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Monday, November 30, 2009

Armory Vote to be Pushed to Dec. 21

Despite meeting face-to-face on at least two recent Saturdays, the Bronx City Council delegation and the Related Companies are not budging on the issue of living wage in the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment project.

But it an effort to buy some more time for negotiations, the Zoning and Planning Subcommittee will most likely vote to nominally modify Related’s proposal to turn the Armory into a shopping mall, which will postpone the committee’s final voting deadline from Dec. 9 to Dec. 21.

Related insists that including a living wage requirement will deter retail companies from setting up shop in the mall, while the Bronx delegation, along with an apparent majority of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee, insist that a living wage ($10 an hour plus benefits) is a small fee for Related to pay, since they stand to make a bundle off of the development in addition to receiving tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

On Nov. 23, in an effort to work out the living wage issue, Zoning and Franchises decided to forgo further questioning of the Bloomberg administration in order to let the Bronx delegation meet with Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber, a supporter of Related’s development proposal. No representatives from Related attended the meeting.

One Council staffer who attended the meeting said both sides had their say, but no concessions were made. “The Council has drawn a line in the sand,” the staffer said. “Living wage is the deal breaker on both sides.”

While the Council has until Dec. 9 to vote up or down on the proposal, Bronx Councilman Joel Rivera, who sits on the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee, says the committee will vote that day to modify the proposal and, in return, gain 15 days for the Bronx delegation to negotiate with Related and Leiber.

Rivera said that modifying the proposal had little relevance to the project and was a procedural move to delay the vote. “We can modify just about anything,” he said. “In this case bureaucracy works in our favor.”

If Related does not budge on the living wage issue, the Bronx delegation, as well as the majority of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee, appears willing to let the Armory lie vacant for the foreseeable future. “It is not like the community is desperate for retail,” Rivera said. “I would rather [the armory] sit vacant and hold out for a better deal.”

The Bronx delegation’s firm stance on the importance of a living wage seems to have influenced the Council's approaches to other proposals. On the same day as the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee on the armory, Council members Larry Seabrook of the Bronx and Helen Sears of Queens both asked about providing a living wage to construction workers at another Related development on the west side of Manhattan at the Western Rail Yard. Related responded that the issue of a living wage had not been discussed concerning that development. 
--This article was reported and written by Molly Ryan

Norwood Group's Play at Hostos

Students perform It Ain't Easy

Mass Transit Street Theater, a Norwood-based performing arts group focusing on progressive and socially conscious works, presents, It Ain't Easy, a piece about five Bronx teens who tell, in their own words, their stories of violence. Showings are Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 4:30 and 7:00 p.m., and Thursday, Dec. 3 and 10 at 10 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at the Hostos Center For Arts and Culture, 450 Grand Concourse at 149th Street. Tickets are $6. For more information call (718)512-8519.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 30

Another Bronx teen, 17 year-old Issi Dominguez, was shot to death early yesterday morning in Fordham at 182nd Street and Valentine Avenue. Dominguez, who had no criminal record, was shot in a crowd of people. Police suspect the shooting occurred as a retaliation for a previous stabbing.

The Bronx DA Robert Johnson was criticized for charging a man who beat his wife to death with a misdemeanor. The victim's family is pushing the DA to charge the husband with a more serious crime.

Residents of six run-down buildings in Morris Heights and Soundview are protesting against Dime Savings, the bank that holds the mortgage on the buildings.

Bronx county leads the country in the percentage of residents receiving food stamps.

In similar news, the Daily News reports that more Bronxites are eating at soup kitchens and food pantries.

This weekend, Muslims in the Bronx celebrated Eid al-adha, the feast of sacrifice.

The Bronx Zoo is collecting toys and winter clothes as donations for those in need in the Bronx. Donors will receive free admission to the zoo.

The driver who is suspected to be responsible for a hit-and-run accident on Baychester Avenue on Friday had a suspended license. 40 year-old Sonya Powell was killed by the suspect's car as she was crossing the street.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lehman Resonates with Street Beat

A week ago on Saturday Nov 21st, STREET BEAT a high energy urban rhythm & percussion troupe performed at the Lehman Center for Performing Arts. This modern day percussion group takes ordinary trash cans, water bottles, buckets, pots and pans and extracts extra ordinary music from them. Street Beat had the audience on the edge of their seats, applauding and hooting with joy as they watched acrobatic urban dance moves accompanying the music. It was a pleasure making these photographs, I hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shooting Outside Community Center in Crotona Sparks Quest for Funding, New Policies

Sensei Will Lawton of the Mary Mitchell Center's after-school program with Shareyana, who lives in the building where a fatal shooting took place last week. (Photos by Rachel Waldholz)

At about 5 p.m. last Monday, Sensei Will Lawton was standing on the basketball court behind the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, where dozens of kids in the Center's after-school program were playing. Suddenly, he heard gunshots, and then saw, just outside the fence, three figures running up the street, one of them "just blazing away," said Lawton, who runs the Center's  martial arts program.
"[It was] like watching a western in your living room on a 50-inch television," he said.
The 5 p.m. shootout was followed within hours by another on the same block, this one fatal. Lawton and other staff had no sooner walked some of the kids home to their apartment building at 2000 Prospect Avenue, which neighbors the Mary Mitchell Center, when a gunman shot three people outside the building, killing Felix DelValle, 19 and wounding two others, including the apparent target, Angel Rivas, 42.

An Early Thanksgiving at Epiphany Lutheran

Volunteers served a pre-Thanksgiving dinner to all comers earlier today. (Photo by Adi Talwar)

Earlier today, the Lutheran Church of the Epiphany on East 206th Street in Norwood opened its doors to provide a free hot meal for anyone in want of a filling Thanksgiving dinner.
“The Lord tells us to feed the hungry and to give drink to the thirsty,” said Pastor Robert Rainis, known affectionately as Pastor Bob around the church. “Christianity is an active word—you have to engage the community."
Anthony Bopp, who runs the church's St. Stephen’s Meals program, organized today’s feast.
Bopp and St. Stephen's meals serves hot meals for those in need three days a week (every Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at Epiphany. “I’m glad to have the opportunity to serve people,” Bopp said. “With the hard financial times, some people don’t have dinner.”
One volunteer, Joe McNally, who does all of the church’s repairs and pitches in to serve meals three days a week , brought along nine of his family members to help out at today's special pre-Thanksgiving supper.

"I'm very grateful [for the meal,]" said Mary Kelly, one of today's many customers. "I don't have any family and it's nice to have places like this to come."

New from the Tremont Tribune

November's Tremont Tribune hit the streets last week and is online now. Here's a quick peek at what's inside:

A former industrial site along the Bronx River has been transformed into a park. After a decade of community push, Concrete Plant Park, the newest link in the Bronx River Greenway, officially opened last month between the Bruckner Expressway and Westchester Avenue.

The new pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, one of the pillars of Italian Belmont, talks about keeping Italian traditions alive while welcoming waves of newer immigrants who have reshaped the neighborhood.

A computer lab on Bathgate Avenue is helping Bronxites bridge the digital divide.

The Department of City Planning has unveiled its plan to rezone - and reinvent - large swaths of Third and East Tremont Avenues.
Plus more.

And, as usual, check out our full listing of community events and announcements.

Spotlight on Espada

A group of students writing for the Uptown Chronicle at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism filed these three articles profiling controversial Bronx state senator Pedro Espada. Just click on each headline to read the stories, including one by former Bronx News Network intern Rob Sgobbo.

Base Camp: Healthcare gives Espada lots of votes
Home Sweet Home: Just where is it for Pedro Espada?
The Counterpuncher: Pedro Espada Fights Off His Many Critics

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 24

City Harvest fulfilled its annual Thanksgiving tradition of handing out fresh fruits and veggies to hundreds of needy families in the Bronx yesterday.

City Harvest also revealed in this Daily News article that the number of Bronxites lining up at soup kitchens continues to increase.

In addition to our coverage of the City Council's living wage debate at the Kingsbridge Armory, The Daily News reports that negotiations may be collapsing.

The NY Times continues their "Neediest Cases" profiling with this article about a woman who is the product of the Bronx foster care system and is now devoted to raising a child of her own.

The President of the United Homeless Organization, a formerly homeless Bronx man named Stephen Riley, and the organization's director, Myra Walker, are at the center of the controversy surrounding the non-profit's exposure as a scam.

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner will be a challenge, if not impossible, for residents of a University Heights building that was damaged last summer and still has not been completely repaired.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hector Ramirez to Challenge Nelson Castro in 86th

PHOTO: Last night in University Heights, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. handed out turkeys with District Leader Hector Ramirez.

District Leader Hector Ramirez is actively drumming up support for a 2010 run against 86th District Assemblyman Nelson Castro, the Norwood News has learned.

Though Ramirez has yet to make an official announcment, two sources close to Ramirez who requested anonymity, said that Ramirez was working to position himself for a run at Castro's seat, which he will have to defend come next election season.

The sources also said that if Ramirez does run, he will enjoy the backing of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who was influential in Fernando Cabrera's upset primary victory over incumbent Council member Maria Baez in September.

Last night, Ramirez looked the part of campaigning candidate (see above picture) as he handed out Thanksgiving turkeys to local residents with Diaz in University Heights.

Diaz spokesperson John DeSio would only say that the borough president has handed out a lot of turkeys (some 4,000, DeSio says) and that it was Ramirez who brought the gigantic banner that prominently features both Ramirez and Diaz, Jr. Clearly, Diaz, Jr. didn't object to the photo op. But for now, DeSio said he couldn't comment further.

In August of 2008, when Castro's predecessor, Luis Diaz, left his position and took a job with Gov. David Paterson, the Bronx Democratic County Committee passed over Ramirez, a long-time party loyalist, and chose Castro, a relative new face in Bronx politics, to fill the vacancy. Many, including Luis Diaz and Castro himself, were surprised by the decision made by then-Democratic County boss Jose Rivera.

In the end, Castro, a former registered Republican who moved to the Bronx from Washington Heights a few years ago, became the first Dominican assemblyman from the Bronx, not Ramirez. (For more on Castro, read this story from the Mount Hope Monitor.)

But now, with Rivera out and Assemblyman Carl Heastie running the County party, it looks like we could be in for a serious fight between Democratic rivals in the 86th.

Stay tuned.

State won’t build new ramps on Deegan

Pummeled by public outcry against a plan to extend the off-ramps on the Major Deegan Expressway, the State Department of Transportation has abandoned the project.

Much-needed repairs will be made to the aging roadway over Mott Haven, but the plan to extend the highway’s exit ramps in order to calm the traffic that backs up as cars merge onto Exterior Street is on hold indefinitely, said DOT spokesman Adam Levine.

The city's blueprint for Mott Haven's future will take precedence over the traffic plan, Stephanie Rabins reports in the Mott Haven Herald. You heard it hear first.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 24

A NYPD outdoor firing range in City Island will move to a new 40-acre indoor police academy in Queens. Although City Island residents are celebrating the removal of the firing range, they are still upset that the range will still be used for bomb disposal, which creates a significant amount of unpleasant noise.

The Bronx fire department suspects that Sunday's four-alarm fire in Claremont was started by a crack pipe. Multiple crack pipes were found in a room rented by former New York Knicks player Dean Meminger. However, it is not official that the crack pipes belonged to Meminger, who is in critical condition at the burn unit in Jacobi Hospital.

A New York judge plans to dismiss the case of a Bronx man, William McCaffrey, after he spent four years in prison as an innocent man accused of raping a woman. The woman recently confessed that she lied about the rape. McCaffrey was previously released on bail in September of this year.

Lawyers representing the four of the five men charged with the shooting incidents that included the shooting of 15 year-old Vada Vasquez asked for protective custody for their clients in jail.

The Bronx man, Vincent Martinez, who pulled the emergency brake on the D subway on Saturday night after witnessing a murder tells his story to the Daily News. Although some sources criticized Martinez's decision to pull the brake, which stopped the subway, Mayor Bloomberg defended his choice.

The New York Times profiled a 99 year-old lifelong Bronx resident, Sarah Gellert, who lives alone in her apartment. The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund supports The Jewish Association for Services of the Aged, which helped Gellert obtain a much-needed hearing aid.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Community Meeting Tomorrow in Aftermath of Prospect Avenue Shootings

Last week was a violent one in the Bronx, with 2 serious shootings on Monday. And while media attention has focused on the case of 15-year-old Vada Vasquez, a separate series of shootings here in Tremont have prompted community members to organize a public meeting tomorrow to discuss what can be done to halt the violence.

Last Monday at about 5 pm, community residents heard gunshots and then witnessed a man walking up 178th Street between Mapes and Prospect Avenues, shooting back towards Mapes Avenue. He continued shooting as he walked beside the playground at the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, where about 50 kids in the Center's afterschool program were playing outside.

The police came about half an hour later, residents said, and then left. But within three hours another man had walked into the courtyard of the apartment building at 2000 Prospect Avenue, on the same block, and fired into a crowd, killing Felix DelValle, 19, and wounding at least two others, according to the Daily News.

The Mary Mitchell Center, which stands next door to 2000 Prospect, is holding a public meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 4pm. The Center is inviting the general public, community residents and organizations, local elected officials, and the NYPD to discuss community actions to prevent more violence.

Center Director Heidi Hynes said she hopes those attending the meeting will think about the larger context behind shootings like last Monday's.

"The overall thing is the government needs to invest in poor neighborhoods. We have a culture of violence because we have generational, concentrated poverty," said Hynes. "And what we deserve is safe, sustainable neighborhoods."

The Mary Mitchell Center is located at 2007 Mapes Avenue, on the corner of 178th Street.

Bronx Events Through Nov. 30

NYC Landmarks stand small at the Botanical Gardens this season

Looking for a fresh place to get some side-dishes for Thanksgiving? Try picking up some produce from one of the Bronx's several green carts.

The JASA Van Cortlandt Jewish Center, located at 3880 Sedgwick Ave., will be hosting a Mexican Thanksgiving Celebration, Tuesday (Nov.24). Lunch will be served at 12:15pm followed by a performance by the Acapulco-90 marching band at 1:00pm. For more information or to RSVP, call 718-549-4700.

The Holiday Train show will be at the Botanical Gardens until Jan. 10. Miniature trains will chug past replicas of NYC landmarks, all made out of plants. For more information, call 718-817-8700 or visit nybg.org.

Children can take part in a hands-on activity at the Botanical Gardens tomorrow and Wednesday at 1:30pm children will learn about the different plants used to make gingerbread. For more information, call 718-817-8700 or visit nybg.org.

Head over to Van Cortlandt park on Saturday(Nov. 28) for a post-turkey day super hike. The hike will be led by park rangers and will begin at 11:00am.

Lehman Professors Mary Carol and Diedre O'Boy present "From Synge to McDonagh: A Century of Violence" on Tuesday at 12:30pm. The presentation will focus on the intersection of violence, love, and language. For more information, visit events.cuny.edu or call 718-960-6722.

Biologist Steven M. Ackerman will deliver the 30th annual Arthur Sweeny Memorial Lecture at Lehman college on December 4th at 5pm. Ackerman, professor of Biology at UMASS Boston and a 1973 Lehman graduate, will deliver the address on his experiences as a student of Sweeny's and how those experiences have influenced his career. The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information click here.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 23

15-year old shooting victim Vada Vasquez's condition is improving. The New York Post reports that Vasquez, who was in a coma, now recognizes and responds to family presence. Neighbors of Vasquez continue to pray for her recovery.

Zelita Mighty, mother of 16-year old Carvett Gentles, who was arrested for the shooting of 15-year old Vada Vasquez last week, says she doesn't understand how her son made the transition from a boy-scout to an accused shooter.

The Bronx River is bearing the brunt of an explosion at a Con Ed substation earlier this month, as a massive oil spill now threatens the river's ecology. Con Ed representatives are working on cleaning the spill, primarily at locations where the river flows slowest in the Bronx Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Read more about the situation here.

BoogieDowner reports that the United States Postal Service has removed the Botanical Garden Post Office from its list of possible site closures.

Seven homes were destroyed, leaving 30 people homeless, after a fire swept through a row of houses last night. A 60-year old man was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation, but there were no other injuries reported.

The New York Post is warning readers not to pull the emergency cord on subway cars between stations. The warning comes after a man was stabbed to death on a Bronx bound D train over the weekend. A frightened passenger pulled the emergency cord, stopping the car and preventing any help from getting to the man quickly.

Melrose-2-Melrose is profiling a historic Bronx landmark that isn't the Kingsbridge Armory, the Old Bronx Courthouse. The Courthouse owner, Henry Weinstein, is asking Melrose-2-Melrose to help come up with ideas on how the Courthouse, which is currently vacant, may help the community. The owner stresses that the Courthouse is not up for sale. Some suggestions include a bookstore, but the comments section of the thread is currently open to the suggestions and opinions of Bronx residents. Have an idea of what the space could be used for? Head on over to Melrose-2-Melrose and share your voice.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New from the Norwood News

The latest edition of the Norwood News is out on streets and online now.

Every print copy also includes our "Bronx Wedding Guide," which will also run in the Mt. Hope Monitor and Tremont Tribune. The guide contains loads of planning tips to help you create the perfect Bronx wedding on any budget. You'll also find a bunch of coupons and discounts from our advertisers. Pick your copy up today at libraries, community centers, grocery stores and other Norwood News outlets in Norwood, Bedford Park, University Heights and Fordham Road.

Here's a quick preview of what else you'll find in this issue:

Bainbridge Avenue merchants are struggling to find a path forward after a Halloween fire left their businesses homeless.

City Council members strongly challenged the Related Companies' claims that they could not possibily guarantee living wage jobs at a revamped Kingsbridge Armory mall. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., community groups and the retailers union are pushing for living wage requirements to be included in a binding community benefits agreement.

Friends and family remember long-time Armory activist Phyllis Reed, who passed away earlier this fall. Reed created a garden on the outside grounds of the Armory as a way to bring the community together.

The unexpected suicide of a 13-year-old Tracey Towers resident left an entire community searchign for answers. [More on this story soon. There's going to be a wake for the young man this afternoon at Ortiz Funeral Home on Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse.]

The DeWitt Clinton football squad fell just two games short of a city championship.

Bronxites voted strongly against Mayor Bloomberg, now that he's back in his office, local residents want him to make changes.


Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 20

Happy Friday everyone! And, don't forget, if you're looking for something to do this weekend, check out our Bronx Events listing, which you can find here at the beginning and end of every week.

The NY Times follows the mother of the 16-year-old boy accused of firing shots that severely wounded one young man and hit a 15-year-old girl in the head on Monday afternoon. (While the young man is improving, 15-year-old Vada Vasquez remains in a coma.) Prosecutors say the 16-year-old, one of five young men who were implicated in conjunction with the crime, admitted to his part in the shooting. But the kid's lawyer says his client wasn't responsible. The Times talks with some of the mother's relatives at their home in East Crotona Park.

The Streets Blog bemoans the DOT's extensive $266 million plan to widen the Major Deegan, while neglecting an serious work on possibly tearing down the little-used Sheridan Expressway.

Tenants at a University Avenue apartment building are suing their landlord for dangerous living conditions.

Four Bronx Teachers are being honored for their outstanding work in teaching math and science.

A man filed a lawsuit in Bronx Supreme Court after emergency service workers threw out a piece of his ear, which a dog had ripped off.

A Columbia Spectator writer visits the Parkchester neighborhood where his father grew up.

The love story of an Upper Eastside hand model and a porter from the Bronx is generating headlines around the city. The hand model is suing her building's superintendent for a torrent of mental and physical abuse (the suit alleges that the super's wife drunkenly hit the porter in the testicles with a hand bag, causing a contusion), which began after she fell in love with the Bronx boy.

Students at the Bronx Preparatory Charter School mail out college applications.

Bronx Events Through November 23

Bronx Pugilist Maureen Shea figts Dec. 3. (Photo by David Greene)

Bronx Borough President Rueben Diaz Jr. will hold a candlelight vigil on Monday, Nov. 23 outside the Bronx County building at 851 Grand Concourse to call an end to gun violence. The vigil will be in memory of victims of homicides, organized as part of the National Day of Outrage. Elected officials, community leaders, victims and their family members will join Diaz Jr. in an effort to draw attention to the impact of gun violence on the public safety in the Bronx and in the city. The vigil begins at 4:30pm. For more information visit http://bronxboropres.nyc.gov/.

The Bronx Library Center, located at 310 E. Kingsbridge Rd. off Fordham Road, hosts Traditional Music and Dance from West Africa, Nov. 21 at 2:30pm. For more information call 718-579-4244 ext. 26.

On November 21, the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Pk. Blvd., presents
Street Beat featuring urban rhythm, hip hop and break dancing performed by musicians and dancers. The event begins at 8:00pm. Tickets are $10-25. For more information, call 718-960-8833

The Bronx Museum of the Arts at 1040 Grand Concourse @ 165th Street will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Grand Concourse on Tuesday, November 24. The celebration starts at 10:30am and will be joined by 3rd and 5th grade students from P.S 73 singing “Happy Birthday” to the Grand Concourse. For more information visit http://www.blogger.com/www.bronxmuseum.org

The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts presents The Nutcracker performed by the Moscow Classical Ballet. The performance will be held on Sunday, November 29 at 6pm.Tickets range from $25-35, and $10 for children under twelve. To purchase tickets, visit http://www.blogger.com/www.lehmancenter.org or call the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833.

Female pugilist Maureen Shea, 28, of Throggs Neck, will be back in action during a Star Boxing show at the Manhattan Center on Dec. 3. Shea (13-2, 7 KO's) is expected to face Jenna "Cowgirl" Shriver (9-4-1, 2 KO's) from Tampa, FL. The two will be battling for the interim WBA Female Super Bantamweight Title. Shea, a Throggs Neck native, got the last minute call after fellow Bronxite and former Riverdale resident Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin pulled out of the show with a ruptured appendix. For more information on the card visit the Star Boxing website at:
www.starboxing.com or call (718) 823-2000; tickets start at $52.

The New York Botanical Garden presents several events this fall: The Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden offers Gardens ‘Round the World featuring Caribbean Garden, a pinwheel-shaped plot garden featuring Caribbean crops. The Holiday Train Show will take place from Nov. 21 through Jan. 10 and features a display of New York landmark replicas created out of plant materials, as well as model trains. For more information and a detailed schedule, call (718) 817-8700 or visit nybg.org.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ukrainian Vigor and Color at Lehman Center

Sunday Nov 15th, The Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company preformed at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts. The folk dancers danced with energy, grace, vivid color and gravity defying athletic leaps. The audience joined in with rhythmic clapping and shouts as the artists danced with vigor. I hope you like the photographs, I enjoyed making them.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 19

Police say a teenage boy has admitted to shooting Vada Vasquez, the 15-year-old girl who was critically injured in Morrisania on Monday afternoon when struck by a bullet meant for someone else.

The Times profiles Jacob Selechnik, a Bronx-landlord who's looking to add to his already massive portfolio of apartment buildings. Selechnik claims to provide quality, affordable housing, but the number of violations in his buildings tell another story. In 2006 he made the Village Voice's list of the city's 10 worst landlords.

A popular diner in Kingsbridge will reopen next week, nine months after a fire destroyed much of its interior.

Daily News columnist Errol Louis says future Kingbridge Armory workers deserve a living wage, and that living wage requirements should apply to all projects that receive significant public benefits from the city.

The Jericho Project is building a 72-unit apartment building in Kingsbridge Heights. It'll house homeless and low-income veterans.

Mastermind Management has plans to build an 18-story mixed-use building at the intersection of East Tremont and Webster avenues. Talking of Mastermind, another development of theirs, a co-op building on Featherbed Lane in Morris Heights, is nearly complete. We'll have an update on this in the next Mount Hope Monitor.

A police officer from the 48th Precinct faces a year in jail after being convicted of perjury.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BronxTalk Focuses on Housing

On Monday, we plugged that evening's episode of BronxTalk, which focuses on foreclosure, vacancy decontrol and other housing issues. It features Bronx News Network contributor Gregory Lobo-Jost and Jonathan Levy of Bronx Legal Services. To watch, click here.

City Council Grills Armory Developer on Living Wage

KARA supporters gather outside of City Hall to protest the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory without a living wage.

Requiring developers of city property to guarantee a living wage for retail employees may have seemed far-fetched to some observers six months ago.

Not anymore.

At the City Council’s hearing on the Related Companies’ proposal to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a giant shopping mall, virtually the entire Zoning and Franchising Subcommittee, (which will be the only Council committee to hold a hearing on the project) grilled company representatives on the living wage issue.

Council Member Larry Seabrook, who sits on the committee and represents the northeast Bronx, said that overall unemployment figures don’t reflect the vast numbers of jobless in the borough’s African American and Latino communities – a figure he cited as 55 percent. He said he believed the project would not be harmed by a living wage requirement. “I don’t think providing living wages will destroy the project,” he said.

Another member of the committee, Eric Gioia of Queens, said the only way that workers will survive on a minimum wage is if “the government subsidizes workers through food stamps.” He added that without a community benefits agreement (CBA), Related will “keep the neighborhood poor.”

Meanwhile, the Bloomberg administration, which presented a united front with Related, held to their position that the proposed deal with Related (which includes millions in tax breaks and bargain-basement price tag of $5 million for the facility) is the best that can be achieved.

“We have the best project we can possibly get,” said Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber. “We want to make sure we don’t miss this opportunity to begin construction.”

And Related spokesman Jesse Masyr told the committee that requiring living wage jobs ($10 an hour with benefits) was not realistic. The retailers “can go anywhere else in the Bronx,” he said, adding later, “We wouldn’t be doing any justice promising something we can’t guarantee.

Other members pressing Related on the living wage were Robert Jackson, Albert Vann, Helen Sears and Joel Rivera, who has taken a leadership role among the Council delegation in opposing the project without a negotiated CBA.

“In my book, this is an economic exploitation project,” Rivera said. Later he said, “We need to change the conversation with the administration.”

Even Council Member Oliver Koppell, who has been the least enthusiastic about a living wage requirement among the Bronx Council delegation, put the heat on Related. Citing a New York Times story from this week about other cities that have had living wage agreements, Koppell, who doesn’t sit on Zoning and Franchises, told the company, “I would like to see a presentation that shows me why [living wages] cannot be financed.” He also suggested that the Council might want to pass a living wage law.

The hearing room was packed with members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), which includes union members as well as local residents and activists. Members of construction unions, however, spoke in favor of supporting Related’s plans even without a CBA.

Because the committee felt it needed more time to question city officials, they have scheduled a public meeting on Nov. 23, but the public will not be able to testify.

The nine members of Zoning and Franchises, which is chaired by KARA supporter Tony Avella of Queens, as well as the full Land Use Committee, must vote on the project by Dec. 9.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, who has taken a firm stance on the living wage requirement, summed up his argument, which seems to be gaining traction just as Mayor Bloomberg, whose mayoralty has been defined by its partnership with developers, suits up for a third term.

“I do want to see new jobs created in my borough,” Diaz testified. “But these jobs must be created in the right way. The old model, that any job is better than no job, is no longer acceptable.”

This piece was written by Jordan Moss and reported by Molly Ryan and Jordan Moss.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 18

Police have arrested five suspects in connection with Monday's two shootings in the Bronx. All five suspects are residents of the Bronx. A 15-year old girl hit by a stray bullet in one of the shootings is still in critical condition at Lincoln Hospital.

Multiple tenants of 1380 University Avenue are suing their landlord over the building's unsafe conditions.

Political experts suggest that Mayor Bloomberg should set aside more time to visit boroughs other than Manhattan-- especially the Bronx-- in order to improve his approval ratings throughout the city.

The family of a dead 16 year-old Bronx girl is suing the New York City Police Department. Police said they were unable to find the body of the girl, Tiana Rice, for one month. During this month, police did not know the body was actually in a morgue in Brooklyn under a different name.

Yesterday, at the last public hearing on the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment, City Council members began to question the developer, Related Companies, about the feasibility of providing living wages to workers. Hundreds of protesters came to the hearing to speak out against the development unless a living wage is provided. Look for a Bronx News Network post on this soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 17

Five people were shot yesterday, one fatally, in two separate shooting incidents. One of the injured is a 14-year-old girl, who was hit by a stray bullet in Morrisania as she walked home from school. She's in a critical condition in Lincoln Hospital.

Three subway stations on the No. 6 Line are to be fitted with countdown clocks, letting commuters know when the next train is likely to arrive.

Today's a big day for those with a stake in the future of the Kingsbridge Armory.

An ex-cop with a bad leg is singing the praises of State Senator Jeff Klein, who helped him get a tax-free disability pension.

Four Bronx teachers have been recognized for excellence in math and science teaching.

Oil has been observed in the Bronx River, following an explosion at a Con Edison substation in Westchester on Nov. 4.

A mosque on Virginia Avenue has decided to drop its bid for a sound permit. If granted, the permit would have allowed the mosque to use loud speakers when announcing "adhan," the call to prayer. Some non-Muslim neighbors had opposed the plan, saying it would cause unnecessary noise.

The city's Department of Education has released its annual list of high school grades. Citywide, more schools received A's this year, but there were more C's and D's, too.

Kingsbridge Armory Showdown

[Updated, 10:32 a.m.] Real quickly, wanted to pass on all the latest Armory news and links this morning.

The Council's zoning and franchise subcommittee will begin a hearing on the Armory mall project at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall.

This is shaping up to be a showdown between the developer, The Related Companies (and other powerful developers with similar interests) who will be backed by the Bloomberg administration and a coalition of Bronx elected officials and community groups. Classic New York City match-up: Manhattan power players versus outerborough upstarts.

The Bronx, represented by Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. (and at least a handful of Bronx Council members), with backing from the retailers union and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), wants Related to require their Armory mall tenants to pay a living wage ($10 an hour, plus benefits).

Related says that imposition would kill the project. The city agrees and sees the living wage provision as a precedent they want to avoid.

Diaz met with Related on Saturday and offered a compromise on the living wage issue, but Related wouldn't budge. As a result, this morning, Diaz will tell the Council he will not support the project until Related agrees to the living wage provision.

On the other side, the Daily News reports that Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber will step up and tell the Council that a living wage requirement could "hurt retail development citywide." The headline: "Mayuh Mike on Living Wage: Drop Dead."

Also today, Crain's New York editorializes that the Bronx is shooting itself in the foot by demanding living wage. (It requires a subscription, so no link, but you get the idea: an impositions on the private sector is bad for business.)

Here's the NY Times' story.

Here's the Daily News' story.

And here's a mammoth in-depth overview by Jarrett Murphy of City Limits.

We'll have more from the hearing later today and in the Norwood News on Thursday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Housing Expert and BxNN Blogger Greg Jost on BronxTalk Tonight

Gregory Lobo-Jost, a frequent contributor to this site who is deputy director of University Neighborhood Housing Program, will be interviewed tonight at 9. a.m. on BronxTalk (Cablevision channel 67) with Gary Axelbank.
They're sure to discuss critical Bronx housing issues such as foreclosures and the looming crisis with over-leveraged buildings purchased at unsustainable inflated prices with private equity.
I should also note that Greg and the folks at UNHP deserve a lot more credit and attention for the important work they're doing and have done since the 80s. Jim Buckley, the groups's executive director, was an organizer with the NWBCCC in the 1970s, and has been working for better housing in the Bronx ever since.
No other organization keeps such a close eye on the health of the borough's housing stock, and raises alarm bells when necessary.
These folks do the tough research and know what they're talking about. More of us should listen and make certain elected officials, bankers and other decision makers do the same. And citywide reporters should check in with them more often, rather than just the usual Manhattan suspects.
Watch Greg tonight if you can. The show will re-air at the same time all week long. We'll post the show on the blog when it's up on-line.
Oh, here's a recent op-ed by Greg in Norwood News on vacancy decontrol.

Shining Some Light on Ocelot

The Bronx Ink, an online publication written by students at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, recently published an extensive piece investigating Ocelot, a real estate investment company that owns multiple apartment buildings throughout the Bronx.

All of Ocelot's buildings in the Bronx are littered with trash, graffiti, rats, and hazardous structures, and neither Ocelot nor their investors are willing to clean up the mess that they created, according to the article. Ocelot is looking for a buyer to get them out of their chaotic financial mess, but in the meantime, families living in their buildings are still living in dangerous conditions.

Bronx Events Through Nov. 19

A glimpse of Puerto Rico

Help the Bronx celebrate Puerto Rican Heritage Month with non-stop live music and a showing of parts of a new musical play called Aloha Boricua about the first Puerto Ricans to set foot on the Hawaiian Islands. The event will be held Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 6 p.m. at the Pregones Theater at 575 Walton Ave. Seating is free, but limited. To RSVP please call (718)590-3522. Hors d'oeuvres will be served.

The University Neighborhood Housing Program is offering a free course in finance at the Concourse House, 2751 Grand Concourse, Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m., Nov. 18 to Dec. 16. It will cover banking, goal setting, budgeting, debt management, credit, and more. Upon completion of the course, students will receive a certificate that can be used at any credit union to open a savings account. RSVP by calling (718) 933-2539.

Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. is hosting the Bronx Economic Summit: A Blueprint for Success, Wednesday, Nov. 18 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New York Botanical Garden. At the summit, Bronx merchants and businesses will join together to discuss future business plans, job training, cultural organizations, forming a green economy and unemployment. Register for the event at http://events.boedc.com/registration-form.

Echo Park's farmers market is coming to a close. This Wednesday, Nov. 18, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. will be the last chance to get your pick of vendors' fresh fruits, vegetables, and baked goods. The market is in the southwest corner of the park, along East Tremont Avenue. Food stamps are accepted. For more information, call Annie Moss at (718) 901-2849.

Community Board 5’s next general board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at South Bronx Jobs Corps, 1771 Andrews Ave., in the auditorium. All are welcome. For more information, call CB5 at (718) 364-2030 or e-mail brxcb5@optonline.net.

The 46th Precinct’s next Community Council meeting
will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at the precinct station house, at 2120 Ryer Ave., at 7 p.m. Community council meetings fall on the on the third Tuesday of every month. They give residents the chance to meet local police officers and air their concerns. For more information, please call (718) 220-5234.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 16

Crain's New York Business comes down hard on Bronx politicians for fighting for a living-wage agreement at the Kingsbridge Armory. The publication says the Bronx needs more retail development and should not be insisting on a living-wage agreement.

The Yankee's earned over $200,000 for New York City by selling seats in the luxury suite for the city.

A Bronx cancer survivor, Millie Gonzalez, was treated to a day of free trapeze lessons courtesy of Gilda's Club cancer support group.

A man was found stabbed to death yesterday on the corner of Allerton Avenue and White Plains Road.

In honor of the Bronx Zoo's 110th anniversary, the Daily News published 110 interesting facts about the historic zoo.

Police are searching for three men suspected of violently robbing multiple people in Unionport.

A 28 year-old Bronx woman, Yvette Diaz, was killed on Sunday during a hit-and-run accident on 165th Street and Grand Concourse.

The New York Times profiled a family living happily, comfortably, and cheaply in the Highbridge section of the Bronx.

Speaking of real estate in the Bronx, Castle Hill has many affordable homes available in this community-driven neighborhood.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Bronx gets FUNKY

November 7th, Saturday The Lehman Center For the Performing Arts hosted the biggest name in P-Funk. For the first time in his 40 year career, George Clinton performed in the Bronx. The architect of P-Funk and his 20+ member funk band had the audience dancing in the aisles and running up to the stage. It was awesome seeing the father of P-Funk performing for his loving fans, up close. I hope you enjoy the photographs, It was FUNKY making them.

PS 204 Teachers, Parents: Let Us Have New Building


Last night, close to 200 people attended a raucous public meeting on the future of PS/IS 338, a new school building going up at 1740 Macombs Road in Morris Heights, which is scheduled to open next September.

Perhaps 90 percent of those present were teachers, parents, and students from PS 204, a nearby elementary school. Their current building, a former synagogue on West 174th Street, lacks many of the amenities some schools take for granted. There's no gym or playground, for example; children play on the stretch of cordoned-off street. There are also plumbing problems, and the building itself has seen better days. Recently, a sink in one of the bathrooms fell off the wall, shattering on the floor.

"We find this [our current situation] unacceptable, we hope you find this unacceptable," Bill Geelan, a teacher at the school, told the panel, which included Department of Education staffers and elected officials.

"We are here tonight to say please consider us for the new building," he said.

Geelan's words were echoed by dozens of other teachers, parents, and students, all of whom took their turn at the mic. If some audience members had different ideas for the building, they didn't say so: PS 204 stole the show.

Community Education Council 9, along with the relevant elected officials, will now offer their recommendation to the DOE. After that, a public hearing will be held. Then the DOE will have the final say.

But while nothing was decided last night, the meeting, held at Community School 232, next door to the PS/IS 338 construction site, did clear up a few things - not least that PS 204's school community is mobilized and determined.

We also learned a little more about the new building, including:

  • It will accommodate one 642-seat school, which includes a 60-seat District 75 (special education) program.
  • It has been built to house a K-5 school, a 6-8 one, or a K-8 one - in other words, an elementary school, a middle school, or something in between.
  • It won't necessarily be a brand new school. "We can open a new school [public or charter] or we can move an existing school into the new building," said Tania Shinkawa, from the DOE's Office of Portfolio Development.
  • If an existing school takes over the building, the space left behind would still be used as a school.

As the meeting drew to a close, Aurelia Greene, the deputy borough president, told the large crowd she was proud of them for speaking up and getting their message across.

Vanessa Gibson, the assemblywoman for the area, went further, saying she supported PS 204's demands. "My recommendation is that PS 204 is moved into the new building," she said.


Diaz and Bronx Council Delegation to Meet with Armory Developer Tomorrow; Council Hearing Set for Tuesday

Earlier today, with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said he had a little insider tip for the Bronx News Network. Tomorrow, Diaz said, he and members of the Bronx Council delegation would be meeting with representatives from the Related Companies, the developer with plans to turn the massive and vacant Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall.

This is the second meeting in the last few weeks between Bronx elected officials and Related as they hammer out the details of a community benefits agreement -- a binding document that would outline other benefits Related would give back to the community in exchange for letting them set up shop in the Armory. In the benefits agreement, Diaz, community groups and unions are pushing for Related to require its mall tenants to pay their employees a living wage ($10, plus benefits). Related has said living wage requirements would be a deal-breaker. Both sides have hinted that there might be a compromise out there.

At the 52nd Precinct Council's annual breakfast this morning, Diaz spoke about many things, including the need for better jobs in the Bronx that pay a living wage. He said he was tired of the Bronx's high rates of unemployment and poverty. He wants development to happen in the Bronx, he said, but it needed to come with good jobs.

The news of tomorrow's meeting with Related is big for a couple of reasons. For one, it marks a 180-degree turnaround from where negotiatins were just a month ago, which was nowhere. It could also have an impact on what happens at the Council's hearing on the Armory project, which is set for sometime on Tuesday.

Diaz said he hasn't decided yet whether or not he will testify or what he would say if he did testify. At the City Planning Commission hearing in September, Diaz urged the commission's board members to reject Related's plan because the developer had not seriously worked at negotiating a community benefits agreement. The Commission approved the project, but it was an 8-4 vote, closer than most.

By Tuesday, depending on what Diaz does (or doesn't do) at the hearing, we should know how negotiations have progressed.

Diaz added that he's proud of the Bronx Council delegation, which he said is presenting a united front during negotiations with Related.

While most of the delegation has publicly expressed support for Diaz's benefits agreement efforts, Council member Maria Baez, who's district includes the Armory, is nowhere to be found and is said to be dealing with some serious health problems. There were rumors swirling that Baez was going to vote for the project, with or without a benefits agreement in place. But one of her top aides says she's always been supportive of a community benefits agreement and Diaz says he hasn't heard one way or the other.

Either way, this project is generating more discussion in the Council than any development in recent memory, according to Diaz and other Council members.

Stay tuned. This is getting interesting.

New Name, New Headquarters for CAB


The Citizens Advice Bureau has a new name: BronxWorks.

The name was unveiled this morning at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the organization's brand new administrative headquarters at 64 East Tremont Ave., near Morris Avenue.

According to staff, "BronxWorks" better reflects what they now do. Citizens aren't the only people they help, said Executive Director Carolyn McLaughlin, and they don't just offer advice.

Plus, the old name had a habit of perplexing the general public. On more than one occasion, people have confused the acronym CAB with a livery service, said Ken Small, CAB's development director.

The new name also gets across that fact that they're Bronx-based, and serve Bronx residents.

CAB opened its first Bronx office in 1972, but the organization has roots in 1930s Britain. Here's a little history. Today, they have more than 25 locations in the borough, and provide services to nearly 40,000 people a year, among them immigrants, seniors, the homeless, and people with HIV/AIDS.

"This is one of the greatest organizations I think we have in the country," said Congressman Jose Serrano, at today's ceremony.

PHOTOS: Top - Carolyn McLaughlin, BronxWork's executive director; bottom - their new headquarters on East Tremont Avenue.

Bronx News Roundup for Nov. 13th

Teams of urban planners from a project called Intersections submitted design ideas for future "green" use of the Grand Concourse. Two Columbia University students formulated a model for a clean air pump to reduce asthma and came in first place. They were congratulated by Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. yesterday at the Bronx Museum of the Arts where their work is currently showcased.

A trial is underway this week to examine horrific events taking place last year during a Super Bowl party in the Bronx where a man was allegedly threatened with a gun and burned with hot pennies.

Economic woes put one Bronx resident where many citizens find themselves: in a sort of Catch 22 where they work too many hours to qualify for financial aid, or work too little to keep the financial aid.

Daniel Smith, a Bronx teacher accused of sexual misconduct in 2007, has been stuck in the "rubber room" way too long for a "trumped up" allegation and wants to sue the Department of Education for the right to get back to work.

A study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the Bronx was rated forth in counties that spiked in employment numbers  in the first quarter of the year instead of falling. This is attributed to the over 5,000 jobs that opened in the education and health care sectors.

Marines and friends joined to view a 9-11 memorial where the U.S.S New York marine ship, built with steel from the World Trade Center, was celebrated alongside some real American heroes.

The documentary "Ten9Eight" is now in theatres. Based on a program out of the Network for Teaching Entrpreneurship, an organization started by former Bronx high-school teacher Steve Mariotti, the film follows a student competition to build the best entrepreneurial business plan.

Bronx Events Through Nov. 15

Cody Childs sings Sam Cooke at the Bronx Library Center

The Bronx Library Center presents "A Musical Tribute to Sam Cooke" on Saturday (Nov. 14) at 2:30 p.m. New York jazz and pop vocalist Cody Childs will pay tribute to Cooke's career, singing some of the artists' most well-known songs. This event is free and open to the public, so check it out. For more info, call (718) 579-4244.

Van Cortlandt Jewish Center at 3880 Sedgwick Ave. will hold its annual indoor bazaar and carnival on Nov. 15. The event begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. Free and open to the public. For more information call (718) 884-6105.

The Bronx River Art Center at 1087 Tremont Ave. will continue its 2009-2010 gallery series with "Dialects 1.2," an exhibit running through December 5 that pairs the works of Bronx artists with foreign-born, New York based artists. The exhibition attempts to observe the irony in cultural containment, and in the ways different cultures seek to identify themselves. For more information call (718) 589-5819 or visit http://www.blogger.com/www.bronxriverart.org.

The Van Cortlandt House Museum will hold a lecture tour on Saturday (Nov. 14) at 2 p.m. called "Dutch, Not Much" that will explore and explain the Dutch roots incorporated in the Van Cortlandt Manor. The tour costs $10 and includes the lecutre, tour, and refreshments. Reservations are suggested. For more info, call (718) 543-3344.

Pelham Bay Park at Bruckner Boulevard and Wilkinson Ave. will be holding an event this Sunday (Nov. 15) called "Astronomy" beginning at 6 p.m at the Park Ranger's office. Visitors will be able to use high powered telescopes to gaze the heavens, learning about stars, constellations, and the different phases of the moon. The event is free and open to the public. The event depends on the weather, so those planning on attending should call (718) 885-3467 the day of.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Liu Supports Living Wage Job Requirements at the Kingsbridge Armory; Barron Backs Diaz's Efforts

Photo: Council member and Comptroller-elect John Liu supports a living wage requirement at the Armory.

With the Bronx City Council delegation coalescing around Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.'s push for living wage requirements and a strong community benefits agreement as part of the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory, other members from the outer boroughs are also starting to express their support.

On Monday night, during an interview on "BronxTalk," Queens Council member and Comptroller-elect John Liu told host Gary Axelbank that he supported the inclusion of a living wage requirement for retail tenants at a revamped Armory mall.

"We want to make sure development deals [like the Armory project] create decent paying jobs for Bronxites," Liu said. He added later that a strong community benefits agreement deal like the one Diaz has proposed would "set the standard for Bronxites and the rest of the city as well."

The problem, he said, is that workers in the Bronx and the rest of the city aren't getting paid enough to live on. "The concept of living wage is that minimum wage isn't sustainable for any families or any working class people."

Related has repeatedly said a living wage requirment would essentially kill the project because the developer wouldn't be able to attract tenants with those types of restrictions in place.

But Liu said the requirement should not be a deal-breaker because Related is getting millions in tax breaks and is buying the Armory for well below market value.

"[Living wage] is not an imposition on the private sector because it only comes into play when companies, like Related, are getting a large accomodation from the city," Liu said.

In the end, he thinks a deal will get hammered out before the Council votes sometime in December. (See the whole interview here.)

In a phone interview today with Norwood News reporter Alex Gibbons, Brooklyn Council member Charles Barron said he supported Diaz's efforts in negotiating a strong benefits agreement that would include living wage.

Barron, who, like Liu, is on the Council's land use committee, which will be looking at the merits of the project next Tuesday during a public hearing, said that such an agreement would amount to a revolution in New York City. Although he said he couldn't tie his vote to (or make it contingent upon) the signing of a benefits agreement, he said, "it would set a positive precedent...it's the right way to go."

With Council members lining up in support of Diaz's living wage push, it will be interesting to see if Mayor Bloomberg "goes to bat for Related" and tries to squash this precent-setting proposal, as one "Council insider" told the Daily News' Bob Kappstatter earlier this week.

Public Meeting on Future of New School

Tonight, Assemblymember Vanessa Gibson, Community Board 5, and others, are hosting a public forum so that parents can garner information about the new school building – PS/IS 338 – being built at 1740 Macombs Road in Morris Heights.

"Parents have expressed frustration about public school overcrowding... ," Gibson said in a statement. "This meeting brings all the important stakeholders together and provides parents an opportunity to have input on the direction of this new school."

At the moment, it's unclear as to whether existing schools will simply be moved into the building, or whether PS/IS 338 will be a new school in its own right. The DOE wouldn't answer these questions.

One local school that would like to relocate is PS 204. Their current building - a former synagogue on West 174th Street - doesn't meet students' needs, teachers and parents say.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. It's being held in the auditorium of Community School 232, at 1700 Macombs Rd, next door to the PS/IS 338 construction site. For information, call Gibson’s district office at (718) 538-2000.

Architectural renderings courtesy of RKT&B.

Serrano Reacts to Lou Dobbs' Resignation

In a press release sent out this morning, Congressman Jose Serrano said he was "not sad to see Lou Dobbs leave CNN."

He added:

Over time, Dobbs moved from normal news analysis to using his position to spew a steady stream of hate-filled anti-immigrant rhetoric, stopping at nothing to bash the undocumented and tie them to everything he saw wrong with this nation.

I believe the slide in CNN’s ratings at the hour he was on was no coincidence—most Americans do not care to watch unbridled hatred in their evening newscast.

It is my sincere hope that Dobbs is not given another major national platform to promote hate. His conspiracy-filled, anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant rhetoric should not be a part of the national dialogue. It is not healthy for the ratings of a news channel because it is not healthy for our nation.
Dobbs announced his resignation yesterday, effective immediately.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 12

The NYPD detective who struck and killed a 67-year-old woman on Kingsbridge Avenue on Oct. 30, and then failed a sobriety test, has a history of alcohol abuse.

The Bronx Democratic machine demonstrated its power on Nov. 3, by helping mayoral candidate Bill Thompson secure 61 percent of the borough's vote.

Start Strong Bronx, a new youth program sponsored by Bronx Lebanon Hospital, is teaching teenagers how to form healthy relationships. (We'll have more about Start Strong Bronx in the next issue of Bronx Youth Heard, the BxNN's youth-written newspaper.)

In an editorial, The Times examines New York's electoral districts, and blames gerrymandering politicians - including the disgraced Guy Velella, a former Bronx state senator - for creating something that resembles a highly confusing jigsaw puzzle.

An elderly Riverdale man of Jewish and German origin recalls how he escaped Germany for the United States on the eve of World War II, only to return to Europe in 1943 to help the Allies win the war.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Many Faces of Halloween

I made these photographs walking around Norwood on Halloween evening.
Hope you enjoy them.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 11

Just in time for Veteran's Day, the Jericho Project, a housing group, broke ground on a new building in Kingsbridge that will provide housing to low-income vets.

Nurses at the Westchester Square Medical Center staged a protest yesterday demanding better pay and an increased level of patient staffing.

A Bronx Army Sergent tells his story of witnessing and following the horrific gunman in Fort Hood, Texas through his deadly massacre of military troops and civilians.

A New York City school program, "Power Brain Education," was recently linked to an alleged cult that supposedly cons investors into practicing medically unproven health activities.

Yesterday, as part of a deal between New York City and Philadelphia forged during the Yankees and Phillies World Series, the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx sent 10 tons of food to the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market. In return, the Hunts Point Market will receive 10 tons of food from the market in Philadelphia.

A Bronx FDNY veteran proves he has a taste for flavor. The firefighter has made it to the final round of the Daily News’ first FDNY Five Alarm Cook Off thanks to his culinary skills.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bette Midler Tells Yanks They Should Take Over Deegan Cleanup

Since 2004, actress/singer Bette Midler has been shelling out $2,000 a month of her own money to clean up a 2-mile stretch of the Major Deegan Expressway. Now she thinks the Yankees should take over the Adopt-a-Highway contract since the artery leads fans to and from it's gleaming new taxpayer-funded stadium.

Last week, BxNN blogger Graham Kates had some similar thoughts about the Bomber's responsibilities in their own backyard.

New in the Mount Hope Monitor

The latest edition of the Mount Hope Monitor is now online:

Stories include:

PS 204 Teachers, Parents: Current School Building Not Up to Par
Teachers and parents suspect that the academic success of their school, on West 174th Street in Morris Heights, is hurting their chances of moving to a new location a few blocks away.

Historic Theater Reopens
It was a sight unseen along the Grand Concourse for more than two years: a buoyant throng of people waiting in line outside the iconic Loew’s Paradise Theater. Braving a steady rain and defying a dreary economy, nearly 3,000 people turned out for reopening on Oct. 24.

CEO Promises New Day for Embattled Housing Company
Mount Hope Housing Company was founded in 1986. Its mission: to provide safe, affordable housing for local residents, and in the process fight back against the urban decay. Today, the organization manages more than 30 apartment buildings, and provides an array of services, such as GED classes. It is, in the words of one community leader, one of the area's "Fortune 500 companies." But all has not been well these past few years. Tenants say the buildings have been neglected, and repair requests ignored. They say Mount Hope has been contributing to the problems it seeks to combat.

Cuts to After-School Programming Draws Protest
When school started this past September at three local schools, hundreds of kids, and their parents, had to face the reality that the afterschool program they’d once counted on no longer had room for them.

Note to Mayor Bloomberg: Bronx is Still Looking for a Change

Last week, Mayor Bloomberg narrowly secured his third term in office, no thanks to Bronx voters.

Unofficial election results show the majority of Bronx electoral districts voted overwhelmingly in favor of Bloomberg’s Democratic challenger, Bill Thompson. Now, as Bloomberg begins his third term as mayor, he faces a divided city and a discontented Bronx.

“I am totally, totally disappointed that he won,” said Kevin, a Norwood resident who refused to give his last name. “He should step down.”

“I am upset Bloomberg won,” said a Norwood resident who didn't want to be named. “We wanted someone new.”

Despite voter disappointment, few Bronx residents were surprised that Bloomberg won the election. “He has money and money can buy anything,” said Dorothy, a Norwood resident.

Kimley Jones, a Fordham resident, agreed. “Bloomberg is Bloomberg," she said. "No matter who ran against him, it wouldn’t matter.”

Residents said Thompson could have done even better if more people knew about him and his plans for office. “People know Bloomberg. They don’t know Thompson,” said Deneice Allen, a Tremont resident.

The borough's vote seemed split between income levels. Thompson enjoyed tremendous support in poorer areas such as Wakefield and University Heights, while Bloomberg won in the more affluent neighborhoods of the Bronx, including Riverdale and Morris Park.

Most Bloomberg supporters cited the mayor’s positive record in office as a reason for his successful election run. A Bedford Park resident said, “I think generally he has done a great job keeping crime low and developing abandoned properties."

“We know what to expect from Bloomberg,” said Joanna Soto, a Fordham resident.

Bloomberg voters expect a change for the better in the Bronx, and for that matter, so do Thompson supporters.

Multiple Bronx residents cited unemployment as a major issue in need of improvement. “Now, the challenge is to create jobs,” said one Bedford Park resident.

Other residents around the Bronx said they are looking for the mayor to improve education, potholes, reducing crime and monitoring the city’s police.

“If he’s going to be there another four years, he needs to do something,” said Kimley Jones.

Mott Haven residents denounce plan for Deegan

Plans to rehabilitate the Major Deegan Expressway would destroy Mott Haven’s hopes for a brighter future, residents and public officials told a hearing on Nov. 9 to consider the state Department of Transportation’s proposal.

Community voices rang out in opposition to the plan to lengthen exit ramps, saying the new ramps would torpedo the city’s ambitious plan to build housing, parks, office buildings and a hotel on the waterfront, completed last summer when the City Council and the Mayor signed off on rezoning the Lower Grand Concourse.

Find the whole story in the Mott Haven Herald.

Bronx News Roundup, Nov. 10

As a bill comes before the state senate today to allow gay marriage, Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., remains opposed to the issue, although as this NY Times's article points out, he has family and staffers who are gay.

Luxury condos in Riverdale could be a real bargain for buyers when they hit the auction block later this month.

From the Bronx to the top of the comedy world, the Daily News has a brief piece on a Morris Park native that recently won a nation-wide talent competition.

In an effort to improve safety on Pelham Parkway, the redesign of the thoroughfare will include the removal of around 90 trees.

With all the news surrounding the fire on Bainbridge Ave. last week, including our own article, the Daily News takes a look at how neighboring businesses are faring.

The Paradise Theater in Fordham will be hosting a food drive as part of its reopening.

As a symbol of rocky economic times, a restaurant on East 180th Street still sports a sign that advertises its roasted chicken when it actually hasn't been able to roast any poultry since its rotisserie machine broke over a year ago.