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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Support the Bronx News Network!!!

If you want to get a last-minute tax deduction in for 2009, or just want to get a jump on your 2010 return, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Bronx News Network by clicking here. After the jump is a letter we just mailed out to some of our friends and supporters. It lays out our accomplishments in 2009 and our plans for 2010 (including making this blog bigger and better!).
We’re trying to raise $15,000 from individuals by Jan. 30. If you value hyper-local Bronx news -- if you’re reading this blog you obviously do -- please make a donation today! We’ll keep a running daily count of how much we raise. So far, we’ve raised $500. Help us get to $1,000 today. Thanks! (If you've already responded to our e-mail appeal, thank you!!!)  -- Jordan Moss

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 30

An off-duty NYPD sergeant says he was racially profiled and roughed up by two police officers from the 52nd Precinct, while visiting his girlfriend.

A Bronx man has been arrested in connection with the murder of a woman in Connecticut in 1986.

The city is to relax alternate side parking laws in parts of the north west Bronx.

A Bronx cyclist is suing the NYPD after he was knocked down by a police car near the Macombs Dam Bridge.

Mount St. Michael Academy, a high school for boys in Wakefield, recently won a basketball tournament in upstate New York.

According to State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., the politicians charged with determining Hiram Monserrate's fate are a "big bunch of racists."

A 770-unit affordable housing complex is to be built in Melrose.

A stretch of marshland in Mott Haven - one the city claimed to have cleaned up and dried out -  isn't so clean or dry after all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pro-Lifers Rally Against Bronx Doctor

State Sen. Ruben Diaz (with mic) and his wife, Leslie, at a pro-life vigil on Dec. 19 (Photos by Alma Watkins)

Dr. Pierre Renelique used to practice obstetrics and gynecology in Florida. That was until the Florida Board of Medicine revoked his license early this year following a botched abortion. Now he’s working at Clinton Place Medical Center in University Heights, to the horror of the local pro-life movement.

Two Saturdays ago, about 80 people, including State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. and his wife, Leslie, held a prayer vigil near the center, to bring attention to Renelique’s past, and to demand action from the New York State Medical Board.

“We want to expose this clinic across the street and we want to expose the doctor,” Leslie Diaz told the crowd.

Huge Tree Falls on Mosholu Parkway North


As you've likely noticed, it's a little windy out there. This morning (or late last night), a large tree came crashing down on Mosholu Parkway North, near Tracey Towers, blocking the pathway.

Photo by Jordan Moss.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 29

The Daily News' Bronx reporters look back at the year that was.

A 12-year-old girl was killed this morning when the SUV she was travelling in flipped over on the Bruckner Expressway.  Police say the car was being driven by a 15-year-old boy. 

Through last Sunday, murders in the Bronx are down 20 percent this year on 2008 levels. 

The Times has published an interactive map showing unemployment rates in different neighborhoods, and among different ethnic groups. 

On Christmas Eve a construction worker from the Bronx survived an eight-story fall from a building in Midtown.

Yesterday afternoon, a pregrant Bronx woman gave birth outside (not inside) Jacobi Medical Center. Mother and baby are doing fine.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Youth Center in Violence-Plagued Crotona Wants Action From Bloomberg

Children from the Mary Mitchell Center gather on the steps of City Hall to protest violence in Crotona (Photo by Ashley Villarreal)

On Dec. 14 the Ghost of Christmas Future visited City Hall.

Playing the parts of characters from “A Christmas Carol,” 50 children from the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center’s after school program climbed the institution’s steps to let Mayor “Scrooge” know that if things don’t change, they too risk becoming victims of violence in the Bronx.

In the fall, the 48th Precinct in the central Bronx had been heralding the passing of two months without one reported shooting. But two shootings in early November were followed by another incident on Nov. 16, when gunfire erupted right outside the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center’s playground, at 2007 Mapes Ave., where dozens of children were playing. Later that day, 19-year-old Felix DelValle was shot dead and two others were injured in the courtyard of nearby 2000 Prospect Ave.

The Mary Mitchell Center’s Executive Director Heidi Hynes wanted answers. On Nov. 24 she organized an emergency meeting of local politicians, police and community organizations, to discuss measures to prevent gun violence. And in a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she requested he come live at 2000 Prospect Ave. for the month of February to familiarize himself with the community’s mounting concerns.

“The mayor has been great on gun control but he needs to also start focusing on the culture of violence,” Hynes said. “You can’t just take away guns, people are violent beyond that, and we need to work on creating a neighborhood safe for every child.”

With no reply from the mayor, the center’s staff decided to bring the children to City Hall to put on a play in protest of the violence.

More here in the Tremont Tribune.

Reporting and writing by Ashley Villarreal.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 28

Yesterday, the Bronx Zoo hosted an ice carving contest.

A Bronx dog who disappeared two years ago has been reunited with his owners. "Rusty," a terrier, somehow made his way to Georgia where a vet found an identification chip under his skin.

Police and prosecutors have closed a loophole which allowed drunk drivers to refuse a breath test in the hopes to sobering up before a blood test could be taken. The change in procedure comes after a drunken cop knocked down and killed an elderly women in Kingsbridge in October. Det. Kevin Spellman declined a breath test, and it took more than five hours to obtain a court order to draw his blood.

More than 500 shopping carts have been stolen from Toys 'R' Us in the new Gateway Center Mall.

Crime is down again this year, in the Bronx and across the city. But some incidents (how many we wonder?) never become a statistic.

Century-old "beer caves" have been found in Melrose. More here.

The "Four Amigos" - State Senators Diaz, Monserrate, Espada, and Kruger - are meeting today to discuss their agenda for 2010. For now, the focus seems to be less on creating jobs, combating poverty, etc., than on saving one of their own.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cabrera Sets Up Shop on Burnside; Says Living Wage is Priority

Fernando Cabrera on Primary Day, when he defeated incumbent Maria Baez 
(show in ad at rear). File photo by Adi Talwar

Councilman-elect Fernando Cabrera (14th District) has signed a lease for a district office at 107 E. Burnside Avenue, his incoming chief of staff Greg Faulkner just called to tell us.

The office is open effective immediately, though try not to expect a lot, since a) Cabrera isn't actually the Council member for the district until Jan. 1, and, well, the desks haven't even arrived yet.

The office is a walk-up but there will be elevator access at the rear entrance of the building on Morris Avenue.

Faulkner hopes to be able to use outgoing Council Member Maria Baez's office phone number so that constituents will not have to track down a new number.

Cabrera's priority for his first year in office will be passing living wage legislation, an issue that has come on the citywide radar screen thanks to the battle over living wages at the Kingsbridge Armory,

The living wage issue "was a stumbling block," Faulkner said. Once a law is passed requiring retailers to pay a living wage at projects receiving public subsidies, "then we can look at a full range of options."

Cabrera will have a swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. in Gould Auditorium at Bronx Community College. The public is invited.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 24

On Tuesday, a fire destroyed Morris Park Boxing Club. Two days later, one of the men who ran it (a one-time W.B.A welterweight title holder) and his stable of young fighters, found a temporary place to train.

In an editorial, the Daily News ridicules Ruben Diaz Jr. and the City Council for nixing Related Companies' Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment proposal. The pols "stupidly killed employment for thousands" and "don't have a clue" what to do next, the News argues.

The Village Voice's Tom Robbins has mixed feelings about the Council's no vote. He writes: "It's just our luck that the first time the City Council actually musters the courage to face down Mike Bloomberg, it's to kill a plan that—whatever its flaws—would have put hard-pressed New Yorkers back to work."

Five stations on the Pelham 6 Line now have countdown clocks, informing straphangers of when the next train will arrive.

A Bronx priest has been making waves as a fashion designer

NY Post columnist John Crudele's "Man of the Year" is a 28-year-old veteran from the Bronx who overcame a tough childhood and homelessness - not to mention stints in Iraq and Afghanistan - to land a job as a nursing assistant at James J. Peters VA Hospital on Kingsbridge Road.

Another veteran, homeless since January, has found an apartment in University Heights for him and his family, thanks for the Jericho Project. 

An arsonist has been terrorizing an apartment complex in Marble Hill. 

Police are looking for two men who robbed a jewelry store in Morris Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Fire Aftermath Update

The Daily News reported yesterday that among the businesses "destroyed" in Monday's fire on East 204th Street in Norwood, was McKeon Funeral Home. That is totally incorrect as we reported here on Monday. In fact, owner Bill Curran just told us that he has a funeral scheduled today. McKeon suffered a little bit of water and smoke damage, but the newly renovated funeral home survived largely intact. McKeon Funeral Home is located at 3129 Perry Ave. and the phone number is 718-655-6464.

We're a little short-staffed on this almost-holiday work day. Can anyone tell us whether Bank of American on the corner of East 204th Street and Bainbridge Avenue is open for business? The Daily News said that business was destroyed as well, and while we don't think that's the case -- the building appeared completely intact the day of the fire -- we wanted to make sure of  the bank's current status before we posted anything about it. 

Also, we wanted to provide a better phone number for residents wanting to order groceries by telephone from Foodtown --718-293-3032.  The other 718 number in our previous report is for Pricebusters, which will, in the next few weeks, provide some groceries. Residents can also order groceries for delivery on-line at www.foodtown.com. If you use either service, please let us know about your experience so we can share it with our readers and your neighbors.

We'll have a News Roundup and a little more news on the blog as the day progresses.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 23

Yesterday night, police found a 20 month-old baby who was abducted by her troubled 13 year-old aunt earlier in the afternoon. The baby is uninjured and now safe at home with her family.

The Daily News recently interviewed Vada Vasquez, who was shot in the head by a stray bullet in Morrisana on November 16, in her Soundview home.Vasquez has almost made a full recovery from the shooting.

Police are investigating the events of Monday evening's two shootings in the Bronx. Four people were shot in Mount Eden and one person was shot in Claremont Village.

Jose Velazquez, the founder of a construction company in the Bronx said of the Kingsbridge Armory, "Killing the project will deny my small business the opportunity to create jobs in the Bronx" in an opinion piece published in the Daily News.

Today, the Daily News covered the 204th Street fire and compared it to a slew of other commercial fires in the Bronx this past year.

In other fire news, an arsonist is still on the loose at the Marble Hill Houses, where there have been nine reported fires from May to September of this year.

If you are looking for a unique holiday gift, look no further than the Church of the Holy Family in the Bronx, where Father O'Connor sells high-fashion, organic clothes, which were featured in Vogue. Profits from the clothes go to helping his church and Indians in Guatemala who make the fabric.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arthur Avenue Favorite Still Going Strong

Gilbert Teitel is the long-time owner of Teitel Brothers, a wholesale and retail shop on Arthur Avenue specializing in imported Italian goods. Click play to hear him talk about the store's history, its customers, and the Bronx's Little Italy.

For more about Teitel Brothers, here's a profile that appeared in December's Tremont Tribune.

Audio slideshow and photos by Erica Soto.

Anthony Baez, Victim of Police Brutality, Dead 15 Years


On Dec. 22, 1994 - 15 years ago today - Anthony Baez, a 29-year-old Florida resident, was choked to death by a police officer on Cameron Place in University Heights, near where his parents lived.

Baez had been playing football with his brothers in the early hours of the morning, when their ball hit a police car. Police Officer Francis X Livoti jumped out and told them to go home. They refused, and as Livoti tried to arrest them, he grabbed Baez around the neck, asphyxiating him.

Livoti was acquitted of criminally negligent homicide in 1996, but found guilty in 1997 of violating Baez's civil rights. He served six-and-a-half years in jail.

The 46th Precinct - where Baez was killed - is no stranger to police brutality. In 1987, there was Eleanor Bumpurs; in 1995, Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega.

Today, the police and the community have a better relationship. The Four-Six has a popular commanding officer, Inspector Kevin Harrington, and the precinct's monthly community council meetings are always well-attended, a sign perhaps that cops and local residents are communicating and willing to share their concerns.

But problems remain: while serious crimes are down again this year, civilian complaints are up. We'll have more on this in the January issue of the Mount Hope Monitor.

Photo: A mural on the building Baez's parents used to live in.  In 2000, this street was dual-named Anthony Baez Place.

Breaking News: Foodtown to Reopen Bigger; Groceries to be Offered in Meantime at Pricebusters and On-Line

I just spoke to Dan Katz, whose family owns the newly renovated Foodtown on E. 204th St. that was just destroyed by yesterday's fire. The Katz's announced that they will rebuild an even larger store on the same site in 2010 and also provide groceries at Pricebusters, another store they own on E. 204th St. between Hull and Decatur avenues. They also said that shoppers could order on-line at www.foodtown.com or call a hotline to have their food delivered right to their door. They can also choose to pick up their groceries at Pricebusters.  The delivery cost will be $3 or free with a $50 purchase.

"Everyone should know that we are committed to serving the residents and we will rebuild and even bigger and better store that what was there," said Noah Katz, Dan's brother, in a press release. "We have a long term lease on the site and we have already hired architects and engineers to begin the process of building a brand new store."

Dan Katz told me that  they have an agreement with the landlord to lease the two other properties claimed by the fire -- the American Diner and the dental office -- in order to expand their business. (We spoke to the owner of Amiercan Diner earlier. Still in shock, he said he had no idea at this time what his plans are.) Katz said they were going to try to assist the dental office in relocating.

Pricebusters "will carry more grocery variety beginning in the next several weeks."  (The Pricebusters site had been a grocery store many years ago.)

Those with questions about ordering groceries on the Internet should call 914-667-3346 or 718-652-4753.

In the meantime, shoppers can immediately order food on-line at www.foodtown.com, and have them delivered or picked up at Pricebusters.

The Katz family, which owns 11 other Foodtown stores has operated the store on East 204th Street, first called MetFood, since Dan's grandfather, Paul, opened it in 1956. Their father, Sydney, joined Paul in 1962. Noah and Dan joned the company in the 1980s.

The workers have been transferred to the other Foodtown stores. "Without our staf, we would not be here in the first place," Noah Katz said.

Santa Makes His Way Through the Bronx

Santa gave out toys and hugs at Leroy Pharmacy this past weekend (Photo by David Greene).

Santa made multiple stops in the Bronx this weekend and spread Christmas cheer to hundreds, if not thousands, of Bronx children.

Thanks to Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, Montefiore Medical Center and Leroy Pharmacy, Santa was able to visit the pharmacy on East 204th Street on Saturday, Dec. 19, and hand out gifts to children.

While Santa entertained the children, Assemblywoman Rivera encouraged the parents to shop at local stores on 204th Street and take advantage of the discount toy prices at Leroy Pharmacy.

“In light of the difficult economic times we are facing as a nation, I think this year’s third annual event is more important than ever. I hope that it will bring joy to many community members and help bolster our small businesses,” said Rivera.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 22

With Related Companies’ Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment proposal dead in the water, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is rethinking what he'd like to see there. One idea: creating a "green" manufacturing hub.

Four men were shot and injured last night during a drive-by shooting in Mount Eden.

A stretch of stinking marshland in Mott Haven has been drained.

Here's The Times story about yesterday's fire on 204th Street. And here's all our coverage.

Norwood gets a mention in today's Wall Street Journal, not because of the fire, but because of soaring unemployment in the north Bronx.

A school bus collided with a police car in East Tremont this morning. Nine people, including six children, suffered minor injuries.

A Bronx food pantry with more visitors than food has been given $2,000 in cash by an anonymous woman who read about the pantry - run out of Transfiguration Lutheran Church on East 156th Street - in the Daily News.

The Center for Urban Community Services has opened a "Single Stop" office on Southern Boulevard, to help Bronx residents determine whether they qualify for different types of public assistance.

A woman who worked at the New Fulton Fish Market in Hunts Points says she was sexually harassed and forced out of her job.

A Bronx high school student has started a FaceBook page (current membership: 76,339 and counting) to protest budget cuts that would eliminate free MetroCards for students.

The Village Voice has nice things to say about El Nuevo Bohio a restaurant on East Tremont Avenue that's serious about pork.

The principal of Bronx Academy of Letters, a high school in Mott Haven, is to become Los Angeles' deputy mayor for education.

Council Reaffirms Vote Blocking Armory Mall Plan

The City Council yesterday voted 48 to 1 with one abstention to override the mayor's veto of their vote last week to reject the Related Companies proposal to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall. Three additional Council members showed up to add their voices to oppose the mayor. We need to check this, but presumably only outgoing Council Member Maria Baez, who is reportedly in ill health, did not show up to vote. In the Times story today, G. Oliver Koppell, who appeared to be headed toward voting with the mayor on the earlier vote, had some harsh words for Mr. Bloomberg.

"There is only one administration and one mayor to blame,” Koppell said to applause from his colleagues.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More on 204th St. Fire Aftermath

I visited some of the merchants I know on East 204th St. this afternoon, and I'll give you a bit of a rundown on what I learned in a moment, but first I wanted to share with you what I've been mulling all day: There have now been 3 fires in the past 7 months on Bainbrdige/E. 204th St. We called the Fire Department today and not only did they tell us that the fire on Oct. 31, which obliterated 14 bussinesses is still under investigation, but that the smaller one in April affecting some of the same businesses is still under investigation as well. Maybe I'm missing something -- and I'm hardly an expert on this -- but how can that be? How can the cause a fire in April, the remains of which have long been obliterated by the Bainbridge Bakery's renovation and its encore destruction, still be undetermined? If it's not possible to determine the cause, then tell us that. Don't keep a frightened community waiting over 7 months.

A week or two after the Oct. 31 fire, I was chatting with a fire marshal near the site. I asked him what kind of things he looks for when he investigates. He laughed heartily. "You want ME to tell YOU what I look for?" he said. "That would be like giving you the keys to the kingdom." Now, what he meant by this is that if he told me and my readers what he looks for that would be kind of like publishing a "how to" for arsonists on how to cover their tracks. Well, he can can keep his keys to the kingdom, but the Fire Department can't keep this shaken community waiting much longer for a determination on either fire. This should be THE question at the upcoming precinct council and community board meetings, as well how both agencies are going to protect the remaining businesses.

We're going to look at this some more, and speak with higher-ups in the Fire Department ... In the meantime, here's what else I learned today ...

Bronx Events Through the End of 2009!

Christmas spirit excites all of the Bronx! (Photo by Adi Talwar)

Celebrate the Solstice tonight by lighting Solstice candles at Van Cortlandt Park. The event will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Van Cortlandt Golf House. After lighting candles by the lake's edge in the park, visitors will then be invited to walk along the Putnam trail.

All are invited to attend a Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at Fordham University's Univeristy Chapel at the Rose Hill Campus. Before the mass, at 11:30 p.m., there will be a candlelight vigil and Christmas carols.

The Brass Menagerie Holiday Brass
will perform holiday tunes at The Bronx Library Center, 310 Kingsbridge Road, on Dec. 26 at 2:30 p.m. Performers will also dress up in Santa and the nutcracker costumes to add extra holiday cheer.

Design your own calendar for 2010 for free at Calendar Creations 0n Dec. 26 and 27 at the Kerlin Learning Center (West 249th Street and Independence Avenue) from 1 to 4 p.m. Make sure to mark down all of the exciting events listed on the blog!

Come visit Pelham Bay Park on Dec. 27 at 11 a.m. for the Owl Prowl-- a public viewing of wild owls.

Make your own Holiday Ornament on Dec. 22 at 3 p.m. at the Edenwald branch of the New York Public Library (1255 E. 233rd Street). All supplies will be provided.

Another Fire in Norwood in 51 days.

By now most of you have read the News and seen the destruction caused by the early morning fire on 204 street in the Norwood section of the Bronx.
The phone rang at 4:45 am and I thought "It cannot be another fire". The last time I had received an early morning call it was October 31 and we lost more than 10 businesses on Bainbridge ave. Here are some of the photographs I made while I watched my family's favorite store burn (Foodtown). "Where are we going to buy ice cream" was my 5 year old daughters reaction. The last quarter of 2009 has not been good for Our community. We are a close knit community here in Norwood. Thanks to my friend's call I was one of the first photographers to get to the location. You can see the empty snow covered lot created by the October 31st fire in the last photograph of the slide show

204th Street Fire Update

This morning, around 11 a.m. at the site of the 204th Street fire, a cluster of firefighters were still drowning the smoking buildings with pounds upon pounds of water. The fire started around 4:30 in the morning, and although all of the flames were put out by sunrise, the water will not stop flowing for the rest of the day.

"Usually a fire like this [has] a wash for 24 hours," said one firefighter at the scene of the fire. This particular firefighter arrived at the scene of the fire from Manhattan around 10:45 and said firefighters from across the city were constantly "changing shifts" throughout the morning.

Multiple NYPD officers were also present at the scene of the fire for "crowd control and public safety," according to one officer.

One of the multiple businesses affected by the fire was Foodtown, a local chain supermarket. A supervisor from Foodtown said, "I'm sure we'll relocate [the employees] to other stores for now." In regards to the future of the store, the supervisor was positive that the Foodtown management would rebuild the store at the site of the fire since it was their first store.

Local residents crowded on the streets to watch the firefighters douse the 204th Street stores with water. "I was completely surprised [by the fire]," said Edward Bryant, a Norwood resident who lives on Decatur Avenue. "Where are we supposed to shop? The closest supermarket is a bus ride away in Bedford Park."

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 21

Last night, a Bronx resident, Jesus Vega, was shot dead outside of his home in Parkchester. Police do not yet know the motive or the perpetrator of the crime.

For more information about the devastating fire on 204th Street, visit NY1. Also, check back on the blog for more news updates regarding the fire.

Bronx families struggle to save up money for Christmas presents.

After a public housing complex on Magenta Street flooded last Thursday night, emergency crews worked through Friday morning to bring back water and heat to the building.

If the Department of Education follows through with its plan to close Alfred E. Smith high school, adults will not be able to take classes in plumbing and carpentry at the school, as they do now.

The principal of Academy of Letters in the South Bronx will leave her school to accept a position as the mayor of Los Angeles' deputy mayor of education.

In order to help a Brooklyn mother with leukemia, BronxWorks is holding a bone marrow testing drive at 1130 Grand Concourse today in hopes of finding a bone marrow match, which could save the patient's life.

Fire in Norwood on 204th Street

Residents of Norwood awoke this morning to sounds, smells and sights of another devastating fire to the local business district and greater community. The FDNY received calls for the fire around 4:30am and by 6:30am over 160 firefighters had responded to subdue the blaze. The fire raged through the building that houses Foodtown and the American Diner, in the heart of the commercial strip on 204th Street. These photos were taken from the hallway of an apartment building on Rochambeau Avenue, images eerily similar to the fire on Halloween that destroyed a building and 12 businesses on Bainbridge Avenue. This fire now leaves two gaping wholes in what was an otherwise vibrant neighborhood commercial corridor.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bronx News Roundup for Friday, Dec. 17th

 A letter released by US District Court Judge Stephen Robinson showed e-mail proof that Bernard Kerik, former NYPD Police Commissioner, made false statements when disclosing information to Bronx prosecutors about free renovations to his home.

Comments over the next few weeks will decide if the MTA cuts subsidies from their budget that now give students half-off or free Metro Cards to get to and from school. This would make commuting fares $700 for the year starting September 2011.

Significant protests were heard today from panel members and school leaders on a plan to expand school P.S. 60 in the Bronx. Community members said they lacked sufficient information on the proposal and wanted the decision suspended.

A leak in one 25,000 gallon water tank atop a Bronx apartment building pummeled water down to residents' apartments on the top floors and heat was temporarily lost in their building early this morning.

A piece from the "Daily Politics" column of the Daily News voices "insider" comments and afterthoughts on the fate of the Kingsbridge Armory decision this week and the role of Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Applebaum.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bronx Events Happening Through Dec. 21st

The Nutcracker ballet performance (photo credit Lehman Center)

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., invites the public to the FREE wine-and-cheese gallery opening for Robert Seyffert's Water Paintings tonight, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m at the BP's Art Gallery, Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse.The event will run through March. To confirm attendance, call (718) 590-3989.

Lehman College's Lovinger Theatre, 250 Bedford Park Boulevard, will feature The Metropolitan Opera's FREE live broadcast of music from Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman on Dec. 19th at 1 p.m. Tickets must be reserved, call (718) 960-8211.

The Church of the Mediator, 260 W. 231st Street, will host a Christmas Flea Market on Dec. 19th from 9 to 4 p.m. Proceeds will go to the church.

Wave Hill will host family art project, Sparkle and Shine, for gift-making and decorations crafted from foil, beads, cones and spices. The event takes place Dec. 19th and 20th from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Kerlin Learning Center at Wave Hill, West 249th Street and Independence Ave. For more information call (718) 549-3200

The American Latin Association of New York Bronx One on One (BOOM) will be having its first annual Toy Drive on Dec. 19th from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2427 Morris Avenue. This program mentors children with parents who are incarcerated or those in foster care. For more information, call (646) 260-3382.

The Little Engine That Could Puppet Show will take place every weekend through Dec. 20th at 2 and 3 p.m. in the Arthur and Janet Ross Lecture Hall at the New York Botanical Garden. For more information and detailed schedule, call (718)817-8700.

Bronx News Roundup for Dec. 17th

In a surprise audit, Sen. Pedro Espada called on the MTA to suspend budget cuts and look to its real estate holdings to provide a "long-term solution." This comes after recent news the transit authority would be cutting the Bx14 bus line.

With 24 sites being cut from the City's plan to make over 200 new parks (Morris Heights is one of them), residents might still have to trek miles to reach the nearest green spot. The loss is estimated to save the city over $25 million.

A 22-year-old Bronx man was released yesterday after serving a five-year term in jail. He couldn't get a trial, until the Daily News featured him, because of a court backlog.

The establishment of an HIV/AIDS shelter in the vicinity of an area shopping mall has got residents of Community Board 12 fired up for a meeting on Jan. 7th. Residents say the structure will "suck the life out" of the community.

A Bronx man was arrested today for an illegal upload of the "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" back in April. The movie was watched by 4.1 million viewers before officially hitting the box-office.

A program at Cardinal Hayes High School today goes hand-in-hand with a series of initiatives aimed to stop drunk driving and coincides with Leandra's Law that will go into effect in New York this Friday. Anyone convicted of a DWI will have Breathalyzer test installed in their car that measures sobriety before letting the ignition start.

A $12,000 reward is being held for anyone who knows something about a Bronx mom who was shot, and died at Jacobi Hospital, last week.

The Bronx Zoo recently welcomed a new resident; a female Wolf's guenon. The small vibrant monkeys hail from the Africa's Congo River.

Norwood News On-Line

We're short-staffed today, so we won't do the usual extensive rundown of what's in the Norwood News this week. But you can see it all here, including coverage of the Council's Armory vote, our editorial, and reaction on Kingsbridge Road.

News and Events roundups to come shortly.

IBO: Drilling for Natural Gas in the Catskills Could Lead to Higher Water Bills in the City

The City's Independent Budget Office has a new report out on the impact drilling for natural gas in the Catskill/Delaware watershed would have on water rates, mainly because of the need for another filtration plant. The plant currently under construction in Van Cortlandt Park is only for filtering water from the Croton watershed -- the source for only about 10% of the City's water.

The State is considering allowing private companies to begin drilling for natural gas in upstate New York, while the City is shelling out more than $630 million between now and 2017 on "filtration avoidance" by protecting the Cat/Del watershed, where 90% of our water comes from. If the companies are allowed to drill, they will utilize a procedure known as hydraulic fracturing that would likely lead to contamination in the watershed and the need for another, even larger filtration plant.

Updates on Foreclosures

As mentioned previously on the Bronx News Network, the Governor signed into law a new foreclosure bill on Tuesday in the Bronx, sponsored by State Senator Jeffrey Klein. Nonprofit community groups throughout the City and State worked hard on this bill and really feel like it is a good piece of legislation.

I was unable to attend the signing because of a meeting with other groups doing foreclosure research at the NY Federal Reserve that morning. Here are a few highlights of this research and data, some of which is available online:

The number of foreclosure filings (lis pendens) continues to rise in NYC, though the number of auctions remains mostly flat. Some of the causes may include banks waiting for the market to recover, backlog at the courts, actual workouts/modifications taking place, and homeowners selling their properties before the foreclosure is completed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BxNN on TV Tonight!

Tonight at 8:30 p.m., CUNY-TV (channel 75 on your cable dial) will air a segment about the Bronx News Network on "Independent Sources," its show about the independent media. It's a 30 minute show -- not sure when exactly the segment will air, but it's a great show, so settle in and enjoy. Click here for more information on this episode (it's called "The Black President) airing tonight and when it will re-air later this week.

One more thing: If anyone out there can record the show for us in any format (looks like none of us will be home tonight :-) we'd be eternally grateful!

Thanks to CUNY-TV producer Michelle Garcia for her hard work putting this report together.

Governor Paterson Spreads Message Hope and Frugality in the Bronx

Last night, Governor Paterson came alive on the stage of a Lehman College auditorium during a "Community Conversation," promising a better future for the Bronx while rattling off statistics of how he has improved the borough and the state since he has been in office.

“No one would know the despair of unemployment like the people in the Bronx would,” said Paterson, who said that the Bronx unemployment statistics indicate a state of emergency. However, at the same time, the governor openly admitted that New York is going to have a negative cash balance for the first time in the state’s history. “What we will have to do is tighten our belts,” said Paterson.

Before Paterson took the stage with his double-sided message, Councilman Oliver Koppell (who represents the district that includes Lehman College), Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr., Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz each took a moment to express their support for the governor. Not surprisingly, Diaz came to the stage booming, "Is the Bronx in the house tonight?!" and got the crowd of Bronx residents cheering on their feet.

After Diaz left the stage, the crowd quickly turned more serious. When Paterson arrived, the crowd was clearly happy to see and communicate with such a powerful elected official, but they also wanted answers about how the Bronx is going to survive and earn money in this recession.

The audience was most concerned with the proposed MTA cutbacks. In the most recent proposed cutbacks, the MTA would no longer offer MetroCards to public school students. This has caused a universal outrage throughout the Bronx, where many parents are unable to afford a daily MetroCard for their kids. Single parents, teachers and students all asked the governor about how he plans on dealing with this financial and educational crisis.

“No one should not go to school because they cannot afford to get there,” said Paterson among a wave of applause. “Between now and September I will find a way to make sure the young people will not pay for these MetroCards.”

Bronx residents also hounded Paterson for more money for school programs, small businesses and better insurance policies.

While the governor could not make any definite promises or plans for the future since the state is currently posting a deficit, he did remind the crowd that during his years in office he has fought for and improved minority business ratings and school programs. Still, he will have to cut back a number of programs to get the state out of debt.

"I am not going to let New York State run out of money on my watch," said Paterson.

Another Kingsbridge Armory News Roundup

The City Council's vote on the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment still has news sources buzzing with excitement. Below are the links to a few more stories about the armory.

The Daily News accuses Mayor Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn of not having enough influence to push the armory development through City Council.

The Daily News also interviewed Kingsbridge residents about their opinions on the development.

The New York Times thinks the City Council's vote on the Kingsbridge Armory is not only about economics, but also about the Council asserting their independence.

The Post has a summary of the armory development's journey in City Hall.

In an editorial, The Post also claims that New York has a "New Tool for Killing Jobs."

Crain's New York Business claims Deputy Mayor Lieber is being criticized for the "armory fiasco."

"The bar for development in New York City just got higher," says The New York Observer.

The Neighborhood Retail Allianc
e said in a statement that "the battle for the Kingsbridge Armory goes down as one of the most memorable in the city's history."

New from the Tremont Tribune

The newest Tremont Tribune hit streets yesterday and is online now. Inside:

A series of shootings in Crotona on November 16 left a 19-year-old dead and two others wounded, and launched a community effort to find ways to combat the violence (an effort which will head downtown later today, when the students at the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, who witnessed some of the shootings, will stage a skit on the steps of City Hall to ask Mayor Bloomberg to come visit their neighborhood).

The mother of the slain 19-year-old remembers her son.

A local mosque is stepping up and reaching out to the community, jarred into action by recent violence in their neighborhood.

Gil Teitel, 71, speaks about his legendary store, Teitel Brothers, the Arthur Avenue institution entering its 95th year.

Aida Haddock, president of the 48th Precinct Community Council, offers her take on crime and community.

Plus: A police officer convicted of perjury, photos from Thanksgiving and Albanian Independence Day in Belmont, and, as always, our listing of community announcements and events.

Take a look.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 16

A survey recently released by the Department of Health lists the Bronx, along with the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as having the highest levels of air pollution in New York City.

If the MTA cuts the Bx14 bus line, which it plans to do, residents of the Country Club section of the Bronx will have to walk about a mile to access public transportation.

St. Barnabas Hospital will use federal stimulus money to build a new parking garage. The garage will create new construction jobs, but it will eliminate parking attendant jobs.

Yesterday, Governor Paterson signed a bill at the Morris Park Community Association to protect homeowners from the foreclosure crisis. The community association is in an area that is severely affected by foreclosures.

It's official-- the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated a row of nine houses on Perry Avenue in Bedford Park as New York City's 100th historic district. Click here to view a Norwood News story about the houses.

Residents of the Bronx, especially around Kingsbridge Heights and Mosholu Parkway, have an overwhelming pest infestation.

NY1 recently went on a tour of the now dry "Bronx Swamp" in Mott Haven.

Yesterday, students of Alfred E. Smith High School, a vocational school in Melrose, protested the Department of Education's plan to eliminate their school.

Check back on the blog for a news roundup regarding the Kingsbridge Armory later this morning.

Armory Decision Discussed on BronxTalk

The City Council's squashing of Related's Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment proposal was discussed on BronxTalk on Monday night. Host Gary Axelbank interviewed KARA leaders Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter and Teresa Andersen (who is also president of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition). Both welcomed the Council's decision.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Kingbridge Armory News Roundup

The City Council's decision yesterday to vote down Related Companies' proposal to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory has garnered a fair amount of press. Here's a few stories, opinion pieces, and quotes, floating around the Web:

Bronx BP Ruden Diaz, Jr. released a statement saying, "I am proud of the members of the Bronx City Council delegation for standing together and voting against this development project, and I am happy to see that so many City Council members from other boroughs were willing to join us."

KARA leader Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter called it a bittersweet victory.

Speaking from Copenhagen earlier today, Mayor Bloomberg says he will veto the City Council's rejection of the zoning the proposal requires. He also took something of a swipe at Council member Maria Baez, who's been ill these past few weeks and wasn't around to influence proceedings (the armory is in Baez's district.)

Bob Kappstatter gives a rundown of the winners (Ruben Diaz, Jr., Carl Heastie, etc.) and the losers (Related, Bloomberg, etc.).

The mayor has suffered a "humiliating defeat" says The NY Times.

According to City Hall News, the no vote has "left observers grasping to understand the new political realities at City Hall."

The rejection of Related Plan could spur living wage legislation, says WYNC.

BoogieDowner has kick-started a fiery discussion around whether or not the no vote will help or hinder the borough.

Crain's headline - City Council kills plan for 2,200 Bronx jobs - leaves little doubt as to their stance on the issue.

In a similar vein, The Daily News editorial board laments the loss of jobs and says Related's opponents were misguided.

Hunt on for Bone Marrow Donor

BronxWorks (formerly known as the Citizens Advice Bureau) is asking Bronx residents and other New Yorkers to help save the life of a Brooklyn mom.

Next Monday, people can drop by the organization's community center at 1130 Grand Concourse (between 12 and 6 p.m.), for a mouth swab which will determine whether they would qualify as a bone marrow donor for Jennifer Jones Austin, who has leukemia.

See here for more information.

Governor Paterson Comes to Lehaman College

Governor David Paterson is making the rounds in New York City, stopping tonight at Lehman College for a "Community Conversation" hosted by Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. and Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie.

The event will be held at the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College (250 Bedford Park Boulevard) from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Governor Paterson has recently been in the news for withholding $750 million from schools and local governments due to the state deficit and for proposing to cut the MTA budget.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 15

The City Council's decision to vote no to Related Companies' Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment proposal could spur living wage legislation. (The Web is awash this morning with articles and opinion pieces about the vote - some praising it, others slamming it. We'll link to them in a seperate post this afternoon.)

In other news:

A former Broadway actress has opened a dance studio in Throgs Neck.

Urban Health Plan has received $12 million in stimulus money to expand its health clinic on Southern Boulevard.

A former director of the Bronx Conservatory of Music, a non-profit which offers cheap music lessons to kids from low-income families, has been charged with pocketing grant money.

Three Bronx post offices - Crotona Park, Van Nest, and Oak Point - are still in danger of closing. Originally, seven Bronx locations were on the chopping block, but the list has been trimmed.

Last year, Ocelot Capital, a notorious (and now defunct) private equity group, abandoned dozens of apartment buildings in the Bronx. Recently, some of the building came under new ownership and tenants there are hopeful. But in the other buildings - now owned by Hunter Property Management - tenants say their complaints go unheard, and that the apartments are deteriorating. More here in the Mount Hope Monitor.

Despite the poor economy, New York City hospital execs earned seriously big bucks last year. Here in the Bronx, Bronx Lebanon Hosptial CEO Miguel Fuentes Jr., came out on top, with a $4.8 million pay-package. It would take someone earning $10-an-hour (the so-called living wage) about 250 years to make a similar amount.

City Island residents are up in arms over noisy gunfire and bombs blasts from a nearby NYPD training facility.

Starry Starry Night

I made this picture on East Fordham Road a few days ago.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Armory Discussed on BronxTalk Tonight

They're still lining up the guests, but it's a good bet that members of the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance will appear on BronxTalk tonight -- channel 67 on Cablevision at 9 p.m.. It's rebroadcast throughout the week at the same time.

Gary usually takes calls so if you're for what happened today or against it, let everyone know how you feel!

Update: The show has booked KARA activist Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter and Teresa Andersen, who is also president of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. Tune in!

Bronx Events Through Thursday, Dec. 17

A piece of photograhy from the 'Childhood in the Bronx' website.

Lehman College recently created an artistic website exploring, 'Childhood in the Bronx.' The online project was funded by a grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council and exhibits photographs of Bronx children in schools, playgrounds and community centers that date back to the first decades of the twentieth century. View the work at www.lehman.edu/library/childhood-bronx.

Check out the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music's final two Winter concert series performances on Wednesday, Dec. 16th, and Thursday, Dec. 17th. Both performances feature different choirs and orchestras and are held at 7 p.m. at the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. Tickets are a suggested $5 donation. For more information, please call (718) 329-8550.

The University Neighborhood Housing Program is hosting a Homeowner Resource Fair on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at the Concourse House, 2751 Grand Concourse, from 6 to 8 p.m. Topics to be discussed include how to lower your energy costs and how to modify your mortgage. The fair will also give away free weatherization kits and free food. Supplies are limited. For more information or to RSVP, call (718) 933-2539.

Community Board 5’s next general board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at South Bronx Jobs Corps, 1771 Andrews Ave. 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, Dec. 15, 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, call (718) 220-5234.

The Office of the Bronx Borough President is holding a briefing on overcrowding in Bronx schools and the new 5-year capital plan, on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m., at the Bronx County Courthouse at 850 Grand Concourse. Leonie Haimson of “Class Size Matters” will give a presentation. A discussion will follow. All are invited to this free event. For more information, call (718) 590-3500.

It's Done: Armory Proposal Voted Down 45-1

The final vote was 45 to 1 with one abstention (Katz).
Headed outside now for what presumably will be a KARA press conference.

Armory Liveblogging continued

Liveblogging Armory Council vote

12:35 Quinn is talking now. Says they're disappointed they couldn't come to an agreement with the administration. Urging all colleagues to vote to disapprove the proposal today.
"After numerous and lenghthy discussions, there's a significant public health and traffic impact. We cannot approve a project that brings more people to an already crowded area.  .. without a true plan to deal with that traffic congestion."
Other issues important and significant but not part of vote today, she said. :Current plan is simply not hte right proposoal for the residents of this community at this time." Praises Annabel Palma, Bx delegation leader, and her Bronx colleagues.
Meant to mention earlier that Mayor Bloomberg has flown off to Copenhagen for the climate conference.
12:40 Vote happening now. Council Barron wants to speak before vote. Calls it a "historic vote." Can't remember another vote like this by the City Council. good to see mayor and council disagree which rarely happens. We're here to be a check and balance to the mayor,  not a stamp of approval on every project the mayor wants."  Says he's very pleased (this is news itself probably). Says its good to be in majority for a change and mentions that Avella and he are usually
Everyone's voting yes, to reject the project, so far.
Helen Foster is speaking now. She says its history, too.
Thanks Councilman Koppell, and says he will stand with delegation even though he has borne the brunt of negotiations. She votes yes. No "no" votes yet and th
Letitia James now. "Today we honor the dream that people who work hard will be able to provide for their families." Votes aye/yes and congratulates Bx for sticking together.
Koppell votes yes.
John Liu, who will be city comptroller, speaking now. "Sets standard for accountability."
Mark-Viverito who represents part of the Bronx votes aye.
Sanders votes aye.
Helen Sears of Queens asks to explain vote, which will be "no," the first one. Probably the first time, she says, that she has not agreed with her colleagues in 8 years. Cites "slow economic recover" and cuts to city by governor.  Tying this bill to living wage is complicated legal issue that requires resolution of a number of legal issues. "We are stopping the engine of job creation. Let's not mix apples and oranges."
Joel asking her to wrap up. She keeps talking. She votes no.

Armory Update: Full Council Gathering ....

... I'm going to try to do a little liveblogging here, grouping updates in individual posts. But the Internet is finnicky here so if you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know why.
The full Council is gathering in the Council chamber at City Hall. Borough President just arrived and is begin greeted by his political colleagues from the Bronx and all around the City.
I just came upstairs from Council Speaker Christine Quinn's press room where she spoke with members of the Bornx delegation and the Land Use Committee surrounding her.
She was peppered with questions about the wage issue, but she kept insisting that Land Use only addressed the issues that it deals with on an issue like this, mainly parking and traffic. She said there were many other issues but she didn't cite any of them.
Asked what she would tell the 1,000 or so construction workers who now won't get to work on the Armory in the immediate future, she emphasized that there are two sides in a negotiation and in this case they couldn't come to an agreement. She cited the Council's record on approving most Land Use issues that come before it.
In fact, no one hear can remember any proposal like this that has been rejected by the Council. No Council member seems to even fully understand the process going forward. Quinn did explain but it was as if she had just been briefed by her staff on it.
Bottom line is mayor can veto (he wouldn't get to do this if regular legislation was voted down -- he gets to veto bills that are passed) but Council can override the veto on Dec. 21.  Quinn said she had the votes to override. We'll see how many in a moment.
OK on to the liveblogging. 

12:25 p.m. -- It's starting. Jose Rivera just walked in a gave Ruben Diaz a hug. Joel Rivera is chairing the meeting sitting in the big chair above the lower dais.
12:30 -- Joel just announced that it's his father's 73rd birthday today. 

More on Land Use Committee Vote

OK, back up and running here after some Internet difficulties.
Here's what I was going to post earlier:

Actually the vote was "yes," to reject the proposal, just to be clear. But the vote was 17 to 1 with one abstention. Council Member Helen Sears was the only member of the full Land Use Committee to vote no. Chair Melinda Katz abstained because of a possible conflict of interest, perhaps referring to her next job after she leaves the Council in January.

The full Council still has to vote a little later but it's a foregone conclusion that they will defeat the plan, too.

I just spoke to Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Workers' union (RWDSU), which played a central role in the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance. Here's what he told me:

"Today the Council sent a strong message that economic development has to be good for the community and not just a private deveoper."

Tony Avella, chair of the Zoning and Franchises Committee, was a happy man after the two votes who clearly sees this as his crowning achievement on the Council. (He lost a Democratic primary bid for mayor in September and therefore will also be leaving the Council after this month.)

He says there has been no other vote like this during his tenure and that it will help rebalance the power equation between the mayor and the Council.

"This can only be a good thing," he said. "It's a great day for democracy. We're an equal body with the mayor."

He added regarding the Armory: "If we're going to do it, why not do it right?"

So why'd they vote no when there were murmurs over the weekend that some in the Bronx delegation were considering voting yes?

Well, a major obstacle seems to be the fund that the city was proposing to subsidize wages that were not at the living wage level. According to Council Member Joel Rivera, the city's Corporation Counsel said such a vote would violate the state's Constition. We'll have to look into this a little more.

At the center of a scrum of reporters earlier, Rivera insisted that the reason for the vote was not centered on the living wage issue despite his firm backing of the community's push for this requirment. He cited insufficient parking and a traffic study done by KARA that indicates that there would be more idling in the area (1500 more cars during peak hours) and possibly an exacerbation of the asthma rate.

But the Land Use Committee is charged with voting on Land Use issues, not wage issues, so it's not surprising that Council members are framing the issue a little differently after the vote. (Some are doing the reframing with a little twinkle in their eye.)

I'm going to interview some more of the Bronx Council members before the full Council meeting starts.

More soon.

Land Use Overwhelming Votes to Reject Armory Plan

Jordan Moss, reporting from City Hall, says the City Council's Land Use Committee voted 17-1 to reject the Related Companies' proposal to turn the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall.

The full Council still needs to vote on the project, but it's almost a sure bet that the proposal is going down. If the Council does vote to reject the plan, the mayor can override that vote with a veto, but that seems unlikely given the overwhelming opposition to the plan in the two committees that voted against the project today. The Council can override the mayor's veto with a two-thirds majority.

We'll have more details soon.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 14

Last night, members of the Glory Christ Church in Parkchester held a vigil to mourn the loss of their church, which was burned down by a satanic arsonist last Wednesday.

A father who once planned on building a center to promote leukemia research in Morris Park in honor of his son who died from the disease now owns an empty lot with little hope of building his dream center.

Today, Governor Paterson stated that he plans to cut $750 million from New York state public schools and local governments.

A report from a task force created by Governor Paterson found that juvenile justice system in New York is ineffective and harmful to youth. In one juvenile institution, a Bronx boy was killed and no criminal charges were filed.

The NYPD and Toys for Tots gave away toys to preschoolers on Friday at the New York Institute for Special Education in Bronxdale.

A judge dismissed the innocent William McCaffery from all charges in a case where he was accused of raping a woman in the Bronx. Recently, the alleged rape victim admitted that she had lied about the rape.

Council Committee Votes Down Armory Proposal

Here at City Hall ..
The City Council's Zoning and Franchises Committee just voted down the proposal to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall. The vote was 6 to 1, with only Helen Sears voting in favor of the plan. (The vote was a vote to disapprove the plan.)
The full Land Use Committee is voting now. More updates soon.

On Decision Day, Editor Looks Back -- and Ahead -- at Armory Battle

By Jordan Moss
Bronx News Network Executive Editor

The fate of the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment will likely be decided on Monday (the 14th). The City Council could kill the plan because of the lack of a living wage requirement, or members of the Bronx delegation could agree to a watered-down wage deal with the developer, The Related Companies, and the Bloomberg administration.

As it decides, the Bronx delegation should keep in mind that redeveloping the armory would never have even gotten this far without a massive investment of time and energy by local residents over the last dozen years.

I wrote my first armory article for the Norwood News as a free-lancer in 1993 (and the paper has published dozens since – here’s a link for 67 of them) when the National Guard was poised to vacate the facility and transfer ownership to the city.

At that time, District 10 Superintendent John Reehill had a vision of turning the whole darned landmark, which was at the epicenter of the overcrowding crisis, into a complex of public schools. That plan went nowhere. It was the time of Giuliani and solving the crowding crisis in the Bronx wasn't exactly tops on the new mayor's to-do list. Nothing Bronx was. One of the new mayor's first acts of office after all was to kill the new police academy long planned for the borough by the Dinkins administration. 

Oliver Koppell, then an assemblyman, secured $150,000 from the state for a study but the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation returned the money when little was accomplished.

In 1998, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, a main force behind the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), began organizing residents and translating community ideas into architectural blueprints, with the assistance of Joan Byron and the Pratt Center. The plans included 2,400 school seats, a movie theatre, a green market, restaurants and a sports complex.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tree Lighting on Mosholu Parkway

Thursday December 10th: The good people of Norwood and its surrounds assembled in cold weather at the intersection of Bainbridge Avenue and Mosholu Parkway. They came out to be a part of the tree lighting ceremony organized by Community Board 7. St. Brendan's school choir sang Christmas carols while the adults cheered. Politicians and local dignitaries were present. I enjoyed making photographs of my community I hope you enjoy them too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Down to the Wire for the Armory Vote

Nothing new to report on the Kingsbridge Armory shopping mall negotiations, other than the fact that there is a stated City Council meeting scheduled for Monday morning at 11 a.m.

[Scroll down for all our coverage this week on the negotiations. It's a veritable Russian novel of Armory posts.]

Monday is the last day that the Council has to weigh in on the Armory proposal. At this point, it's any one's guess as to how this will end.

On one hand, the borough president, the retailers union and a coalition of strong community voices are telling the Bronx delegation to vote the project down. On the other hand, the mayor's office and several construction unions are pushing hard for this project to go through.

Will they take the deal or shut the project down and start over?

We'll see on Monday.

And, as always, stay tuned.

Diaz Opposed to Administration's Living Wage Compromise Proposal for Armory

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is joining the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA) and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU) in opposition to a compromise on living wage jobs at the Kingsbridge Armory, a proposal currently being mulled by the Bronx City Council delegation.

The still murky and complicated proposal would create a fund that Armory mall employees could opt into and would augment their checks. The proposal would not guarantee a living wage ($10 an hour plus benefits) for Amory employees, something Diaz has fought for since August.

For more details on the compromise deal, click here.

“From the first day I got involved in the issue of the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory, I made it crystal clear that I would not support this project unless it included a guarantee that the employees at the future retail center would be paid a living wage. Though the wage supplement provisions that the Bloomberg administration has put forward represent a major step forward compared to our negotiations six months ago, there is no guarantee. With that said, I will continue to oppose this project, and I urge the members of the City Council to do the same,” said Borough President Diaz in a press release.

Diaz said that while he opposes the project as is, he's encouraged by the work and progress made by his office, community leaders and other Bronx elected officials.

He also says he's hopeful that this fight will lead to a change in how the city and state does development in the future. He wants to see legislation mandating living wage for employees at projects where developers receive city and/or state subsidies and tax breaks.

Bronx News Roundup, Friday Dec. 11

City Hall magazine says Bronx Democrats are shying away from challenging controversial Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. Two names mentioned as possible challengers -- Lillian Perez (chief of staff for Sen. Eric Schneiderman) and Haile Rivera (a local activist and former Obama organizer) -- have said they're not looking to run against Espada.

The Daily News reports that Council members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma are introducing a bill that would tie the creation of living wage jobs ($10 an hour, plus benefits or $11.50 an hour) to city-subsidized development projects.

[Side note on this effort: A little too late for ensuring living wage at the Bronx's Kingsbridge Armory project, where the developer, The Related Companies, is receiving millions in city tax breaks and a discount on the sale price. It's also too late for this to bill to pass before the end of the year. All Council bills die on Dec. 31 and there's no way it's getting done by then. However, it's true that there is momentum for "living wage" legislation and many Council members are pledging to take up the cause in early 2010. Koppell and Palma's bill will get the ball rolling.]

The city is telling all public school principals to prepare for a 1.5% midyear budget cut. Here's how the principal of the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, a successful small high school in the south Bronx, is planning to make the cuts.

Since 2007, food stamp usage in the Bronx has gone up 27%.

A look at all the best high school football players in the Bronx this year. And here's the borough's best girl volleyball players.

Bronx schools have improved according to the DOE's overall school grading system.

The brother of the Bronx mother who was shot execution style on Monday morning wants justice.

A new report say there are more than 500 stalled construction projects in New York City. But only 24 of them are in the Bronx.

Two Bronx high schools -- High School for American Studies at Lehman College and Bronx Science (the two are literally blocks away from each other as part of the northwest Bronx's education mile) -- have been named to U.S. World and Report's top 100 American high schools.