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Saturday, February 28, 2009


Some graffiti eye sores of our neighborhood.
Is there is a way to channel this graffiti energy into something positive?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tear It Down! 136 Days and Counting

Bronx News Roundup, Feb. 27

Joel Rivera is in, Helen Foster is out in the race for Bronx BP, as Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Jr., continues to pick up endorsements.

Helen Foster and Bronx Democratic Chair Carl Heastie, along with other Bronx and Brooklyn politicians are up in arms over the elevation of a white, Queens-based nominee to the position of city clerk.

A Bronx mailman has been arrested for his role in a $40 million scam based on fraudulent tax rebates.

Doctors at the Jacobi Medical Center performed surgery on an Afghan girl whose journey to the Bronx began when an American contractor met her in an orphanage in Afghanistan.

Police have arrested a second Bronx man accused of the hate-crime killing of an Ecuadorean immigrant.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tear It Down! 135 Days and Counting

Bronx News Roundup, Feb. 26

Two Bronx men are accused of a hate-crime murder for beating an Ecuadorean immigrant to death in Brooklyn in December while shouting anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs.

WNYC's Main Street NY project visited 161st street to ask local businesses about the changes coming in the wake of the new Yankee Stadium, including the proposed rezoning. You can listen in or read the transcript here.

Perhaps you caught Anderson Cooper singling out Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel for arriving a tad early at Obama's speech on Tuesday (if not, the transcript is here; scroll down a bit). Engel, who is known for staking out choice seats at big speeches, fired back today.

Bloomberg is courting recalcitrant Bronx GOP chief Jay Savino along with the other Republican borough chairs as he prepares to run for his third term - but no luck so far.

Australian paper The Age has an article highlighting one of the many Bronx classrooms with a Teach for America recruit behind the desk.

Sustainable South Bronx founder Majora Carter is featured in the second installment of HBO's show "The Black List," airing tonight.

Bronx State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. is balking at proposed tolls for the Harlem and East River bridges; the tolls are part of a plan to close the MTA budget gap and avert drastic fare increases and service cuts.

Talk Tonight at Fordham about African Immigration

There's a talk tonight at Fordham University titled, “African Immigrants in the Bronx: New Cultural Currents."

According to a press release, the discussion will feature Wuyi Jacobs of Afrobeat Radio and noted African immigration scholar, Dr. Bernard Hayford of Southern Connecticut State College.

Where: Flom Auditorium in Walsh Library (on the Rosehill Campus). See here for directions.
When: 6 p.m.
Why: The talk is part of the Bronx African American History Project's "Bronx is Building" lecture series.

Tonight's event is free and open to the public. For more information, e-mail Oneka LaBennett at labennett[at]fordham.edu or call (718) 817-0594.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New issue of the Hunts Point Express

With a special report on the largest food distribution center in the world--the three Hunts Point markets--the March issue of The Hunts Point Express has hit the streets.

The paper also reports on:

  • Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's suit to stop the sickening stench from a fertilizer plant;
  • the neighborhood institution on the front lines in the war on obesity and diabetes;
  • the scarcity of daycare for working parents and its consequences
  • break-ins plaguing area businesses
  • and new scholarships that could provide up to $50,000 to eight college-bound high school students.

Find The Express at local community centers, clinics and some stores and on-line at www.huntspointexpress.com

Free Workshops for Bronx Artists

The Bronx Council on the Arts is holding its free 2009 Professional Development Program for Bronx artists. Workshops are held on Saturdays from 12 to 2 p.m. at Hostos Community College, 450 Grand Concourse at 149th St. RSVP to finearts@bronxarts.org as seating is limited.

Workshop Schedule:

Grant Seeking Basics on Feb. 28; Financial Tool Kit for Artists on Mar. 7, Finding Work Now on Mar. 14; Access and Alternatives to Health Insurance on Mar. 28; Be Well/Stay Well on Apr. 4; Want to get Published? This Is What You Need to Know on Apr. 11; Housing Alternatives for the Bronx Artist on Apr. 18.

For more information, visit www.bronxarts.org.

Bronx News Roundup Feb. 25

A security guard in the Bronx wins 1 million dollars from a scratch off ticket.

More details are being released about the Parkchester grandmother, Angela Barksdale, who killed her four-year-old grandson. The boy and his 18-month old sister lived with Barksdale on Metropolitan Avenue. Police have confirmed that Barksdale had a criminal record and was a convicted felon. The Administration for Children's Services was not responsible for placing the children in Barksdale's home and have removed the sister. Details can be found here and here.

There are going to be more MTA service changes and subway delays. The MTA is attributing the changes to repairs that need to be made.

While a study finds that New York City is the most congested city in the country, the Cross Bronx Expressway at the interchange of Bronx River Parkway was named the worst bottleneck in the nation.

Majora Carter, community activist and the founder of Sustaintable South Bronx, appeared in a commercial during the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday. The commercial was sponsored by the company True North.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tear It Down! 133 Days and Counting

Bronx News Roundup Feb. 24

Pay-as-you-go restrooms, that clean themselves after use, are coming to a street near you (if you live in Riverdale or Morris Park).

Helen Foster is staying out of the borough president's race, says Daily News columnist Bob Kappstatter. Instead, with the support of the party, she'll run for a third City Council term (District 16). More here on her likely opponents.

If the BP's race sees Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. square off against Councilman Joel Rivera, Kappstatter expects them to run "a rather gloves-on contest." (The two are, or were, good friends.) Fordham University's Prof. Bruce Berg, on the other hand, predicts a hard fought and potentially ugly campaign.

A teenager was shot and killed yesterday on Gerard Avenue near East 168th Street.

State Senator Jeff Klein and the Working Families Party have fallen out over the so-called millionaire's tax.

The Botanical Garden's annual orchid show opens this Saturday.

The Ghetto Film School in Mott Haven was featured on NPR this week. You can listen here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rivera's BP Bid Uncertain

If you were looking forward to a BP bout between Joel Rivera and Ruben Diaz, Jr., this post from Liz Benjamin makes that seem a lot less likely.

He's Back -- Maybe

Former state senator and city councilman Israel Ruiz just stopped by our office, press release in hand, to announce that he may be running for City Council in the 14th District or possibly even borough president. He said he registered a campaign committee.

Here’s some background on Ruiz from when he unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2003.

History Detectives Come to the Bronx

Tonight, after those of you with cable tune into to BronxTalk, move the digital dial over to 13.1 for History Detectives. The PBS show will, among other things, investigate the birth of hip hop at 1520 Sedgwick Ave.

For those of you not familiar with the show:

History Detectives is devoted to exploring the complexities of historical mysteries, searching out the facts, myths and conundrums that connect local folklore, family legends and interesting objects.

Traditional investigative techniques, modern technologies, and plenty of legwork are the tools the History Detectives team of experts uses to give new - and sometimes shocking - insights into our national history.

The Bronx African American History Project and Dr. Mark Naison of Fordham University will be featured in the segment. Here are the details:
AIRING: Season 6, Episode 11
THE DETECTIVE: Tukufu Zuberi
THE PLACE: New York City

A hip hop enthusiast from New York City has always heard that 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx is the birthplace of hip hop.

The story goes that on August 11, 1973 DJ Kool Herc, a building resident, was entertaining at his sister’s back-to-school party, and tried something new on the turntable: he extended an instrumental beat (breaking or scratching) to let people dance longer (break dancing) and began MC’ing (rapping) during the extended

This, the contributor believes, marked the birth of hip hop. The music led to an entire cultural movement that’s altered generational thinking – from politics and race to art and language.

History Detectives sets out to examine an inner city environment that helped lay the foundation for a cultural revolution.
More on 1520 Sedgwick here.

Also, check out Manny Fernandez's piece in the Sunday Times about illegally partitioned apartments in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. With the affordability crisis and the economic downturn/implosion following the burst of the housing/credit bubble, dividing up apartments and subletting rooms isn't about to go away anytime soon -- often with deadly consequences.

News Roundup for Feb. 23

Good morning, everyone.

The Bronx is the crappiest borough? Hurts to hear it, but in the way NBC means it -- the borough with the most summonses for violations of the pooper scooper law -- it's hard to argue otherwise. The areas with the most violations? Hunts Point and Mosholu Parkway.
Only affirms why Mosholu Preservation Corporation, publisher of the Norwood News, started the "Cut the Crap" campaign.

Not wasting a moment, Assemblyman Ruben Diaz picked up the endorsement of the Liberty Demoratic Club in his bid to replace Adolfo Carrion as borough president. Liz Benjamin also reports that the Bronx County Democratic Committee will support Diaz, confirming what we predicted a few weeks ago.

Speaking of the younger Diaz, his father, State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. and the Three Amigos are still strategizing Liz reports -- they had lunch recently on Kingsbridge Road and are forming a PAC called the Three Amigos PAC. Kind of a cute name but since the whole point of it is recruiting more Amigos to pony up campaign cash, seems a little shortsighted, no?

Don't miss Gary Axelbank's BronxTalk show on channel 67 (Cablevision) tonight at 9 p.m. He'll be talking with Joyce Hogi and Karen Argenti of the Bronx Council on Environmental Quality about a variety of Bronx environmental issues. Call in with your questions/concerns. Gary also provides regular video commentary -- often on environmental issues -- right here on the Bronx News Network. Click here for his commentary on the filtration plant debacle and here for his views on the controversy surrounding Yankee Stadium.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Adolfo's Last State of the Borough

Photo by Jordan Moss

Departing Borough President Adolfo Carrion gave his final State of the Borough speech this morning at Lehman College. If you were looking for a preview of what he plans to do in his new job, this wasn't it. He offered a retrospective of State of the Boroughs past and took credit for the Bronx's economic development since 2002.

And despite plenty of eloquent lines about the power and beauty of American cities, he didn't offer any details of what he wants to accomplish in his new role as first ever Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs. He shed no light on the president's priorities on this front, either: all of his references to Obama were to a speech Obama gave back in the summer, before he was elected.

Carrion did say, "Neglect is not a policy for America's urban areas," and added that we need "a policy looking at metropolitan areas, not just cities."

"We shouldn't be succeeding despite Washington, we should be succeeding with a hand from Washington," he said. But no news yet on what he thinks that hand will hold.

Photo by Jordan Moss

Surprise guest Sen. Charles Schumer introduced Carrion and crowed about the money New York will get from the federal stimulus bill and the advantage of having Carrion in the White House – an appointment he took some credit for.

"For the first time in this stimulus package, New York gets a lot more back than we sent to Washington," he said.

Pointing out that plenty of stimulus money will be distributed at the discretion of the president, he added, "And guess who will be making that decision? Our Borough President, Adolfo Carrion!

When you're there, we know you won't forget the Bronx, New York City, or New York State!"

We'll try to put up excerpts of Carrion's speech when we get it.

Police Say Death Was Murder, Not Suicide

A woman who fell to her to death from the 18th floor of a South Fordham high-rise on Jan. 20 didn’t jump - she was pushed.

At the time, the authorities thought Carol Maxwell, 48, may have committed suicide. That’s now been ruled out, according to the police and the city medical examiner's office.

More here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

New from the Norwood News

The Norwood News is up online now. Here's a quick preview of our stories:

On Valentine's Day morning, a man who lived in the Norwood area his entire life was shot dead while getting into his car. No arrests have been made, but the man's companion and others say the victim was embroiled in a heated dispute with his landlord. Police said the man was not robbed.

Our in-depth look at Adolfo Carrion's performance as borough president, which we put on the blog last night. His 8th and final state of the borough address is tomorrow morning at 9:30 at Lehman College.

Our editorial on Adolfo.

Housing bills, including one that would repeal vacancy decontrol, are now in the hands of the Democratically-controlled Senate, giving hope to tenant advocates across the five boroughs and putting the spotlight on new senate housing chair Pedro Espada, Jr.

Riders and advocates made a final and passionate plea in the Bronx to stave off a slew of proposed transit cuts.

Eva Bornstein has led a dramatic turnaround at the Bronx's only performing arts center.

Despite failing to file financial disclosure forms, which could prevent her from receiving public financing, Council member Maria Baez says she's running for a third term in 14th District, which is now increasingly crowded with candidates.

Plus, our Inquiring Photographer asks residents how the economic downturn is affecting their lives...our expanded Neighborhood Notes guide to local programs and services...and our Out&About arts and entertainment calendar.

Bronx News Roundup Feb. 19

A restaurant on 238th Street is doing its bit for world peace "one falafel at a time" by inviting local Jews and Arabs to monthly eat-and-greets.

Jurors have returned a guilty verdict in the second "Black Sunday" trial. The building manager and the corporate owner of 234 E. 178th Street were cleared of the more serious manslaughter charge in deaths of two firefighters in 2005, but convicted of criminally negligent homicide. Last Friday, two tenants who lived in the building were found not guilty of similar charges.

Seven firefighters suffered minor injuries following a fire in a two-story building on the Grand Concourse at 169th street early this morning.

Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. and Councilman Joel Rivera are among those congratulating Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion on his finally finalized move to Washington D.C. Both are said to be eyeing his old job. In their latest issue, the Norwood News looks back at Carrion's seven-year tenure.

A much critisized cartoon in yesterday's Post has reminded one observer of a another controversial stretch by the same artist - one that depicted then mayoral candidate (and Bronx BP) Fernando Ferrer planting a kiss on the Rev. Al Sharpton's behind. You can see both cartoons here.

The demolition of Shea Stadium is complete. Meanwhile, High Bridge residents continue to wait for the old Yankee Stadium to suffer the same fate.

GAX in the Bronx: Gary Axelbank Analyzes a Citizens Committee Survey Reporting Dissastisfaction Among Bronx Residents

Ed. note: Commentary on the Bronx News Network represents the opinion of the author/broadcaster and not necessarily that of the Bronx News Network.

It's Official (We're Serious This Time), Adolfo's Off to Washington; And He Has a Special Assistant

Here's the official White House press release:

>WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, President Barack Obama announced the following White House posts: Adolfo Carrion, White House Director of Urban Affairs and Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs.

President Barack Obama said, "I look forward to working with these talented leaders to bring long overdue attention to the urban areas where 80 percent of the American people live and work. Vibrant cities spawn innovation, economic growth, and cultural enrichment; the Urban Affairs office will focus on wise investments and development in our urban areas that will create employment and housing opportunities and make our country more competitive, prosperous, and strong."

President Obama and Vice President Biden created the White House Office of Urban Affairs to develop a strategy for metropolitan America and to ensure that all federal dollars targeted to urban areas are effectively spent on the highest-impact programs. The Director of Urban Affairs will report directly to the president and coordinate all federal urban programs.

The following announcements were made today:

Adolfo Carrion, White House Director of Urban Affairs- Carrion has served two terms as Bronx Borough President and one term as the President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). As Bronx Borough President, Carrion oversaw the creation of 40,000 new units of housing in seven years, 50 new schools, $7 billion in capital and infrastructure expenditures, and over $400 million in new parks and parkland renovation. Prior to his service as Bronx Borough President, Carrion represented the 14th City Council District on the New York City Council and also served as an urban planner at the NYC Department of City Planning and a teacher in the New York City Public Schools. Carrion received his bachelors in World Religions and Philosophy from King's College in 1985 and his Masters in Urban Planning from Hunter College in 1990.

Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs Douglas has served as Washington Counsel to New York Governor David A. Paterson and Director of Governor Paterson's Washington, D.C. Office. In this capacity, Douglas served as the Governor's chief architect for federal policy and oversaw federal policy development and advocacy on domestic, economic, and urban policy issues for the State of New York. Prior to his appointment in 2007, Douglas served as Associate Director of Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress where he founded and served as Director of the Economic Mobility Program. Prior to joining the Center, Douglas was a Counsel at O'Melveny & Myers LLP and an Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educa-tional Fund, Inc (LDF). Douglas graduated from the University of Michigan with Highest Honors in Economics and from the Yale Law School.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reflecting on Adolfo's Borough Presidency

With the Daily News reporting today that Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion is indeed heading to Washington to become Obama's urban policy director, the Norwood News takes an in-depth look at his tenure in office and his prospects for success on a bigger stage.

Basically, what we found is that although Carrion's been criticized by city and local advocates for his handling of some big-ticket development projects, most observers have nothing but kind words for the outgoing B.P.

Here's an opinion on Carrion as a leader and what he can do to help him excel in higher office.

By the way, as of this post, the White House has yet to announce Carrion's appointment. The (departing?) B.P. will give his final state of the borough address on Friday morning at Lehman College. We'll have post-speech coverage here on the blog.

[Photo: Adolfo Carrión with Peter Kalikow, right, and E. Virgil Conway of the MTA in 2004.]

A gymnasium for PS 226?

PS 226, an elementary school on Sedgwick Avenue in University Heights, is raising money to build a gymnasium.

So far, the school's held several fund-raisers – including a celebrity golf tournament in Los Angeles – and pulled in about $1 million, which includes a $500,000 commitment from Bronx Council Member Maria Baez.

Robert Romano, a teacher at the school who's leading the effort, has a famous brother: actor Ray Romano of "Everyone Loves Raymond" fame - hence the celebrity involvement.

To help attract additional donors - they need another $2-3 million - the school recently had a video made (above). In it teachers, parents, and others (including Baez) explain how the facility, if built, will benefit the school's 450 students.

More here.

(The video is courtesy of Crazy Duck Productions)

Tear It Down! 127 Days and Counting.

Bronx News Roundup, Feb. 18

A fire early this morning sent seven firefighters to the hospital. The fire department reported no serious injuries, and everyone in the building got out safely.

The second jury in the Black Sunday fire trial told the judge last night that they were deadlocked after three days of deliberation. The jury is considering charges against a former and present owner of the building where two firefighters died in 2005. The judge has instructed them to continue deliberating today. Tenants in the building were acquitted by another jury earlier this week.

Giorgio Armani and Caroline Kennedy were in the Bronx yesterday to visit an art center Armani funded through the Fund for Public Schools. Armani's thoughts on the subway, here.

CityRoom reports on problems with The Bronx Job database bronxatwork.com, run by the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. Namely: it lists no jobs. The website was set up by outgoing BP Carrion as part of his Bronx jobs initiative. It'd be nice to have it up and running, now that unemployment in the borough has hit 9.6%. More on this in the upcoming Norwood News.

A Bronx Community College student and father-to-be was shot and killed in a deli yesterday while trying to break up a fight. The student, Joseph Vega, 21, and another customer, Jermaine Stewart, didn't know either of the men fighting when they tried to intervene. Stewart was also shot and is serious but stable condition. The suspected gunman has turned himself in.

A Pelham Parkway woman got some financial advice, care of the Daily News.

A South Bronx street was renamed after community activist Yolanda Garcia on Tuesday.

And of course, as you see below, BP Carrion is heading to DC to direct a new White House Office on Urban Policy. More on all this later.

It's Done -- Adolfo Packs for D.C.

Adolfo Carrion being sworn in for his first term as borough president in Jan. 2002. (File photo)

Bob Kappstatter reports that, after many weeks of speculation, the White House will announce today that President Obama is appointing Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion to head the new White House Office on Urban Policy.

The Norwood News, which hits the streets tomorrow, will have an article gauging Bronx advocates' and activists' opinion of Carrion's 7-year tenure. We'll link to that and an editorial about the matter as soon as they're on-line.

So, now the campaign begins. Read this post for a look at how the special election for a new BP will unfold.

MS 399 Protest Walk

On Feb. 12, over 150 protesters from the Middle School 399 community rallied a second time outside the school, located on 184th Street at Creston Avenue, in preparation for a one mile march to the Community District 10 Education Council Meeting at MS 45 to contest their school's closure. They held their first rally in December.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Advocates protest the MTA's cuts and hikes

Early this morning, the Campaign for New York's Future, a coalition of 150-plus organizations across the city, held a rally at the Yankee Stadium 161st Street subway station to raise awareness about the MTA's proposed service cuts and fair increases, and to encourage straphangers to do something about it.

According to a press release sent out afterwards:

Bronx residents already face the second-longest commute times in the nation, and the MTA’s proposed cuts to bus routes and subway service promise to cripple the borough’s already strained transit system, reducing access to jobs, schools and services.

The groups handed leaflets to rush-hour morning riders at the subway station, which serves three of the system’s 23 subway lines. The flyers urged riders to visit a web site – http://www.keepnewyorkmoving.org/ – where they could send an e-mail to Governor David Paterson and state legislators.

The MTA says it has a $1.2 billion operating deficit and unless new aid is received from Albany by March 25, the agency will raise the base transit fare from $2.00 to $2.50 and make massive cuts in service in the Bronx. The agency will also raise the NYC Transit Access-A-Ride fare from $2.00 to $5.00.

These cuts include: eliminating all service on the Bx4, 14, 20, 34, BxM7B, and the Barretto Park Pool Shuttle; eliminating weekend service on Bx8, 18, 30, and 33; eliminating overnight service on Bx10; reducing operating hours on Bx33; eliminating portions of Bx26, 28, and 30 routes; longer waits and more crowding on six subway lines; and ending Station Customer Assistants at scores of locations.

As an alternative, today's protesters want Governor Paterson and the State Legislature to implement tolls on the East River and Harlem River Bridges, as recommonded by the Ravitch Commission

(Photo courtesy of The Campaign for New York's Future)

Bronx News Roundup Feb. 17

On Friday, the two tenants charged with the "Black Sunday" deaths of two firefighters in January 2005 were acquitted of all charges. The Daily News had an editorial criticizing the decision. A second jury is yet to determine the fate of the building's manager and the corporate owner.

Bob Kappstatter thinks Borough President Adolfo Carrion might get that much anticipated call from the White House this week. Carrion is giving his annual (and perhaps final) State of the Borough address at Lehman College this Friday.

A livery cab driver was shot and seriously injured in Longwood early this morning. On Saturday, another cab driver was shot - this time fatally - outside his Decatur Avenue home in Bedford Park.

In an illuminating interview with The Times, Rev. Wendell Foster, the former District 16 councilman, talks about growing up Alabama, his chance move to New York, the civil rights movement, and his efforts to break into politics and become the first black elected city official in the borough.

Dewitt Clinton girls fought off Bronx Science and Taft Education Campus to win this year's PSAL indoor championships.

The city has seen a recent surge in bedbug complaints. The neighborhoods with the itchiest people include central Brooklyn, midtown Manhattan, and parts of the north and east Bronx.

The Bronx is leaking jobs faster than any other borough. Local politicians are urging unemployed residents to apply for benefits to help ease their financial situations.

The Bronx Beat, a weekly newspaper produced each spring by students at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, is up and running again. Stories include:

Danger Lingers at Two Crosswalks
Sidewalk book sales fill a retail vacuum
Teens take active role in fight against HIV

More here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pointer Sisters and Kool & The Gang at the Lehman Center of Performing Arts

Saturday Feb 14th evening: Lehman Center of Performing Arts celebrated Valentine's day with a jam packed concert, featuring the Pointer Sisters and Kool & The Gang. Both groups had the audience excited and dancing in the aisles. Please click on the image to view larger images and captions.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bronx News Roundup for Feb. 13

Juan Gonzalez singles out Bronx State Senators Pedro Espada and Jeff Klein for indicating that they won’t support the millionaire’s tax or to increase the threshold vacancy decontrol rent from $2,000 to $5,000. Espada’s opinion has an impact beyond his one vote because he secured the chairmanship of the Housing Committee after he threatened to withhold his support from making Malcolm Smith the first Democratic majority leader in 40 years.

Next time you’re walking down Jerome Avenue, think about the fact that it was built by Winston Churchill’s grandfather to lead to a racetrack that is now the Jerome Park Reservoir. That and more fascinating info in this Times article about how a municipal bond issued in the late 1800s to finance the street’s construction is just now coming due.

Councilman Joel Rivera wrote to former Public Advocate Mark Green, who is running for that office again, to chastise him for referring in this video “letter to New Yorker” to single parents in the Bronx. Take a look for yourself. Green’s opening remarks, with the new Yankee Stadium in the background, strike me as a typical formulation for a politician – “If you’re a single parent in the Bronx, or a retiree in Queens ….” Candidates and elected officials do this all the time in speeches, not necessarily meaning that everyone in that place is that one thing. And there are indeed a lot of single parents in the Bronx as in the rest of the city. But, again, check it out. Tell us what you think.

New Housing Commissioner Named

We've just learned from Enterprise Community Partners that Rafael Cestero has been named as the new Commissioner for the City's Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). Cestero currently serves as the senior vice president, regional executive of the eastern region for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a national nonprofit that has worked extensively with local groups building and renovating affordable housing in the Bronx over the past two decades. Enterprise was recently named Fast Company magazine's Social Enterprise of the Year and you can read about it on Amazon.

Cestero has worked for Enterprise since 1993, except for a stint from 2004 to 2007 as an assistant commissioner HPD under new HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. Enterprise is obviously happy about the appointment:

"New York City is fortunate to have someone with Rafael’s expertise in the housing and community development field and his passion for affordable housing to lead HPD. Enterprise looks forward to continuing its partnership with the city of New York and to work along side our longtime colleague and friend."
The west Bronx will hopefully benefit as well, as Cestero has a history of working closely with a number of Bronx housing nonprofits.

The New York Observer is also confirming the appointment.
Update: Here is the official press release from HPD regarding the appointment.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Baez in for tough re-election battle?

Council Member Maria Baez, currently running for a third term in office, could face her strongest challenge from Yesenia Polanco, the chief-of-staff to Council Member Annabel Palma. We hear that Polanco's candidacy, which was only announced recently, is being supported by Democratic Party Chairman Carl Heastie and the new-look party machine. (Presumably that means access to resources and plenty of manpower come primary time.)

Heastie previously said that no door's closed; that he's willing to extend an olive branch to those he's fallen out with in the past. But the goodwill only goes so far - Baez was/is a close ally of former party boss Jose Rivera, whom Heastie defeated in what was a bitterly contested leadership fight late last year (and one that's still being played out in an appeals court).

"They're really going to go after her [Baez]," said one source close to the party.

Others hoping to topple Baez (pictured) include Fernando Cabrera, Yudelka Tapia, and another Heastie ally, Hector Ramirez (unless he's now stepped aside for Polanco). More here.

The primary will be held in September; the election in November.

UPDATE: I just spoke to Polanco. "I hope to get their [the party's] support when the time comes... probably in March or April," she said, but that it wasn't guaranteed. "Have I spoken to Carl and he's said yes? That hasn't happened."

Polanco, a 28-year-old University Heights resident, said she recently stopped working for Palma so she can concentrate on her campaign full time. At the moment she's focused on getting the unions behind her.

UPDATE 11: Patrick Jenkins, a consultant for the party and Heastie's special assistant, said his boss "isn't supporting any candidate at this moment." Jenkins said the party would look at each individual carefully (including Baez) before deciding who to endorse.

(Photo by Rebecca Chao)

Bronx News Roundup Feb. 12

Verdicts are expected tomorrow in manslaughter trials of two tenants and a landlord charged with the 2005 deaths of two firefighters at a building on East 178th Street. The prosecution claims the men died because illegal partitions inside an apartment blocked access to fire escapes, forcing six firefighters to jump from a fourth floor window (four survived). The defense says firefighter protocol was to blame. More here.

New York State's highest court has a new chief judge. Jonathan Lippman was appointed yesterday after a vote in the Senate. Several senators abstained, including the Bronx's Ruben Diaz Sr. and Pedro Espada Jr., saying they didn't believe the nomination process gave women and minorities a fair shot at the job.

A Jewish group has hung a "Free Palestine" banner above the entrance of the Cross Bronx Expressway.

Twelve people have been arrested following a one-year investigation into a spate of vehicles thefts in the New York area. Police say the gang targeted luxury cars and construction equipment.

Congressmen Elliot Engel and Joseph Crowley have sprung to the defense of the $400 million naming rights deal between the Mets and Citigroup.

Nursing homes in Riverdale, and their residents, are concerned about proposed budget cuts.

Tear It Down!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, Feb. 11

Two juries have begun deliberating in the Black Sunday fire trial. The prosecution and defense delivered closing arguments yesterday.

Two people were injured in a shooting this morning in Baychester, one while waiting for the bus. Service on the 5 was suspended for two hours while police searched for the suspect on Brooklyn-bound trains. No word on whether they found him.

It's not a good week for Baychester: police are also asking the public for help finding a man who tried to kidnap two women at gunpoint near East Gun Hill Road on Monday.

CNN has a report on a doctor who ran a small office in the South Bronx for decades with a mission to provide medical care for the poor, and now faces losing his own home.

The Mercy Center of the South Bronx is featured today in the Anglo-Celt Newspaper -- of Cavan, Ireland.

The Daily News reports on the ongoing ordeal of a paraplegic man handcuffed to a hospital bed and forcibly fed laxatives at Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center when he was mistaken for a drug mule - a radiologist reading an x-ray mistook gall bladder stones for condoms stuffed with drugs.

Hunts Point food vendors are protesting a policy change by the Post Office, which wants to charge them a new fee for picking up mail early.

We recently linked to one stink in the South Bronx. Now the Times has an article on another smelly substance being dumped in Hunts Point.