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Thursday, April 30, 2009

New BP Ruben Diaz Jr.'s First Extended Interview

New Bronx BP Diaz Jr., flanked by his wife, Hilda, and
Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz at his post-election victory party April 21.

Diaz is scheduled to be confirmed tomorrow as the Bronx's new borough president.

On Monday, April 27, he appeared on BronxTalk with Gary Axelbank to give his first extended interview since the election a week ago and touched on a slew of different Bronx topics.

Mr. Diaz discussed a vision for his borough presidency, job creation, the water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park, housing, the selection of community board members, the BOEDC and economic development, the Kingsbridge Armory, and more. He also took several questions from viewers.

This was the former Assemblyman’s 14th appearance on BronxTalk. His first was in a debate in February 1996 before he was elected as the youngest Assemblyman in state history.

BronxTalk is produced by Jane Folloro and broadcast live on Bronxnet’s channel 67 Monday night’s at 9 p.m. and repeated each day at 9:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m., and 9 p.m.

Click here for the full video of the show.

-Photo by David Greene

New from the Norwood News

The latest edition of the Norwood News is out on streets and online now. Here's a quick preview of our stories and features.

Top Story: The Related Companies, the designated developer for the Kingsbridge Armory revamp project, say they will not guarantee living wage jobs ($10 an hour, plus benefits) at retail stores that will eventually occupy the Shops at the Armory. Living wage jobs were something the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance has been pushing to be included in a Community Benefits Agreement since the project became a reality more than two years ago.

Proposed kindergarten
cuts by the city's Administration for Children's Services will lead to some serious hardship at several Bronx daycare centers.

With the economy struggling, parents at PS 94 turned to job training help at the school.

Local kids pot plants for Earth Day.

A new Bronx playground is already closed for repairs.

A new school is on its way in District 10, but will it alleviate all the overcrowding problems in schools nearby?

Plus: we asked readers about gun violence in the Bronx . . . find out what's happening in the local arts scene in our Out & About section . . . and see our extended Neighborhood Notes listing of programs, services and events.

Bronx News Roundup April 30

A Baychester woman found a 60-pound tortoise in her yard on Tuesday.

Nearly 1,000 gun were handed in during last Saturday's gun buy-back events at six Bronx churches.

The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge is 70-years-old.

A pear tree that was nearly completely destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been gaining strength and new limbs, these past few years, in a nursery in Van Cortlandt Park. In 2011 the tree will be uprooted and replanted in the plaza of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center.

Job seekers take note. The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition is receiving federal dollars to expand its home weatherization program. The funds will allow the organization to hire about 10 new people.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Little League Parades on the Concourse

Fordham Bedford Little League opening day parade, Saturday April 25th. A bright pleasant morning found parents, officials and children assembling in the parking lot of the Concourse House at 2751 Grand Concourse. The parade went east on 196th street and then north on Briggs Ave till Bedford park Blvd, Here it turned west to meet with the Grand Concourse. Using the Concourse the bright assembly went South till 196th street. Turning west on 196th street the parade found its way to the baseball field next to PS340. Mr. Fernando P.Tirado, District Manager of Community Board 7 threw the opening pitch to Jonathan Cespedes of the Pirates. I hope you enjoy the photographs.

Bronxites make a stink about water rates but wonder if the Water Board is really listening


Reporting and Opinion by Gregory Lobo Jost

Two members of Mayor Bloomberg's Water Board sat mostly silent in the auditorium of the Bronx Library Center on Kingsbridge Road yesterday afternoon. Their executive director (and acting DEP Commissioner) had left before even the first testimony was heard to attend to something that must have been very important upstate. (One wonders if they planned the hearing in the Bronx for that time so Mr. Lawitts could be a bit closer to his meeting 100 miles north of the City). The impending 14% water rate increase kept those in attendance agitated and the two board members mostly silent, save the new board chair Alan Moss's (in photo at center) recollections of growing up on Pelham Parkway to open up the hearing. Most of the talking by anyone on stage was done by the hearing officer (in photo at left).

Meanwhile, the same two City Council members from the Bronx once again attended the hearing. Councilman Koppell focused his testimony on how DEP could shrink the size of the hike by assuming a better collection rate, given the powers bestowed upon the agency by the City Council to sell water liens on multifamily properties and turn off service for delinquent single family homeowners. Councilmembers, of course, feel duped into giving DEP such powers since it is hasn't resulted in lower rate hikes like they were told. And since we are in a deep recession with the City's jobless rate spiking and foreclosures continuing to stay at or near all-time highs, collections will likely not improve; with each new double-digit water rate hike and the worsening of the City's economy comes the realization that many are unable to pay any of their bills, or must at least make the difficult decision between paying the mortgage, property taxes, heating oil, Con Edison, or water bill -- which would you choose? (UNHP's analysis last year showed 15-20% of homeowners at least one year delinquent on their water bills were already in foreclosure.)

Councilman Vacca made his points about how ironically conservation of water leads to higher water rates, and how the rates are really a hidden regressive tax that subsidize the City coffers. He focused on how DEP's budget continues to grow, while every other City agency must make drastic cuts. He implied that the Mayor may even encourage DEP spending increases because the more the agency pays in debt service on capital projects, the more money goes into the City's budget in the form of a rental payment.

Testimony was also heard from environmental groups who (rightfully) continue to harp on the poor decision making regarding the filtration plant, and from a private affordable housing owner and manager who warned of the toll these repeated increases will have on low income renters in the form of reduced services.

Three members of University Neighborhood Housing Program (including myself) testified as well. Included in my testimony was the suggestion for the Water Board to get a proportional cut of alternate side parking ticket revenue since, according to the Independent Budget Office, water rates subsidized street cleaning to the tune of $30 million last year. While somewhat in jest, I used this point to illustrate how the Mayor avoids raising taxes by bilking water rate payers to pay for City services.

UNHP's outreach coordinator, Jumelia Abrahamson, pointed out to the two present members of the Water Board that "the only thing that has gone up faster than the water rate over the past few years is the foreclosure rate." When this rate increase goes into effect, water rates will have gone up 60% in just four years, and will have more than doubled since 2001. To make matters worse, Councilmember Vacca pointed out that DEP is projecting double digit rate hikes for the next few years as well.

While legitimate suggestions were made on how to shrink the size of this year's increase, it is unlikely the Water Board will take any immediate action. Members who took the Mayor to task on the increase last year are no longer on the board.

Meanwhile, the results of the rate study commissioned last year are yet to arrive, meaning the Water Board does not have any recommendations about improving the structuring of the rate system that it will likely take seriously. If that's really the case, then the most useful suggestion of the afternoon may have come from Community Board 7 District Manager Fernando Tirado, who in the last testimony of the afternoon urged those in the audience to remember this rate increase when it comes time to vote in the fall.

The Daily News also covered the hearing.

Bomb-Threat Teacher Welcomed at Education Meeting


Francisco Garabitos received a hero's welcome at last night's Community Education Council 9 meeting at CIS 166 on East 164th Street.

That's the same Francisco Garabitos who barricaded himself inside a classroom at MS 328 in Morrisania last Friday, and allegedly threatened to blow up the school.

"Francisco, thank you for coming," said John Moncrief, a CEC 9 council member. "It's an honor to be here with you."

A furious Garabitos, who says he's facing 3-6 month in prison, spoke for 10 minutes or so about his ordeal, why he did what he did, why he's now being unfairly treated, and what needs to be done differently at the school. You can get the gist of his position by reading the press release below, which was handed out at the meeting. (For the record, he denies making any reference to a bomb.)

Garabito (pictured) was warmly received by the Council because his protest was directed at the school's principal, and in essense at the city's Department of Education itself.

Indeed, the three-hour meeting was essentially one long tirade - delivered by CEC council members, parents and advocates - against the DOE and mayoral control of schools, which comes up for review in June.

See here and here for opposing views as to whether or not mayoral control has been a success.

Garabitos' press release. Click to enlarge.

Bronx News Roundup, April 29

Apologies for the belated nature of the roundup posting today, but, as they says, better than never. On to the news!

Swine flu coverage: it may be spreading outside of the Queens public school where it supposedly originated. Bunch of stuff from the Daily News: an overview of the mini-outbreak, Bloomberg's keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing, more schools might be closed. Vistors are staying away from Queens Zoo pigs.

If this year's 14% water hike is combined with next year's estimated 12% hike, New York City families could be looking at annual water bills of more than $1,000.

This year's hike was discussed yesterday in the Bronx at a public hearing at the Bronx Library Center on Kingsbridge Road. About 20 people, mostly politicians and advocates, showed up and expressed their anger.

Tony Mullen, a 50-year-old former NYPD police captain from the Bronx (he teaches in Connecticut), was named national teacher of the year by President Obama.

In case you missed it in yesterday's "Pinstripe Politics" column yesterday by Graham Kates (check back every Wednesday and Friday for your Yankee news), here's the Post's story on the Yankees slashing ticket prices after seeing that many prime seats in the new $1.5 billion stadium were empty in the season's first home stand.

Felix Matos Rodriguez is the new president of Hostos Community College.

Riverdale Press reports on why State Senator Pedro Espada Jr.'s been late in opening up his new office at 400 E. Fordham Road.

Read of the day: A painfully gruesome but fascinating cover story in the Village Voice about a woman, Selena Cooper, and her daughter, Joi, who were both raped and murdered in 1988 at a West Farms housing project. Recent DNA evidence linked one of Cooper's companions to the murders and he's now facing trial.

Pinstripe Politics April 29

Judge to Yankees: Comply with Brodsky's Subpoena

State Supreme Court Justice John Egan Jr. has ordered the Yankees to turn over "a catalog of all documents and materials" that were sought in a subpoena by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. Egan's decision is the latest development in an increasingly heated tête-à-tête between the Yankees and Brodsky.

Brodsky has been pushing for more information about the deal between the City and the Yankees to pursue tax-exempt bonds to finance the new Stadium. So far, the Yankees have refused to provide Brodsky with materials regarding ticket prices and why some city officials received luxury box tickets.

Legendary Embarrassment

Speaking of ticket prices, the Yankees announced that they are lowering prices for the infamous "Legends Suite" section (the area behind home plate and surrounding the two dugouts). Now you can get seats behind home plate for JUST $1,250!

Some reactions:

I posted a cartoon about the new prices on "Coaches in the Crosshairs" my TrueSlant.com blog.

The New York Times "Bats" blog says the tickets have been "lowered from obscene to outrageous."

Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg, says the price-cut signals the death of Yankee superiority.

Neil deMause of Field of Schemes notes that "most of the muckety-mucks in the 'Legends Suites' won't be looking at refunds" because the cuts only affect about 600 seats.

Also, be sure to check out...

The Times wants to see better beer selection at the Stadium.

Forbes values the Yankees at $1.5 billion....the cost of their new stadium.

The owner of the popular Yankee Tavern bar has been charged with tax evasion.

We're not even a month into the season and Fenway Park has passed the new Yankee Stadium on TicketNews.com's Venue Rankings.

Make sure to check back every Wednesday for "Pinstripe Politics," and every Friday for "The Yankees, Unobstructed," the Bronx News Network's weekly Yankee opinion column.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SALSA Heaven!

Saturday April 25: Packed to capacity, people dancing in the aisles. Lehman Center for the performing arts was Salsa heaven. Famous Salsa musicians Tony Vega, Lalo Rodriguez, Hector Tricoche, Luis “Perico” Ortiz, Orestes Vilato and Renzo Padilla, performed with Jimmy Delgado's Salsa Con Dulzura Orchestra. During the evening, Salsa's living legend Ismael Quintana was honored by The City Council of the City of New York, "For his extraordinary musical contributions and for fostering harmony through out the world." Later, when he sang the whole auditorium was on their feet with shouts of "Ismael we love you." Right through the evening, The audience were emotional, animated, cheering and running up to the stage. Both for the artists and the audience, this one night shall live on as a sweet treasured memory. It was a pleasure making these photographs while being jostled by a passionate audience. I do hope you enjoy them too. Click on the images to view names.

Bronx News Roundup April 28

Did Councilman Larry Seabrook use his position to advance the career of his sister? That's the question The Times is asking. This isn't first time Seabrook (aka "The Fox") has been accused of looking out for himself rather than his constituents.

More on tonight's PBS documentary which charts the history of a one-time leftish community on Allerton Avenue near Bronx Park East. Bronx Bohemian also has a nice piece about this.

"City Island," a comedy about a dysfunctional family living on City Island, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last Sunday.

A Bronx doo-wop band has been making waves in the Middle East.

Because of the UFT, public school teachers are virtually unfireable, according to a Daily News editorial.

The family of Fermin Arzu, the Honduran immigrant who was shot dead in Longwood in May 2007, wants his killer - a police officer - to serve the max.

Bargains can be found at stores and restaurants in Allerton.

Ruben Diaz Jr. will take over the reins at Borough Hall this Friday, according to Bob Kappstatter. Also in Kappstatter's weekly column: the deep-pocketed Radame Perez won't run against Councilman Joel Rivera (15th District) after all.

The owner of Jake's Steakhouse in Riverdale has been found guilty of tax evasion. The NY Post says it best: guilty as "charred."

Bronx Water Rate Hearing Today

The Water Board will hear testimony regarding the proposed 14% rate increase today at 2pm at the Bronx Library Center, 310 East Kingsbridge Road.

Contrary to what I posted last week the new Fiscal Year 2010 Blue Book wasn't posted until either last night or this morning. (The Blue Book is basically DEP's written justification to the Water Board for why they need to increase rates.)

If you can't make it to the hearing but would still like to complain about increasing water rates, call 311 and ask to register your complaint with the Mayor's office -- he loves to check those 311 statistics!

Also, check out NY1's coverage of the Queens hearing yesterday and read Comptroller Thompson's full testimony at the Staten Island hearing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Earl Brown Still Borough President, For Now

Last Tuesday Bronx voters came out to support Soundview Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. as the next borough president. Diaz will replace acting BP Earl Brown who is filling in for Adolfo Carrion who fled the Boogie Down to be Obama's urban affairs director.

But it's not clear when the transition will happen.

After speaking to the office's press secretary, Liseth Almeida, it's clear that we aren't the only ones confused about the process. "I don't think we have all that info clear yet," she said.

Almeida could not confirm when Diaz will be sworn in, but she did say that Brown is still serving as acting BP. She added that the BP's communications director, Anne Fenton (now with Bill Thompson's mayoral campaign) left last week.

Calls to Diaz's camp have not been returned.

A little more than 28,000 people, less than 5% of eligible Bronx voters, voted for Diaz in the April 21 special election.

We will continue to update readers on the process. Stay tuned. Or chime in if you know what's going on.

Greenways on Film

>Here's a terrific short film about the Bronx River Greenway and South Bronx Greenway by Street Films.

And here's more info and links via Street Films:

The Bronx River Greenway and South Bronx Greenway plans apply community-driven design strategies to help undo years of top down, auto-centric planning and development in the Bronx. The greenways, when completed, will create a network of safe bicycle and pedestrian paths and routes, parks, and waterfront access points throughout the borough. See the Bronx River Alliance's 2009 calendar for a list of events and activities planned on or around the Bronx River. Also be sure to check out Sustainable South Bronx and The Point Community Development Corporation for more information about the projects and for ways to get involved.

Bronx News Roundup, April 27

A high school junior died after being accidentally shot in the chest by a friend playing with a gun; he was one of two fatalities in a weekend which saw 13 shootings and 1 near-fatal stabbing in the Bronx.

The Bronx teacher who was arrested after he barricaded himself inside a classroom at the New Millenium Business Academy Middle School last Friday was released without bail on Saturday.

The Daily News reports back from a poetry workshop for Bronx teens in residency programs.

A man tried to turn in a live hand grenade at the NYPD's Gun Buyback program, held in churches around the Bronx on Saturday.

The Botanical Garden will open its new tulip show, "The Glory of Dutch Bulbs" on Friday.

And Boogiedowner beat us to the punch, but these are stories worth reading: David Gonzalez, former NY Times Bronx Bureau Chief, had a story this weekend on immigrant families divided by legal status, while PBS is set to air a story tomorrow on a former communist co-op in the Bronx.

And last but not least, former BP Adolfo Carrion finally paid his bill.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Serrano: "Stand up and be Counted"

Congressman Jose Serrano has release a statement on Latinos being counted in the upcoming 2010 Census. Since political representation and many forms of funding are based on the Census, it's worth repeating his comments from his most recent newsletter here:

"Stand up and be Counted"

Last week, Congressman Serrano urged all Latinos, regardless of immigration status to participate fully in the 2010 Census. He was responding to a recent series of statements by Latino activists calling for a boycott of the Census, which Serrano condemned as “extremely counterproductive.”

“These calls for a boycott of the Census by Latinos are just plain wrong, and do not serve our community’s best interest,” said Serrano. “We have worked so hard for so many years for our Latino voices to be heard, so these ideas are particularly troubling to me. The message for all Latinos across the nation – regardless of immigration status – is you must stand up and be counted.

“While I understand the frustration of many Latinos over the need for immigration reform, any attempted boycott will simply be misguided. Anti-immigrant advocates have already advocated attempting to exclude undocumented immigrants from census counts and from redistricting. By excluding ourselves, we give them a victory they don’t deserve.

“In addition, any type of Census boycott by Latinos will disproportionately harm Latinos, both documented and undocumented. By forcing an undercount of the Latino population, any boycott would end up hurting the Latino population. Resources and representation are apportioned to communities by population as recorded by the census, so a census boycott would only serve to strip funding and political power from our communities. We need more Latino representation in all levels of government—but the ability to do that ultimately comes from high numbers of Latinos accurately filling out Census forms.

“I can remember that prior to the 1990 Census, the Catholic Church urged undocumented immigrants not to participate in the Census. In the subsequent 10 years the Church realized the harm that this had caused, and they had no such message for Latinos in 2000. I hope that those advocating a boycott of the 2010 Census by Latinos take less time than that to figure out the true harm that would be caused.

“Our community needs all the support that it can get. We do that by taking part in the civic duties of the United States. If you are undocumented, you should be showing that you want to take part in all the rights and duties that a citizen would. Sending a message that you only want the benefits is the wrong idea. It is extremely counterproductive to our efforts to bring comprehensive immigration reform.”

The Yankees, Unobstructed

April Baseball is Not Important

One of the toughest aspects of being a baseball fan, is keeping April in its proper context. Some players and teams start hot, other slump from the get-go. Judging from what we have seen so far, Mark Teixera is a bust, Andy Pettitte is unstoppable, Chien-Ming Wang has become the worst pitcher ever, Melky Cabrera is ready to bat clean-up and of course, 700 home runs will be hit at the new Stadium this season.

Undoubtedly, the most striking set-back that the Yankees have had so far, has been the pitching of Wang. A 34.50 era in three starts is unsettling, no matter what time of year it is. While the Yankees say they saw improvement during Wang's extended spring training game yesterday, they also thought he was good enough to pitch at the beginning of the season. Despite Wang's performance of late, even if he ends up on the disabled list with (a totally real and not made up condition, such as) arm fatigue, the Yankees have some solid #5 starters in the minors. Phil Hughes, for instance, has a 1.86 era through three games for the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees (12-1).

Despite Wang, if the Yankees' outfielders keeps producing at the rate they have, the Yankees will be unstoppable. Center field alone, must make Joe Girardi giddy. Each day, Girardi gets to choose between Brett Gardner (who is not hitting well, but has steals on four of his nine singles) and Melky Cabrera, whose .826 slugging leads the team. And of course, flanking the center fielders are Johnny Damon (.407 on-base percentage and three steals) in left field and Nick Swisher, who leads the team or is tied for the lead in home runs (4), runs batted in (12), touched bases (35), walks (10) and on-base percentage (.433), in right field.

This weekend, the Yankees head to Boston for their first meeting of the season. Expect these games to be billed as "Both Team's Most Important Games this month." Although the Red Sox have won seven straight games, the Yankees should be able to squeeze out two wins this weekend. Tonight's starters are Joba Chamberlain (5.06 era) and Jon Lester (5.50 era). Despite Lester's poor start to the season, this might prove to be the Yankees' toughest game. Last season, the Yankees absolutely could not touch Lester. In two starts against the Yanks, he was 2-0 with a 1.79 era. It gets better for the Yankees after Lester though.

In game two A.J. Burnett faces off against Josh Beckett. Against the Yankees, you never know which Beckett will show up, the one who can't be hit, or the one who stomps around on the mound and screams into his mitt all day. Even if the unhittable Becket shows up on Saturday, I like the Yankees' chances, because of Burnett. In eight career starts against Boston, Burnett is 5-0 with a 2.56 era.

For Sunday's match-up, the Yankees have a solid advantage coming in. Andy Pettitte has been the team's best pitcher so far this year and he's facing off against Justin Masterson, who has not had great success against the Yankees (a 4.82 era in five starts).

No matter how this first Boston-New York meeting goes, expect to hear dire predictions for what this series means to both teams....until they meet again in less than two weeks.

Make sure to check back every Wednesday for Pinstripe Politics, your #1 source for news about the Yankees as they relate to the Bronx community, and every Friday for this column, newly titled, "The Yankees, Unobstructed."

Bronx News Roundup, April 24

The SoHo offices of the Atlantic Development Group, which has worked on several Bronx housing projects and donated thousands of dollars to former Bronx B.P. Adolfo Carrion (as well as several other borough officials), was raided yesterday morning as part of a probe by the city's Department of Investigation.

The Daily News reports that the investigation may revolve around, among other things, whether Atlantic illegally influenced local politicians to win support for their projects. (Atlantic was also in the running for the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment project, but lost out the Related Companies, more on the Armory project later.) More on the raid here.

Earlier today, the Voice's Tom Robbins linked to Hunt's Point Express reporter Joe Hirsch's story about the unhappy tenants of an Atlantic building.

New evidence in the Deutsche Bank building manslaughter case against three construction supervisors has emerged that might help the defense. Two of the supervisors facing trial worked for the John Galt Corporation, which has its headquarters here in the northwest Bronx on Webster Avenue.

The Post reports on some the cuts the Bronx Zoo is preparing to make to bridge its $15 million budet gap. The deers, lemurs, caimans, porcupines, foxes and antelopes could all be shipped out.

Bronx Teacher Barricades Himself Inside Classroom, School Evacuated

Breaking news from the City Room blog. A disgruntled teacher at a Bronx building that houses three separate schools, made a bomb threat (which turned out to be false) and then barricaded himself inside a computer lab. The three schools were successfully evacuated.

The teacher has been identified as Francisco Garabitos.

Read more about it here.

We'll keep tabs on this and provide updates when they come in.

Update: The teacher surrendered to authorities at about 11:15 a.m. The link above should get you to the most updated story on the Times' City Room.

Here's the NY1 story about it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Efrain Gonzalez Back in Court Tomorrow

Former State Senator Efrain Gonzalez will be back in a Manhattan federal court tomorrow at noon for a pre-trial conference.

Gonzalez is facing nine counts of fraud and corruption for allegedly funneling more than $400,000 of state money for personal use. His trial is set to begin on May 4.

Two of his co-defendants, former Pathways for Youth Executive Director Neil Berger and former Gonzalez staffer Miguel Castanos, recently pleaded guilty to related charges.

The guilty pleas do not bode well for Gonzalez.

Berger pleaded guilty to federal program fraud on March 30 for sending state funds to the West Bronx Neighborhood Association (WBNA) even though he had "received indications that WBNA was using the funds from Pathways to pay for, among other things, former State Senator Gonzalez's personal expenses," according to court documents.

Castanos pleaded guilty to accpeting a no-show job that prosecutors say Gonzalez set up for him and then submitting fraudulent time sheets to the Community Association for Progressive Dominicans.

Gonzalez's lawyer, "Don't Worry" Murray Richman, was coy about what the guilty pleas meant for his client. "I guess they were guilty," he said. "My client is not."

Richman wouldn't comment on whether Gonzalez would be following his co-defendants in negotiating a plea agreement. However, he did say that he'd much rather be vacationing in Puerto Rico, but not in the Dominican Replublic (where Gonzalez has a home that prosecutors say he paid for with state money).

Councilman Talks MTA Rescue Plan on BronxTalk

On Monday night, Queens Councilman John Liu, who's running for City Comptroller and is chairman of the Council's transportation committee, appeared on BronxTalk to discuss the MTA budget crisis and possible solutions that could stave off the pending service cuts and fare hikes.

Basically, he said getting people on board to help out the MTA has been difficult, but that he supported a payroll tax, like the one proposed by Senate Democrats on Monday, to help bridge the budget gap. Unfortunately, a handful of suburban Democratic Senators are refusing to support the bill. Without unanimous support, Senate Democrats, who hold a slim 32-30 majority, will have trouble passing any rescue plan.

Click here to watch the full video.

Hosted by Gary Axelbank and produced by Jane Folloro, BronxTalk can be seen live on Mondays at 9 p.m. on Bronxnet's channel 67. This coming Monday, BronxTalk will feature an interview with new Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Aurelia Greene's replacement?

Here's a shot of Vanessa Gibson, who's running for Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene's soon-to-be-vacant assembly seat in the 77th District.

Gibson, 30, was at last night Community Board 5 meeting where she spoke about her experience and qualifications - she's worked for Greene for eight years, first as intern in Albany and more recently as her chief-of-staff here in the Bronx, and she's finishing up a Masters in Public Administration at Baruch College.

Gibson said she has Greene's support and hopes to get the party's backing, too. "[If elected] I will not be the type of person who just comes out when I need your vote," she told the audience.

A special election is scheduled for June. Joel R. Rivera, a community activist, is also running. Here's his Web site; Gibson doesn't have one yet. Other candidates could well jump in as the election approaches.

A representative of State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. was also at last night's board meeting. The rep, whose name I didn't catch, announced that her boss's district office will finally open on May 1. It'll be located in the old Sears building at 400 E. Fordham Rd, on the seventh floor. Presumably there's an elevator.

(Photo by J. Fergusson)

More on the Impending Water Rate Hike

The City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New York City Water Board plan to raise New Yorkers’ water rates by another 14% this year and charge penalties to water customers for denial of access or “theft of service”. If this year’s increase is approved, as of July 1 water rates will have risen by nearly 60% in just 4 years. Meanwhile, last year’s promised rate setting study has not yet been completed.

The Water Board will be holding hearings next week in each borough, though the members who began to challenge the status quo last year were for the most part replaced by the Mayor.

As we have done for the past fifteen years, University Neighborhood Housing Program will testify at the hearings and is urging community leaders, homeowners and concerned citizens to:

  1. speak against the 14% increase,
  2. call for a revision of the current formula for setting rates which requires rates to be set to fully cover the cost of operating the system, the cost of debt service for capital work and a rental payment to the City of New York, which is set at 15% of the debt service,
  3. urge the City to reduce the proposed rate increase by returning the excess rental payment to the Water Board,
  4. urge the City to closely monitor capital work costs. Overruns experienced at the filtration plant in the Bronx have increased the projected costs by three times. Soaring construction costs contribute substantially to the soaring rate increases, and
  5. ask the City to delay implementation of new penalties for denial of access to a property’s water meters until the procedures for notification and appeal are clearly presented.
To read more about the proposed penalties, check out the Water Watch NYC blog.

Read more about Comptroller Thompson’s efforts to fight off the rate increase in the Staten Island Advance and in this Daily News piece with accompanying video clip.

For more background on the issue and the need for comprehensive reform, read the report from UNHP's Water Rate Reform Summit last spring, or this summary essay.

Keep in mind that these increases come at a time when foreclosure rates continue to spike and many two and three family homeowners are in danger of having their water liens sold in the upcoming lien sale (single family homeowners just get their water service shut-off). We've also been getting calls from a number of homeowners who have defaulted on their payment arrangements and are being told DEP will only accept near full payments. Homeowners can check out this flyer to figure out where to go for help before the lien sale on May 1.

The Water Board’s Information Booklet (the Blue Book) describing the rate proposal and changes to billing policies can be downloaded here.

Those who wish to testify at one of the hearings should contact Kevin Kunkle at (718) 595-3601 ASAP, though walk-ins are usually welcome to testify at the hearings as well.

The schedule of hearings is as follows:

  • QUEENS: Monday, April 27th at 10 AM, Department of Environmental Protection Lecture Room, 6th Floor, 59-17 Junction Boulevard
  • STATEN ISLAND: Monday, April 27th at 7 PM, College of Staten Island Center for the Arts, Recital Hall, 2800 Victory Boulevard
  • BRONX: Tuesday, April 28th at 2 PM; Bronx Library Center, 310 East Kingsbridge Road
  • BROOKLYN: Wednesday, April 29th at 6 PM, Brooklyn College, Student Center – Alumni Lounge (opposite Whitehead Hall), East 27th Street and Campus Road
  • MANHATTAN: Thursday, April 30th at 5:30 PM, St. John’s University – Manhattan Auditorium, 101 Murray Street

Bronx News Roundup April 23

Above, the Bronx DA, Robert Johnson, talks to Bronxnet about gun crime and this Saturday's gun buy-back program.

The Yankees owe the city $67K in back-rent. More here on their pricey (and empty) new seats.

In the Bronx, foreclosures notices are up 50 percent compared to a few months ago. That's a higher percentage increase than any other borough.

Majora Carter on the importance of green jobs, green roofs, green infrastructure, and what we can learn from the Internet.

Pastor Joel Osteen, the author and televangelist, was in Williambridge yesterday to meet with elected officials and clergy. On Saturday, he's scheduled to give a service at Yankee Stadium.

Gay Riverdalians talk about gay marriage.

The dour economy has hurt Riverdale's little leagues, but so far they're surviving.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day at the Concourse House

-Photo Slideshow by Adi Talwar

To celebrate Earth Day, the preschoolers at Concourse House, in North Fordham, were outside today sporting their winter coats and planting flowers in the backyard.

Though some of the students were a bit hesitant to get their hands dirty, eventually they all got into the action (some with the help of rubber gloves). Executive Director Manuela Schadt said she hopes the activity will help children understand how plants and flowers grow.

Children in the preschool programs are residents of the community and also residents of Concourse House, which provides transitional housing for women and their children. This summer the preschool classes will also plant a vegetable garden.

Check out the pictures above, and let us know, how did you celebrate Earth Day?

-Reporting by Ivonne Salazar

Espada and the MTA's New Rescue Plan

Whether he actually lives in the Bronx or not, State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. appears to be residing smack in the middle of the state legislature's efforts to avoid the massive fare hikes and service cuts the MTA approved last month.

While adamantly opposed to any tolls on the East and Harlem river bridges, Espada and other politicians began pushing a new rescue plan, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (Queens) on Monday, that would include a payroll tax.

In a press release, Espada said:

“By not giving in to the MTA’s threats, demands and fear-mongering, we will achieve the democratization of the agency that allows participation by citizens. We will achieve total transparency and accountability of the MTA, and we will achieve all of this without service cuts and a toll, and with a modest fare increase spread over two years.”

But four senators in nearby suburban counties -- Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Craig Johnson, Brian Foley and Suzi Oppenheimer (the new Gang of Four) -- are opposing the payroll tax as a deal-breaker.

One source who declined to give his name said today that he thought Albany leaders had hammered out a "three-way deal," meaning the Governor, Assembly and Senate, on the rescue plan and it was just a matter of time until its announced. We will not hold our breath.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups like the Working Families Party and Transportation Alternatives are publicly pushing Albany lawmakers to get something, anything, done to prevent these cuts and fare hikes and to do it now. Basically, they're saying that politicians are quick to reject plans, but nobody is willing to actually get anything done.

As Dan Levitan of the Working Families Party said today: "No, is not enough."

Pinstripe Politics April 22

At Press Conference, Speakers Demanded Action on Parks

A NYC Park Advocates Inc. press conference was held last Thursday at Macombs Dam Park, to draw attention to "broken promises made to the taxpayers regarding the development of the new Yankee Stadium." Speakers included former Community Board 4 members, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, representatives from Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, subsidy watchdog Good Jobs New York and NYC Park Advocates.

According to NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft, who we reached via telephone yesterday, the organization pushed for, among other issues, the replacement of four acres of lost parkland that have gone unaccounted for by city officals.

For more info, check out the NYC Park Advocates' report "Broken Promises."

Benun Charged in 161st St. Fraud Case

A Manhattan businessman, Mark Benun, is being charged in federal court for attempting to sell a commercial property near the new Yankee Stadium under fraudulent pretenses. From the Daily News:

To dupe the buyer, prosecutors said, Benun created three bogus satisfactions of mortgages that were notarized. He conned a notary into signing off on the documents by claiming the individuals whose signatures were on them got stuck in traffic, prosecutors said.

Businessman strikes out in fraudulent bid to sell building across from Yankee Stadium
The property, at 67-79 E. 161st St., is home to the Crown Donut Restaurant.

Make Sure to Check Out...

In weird Yankee news, get ready for Yankee Stadium to become the megachurch of baseball. On April 25th, famed televangelist Joel Osteen will hold a "preaching event" at the stadium.

Thanks to GAX for pointing out this NY Times article, about displaced Bronx sports teams, in the comments section of yesterday's round up.

Also, for a funny take on the new stadium, check out Mike MacAdam's blog post for the Schenectady Gazette, "Yankee Stadium = Jurassic Park."
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Bronx News Roundup, April 22

Check out our BP election post if you haven't already.

New York's new Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan visited the Catholic Charities food pantry in west Bronx last Friday. Bronxites were excited about the visit. One person said, "Touching him is like getting some part of Jesus. It's like a blessing. I think this is the best thing I've ever seen."

A quick report from WNYC on the NYPD's gun buy-back program, which hits the Bronx Saturday.

Keeping you updated on the latest MTA rescue plan: six upstate Democrats are balking at a payroll tax. [More from Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada on this later]

Firefighters helped save a Bronx family when their Fordham-area home ignited into flames early Tuesday morning.

Speaking of fire, a fire standpipe at a Mott Haven school complex recently failed a safety test.

And finally, a new lion cub at the Bronx Zoo is shy.

Diaz Jr. Makes It Official, Wins B.P. Race

Ruben Diaz Jr., a 35-year-old career politician from Soundview, is the new Bronx Borough President.

He easily defeated his lone opponent, Anthony J. Ribustello, 42, a Republican district leader from the east Bronx known more for his role as Tony Sopranos driver in the HBO series "The Sopranos," by a wide margin. Diaz garnered 87 percent of the vote, for an unofficial total of 28,301 votes. Ribustello pulled in 4,081votes.

(On the plus side for Republicans, it could be argued that Ribustello got more bang for his buck. He spent about $1 a vote, compared to Diaz who spent about $10 a vote.)

This news comes as no surprise to those who have followed this race since last fall when Diaz emerged as the loudest and most enthusiastic candidate to replace Adolfo Carrion. At that time, it appeared Diaz would be in for a tough race with City Council majority leader Joel Rivera.

But much has changed since then. Term limits were extended through a controversial vote in the City Council. Later in the fall, the Rainbow Rebel coalition, which Diaz backed, wrested control of the Bronx Democratic party from Joel's father, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, changing the power dynamics in the borough. Then, earlier this year, Carrion took a job in Washington as Obama's urban affairs director.

In early March, Bronx Democrats united behind Diaz and Joel officially dropped out of the race, leaving Ribustello as the only challenger. In the weeks leading up to the election, Diaz was so confident, he declined more than $200,000 in public financing and announced he would tap veteran Bronx politician Aurelia Greene to be his deputy B.P.

And the rest is history. We'll have more on the race and more from our exclusive interview with Ruben Diaz Jr. later this week. Feel free to chime in with any thoughts about our new borough president.

Here's the NY Times story. Here's the Daily News story. Here's the AP story via the Post.

Final thought: Both the Times and Daily News stories mention Diaz's controversial father, Bronx State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., a Pentecostal Minister who strongly opposes gay marriage. The younger Diaz has gone to great lengths to distance himself from his father and it will be interesting to see how he treats the issue as B.P.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ibrahim Gonzalez and his quintet in El Barrio

Last Thursday April 16th, Norwood resident Ibrahim Gonzalez and his quintet preformed at FB Lounge in the heart of ‘El Barrio. Poet Sandra Maria Esteves read her poetry to the soft beat of Latin Jazz twice during the evening. The audience and musicians were so immersed, that it was Friday when we left with satisfied smiles and music in our hearts. It was an experience making photographs of the musicians, while standing amongst them. At one point my lens fogged over from trumpet blasts. I enjoyed making these photographs, I hope you enjoy them too.

Jay Rodríguez - Sax & Flute
Edy Martínez - Piano
Ray Martínez - Bass
Alex García - Drums
Freddy González - Trombone
Ibrahim González - Congas

Do it for the gorillas!

Attention runners and animal lovers (and runners who love animals):

We've all heard how the Bronx Zoo is struggling.  But there was some good news for the Wildlife Conservation Society earlier this month, when the New York State Legislature OK'd $9 million to be set aside for zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums around the state.

Still, the Bronx Zoo is hoping to raise an additional $150,000 by hosting the first Run for the Wild this Saturday, April 25th.

Even if you're not a runner, you can participate in the 5K by walking (or by joining me while I cheer on my marathon-running, Bronx born-and-bred dad). You could also fundraise or sponsor a runner.

Bronx News Roundup April 21

In case you haven't heard, a special election is being held in the Bronx today to determine who will be the next borough president.

Assuming Ruben Diaz Jr. emerges victorious, and assuming he picks Aurelia Greene to be his deputy, two assembly seats will open up. Greene wants her current chief-of-staff, Vanessa Gibson to succeed her in the 77th Assembly District (Highbridge, Morrisania, parts of Morris Heights). Community activist Joel R. Rivera is also running. Until a few days ago, Rivera (no relation to Assemblyman Jose Rivera and his kids) was one of several candidates running for Helen Foster's City Council seat. But in a recent press release, he said the campaign "has decided to switch gears and run for [Greene's] open seat in the upcoming special election in early June." Here's Rivera's campaign Web site. (Gibson doesn't appear to have one.) According to Bob Kappstatter, Diaz (District 85) has tapped his executive assistant, Marcus Crespo, to take his seat.

State Senator Pedro Espada's residency is again being questioned. Check out the video at the end of the post. It's well worth a watch. Espada himself, an unidentified baby, and the BoogieDowner's Erin all make an appearance.

Still on politics, Congressmen Eliot Engel and Joseph Crowley have been using campaign contributions to spend big on food. According to the Daily News, Engel has a particular liking for Hunan Balcony, a Chinese restaurant in Riverdale.

Charter schools in the Bronx and beyond are becoming increasingly popular with parents.

Cops shot and injured an armed man in Mott Haven yesterday.

A pubic hearing will be held at the Bronx Library Center next Tuesday on the proposed water bill hike. Homeowners are expected to be hit with a 14 percent increase come July 1. More here.

Here's the Associated Press' take on the Grand Concourse's centennial year.

The Yankees may be forced to slash their sky-high ticket prices.

Special Election Day!

It will be interesting to see how many people get to the polls today to vote for their next Bronx Borough President. By most accounts, the outcome has already been determined. 

It would take a miracle for underdog Republican candidate and former "Sopranos" actor Anthony Ribustello to upset Democratic Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. who was working with a nearly $100 to $1 fundraising advantage, backing from all the major Democratic clubs and parties and the fact that the Bronx is overwhelming Democratic (though the BP election is nonpartisan). 

Despite his obvious and impressive advantages, Diaz has done an extensive ad campaign to get folks out to the polls so he can head into office (and the upcoming regularly scheduled general election later this fall) with a strong show of support.

Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will remain open until 9 p.m. To find out where you can vote, call (866) VOTE-NYC. 

Still haven't made up your mind: 

Click here for more on Ribustello. (Here's his IMDb page.)
Click here for more on Diaz. (Here's his official campaign Web site)

Monday, April 20, 2009

District 14 Candidate Jorman Nunez Launches Web site

Jorman Nunez, a young community organizer, has thrown his hat in ring for City Council in District 14, the seat held by Maria Baez.

Parents Jump Through Hoops for Their Kids

I made these photographs On April 2nd at PS340.
The current issue of Norwood News published on April 16th, has a wonderful article by Ivonne Salazar on the circus perfomance by the parents.

DOE Extends Deadline for Education Council Parental Vote

Parents now have until Wednesday, April 29, to cast advisory votes in this year's online election for community education council members. PTA selectors (who officially vote for education council members) will review the results of the parental vote before casting their official votes from May 12 to May 14.

According to the Department of Education, 12,000 parents have already voted, including 2,500 in the Bronx.

The Norwood News wrote about the ongoing election, in its latest issue, and reported that fewer parents were seeking education council seats compared to the elections in 2007.

To vote, parents should go to www.powertotheparents.org.

Private Equity “Highlights” from the Bronx

Recent developments in the world of private equity-owned Bronx apartment buildings continue to show the far reaching impact of the financial downturn and related collapsing real estate bubble.

The Real Deal picked up on the Botanical Square buildings and others owned by Hudson Realty Capital and managed by Pinnacle that, as reported on the Bronx News Network and the Norwood News are for sale at a loss (or were, as the listings have been pulled from the website). The article brings up the larger question of whether the buildings are over-financed, with varying responses from tenant advocates, owners, banker and realtor as to whether the income of the buildings can support the mortgage payments.

The City Room blog also takes a look at these same buildings, focusing more on the conditions in the apartments. (Photo from the NY Times) Their piece highlights tenant advocates protesting outside a New York Community Bank branch, who they partially blame for the conditions.

Finally, seven buildings owned by another private equity group that may now be defunct have gone into foreclosure. According to foreclosure data from RealQuest, Fannie Mae commenced foreclosure filings on February 27 against 7 buildings owned by Ocelot Properties. The outstanding mortgage balance appears to be about $18 million for the 205 apartments, or about $87,000 per unit. If history is any guide, the conditions for tenants at 1744 Clay Ave, 1663 Eastburn Ave, 2254 Crotona Ave, 422 E 178th Street, 1271 Morris Ave, 806 E 175th Street and 1269 Morris Ave are likely to deteriorate before they improve.

Bronx Foreclosure Patterns for 2008

I picked up these maps at a Community Board 5 meeting a couple of months ago, and have been meaning to post them for a while.

They do a nice job of illustrating which neighborhoods have been most affected by the current foreclosure crisis (neighborhoods like Jamaica, Queens, and to a lesser extent, Williamsbridge in the north Bronx), and which have escaped unscathed (e.g. most of Manhattan and Riverdale). Feel free to add your own thoughts or questions about all of this in the comments section. To enlarge a map, click on it.

Bronx News Roundup, April 20

The South Bronx organization Nos Quedamos is joining several parents in their fight with the Department of Education to remove toxic caulk from schools in the east Bronx.

Mayor Bloomberg was practicing his Spanish at his Bronxwood campaign office and calling voters in the Bronx on Saturday.

A woman in the Bronx, whose longtime boyfriend died suddenly on Thursday, is trying to harvest his sperm to have a baby in the future.

South Bronx residents are ticked off at guardian angel Curtis Sliwa and his new “underbelly tours.”

Archbishop Timothy Dolan visited the Catholic Charities Food Pantry in the west Bronx on Friday.

The New York Times covers Anthony Ribustello’s bid for Bronx BP.

The Roberto Clemente State Park swimming pool, which hosts thousands of children each year in Morris Heights, will be repaired and won't open this summer.

The Plummer Pavilion, a luxury senior assisted living center that was supposed to be built near Pelham Bay, may be another victim of the recession.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

From Adi's Camera

Horned Owl, I made this photograph at the Bronx Zoo last Sunday.

Friday, April 17, 2009

At New Stadium, a Distant Crowd

Just before the first pitch at the new Yankee Stadium was thrown, the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run in the old Yankee Stadium was placed across home plate. Afterward in the dugout, Yankee players and staff alike, were seen marveling at the 40+ oz. hickory club that the Great Bambino brandished. It was a spectacular end to what had otherwise become just one of any another thrice yearly self-aggrandizing Yankee pre-game spectacles.

There was, however, something different about this game (other than the new digs). Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated and Peter Abraham of the Journal News both noticed it. Despite the historic game and its pitchers duel (through six innings), the crowd was eerily quiet. Muted, even.

Verducci took the polite root, blaming this very un-Bronx crowd on the stadium's construction. He noted:

Only time will tell, as its opening day hinted, if the Yankees lost something in gaining such an elegant manor. For as much as the Yankees planned for and built a worthy heir to its two forefathers, neither money nor architects can create the atmosphere that makes a building a ballpark. For one day, and even before the Indians turned a pitchers' duel into a 10-2 rout with a nine-run seventh inning, Yankee Stadium sounded nothing like the old place. It sounded much quieter, much more refined.

Verducci: New Stadium an instant classic

Verducci went on to point out the most striking difference between the old and new parks, the upper decks. In the old stadium, when you sat in the upper deck, you still felt near to the game. The seats were practically draped over the lower decks and onto the field. In other words, you got some bang for your buck. Not so, anymore.

The Yankees made a dramatic statement with their new stadium. They said, "if you think you can get away with seeing our ballgame for (relatively) cheap (as compared to the prices in the lower decks), then you had better pack binoculars....Also, make sure to bring said binoculars in a plastic bag, no backpacks are permitted on the premises."

There was more to the quiet than the distance, though. Abraham may have hit the nail on the head when he wrote that "You have to wonder if the Yankees priced the real fans out of the place and are left with a wine-and-cheese crowd." With the average price of a ticket at Yankee Stadium at $72.97, outside the bleachers ($14), Yankee games are no longer an event for the average fan.

In the mid-to-late 1990's, George Steinbrenner raised a stink about attendance. Due to traffic congestion and safety concerns, he said not enough fans were coming to games. Steinbrenner challenged fans in 1998. He said that if the Yankees drew 3 million fans, he would "consider" keeping them in the Bronx, instead of finding a new home for them in upper-Manhattan.

While the Yankees would go on to bring in 3 million attendees that year, the extra attendance apparently only guaranteed the fans that the Yankees would stay in the Bronx. The Yankees' devoted followers heeded Steinbrenners call and streamed into the old Yankee Stadium and when the new Stadium was built, they found themselves in a Bronx home with fewer, but more expensive seats, completely devoid of the intimacy that had made the old place the greatest stadium in baseball. Those fans have now been taken out of the game.
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bronx News Roundup April 16

State Senator Jeff Klein has sponsored a bill that could help fight the knock-on effects of foreclosure.

A satellite image of the two Yankee Stadiums reveals their similarities.

The Hunts Point and Woodstock branches of the New York Public Library have been landmarked.

State Senators Pedro Espada and Ruben Diaz Sr still aren't budging. Both continue to oppose efforts to toll the Harlem and East Rivers, despite a compromise plan introduced by supporters that would have given rebates to certain drivers (local businesses and those travelling to medical appointments.) Diaz told The Times he's "opposed to any toll." The tolls are seen as an alternative to massive MTA fair hikes and service cuts.

Espada may be a powerful man in Albany, but his name doesn't seem to register with many of his Bronx constituents.

Tenant rights advocates rallied outside the New York Community Bank at 3681 Tremont Ave. yesterday, to bring attention to banks that give inflated loans to private equity groups.

An army reservist from the Bronx has been charged with using a government purchasing program to buy $100,000 of electronics and other supplies which he later sold on eBay.

A peek inside the train yard at 240th Street, where under-the-weather 1 trains go for rest and repairs.

This summer, Martha Stewart will redesign a herb garden at the New York Botanical Garden.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pinstripe Politics

The first Yankees home game is tomorrow afternoon, but the parks that were promised as replacements for Macombs Dam Park will not.

The Gotham Gazette reports that:

Yankee Stadium and the new Metro North station were both completed on schedule, but the replacement parkland has been subject to delays and will be not be fully complete until the fall of 2011, according to the current timeline. Meanwhile, the estimated cost to the taxpayers, one that would not have been incurred if the Yankees had rebuilt their new stadium at the site of the old one, has risen from $116 million to $195 million, according to the Independent Budget Office."
Yankees C.O.O. Lonn Trost still does not think that tickets are too expensive

Check out the Yankees Community Benefit Fund News Page, see if you can find any recent activity! Also, for bonus points, see if you can find any interest accruing on the fund's annual $800,000 allotment.

Not sure you'll be able
to find enough distractions to waste your money on at the new stadium? Fortunately, a Tommy Bahama's Bar will be open tomorrow as well. A press release for the bar notes that the "popular lifestyle brand, brings its life is one long weekend philosophy" to the Bronx.

Again, still no parks.

Mohegan Sun
is worried that people might blame them for the obstructed view that their in-stadium restaurant causes. Mohegan Sun's Mitchell Etes told the New York Times, "We had no say in the construction of the stadium, and I’m certain that this was designed long before we made the deal."

Of course, at some point, they will have say in renewing their investment.

A 99 year old Bronxville man
who was at the very first Yankee game at the old stadium, will be in attendance tomorrow night. While he's excited to see the new stadium, he is not happy about ticket prices.
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Bronx News Roundup, April 15

Happy Tax Day! Now here's the news of the day.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. has called an emergency summit of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization tomorrow to strategize in response to Gov. David Paterson's initiative to legalize gay marriage.

The NYPD and several churches throughout the Bronx are organizing a gun buy back program.

A street leading to the Hutchinson Metro Center will be renamed to Marconi Street after the Nobel Prize winning inventor, Guglielmo Marconi as the city builds a 911 call center south of Pelham Parkway.

A dilapidated and rat-infested house in Throggs Neck has neighbors writing to Senator Jeffrey Klein for help.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, which faced budget cuts earlier this year, and faces additional cuts next year, is organizing its first Run For the Wild a 5k mile run/walk on Saturday April 25.

Remembering Victims of Gun Violence

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. It's also the third anniversary of the death of toddler David Pacheco. David, 2, was hit by a stray bullet at the intersection of Harrison and West Tremont Avenues in Morris Heights on Easter Day 2006. His murderer is still at large.

To commemorate both tragedies, and to push for stricter gun laws, the Bronx chapters of Million Moms March and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, will hold a "lie-in" tomorrow at 141st Street at Beekman Avenue (just south of St. Mary's Park).

According to a press release, protesters will lie down on the street in group of 32 (the number of Virginia Tech victims) for a few short minutes to "highlight the short length of time it takes to purchase a gun in the United States." It starts at 2 p.m.
For information, or to get involved, call Elaine Cintron at (718) 813-4926.

To learn more about the Bronx chapter of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, check out this terrific article that appeared in The Bronx Beat last month.

(Photo by J. Fergusson)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Khmer New Year!

The Khmer New Year begins today and ends April 16. CAAAV, a Bronx-based community advocacy organization, will be hosting a New Year’s celebration event on Saturday, April 18 from 10pm - 1am in Fordham, which is home to approximately 1,000 Cambodians. Click on the flier for more information.

Bronx News Roundup April 14

The Gotham Gazette takes a look at the borough president's race, and concludes front-runner Ruben Diaz Jr. "practically has a set of keys to borough hall already." The real race, says reporter Courtney Gross, occured months back when the so-called Rainbow Rebels ousted then-Party Chairman Jose Rivera. The 2000-word story also touches on what could be two fascinating City Council races this fall involving incumbents Maria Baez (14th District) and Joel Rivera (District 15).

A five-year-old boy was reunited with his worried mother after hopping on the No. 1 train at the 225th Street and ending up in South Ferry. This story was also picked up in the UK.

Phil Spector, the Bronx-born music producer and songwriter, was found guilty of murder yesterday.

A Bronx nun has been chosen to do a scripture reading at tomorrow's installation mass for incoming Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Still on nuns, the movie "Doubt," which is set in a Catholic school in the Bronx in the 1960s, came out on DVD last week. Watching it bought back memories (mostly good ones) for Daily News columnist Patrice O'Shaughnessy who went to St. Raymonds.

Affordable housing advocates are having a hard time wooing State Senator Pedro Espada, the Senate's housing committee chairman, as they push for a vote to repeal vacancy decontrol.

Curtis Silwa of Guardian Angels fame has started giving free tours of the Bronx.

Toxic waste in Bronx schools has parents up in arms - and suing the city.

Bob Kappstatter looks at who might replace Assemblymembers Ruben Diaz Jr. and Aurelia Greene should they become borough president and deputy borough president respectively.

The BBC interviews a family who became homeless last summer and now live in a Bronx homeless shelter.

Bloomberg in the Bronx

Mayor Bloomberg is continuing his outer borough push today with a stop in Co-op City to talk about jobs. According to the press release from Bloomberg's press people, the Mayor will be announcing that the City has achieved a "record" amount of job placements through the first quarter of 2009.

He'll be at 2100 Barstow Blvd. at 10:15 a.m. to talk about his job placement achievement and to answer questions.

We've asked for more details on this "record" amount of job placements. Last month, the Bronx unemployment rate was in the double digits.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bronx pols head (another) worst offenders list

In today's NY Post there's a list of state lawmakers who owe the city fines for campaign-finance violations. Five of the top seven worst offenders are from the Bronx. Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo heads the list with $33,648 in unpaid fines (going back over 15 years). Also up there are State Senators Pedro Espada Jr. and Ruth Hassell-Thompson, and Assemblymen Jose Rivera and Michael Benjamin.

"I guess these guys view these fines as kind of like parking tickets," one government reform advocate told the Post. " People feel they can violate the law with impunity."

More here.

In other political news, the Bronx GOP chairman Jay Savino has decided to endorse Mayor Michael Bloomberg for relection, after weeks of playing hard to get. Savino's support means three of the city's five GOP county chairman are backing Bloomberg, which will allow him to run as a Republican.

Word of Savino's about face doesn't seemed to have reached the Bronx County Young Republican Club, however. As of this morning, the group (who call themselves "a small herd of pachyderms amongst a mass of jackasses") is still hawking Term-Limit Mike Bloomberg buttons on their Web site.