Time Out included it in a package of short articles about neighborhoods along the subway lines.

Just a couple of minor quibbles -- The Times piece says a coffee shop may be opening across from Lehman College, but there are already two bustling ones very close by on Bedford Park Boulevard. And the caption on the picture of the kid skateboarding has him misplaced in Bronx Park, rather than what is obviously Mosholu Parkway.

Hey Bedford Park residents! What do you think of all the attention? Do you want to be discovered or would you rather the attributes of your community be your little secret?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Got the Blues?

We all feel a little blue on Monday mornings. But if you missed the SaRon Crenshaw Blues Band's performance on Saturday night at the Bronx River Art Center, you might be feeling even more blue than usual. More than 30 aficionados braved passing thunderstorms and piled into the Bronx River Art Center. They were rewarded with a soulful, energetic performance by the five members of the band. This final installment of the fifth annual June performing arts festival was a resounding success.

And while Daddy Day Care isn't the best movie in Eddie Murphy's filmography, there's something special about watching a movie outdoors during the summer in the Bronx! These young people were joined by parents and families who enjoyed the movie after finishing games of Ecuavoli.

The next Movie on the Green at the Williamsbridge Oval is Bee Movie, showing on Friday, July 11 (movies start after sunset- more like 8:30 to 8:45pm rather than the 7:45pm time advertised by Assemblywoman Rivera's office.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bronx News Round-up

Here's a bundle of recent Bronx news stories, courtesy of one of our talented young reporters, Stephen Baron.

Bronx HIV Testing Push
The city health department wants every Bronx adult to get a free HIV test over the next three years, officials announced today.

To tie in with National HIV Testing Day, the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is launching the largest HIV testing initiative in the city’s history. The campaign, called “The Bronx Knows,” also hopes to reach the 250,000 Bronx adults who have never been tested.

Though the Bronx beats the other boroughs in testing rate, Bronxites count for nearly a quarter of the city’s HIV infections and a third of AIDS deaths each year. Among Bronx residents who tested positive in 2006, more than a quarter were already sick with AIDS.

The Norwood News has previously reported on Montefiore’s Adolescent AIDS Program and Bronx AIDS Services.

Bronxites can visit any of one of 40 testing locations in the borough for a free, confidential HIV test. Visit here for a listing of locations.

Pathways Saved
The Bronx alternative high school Individual Pathways at Walton High School will be open for at least one more year, which comes as a relief to neighborhood residents, the Daily News reports.

School Funding Restored
City Council restored $129 million to stave off school budget cuts in the approved budget last night, though the school funding came at the expense of money usually given to “library services, cultural affairs, legal aid, seniors and government services,” the Daily News reports.

Fordham and Botanical Garden
Fordham University announced with the New York Botanical Garden a new graduate degree program to receive a master’s degree or doctorate in environmental science, the Daily News reports.

Lehman College Student Raped
Police are on the hunt for a rapist who attacked a Lehman College student in her Washington Heights apartment, the Daily News reports. Police have not released the name of the 19-year-old student.

Fun Happenings in the West Bronx this Weekend

There are some great outdoor activities happening in the Bronx this weekend:

Free Movie at Williambsbridge Oval
Friday, June 27 at 7:45pm
Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera is hosting a free movie at the Williamsbridge Oval (entrance is on Bainbridge Avenue and Reservoir Oval). Tonight's showing is "Daddy Day Care," featuring Eddie Murphy. For a full listing of the movies, concerts, and festivals being sponsored by the Assemblywoman's office click here.

SaRon Crenshaw Blues Band at Drew Gardens
Saturday, June 28 at 8pm (suggested contribution is $10)
On Saturday, the Bronx River Art Center is offering its third and final concert as part of the Bronx River Sounds June Performing Arts Festival. Drew Gardens is located on E. Tremont across from the Bronx River Art Center (1087 E. Tremont Ave between Boston Road and E. 177th Street). The performance will feature original songs and classic blues covers from SaRon Crenshaw, an old school blues player. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be held at the Bronx River Art Center.

Armory Community Benefits Agreement Highlighted in Times Article

Members of Kingsbridge Armory Development Alliance rallied in front of the landmarked facility last October.

The New York Times highlighted the issues and tensions surrounding the local demand for a Community Benefits Agreement for the Kingsbridge Armory in a June 25 article.

Members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance say, before they can support the Related Companies plans for rehabbing the facility, they want a signed agreement laying out wages and hiring standards for workers and tenants.and guarantees concerning community space and facilities.

Related says they're more accustomed to working with the local community board -- in this case, Community Board 7. Board 7 chair Greg Faulkner tells the Times, "There are more voices than KARA."

And the city is opposed to a CBA, arguing that the city's land use process provides "ample opportunity for the community's voices to be heard."

Read the whole article here.

Kingsbridge Nursing Home Crisis

I'll start out with a disclsoure: The Kingsbridge Nursing Home, where the workers have been on strike for four months, is practically right across the street from where I live in Kingsbridge Heights. I don't write much on the blog about where I live, since it's just outside the Norwood News coverage area. But this is hard to ignore for many reasons -- for the sheer presence and persistence of the health care workers on the picket line 24 hours a day, for concerns about the health and safety of the patients inside, for the refusal of Nursing Home owner Helen Siger to negotiate, and for all the alleged financial irregularities and violations such as the Workmen Compensation's Board charge that Siger hasn't paid into the fund for 13 months.

A Daily News article today lists all the problems.

There has been a lot of political attention to this issue and state investigations are ongoing. Politicians, including U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, have rallied with workers and community members. If ever there were a situation that required government intervention it is here. It shouldn't take 5 months for government to act on an issue as serious and life-threatening as this. We'll be keeping tabs on the situation here until there is some resolution ...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New in the Norwood News

Fresh, hot off the presses news from the Norwood News is online and on the streets now. A quick preview:

-Local residents lambasted the DEP's plan to use explosives to blast out a shaft at the Jerome Park Reservoir. Because of space issues, the story doesn't go into much detail about the meeting where residents railed against the blasting plan. So here we'd like to say that residents spoke adamantly and eloquently about the fact that they needed more information on how the plan would be implemented and more evidence that blasting is the way to go. They did not appreciate the DEP's attitude or officials saying, essentially: "Trust us." They've been there, done that.

On a side not, this may have angered residents around the Jerome Park Reservoir who have been sitting on the sidelines while community and political anger has risen about the filtration plant project (skyrocketing costs, possible corruption) in Van Cortlandt Park. Not good for the DEP. Here's our editorial on the DEP's latest setback.

-We have an interesting feature story about Norwood musician and artist Ibrahim Gonzalez who's career has taken some intriguing twists and turns since he met independent film icon Melvin Van Peebles three years ago. Read the story here.

-A quick story on the 100-year anniversary of the University Heights Bridge.

-Bronx entrepreneurs get a leg up at the third annual North Bronx Economic Development Summit.

Also, find out what's happening in the local entertainment and art scene in our Out & About section. And find out about local programs, events and services in our expanded online version of Neighborhood Notes.

Sign up for a free Norwood News account and receive breaking news updates and our bi-weekly e-mail blast here.

Hunts Point Express On-Line

The latest issue of the Hunts Point Express is on the streets and 0n-line. The Express is published by Bernard Stein (former Riverdale Press editor and owner) and his journalism students at Hunter College.

Block Party Planning Session

On Aug. 30, a block party - billed as the first ever in the neighborhood - is being held on Cedar Avenue, between Fordham Road and the Hall of Fame Terrace (opposite University Woods).

A planning session for the event will take place at 11 a.m. this Saturday, at University Heights Presbyterian Church (2617 University Ave.), with the idea of giving local residents an opportunity to discuss what they'd like to see at the party and in their neighborhood at large.

The planning session and the party are being organized by the church and by Brandy Cochrane, founder of Friends of the Woods. (Sponsors include Hands On New York). University Woods, near BCC, is often derided as New York City's worst park, but Cochrane tells me that conditions have improved markedly in recent months, to the extent that she's now organizing park tours instead of clean-ups. Still, that might not save the Woods - the local community board wants to see the land developed.

For information about this Saturday, call (718) 295-1220 or 718-228-9309, or
e-mail thewoods@inbox.com.

Housing Conference

Council member Helen Foster is hosting a housing conference tonight at South Bronx Jobs Corp., at 1771 Andrews Ave., from 5:30 to 9 p.m. The theme is "Tenant Education: Gentrification and Affordability." All are welcome. Registration and dinner will be followed by two panels.

Panel 1: Gentrification

*Private Equity - Diego Gerana Quinones, CASA
*Vacancy Decontrol - Joya Colon, Housing Here & Now
*Mitchell-Lama Issues - Lenora Nelson, Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition
*Sub-Prime & Foreclosures - Oscar Morillo, Neighborhood Housing Services

Panel 2: Affordabailty

*Housing Court - Jessica Hurd, Bronx Task Force on Housing Court
*Homelessness - Robert Robinson, Picture the Homeless
*Section 8 - Kate Johnston, Tenants & Neighbors
*Public Housing - Joanne Smitherman, South Bronx Council of Association Presidents

For more information, call Foster's district office at (718) 588-7500.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Construction Workers Escape Accident with Minor Injuries

Two construction workers narrowly avoided death after a large panel of bricks unexpectedly ripped off the side of a Montefiore Medical Center research building earlier this morning, knocking them off their scaffolding rig.

Both workers were taken to the nearby emergency room, but they sustained only minor injuries.

After being knocked from their scaffolding rig, the workers were dangling by their safety harnesses 10 stories above ground for five or six minutes, witnesses said, as fellow construction workers reeled them back to safety.

Read the rest of the story here.

Bronx Officials -- Well, Maybe Only Helen Foster -- Call for Yankees and City to Do Right Thing on Replacement Parks

NY1 has this report about "Bronx officials" calling for the city and the Yankees to hold up their ends of the deal on the delayed and diminished replacement parks that were promised in return for the taking of Mullaly and Macombs Dam Parks. But the only official quoted is Helen Foster.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Carlin's Bronx Roots

The New York Times' David Gonzalez remembers George Carlin's complicated, yet humorous, Bronx roots. The legendary comedian died yesterday at the age of 71.

Hillary in the Bronx

Hillary Clinton made her first post-primary appearance yesterday -- in the Bronx. She came to the Pelham Prepartory School to speak at graduation, fulfilling a promise she made four years ago to a student who, with her mother, has volunteered for her campaigns.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bronx BP to Host Obama, McCain

Next Saturday, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, will host presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama in his role as chair of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. We reported recently that Carrion had left the door open to possibly serving in an Obama administration in an appearance on NY1.

Jose Rivera in Hospital

Assemblyman and Bronx Democratic Party Chair Jose Rivera has been in Montefiore Medical Center since Sunday with a kidney stone, according to Liz Benjamin at the Daily News Politicker blog.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Discussing the Concourse ...

I guess in addition to Bronx Week, it's also Concourse Week ...
Here a notice of an interesting panel discussion tomorrow ...



FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 6:00 PM

WHAT: The Bronx Museum is proud to present “Grand Concourse: Cultural Crossroads” – a panel discussion about grassroots initiatives that foster and promote dialogue among diverse populations and how the Grand Concourse serves as an axis drawing new waves of immigrant communities. This dynamic panel will also discuss how the Bronx community is growing through the arts.

WHO: Panelists include: Gail Nathan, (Bronx River Art Center); Rosalba Rolón, (Pregones Theater); and Juanita Lanzó, (Longwood Art Gallery). This insightful discussion will be moderated by Holly Block, Executive Director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Admission: $5.00, free for Bronx Museum members

For more information, please visit www.bronxmuseum.org

WHEN: Friday, June 27, 2008,

Cocktail Hour – 6pm

Panel Discussion – 7pm

WHERE: The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse

Concourse Rezoning Hearing

Here's word via Sen. Jose M. Serrano about a scoping meeting tonight on rezoning the lower Grand Concourse ....

The Dept. of City Planning has announced plans to re-zone the Lower Concourse. A public scoping meeting will be held tonight at Hostos Community College to solicit comments and input with regard to the draft scope of work. Senator Serrano (who's in Albany, for the end of legislative session) will have staff on hand to deliver his testimony. The Senator encourages all residents to come and share their own testimony. Nobody knows the Bronx better than Bronxites, and it's so important for City Planning officials to hear from you. A successful re-zoning process depends on strong community engagement!
When: TONIGHT, June 19 at 4 p.m.
Where: Hostos Community College
450 Grand Concourse, 3rd Floor

For additional information, contact the Dept. of City Planning's Bronx Borough Office at (718) 220-8500

A Watchful Eye on Fordham Road


Sky Watch, a mobile surveillance tower used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, is becoming an increasingly popular policing tool in high-crime neighborhoods across the city.

The tower pictured above, currently stationed on Fordham Road near the Grand Concourse, will be around for a few weeks, possibly longer, according to the 46th Precinct. Cops hope it will help combat - among other things - the recent spike in cell phone robberies in the area.

Needless to say, the New York Civil Liberties Union haven't exactly embraced the NYPD's new toy. More here in an article we wrote last year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

If a Tree Falls in the Bronx ...

It’s Bronx Week, but that doesn’t mean the Bronx is getting its due from the rest of the city. Just the opposite.

Yesterday, the mayor announced, with great fanfare and even rock icon David Byrne by his side, that the city was going to do something unprecedented and really groundbreaking by creating a car-free zone for three Sundays over the summer along a 7-mile stretch in Manhattan. The idea, they said was a big success in London, Paris, and even Bogota!

“…(w)e have never been afraid to try new ideas, especially the ones that have the potential to improve the quality of life,” the mayor said.

If they had looked in the files, or maybe even asked a civil servant at DOT, they would have discovered the idea was not at all new, and was implemented in the Bronx almost 20 years ago.

For five years, beginning in the early 1990s, 40 blocks of the center mall of the Grand Concourse were closed to car traffic, so residents could bike, walk, jog, skate and play along the historic thoroughfare for 12 summer Sundays.

Mayor Giuliani shut down the popular program probably because its chief cheerleader, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, was expected to challenge him in the following year’s mayoral race. (We covered this in a 1996 article and editorial, which we’ll get on-line shortly.) The program partially returned to a smaller portion of the Concourse the last two years, Crotona Park last month, and advocates are now trying to move it to Crotona Parkway.

Even cycling advocates Transportation Alternatives seemed to be oblivious to this history, even though they were in the forefront of opposing the Concourse program’s shutdown . “It’s a new way to use a street, using it more as a park than as a thoroughfare,” said Paul Steely White, the group’s executive director, in the Times yesterday.

The myopia is chronic. Today in the Times, there was an article about trees felled by recent storms in Central Park.

Reading it, you would think the storms had it in only for Central Park, and skipped over every other city park.

Just driving down Mosholu and Pelham parkways in the Bronx, you can see the massive damage done. And we just got off the phone with Christina Taylor at the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, who reports that indeed many trees have fallen in the park, the city’s third largest, including one that came down on Van Cortlandt Park East and smashed a few cars.

So, trees did fall in the Bronx, and innovative ideas originate here, too, even if most people outside the borough choose not to pay attention.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Bronx Honors... Washington Heights resident Dr. Ruth

The Village Voice has a funny piece on sex therapist Dr. Ruth's induction, this week, into the Bronx Walk of Fame.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Haile Rivera Suspends Council Bid

Is it all over before it began?

Community activist and University Heights resident Haile Rivera has decided to press the pause button on his run for City Council. "I'm suspending my campaign," he said in an interview this afternoon.

More here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More on SG2 and Private Equity

Opinion by blogger Gregory Lobo Jost:
In addition to Private Equity landlord SG2's buying and selling, the Daily News Bronx Section reports on the continued lack of cooking gas at 1530 Sheridan Ave. Tenants have been making due with electric two-burner counter-top stoves since the end of December, with many tenants reporting problems.

This potential sale of two dozen properties represents more than a third of SG2's portfolio; according to our own research, the firm owns about 70 buildings with 4,700 apartments in the Bronx. Overall in 2007, private equity groups paid a significantly higher price per unit ($83,300) for their Bronx apartment buildings than other buyers ($76,000), expecting higher returns through "maximizing income potential" (read, raising rents through various means).

It's curious that SG2 is trying to flip some of their buildings so quickly. It may be that they are trying to cash out while there are still buyers willing to pay extremely high prices despite soaring operating costs (fuel and water being prime examples). It could be that they are realizing that the "upside potential" in these properties isn't meeting expectations, as tenants are already paying half of their income on rent and the gentry fails to arrive in the Bronx.

Unfortunately, the extremely high sales prices being paid for west Bronx rent stabilized properties means many tenants will be forced out to cheaper parts of the City. (Oh wait - there aren't any parts of the city that are cheaper!) Of course, the possibility exists that tenants able and willing to pay the higher rents won't materialize in our neighborhoods, but that isn't good news either: buildings may likely fall into disrepair and may even end up in foreclosure. (Read more on this here and here.)

Meanwhile, I just found out last week that my building is also for sale for more than $120,000 per unit! Hopefully no one, especially a private equity firm, will buy it.

Equity Firm SG2 May Sell Bronx Bldgs.

SG2, the private equity firm that bought more than 50 Bronx buildings last year for $300 million is considering selling "a portion" of its portfolio.
SG2's properties include the Lewis Morris, where there was a tragic fire shortly after its purchase.

Adolfo Eyeing D.C.?

Adolfo Carrion may be running for city comptroller but he seems to be more than a little intrigued with the idea of serving in a potential Obama administration.
Asked on NY1 last night if, considering his friendship and recent meeting with Obama, he would take a job working for a President Obama, Carrion said something very close to the following (we're working on getting the exact quote): "If the President of the United States calls you into national service, you better have a very good reason for saying no." That's going much further than the usual noncommittal response politicians give like, "My only focus right now is to represent the people I've been elected to serve," or "I have no plans to do anything but serve out my term as Bronx borough president and run for city comptroller."
Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mount Hope's New Community Center

Here's a shot, taken today, of Mount Hope Housing Company's architecturally striking community center, which will open this summer. The center, on 175th Street at Walton Avenue, will serve up to 2,000 people at day. Later this year, a gymnasium will be built alongside. More here.

Talking of community centers, Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club has begun renovating the former Hebrew Institute building at 1835 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The project, 15 years in the making, has been beset by various construction and funding issues. Work began in May and is expected to take 12-14 months. More here and here.

A Look at Seabrook

Tom Robbins talks to Bronx Council Member Larry Seabrook and reviews his brushes with scandal -- current and past -- in this Village Voice article. Not a pretty picture.

Wanted: Web Development Intern

Regular readers might wonder why we've changed the look of theblog a few times in the last several months. Well, we're trying to figure out which template in Blogger (which is a Google program for blogging) suits our needs the best.

In fact, we are looking for a tech-savvy Web development intern (ideal for a motivated high school or college student) to work with us this summer on developing the blog further and the individual Web sites of the Network publications, like the Mount Hope Monitor's new site. If you or anyone you know is interested, e-mail us at norwoodnews-at-norwoodnews.org.

Online Now: June's Mount Hope Monitor

The June edition of the Mount Hope Monitor is now online.

Stories include:

Women's Homeless Shelter to Open on Jerome

At Paradise Theater, Hip-Hop Stars Cut the Cussing

Bronx Dominicans Make Their Voices Heard

New Bank on Burnside

A Bloody Memorial Day Weekend in the Four-Six

Also inside (but not online) is the second edition of Bronx Youth Heard, a newpaper written by high school students enrolled in the West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative. Classes, held on Wednesday afternoons from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., start again in the fall. Click here for information on how to apply. And follow this link to read about the previous semester.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Breaking News Alert

This just in: It's really hot in the Bronx!

Michael Negron (left), 12, and Brandon Minaya, 13, cool off outside of the offices of the Norwood News.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

BP's Office Hosting Homebuyer/Homeowner Fair Saturday

The Borough President's Office, Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC, and HPD are co-sponsoring a homebuyer and homeowner fair this Satuday, June 7 from 10am-4pm at the Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice, 244 East 163rd Street (behind courthouse).

Other co-sponsors include NIDC and the Parodneck foundation, both of whom provide foreclosure prevention counseling services. Here's a link to the flyer.

University Neighborhood Housing Program also has links and resources for homebuyers and a homeownership guide on its website.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Diaz Comes Out Against Gay Marriage

State Sen. Rev Ruben Diaz expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage last week.

Here is the statement Diaz released last Thursday, which suggests he opposes Paterson's decision both personally and politically:

"As a New York State Senator representing the 32nd Senatorial District in
Bronx County, President of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization and
Pastor of the Christian Community Neighborhood Church, I am very
disappointed with Governor Paterson’s decision to recognize same sex
marriages from other states.

"I believe that Governor Paterson has joined many judges from throughout the
nation that have taken the position to legislate against the will of the
people. New York State legislators have not approved homosexual marriages
and I believe that it will never happen as long as the Republican Party
controls the majority in the New York State Senate.

Furthermore, even if we Democrats get to the majority next year, I will not vote for it based on myreligion and beliefs."

Cop Kills Wife's Mugger in Bedford Park

A frightening scene erupted outside of a Bedford Park apartment building on Saturday night when a gun-wielding mugger attacked an off-duty police officer's wife and 3-year-old daughter.

According to the Daily News, Officer Nadin Perez, 43, who works in Manhattan, opened his apartment door to find someone pointing a gun at his wife, who was screaming for help, and daughter.

Perez pulled out his own gun, secured his family behind him and then chased after the attacker down the apartment building's stairs, firing several shots. At least a couple of those shots hit their intended target, Carlos Ruiz, 47, who later died at Montefiore Medical Center.

Police are saying the shooting was justified because Ruiz had at least one gun, possibly two. It's unclear, however, if he actually fired any shots at Perez.

Listen to an audio report on the shooting from 1010 WINS.

Citing police sources, the NY Post reported that Perez's wife, Jeanette, was holding "$20,000 in gambling winnings that she was holding for a jailed man" when she was attacked by Rios.