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Friday, July 31, 2009

Protest Over Controversial Art Piece Fizzle

Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz and Edwin Gonzalez in front of the Bronx Museum of the Arts. Please read article by Ashley Villarreal below.

Protest Over Controversial Art Piece Fizzles

When Bronx artist Melissa Calderon created a giant gold-painted bamboo earring, with the word "Spic" in huge letters across it, she never thought it would generate so much attention.

But her piece, now part of the Bronx Museum of Art's Living and Dreaming exhibition, which concludes the competitive Artist in the Marketplace Program (with its focus on issues of identity, culture, gender and race) drew anonymous protests from the community over the use of the word "Spic."

According to fliers that had been posted around the museum, a rally had been set for yesterday at noon, while Calderon was away teaching an arts program in Maine. The fliers called the artwork racist.

After hearing about the event, Calderon had awaited the date nervously for two weeks, her friends said. But when the time came to gather in front of the Bronx Museum of Art at 1040 Grand Concourse, no one but her two artist friends showed up.

"I came to support my friend who I thought was being isolated as a racist, which couldn't be further from the truth," said Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Calderon's friend and an artist who has also shown work at the museum.

Calderon's work, mentioned in Time Out New York this week, was meant to resemble a popular style earring that made it big within the Latino community--often as more of a status symbol, and costing over hundreds of dollars if authentically engraved with a person's name.

Edwin Gonzalez, a fellow artist who leads tours for children at the museum who was also there, said he believed the word doesn't hold the same meaning anymore. In some cases, he said, younger generations may not even use the word, and in other circumstances, those more attune to art might not have misunderstood the concept.

"I can appreciate the humor in Melissa's piece because I kinda have that similar sense of humor and sensibility," Gonzalez said. "To me, it was obvious it was a joke, when you look at it, it's just this big earring; whose going to take that seriously?"

And while the two may have been slightly relieved they wouldn't have to bear the brunt of claims against Calderon, both agreed a bigger discussion was to be had about what the word means.

"Because of the nature of what we do (as artists) we are kind of on the outside looking in--even though we have inside information about being Latino--so it's like we have two different views," Raimuni-Ortiz said. "For something like this to be called out, I wanted to see who it was doing it, but also have a conversation about why they were [upset]."

What do you think about the word "Spic"? Should it be used it in artwork? Let us know in the comments thread.

Bronx News Roundup for July 31

Richard Izquierdo, grandson of Bronx Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, and Margarita Villegas, another employee of the nonprofit organization they run, face new charges claiming they misused funds from SBCC Management Corp. to pay for Arroyo's interns and a political club. This comes after earlier charges that they used funds to fly Arroyo to Puerto Rico and go on shopping sprees.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. presented a proclamation to members of the Bronx Community Pride Center for celebrating Bronx Pride Day and working to support the LGBT community in the Bronx. Diaz's office says he aims to make sure there is equal access to services and LGBT organizations receive equal funding for projects--standing in stark contrast to his father (who does not generally support gay rights). Watch a video of his comments here.

Two men from the Bronx were pursued all the way from Bergen County to the Bronx after a bank robbery last night.

New residents are praising their recently moved-in Bronx homes as real estate brokers say apartment sales have increased in this borough despite downturns in the housing market.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, July 30

We apologzie for the lack of posts late, but we're operating a serious manpower deficit for the next two weeks. We'll do the best we can. Here's some good Bronx stories out there.

Olga Mendez, the first Puerto Rican woman in the nation elected to a state legislature, died yesterday. She represented parts of the South Bronx and East Harlem. Video from NY1. From the NY Times.

Nice story in, of all place, the Wall Street Journal, about Bronx-based super group Aventura, who have the year's number one Latin album, "The Last." Aventura's Romeo Santos calls their music a mix between Bacheta, reggaeton, R&B and alternative rock with a bunch of "Spanglish words" mixed in.

State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. is being honored tonight as the "Senator of the Year" at a gala hosted by Eric Stevenson, a district leader in the 79th Assembly District (which Michael Benjamin represents).

Although Espada's been criticized for being a deceptive, flip-flopping, power-grabbing opportunist who doesn't live in his own district or care about the needs of his constituents, Stevenson said, "You may not agree with the way he went about it, but the fact is he achieved reform in the Senate that was a long-time coming."

(Side note: Espada's press guy Steve Mangione says his boss should have his new office, at Fordham Place, up and running any day now. That was last Monday. We will not hold our breath.)

The Robin Hood Foundation awarded nearly a half million dollars in grant money to the Jericho Project, a homeless services organization with a handful of locations in the Bronx.

A Bronx woman is suing McDonald's after receiving severe burns from two hot teas.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More on Foreclosures

Freelance reporter Eileen Markey has an informative piece on the Ocelot buildings in foreclosure for City Limits. The combination of large amount of debt and need for major repairs in the properties makes the situation difficult to resolve without Fannie Mae writing down the debt.

The Daily News also covers the story here.

UNHP has mapped out the Ocelot properties, all of which are either in some stage of foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings.

With regards to the larger foreclosure crisis affecting private homes nationwide, former City Limits editor Alyssa Katz has a new book out, entitled Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us. The weekly edition of City Limits sits down for a Q&A with her about the book.

Finally, two scam artists who ripped off homeowners in foreclosure in the Bronx and Brooklyn were sentenced to five years in federal prison. Homeowners, remember that any and all foreclosure assistance is free, and anything else is a scam!

Bronx News Roundup, July 29

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend native Bronxite Sonia Sotomayor for confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday by a vote of 13-6. The vote was along aprty lines with one exception, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voted for Sotomayor. This puts her on the verge of confirmation by the full Senate, which should vote sometime in the next two weeks.

Though details remain extremely vague and sketchy, the AP, via 1010 WINS, is reporting that two Bronxites were shot last night, one fatally. There's no address or even neighborhood attached to this crime. We haven't received any reports from the NYPD about this yet.

The fight to keep the cookie factory Stella d'Oro in the Bronx is moving beyond the borough, to Wall Street, City Hall and even Washington, DC.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. wants health care and drug research companies to set up shop in the Boogie Down.

Former Bronx B.P. Herman Badillo is endorsing Mike Bloomberg for mayor.

Pinstripe Politics July 29

Yankee Stadium, the Perfect Venue for Big $ Fundraising

Lately, politics and pinstripes have made frequent bedfellows. On Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer hosted a fundraiser at Yankee Stadium which included a tour of the facility and attendance at the day's game (a 7-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics). The cost of some laid-back game-time with our state's senior Senator? A cool $5,000.

Think a tour of the stadium is cool, but what you'd really like is the VIP experience? That's actually only going to cost you $15...and a fair amount of pull luck. Congressman Charlie Rangel (15th District) is touting a raffle of sorts for those who donate to him before August 3rd. One lucky winner and a guest will get to watch the Yankees face the Red Sox on August 6th, from the owner's box.


Then again, cozy ties have their perks. Work with me on this one, because we're about to make some wildly unsupportable allegations. We all remember the hullabaloo over the luxury suite reserved for City Hall at the new Stadium. And we also all remember the cushy deal cut between Bloomberg and the City Council to allow third term runs for all, just this once. But after they retain their seats of power, how are all those people going to get all the way from downtown to the luxury suite in time for a game, what with midtown traffic and all? If only they had a ferry from Manhattan with service straight to Yankee Stadium....Coming soon?

Also check out....

Yankees HOPE week was pretty cool. I hope they do that again.

Tarrytown is raking in extra cash from the new Yankee Stadium Metro-North route.

There are at least a dozen construction-related lawsuits pending against the Yankees and Turner Construction.

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).

New issue of the Hunts Point Express

The August issue of The Hunts Point Express has just hit the streets, with stories about opposition to efforts to open a strip club, an explosion that has closed the controversial plant that converts sewage to fertilizer, a unique health program that trains “barefoot doctors,” the running battle over a proposal to tear down a highway, the new playground that kids designed, Majora Carter’s latest venture, and the Secretary of the Treasury’s visit. Get your free copy at libraries, community centers and other gathering places in Hunts Point and Longwood or visit www.huntspointexpress.com.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Koppell and Cassino Square Off in 11th District Debate

This week, BronxTalk featured a debate between Councilman Oliver Koppell and Anthony Perez Cassino, the democratic candidates for the 11th City Council District. Moderated by host Gary Axelbank, the candidates debated politics, development, city planning, and a number of other issues.

Here's a link to view the entire program. http://bronxnet.fliggo.com/video/XwQYTtC5

BronxTalk, the borough's flagship talk show, will celebrate its 15th anniversary on October 5. It is seen live Monday nights at 9:00pm on channel 67 in the Bronx and streamed live on the web at http://bronxnet.org/home/live/webstreamtrial.html. It is hosted by Gary Axelbank and produced by Jane Folloro.

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 .

Next week BronxTalk will feature an interview with Bronx County Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie.

Bronx News Roundup, July 28

Yesterday, Bronx Supreme Court Judge Joseph Dawson voiced his opinion that defendants in his courtroom should wear respectful, professional attire during their cases.

Early this morning, four men attempted to rob the home of Ivy Skeffery on Bussing Avenue in the Bronx. Skeffery shot two of the invaders leaving one dead. The other invader is in stable condition at Jacobi Hospital. Police are still investigating the shooting.

The City Council is considering putting a ferry service in place around New York City. The ferry service would have eight potential stops in the Bronx including Orchard Beach, Yankee Stadium and Ferry Point. The plan for the ferry is scheduled to be discussed in Riverdale on Thursday.

Bob Kapstatter of the New York Daily News sees the City Council District 14 race between Baez and Cabrera as a problem for Assemblyman Carl Heastie. Heastie supports Cabrera, but if Cabrera looses the primary election, Kapstatter believes Heastie could be challenged by other district leaders for supporting a losing candidate.

This past weekend, building began on a home for an injured G.I. on Sampson Avenue in the Bronx. The house for Robert Reyes will have renovations that will allow Reyes to live functionally, all provided by volunteers, donors and government grants. The Norwood News wrote a story about Reyes and some of the efforts to help him last spring.

This week, the Stella D'Oro union plans to protest outside of Barclays, a shareholder of Lance Inc. who plans to buy the company. The union fears that the production of the cookies would be scattered across plants all over the United States and Canada instead of remaining at the one Bronx-based plant that is now in operation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unity Day at Tracey Towers; Tell Us About Your Block Parties, Street Festivals

-Slideshow by Adi Talwar

Here's some scenes from the Unity Day festival at Tracey Towers on Saturday afternoon, just one of several block parties and street festivals in the Bronx that day. You'll see that Bronx Boro Prez Ruben Diaz, Jr., who we mentioned in an earlier post today, was on hand, speaking with Council member Oliver Koppell. Could they have been discussing the Armory?

If you participated in any street festivals, block parties or even just an old-fashioned family BBQ, send photos and information to bronxnewsnetwork@gmail.com. We'll post your photos and stories at the end of the week.

Ruben Diaz Officially at Center of Kingsbridge Armory Project

The Related Companies' proposal to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall officially reaches the second phase of the land review process tonight at 6 p.m. with a hearing held by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. at Lehman College's Lovinger Theater.

Diaz, pictured to the right, has 30 days to decide whether or not to support Related's proposal.

The handling of the Armory project is Diaz's first major test as borough president, having taken over for Adolfo Carrion, following a special election in April.
In his first few months, Diaz has been out attending events, cutting ribbons, giving speeches, marching in parades and starting up a few initiatives and programs. But now comes the hard part, trying to wring concessions (in the form of community benefits) out of a big development project like the one about to be undertaken at the Armory.

Carrion's biggest critics, Diaz included, said the former B.P. didn't get enough back from huge projects like the New Yankee Stadium and Gateway Center Mall (another Related project) at the Bronx Terminal Market, which were heavily-subsidized with government funds and tax breaks.

Diaz is now taking the lead on negotiating a community benefits agreement with Related, acting as a middle man between the developer and community stakeholders, which are mostly represented by the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) and Community Board 7.

A somewhat divided Board 7 recently voted to approve Related's proposal with conditions, including the signing of a benefits agreement, which Related agreed to do.

So now it's a matter of what will be included in the benefits agreement and when will it be signed. There's no doubt the agreement will include some benefits, such as a job training program.

But will it include any language requiring Related to provide living wage jobs ($10 an hour, plus benefits) once the new Armory mall is up and running? This is KARA's number one priority in a benefits agreement and also something Related has taken a hard-line stance against. At every public hearing, KARA has come out in force to demand living wage jobs. They held a 500-plus person rally (see photo below) 10 days ago to reinforce their stance and reiterate their demands. KARA's position is simple: this is a publicly-funded project in a community that needs, more than anything, good jobs with benefits.

Diaz, by all accounts, is taking this process very seriously. It's also something he wants to get done behind closed doors. Meetings to discuss the benefits agreement are closed to the public and press. He won't talk specifically about what might be included in a benefits agreement. And he recently sent out a press release saying he wanted all stakeholders to stop beating each other up over this debate.

Here's the statement:

“Due to the sensitive nature of these negotiations, this office has and will continue to decline to either discuss any specifics of the community benefits agreement regarding the Kingsbridge Armory project or to make any meetings of the negotiating committee public. We believe that this approach puts the community in the strongest possible position concerning future negotiations with the developer. This office has found the tone of the public debate over this development, on all sides, to be unfortunate and disappointing. Borough President Diaz is once again calling on project stakeholders and the community as a whole to cease their very public battles and come together to negotiate with one another in a civil manner.”

KARA has been very public about its living wage demands. So has the Bronx-based supermarket chain, Morton Williams, which is adamantly opposed to having a competing supermarket included as a tenant at the Armory. Both angrily and unsuccessfully lobbied Board 7 members to vote down the project.

They will probably do so again tonight.

Having said that, the other question is: who will Related and the city bring out to lobby for the project without such conditions. At the last hearing, Related brought out an organization called Positive Workforce to serve as a vocal counter-weight and backdrop to all the public testimony by KARA and Morton Williams.

In campaigning and during recent speeches, Diaz has voiced his support and the dire need for good jobs in the Bronx. But will he make a stand for them on the Armory project? Will he make it a condition or incentive for his approval? We'll see if he gives us any hints tonight.

Bronx News Roundup, July 27

Some of the colorful sights and sounds from the Bronx Dominican Parade yesterday. The Bronx is now home to an estimated 300,000 Dominicans.

Bronxites and other advocates have another opportunity to weigh in on the Related Companies' plan to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall, this time in front of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. (More on this later this afternoon.)

A roller coaster at a Pelham Bay church festival derailed on Saturday night, injuring 11 kids.

The Daily News says most of the exciting new architetecture in the borough is coming from community service buildings like the Bronx Library Center and Bronx Museum.

A recently arrested fugitive says he's been in the Bronx the past three years. Police say he's been on the lamb abroad.

A recent poll says only 6% of Latinos, who make up the vast majority of his consituents, approve of Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada's performance in Albany. The Puerto Rican-born Espada has tried to paint his flip-flopping among political parties, which resulted in his being named majority leader, as a move to empower Latinos, but apparently their not seeing it that way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, July 24

Happy Friday! Here's a few stories to chew on.

Former Bronx B.P. Freddy Ferrer, who recently announced his support for Council Member Maria Baez (who's facing a slew of challengers), was recently fined for campaign finance violations during his unsuccessful run for mayor in 2005.
The Daily News takes a look at a new documentary about the trials and tribulations of the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematic, a high school in the South Bronx. The film is called "Whatever It Takes."

Three borough presidents, including the Bronx's Ruben Diaz, Jr., want more oversight in place over the city's schools, while mayoral control is in limbo. Speaking of mayoral control, Senate Dems may have cut a deal with the Bloomberg administration on new rules for continuation of the control structure.

A marketing firm has a new slogan for promoting Bronx real estate: "If you think you know about the Bronx -- Think again." Kind of vague, I think, but it's better than "The Bronx is Burning."

Enjoy the weekend. Check back here on Monday for more politics and more Kingsbridge Armory coverage. Bronx B.P. Ruben Diaz, Jr. is holding a hearing on the Armory proposal on Monday at Lehman College at 6 p.m.

The Yankees Unobstructed July 24

Don't Get Too Comfortable

During last year's Presidential election, whether he was ahead by a few points in the polls, or behind by a few, Barack Obama reminded us often that he didn't heed the day-to-day ebbs and flows of approval ratings.

Yankee fans, let's take a similar approach to this whole "first place" thing. The Yankees are riding high right now on a seven-game winning streak and the Red Sox are mired in a five-game losing streak. Earlier this season Boston already treated its fans to a near fortnight of winning when they were victorious in eleven consecutive contests over the course of thirteen days. They are capable of repeating that, just as the Yankees are capable of laying another egg like this May's five consecutive loss fiasco.

This is going to be a torturous and entertaining pennant race, and first place is going to depend on how the Yankees play against Boston.

But before we can really assess how the Yankees stand in terms of winning the pennant, they need to get through their current stretch. Their seven straight victories have come at the beginning of a stretch in which the Yankees are playing everyday for seventeen days, and on thirty-three out of thirty-four days.

So, how can manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees keep the momentum going for over a month? A few suggestions....

Rest AROD at least once every ten to fourteen games. So far this season, Alex Rodriguez has weathered easily, but been absolutely dominant following a day off. Also, Girardi already learned the hard way that if Yankee brass think their number one investment is doggin' it, they'll step in without consulting the skipper.

Keep spreading the load in the bullpen. It was nice to see Phil Hughes notch his first save last night, it was even nicer to see Mariano take the night off. Mo has converted 24 straight save opportunities (the longest such streak in the Majors right now), but for the first time in a long time the Yankees have someone who might be able to share that burden, in Hughes.

Consistency from Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte could really come in handy in relieving some of the burden on the rest of the pitching staff. Easier said than done, of course. For a while now, Pettitte has either pitched a masterpiece or a complete lemon. Runs surrendered by Pettitte in his last six starts: 1, 6, 2, 6, 6, 1. Figure that out. Joba has not been much better: 3, 3, 3, 8, 5, 1. If Joba and Pettitte can get through six innings regularly, they would drastically reduce the wear and tear on Yankee relievers as this coming month wears on.

Of course, all these things sound easy, but after Oakland is gone, the Yankees face very good teams for most of the next month. Coming up, in order, the Yankees have Tampa Bay, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, Toronto again and Seattle. If you can win more than half your games during that stretch, than you should count your blessings.

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).

Explosion shakes Hunts Point plant

A pre-dusk explosion at the New York Organic Fertilizer Company badly damaged a storage silo at the plant on Oak Point Avenue and sent sludge and fertilizer pellets flying into its parking lot.

No one was injured, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation ordered the plant to stop using six of its seven silos until the agency gains a firmer understanding of what caused the explosion and how to prevent it from happening again.

Critics say the blast offers one more reason why the controversial plant should be shut down.

Find the full story at www.huntspointexpress.com.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New from the Norwood News

The latest edition of the Norwood News is hot off the presses and on streets and online now. Here's a quick preview of some of the stories you'll find.

Some in-depth Kingsbridge Armory development project coverage, including a look at Community Board 7's approval (with conditions) of the Armory plan.

The day after the vote, the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) held a rally to push the issue of living wage jobs ($10 an hour, plus benefits) at the Armory once the mall is completed. Union leaders and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson showed up to voice their support.

We try to make sense of all the zany twists going on in the 14th District Council race.

On Monday night, a young man was found murdered on the Grand Concourse.

A host of initiatives are bringing more fresh produce to the northwest Bronx.

Our Inquiring Photographer asks residents what they think about the impending confirmation of Bronxite Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Plus, find out everything that's going on in the local arts and entertainment world in our Out & About section. And check out all the local programs, services and opportunities in our Neighborhood Notes section.

New in the Tremont Tribune

The lastest Tremont Tribune (the third ever) hit the streets last week. The stories are now on-line. They include:

Putting the Farm Back in West Farms
Kaman Fong first saw Drew Gardens through the windows of the Q44 bus. The garden, a lush, two-acre strip of lawn and community vegetable plots running along the Bronx River on East Tremont Avenue between East 177th Street and West Farms Road, sits behind three bus stops and attracts plenty of attention from riders as they go by. Some stop and ask for a tour. Others get off and garden.

Rivera Runs for Third Council Term, Virtually Unopposed
A lot has changed for Joel Rivera, the two-term city councilman, in the past year. There was the contentious leadership brawl in which his father, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, was ousted as Chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party and replaced by Assemblyman Carl Heastie; Joel’s own stillborn race for borough president, suddenly called off in March; and the challenge for his seat in the 15th district from well-funded Community Board 6 member Radame Perez, which inexplicably dissolved in May.

Local Students Given Film Camp Scholarships
It’s summertime, but hundreds of students stream in and out of the Millennium Public School in lower Manhattan each day. Most of them have paid thousands of dollars for a special filmmaking training camp, hosted by the New York Film Academy and taught by its renowned professors, using state-of-the-art equipment. But this year - for the first time - nearly a hundred students are attending the film camp free of charge.

At St. Barnabas, Actors and Mannequins
The patient is sprawled across the bed, his vital signs ticking loudly on the monitor in the corner. “Please, give me something for the pain,” he moans. “It hurts, it really hurts.”

Community Board Looks to Honor FDNY Hero
If local leaders get their way, a Bronx street will soon have a new name. In May, Community Board 6 voted in favor of renaming a block - East 180th Street, between Park and DeVoe avenues - in memory of fire alarm dispatcher and one-time Fordham resident Dennis Patrick O’Connell, who died last year at age 56.

Bronx News Roundup July 23

Not too much out there today, but here goes:

The private equity firm that owns the Stella D'Oro plant in Kingsbridge claims its union workers have been putting out misleading and inaccurate information. Here's the press release.

In a nod to the future, the Shell Oil Company is opening a hydrogen filling station at a yet to be disclosed location in the Bronx.

A Bronx co-op for less than $50k? There's one for sale on Tilden Street.

In Van Cortlandt Park, smelly compost has concert goers and local residents turning up their noses.

In an editorial, the Riverdale Press calls for a living wage at the soon-to-be developed Kingsbridge Armory.

The Bronx Zoo is celebrating the birth of five baby lemurs over the past year, at its popular Madagascar exhibit. The one below, pictured with mom, is a Coquerel's Sifaka lemur.

(Photo courtesy the Wildlife Conservation Society/Bronx Zoo)

News from Mott Haven and Melrose

The summer issue of the Mott Haven Herald has just hit the streets. Learn about the South Bronx Greenway and the controversies surrounding it; the pricetag of fame for local artists; students who've overcome the odds; the plague of rats in a building devoted to seniors; the Tree Museum on the Grand Concourse and more. Get your free copy at libraries, community centers and other gathering places in Mott Haven Melrose and Port Morris or visit www.motthavenherald.com.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pinstripe Politics July 22

Yanks for Sotomayor

Last Thursday, former Yankee and current YES Network announcer David Cone, testified at Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court Confirmation hearing. Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cone recounted details of the Sotomayor decision which helped end the Major League Baseball Players Association strike of 1994.

Said Cone:

Judge Sotomayor grasped not only the complexity of the case but its importance to our sport. Her decision was upheld by a unanimous Court of Appeals panel comprised of judges appointed by different presidents from different parties with different juridical philosophies.

On the day he announced her nomination, President Obama observed that some have said Judge Sotomayor saved baseball. Others may think this is an overstatement, but look at it this way. A lot of people, both inside and outside of baseball, tried to settle the dispute.

via Former MLB Pitched David Cone Testifies at Sonia Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings

The Senate Judiciary Committee will next meet to consider Sotomayor on July 28th.

No Fordham Contests?

Starting this November 20, Yankee Stadium will become the occasional home of Division I college football. Notre Dame will host Army this fall, and Army has scheduled three more games for each of the next three years, including one against local favorite Rutgers.

Homer Denial

The Steinbrenners still are not convinced that Yankee Stadium requires changes. On the subject of the Yankees' big home run totals, Yankees Chairman Hal Steinbrenner commented, "Right now, it's not a big enough sample size."

Actually, scientifically speaking, 47 games is a large enough sample size.

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 July 22

The 'right' criticizes President Barack Obama for focusing too much on Judge Sonia Sotomayor's personal background and not on her judicial record.

The Stella D'oro Company released comments to the sweet-toothed today to claim one reason for declining profits has been due to the high wages they pay their union workers.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer is calling on Fannie Mae to secure responsible buyers for the Ocelot Apartments in Crotona, Bronx. After high mortgage prices caused landlords to abandon the building site a year ago, tenants and lawmakers are hoping to rope in someone to repair deteriorating conditions and keep the units affordable.

In response to the growing culture in his city, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. announced upcoming events that will mark Dominican Pride Week, which is set to last until Sunday.

The Bronx weighs in on a study that shows it houses more residents who are overweight than any of New York City's other boroughs.

Data taken from crowded areas of the Bronx and Harlem, the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health has found that exposure to pollution can reduce childrens' IQ.

Actors are exploring new tastes on the BronxNet public access station's hit show called "Bronx Flavor." The show features tours of local restaurants while mixing in a little bit of comedy to spice it up. You can watch all the episodes on the bronxflavor.com.

Coaches get excited about the 50th anniversary of the Army-Notre Dame college football match-up, which will be played at the new Yankee Stadium in November.

To the dismay of drivers, Bronx-bound traffic will be closed for another three weeks as construction continues on the Throgs Neck Bridge

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bronx News Roundup July 21

Four Democratic state senators, including Ruben Diaz and Pedro Espapda, have hit back at Mayor Bloomberg, after he allegedly compared them to Nazis. The mayor is frustrated the Senate hasn't acted sooner to renew mayoral control of schools.

Espada, the new majority leaders, raked in $150,000 in campaign donations in the first half of 2009, but he's yet to reveal how he spent it.

Councilwoman Maria Baez has the worst attendance record in the City Council. She showed up at just 56 percent of mandatory Council meetings and hearings in the 2009 fiscal year, according to the Post. This isn't the first time Baez has claimed top spot. In an interview earlier this month, she blamed a long-term illness for keeping her away from City Hall. She said Council Speaker Christine Quinn is "aware" of her condition, and has been helpful and understanding. Certainly, Baez's chronic absenteeism hasn't angered Quinn too much. Last week, she gave Baez a glowing endorsement at a campaign rally.

Quinn's support, and other developments, suggests Baez "still has plenty of political street savvy," writes Bob Kappstatter.

Residents doctors at St. Barnabas are asking Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate executive pay at the hospital.

Police are looking for three men who robbed a man at knife point on Saturday evening, inside a Washington Avenue building.

A Williamsbridge man was shot dead on Sunday night, as he tried to to protect his brother from an armed mugger.

Chinese alligators, bred in captivity at the The Bronx Zoo and later released at mouth of the Yangtze River, have begun breeding, much to the delight of the Wildlife Conservation Society. The species is said to be on the verge of extinction.

Castle Hill merchants say a parking ticket blitz is driving away customers.

Michael Martin, aka Iz the Wiz, a prolific graffiti writer from the the Bronx, has died.

A new book explores the history of DeWitt Clinton High School and its remarkable alumni.

Tenants of 1600 Sedgwick Ave. in Morris Heights say they've been hit by through-the-roof utility charges. More here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Congressman Jose E. Serrano Testifies for Sotomayor

In testimony during the Senate's confirmation hearings last week, the local congressman for the 16th District, Jose Serrano, praised the nomination of native Bronxite Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The hearings on Capitol Hill wrapped up last Thursday and it's widely assumed Sotomayor will be confirmed sometime in early August as a replacement for David Souter.

In his testimony Serrano chose to focus not on the accomplishments Sotomayor has made throughout her career as a New York City judge, but on the obstacles that are common to those people (like himself) who come from her kind of background.

"We come from rough neighborhoods," Serrano said inf ront of the Senate Judiciary Comittee. "We were surrounded by people making do on too little."

"Around us were many distractions that could have taken us down a totally different road," he went on, "but there was also ambition and people determined to make something of themselves."

His testimony lifted Sotomayor up to be reveled not for the work she has done in her time as a judge, but for what Serrano says, are the values of "hard work and looking out for one another" that are prevalent for someone growing up less fortunate in the Bronx.

"Everyone watching this nomination should know that based upon her background and ideals, they are in good hands with Judge Sotomayor," he said.

Bronx News Roundup July 20

Symphony Space and the Bronx Museum of the Arts recently commissioned a musical piece by jazz musician Arturo O'Farrill in honor of native Bronxite Sonia Sotomayor, who has been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama. The composition will be performed by O'Farrill and his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra on November 5 and 6 at Symphony Space.

A recent medical study following pregnant women from the South Bronx and upper Manhattan found that the mothers who breathed in smog while pregnant gave birth to children with lower IQs than children who were not prenatally exposed to smog.

A Bronx Supreme Court Judge is debating whether to throw out his conviction of a Bronx landlord after a 2005 fire causing two firefighter deaths because a member of the jury sent complimentary messages to a firefighter who testified at the case through Facebook.

The New York City Police Department is drastically cutting its budget, but the crime rate is still dropping. At a recent police meeting, the Bronx borough commander argued to keep specialized officers on the streets of the 52nd Precinct, but higher-up police officers wanted to move the officers to a different precinct with more crime. At the end of the meeting, the 52nd Precinct kept the special officers, but it remains unclear how long these officers will remain in the area, especially since the Department will have to decrease their number of officers.

Today, Senator Charles Schumer and Bronx housing advocates will insist that Fannie Mae find a buyer for their mortgages of 19 Bronx buildings in disrepair instead of selling the mortgages through an online auction. Tenants of these buildings (most of them located in Crotona) feel that if another speculator buys the mortgages for the buildings, conditions will not be improved. Senator Schumer would like a preservation agreement to ensure that the buildings will be cared for by the future buyer.

Yesterday, the New York Daily News published a report declaring that heroin is gaining popularity in New York City. Their evidence includes the monumental heroin drug bust in Riverdale over July 4th weekend.

The New York Times published a profile of Arthur Avenue over the weekend. It is still one of the best locales for quality Italian food and grocery shopping.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

New York Philharmonic at Van Cortlandt Park

July 16th evening, Alan Gilbert Music Director Designate of the New York Philharmonic, led the Orchestra in its performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 41, Jupiter and Mahler's Symphony No. 1. The concert ended with an encore chosen by the audience and fireworks. I hope you enjoy the photographs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

20-Year-Old Council Candidate Bows Out Of 14th District Race

Yorman Nunez (pictured), a 20-year-old former community organizer, has dropped his insurgent bid to unseat 14th District Council Member Maria Baez, leaving just four candidates left in the race.

In a telephone interview, Nunez said he made a "stategic decision" not to file his petition signatures, which he and his campaign had been working day and night to compile for the past month.

Although he was disappointed that he wouldn't see this race through until election day, Nunez said his candidacy was never just about getting elected. "What our campaign was about was changing the political landscape of the Bronx and educating the community. We're trying to change the way candidates are chosen. We don't want it to be three people in a room deciding who our candidates are."

Nunez, a product of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and their youth arm Sistas and Brothas United (SBU), said he made the decision after countless meetings with friends, campaign staffers and advisors.

Nunez said he and his small army of volunteer campaign staffers are still deciding where and how to direct their energy and dropped a few hints about what that might mean. "We are ending the campaign, still seeing what we want to do next. There's some big fish to fry. That could mean Espada, it could mean this mayoral race," he said. "For sure what we’re interested in is building the base."

For now, he has not decide to throw his support behind any of the other candidates in the 14th District. Aside from Baez, there is Fernando Cabrera, Yudelka Tapia and Miguel Santana. All of the candidates have said they expected to have more than enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. "They have three months to convince me who to vote for. I don’t think we’re going to help out our candidate," Nunez said.

Nunez said his campaign "represented a new way of doing things." In the end, Nunez said his camp decided they wanted "build for future," rather than stay in the race this summer.

We'll have more on Nunez's campaign in the next edition of the Norwood News.

Bronx News Roundup for July 17th

Just a day after Manhattan City Councilman Miguel Martinez admitted to using taxpayers' money improperly through slush funds, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo of the Bronx is suspected of funneling money through a nonprofit to pay for trips to Puerto Rico for her and her mother.

After the chaos that was the New York State Senate for almost five weeks, $85 million in grants was approved last Thursday and has been divided amongst the parties, with $77 million going to New York State Senate Democrats and just $8 million to Republicans. Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada received $2 million, of which $1.5 million is going to the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

A strain of West Nile Virus has been detected in mosquitoes at Ferry Point Park in the Bronx, but no cases of infection have been reported yet.

A wild motorist that raged down Gun Hill Road on Sunday, killing one man and injuring nine people, was identified yesterday and is being held at a hospital until he can attend trial.

Smokeless tobacco is becoming increasingly popular for teenage athletes in the Bronx even though medical statistics disprove what might be a common myth that using snuff or chew is less harmful than smoking cigarettes (Data shows chewing tobacco has three times as much nicotine, and is therefore three times more addictive than cigarettes).

A bill to make texting-while-driving illegal is expected to be signed into law soon. If broken, it can wield fines anywhere up to $150. This is one step by the Senate to try and diminish crash statistics that show younger drivers are up to five times more likely to be in a car accident than an 18-year-old driver.

Fernandez Talks Mayoral Control on BronxTalk

This week, BronxTalk featured an interview with the Bronx representative on the newly formed Board of Education, Dr. Delores Fernandez. She spoke with host Gary Axelbank about her abstention in the vote on mayoral control, the concept of mayoral control, charter schools, how the system mgiht be run to maximum effiency, lessons learned from her tenure as president at Hostos CC, and numerous other topics. She also offered insight on the management style of borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr.

The show is posted on the web in two parts:

Parte one - http://bronxnet.fliggo.com/video/Uwl82KSI

Part two - http://bronxnet.fliggo.com/video/F0fI0qP8

BronxTalk, the borough's flagship talk show, will celebrate its 15th anniversary this October. It is seen live Monday nights at 9:00pm on channel 67 in the Bronx and streamed live on the web at http://bronxnet.org/home/live/webstreamtrial.html. It is hosted by Gary Axelbank and produced by Jane Folloro.

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 .

Here's the schedule for upcoming editions of BronxTalk:

July 20 - History of DeWitt Clinton High School

July 27 - Council Debate, 11th District, Oliver Koppell/Anthony Cassino

August 3 - Bronx Democratic Chairman Carl Heastie

Advice for the Yankees

The Yankees Unobstructed - July 17

I know what you're thinking, "Oh no! Not another 'How the Yankees can improve in the second half' column! How tired and cliche!"

Whatever dude. Since last week, all the Yankees have done is get swept by the Angels and fall from a tie for first place to three games behind. It's either this or crying with words, and I already spent my weekly allotment of tears on mourning the loss of $9 to "Public Enemies" (just an awful "movie").

Anyway, what the Yankees should and should not do in the second half:

Don't trade for Roy Halladay: More than anything, this is a personal plea. At times it can be tough to justify being a Yankee fan. The Yankees front office often seems to spend without any strategic direction (I'm looking at you Randy Johnson-signing), and then there's the ticket prices, the public bonds fiasco, the replacement parks, etc. But lately the whole Yankee tenor has been changing. While they still notch your big-name mega-contracts (C.C., A.J., Tex), the Yankees have expressed a renewed (or just plain new) interest in building from within. This year has seen the fruits of that labor sewn, in the success of Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Phil Hughes and even Robinson Cano.

If the Yankees front office decides that they want Roy Halladay, they can have him. Toronto has made it clear that they will deal him to whoever offers the best deal, and the Yankees are in a position, as always, to be that team. However, the best deal would probably include a couple of the youngeons mentioned above, as well as Jesus Montero, the Yankees top offensive prospect.

Even Roy Halladay might not be worth the talent necessary to secure him.

Split the rest of the Boston games: Easier said than done, ey? Against all teams not named "Red Sox," the Yankees are the best team in the American League. Meanwhile, against the Red Sox, the Yankees might as well be called the "Mets" (ZINGER!). Our hometown heroes are 0-8 against Boston this year, but only three games behind them in the standings...you do the math.  The two teams still have another eleven contests left, including three of the last six games of the season. They've gotta win sometime, right? Please? 

Win at least one of the three remaining Angels games: This is just one of those "exorcise the demons" things.

Brian Bruney needs to figure it out, soon: Imagine the power in having last year's Brian Bruney paired with Alfredo Aceves and the untouchable Phil Hughes, working to line up Mariano for saves. Suddenly Joba's weekly five-inning marathon wouldn't seem so taxing.

Robinson Cano: The Canodrum is as frustrating as any Yankee players since, well, Chuck Knoblauch. The numbers don't lie. Get Robbie up to bat to lead off an inning and his average is a Godly .416 (77 at-bats). If there's no one on base, but an out or two has been recorded, Cano still swings a .357 clip (187 at-bats). But as soon as you start giving him the opportunity to drive in runs, Cano falls apart.
Cano is batting with...
  • runners on-base: .259 (170 at-bats)
  • runners in scoring position: .211 (109 at-bats)
  • runners in scoring position and two outs: .191 (68 at-bats)
  • the bases loaded: .200 (15 at-bats)
If the Yankees are to overrun Boston, this good hitter will need to produce runs more efficiently.

Bring back error-less defense: The Yankees' 47 errors puts them in a tie for ninth in the Majors. That's not bad, but when you consider their record-setting 19 game error-less streak earlier this season, it seems surprising that they are not higher up on that list. During that streak the Yankees were 14-5. Also, four of baseball's six first place teams have less total errors than the Yankees. Good fielding is not necessarily the key to success, but most good teams are fielding-adept.

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).

Quinn Endorses Baez; Polanco Steps Aside


The Bronx Democratic Party may have cut loose Councilwoman Maria Baez (they're supporting Fernando Cabrera, a pastor, in September's primary), but she still has friends in high places.

As she looks to secure a third term in office, Baez is being backed by mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, former Bronx BP Fernando Ferrer, and, we discovered yesterday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

"She's been a great friend to her district, a great friend to the Bronx, and a great and loyal friend to me," said Quinn, speaking at a morning rally outside Baez's campaign office on East 181st Street.

Also present to show their support were Assemblymen Jose Rivera and Nelson Castro, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo and her mother Assemblywoman Carmen E. Arroyo, and two or three other pols from other boroughs.

Assemblywoman Arroyo said people have tried to convince her to throw her weight behind another candidate, but she's not interested. "I said 'bring me a person who could do better than Maria.' But they don't have that person. That person doesn't exist," she said.

The younger Arroyo talked about Baez's "strength, character, and integrity." She said she called her the "quiet storm" because she works "very quietly, very consistently."

Said Baez, who represents the 14th District: "I've been in this community for 40 years, 30 years politically. I will not stop fighting for this community. I'm not going anywhere."

The event was billed as a "Women for Baez" rally, and perhaps 80 percent of the 100-plus crowd were women. At a guess, I'd say most were in the 60-plus age bracket.

"She's done a lot for the seniors, the schools, and she's not stuck up, I'll put it like that," long-time Morris Avenue resident Willie Simmons told me.

"Maria has always been the kind of person who makes time for you," said Anna McQuilla, who's lived in Mount Hope for 40 years.

I could go on, but you get the picture - there was a lot of people saying a lot of nice things.

At the rally, Baez introduced her new campaign manager, Yesenia Polanco, who until recently was one of Baez's potential primary opponents. Polanco told me she decided not to run back in May, but this is the first we've heard.

She said she realized that now wasn't her time, and so she looked carefully at the other candidates and decided to support Baez, who later offered her a job. "As a young Latina woman... she's very inspiring," said Polanco, a former state legislative aide.

Hmm... I wonder if things really went down like that. One thing I did hear is that Baez's decision to hire her came out of the blue, surprising at least some of the councilwoman's staff and others working on her campaign.

Regardless, as of yesterday, there's officially five candidates in the race, not six.

TOP PHOTO: Baez is at the mic, Quinn is in the center, Councilwoman Arroyo is on the left. BOTTOM PHOTO: Yesenia Polanco

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Armory Alliance Puts Living Wage Issue On a Bigger Stage

Last night, the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) held a rowsingly star-studded rally to promote its push for living wage jobs ($10 and hour, plus benefits) at the Armory.

As we said yesterday, Community Board 7 voted to conditionally approve of the Related Companies' plan to turn the Armory into a shopping mall, but they did not include any language about requiring the developer, in a binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), to provide living wage jobs at the Armory once its up and running.

A couple of months ago, the Norwood News ran an unpopular (and perhaps misleading) headline that essentially said hopes for living wages at the Armory were dead. But based on last night's rally, where more than 500 local residents and activists showed up to voice their support for living wage jobs, I'd say hope is definitely still alive.

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson made a brief cameo to voice his support for KARA and living wage jobs at the Armory, criticizing his opponent Mayor Bloomberg in the process. Given Bloomberg's staunch opposition to benefits agreements and friendly ties to Related and other developers, the living wage requirement could become an issue with legs that plays out as the campaign unfolds this summer.

Stuart Applebaum, the head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has endorsed Thompson (despite heavy lobbying from Bloomberg's camp), also offered its support for KARA.

Enjoy the slideshow. All photos by Adi Talwar.

Bronx News Roundup July 16

Tonight, Bronx pols will gather at Marina del Rey for the annual Bronx Democratic County Committee dinner.

A Daily News columist questions the rational behind putting a big box supermarket in the Kingbridge Armory.

Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. is looking into allegations that his office's economic arm - the Bronx Overall Economic Devolpement Corp - mishandled funds from the Gateway Mall's Community Development Agreement.

In a case that's generated more media coverage than most murders, a Bronx girl has pled guilty to roasting to kitten to death in a 500-degree oven.

Six Bronx men have filing a lawsuit against the NYPD for allegedly being beaten and unjustly arrested by the police after they had called 911 for a friend of theirs.

Two people were killed and one injured on Tuesday night in a traffic collision between a cab and SUV at the Laconia and Waring Avenues intersection in the Bronx.

City Island residents are trying to get the police to pay attention to prostitution in their community.

The union that represents workers at the Stella D’oro cookie factory in Kingsbridge has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, in an effort to prevent the factory's closure.

Compiled by Ashley Villarreal and Idalmi Acosta