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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Times: Bloomberg to Seek Third Term

The Times just put up a story on it Web site that reports that Mayor Bloomberg will push a change in the term limits law so that he can seek a third term.

Here's an editorial about the issue from the Norwood News.

Green Grub in Hunts Point

On Thursday, a seafood business in Hunts Point will unveil the city's "first all electric delivery vehicle," according to a press release from the Bronx Borough President's Office.

What: A zero-emissions delivery truck
Where: Down East Seafood at 311 Manida St.
When: Oct. 2, at 11 a.m.
Who: Louis Torres, from BCC's Center For Sustainable Energy;
Congressman Jose E. Serrano; Frank Randazzo, from the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.; representatives of N.Y.S.E.R.D.A, Smith Electric and D.O.T.

A small step, perhaps, but it's welcome news in a neighborhood with more than its fair share of environmental concerns.

Interestingly, the Bronx seems to get a lot of "firsts" when it comes to green innovation. Our borough boasts the city's first green library, its first green affordable homes, and what will be one of the first green schools. The Bronx is also the borough with the greenest roofs.

More on Bronx Dems Shakeup, Failed Bailout Fallout and More in Bronx News Roundup, Tuesday, Sept. 30

First of all, we apologize for the lateness of this post. But it's here, so let's get to the news. [Editor's note: Keep the comments coming, we love to hear the passion. But not the foul language or personal attacks.]

Bailout Fallout and Serrano
Bronx Congressman Jose E. Serrano is getting a lot of attention for voting against the House bailout plan that failed to pass yesterday (the only city rep to do so, and one of only four out of 29 in the entire Empire State).

Here's the Times blog story, which goes into some detail about Serrano's liberal leanings and possible motivations. And here's the WNYC story, where the reporter takes to a trader, Anthony Weiner (both liked the plan) and Serrano, who opposed it.

Bronx Democrats
More musings about the struggle for power among Bronx Democrats in Daily News Borough Chief Bob Kappstatter's column this week. (And credits Norwood News Editor Jordan Moss with getting an "up-close" look at the action. Thanks Bob.) A nice little tidbit in there from Hector Ramirez, the district leader in the 86th District who sided with the insurgents, who said embattled Bronx Boss (or not) Jose Rivera came up to him at the meeting and told him: "I'll see you on the street." Once again, thanks Bob.

Borough's Same-Sex Couples More Likely to Have Kids
A very interesting story in the Times about a recenlty released study that found that "same-sex couples in the Bronx are more likely to have children than those in another borough." A couple of interesting stats from the story:

  • There are 3,000 same-sex couples in the Bronx.
  • 49% of the Bronx's same-sex couples have children.
  • 11% of the city's same-sex couples live in the Bronx.
Here's a great quote from Lisa Winters, the executive director of the Bronx Community Pride Center, the borough's only center for gays and lesbians, on the Bronx's gay scene:

"The Bronx lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has largely been a hidden community for a very long time because of very real homophobia. The Bronx is a very machismo borough, and it’s a very religious borough. The religious institutions have a very strong foothold here, and they preach from the pulpit that homosexuality is a sin. But the world is starting to change and the Bronx is finally getting in line."

Congressmen Talk about Bailout on WNYC

A few members of Congress, including Jose Serrano of the Bronx, are on Brian Lehrer's WNYC show right now (93.9 FM and 820 AM) talking about the bailout.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Film Festival in the South Bronx

This Friday, and running through the weekend, SBX Industries will hold a film festival in the South Bronx. Locations include the Bruckner Bar & Grill, Haven Art Gallery, and Pregones Theater.

Hip-hop classic Krush Groove and the highly acclaimed Maldeamores are among the featured movies. There's also various shorts and documentaries.

The three-day event wraps up Sunday night with a closing reception at the G-Bar on the Grand Concourse.

I can't seem to find a phone number for SBX Industries (presumably they're a new group, as there's next to nothing about them online). But you should be able to get additional information (if necessary) from Steve Rodriguez, their community relations director, at sar1063[at]aol.com. He sent out the original e-mail/press release.

Boogiedowner has more festival details.

Serrano Votes Against Wall Street Bailout

Earlier today, The House of Representatives rejected a $700 billion package designed to rescue the country's devastated financial industry.

Bronx Congressman Jose E. Serrano was one of those to vote against the plan. In a statement he said:

I understand the need to shore up our nation’s big banks to prevent a larger problem, but I cannot support such an action if it does nothing to help the millions of people facing foreclosure. Leaving them out of this package is shortsighted and guarantees that we will have to address the problem in the next Congress.

We must face the fact that the crisis in Wall Street stems from a mortgage crisis on Main Street. If we only bail out Wall Street, we have not addressed the root cause of the problem.

This is a tax on my constituents – the working people – to erase the consequences of the bad judgment of the fat cats down on Wall Street. I cannot support such a bill.

UPDATE: According to Crain's, Serrano was the only one of the city's 13 Representatives to vote no.

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 29

As mentioned in the previous posts, it was a busy weekend for politics in the Bronx.

It was also a rather violent one. Early Sunday, a twenty-something man was shot dead at 315 East 143rd St. On that same day, three men were shot in front of 1150 Elder Avenue. One died at the hospital and the other two are in stable condition.

Police efforts to disrupt a narcotics operation in Fordham early this morning resulted in gunfire, as well as an arrest.

Deliveryman Fengwang Chen, 31, was shot on E. 229th St. on Saturday at around 7:20 p.m. while attempting to deliver an order. He remains in critical condition but is expected to survive. While his attackers took the $22 worth of pork fried rice, wings, and fries, they didn’t bother to take the $280 in Chen’s pocket. The Chinese Restaurant alliance is offering a $3,000 reward for information on the suspects.

In another unfortunate event on E. 229th, two brothers , 11 and 14, went missing after leaving their apartment around 7:45 a.m. Friday. For more information on how to help, click here.

Less violently, three stores in Bedford are waging war over the size of their awnings. As the Norwood News previously reported, Bedford Park Gourmet Deli and Rose Flower Chinese restaurants complained that the Kennedy Fried Chicken and Biscuit’s awning blocked their own signs. The Deli owner subsequently bought Rose Flower its own awning, which now covers Kennedy’s sign on one side.

A Bronx apartment building on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, dubbed as “the birthplace of hip-hop” will be sold this week. Residents and housing advocates filed a law suit in the State Supreme Court to prevent the sale. However, the court ruled in favor of the landlord last Friday. Advocates worry that, with the sale and the building's removal from the Mitchell Lama housing program, rents will spiral through the roof.

Another former Bronx resident making news, Leonard Kleinrock, was one of eight awarded a Medal of Science this morning at a gala at the White House. He attended Bronx High School of Science and received a Bachelors from City college of New York and a Ph.D. from M.I.T. Kleinrock.

School Report Cards

A couple of weeks ago, the Department of Education released its annual public school report cards. Each school received a grade - A through F.

This year, 64 Bronx schools received an A. At the other end of the scale, seven were slapped with an F. In 2007, the first year grades were given, these numbers were 65 and 10 respectively (if my math is correct). On the surface, then, there hasn’t been much of a change. But some schools received radically different grades to last year. PS 92 in East Tremont, for example, has gone from an A to an F.

See here for the 2008 figures, and here for 2007’s.

Not everyone has warmed to the DOE’s new report cards. Last year, for instance, P.S. 79 on Creston Avenue received an F. Later it was announced that the school was being phased out because of poor performance. Teachers were furious, calling the grade and the closure grossly unjust.

School grades are determined by the percentage of students passing state tests, the improvement of these test scores over time, and the school’s environment. In a meeting with reporters last Friday, Leo Casey of the United Federation of Teachers, said the grading system is incredibly complicated. “No one can understand how it all works,” he said.

Casey says that schools should be graded over a longer period of time – ideally three years. “A school doesn’t change radically overnight,” he said. He’d also like to see graduation rates factored in.

Randi Weingarten, the UFT's president, says the results have left many New Yorkers bewildered.

Joel Klein, the DOE’s chancellor, on the other hand, says the grades are fair and necessary. "Most parents in the city will want this information," he told reporters last Friday. (Both the meeting with Klein and the one with the UFT were organized by the New York Community Media Alliance.)

"Most people don’t in the end like accountability," Klein said in explaining the criticism the report cards have received. He added that the DOE has a monopoly on education in the city - which more or less guarantees jobs for life - but that shouldn't stop teachers and schools from being critiqued.

Does anyone have thoughts on this? What do students, teachers, or parents out there think about the grade their school received? We’ll have more about these report cards in Thursday’s Norwood News and October’s Mount Hope Monitor.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Taste of the Proceedings

Just to add to the post below, here's a little video taste of what went on inside the Paradise Theater tonight. Jose Rivera left the theater with his supporters after he spoke.

video

A Democratic Committee Meeting to Remember

Just a smattering of the participants in tonights meeting(s) lining up
to sign in the lobby of the Paradise Theater. (All photos by Jordan Moss)


It's Sunday night at 10:15 p.m. and I've just gotten back from the Utopia (formerly Loew's) Paradise Theater on the Concourse where the Bronx County Democratic Committee met to to elect a chairman.

I wish I could just simply report to you who was elected chairman but it is a tad more complicated than that.

There were basically two meetings tonight. In the first one, Council Member Maria Baez presided over the meeting, ignoring those challenging Jose Rivera for the chairmanship. Assemblyman Carl Heastie, Rivera's challenger, sat quietly at a table with Stanley Schlein, the party lawyer, who severed his long-time allegiance to Rivera recently and joined forces with the so-called Rainbow Rebels. The word from the Rebels who were milling around the audience was that they were just patiently waiting for the end of what they considered an illegal meeting to begin their meeting, which is exactly what they did.

Council Member Maria Baez presiding over 'first' meeting.

Baez, and later Council Member Larry Seabrook, asked for a voice vote on the leadership motions, but they only acknowledged the ayes. They ignored the no votes, even when they were significantly louder than the yeses. Rivera gave a brief, defiant acceptance speech and then led all of his supporters out of the theater.

Then the Rainbow Rebels took the stage and went through a number of procedural motions which ended in the election of officers, including Assemblyman Carl Heastie (east Bronx/Wakefield) as chairman of the executive committee, which is the county leader position. Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, one of the architects of the takeover, was elected chairman of the county committee, which is the position Heastie held previously. Assemblyman Michael Benedetto was elected treasurer, and Assemblyman Michael Benjamin was elected parliamentarian; Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene retained her position as secretary.

Assemblyman Carl Heastie, Rivera's likely replacement, and lawyer Schlein.

This will certainly end up in court tomorrow or sometime later this week, but it's hard to imagine a judge siding with Rivera. Though he had hundreds of supporters in the hall, very few of them had the yellow wristbands that identified them as registered members of the County Committee and authorized them to vote in the deliberations. Dinowitz, Heastie and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto had bused in hundreds of registered committee members who signed their names in registration books supplied by the Board of Elections -- much like a registered voter would in a regular election or primary. Committee members run on slates with district leaders and Assembly members, but while an Assembly district might have 300 or so slots for County Committee members, many of these slots go unfilled in some Assembly districts, and that seems to have been the case in many of the districts where Assembly members sided with Rivera.

Heastie supporters raising their wristbanded hands during the "second" meeting.


A sample of the registration books, held by Rebel Dem lawyer Stanley Schlein.

At one point there was a scuffle on stage over the registration books. It seemed that at one point Rivera's supporters had taken possession of them, but eventually Schlein got them back -- a little rumpled and worse for the wear but intact -- with the help of some security guards.

Without the registration books or any official record of the first meeting, Rivera will have his work cut out for him. The Rebels, on the other hand, had the registration books in their possession, a stenographer's record of the proceedings (they wisely hired one for the occasion) and a previous court ruling (the one that prohibited them from scheduling their own County Committee hearing at Co-op City last week because the venue wasn't large enough) that reportedly authorized Heastie, the Committee Chairman, to run the meeting.

Other observations in no particular order:

-Pedro Espada, a newly minted Democratic nominee for state Senate, showed up for a while but didn't appear to take sides.
-Assemblyman Dinowitz apparently got in the middle of a scuffle over those registration books and his eyeglasses were visibly scratched.
-Baez called her meeting to order around 7:15 while lines of people were still lining up outside to verify their signatures in the registration books.
-Benedetto said he couldn't remember a county meeting this raucous since the 1970s when the reform movement clashed with the regular Dems.
-Politics creates strange bedfellows. One of the fathers of that reform movement and a favorite of the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club, Council Member Oliver Koppell, stood apart from the 150 or so Riverdale-area committee members Dinowitz and the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club bused in for the vote. This is Koppell's core constituency and one he will surely need if the change he proposed in the term limits law allows him to run for another term. Koppell told us at the Jerome-Gun Hill BID Street Festival on Saturday that his differences with Dinowitz and his Club were awkward. But, the veteran lawmaker told us, "I just like Jose."

Allies Oliver Koppell and Jose Rivera outside the theater just before the meeting.

-a lot of time in court could have been avoided if the judge or some kind of special master was in attendance to oversee the proceedings. Everyone knew there was going to be controversy. Why not head it off at the pass?
-the most organized of the Assembly members in the rebel camp had their supporters decked out in t-shirts that read "Team Dinowitz," "Team Diaz," and "Team Heastie." Benedetto didn't have shirts but hired 3 buses to get his 100+ supporters to the theater. Where does the money come from for all this? Benedetto said he could only speak for himself, but that the money came from his campaign account.

A Dinowitz supporter and Rivera opponent poses for a souvenir photo with a pro-Rivera sign.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Street Fest in Norwood Tomorrow, 9/27

Our colleagues here at Mosholu Preservation Corporation (publisher of the Norwood News) are putting on the Jerome-Gun Hill BID Street Festival tomorrow. Here are the details.

The Jerome-Gun Hill Business Improvement District presents its 7th Annual Festival tomorrow on Jerome Avenue between Mosholu Parkway North and Gun Hill Road. The event will feature several live performances, a Sports Foundation Basketball Game between Power 105 & Curt Flirt vs. the Pioneers of Hip Hop, as well as an Old Skool Games Flashback. The Disney Road Crew will show up at 11 a.m. with giveaways and prizes. Clowns, face painting, bouncey house and much more in store.

Also, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. just a block away the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center is offering a taste of all its programming with a community open house.

Adolfo Staying Far Away from Dem Leadership Struggle

We spoke briefly with Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion last night at the Marina Del Rey in Throggs Neck where the Bronx Chamber of Commerce was having its sixth annual banquet.

We asked him if he had anything to say about the battle underway for the leadership of his party. He threw his head back and laughed robustly. "Absolutely nothing," he said, finally, still smiling.

"I've always allowed the political battles at the county level to be handled by its chairman and the people who are interested in that," Carrion said. "I'm only concerned with moving the Bronx in the right direction. We all need to focus on deliverables for families who live in [the borough on issues like] education, health care, economic opportunity and housing production."

So, it sounds like that unlike virtually every other elected official and active Democrat in the borough, it's a good bet Carrion won't be at the Paradise this Sunday for the big party showdown.
We also asked Carrion if he still wanted to be comptroller, what with the economic meltdown on Wall Street and all that. Not unpredictably, he said the crisis "presented an opportunity for leadership [and] for smart investment."

Update: Turns out Carrion will be in Florida campaigning for Obama the night of the big showdown back home.

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 26


The Rainbow Rebels, a coalition of Bronx politicians attempting to oust Party Chairman Jose Rivera, are gearing up for Sunday's key vote at the Uptopia Paradise Theater. In theory, the vote should determined whether Rivera stays or goes. But the losers will probably take the winners to court, says the Daily News. If Rivera (pictured) does fall, Assemblyman Carl Heastie is favorite to replace him.

The mother of an unsupervised 5-year-old boy, who was abandoned two miles from home by a school bus driver, is suing the city.

The barely-used Sheridan Expressway should be razed according to a "Freeways without Futures," a study by the Congress for the New Urbanism. See here and here.

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring calling card providers to disclose all fees and conditions associated with their cards. The bill, sponsored by Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel, could put an end to hidden costs and charges. Those most affected are usually immigrants and American soldiers abroad because they rely on cards to call home. On average, cards deliver just 60 percent of the minutes they advertise, according to a study released earlier this year by the Hispanic Institute. More here in the Norwood News.

Recent hurricanes have killed more than 600 people in Haiti and left thousands without homes. New York officials are asking residents to donate toothbrushes, children's clothes, bottled water, and the like. In the Bronx, items can be dropped off at Cox Nissan at 1235 E. Tremont Ave., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., through Sunday. More here.

(Photo by Alma Watkins)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Great Day for Science in the Bronx



We'll have more on this in the next issue of the Norwood News, but here are two images of Lehman College's new Science building, the first phase of which is scheduled for completion in 2011. The groundbreaking was yesterday. A really big deal for Lehman, CUNY and the Bronx.

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 25

A group of students from St. Catharine Academy have been raising money for rape victims in Congo.

Two dozen tenants living in rundown 806 E. 175th St. were in housing court yesterday. The building has 270 Code C violations (the worst kind); tenants want the landlord to make the necessary repairs.

A condominium building on Bristow Street (near Crotona Park) has received an honorable mention in a prestigious "Green Building" competition.

The northeast Bronx neighborhood of Pelham Bay gets a glowing write-up in am New York's weekly real estate section. More here on Boogiedowner.

Maria, an endangered Cuban crocodile who has spent the last 30 years of her life in the Bronx Zoo, has moved to Miami to live out her "golden years."

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Mount Hope Housing Company is holding an event tonight at the Davidson Center (1822 Davidson Ave.). It starts at 6 p.m. There will be music, speeches, and free food.

Also tonight, a public hearing to address residents' concerns about the building of a citywide homeless intake center on Walton Avenue in Concourse Village. More here. Residents opposing the project have the support of Community Board 4 and State Senator Jose M. Serrano.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Diaz Hopeful on Takeover

Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr. earlier today at
Lehman College (Photo: Jordan Moss)



We just ran into Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr. at the groundbreaking for the new Science building at Lehman College.

He seemed fairly confident that he and his fellow Rainbow Rebels would succeed in taking over the leadership of the Bronx Democratic County Committee when the Committee meets on Sunday at the Utopia Paradise Theatre.

He said last Sunday's rally at Co-op City "showed everyone that we have a sizeable amount of County Committee members and a majority of the district leader vote."

I asked Diaz, who is running for Bronx borough president, what all this means to the average Bronxite -- what would the new regime do differently? He said that would be really a question for Asssemblyman Carl Heastie , the Rebels' choice to succeed Assemblyman Jose Rivera as chairman of the County Committee. But he did say he believed the result would be to empower local Democratic clubs and to be more inclusive with regards to the borough's diverse demographics. He also said that there are 500,000 registered Bronxites who regularly don't turn out to vote and that the Committee's challenge woudl be to activate those voters as well as energize young voters.

I asked him if he felt last week's court action barring the Rebels for staging their own County Commitee meetings was a defeat of sorts.

His reponse: "We didn't win it in game 4. But we'll win it in game 7 [on Sunday] and we'll still win the championship."

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 24

Photobucket

Police say they've taken down a lucrative drugs and money-laundering ring headed by a Clay Avenue man. Jose Diaz-Ortega, 28, allegedly told associates in Puerto Rico to hide kilos of cocaine inside children toys which were then mailed to addresses in the United States. Ortega was picked up in June and is being held on $500,000 bail. On Monday police made more arrests.

Yankees Catcher José Molina (pictured speaking at a baseball clinic in Roberto Clemente State Park in June) smashed the final home run at the old Yankee Stadium. That much is clear, says The NYT. But there's a debate over who should be allowed to keep the now sacred ball. (The slightly grumpy looking guy on the left, by the way, is Ray Negron, the children's author and special assistant to George Steinbrenner.)

Ramon Jimenez, a community activisit and Harvard-educated lawyer, tells The NYT that he's lost faith in his former ally Assemblyman Jose Rivera, whose position as Bronx county leader is currently under threat. Recalling Rivera's start in politics some 25 years ago, Jimenez said:

A lot of people helped him because he was seen as a progressive candidate. But instead of empowering people, it came to be about ‘me, me, me.’ We expected something different from José. He had ability and creativity in organizing. That slowly dissipated and he became more concerned about his power and his family.
More here.

A wave of high-profile retailers, including Best Buy and Applebees, are coming to Fordham Road.

Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel is attempting to stop what he sees as intrusive and unnecessary searches by customs officials at airports and border crossings. According to The Sun, the federal government now allows agents to read and copy travellers' personal papers and any documents they might have stored on a laptop.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 23

The Rainbow Rebels, a group of disillusioned Bronx pols who are attempting to overthrow party boss Jose Rivera, held a rally last night to protest Rivera's leadership. Some 400 people showed up. Originally, the Rebels planned to vote for a new leader, but a judge forced them to cancel at the last minute. Instead, they will fight it out with Rivera loyalists at a meeting this Sunday at the Utopia Paradise Theater. Here's Bob Kappstatter's latest column on the issue.

In January 2007, Dr. Leandro Lozada, a popular pediatrician who ran a health center in North Fordham, was brutally murdered in his Yonkers home. Back in March, the former owner of Lozada's house was convicted of murder. Now an accomplice has also been found guilty.

In an anti-smoking initiative, the Department of Health is distributing 330,000 match boxes to bodegas in the South Bronx, Harlem, and parts of Brooklyn. The boxes come emblazoned with grisly photos of blackened lungs and rotting teeth in an attempt to shock smokers into quitting.

A Bronx bus driver, who allegedly dropped off a 5-year-old boy two miles from his Eastchester home, has been suspended without pay.

Concourse Village residents and Community Board 4 are trying to stop the building of a citywide homeless intake facility on Walton Avenue at 151st Street. The neighborhood was previously home to a two-story intake center - the notoriously busy Emergency Assistance Unit. That site closed in 2005. The new one will be 7-stories high. A public hearing is being a held to examine the possible impact of the new center on Thursday at Hostos Community College (120 E. 149th St., Savoy Multi-Purpose Room, 2nd Fl.) The hearing begins at 7 p.m.

Doctors at Jacobi Medical Center and North Central Bronx Hospital want to unionize.

A recently unearthed photo of a baseball diamond near the old Yankee Stadium has parks advocates crying foul. They're claiming, not for the first time, that the city is failing to replace all the parkland swallowed by the new stadium.

At the weekend, the Bronx Museum of the Arts played host to a breakdancing competition.

The Coalition for Muslim School Holidays is holding a "Ramadan Awareness Event" tomorrow at the Bronx County Courthouse (851 Grand Concourse). It starts at 5 p.m. The press release says:

Come learn about Ramadan and support our campaign for equality in public education! We want the City Council to pass Resolution 1281, which calls for the DOE to recognize the two Eid holidays in the school calendar.
The Norwood News wrote about this issue last year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 22

Here's some Bronx-related news from the past few days.

Police say they've arrested one of the men who robbed and viciously assaulted a Boston-based radio host in Kingbridge Heights on Sept. 14. Pelagio de la Cruz was hit over the head with a baseball bat and seriously injured. In the aftermath of the attack police released this surveillance video.

Hostos Community College is looking for a new president.

It's an important day in the chaotic world of Bronx politics. The Rainbow Rebellion, a coalition of Bronx politicians who are trying oust Party Chairman Jose Rivera, are meeting at 7 p.m. at Dresier Loop Community Center in Co-op City (at 177 Dreiser Loop), where they hope to elect new leadership. More here, on how this works. UPDATE: I just received a call saying tonight's vote has been cancelled. Instead there will be a rally at the same location to protest Rivera's leadership. Apologies for being a little vague; we'll have more later. SECOND UPDATE: According to The Times a State Supreme Court judge ruled that the event couldn't take place because of limited space in the hall. The Daily News also has the story. Elizabeth Benjamin is calling it "a significant victory" for Rivera.

State Senator Efrain Gonzalez tells The Times that his ongoing legal issues may have played a role in his surprise primary defeat at the hands of Pedro Espada. Strange. In a interview on Sept. 10, Gonzalez told us his indictment wasn't to blame. "I came up short because of a lack of resources," he said. "It was not about my leadership and it’s not about the indictment." Party boss Jose Rivera told the Norwood News there were a number of reasons why his man lost. "It's hard with all the newspapers, including yours, that are calling him a crook." Of Espada, Rivera said: "I call him the Puerto Rican Michael Bloomberg. He's not as rich as Bloomberg but he's a millionaire and we couldn't compete with that."

If you missed it, The Times has some wonderful coverage (articles, photos, video and audio) on the history of Yankee Stadium, which last night hosted its final game.

In what appears to be a tragic accident, a young couple fell to their deaths from the roof of a Soundview apartment building, following a night of partying. On a side note, it always amazes me that the Daily News doesn't moderate their comments (or if they do, they do a lousy job). Check out the posts at the end of the story. I'm all for free speech, but...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bedford Park Bloggers Get Their Due from Times

New York Times photo by David Goldman

So, I guess you could say they've now had their 30 minutes of fame (though we bet there's more to come).
First, Bedford Park bloggers Lou and Erin Cicalese (pictured above) -- founders and authors of boogiedowner.blogspot.com -- were covered in The Hunt, a Times column that tracks New Yorkers' searches for the ever-elusive affordable and desirable living situation.
And this morning the couple gets some more ink in the City Section of the Times, this time for the blog, since it's one of the very few in the borough despite the blog-a-block culture in Brooklyn. (Sometimes it seems like there's one for every Bugaboo stroller there.)
Congrats to the boogiedowners.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Attention turns to financing as Yankees limp home

Their season is over. The quest has failed. This version of Yankee Stadium will never again host a return to baseball’s promised land. And with the playoffs out of reach, this year’s mediocre pinstriped edition will hold court in “The House that Ruth Built” for the final time this weekend against an equally miserable Baltimore squad.

Yet, don’t feel too down. Opening next spring, according to a report released Tuesday by State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D –Westchester), is the long awaited “House that You Built” as coined by the Yonkers Tribune blog which posted excerpts from Brodsky’s report Wednesday.

Another of the numerous critics of the financial practices at work behind the scenes in the Yankees' new home, Brodsky has also been joined on the national level by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), as reported in Newsday.

Kucinich has pointed to the discrepancy between the assessed land value of the new stadium and that of the surrounding area; a topic covered by Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News last week.

On another note, Times' columnist and South Bronx native David Gonzalez recollects on life in the borough with the Yankees next door.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

'The Bronx is Beautiful'

It's on the verge of becoming a genre.

Another site has materialized highlighting Bronx real estate. In the case of The Bronx is Beautiful, the photos of south Bronx living quarters and their environs are beautiful themselves. We found out about this through the Boogiedowner of course.

Bronx Political Showdown -- Dems Hold Rival Meetings

First, my apologies for the light posting this week. We're a little shorthanded with my deputy editor, Alex Kratz, on his honeymoon (he'll be back next week), Norwood News production this week, and a stomach virus that had me laying low most of this week.

OK, back to business ...

It looks like there will be two rival attempts to elect a Democratic County Leader.

The Rainbow Rebels are trying to use party rules to stage a rival County Committee meeting on Monday night in Co-op City to Jose Rivera’s, which is scheduled for Sept. 28 at the Paradise (now the Utopia Paradise by the way). More here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 16

Senator Jose M. Serrano will be interviewed on BronxNET Perspectives Channel 67 tonight at 8:30 p.m. The Senator also has a new blog post regarding tax reform.

County Democratic Chairman Jose Rivera announced over the weekend the date of his “re-organizational meeting.” The Bronx Rainbow Rebels have now set their own meeting a week before his. The Rebel meeting agenda includes electing new party officers.

The Department of Education has released the letter grades of New York City Elementary and Middle Schools. Critics question their validity, as grades and testing scores improvements appeared too extreme. For example, Bronx Science School for Exploration and Discovery (MS 224) on Brooke Avenue was listed as a failing school in February, but now holds an A. Public School 92 in East Tremont also went from an F to an A grade in a short period of time.

Photographer Lisa Kahane’s new book, “Do Not Give Way to Evil,” depicts life in South Bronx from 1979 to 1987. The book also includes essays written by other South Bronx artists, such as graffiti-writer John Matos.

A teenage girl sustained minor injuries after being hit by a school bus in Kingsbridge this morning while attempting to cross the street at the intersection of West 233rd Street and Bailey Avenue.

M. Barry Schneider, founder of the New York City Bridge Centennial Commission says, “Our bridges get no respect.” To offset the malady, the commission will hold brassy centennials for the unappreciated overpasses. Bronx bridges include University Heights Bridge over the Harlem River between 207th Street in Manhattan and Fordham Road that already celebrated its centennial in January; Madison Avenue Bridge, connecting 138th Street in the Bronx with Manhattan over the Harlem River will celebrate in July 2010; Pelham Bay Bridge to City Island in Pelham Bay Park holds its bash next month.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 15

Police say a woman was murdered inside a Gun Hill Road apartment on Saturday by a jealous ex-boyfriend. Julio Flores allegedly stabbed Jaritza Calderone, 28, to death before chopping up her body and burying it in the basement of a New Jersey home.

The beginning of the school year has been fraught with difficulties for many Bronx schools, according to the Daily News.

Bronx State Senator Jeffrey Klein has released his annual "dirty dozen" list of the city's filthiest restaurants. Based on inspection scores published by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the list includes two Bronx eateries: Guacamole'X on East 180th Street, and Popcorn Hof and Bar on East 204th Street. All the latest scores are available on the department's Web site. Klein wants the city's 20,000 restaurants to publicly display this information so that customers can make a more informed decision on where to eat. One of the cleanest restaurants, incidentally, is the Blimpie at 85 E. Gunhill Road.

Bronx band of the moment Rebel Diaz, who made headlines this summer following an altercation with police that was captured on video, get a write-up in The Indypendent.

According to the Daily News and The Observer, the meeting that will decide Bronx Party Chairman Jose Rivera's future is being held on Sept. 28 at Utopia's Paradise Theater. More here on how this all works.

Friday, September 12, 2008

How It Works: Electing a Bronx County Leader

This is the kind of inside baseball that, in an ordinary year, wouldn't be of much interest except to the most inside insiders of Bronx politics. But this year Bronx County Democratic chairman Jose Rivera is likely to face a fierce challenge when the Bronx County Democratic Committee meets next (we hear it may be as soon as Monday at the Loew's Paradise but that hasn't been confirmed yet). So, here's how the process works.

By law, a meeting of the Bronx County Democratic Committee must take place within 20 days of the primary.

The County Committee has 2500 members, who come from every election district in the borough. Each election district gets 2 to 4 committee members, depending on the total Democratic vote in each district the previous gubernatorial election. At the same time that candidates petition for candidates for Assembly and district leader, they petition for County Committee slates. (There are 300 county committee members in the 81st Assembly District which covers part of Norwood, for instance.)

At the County committee meeting, the county committee members elect 4 officers – the chairman of the County Committee (which is a different position than county leader), as well as the secretary and the treasurer. Those officers, along with the 24 district leaders (there is a male and female district leader elected from each district, though one Assembly district has two of each) form the executive committee and that executive committee elects three other people who also have seats on the executive committee– the counsel, the parliamentarian, and the chairman of the executive committee The latter is the county leader position.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jose the Beaver No Longer Alone

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For their September issue, Outside Magazine sent a reporter to the Botanical Garden to find and study Jose the beaver, the Bronx's most famous semi-aquatic rodent.

Jose, you'll be pleased to know, is alive and well. And, most exciting of all, he seems to have made a new friend. Not a mate exactly, rather a muskrat - nicknamed Sebastian. The two seem very close and are likely living together. (What would Rev. Diaz say?!)

Here's a Norwood News editorial, written last year, on Jose's decision to set-up home in the Bronx River, and what his arrival says about the borough's resurgence.

Jose, who's named after Congressman Jose E. Serrano, is the first beaver to be seen in New York City in 200 years.

Photo: NYT

Could Results be Read in Palm Cards?

There's kind of a water-cooler theory of the Senate primary results going around (maybe it's just around our water cooler, but I think I've heard others say this, too) -- that you can't be under indictment and postpone your trial for more than a year and still win an election. That may be true, at least in part, and there's probably no scientific way of proving it.

But another plausible explanation of the results may be found in the palm card distribution by the party, or lack thereof.

Liz Benjamin at the Daily News
posted this Democratic Party regular palm card distributed in the bulk of Efrain Gonzalez's district, but excludes his name.


Palm cards encouraging voters to vote for a slate of candidates are distributed by campaign volunteers just outside the polls. They can be effecitve particulary in races with extremely low turnout and elections with fairly low profile races (not a lot of people know who the candidates for state legislature are, much less district leader and the like).

Earlier today I spoke to Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, one of the architects of the Rainbow Rebellion, a large faction of Bronx Assembly members and senators who now oppose Party leader Jose Rivera.

Gonzalez was the only candidate both groups of Bronx Democrats supported. Dinowitz's Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club even backed Gonzalez, who is under indictment, because their overarching goal is taking Senate control away from the Republicans. Gonzalez's opponent, Pedro Espada, has flirted with the Republican Party despite his Democratic affiliation, and he could very well keep the balance of power tilted toward the GOP.

Dinowitz says that the only Assembly District (a few A.D.s overlap with Gonzalez's larger Senate District) that Gonzalez got more votes than Espada in was Dinowitz's own -- the 81st A.D. And it was in this A.D. that Gonzalez's name did appear on palm cards -- Ben Franklin Club cards that had Gonzalez's name and the successful civil court candidate the club and the Rainbow rebel faction vigorously backed, Elizabeth Taylor.

Just a theory, but maybe Gonzalez would have won if all the palm cards distributed that day looked more like this one, which was handed to me outside my daughter's school on Gun Hill Road.

Espada Coy on Republican Connection

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What a difference a few days make!

In the run up to the primary, Pedro Espada's campaign sent out a mountain of literature to debunk claims he's a closet Republican. "Pedro is a great Democrat. He has never been a Republican" says one (see above). In another, Barack Obama and Espada are placed side-by-side as if they're in the same photo.

Now, with the primary over, he's suddenly become all coy as to which party he'll align himself with when he takes office (assuming he wins the November election). See here and here. Shouldn't he have made his position clear to voters before the election?

Espada's about-face is important for another reason. If he sides with the Republicans, the Democrats may struggle to retake the Senate.

The Daily News reports that he's been inundated with phone calls from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Espada, the paper says, is "The Most Popular Man in New York." And boy is he loving the attention.

9.11.01

Here's Norwood News coverage from the day of the terrorist attacks.

My memory of that day, covering the professional response of dedicated workers at schools, hospitals and the police precinct, is as clear as the sky was. Our thoughts are with everyone who lost a loved one that tragic day.

Gonzalez Talks About Primary Loss


Efrain Gonzalez, a favorite of the Bronx Democratic machine and a state senator since 1989, was expected to defeat Pedro Espada in Tuesday's primary. But he lost - badly.

In a phone interview last night, he talked about his downfall, insisting his ongoing legal problems were not to blame.

"I came up short because of a lack of resources," said a glum but defiant Gonzalez. "It was not about my leadership and it’s not about the indictment."

By resources Gonzalez means money and manpower. "I’m not a rich guy, I’m a poor guy and that’s the way it is," he said. (Espada, incidentally, says Gonzalez - who was bankrolled by the party - outspent him. )

Looking back at his political career, Gonzalez, 60, says he's has no regrets. "I’m fine, I’m happy, I’m at peace," he said. "I’ve nothing to be ashamed of, I’m proud of everything I’ve done."

So what did Gonzalez accomplish during those 19 years in office? It's a good question: he certainly wasn't a prolific lawmaker. In the 2007/08 legislative session, for example, he has sponsored just one lonely bill. To give a comparison, Bronx State Senators Jose M. Serrano and Ruben Diaz have sponsored 24 and 33 respectively. (That few of these bills will see the light of day, because of the Republican majority in the Senate, is another matter.)

Instead, Gonzalez says he focused on helping thousands of Bronx residents - often on a one-to-one basis. "I don’t make press releases of all the things I do, that’s what makes me different [from other politicians]."

Of his future plans Gonzalez said: "You move on, you move forward, you keep working. I want to keep being helpful. You don’t have to be in elected office to continue helping people."

Asked whether he'll return to politics, Gonzalez said "never say never."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bronx Primary Results

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There were a number of contested Democratic primaries in the Bronx. Here are the results:

Civil Court - Bronx
Elizabeth Taylor, 19,228 votes , 54.09%
Maria Matos, 10,406 votes, 29.27%
Verena Powell, 5,917 votes, 16.64%

State Assembly - District 79
Michael Benjamin, 2301 votes, 61.64%
Sigfredo Gonzalez, 1432 votes, 38.36%

State Assembly - District 83
Carl Heastie, 3667 votes, 78.25%
Sherman Browne, 1,019 votes, 21.75%

State Assembly - District 85
Ruben Diaz, 3,157 votes, 85.58%
Israel Cruz, 532 votes, 14.42%

State Assembly - District 86
Nelson Castro, 1,513 votes, 62.62%
Mike Soto, 903 votes, 37.38%

State Senate - District 33
Pedro Espada, 4,615 votes, 59.60%
Efrain Gonzalez, 3,128 votes, 40.40%

Source: NY1

Benjamin Looks Back at "Great Night"


Just got off the phone with Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (79th Assembly District), who last night defeated primary opponent Sigfredo Gonzalez by 2301 votes to 1432.

It was the third time that Benjamin has defeated Gonzalez in a primary. But this victory was particularly sweet because party boss Jose Rivera, who was supporting Gonzalez, had accused Benjamin (an African-American) of ignoring the needs of the Latino community.

Ultimately, voters were turned off by these efforts to "fan the flames of racial division and ethnic discord," says Benjamin. And they "sent a message" this wasn't the kind of politics they wanted.

Benjamin also puts his victory down to his political record, his wife's skillful campaign management, and support from his district's West African population.

If, as expected, Benjamin wins the election in November, he says he'll continue to focus on bringing in "more affordable housing, better public education, and job creation." And he'll continue to "advocate on the behalf of ex-offenders."

Benjamin is part of the so-called Rainbow Rebellion, a group of breakaway Bronx pols who are openly challenging Rivera's leadership. He says his victory - and indeed the overriding successes of Rainbow Rebellion candidates, including Elizabeth Taylor for Civil Court judge - is a huge blow to the party machine and Rivera in particular.

"He has suffered the greatest loss in a primary of any [Bronx] democratic party leader in the last 30 years,” Benjamin said. "There have been losses in the past, but not at this level, in one night, across the board, across the borough."

So is this the end of Rivera's reign? Benjamin seems to think so. "I believe change is in the air," he said, adding that Bronx politicians who had previously sat on the fence will now likely abandon the party leadership.

Benjamin and his allies celebrated their victories with a party at Maestro's restaurant on Bronxdale Avenue. "Truly, it was a great, great night," he said.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Benjamin and Castro Victorious


Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (79th Assembly District) has survived a primary challenge from the machine-backed Sigfredo Gonzalez.

Meanwhile, Nelson Castro (pictured) shook off recent revelations about his criminal record to defeat Mike Soto in the 86th Assembly District. Castro, who earned a rather measly 1513 votes, will become the first Bronx Assemblymember of Dominican heritage if he wins the election in November. The seat was vacated by Luis Diaz, who is now working for Gov. David Paterson.

(Photo by Alma Watkins)

Espada Wins!

Pedro Espada scored a major upset -- and political comeback -- defeating incumbent state Senator Efrain Gonzalez in today's Democratic primary 59.6% to 40.4% which is tantamount to election in this heavily Democratic district.

In the other closely watched Bronx race -- for Civil Court -- Elizabeth Taylor, backed by a rebel group of Democrats defeated the machine-backed Maria Matos.

More on all this in the morning.

What's a District Leader?

Since district leaders are on the ballot today, I went trolling the Web for a good explanation of what they actually do. Here's what I found on the Room 8 blog.

WHAT IS A DISTRICT LEADER?

The District Leader is an un-paid elected official who performs a valuable set of duties on behalf of his or her political party. Each district gets to elect two district leaders, one male and one female, with the same responsibilities. The district leader serves a two-year term.

WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF THE DISTRICT LEADER?

  • Hires poll workers and election inspectors for the primary elections every September and the general elections in November.
  • Attends party meetings and events on behalf of the district
  • Listens to the registered party members of the district to learn what issues are affecting their quality of life, such as housing, employment, education, environment, and crime
  • Organizes meetings and events in the district to give registered party members a strong, unified voice
  • Works closely with the district’s city, state, and federal elected officials from the party to insure that the voices of the district’s party members are heard
  • Provides support to elect party members to public
    office in the district
  • Is an information resource to the district’s voters in numerous ways including poll site locations, election results, and general information about candidates representing the part
Explanation continues here.

Controversial Meeting Reported at Gonzalez HQ

Liz Benjamin and Bob Kappstatter at the Daily News report on some potential funny business last night at Efrain Gonzalez's campaign headquarters last night.

Vote for Me! I Gave You an Award!


If Pedro Espada wins the 33rd Senate District primary against incumbent Efrain Gonzalez, let's hope it's not because he sent these to registered Democrats in the district. (Margaret Groarke is my wife, by the way. I got one, too, but threw it out before I thought of taking this picture.)

And then this came in the mail from the Espada campaign. I offer it without commentary ...

Blogging the Bronx Election: The View from Tracey Towers (Video Included!)

Norwood News free-lancer and Bedford Park resident Annie Shreffler (who also attends the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism) filed this report, including video interviews, from the area’s largest polling station, Tracey Towers:

At Tracey Towers this morning, long time resident and community leader Sally Caldwell presided over nearly a dozen volunteers at the primary election voting site hosted in the Towers’ community room. Volunteers said a steady stream of regular voters had been coming in all morning, but there had never been long lines or a big crowd.

One volunteer counted just a handful of voter tickets at her booth — 17 altogether — and said primary elections are usually slow, but that they are gearing up for a big voter turnout during the presidential election in November.

Some voters took a minute of their time to tell the Norwood News some of the things they want candidates to focus on. Top most on their minds are: more attentive listening to community members, an end to corruption in the local Bronx Democratic machine, more attention from local police to drug law enforcement and gun control, improvements to health care options for those struggling in this economic downturn and more technology in local high schools.

Outside the towers, volunteers for the Pedro Espada campaign talked to residents and commuters at the bus stop and also took a minute to say why they think he’s the better candidate and that they hope he’ll reform politics when he’s in Albany. No Gonzalez campaign volunteers were present on that section of Jerome Avenue in front of the Towers’ entrance.

Here’s a video report of interviews with Tracey residents and campaign workers ….


video

Gonzalez Trial Postponed -- Again

Bob Kappstatter reports that Efrain Gonzalez's corruption trial has been postponed again. It was scheduled for Oct. 6, but the judge pushed it back to May 4, since a co-defendant's lawyer has another trial to be at.

This Norwood News article from a year ago gives you a sense as to how long the postponing has been going on.

Bronx Election Day Blogging

So, we expect to have regular updates throughout Election Day today. Today is primary day.

Just a few observations to get things going:

  • I was the 9th person to vote at my polling station in Kingsbridge Heights at almost 9 a.m. Usually, people vote on their way to work and their way home from work, so the likelihood is that turnout will be minuscule. It will be interesting to see how few votes it takes for candidates to achieve victory today.
  • The low turnout is undoubtedly due to the many low-profile -- shall I say, obscure? -- races. I have to admit, I didn't even remember that this is when candidates for district leader, delegates to the judicial convention, and State Democratic Committee are on the ballot.
  • The Efrain Gonzalez -Pedro Espada Senate race (33rd District) is not low profile, though. Local mailboxes have been flooded with mailers from Espada and from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, essentially on Gonzalez's behalf (more on this later) and Espada and his supporters have been criss-crossing the district in a flat-bed truck with blaring speakers. But Gonzalez is under indictment and Espada has his own ethics problems. That probably doesn't drive up turnout.
  • This is the first time there has been a real blitz of advertising and campaigning for Civil Court judge. As we've reported in the Norwood News, the Civil Court race is essentially a proxy war between a rebel group of Bronx lawmakers (assemblymen and state senators) and Jose Rivera, the assemblyman who is chief of the Bronx Democratic Party.
Stay tuned.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Espada and Gonzalez Discuss -- the Issues!!

The Riverdale Press interviewed candidates Pedro Espada and Efrain Gonzalez and discussed some real issues, believe it or not, affecting the 33rd Senate District. They've got it on video.

Espada and Soto Hit the Campaign Trail

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Pedro Espada Jr. (l) and Mike Soto (r) joined forces at the weekend, as they whizzed around the west Bronx on the back a campaign float. Here they're pictured on Davidson Avenue near West Burnside.

Espada is running against Efrain Gonzalez, the incumbant in the 33rd Senate District. Soto is seeking the nomination in the 86th Assembly District. He faces Nelson Castro. Neither Espada or Soto have the support of the Bronx Democratic Party machine.

The primaries are being held tomorrow. To find out where to vote, visit the Board of Elections Web site.

(Photo by Alma Watkins)

Bronx News Roundup for Sept. 8


The Times highlights an exhbit at the Bronx Museum of the Arts: Street Art, Street Life: From the 1950s until now. (Photo above is in the exhibit.)

The race between Efrain Gonzalez and Pedro Espada is considered one of the hottest in the city.
The primary election is tomorrow.

The Norwood News has been inundated with letters complaining about the Select Bus Service along the Bx12 route, but the The Times and now the Daily News have run articles saying passengers are happy with the new system. The Norwood News letter writers, however, focus not on the new system for boarding the bus (getting a receipt from a curbside machine before boarding the bus) but on the fact that residents on the western part of Fordham road heading to Manhattan now have to walk a few blocks to get on the Select Bus.

The chairman of the Bronx Republican Party, Jay Savino, has a big fat crush on Sarah Palin.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 5

City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell announced yesterday that he would soon introduce legislation to ammend the term limits law, extending the current two-term limit to three. He feels that the current term limits “rob the public of a choice.” At least 27 of the 51 City Council members are amenable to modifying the term limits law and voters have twice supported the legislation.

Police are still unable to locate the hit-and-run driver who struck and severely injured 61-year-old construction worker, Howard Golding, on August 12th. Authorities say they need the community’s help in identifying the driver.

In a controversial letter written in Spanish and addressed to “voters,” Assemblyman Jose Rivera accused his colleague, Assemblyman Michael Benjamin of “ignor[ing] the needs of our community as Latino people” and has urged voters to support Benjamin’s opponent, Sigfredo Gonzalez. Benjamin, who is black, deems the letter “vile and digusting” and “an effort to ignite ugly ethnic divisions.”

The Irish Echo newspaper will be holding their Best of the Bronx 2008 reception and awards presentation to honor Irish and Irish Americans from the Bronx.

Back in July, Norwood News ran an article about the New Select Bus Route and how the west Bronx passengers were not pleased that the often-used local BX12 bus route had been canceled. The New York Times reports, however, that the majority of riders are happy with the Select Bus Route, oftening cutting commute times in half.

An armed robber broke into the caferia at Bronx Community College last night and stole $12,000 in cash.

The Jacqueline Denise Davis Garden, located on 165th street and Boston Road, is a community garden that is part of the Learn it, Grow it, Eat it program. The garden is used to educate teens about healthy eating habits by allowing them to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Community Organizing cont'd ...

Well, as of 10:15 p.m. Thurs. night, West Bronx Blog had a record number of unique visitors for the day (665), thanks to Greg Jost's post about the Republicans' war on community organizing. We also had a record number of comments on a single post (8). In addition to links from Gothamist and the New York Observer, we also got our first-ever link from the popular political blog dailykos.com.

Some random thoughts on this...

-Obviously this has tremendous resonance in the Bronx, particularly the northwest Bronx, where community organizing was literally a firewall stanching the tide of arson and abandonment that devastated the bottom half of the borough. Jill Jonnes' book, South Bronx Rising, documents the role organizing played (particularly the last few chapters about the Coalition) and is a must read for anyone interested in this history and its lessons for the present (i.e. foreclosure, predatory private equity, etc. )

-Sarah Palin said her husband, Todd, is a proud member of the steelworkers' union. Do the Palins and Rudy feel the same way about union organizers? (Watching McCain's speech right now and just saw Todd Palin stand up and applaud as McCain blasted entrenched unions.)

-I just found this article which attempts to cover both sides of the story -- but in this case the other side is Republican delegates who say they dabbled a little in community organizing. Would it have been that difficult to find a real live current community organizer in St. Paul or Minneapolis to chat with?

-Just got an e-mail from the Obama campaign with this link to a video about organizing from the Democratic National Convention.

-The bright side -- Most Americans don't know what community organizing is and don't have any direct experience with it. This is an opportunity to educate people.

-Here's a City Limits article I wrote in 2000 about Anne Devenney, the late Norwood community leader with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. Gives you a flavor of what organizing meant for Norwood and all the local nabes we write about. She was an ordinary housewife who late in life got organized and went toe-to-toe with mayors and police commissioners. She was one of the coolest people I ever had the privilege to interview.

Keep reading and writing, everyone. It has an impact, I assure you.

Update: McCain just implored his listeners toward the end of his speech to "defend the rights of the oppressed."

Later Update: Jake Tapper of ABC News noticed the same thing.

Castro vs. Soto

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Tuesday is primary day. In the 86th Assembly District, Nelson Castro is facing off against Mike Soto. Along Tremont Avenue, both men (or, more likely, their supporters) have been putting up campaign posters. Unfortunately for Castro, many of his have been defaced. Someone, eager to remind voters that Castro has a criminal record, has been sticking this Daily News article over his name.

Meanwhile, State Senator Efrain Gonzelez's supporters are using more sophisticated methods - the Internet and YouTube - in their efforts to smear opponent Pedro Espada.

If you're planning to vote on Tuesday you must a) be registered, and b) show up at a specific polling station, which is dependent on your address. For information see here. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Bronx News Roundup Sept. 4

Following a lawsuit, city officials have backed away from a plan that would have used explosives to blast rock out of Jerome Park Reservoir.

State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. likes what he sees in Sarah Palin, John McCain's running mate.

Ocelot Properties, a private equity firm with buildings in the Bronx, is a do-nothing slumlord, tenants charge.

State Senator Jose M. Serrano has kind words for the growing number of same-sex couples choosing to live in the Bronx.

Tuesday's Daily News reported that Best Buy, the electronics giant, wants to hire Bronx residents to staff two new stores - one on Fordham Road (which will open in November) and the other in the Gateway Mall (set to open this time next year). More here.

Also in the Daily News, bus drivers working certain routes in the Bronx and Brooklyn regularly encounter violent passengers, a new study shows. The worst route of all? The Bx 36, which winds through Washington Heights, Morris Heights, Mount Hope, and several east Bronx neighborhoods.

Are real estate prices in the South Bronx about to shoot up? Is Mott Haven the new Williamsburg? Not likely, says The Read Deal. Here's Boogiedowner's take on the story.

Stop Hatin' on Community Organizers!

Opinion by Gregory Lobo Jost
In case you weren't watching last night, a political party repeatedly degraded the role of community organizers at their convention.

Former mayor Giuliani (laughing): "Maybe this is the first problem on [Obama's] resume... he worked as a community organizer!"

VP nominee Sarah Palin: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”

Regardless of whether you are an Obama, McCain, McKinney, or Barr supporter, these comments denegrate important contributions made by thousands of (mostly) young women and men during the past 70 years, in both urban AND rural America. To say the very least, if not for the work of community organizers, redlining would still be official bank policy and the Bronx would still be burning. And what about empowering low income and working class people to stand up and fight for their neighborhoods, take pride in their communities, and make REAL changes in our society? Is this a job without responsibilities? Indeed it is a job that is difficult to perform properly, requires long hard hours, is often thankless and pays very little! Certainly for the millions of Americans who have benefitted from the work done by community organizers (myself and the other 1.4 million Bronx residents) it is nothing to laugh at.

I may be over-reacting, but I take these insults very personally (and I don't even qualify as a pure organizer). Sure, these comments are made for calculated political gain during a campaign, and I expect no better from the former NYC mayor. But to hear it over and over again on national TV (PBS no less!) without any counterpoint just made my blood boil.

Has any other profession been repeatedly ridiculed like this at a political convention before? Could you imagine if this was said about YOUR LIFE'S WORK to millions of viewers with no rebuttal?

Update: David Gonzalez of the New York Times has posted a column, Bronx Organizers React to G.O.P. Punchlines, featuring the work of two past local community organizers still active in the neighborhoods.

2nd Update: A new site has sprung in response to these attacks on organizers, and the initial post (also available on the Indypendent) features west Bronx organizer Jackie del Valle of New Settlement Apartments/CASA!

Community organizers across America, taken aback by a series of attacks from Republican leaders at the GOP convention in St. Paul, came together today to defend their work organizing Americans who have been left behind by unemployment, lack of health insurance and the national housing crisis. The organizers demanded an apology from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for her statement that community organizers have no “actual responsibilities” and launched a web site, http://organizersfightback.wordpress.com/, to defend themselves against Republican attacks.

Also, this entry on the Huffington Post features the Center for Community Change's official response to the remarks.