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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mayoral control set to expire tonight

Mayoral control of the city's public schools is set to expire at midnight tonight, unless the State Senate acts. GothamSchools has the latest, including the news that Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. has appointed someone to the serve on a hypothetical Board of Education.

While a return to the old way of doing things is unlikely, a number outcomes are still possible. The Times has a good overview on this.

Above is a recent episode of BronxTalk featuring Joyce Johnson from Learn-NY, a pro-mayoral control group, and Vincent Wojsnis, a teacher at MS 399, who believes "mayoral control is out of control." Wojsnis has previously written about this issue for the Mount Hope Monitor.

Sesame Street on the Bronx River

Native Bronxite Sonia Manzano, who has played Maria on Sesame Street for more than three decades, has been a long-time supporter of the Bronx River Alliance and often appears at their events and fundraisers.

But on Saturday she brought along several of her Sesame Street pals to perform in River Park at 180th Street and Boston Road. Here are some photos (Sonia Manzano is at center of group picture below). For more information on the Bronx River Alliance, go to bronxriver.org. (Photos by Jordan Moss)

P.S. Sonia signed my daughter's copy of her children's book, "No Dogs Allowed," and informed us that it is being turned into a musical this fall. If you live in the Bronx and you've got kids, this is an amazing book.

Bronx News Roundup for June 30

Re-Fab, a company that seeks to turn discarded wood and construction materials into furniture for sale, might open up shop in the South Bronx.

According to the Daily News, Assemblyman Carl Heastie is feeling betrayed over the choice of former Assemblyman Luis Diaz as the new Bronx County Clerk.

Eldin Villafane, adviser to former Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr, has some suggestions for current president Ruben Diaz.

Murders, along with rape, robbery, and burglary, have been steadily declining in the Bronx.

Yesterday, Justice Joseph C. Teresi of the State Supreme Court in Albany, ordered the Senate to convene this morning. Senate Democrats were the first to arrive, and were later followed by the GOP as their planned appeal failed. However the session was short-lived.

51 Students from the Bronx Academy of Letters are taking part in the Farm Institutes first ever residential program on Katama Farm in Massachusetts.

Work in Retail? Do You Make a 'Living Wage'?

Central to the roiling debate over the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory is a demand by community organizations that the developer require prospective retailers to pay a "living wage." So, we thought we'd ask our readers who work in retail a few questions, including what your hourly wage is and whether it's enough to support you and your family.

The responses we get will be incorporated into an article we are working on for the next edition of the Norwood News. We are collaborating on this with the Huffington Post, which has a brand new New York site. The article we write will appear both in the Norwood News and on the Huffington Post. (The same questions are being asked on Huffington Post.)

So, tell us about your own experiences working in the city's retail stores by sending answers to the following questions to nycwages@gmail.com. If you can't answer all of the questions, we still want to hear from you - the ones below are just a guide. We will be using your anecdotes to compile a story this week.

Where do you work?

What is your hourly wage?

What kind of benefits do you get, if any?

What kind of work do you do?

How long have you been in your current job?

Are you unionized? What union do you belong to?

Is your wage enough to support you (and your family if you have one)? Or do you rely on other sources of income/support, such as a spouse/partner's/child's salary, another job, or public assistance (food stamps, section 8, etc.)? How many people are in your family?

Include any other information you'd like us to know.

Please submit your responses to nycwages@gmail.com.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Comptroller Debate Tonight in the Bronx!

Just another reminder of what is probably an unprecedented Bronx debate of all the comptroller candidates.

On Monday, June 29 the four Democrats running for NY City Comptroller will square off on BronxTalk in a live, one-hour televised debate. Beginning at 9:00pm, Councilmembers Melinda Katz, John Liu, David Weprin, and David Yassky will discuss city budgets, housing, education, economic development, and a variety of other subjects. Moderated by BronxTalk host Gary Axelbank, the program will emphasize issues important to the people of the Bronx.

BronxTalk is the borough's flagship talk show that's seen Monday nights at 9:00pm on Bronxnet's channel 67 in the Bronx and streamed live on the web at http://bronxnet.org/home/live/webstreamtrial.html . BronxTalk will be celebrating its 15th anniversary in October. Jane Folloro is the producer.

Viewers can see replays of BronxTalk at 9:30am, 3:30pm, and 9:00pm daily and the programs are archived at http://bronxnet.fliggo.com/category/bronxtalk

Bronxnet is a private, independent, not-for-profit organization seen on channels 67, 68, 69, and 70 in the borough of the Bronx and established under the requirements of the cable television franchise agreement between the City of New York and Cablevision of New York City

Bronx News Roundup June 29

OK, what would Monday be without an Espada/State Senate roundup to start things off?

Despite the avalanche of mail and literature saturating the 33rd Senate District during the great Espada v. Gonzalez primary faceoff last fall, the state Board of Elections says that Espada’s recently filed (and very late) expense reports indicate “no activity.”

According to the Albany Times Union, the state has withdrawn a contract for $3 million to Espada’s Soundview Healthcare Network because of alleged misstatements about the organization’s history of tax delinquency.

New York Magazine’s take on the mess in the state Senate.

Tom Robbins says the governor isn’t using the full powers of his office to stop Espada from turning state government upside down.

The latest on the connection between Bronx lawyer/uber political fixer Stanley Schlein and Espada.

Sam Roberts of the Times reports that help is on the way for New Yorkers exasperated by the deadlocked Senate – but not until 2013, after the decennial redistricting will heavily favor demographic changes in downstate (read Democratic) areas.

Millions of gallons of groundwater and stormwater pollutants associated with the Croton water filtration plant project in Van Cortlandt Park are being inappropriately discharged into parkland, says Karen Argenti on Waterblogged.

The Times reports on the growing competition among vendors selling ices, or helados.

The Bronx Knows, an HIV testing organization, celebrated its first year and a 28 percent hike in the number of Bronxites tested.

A shooting death in Mott Haven.

UPDATE: Tapia protests outside Cabrera's house, calls him "another Espada"


On Saturday, Yudelka Tapia and her supporters held a press conference outside Pastor Fernando Cabrera's house in Pelham, Westchester. We had a post about this on Friday, which has generated quite a few comments. Here's a follow-up press release from Tapia, sent after the event:

I am here in suburban Pelham New York to ask Mr. Fernando Cabrera why he believes that as a member of this community he would be better able to represent the people of NYC’s 14th City Council District than a true resident of the West Bronx.

We are here to ask him why he believes that state laws should be ignored again as was done by Senator Pedro Espada. It is of little surprise that just like Senator Espada Mr. Cabrera is also a life long Republican masquerading as a Democrat.

We are proud that Mr. Cabrera has achieved great economic success in his life and has been living an affluent life in this wealthy suburb for all these years. But the facts can not be refuted. He does not pay taxes in NYC and his children did not attend our schools

We can only assume that the Bronx Democratic leadership was not aware of Mr. Cabrera’s deception when they displayed their preference for him last month.

Information has reached this campaign that as of a few weeks ago Mr. Cabrera was still reflecting his Pelham address in business and campaign related transactions.

The 14th Council District has already suffered with the absence of City Council Member Maria Baez who is rated as the Council Member with the worst attendance record. How much worse would it be if we elect a REPUBLICAN FROM PELHAM?

We've left voice messages for Cabrera asking for his reaction. When we hear back, we'll post his comments here. In a recent interview with the Norwood News, though, Cabrera said he moved to the Bronx last July and lives at 2792 Sedgwick Ave. - in the confines of the 14th Council District - with his wife and son. While he still owns his house in Pelham, he said his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren reside there - not him.

Some additional thoughts and clarifications:

Cabrera has admitted to being a registered Republican until recently. But he didn't vote in September's Republican primaries, according to Patrick Jenkins, a spokesman for the Bronx Democratic Party - contrary to what Tapia is claiming.

Tapia's camp didn't like the word "protest" that we used in the original post. From an e-mail:

We understand that the word protest, as stated in the headline, is not factually incorrect but it might send the wrong message to the readers of Bronx News Network. Tapia and Bronx residents held a peaceful and low key press conference. Ms. Tapia read her statement and Bronx residents stood behind her outside of Cabrera’s home with signs for about 15 minutes. When she finished her statement everyone left.

If you can't read the signs in the photo above - it's a little washed out - some of them suggest Cabrera voted for John McCain, rather than Barack Obama, in the presidential election. For example, "Cabrera no voto por Obama" and "Fernando Cabrera voto por e Republicano McCain" and "Fernando Cabrera did not vote for President Obama." In a later e-mail, however, Tapia's communications director, Elias Alcantara, said she didn't know how Cabrera voted. "We have found no record of him having voted in the Nov. of 08 election therefore we can not conclude if he voted for Obama or McCain," she wrote.

Update: Cabrera has previously told the Bronx News Network that he was a big Obama supporter and says he takes the "Obama view" on gay marriage, meaning he's for civil unions.

Update 3:30 p.m.: Just spoke to Fernando Aquino, a spokesman for Cabrera's campaign. He said Cabrera was born in the Bronx and has lived here, on-and-off, for more than 10 years - longer than he lived in Westchester.

He said he doesn't know if Cabrera voted in the Republican primaries, but even if he did it shouldn't be an issue. "He used to be a Republican, he's not hiding that," Aquino said, adding that he switched allegiance because "Democratic values were his values."

Of Tapia's press conference, Aquino said: "His [Cabrera's] campaign will welcome any discussion on the issues, but we will not get distracted by unfounded allegations."

Oh, and Aquino said Cabrera voted for Obama in the election, not McCain.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Elias Alcantara. Tapia is holding the mic.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tapia to protest outside Cabrera's house, calls him "another Espada"

This press release was sent out earlier this evening:

Yudelka Tapia and fellow community leaders will visit Fernando Cabrera’s, candidate for the 14th Council District and endorsee of the Bronx Democratic Committee, home in Pelham, NY. Cabrera also, just recently changed his party membership from Republican to Democrat.

Tapia with various community leaders in front of Cabrera’s home will question him on the legitimacy of his campaign for the 14th City Council District. “Someone who lives in the suburbs of Pelham, NY can not adequately represent our community and Bronx residents do not deserve another Espada” says Tapia. Cabrera most recently voted as a Republican in the 2008 Presidential Primaries. According to the Westchester County Board of Elections Cabrera was a registered Republican for almost ten years.

Date: Saturday June 27, 2009
Time: 1pm
Location: 58 Sixth St. Pelham, NY 10803

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Elias Alcantara, Communications Director at 646-384-1990 or by email at e.alcantara@yudelkatapia.com.
Tapia and Cabrera are among those hoping to topple Maria Baez, the incumbent, in September's primary. More here.

Armory Community Benefits Meeting 'Positive'

Just a quick note before we shut down for the weekend.

Yesterday, one day after the raucous hearing about the Kingsbridge Armory project at Lehman College, three of the major stakeholders in the project -- the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), Community Board 7 and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. -- sat down to discuss strategy for striking a Community Benefits Agreement with the Related Companies, the Armory's designated developer.

John DeSio, a former Riverdale Review reporter who is now head of Diaz's press office, wouldn't go into details, but said the discussions were "positive." He said he sees the borough president's office as a "middle man" between KARA, CB7 and Related and will help them craft a CBA.

More on this later, but this is crunch time and it will be interesting to see how effective Diaz is in brokering a deal. He's criticized the CBAs that his predecessor Adolfo Carrion negotiated at Yankee Stadium and Gateway Center Mall (another Related project).

Renovations Underway for Bank Note Building

Almost a month after Ruben Diaz, Jr. was elected as the 13th Bronx Borough President, renovations have begun on the historic BankNote Building, where Diaz held his inaguration reception in May.

The BankNote Building, which is often referred to as the "penny factory," began as the home of the American Bank Note Co. where international and domestic currencies were printed. The building has undergone proposals for various projects since 1985, but was bought recently by developers and is in the works for completion this year.

Current plans for the BankNote call for elaborate redesigning that the City hopes will bring in more economic development that fall in line with Diaz's plan for "One Bronx."

In Diaz's inaguration speech on May 21, he said "for too long, our business organizations and merchants associations have worked separately to improve their own neighborhoods." The goal for the new president's term will working to align businesses' needs with those of the community in order to achieve this goal.

And now developing pioneers, Taconic Investment Partners and Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, plan to change the BankNote Building into something more modern and more "green," to help this cause.

Paul Wolf, the president of Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, who led a tour of the building at the inaguration reception for Diaz, said guests were impressed with the space.

“There was a lot of buzz around the room about the renovations – people said they felt like they were in the middle of a SoHo loft party with better views," said Wolf in a press release by Quinn and Co., a NYC-based PR firm.

BankNote's website shows three-dimensional blueprints for what looks similar to a multifaceted commerce center--complete with office space, cafeteria and shopping mall. The vision for future development of the 405,000-square-foot structure includes giving the more-than-300 windows "energy efficient" makeovers, and governing the building by a solar photovoltaic system -- the process that uses silicon solar panels to convert sunlight into energy.

All of this seems to follow Diaz's statements to want to guide the Bronx in a "green" direction, as well. "We are not just going to talk about bringing environmentally friendly jobs to our borough, we are going to lead the City and the nation in making it happen," Diaz said at his inaguration. "The Earth, and your wallets, will be better off for our efforts."

As of now, BankNote is home to artists' studios, sustainable development offices , a wine cellar, and a charter school, among others. The $25-million renovation project is scheduled to be completed later this year.

New Community Center in Mount Hope

Mount Hope Housing Company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday to celebrate the opening of its much-anticipated community center on Townsend Avenue at East 175th Street.

The four-story building boasts classrooms, computer labs, offices, a green roof for insulation purposes, and two large open spaces on the third and fourth floors which Mount Hope will use for events, and also rent out.

It's located near the Cross Bronx Expressway amid a sea of apartment buildings, in a part of the Bronx with few parks and playgrounds. In other words, it's a huge boost for the neighborhood. “I’m excited that we’re able to deliver this building to the community,” said Shaun Belle, Mount Hope's president and CEO. He called it “respite for them [children] in this concrete jungle.”

A fundraiser was held after the ribbon-cutting to honor Belle (who's leaving the company after 13 years of service) and to raise money to help cover the center's operating costs. Mount Hope is also seeking funds for the second phrase of the project - a gymnasium, to be built alongside the center on the Walton Avenue side.

We'll have more on this in the next issue of the Mount Hope Monitor.

Photos and slideshow by Alma Watkins. Holding the scissors is Shaun Belle and Councilwoman Maria Baez, who over the past seven years has put $7 million into the center.

Bronx River Fest Tomorrow!

Sonia Manzano

Sonia Manzano -- better known as "Maria from Sesame Street" -- will be on hand tomorrow (Saturday) at the Bronx River Festival tomorrow from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. at River Park at 180th Street and Boston Road. The Festival, organized by the Bronx River Alliance, will also feature Salongo, a 7-piece Afro-Cuban/Brazilian Group sponsored by the Bronx River Art Center.

River Park has a view of an awesome waterfall and there will be food and kayak and canoe rides. For more information visit www.bronxriver.org.

(I've been meaning to get Sonia Manzano to sign my daughter's copy of "No Dogs Allowed," a beatiful kids book that stresses her Bronx roots. So, we'll be there. Hope to see some of you.)

The Falls at River Park.

The Yankees, Unobstructed June 26

Since the Yankees and Mets began playing each other regularly about twelve years ago, their rivalry has developed fast, and at times been tense. The near scuffle between Yankee reliever Brian Bruney and Mets reliever Francisco Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium a couple of weeks ago was a reminder of the often rocky relationship between players of the two teams. In preparation for this weekend's Subway Series at Citi Field, we present....

The Subway Series: A BNN Retrospective

Bronx News Roundup, June 25

The Times reports that the Senate is on the verge of entering a leadership agreement with an eye on returning to work on Monday.

At the center of the negotiations is the question of where Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. will land. He was named president of the Senate almost three weeks ago after siding with Republicans and Democrats are loath to let him keep that position, which would put him in line to replace Governor Paterson if he were out of state or incapacitated.

Yesterday, Espada acknowledged that whole Senate fiasco has "brought obviously a lot of disrepect to this institution." Now is the daily part of the roundup where we point out that Espada still doesn't have a district office or a local phone number. And the Fordham Place building, on Fordham Road and Webster Avenue, where he is supposedly trying to get space for an office is technically not even in his district. It's actually in Jeff Klein's district. Last week, Klein and Espada almost came to blows during a closed-door meeting in Albany.

On the new Huffington Post New York site (where you can find us as well), Senator Liz Krueger writes about the mess in Albany and has particularly harsh words about Espada and how dangerous it would be for him to be so close to governor's seat. She writes:

"New Yorkers have been through a lot in the last few years. They do not need someone with only a passing acquaintance with honesty to be just one heartbeat away from the Governor's office. It is simply unacceptable to have such a person in any position with such a direct influence over the lives of $19 million New Yorkers."

Getting Espada out of the president's position is a high priority for Democrats. Something tells me, he's not going to give it up easily. We'll see what happens over the weekend.

Also, a Bronx judge did not accept a light plea deal for Espada's son, Alejandro, who is accused of assaulting Bronx journalist and blogger Rafael Martinez-Alequin during the campaign last September.

The floating pool is set to reopen in Hunts Point on Saturday.

The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is pushing a fresh food movement.

The Bronx Early College Academy for Teaching and Learning, a middle school in Riverdale, was named the city's most improved school.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Marathon Armory Hearing Full of Twists

I have been to several New York City public hearings and the one last night about the proposal to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory, one of the world's largest armories, was undoubtedly the most interesting, and the longest.

Clocking in at just over four hours, the Armory hearing in the Lehman College faculty dining room, which was required of Community Board 7 which must vote on whether or not to support the project according to city's land use review process, featured everything from folk peace songs to near violence.

I'm not going to get into everything in this post, but I did want to run through a few of the highlights quickly.

The evening started out with a bang as about a hundred or so construction union guys, mostly from Positive Workforce, a big supporter of the Armory's designated developer, the Related Companies, literally bum rushed past cops and security guards into the dining room and installed themselves as a backdrop to all the night's speakers.

Several attendees were startled by their aggressiveness, others felt intimidated. Their message throughout the night was clear: build at the Armory now.

The hearing began at 6:30 p.m. By 7 p.m., police weren't letting anyone else in, citing fire code concerns. We managed to smuggle ourselves in through a sewer pipe. Not really, but you get the picture, space was tight. (A special thanks to Fernando Tirado, Community Board 7 district manager, for getting the press inside to witness the festivities.)

The hearing began with a round of "special" speakers (I think because they were disabled, they were allowed to speak first) from Co-op City who praised the project because of its apparent similarities to the Bay Plaza mall, which they think added to their part of the Bronx. It seemed kind of random.

Next up was Community Board 7's presentation of its idea, which Related has adopted into its design plans, for a World Peace Atrium inside the Armory. To kick off this presentation, CB7 land use chairman Ozzie Brown brought in his old friend Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary fame) to sing a song and say some words.

This is where things got a little awkward. Yarrow began by singing, "If I Had a Hammer," which was met with a tepid response from the audience. A second attempt was more successful, with about half the crowd joining in and clapping and singing along. As soon as the song concluded, representatives from the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) -- which came out in full force and dominated the speaking portion of the hearing -- began a forceful and deafening chant: "What do we want?" "GOOD JOBS!" When do we want 'em?" "NOW!"

Peter Yarrow sings a peace song at the Armory hearing

After things calmed down, Yarrow spoke about the civil rights movement and how the country had become increasingly angry and polarized over the years, but was coming around now with the election of Barack Obama. He was frequently interrupted by people yelling out things like: "How much are they paying you?" and "Gentrification isn't civil."

Later, Yarrow said he was surprised by the level of disrespect and animosity at the hearing, adding that he was not there to support the project, per se, but to facilitate constructive dialogue. He said he empathized with the anger being expressed, but seemed saddened and disturbed by the whole scene.

In any case, Ozzie Brown went on to present his World Peace Atrium idea, which, as I mentioned earlier, Related has adopted into its design plan. It's still a little unclear exactly what this will entail, but from what I understand it will be kind of an educational tribute/museum to peace workers like Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi and Mother Teresa, complete with statues and informational kiosks.

After this, Ethan Goodman, a lawyer for the Related Companies gave a 15-minute presentation on their plans for the Armory, saying they wanted to open up the former closed-off military installation to the community. We'll get into this more later, but at the end, Goodman talked about the community space, which he said would amount to 27,000-square-feet. Besides the Peace Atrium, Related's plan looked pretty much the same as it did when they first won the bid last year. They've also included 60,000-square-feet of space for a large retail store or supermarket, which representatives from Morton Williams, which owns the Associated supermarket across the street from the Amory, said would destroy their two Bronx supermarkets and force them to close shop in the borough for good (more this later too).

Related's presentation was followed by essentially three kinds of public testimony: KARA representatives (lots of them, they dominated the hearing, no question) who told Board members to vote no on the project unless Related signed a Community Benefits Agreement, which would include union protections, living wage job requirements (which Related says is a non-starter) and free or affordable recreation space; representatives from Morton Williams who were adamantly opposed to the supermarket idea for obvious reasons; and construction workers from Positive Workforce who supported the project wholeheartedly.

More coverage and photos and thoughts about this tomorrow.

The Community Board will vote on the project on July 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bronx Library Center.

Bronx Parade and Festival Slideshow

Check out highlights from the Bronx Parade and Festival on Mosholu Parkway last Saturday afternoon (June 20) in this slideshow by Norwood News and Bronx News Network photographer Adi Talwar.

Bronx News Roundup, June 25

Pedro Espada's health care business, which received a very favorable write-up in yesterday's Times, owes $347,000 in back taxes.

Still on Espada, BoogieDowner has the latest on the senator's yet-to-materialize district office. Each side - Espada's people and the Senate's staff - blames each other for the continued delay.

In a related story, CBS had this report a couple of days ago, saying Espada's desired office location - 400 E. Fordham Rd - wasn't even in the 33rd District. Certainly, if you type the address in here on the Senate's Web site, Jeff Klein's name comes up, not Espada's. Here's a map:

Map created using NYC Dept of City Planning BYTES of the BIG APPLE data

Some non-Espada news:

A Bronx detective has been found guilty of perjury, after a 17-year-old murder suspect secretly recorded an interview the detective gave him on his MP3 player. Christopher Perino, who worked out of the 44th Precinct, faces up to seven years in prison. More here on how modern technology is increasingly catching out dishonest cops.

Martha Stewart is expected at the Botanical Garden this Saturday, for the opening of a new exhibit, Edible Garden.

Last week's water main break in Kingsbridge has hit local merchants in the pocket.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

End Game at Kingsbridge Armory; And Hey, What About Schools?

Tonight formally opens the public review known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) as Community Board 7 convenes a required public hearing on the redevelopment of the Kingsbrige Armory. The meeting starts at 6:30 at Lehman College. Click here for details. The Board itself will vote (which is only advisory) on July 14.

But this is closer to the end of a long saga than the beginning of a land use battle. The Norwood News has been writing about this issue for 16 years (here's a link to archive of Norwood News armory stories dating back to 1998). I began writing about it as a freelancer for the Norwood News in 1993 when the National Guard first vacated the main building (the head house and drill hall) and then-District 10 Superintendent John Rehill proposed turning the entire facility into an education complex.

If you're new to the subject, this overview in the New York Observer covers most of the essential issues and conflicts, the main one being the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance's demand that retailers at the development pay workers a "living wage." Alex Kratz wrote about the living wage issue in the Norwood News a couple of months ago.

Speaking of the living wage issue, three pastors involved with KARA penned an op-ed in the latest issue of the Norwood News (will hit the streets and the Web by tomorrow morning) calling on Community Board 7 to vote no on the Related Plan since it doesn't include a living wage provision.

Meanwhile, Community Board 7 chair Greg Faulkner has indicated that the Board will probably vote for the Related proposal with conditions. He feels that's the only way to have leverage with Related when a Community Benefits Agreement gets crafted. If they just vote no, he believes the developer will just move on to the next level of review and ignore the community.

What everyone seems to agree on is that this massive landmark shouldn't be redeveloped into just a shopping mall and that a big chunk of community space should be in the final plan. Though the Rehill fantasy of transforming the facility into a giant complex of public schools obviously never materialized, getting public schools into the mix was a driving force for local parent activists. The Armory, after all, is at Ground Zero for the worst crowding in District 10, which in turn has long been the second or third most crowded district in the city. Three short blocks away, kids at PS 246 are still crammed into classes that were designed as dormitory rooms in a home for the blind. Somehow they've managed to fend off the portable classroom craze that has sucked up almost every other school yard in the district.

Foor a long time, it seemed that while schools wouldn't be allowed inside the armory (the Landmarks Commission definitely wouldn't have allowed developers to punch holes in the facade to allow for the necessary light, etc.) the annex buildings and the property they're on behind the armory could accommodate two or three public schools. It was a major priority for the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition until the Department of Education poured cold water on the ideas more than a year ago.

The RFP (request for proposals) didn't include the annex buildings behind the armory because the Guard still occupied them. But it seems like the Guard may have a new home in Wakefield. Schools at the Armory may happen after all -- but probably only if KARA brings as much heat to this issue as they have to the living wage.

We'll be there tonight. So will peace activist Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame -- who Community Board 7 has enlisted to attend. Stay tuned. We'll have frequent updates on the blog in the coming days and weeks.

Senate Debacle Round Up, June 24th

After the Senate fiasco that ensued yesterday, Governor Paterson is calling for a re-do of sorts, where he plans to discuss legislation that legalizes gay marriage.

Senate Republicans George Winner and John Flanagan intend to file a lawsuit against Secretary of the Senate Angelo Aponte, claiming he interfered with the GOP’s ability to hold legislative sessions.

Jacob Gershman of the NY Post likens Senate mess to national feuds between Palestinians and Israelis as well as the Sunnis and Shiites.

Although Pedro Espada has been the subject of much anger and unrest, the health clinics he helped start in his earlier years, have drawn wide support among Bronx residents. The New York Times has more here.

Dan Jacoby reports that under Senate rules the “Temporary President ... shall be the majority leader.” That means Pedro Espada isn't qualified to be “Temporary President” unless he is also “majority leader”

Pedro Espada has finally filed his overdue campaign report, though his campaign treasurers are still liable for a nice chunk of chage.

According to Newsday, Democrats are playing musical chairs at the special session going on in the Senate chamber today in an effort to keep control of the chamber.

Pinstripe Politics June 24 - New York’s politicians are embarrassing New York

In the absence of major Pinstripe Politics news to report for the past week, a few thoughts on New York politics....

New York’s politicians are embarrassing New York

Last year when Eliot Spitzer’s transgressions first hit the limelight, New Yorkers felt, among other emotions, embarrassed. We had trusted the “Sheriff of Wall Street.” In our minds, he had become Albany’s great ethicist savior. “Could it get any worse,” we wondered, “than having a law-obsessed governor get busted for transporting prostitutes across state lines?”

Our elected officials have responded with a resounding “Yes!”

Quick question: what’s the only thing grimier than an Albany Democrat? If you answered, “an Albany Republican,” then you’re right.

After losing majority control of the Senate last November, for the first time in over four decades, Albany Republicans were desperate. For God’s sake, if they didn’t act fast, the Democrats were going to let gay people get married! If only they could convince two Democrats to switch sides, they could regain the majority and thwart those rascally voters. Perhaps in exchange for switching sides, they could award one of the Democrats with the Senate Presidency. But who would do such a thing?

Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate. That’s who.

New Yorkers are familiar with these guys already. We remember Monserrate from his arrest last year, on charges of assault, for allegedly slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken drinking glass during an argument.

Espada, we remember, is the guy who owes the New York State Finance Board $60,000, has not reported his campaign contributions to the New York State Board of Elections, and is under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office for possibly funneling state money to himself through a nonprofit he runs (it’s shocking how many New York politicians get caught employing this scheme).

The Republicans were so desperate for control of the Senate that they would actually let this guy be Senate President (that’s one step below Governor right now).

A Quick Note: I interviewed Espada while he was running in the Democratic Primary last year (against an even more corrupt incumbent), and I asked him about charges by his opponents that he was a “closet Republican.” He replied, “I’m in lock-step with Barack Obama in terms of the need to change.” At the time my thought was, “what the hell does that even mean?” Now I think I know. It means, “I’m just saying and doing whatever I think will give me the best shot at rapid ascension.”

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NOTE: Make sure to check back every Wednesday for Pinstripe Politics, your source for that gray area where the Yankees and society converge. Also, check in with the BNN on Fridays for The Yankees, Unobstructed, our weekly Yankee opinion column.

For more of Graham Kates' sports writing, check out his True/Slant blog "Coaches in the Crosshairs" (www.trueslant.com/grahamkates).

Bronx News Roundup for June 24

An area of Castle Hill in the Bronx is looking for takers to redevelop the area for industrial use. So far what looks to be replaced is the GreenThumb Community Garden, but NYC Economic Development Corporation's president says not to worry because it will be relocated nearby.

A Bronx man charged with robbing several public schools in Connecticut was found and arrested Monday in New York.

An appellate judge is on the verge of filling the long-vacant Bronx county clerk post.

Today a charter school in the Bronx has officially signed a unionization contract, making it one of 10 other New York schools to join the United Federation of Teachers. This may be one in a long line of charter schools that follow suit as schools in other major cities have started what looks like a trend.

Bronx High School of Science and the High School of American Studies at Lehman College maintained the highest graduation rates of all Bronx High Schools, with 98.3 and 94.3 percent respectively.

A campaign to provide testing for H.I.V. proves successful in the Bronx.

After a vote to raise rents starting October 1st by the Rent Guidelines Board that will affect residents from all five boroughs, tenants and landlords share their reactions.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hunts Point Express July issue is out

Shakespeare in the South Bronx? You bet. Farms in Hunts Point? Coming soon. But the economic crunch is squeezing residents--making conditions in some apartments intolerable, and lengthening the lines at food pantries. Find stories about these issues and a guide to grocery shopping in hard times, rowboating on the Bronx River, a look back at the Fish Parade and more in the new issue of The Hunts Point Express.

Bronx News Roundup, June 23

The MTA is cracking down on fare-beaters on the Bx12 Select Bus Service.

Increasingly, teachers working at charter schools in New York and elsewhere are looking to unionize. In the Bronx, the Green Dot New York Charter School in Mott Haven could be next.

Two brothers - Rodrigo and Gonzalo Venegas (aka Rodstarz and G1 of the Bronx hip-hop group Rebel Diaz) - have been found not guilty of resisting arrest and obstruction of justice, after coming to the aid last summer of a street vendor they say cops were harassing. More here. And here's a video clip of the incident.

Twelve high school students, including at least three from the Bronx, recently traveled to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela, after winning a competition. More here.

Governor Paterson will hold a special session in the State Senate at 3 p.m. today, in the hopes of resolving the leadership stalemate. The Republicans, meanwhile, are planning a session for 2 p.m. - meaning they will control the chamber when the Democrats arrive. More here and here.

Bob Kappstatter is wondering if the Republicans will cut Pedro Espada loose.

Espapda and fellow (or ex-) dissident Hiram Monserrate are nothing if not quotable. We linked to this yesterday, but here's Espapda claiming in the Daily News that he really does live in his Bedford Park co-op and that a young boy in the building saw him the other day and said, "Mommy, mommy, look - he does live here." And here's Monserrate likening himself to Jesus.

Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. is calling on the city to test for toxic chemicals in aging public schools.

Judy Reyes, the Bronx-born Scrubs actress and one of the inductees into this year's Bronx Walk of Fame, is expecting her first child.