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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bronx retailers participate in Shop for Public Schools program

An unprecedented number of Bronx businesses are participating in this year's Shop for Public Schools program. The Fordham Road Business Improvement District (BID) and 15 stores have raised over $2,000 this year.

Caroline Kennedy, Vice Chair of the Fund for Public Schools, accepted a check from the BID on Friday.

The Shop for Public Schools program encourages businesses to donate to the Fund for Public Schools for school libraries across the city.

Business owners can participate in the Shop for Public Schools program in one of two ways: by giving a flat contribution, or by allocating a percentage of the sales revenue during the week of October 1 – 8. In order to boost contributions and because most Bronx retailers chose to make flat contributions, the BID matched contributions of up to $200 to the program.

Participating businesses included: Audio Town, Bx. Fashion, Call Me Wireless, Cohen's Gentle Dental, Conway, Emigrant Savings Bank, Fordham Road Jewelry Exchange, Gem Pawnbrokers, Kids World, Modell's Sporting Goods, Original Products, Planet Earth Communications, Top Concourse Electronics and Computers and Urban Eyes Optical.

New from the Norwood News

The latest edition of the Norwood News hit streets last Thursday morning, but due to technical difficulties we were unable to get the Web version up online until today. Sorry for the delay. Here's a quick preview:

We have in-depth post-primary election stories on Oliver Koppell's convincing victory over challenger Tony Cassino in the 11th Council District as well as challenger Fernando Cabrera's narrow win over incumbent Maria Baez in the 14th.

Also, 14th District third-place finisher Yudelka Tapia says despite her problems with Cabrera's past political affiliations (he used to be a Republican) and residency issues (he only moved to the district a little more than a year ago), she will work with him for the good of the community.

The heart of Cabrera's campaign was the relentless support of his congregation at New Life Outreach International Church, a churh he started in the NW Bronx 20 years ago.

The Bronx (and New York City) Ghanaian population is rising and coming together to promote their culture as well as build a political voice.

The new leader of nation's largest labor group came to the Bronx to meet with representatives from the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA). KARA, alongw with Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and members of Community Board 7, is trying to negotiate an unprecedented (in NYC anyway) labor and benefits agreement with the Related Companies, which is planning to turn the Armory into a shopping mall.

Pedro Espada is meeting with local business leaders and community groups as he decides where to distribute nearly $2 million in discretionary funding.

And always look to Neighborhood Notes page for local events, programs, services and announcements and to our Out & About page to find out about all the arts and entertainment opportunities in the borough.
Want to give us feedback on a story? Have a news tip or a topic you think we should write about? Feel free to send us ane-mail at norwoodnews@norwoodnews.org.

Will Botanical Station Post Office (and 6 Others) Close?

The discussion regarding the possible closings of seven Bronx Post Offices continues.

The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), an independent agency that exercises regulatory oversight over the US Postal Service (USPS), held a field hearing last Wednesday at Fordham University in order to make recommendations concerning the post offices in jeopardy.

The PRC does not manage postal services, but according to a spokesperson with the organization, “provides an advisory opinion and brings transparency to the public” pertaining to closure policies.

Last week, commissioners of the PRC heard the testimony of 11 witnesses, representing a range of interests including those of government officials, postal representatives, and private organizations both in favor and against the consolidation of postal services.

State Senator Jeffrey D. Kleim and Aurelia Greene, Deputy Bronx Borough President, both said in statements that the closures would create unnecessary hardships for citizens of the Bronx, many of whom depend on the postal services for all their banking needs. Greene affirmed that the seven offices in the Bronx account for 17 percent of all facilities nation wide.

“Of all the ingredients of a neighborhood, the post office is one the most relevant facilities to the local citizen,” said Greene. “ It is not only a service location for the distribution of mail but the most local representation of the government and how it serves the people.”

The Botanical Station, located on Webster Avenue in Bedford Park, which is heavily used by senior citizens and immigrants, had the most representation speaking on its behalf to keep its doors from closing.

“My office has received nothing but criticism from local residents who will be impacted by this proposal,” said Fernando Tirado, district manager for Community Board 7. “For these seniors (referring to the two senior centers and three senior citizen housing complexes located nearby), who are mostly on a fixed income and often have limited means to travel, this station is the only viable source for their postal services.”

Annelen Madigan, a social worker at Rose Hill Apartments, a low-income, senior housing complex just around the block from the station on Kazimiroff Blvd expressed her concerns, “I hope the reasons for closing are not discriminatory to lower income areas."

Tirado also questioned USPS claims it would save money by consolidating the Botanical services with those of the Fordham station. According to his understanding, the station was locked into a six-year lease and would be required, in accordance with the Postal Workers’ Union, to relocate all of its employees.

“What real savings are they offering?” he said.
William Grygus, who spoke on behalf of the USPS, stated that all postal leases have a sublease option.

Roberto Vayas, who is the Botanical Station’s lease holder and owner of the welding business next store, said he would have to check if they could legally sublease or not.

In support of current downsizing policies, Wendy Smith, who spoke on behalf of Publishers Clearinghouse, said, “Such appropriate reduction in operating reductions are critical to avoid accelerating the downward mail volume spiral that will persist if postage rates continue to increase in the near term.”

According to a PRC spokesperson, there is no specific deadline for the release of the official opinion of the PRC, but will likely be made public very soon. There will be another hearing held in Washington D.C. tomorrow.

The Norwood News wrote about the potential closing of the Botanical Station in August.

The Times had this story over the weekend.

Bronx News Roundup, September 30

Yesterday, the New York Times detailed the conflict between Related Companies and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) over the proposed supermarket at the Kingsbridge Armory. In the article, a representative for Related said that the developer was not going to let the supermarket issue end the plans for the armory, but he insisted that Related would not give in to KARA's demand for a living wage requirement.

Thirsty for a taste of the Bronx? Try Bronx Pop-- Bronx BP Ruben Diaz's soda of choice, according to the New York Daily News. For more information on Bronx Pop, check out our blog posting on the product published two weeks ago.

Last Friday, Stella D'Oro factory workers picketed outside of Goldman Saks, an investor in Lance Inc. (the owner of the factory), and then marched to City Hall in an effort to keep the cookie factory in Kingsbridge. Lance Inc. recently announced that they plan on closing the Bronx factory and moving production to Ohio.

A survey done by the US census bureau found that the Bronx continues to be the poorest urban county in the country. According to the survey, 380,000 Bronx residents live below the poverty line.

Happy Anniversary BronxTalk! The show will celebrate its 15th anniversary next Monday with a special hour-long episode. For more information on the show's history, click here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, September 29

Refugees from Bhutan have come to find a new home in the Bronx. Although many Bhutanese refugees are scattered throughout the Bronx, a large population is concentrated in one apartment building on University Avenue, according to The New York Times. The eight Bhutanese families living in the building share meals, job tips and more. Bhutanese refugees started moving into the United States in 2007 when Nepal refused to give them citizenship. The United States agreed to resettle 60,000 of these refugees and so far, about 170 Bhutanese have moved to New York.

The New York Times recently published a piece about Bronx residents lamenting the possible closing of the Botanical Station post office in Bedford Park. The Norwood News published an article about this issue in August.

If you are looking for an affordable, pleasant-looking apartment, The New York Times suggests looking in Mount Hope.

Bronx Assemblyman and Democratic Party chair Carl Heastie is teaming up with the Brooklyn Democratic Leader, Vito Lopez, to see if they can round up the 26 votes on the City Council needed to oust City Council Speaker Christine Quinn from the speaker's chair, according to the New York Post.

Speaking of Carl Heastie, the Assemblyman almost came to blows with Parkchester Assemblyman Peter Rivera last Thursday at a judicial nominating convention, according to the Daily News' Bob Kappstatter. The fight concerned Rivera's charges that Heastie was including him in decisions over judicial nominations for state Supreme Court. Kappstatter reports that the row could be a precursor to an effort to depose Heastie from the chairmanship.

Tom Robbins at the Village Voice also weighs in on the judicial nominating convention, pointing out that Stanley Schlein is still in the thick of things, despite from being barred from receiving court-appointed cases in 2006.

Meanwhile, a Heastie staffer is getting is getting noticed. His chief of staff, Marricka Scott-McFadden, was named as one of the newspaper City Hall's Rising Stars: 40 under 40. Also included in the list was another Bronx Assembly Member Vanessa Gibson.

Consultants hired by Morton Williams supermarket have come down hard criticizing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released by Related Companies, the developer for the Kingsbridge Armory. The consultants claim that the development will cause overwhelming amounts of traffic congestion.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

All A-Twitter ...

If you're so inclined, follow me/BxNN on Twitter at twitter.com/jordanmoss.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Huge Turnout for Eid ul-Fitr

Last Sunday morning, local Muslims celebrated Eid ul-Fitr (an important holiday in the Muslim calendar) at Mount Hope Masjid, a mosque on Mount Hope Place, just east of Jerome Avenue.

The day began with a 9 a.m. prayer, followed by a sermon, followed by food and socializing. According to the mosque's assistant iman, Abdul Muhaimin Ladan, approximately 600 people were in attendance. Most were of West African origin, a reflection of the local population, but there were also Bangladeshis and Arabs, the iman said. The women and the children worshipped inside the mosque, the men outside on the street (the block was cordoned off).

Other Bronx mosques - the borough is home to 30, says Laden, up from just seven a decade ago - held similar celebrations.

Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic for "The Feast of the Fast-Breaking") marks the end of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast, ask for forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance, and give to the needy.

In the Bronx and throughout the city there's a growing movement to add the day (Eid ul-Fitr is actually a three-day holiday but the first is the most significant) to the public school calendar, as well as another day, Eid al-Adha.

Those in favor say one in eight public school students are Muslim, and that they shouldn't be forced to choose between attending school and being with their families. Those against - including Mayor Bloomberg - say students need more classroom time, not less.

Photos and slideshow by Adi Talwar

It's Official: Cabrera Defeats Baez


The Board of Elections has released the final certified results from the Sept. 15 Democratic primaries. In the 14th District, Fernando Cabrera defeated Maria Baez by 75 votes.

Here's the final count:

Fernando Cabrera: 2,108
Maria Baez (incumbant): 2,033
Yudelka Tapia: 1,330

(This is old news, by the way, if you've been reading the comments section in this post. We've had Internet issues these last two days; that's our excuse for not being on top of things.)

The number of votes in the above "Statement and Return Report" are categorized by assembly district. While Baez performed well in the 86th District (where her district office is based, and where she grow up), Cabrera did best further north, in the 78th District, where his church is located and where he now lives.

Assuming Baez doesn't launch a legal challenge, Cabrera can now look forward to the November election, where he'll face token opposition from Yessenia A. Duran (a Republican) and Lisa Marie Campbell (who's running as a Conservative).

Note: Click on the V in the top right hand corner of the Scribd document to enlarge the text.

The Yankees, Unobstructed- September 25

What to watch for - Yankess-Red Sox 2009: Episode 58

No, you're not suffering from déjà vu. This really is happening again. So, here's what/who to watch for:

A sweep: With a sweep, the Yankees would clinch the division. They would then celebrate right in front of the Red Sox.

As always Joba Chamberlain:
He's been awful lately, and this weekend will have a "playoff atmosphere," as the announcers like to say. If he mucks it up tomorrow, Chamberlain could give away his starting spot to the surprising Chad Gaudin — owner of three straight solid starts and a respectable 11/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Jon Lester: Forget about Josh Beckett (until the playoffs), Lester, tonight's starter against Joba Chamberlain is the man to fear in Boston. Since the beginning of August, Lester has pitched nine consecutive quality starts.

Kevin Youkilis: As long as Sunday's game doesn't go until sundown, Youkilis will play the whole series. Youkilis sports an on-base percentage above .400, and slugs .542.

Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira: Still battling for the right to come in 2nd in the MVP voting.

Brett Gardner: You know he's going to steal — but if he happens to get on base and Jason Varitek is catching for the Red Sox, it will be like giving the speedy youngster free bases.

Mariano Rivera: He's let five men on base in his last 2.2 innings of work. Normal for other pitchers, not so much for Mo.

Jonathan Papelbon: In 7 innings against the Yankees this year, Papelbon has surrendered 0 runs and just three hits. Yikes!

Also check out....

The Hispanic Baseball Festival: The first event ever organized by the brand new 161 St. Business Improvement District, the Hispanic Baseball Festival will feature an appearance by Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda. Sunday, from 10-4, at the Lou Gehrig Plaza (across the street from the Court Building).

NOTE: Make sure to check back on Fridays for The Yankees, Unobstructed, BNN's weekly Yankees opinion column.

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

A Deserved Award

Buddy Stein (center) with his Hunter College and CUNY J-School students
with an engraved canoe paddle presented to Stein by the Bronx River Alliance. (Photo by Jordan Moss)

My colleague and collaborator Bernard (Buddy) Stein was given a well-deserved award last night from the Bronx River Alliance for his work on the Hunts Point Express, a monthly community newspaper that covers Hunts Point and other neighborhoods in Community Board 2. With his students at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Buddy and his community editor Joe Hirsch, a former student, put out the Express and the Mott Haven Herald which debuted last spring in Community Board 1.

In his acceptance speech, Buddy pointed out that the "duty of a great public university [like CUNY] is to serve [the communities of the city]." Buddy has done a tremendous job of helping CUNY fulfilling that responsibility.

We're proud to be partners with Buddy in, as he mentioned last night, a remarkable endeavor involving a total of 5 nonprofit community newspapers in the Bronx.

The award ceremony was part of a fundraiser for the Bronx River Alliance held at the gorgeous Hunts Point Riverside Park.

Congratulations to Buddy and all of his students who make the Express and the Herald possible.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 24

By lifting zoning restrictions, and offering tax increntives, the city is hoping to encourage the buildings of supermarkets in neighborhoods where fresh produce is hard to come by.

There was a bomb scare last night at a warehouse in Highbridge.

In an editorial, the Post criticizes the Bronx DA for initially failing to contest the release of a drug dealer who was shot dead an assistant district attorney in 1990.

Police have arrested a man and 16-year-old boy in connection with the shooting death of a young mother in Mott Haven on Tuesday afternoon. Aisha Santiago was hit by a stray bullet when an argument between two groups of men turned violent.

A Bronx man, injured in a fall from a fire escape, could face jail-time after stealing a friend's identity so he could access health insurance.

Bronx Community College's volleyball team is on a roll, winning its first six games of the season.

Following the arrest of a bogus real estate agent, Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. is urging other victims to come forward. Josie Almonte allegedly stole thousands of dollars from unsuspecting apartment hunters in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx.

More on Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's failed attempts to rent two mansions in Riverdale.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, September 23

Newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will throw the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox. Sotomayor's pitching arm will be used to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at Yankee Stadium.

Yesterday, Jonathon Huff, a dean of a Bronx high school-- the Urban Assembly Academy of History and Citizenship for Young Men-- pleaded not guilty to the charge of inappropriately touching a 14 year-old student.

The Bronx Supreme Court sentenced a former police detective, Christopher Perino, to four months in jail after he was convicted of perjury during an attempted murder trial in the Bronx.

Police arrested a Bronx man, William Crean, for allegedly setting fire to a building in Westchester Square in March. The fire caused $2 million worth of property damage and minor injuries to three fire fighters. Crean faces charges of arson and up to 25 years in prison.

The New York City Administration for Children's Services cut their budget, and they will no longer provide 5 year-old children with after-school day care. Only children under 5 years-old will receive day care assistance, which leaves many Bronx working parents struggling to find care providers.

This afternoon, police arrested seven Bronx hospital workers (six at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center and one at Jacobi Hospital) for taking bribes and steering patients into clinics operating insurance scams. Authorities are still conducting an investigation of bribery and insurance scams at New York City hospitals.

Yesterday, a sudden shooting in Mott Haven on East 146th Street left a 25 year-old woman dead and a 25 year-old man injured.

Labor's Biggest Gun Visits Armory

Newly elected AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, the nation’s top labor leader, touched down in the Bronx on yesterday afternoon to stand with local activists and union members in their ongoing struggle to exact significant concessions from the Related Companies, the developer of the Kingsbridge Armory project.

Trumka met with members of the Kingsbridge Armory Development Alliance (KARA) in a church on Reservoir Avenue and then spoke to union members and the press across the street in front of landmark facility.

He said the choice at the armory is between developing a project that is the “center and heart of this community,” or merely a “profit center for the developer.” He added, “People of conscience cannot allow this to become a profit center,” and he echoed KARA’s demands for a Community Benefits Agreement and living wage jobs.

The visit was clearly intended to ratchet up the pressure on politicians poised to weigh in on the development. Earlier this month, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz issued a negative recommendation to the City Planning Commission, which will vote on the Related Companies proposal on Oct. 19. Then the City Council will have the final say. Local Council members, including Oliver Koppell and Maria Baez, have indicated that they do not support the inclusion of a big-box supermarket at the armory but they are holding their cards close to their vests on how the other labor issues like the living wage will factor into their vote.

Meanwhile, Diaz, who has been trying to reach out to Related in hopes of crafting an agreement, says he has not received a response from the developer.

Stuart Appelbaum, head of the Retail Workers and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the local labor leader who invited Trumka to the armory, said that “bringing the head of the AFL-CIO the first week after he is elected sends a powerful message about what working people want in economic development. We hope the mayor and all elected officials hear that message. “

Trumka said he was impressed by the labor-community coalition organized by KARA. “We see it as a model to replicate all over,” he said.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

14th Election Results Won't Be Certified Until Thursday

The Norwood News is on deadline tonight and hoped to be able to declare, once and for all, who had officially won the the 14th District Council race.

Last we heard, challenger Fernando Cabrera was up on incumbent Maria Baez by 69 votes following an initial recount.

Alas, it was not meant to be. News reporter Molly Ryan found out earlier today that the Board of Elections will not certify the results until at least Thursday.

Earlier this morning, BOE spokesperson Valerie Vasquez-Rivera said the board would meet at 1 p.m. and that they would make a decision on certification by 3 p.m. But when Ryan called back at 3:30 p.m., Vasquez-Rivera (the wife of Baez-ally and Council majority leader Joel Rivera, in case you were wondering) said the board is still waiting for any snail mail absentee ballots to trickle into their offices and would make another certification call on Thursday.

In order to count toward the election, absentee ballots would have to be post-marked by election day, which was last Tuesday, Sept. 15.

So, rest assured, 14th Council District absentee voters in the heart of the Congolese jungle or rural Nepal, your vote will be counted.

Update: BOE spokesperson Valery Vasquez-Rivera just called us to point out that the Board's priority at yesterday's meeting was to certify the leaders in the public advocate and comptroller's races since there is a runoff for both planned for next Tuesday. No other close Council race, even one in Queens where the incumbent is ahead by only 5 votes, was certified yesterday. Stay tuned.

New from the Tremont Tribune

The September edition of the Tremont Tribune just hit the streets and is online now. A quick peek at what's inside:

Tenants in Belmont's Fordham Towers endured rats, broken elevators, and on-and-off heat and hot water after their building was bought by private investors in 2007. Now the building is in foreclosure - and housing advocates predict a wave of foreclosures among Bronx buildings bought in recent years by private equity funds who paid sky-high prices.

Arthur Avenue flaunted its food at the annual Ferragosto festival, and even Mayor Bloomberg stopped by for a taste.

The Bronx River Art Center recently filled the hole in the heart of West Farms Square - with an abstract sculpture conceived as a defense of New York City.

State Sen. Ruben Diaz is up in arms...over algae in Indian Lake.

Questions for Ivine Galarza, Community Board 6's longtime District Manager.

St. Barnabas Hospital renames an emergency room after an EMT who died on 9/11.

PLUS our monthly listing of community announcements and events, news briefs, political coverage, and more.

Riverdale Pols Say Cookie Company Owes City

Local lawmakers are not letting the Bronx-based cookie factory, Stella D’oro go without a fight.

Congressman Eliot Engel, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Oliver Koppell recently drafted a letter to the New York City Department of Finance, asking them stop the company’s move to Ohio until taxpayers money that was granted to them in the form of a tax abatement is returned.

The three politicians are also requesting the cookie business not be allowed to take plant machinery with them that they say was purchased and upgraded using taxpayer dollars.

“We feel very strongly that the New York City tax payers should not be outsourced to Ohio,” the three said in the letter.

Stella D'Oro was awarded tax abatements under the Industrial Commerical Abatement Program(ICAP).

Brynwood Partners, the Connecticut-based private equity firm that purchased Stella D’Oro from Kraft in 2006, announced earlier this month the sale of the pastry label to Lance Inc., prompting the relocation of production, including the machinery at the Bronx plant, to Ashland, Ohio. The move is set to take place in October.

The letter also references the end of 10 month-long employee strike that came to a close in July after the company was charged with unfair labor practices. Engel, Dinowitz, and Koppell believe the closing of the bakery may have been in retaliation, saying the workers' "sense of justice was short lived."

"We should not be sending our jobs and tax money to Ohio," said Engel. "Brynwood Partners made a coldy calculated that they wanted to break the Union," he added, "and when they lost a National Labor Relations Board decision, they decided to sell out. "

The lawmakers are demanding a temporary restraining order against the sale until the Department of Finance enacts "'claw back' procedures to recoup the tax abatements," that they say "have not been expended in a way beneficial to New York City."

They additionally requested that Lance Inc. be informed of their intentions.

Councilman Koppell hopes the city gets involved.

“It’s a longshot but we’re trying it," he said.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 22

Not everyone has embraced Mayor Bloomberg's Million Trees NYC initiative. A Claremont woman has been trying to stop the city planting trees outside her home, because she's worried about allergies.

Moammar Khadafy, the Libyan leader, tried - and failed - to rent two mansions in Riverdale. He planned to use them during this week's United Nations General Assembly meeting, but the developer wanted nothing to do with him.

Carolyn Porca, a former Cardinal Spellman student and one of America's preeminent astronomers, has been taking a close look at Saturn.

Bob Kappstatter looks at who could replace Councilwoman Maria Baez as dean of the Bronx Council delegation. Baez was defeated by Fernando Cabrera in last week's Democratic primary; the result is expected to be made official today, Kappstatter says.

Adolfo Carrion, the former Bronx BP who now works in Washington D.C. for the Obama Administration, is having a hard time finding someone to rent his City Island house.

The friends and colleagues of Christopher Perino, a former Bronx detective convicted of perjury, have fired off hundreds of letters to Supreme Court Justice James Kindler, asking that he show leniency when sentencing Perino later today.

Bronx Princess, a PBS documentary about a Bronx girl of Ghanaian origin who returns to her homeland to live with her father, a tribal chief, will be shown at 10 p.m. tonight on Channel THIRTEEN. Here's the trailer.

Luis Cedeno, hip-hop's first ever Latino DJ and a one-time Ryer Avenue resident, has a book out about his colorful life. He'll be signing copies at the Bronx Museum on Friday.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 21

Now that President Obama has gotten involved in NYC politics by attempting to give Governor Paterson the heave-ho, State Senator Ruben Diaz says he’s now obligated to support Democrat Bill Thompson in the race for mayor.

This is what Diaz said:

“I deeply appreciate President Barack Obama’s concern for the future of the New York Democratic Party and the importance of maintaining a Democrat for Governor of New York State. I am hopeful that President Obama will now show the same initiative by supporting and strongly campaigning for Democratic Mayoral Candidate William Thompson.

This way, President Obama will show that his concern for the Democratic Party in New York State is unquestionable."

In a NY Times' blog, David Gonzalez, writes about and captures through photographs the changes on Fordham Road over the past 30 years.

Police are now investigating a series of attacks on Fordham University students at an off-campus apartment building.

A fire Thursday at a Bronx mosque did not stop worshipers from observing the end of Ramadan.
A new awards ceremony was held over the weekend to recognize female empowerment in the Bronx.

The Bronx is taking a number of measures to reduce its ecological footprint, including planting rooftop gardens and installing solar panels.

The Bronx Assistant Principal arrested for drunk driving on Friday with her baby in the car has been suspended from her position.

Two men survived jumping out a second floor window to escape an armed robbery. A pet pit bull also jumped but did not survive.

A Bronx man confessed to murdering a Dubai businesswoman.

Governors Beat Falcons

18th of September, Friday afternoon: DeWitt Clinton High School hosted a PSAL boys football varsity game, between themselves and Susan E. Wagner High School. Governors the home team sent the Falcons back to Staten island after winning an exciting game 22-20. Click here for game statistics.

I could not stay for the whole game, had to go play paparazzi on the 4 train! More on that later. I hope you enjoy the photographs. Please click on the Images to view them larger.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It's (Almost) Official: After Re-Count, Cabrera Up By 69, Heastie Says

The machine votes for the 14th District Council race have been re-counted, all the paper ballots (absentee and affidavit) have been tallied and Fernando Cabrera is still in the lead over Maria Baez by about 69 votes, said Democratic County Chairman Carl Heastie in a phone interview.

Heastie said the Board of Elections will make it official on Tuesday.

At the end of Tuesday's primary, Cabrera, a pastor and college professor, was up by 90 votes. So Baez, who refused to concede on Tuesday, gained a little ground in the re-count, but not enough to make a difference. Instead of sticking around for the re-count (and City Council meetings), Baez went on vacation. That may be an indicator of what she thought of her chances.

"But this isn't about beating up Maria Baez," Heastie said.

It's about injecting "fresh blood and new energy" into the Council, he said. "Cabrera has a tremendous background. He's a pastor and a counselor, so he can relate to the struggles that families here are going through. And he's going to be present."

Okay, so based on that last remark, it's a little bit about Baez, who was beat up continually for her lack of presence at not only City Council meetings, but also local community board meetings.

As for the slim margin of victory, Heastie told Liz Benjamin at the Daily News: "I don't care if you win the Super Bowl by one point or 30, you're still champion."

We'll have full primary election coverage of the 14th and 1th district races in the Norwood News next Thursday.

The Yankees, Unobstructed- September 18

The Yankees have the best record in baseball, they lead their division by seven games and they have the second highest run differential in the majors. They also have big problems that can really hamper their postseason run.

With the exclusion of C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees starting rotation has become a hodge-podge of inconsistent (and consistently poor) hurlers.


Andy Pettitte — His 4.35 era over the last month is not bad, but the eight walks that Pettitte has surrendered in his last 11 innings points to an emerging control issue. His sore shoulder is also a cause for concern.

A.J. Burnett — Sporting an unseemly 7.67 era and 1.53 whip, Burnett has had trouble keeping the ball in the park. He has given up two or more home runs in three of his last five starts.

Since July, 27, Burnett has gone 1-5, with two no decisions.

Joba Chamberlain — It's hard to make judgements about Joba. He certainly has not been good. For the last month his era is 7.41 and his whip is 1.88. On the other hand, in his last seven innings (two starts) Chamberlain has walked only one batter, while striking out five. It's tough to gauge Joba because the Yankees have not allowed him to pitch five innings in a game since August 16.

The upcoming schedule

The next ten days are chock full of playoff-preview type baseball. The past month can be forgotten if Yankees starters can shut down the Angels and Red Sox next week (two potential American League Championship foes).

NOTE: Make sure to check back on Fridays for The Yankees, Unobstructed, BNN's weekly Yankees opinion column.

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

Not Messin' Around at the Armory

The Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance will be hosting new AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka in the neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon including a 3:30 meeting at the Armory.

Is the Armory, a local development project not even well known beyond the borough's borders, becoming a proving ground for the national labor movement on whether they can get some movement on the Living Wage issue?

Meanwhile, the City Planning Commission will vote on the Related Companies' Armory proposal on Oct. 19 following a negative recommendation from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. The final determination will then be made by the City Council.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 18

The trial for the four men accused of plotting to bomb two Riverdale synagogues will begin next June 14. At the hearing where the trial date was set, lawyers for the accused, who are pleading not guilty, said that their clients were entrapped by a federal government informant. They also said that key evidence -- recorded conversations in which the defendants allegedly discussed the bombing plans -- doesn't exist. More on this, including courtroom sketches, from NY1 and Daily News.

NY1's Dean Meminger examines the impact of the new Gateway Center mall, which the Related Companies the mayor's office and other elected officials are touting as a huge boon for the south Bronx. From the interviews, local residents seem to think it's been a valued addition as well. Related is facing opposition to its plan to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into another mall because they have not entered into a Community Benefits Agreement.

Not surprisingly, Maria Baez failed to show up for the first post-primary City Council meeting, "keeping intact her hold on the Council's worst attendance record," writes the Times' Ray Rivera. She said on Tuesday night that she was going on vacation for a few days.

An assistant principal at a middle school in Morrisania was arrested for driving drunk on Thursday morning at 7 a.m. Her 10-month-old baby was in the back seat.

The Bronx Democrats have thrown their weight behind John Liu for comptroller after their original choice, Melinda Katz was beaten soundly in Tuesday's primary.

A fire ripped through a Morrisania area grocery store and mosque early this morning.

Rape charges against five Hoftstra students, three of whom are from the Bronx, have been dismissed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

B.P. Diaz Talks "Green" Initiatives with Dominican Delegation

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and with a delegation of representatives from the government of Dominican Republic today to discuss environmental protection and other "green" initiatives. Above, (right to left) Diaz, Manhattan Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat and the Dominican Republic's Secretary of State for Environmental and Natural Resources, Dr. David Fernandez plant a tree at the New York Botanical Garden to symbolize the need for reforestation.

Culinary Talent Brews in Morris Heights


From September's Mount Hope Monitor:

Dennis Williams, the resident chef at South Bronx Job Corps on Andrews Avenue, says he teaches his culinary students how to “sauté, cut, roast, and braise anything from anise to zucchini.” But in the beginning, he also had to retrain their palates to match his high standards.

“I train them to make it in NYC,” Williams said, adding that it is one of the toughest cities for the food business. “I mean, how do you please a New Yorker?” he asked.

He said that the driving force behind a successful culinary career is passion. “Not love,” he clarified. “Passion. Because there is no love in the kitchen when you have a French chef telling you daily you are a bad cook. Love will not get you through this business. You have to need to cook. That’s passion.”

There’s no shortage of it among Williams’ students. More here.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 17

A horticulture program, run out of a greenhouse on East 160th Street, is helping homeless people stay drug-free.

The Hofstra University student who said she was raped by five men, including two from the Bronx, has recanted her story.

Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit that builds affordable housing, has put a green roof on one of its buildings in the South Bronx.

A 57-year-old man was shot dead on Fairmount Place in East Tremont last night.

The state has given Westchester Square Medical Center another year to find a suitable buyer. Both New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center are said to be interested. Previously, it was feared that the medical center would close for good.

A police officer died yesterday at the 46th Precinct's station house on Ryer Avenue, following a suspected heart attack.

Leonel Fernandez, the president of the Dominican Republic, is visiting the Bronx on Monday.

Urban Assembly for Applied Math and Science, a middle school on Bathgate Avenue, has been honored for its math teaching.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Primary Postcard: Cabrera's Team Celebrates Close (Yet Unofficial) Victory

The mood in Maestro's catering hall in Morris Park was quietly cheerful last night at about 9:30 p.m. There were no televisions in the banquet hall, but the results of the day's Democratic primaries were trickling in via text messages and e-mail blasts to the 100 or so Fernando Cabrera supporters milling about in blue shirts.

Cabrera, the pastor of New Life International Outreach Church and an upstart challenger in the 14th Council District, was nowhere to be found.

Food was served, drinks were consumed and rumors were flying.

"Word is Maria's out," said John DeSio, a spokesman for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

"I'm hearing good things," said Cabrera's communications director Fernando Aquino.

Two young Cabrera soldiers were talking to reporters as if they were giving a post-game victory speech.

Word slipped into the room: Cabrera's up.

Then the music started. At least 30 campaign staffers piled onto the small stage toward one end of the hall and started banging on hand drums, dancing and chanting in Spanish: "The Cabrera era has begun!"

Carlos Feliciano, a campaign volunteer and youth minister with New Life, jumped on stage, the music still rocking. Some early results were in. Maria Baez, 34 percent. Fernando Cabrera, 41.

Celebration ensued. The dancers, chanters and drummers spilled onto the dance floor, forming the equivalent of huge chaotic conga line.

Then, for a while, nothing.

Fifteen minutes later, somebody says Baez is now in the lead, but it's close. Outside, in the lobby, Daily News Bronx bureau chief Bob "Kappy" Kappstatter is holding court with new numbers from his source within the Board of Elections. With 98 percent of the vote in, Cabrera is up a grand total of FIVE votes, you could count them on one hand.

There's discussion of what this means. Where's the other 2 percent?

Suddenly, there's commotion, everyone starts filing back into the main hall. Community Board 7 Chairman Greg Faulkner, who was instrumental in Cabrera's campaign since its inception two years ago, says, "It's a done deal." How many votes? "It's over. 90 votes," he says.

[Technically, nothing is official at this point and in the west Bronx, a defiant Baez is refusing to concede.]

No matter. Campaigners are now hugging and crying. The word is out. Cabrera did it.

"We did it!" everyone is saying.

Soon a procession is barreling into the hall. Diaz Jr. and his father Ruben Diaz, Sr. (in full cowboy gear) walk through the gantlet of cheering supporters. Carl Heastie, the Democratic Pary Chairman who took a gamble by choosing to back Cabrera, a former Republican, against a Democratic incumbent, walks through confidently.

Then, it's the man of the hour, of the day, Pastor Fernando Cabrera, grinning from ear to ear, high fiving and fist pumping his way to the stage.

Heastie takes the mic first. "I'd like to introduce you to the new Democratic nominee for City Council in the 14th District, FERNANDO CABRERA!"

More pandemonium, cheering and hugging. It was, for even the most impartial observer, exciting.

The pastor's first words: "God did it and you did it!" Nuts. The whole place went nuts.
"Some people questioned whether this was going to happen," Cabrera went on. "I'm here to tell you that not only was it going to happen, it did happen!" More madness.

Later he would go on to thank everyone involved in the campaign for all their hard work, etc., etc. But before all that:

"We're going to start a new era of leadership in the Bronx and the best is yet to come!"

As a reporter, there were still loads of unanswered questions hanging in the air as to how this would all shake out, logistically and otherwise. But the question I kept asking myself was: Are those goose bumps?
-All Photos by David Greene

Maria Baez: 'This is Not Over'

DEFIANT: Assemblyman Jose Rivera and Councilwoman Maria Baez

At 11:30 p.m. last night, Councilwoman Maria Baez addressed 30 or so of her weary supporters inside the Monte Carlo Room, a nightclub on Jerome Avenue near the Kingsbridge Armory.

It was no concession speech.

"This is not over," Baez said, placing emphasis on each word. The small crowd erupted.

As you've likely heard, Fernando Cabrera, Baez's main rival in the 14th District City Council race, is currently 90 votes ahead following yesterday's primary. The Board of Elections will officially announce the results next Tuesday (that's the plan anyway). Certain ballots have yet to be counted, but it's not looking good for the incumbent.

The bad news arrives

Here's how the evening unfolded for the Baez camp:

At 9 p.m., the councilwoman's supporters being to trickle into the club, for a celebration that never was. A handful gathered around a flat-screen TV, watching Bronx News 12 for updates. Others took a seat, and talked quietly among themselves; many had spent the day flyering, and were exhausted.

Diana Vest, a Westchester Square resident who said she was paid $80 for 12 hours of work, told me she'd encountered plenty of hostility towards Baez on the street. "Some people think she's a crook," she said. "They believe she's about promises and no action and that she's not a person who sticks to her word."

Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx BP and two-time mayoral candidate, showed up around 9:30. "I've known Maria Baez for the better part of 30 years," he told me. "I know how hard she works for her community."

He added: "Her opponant [Cabrera] until recently was a Westchester resident and a Republican at that. Excuse me, am I missing something?"

When the final vote tally popped up on TV around 10:30 p.m., there was a stunned, awkward, silence. Councilman Joel Rivera said he wouldn't be suprised if the race was decided in court, considering how close it was. "I do think it would be a loss for the district [if she is defeated]," he said. "Maria has done a wonderful job these past eight years, contrary to what's been reported."

The party never really got going

Baez, who watched proceedings elsewhere, arrived shortly afterwards. She smiled, but looked shell-shocked, a little embarrassed even. She sat the bar and talked quietly with friends.

Assemblyman Jose Rivera, Baez's political mentor, told me he was "proud of Maria, she took to the streets, it was a very grassroots operation." He said the support of the Working Families Party, 1199 SEIU, and the Bronx Democratic Party ("I know what County can do."), tipped the race in Cabrera's favor, assuming the result stands.

From l to r: Rivera, Baez, her grandson, Councilman Joel Rivera, Assemblymember Naomi Rivera

When Baez finally got up to talk, much of the crowd had dispersed (at one stage 60 or so people were present). "This is not over," she said, standing next to Rivera the elder. "I see everyone, like, sad. We're not sad, we're happy. It's one percent [of the vote] so lets just relax."

At times, though, there was an air of resignation. "It's been an honor for me, I never would have imagined that I would have been a member of the Council," Baez said.

She said she's going on vacation with her family for the next few days, and will assess her options when she returns, to see what can be done.

Then, attempting to lighten the mood on what had been a miserable night, Baez said: "It's not over, they say, until the fat lady sings, and this fat lady ain't singing."

Well, This Should Be Interesting ....

The Bronx Chamber of Commerce just sent out a release announcing honorees for their Oct. 1 banquet.

The Related Companies, which wants to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory, is receiving the "Visionary Award," presumably for their work on the Gateway Mall just south of Yankee Stadium.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz will be a special guest. Diaz recently recommended that the City Planning Commission vote against Related's proposal to the Armory into a shopping mall, primarily because there's no Community Benefits Agreement was in place.

Last night at Fernando Cabrera's "victory" party at Maestro's (there is still some recounting to do as previous reported), Diaz told us he hasn't heard anything from Related and that there's been no dialogue. Well, maybe there will be some dialogue at the banquet.

Should be interesting ...

The Intricacies of the Board of Elections Vote Counting Process

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Board of Elections is currently obtaining the official voter statistics for the primary elections through recanvasing the polls and opening and validating paper ballots.

Here is some more information about how the process goes down:

Usually, the Board of Elections waits two weeks to open absentee ballots. However, because of the run-off elections scheduled to be held in two weeks, absentee ballots are being opened and counted today.

Along with absentee ballots, the bipartisan Board of Elections officials are also counting other paper ballots (such as emergency ballots and affidavits) and the votes in polling machines.

While these votes are being counted, in contested races it is most likely that election lawyers will be watching the process like hawks. It is usually hard for election lawyers to challenge absentee and polling machine votes, but they are ready to pounce on all affidavits.

Affidavits are filled out at polling sites when a voter has a problem such as not finding their name at the registration table. While the bipartisan Board of Elections officials determine whether an affidavit is valid, election lawyers can challenge their judgment and argue over illegible signatures, forgeries, etc. Arguments over these affidavits could possibly be sent to court.

Valerie Vasquez-Rivera, a Board of Elections spokesperson, is hopeful that the process will be complete by September 21 and the election results will be certified by Board of Elections commissioners by September 22. However, if candidates in close races such as in the 14th district are willing to hire election lawyers and argue over the process, it could take longer.

Neil Rosenstein, an election specialist for New York Public Interest Research Group, says that New Yorkers should not be so anxious about obtaining official election results. "We seem to be obsessed with this need for instant gratification," he said. "Elections are meant to best represent the will of the people and sometimes that takes a little bit of time."

14th City Council District Gears Up for a Recount

Although at the end of last night 14th district City Council candidate Fernando Cabrera had 90 more votes than the incumbent, Maria Baez, Cabrera is not officially the Democratic primary winner. In fact, none of the primary elections have official winners yet.

Last night, when the polling sites closed at 9 p.m., polling officials gave their primary election results to the police, who then publically disclosed the information. However, under New York City Board of Elections policy, these voting results are not official.

The election results released from the polls are usually a clear indicator of who has won the race, but in each race every poll and paper vote needs to be counted and approved by the Board of Elections before a winner can be determined. In close races, such as in the 14th City Council district, the official Board of Elections count could possibly result in a different winner than in the original poll count.

According to Valerie Vasquez-Rivera, a spokesperson for the Board of Elections, the Board of Elections will follow normal recanvasing procedures where a bipartisan team opens up polling machines to get an official ballot count and then counts and validates all paper ballots (such as absentee ballots). Vasquez-Rivera expects the recanvasing procedures to be finished by September 21. All campaigns are welcome to observe the official Board of Elections counting process.

Baez would have to obtain a high majority of paper ballots to win the primary (see our post here), but she has refused to concede the race.

It is expected that Baez will continue to fight for her council seat to the bitter end.

Bronx City Council Election Results

As the Democratic primary election results for Bronx City Council members rolled in last night, it became clear that most incumbents have a strong hold on their seats for another four years.

Out of the eight Bronx City Council districts, only four incumbents had challengers in the primary election. Out of those four City Council elections, three incumbents kept a firm hold of their position, while another appears to be out.

In the 11th City Council district, incumbent Oliver Koppell was challenged by Tony Perez Cassino. Despite a heated primary campaign race, Koppell won the primary with 63.9% of the vote. Koppell had 5,348 votes and Cassino had 3,021 votes.

In the 12th City Council district, incumbent Larry Seabrook scraped by to win 55.28 % of the vote despite a series of controversial financial accusations. Seabrook defeated Andy King, Jerome Rice and Sebastian Ulanga in the primary. Seabrook had 4,871 votes, King had 2,830 votes, Rice had 778 votes and Ulanga had 333 votes.

In the 16th City Council district, incumbent Helen Foster defeated political newcomer Carlos Sierra with 60.54% of the vote. Foster had 2,654 votes and Sierra had 1,730 votes.

In the 14th City Council district, Fernando Cabrera has a good chance of replacing the incumbent, Maria Baez. Last night, poll counts listed Cabrera as having 1,937 votes, Baez as having 1,847 votes and Yudelka Tapia as having 1,250 votes.

The above numbers are still unofficial and not yet approved by the Board of Elections. Although the poll count is usually a good indicator of the winning candidate, in close races such as the 14th District City Council primary, official numbers are needed to declare the winner.

More information on the 14th district City Council race to come.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 16

The day following the primaries, many news sources are buzzing about the results. The race in District 14, which we blogged extensively about yesterday is drawing city-wide coverage because Maria Baez may join the list of incumbents who were voted out. But it's still too close to call. Baez is currently trailing Cabrera by 90 votes. [More on this later today]

A Bronx elementary school is overcrowding its classrooms.

It was a very emotional day in court for a girl whose mother was killed in Bronx after a cab driver being robbed at knife point crashed his car. The robber is on trial for second degree murder.

A Bronx girl and her Uncle are filing a law suit against a catering company that used a photo of the two plaintiffs at her Sweet Sixteen party in wedding promotional material.

A 12-year veteran NYPD police officer is being charged with injuring a man during an incident in the Bronx back in March.

A Bronx man is now $168 million richer after winning the lottery last month.

Baseball enthusiasts will be pleased to find out the Yankees announced they will be reducing ticket prices for next season.

Yankees fans may get more than they paid for though after reading this article in the NY Times about the massive brawl that broke out in the stadium last night.

Cabrera Camp Confident in Victory in 14th

Just a few thoughts before we call it a night.

While Maria Baez refused to concede to her opponent, Fernando Cabrera, who ended the night up by 90 votes in the 14th Council District primary, the Cabrera camp is extremely confident that it will prevail after all the extra votes are counted.

Here's why.

Greg Faulkner, the chair of Community Board 7, who was heavily involved in Cabrera's campaign, told me that they found out all the names and addresses of the voters who requested absentee ballots, which will need to be counted before Cabrera is declared the victor. (There may be a few affidavit ballots left to count as well.)

First of all, Faulkner said there were only about 125 absentee voters in the district, meaning Baez would have to take 91 of those, or 72%, which doesn't seem likely based on the results tonight.

Secondly, Faulkner said Cabrera was the only 14th District candidate who requested the addresses of, and targeted, those voters.

Having said that, this could still take a while and I expect Baez to not go down quietly.

Tune in tomorrow, or actually later today, for more details about the primary results and all the action surrounding the results.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Koppell Wins Decisively in 11th District

Councilman Oliver Koppell declaring victory before a packed house at the
Ben Franklin Club. (Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz in foreground). Photo by Jordan Moss

Oliver Koppell scored a decisive victory in the 11th District against Anthony Cassino, the former chair of Community Board 8. The vote was 5348 (63.9%) to 2301 (36.1%)

Koppell staff and supporters started filing into the cramped storefront Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club on E. 231st St. in Kingsbridge just after 9 p.m. Almost immediately volunteers starting filing in with precinct vote tally sheets which signaled Koppell's victory long before TV stations reported it.

Koppell gave a spirited acceptance speech standing on a chair, including a boisterous defense of his leadership in extending term limits. Essentially, Koppell saw it as a vindication for his position.

Over at the Ibiza night club near Manhattan College, the scene was more subdued as Cassino chatted with and thanked supporters.

We'll have more on this race and the other Bronx Council races tomorrow.

Cabrera Ahead But Networks Say It's Too Close to Call

Norwood News Managing Editor Alex Kratz just checked in from Maestro's in Morris Park, where Fernando Cabrera has declared victory in his race against embattled incumbent councilwoman Maria Baez. Alex says people are beginning to leave Maestro's after a boisterous evening there.

But while cable station NY1 reports that 100% of the precints have reported results in the race, they have yet to call Cabrera as the winner, possibly because absentee and affidavit ballots might still be a factor.

Bronx News 12 also says it's too close to call, with only 90 votes separating Cabrera and Baez. however. Here's how they break out the numbers in this 3-way race.

Fernando Cabrera 38.5% 1937 votes
Maria Baez 36.7% 1847 votes
Yudelka Tapia 24.8% 1250 votes

Stay tuned.

Urban farming in the Bronx

A new video highlights the work of many Bronx organizations and initiatives to grow healthy food in school yards, community gardens, community centers and parts of parks. The full documentary will be screened at The Point CDC, 940 Garrison Ave. in Hunts Point on Saturday, Nov. 14. You can catch a preview right now on The Hunts Point Express website, http://brie.hunter.cuny.edu/hpe/?p=1994.

Primary Postcard: Norwood Polls Quiet After Apparent Morning Brawl

Koppell campaign workers stand outside of the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center polling site. Sandler (right) claims a Cassino supporter tried to strangle him this morning.

Around 3 p.m. this afternoon, the primary polling site at the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center was ominously devoid of Tony Cassino campaigners. Instead, Oliver Koppell campaign workers strolled around the area surrounding the community center passing out flyers and attempting to sway primary voters in their favor.

Despite Cassino's Norwood campaign office's location directly across the street from the community center, the only Cassino campaign literature in sight was plastered on the windows of his office.

However, earlier in the day, a Koppell campaign worker claimed that Cassino campaigners were not so quiet.

Andrew Sandler, a Koppell volunteer who has been campaigning outside of the community center all day, said, "A Cassino supporter pushed me and strangled me this morning when I was handing out flyers outside of Cassino's office." Although Sandler said that when he complained about the incident to Cassino, the City Council candidate apologized for his supporter's violent behavior, but Cassino also "said that I provoked him." The Cassino campaign could not be reached for a comment.

Besides the alleged brawl, Sandler said the poll station at the community center has been "quiet."

Poll workers agreed with Sandler, saying that turnout has been fairly low and they hope to get more voters after 5 p.m.

At another poll site in Norwood, the St. Brendan School on 207th Street, poll workers also said the turnout for today's primary election has been low. One worker pointed out that not one person has voted in the 94th District today.

Outside of the St. Brendan School, Jamin Sewell, who is counsel for Councilman Koppell, said he was "not surprised" about the number of voters. "I expected a low turnout," he said. "In some cases, people are unaware of the election."

Still, Sewell said, "I'm confident he (Koppell) is going to win, it just is a matter of by how much."

There were no Cassino campaigners outside of the St. Brendan School this afternoon.

Primary Postcard: Poll Coordinators Says Candidates Didn't Campaign Enough

A lack of candidate advertising - at least until the very last minute - may be one reason why the expected voter turnout is low, poll workers say.

Early this afternoon I visited several polling sites in the 14th District. Fernando Cabrera appeared to be making the most effort. His truck was spotted driving along Jerome and University avenues, blasting out loud Spanish music and a recorded audio clip of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. vouching for the candidate. The clip was repeated over and over.

While Cabrera appeared the most visual candidate, Maria Baez’s camp seemed more vocal. Close to each polling station, she had volunteers handing out flyers and asking passersby to vote for her. The flyers included this quote by Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president: "Nobody will take care of her neighborhoods as well as Maria Baez." Her blue and red posters blanketed Burnside Avenue. There was the odd Cabrera one too. In fact, Cabrera's face has taken over a bus shelter on Burnside at Jerome Avenue.

Yudelka Tapia’s posters were plastered on gates, street lamps and buildings near Webster Avenue on 180th Street, but aside from that seemed in short supply, at least where I went.

Despite these last ditch efforts, turnout has been low, poll coordinators said. At PS 163 on East 180th Street off Webster Avenue only 78 voters had cast their vote, as of 2 p.m. Perhaps the low numbers can be party explained by the fact that station is dimly and well hidden. Or, as the poll coordinator there said, because the candidates haven't done a good job of getting their names out there (until today, that is). “Some voters [will] come after 5pm, when they get out of work,” said the coordinator, Luis Rivera. “The candidates didn’t work hard enough, though. We expected more people.”

My next stop was PS 79, which was just as dead. The midday vote count was only 132. A block away, Baez volunteers said they noticed poll workers lounging around outside since there was little to do in the station.

Added Ella Stewart, a poll coordinator at PS 26 on Andrews Avenue.“It really wasn’t advertised enough, we haven’t heard anything."

The voters - the few that turned out this afternoon - seemed non-plussed by their 14th District conditions. “It’s very necessary to vote, but I didn’t vote for anyone new in particular since I didn’t hear much about the candidates," said Laurez Morales, 39, at PS 26. She said she voted for Baez because the name was familiar.

She added, “I’m really confused about the candidates.”


Primary Postcard: Tapia Remains Confident Despite "Issues"

Inside it was hard to tell that a primary election was taking place at P.S. 163, where candidate Yudelka Tapia, cast her vote at around 11 a.m. this morning. Bored-looking poll workers outnumbered voters. Outside was a different story. All three District 14 candidates' brochures and fliers littered the streets and posters covered telephone polls. Tapia even had a convertible driving up and down the Concourse adorned with her campaign material.

However, very few people felt that the community in District 14 was even aware that voting was taking place. The Poll Coordinator at P.S. 163, Steven Caughman, blames the candidates, "I don't think they have been campaigning the way they should have." He continued, "You ask somebody who so and so is and they say, 'who?'"

Sallie Smith, a registered voter in District 15, echoed Caughman's sentiment. "They can pass out all they want to on the day of (the primary), but it is brainwashing. They ought to have seen them before," she said.

Tapia had a more optimistic outlook as she cast her vote saying that people were coming out for change. "I feel good. I'm winning tonight. Today after 9 p.m. is another era," she said.

Despite her confidence in winning the primary, Tapia claimed that there had been a number of issues already today, alleging that Maria Baez had gone with police at PS 33 and PS 70 to break down her campaign stands. The Baez campaign could not be reached for comment and the 44th Police Precinct could not immediately confirm the accusation.

Tapia also contended that the lever for her name was broken at PS 64. However, Mona Turner, the Poll Coordinator at the site, refuted the claim stating that the entire machine was broken from the "time they checked it with the first voter." The site had to use emergency ballots until just before noon when the machine was fixed. Turner reassured voters, "No votes were missing and everyone got to vote."

Outside the school, both Baez and Cabrera had campaigners on the street corner wearing support T-shirts and shouting rally cries at each other.

Voters were a mixed bag. Although many felt the most important issues to them were neighborhood safety and job creation, their candidate selections varied.

Vioneiry Dominguez cast her ballot for Cabrera, because "He (Cabrera) will make a change for the youth. He has made more contact with young people than the other candidates."

A Baez supporter who wished to remain anonymous, defended the candidates City Council attendance record, "People say she didn't attend the meetings, but she has attended to the community and has the most experience."

The majority of Tapia's support was at P.S. 163 where one voter praised her as a "strong woman."

Note: The reporting for this post was done by Katie Riordan and Molly Ryan.

Message to Readers: BxNN Needs Your Help

The Bronx News Network is a nonprofit organization with an exciting mission: to publish and link together nonprofit community newspapers in the Bronx so we can amplify community voices neglected by the city’s press corps and decision-makers from City Hall to Washington.

Building on the success of BxNN flagship the Norwood News, we launched the bi-lingual Mount Hope Monitor in 2006 and in May we launched the bi-lingual Tremont Tribune, the first-ever newspaper to be published for residents of the neighborhoods of Community District 6 (Belmont, Bathgate, West Farms, Tremont and Crotona).

To complete our budget this fiscal year so we can ensure a full year of publishing the Tribune and the continuation of a groundbreaking partnership among 6 nonprofit papers (in addition to our three we provide publishing support to the others like the Hunts Point Express and Mott Haven Herald) we need to raise $15,000 by the end of this month.

Can you help us by making a tax deductible contribution right now?

If all the readers of this blog contributed something -- $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford – and became a member of the Bronx News Network, we’d be well on our way to our goal and be confident that we can maintain and build upon the coverage you’ve become used to on this blog.

Unlike NPR and PBS, and other public radio and TV stations, we can’t commandeer the airwaves to pre-empt regular programming to persuade you to contribute.

In fact, we have a team of reporters out in the field at this very moment covering the polls on this Primary Election Day and preparing stories for the next issues of all three papers. We’re posting their reports and photos throughout the day and evening on this blog.

Help us keep our team out there to cover news that matters to you and provide a critical source of information that, until now, most Bronx neighborhoods have had to do without.

To contribute – and become a charter member of the Bronx News Network -- please just click here or on the PayPal button at the top right of this screen. We’ll keep a daily tally so you can see how we’re doing on meeting our goal.

Thank you very much in advance for you support.

Jordan Moss
Executive Editor

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 15

Away from politics and Primary Day, here's the rest of today's Bronx news:

With Fashion Week upon us, The Times has a story about the designers Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, both of whom - by an amazing coincidence - grew in Norwood within a few blocks of each other.

More on Jimmy Grove, the Harlem resident who won $168 million in a convenience store on Fordham Road.

Five men, including two from the Bronx, have been charged with gang-raping an 18-year-old Hofstra University student.

At a recent "town-hall" healthcare meeting in Parkchester, Congressman Joseph Crowley refused to accept questions from the floor, instead insisting that he talk with constituents one-on-one.

Livery cab drivers working out of the Bronx gathered in Highbridge yesterday, to air their concerns about a recent spate of passenger-on-driver murders.

This spring, the Uzi-wielding drug dealer who shot dead a Bronx assistant district attorney in 1990, was unreleased on parole. State parole officials and the Bronx DA's Office have launched probes into how this was allowed to happen.