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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bronx Foodie: Appetizers For Your New Year's Eve Party

My husband and I can't wait to go to his family's New Year's Eve party tomorrow night and chow down on some classic party snacks. For us, that means empanadas filled with ground beef or shredded chicken. My mother-in-law even started making them with shrimp because she knows I don't eat much meat.

There are lots of other tasty appetizers and snacks that would be great for a party with friends. Here is a list of easy-to-make appetizers and a link to the best New Year's Eve cocktails. Enjoy!

Appetizers To Try This New Year's Eve

1. Empanadas
2. Guacamole
3. Crostini Alla Romana
4. Pizza Poppers
5. Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
6. Maple Pepper Pecans
7. Deviled Eggs
8. Roasted Chickpeas

And visit The Bar website for the best New Year’s Eve drinks.

Happy New Year!

Wanted: Bronx High School Students for Journalism Program

The Bronx News Network, in collaboration with College Now, is running a free journalism program for Bronx high school students.

The next semester starts on Feb. 2. Classes will be held at Hostos Community College at 450 Grand Concourse on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m., and run for 12 weeks.

Click here for more details.

Name Your Bronxite of the Year

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was Time Magazine's person of the year - a controversial choice for some. For PETA, the animal rights organization, the honor went to Bill Clinton. Some media outlets and organizations chose someone less well-known. For a newspaper in Wisconsin, a local woman who works with homeless families got the nod.

Now we'd like you, our readers, to tell us your Bronxite of the year. The individual should be someone who's been a force for good, who's gone above and beyond. They don't have to have been the most "influential" (Time's criteria). But they must live and/or work in the Bronx. Perhaps your child's teacher, or a hard working community leader, gets your vote. Or your mom or your pastor. Whoever it is, we want to hear from you.

E-mail your suggestion to bronxnewsnetwork[at]gmail.com. Please tell us your name, their name, and why they're deserving. Oh, and if you have one, please send us their photo. Next week, we'll feature all your picks in a "Bronxites of the Year" post. And, space permitting, we'll include them in upcoming print editions of BxNN newspapers.

Can You Help Us Sustain and Grow BxNN?

Dear BxNN Readers,
We will be telling you more about our annual appeal next month.

But if you'd like to get an end-of-year tax deduction, there's no better time than right now to support the Bronx News Network (just click the Donate button at top right).

Some of you may only be familiar with this website, but here's a little more info on what we're all about:

BxNN is a nonprofit organization that brings high quality local news and information to neighborhoods where no one else does. We engage, inform and empower residents so they can hold decision makers accountable and build strong communities.

In addition to this site, we publish two bi-lingual monthlies -- the Mount Hope Monitor and the Tremont Tribune -- and run a youth journalism program for high school students. (The Norwood News, a Network founder and participant, is still published by Mosholu Preservation Corporation). We also work closely with other nonprofit media in the borough like the Hunts Point Express, the Mott Haven Herald and BronxTalk.

This site brings it all together. We see it as a 'home page' for the Bronx and a place for dialogue that leads to community improvement. If you're a regular reader, you've probably noticed recent additions to the site -- a community forum and calendar, resource pages on housing, crime and education (there are more to come) and SeeClickFix,which allows you to report and map problems in your neighborhood.

There's simply no other place to consistently get this kind of information about your community.

How much is that worth to you? If you spend $2.50 a week for a daily newspaper on your way into work that's at least $120 a year.

But any amount that you can afford will help BxNN thrive.

The information we provide is free to anyone who wants it, but it costs us a lot of money to produce. We need the support of our readers to make it all work and to grow BxNN so that it can provide more news to more Bronxites.

It's easy to contribute. Just click the donate button on the top right side of this page. Or, if you'd prefer to send a check, just make it out to Bronx News Network and mail to: 3400 Reservoir Oval East, Bronx, NY 10467.

Thanks for reading this blog and our newspapers -- and for caring about your neighborhood and your borough.

Have a delightful holiday and a productive and peaceful New Year.

-Jordan Moss and the BxNN Team

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Harris Clean-up Costing Other Parks

Construction at Harris Field, this October (file photo by Layza Garcia)
Editor's note: this article is from this week's Norwood News, our special 2010 year in review issue, which hits the streets today.

By Alex Kratz

There’s a new twist to the saga that has become the remaking of Harris Field in Bedford Park.

Last year, the Norwood News uncovered the Parks Department’s finding of heavy lead contamination underneath the soil at Harris, which caused delays and cost the city $5.2 million to mitigate.

While the city searched for a company to do the clean-up work, residents continued to use the contaminated site, but it wasn’t until a decomposing dead body was found inside the park’s weak fencing in July that the Parks Department got serious about keeping people out.

Now apparently free of contamination, construction of the new ball fields has re-started and Parks is hoping to complete them in time for youth baseball leagues to start using this spring.

The twist is that it is now clear how the problems at Harris are affecting other parks that were in line to receive funding from the Department of Environmental Protection, which injected more than $200 million in capital funding for Bronx parks in exchange for taking public parkland (in Van Cortlandt Park) to build the Croton Water Filtration Plant.

Regatta Park, which sits on the Harlem River and is more of an idea than an actual park, was supposed to receive $1.6 million to help transform it into something public and usable. But now, the clean-up at Harris has sapped all but $93,000 earmarked for the project.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera is working with the DEP, Parks Department and the Department of Transportation (which currently controls the Regatta Park space) to see if they can still get the project going forward.

Playtime! Bronx Zoo's Tiger Cubs Experience Snow for the First Time

Here's a cute video, courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society, showing three Amur (Siberian) tiger cubs frolicking in the snow inside the Tiger Mountain exhibit at the Bronx Zoo.

The cubs were born in May. You can read more about them here.

Send in the Plows

The wheels of a backhoe are lifted up into the air as it attempts to pull a stranded sanitation truck at the intersection of LaSalle Avenue and Gillespie Avenue (photo by Lenny Shutterman)
It's been three days since a blizzard dumped nearly two feet of snow on our fine borough and the rest of New York. Since then, the Sanitation Department and Mayor Bloomberg are getting  flak from just about everyone for the city's handling of the storm, as reports of still-unplowed streets and slow subways continue to roll in (though the MTA's website says most lines are back to regular service).

Nicholas Sbordone, a spokesman for the city's Department of Technology and Telecommunications, said the city's 311 line received 11,680 calls yesterday about snow or ice-blocked roads. That may sound like a lot, he said, but it's not too bad in the grand total of 182,477 calls the city took for the day.

The New York Times and WNYC are asking readers to report whether or not their streets have been cleared, with the latter mapping neglected areas.

We don't see many Bronx responses at either of those links, so let's ask you, our readers: has your street been cleared yet? BxNN advertising rep. Shenise Crawford says that her block in Baychester--Bivona Street at Boston Road--has yet to see a plow. Share your stories/complaints/tirades with us in the comments section.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 29

Despite the snow, Yankee Stadium is ready to host this Thursday's Pinstripe Bowl, the college football showdown between Kansas State and Syracuse University. Cleanup crews at the stadium said they'd prepared for the storm by covering the field with tarps.

Meanwhile, Syracuse players will take local kids from the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club and the Bronx Colts Youth Tackle League on a walk-through of the stadium before the game.

Neighbors of the Harlem man accused of killing a Bronx woman and stuffing her body in a suitcase say they heard screams coming from his apartment the day of the murder. Hassan Malik was arraigned yesterday on second-degree murder charges, for the alleged killing of 28-year-old Betty Williams.

Tomorrow night, Bronxnet will host a live screening of its culinary program "Bronx Flavor,"at the Paradise Theatre as part of a holiday benefit performance.

Bronx resident Jose Ramos is one of many across the city to turn this week's storm into financial opportunity by shoveling sidewalks for extra cash.

A family of Bronx rocker siblings, who go by "Graveshift," are spreading holiday cheer with a new song and feel-good music video, which you can watch below, courtesy of the Daily News.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yet More Photos of Sunday's Blizzard

For those not bored of the snow, or photos of the snow, here's some more shots courtesy of BxNN intern Lystria Hurley.  They were taken Sunday night. The subway station is the 174th Street stop (2 and 5 Trains). To see more of Lystria's photos, visit her blog.

Norwood After The Snow Storm

These photographs were made on Dec 27th. After about an hour of shooting my exposed fingers gave up burning and went numb on me, forcing me indoors!

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 28

Police have arrested a man in connection with the murder of Betty Williams, a Bronx woman whose body was found stuffed inside a suitcase on a Harlem Street on Dec. 22. Hassan Malik has confessed to the crime, but claims Williams attacked him first, the police say. 

Police are still hunting for the boyfriend of a Kingsbridge Heights woman who was murdered back in August. Consumed by a jealous rage, Hector Ramirez allegedly stabbed Elia Zamora to death as their young son looked on. The case was recently featured on America's Most Wanted.

A 20-year-old Harlem man was shot dead in Williamsbridge on Sunday night.

PS 83 recently donated 500 lbs of food to the 49th Precinct's annual food drive.

Syracuse and Kansas State are gearing up for the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl football game at Yankee Stadium this Thursday. Syracuse's coach, Doug Marrone, grew up in the Bronx and attended Lehman High School, so the game is a homecoming of sorts. Yankees president Randy Levine says the match-up could boost the city's economy by $30 million.

Critics of the Croton Water Filtration Plant being built in Van Cortlandt Park say they're not surprised by allegations of corruption. One contractor plead guilty to fraud last month. Another is under investigation.

Riverdale (and everywhere else for that matter) was hit hard by Sunday's snowstorm, as these photos on  the Riverdale Press' website illustrate. Click here for photos BxNN readers sent in. State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., meanwhile, has slammed Mayor Bloomberg and the city's lacklustre clean-up effort.

Rev. Diaz Blasts Mayor's Blizzard Response

State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., is blaming Mayor Bloomberg for the mess made by this week's storm, saying the city was ill-prepared for Sunday's blizzard. The Rev. sent out these photos today of a stranded MTA bus  stuck in the snow at West Farms Road and East 167th Street.

“Days before this storm hit we all knew it was coming. No one even put chains on the tires of city buses, sanitation trucks or ambulances in preparation for the storm," Diaz said in a press release he sent out yesterday. "I have said it before and will say it again, Mayor Michael Bloomberg needs to be held accountable."

Gothamist has a growing photo gallery of abandoned city buses. For those of you who made it to work today--how was your commute? I took the 4 train, and though I waited a few minutes longer than usual, things appeared to be running fairly smoothly. 

Here are some additional photos of the storm's transportation wreckage, shot by Lenny Shutterman. 
Below, a city bus gets stuck at Crosby and Coddington Avenues. 
 Reporter David Greene snapped this shot of some unhappy-looking Bronxites digging out their cars on Paulding Avenue. 

Bronx Events: Register for BRAC's Winter Art Classes

The Bronx River Art Center is now accepting applicants for its winter session of art classes. Youth classes will run from January 10th through March 26th, and adult courses will run from January 17th through March 19th. You can apply online until Jan. 8 at their website, www.bronxriverart.org, or register in person at BRAC's temporary headquarters, at 2064 Boston Road at 179th Street, Monday through Friday January 3 - 7 from 3:00 to 6:00 pm and Saturday, January 8th from 12:00 to 4:00 pm.

Classes include digital filmmaking for teens, drawing and painting, photography, cartooning, and more. Visit www.bronxriverart.org or call (718) 589-5819 for more information.

Check out our community calendar below for more events taking place this week.

Editor's note: What did we miss? Send details to bronxnewsnetwork[at]gmail.com.

More of Your Bronx Snow Shots

Here's another round of photos sent in by BxNN readers, chronicling this weekend's blizzard.

These were taken by freelance photographer Roi Luv, of the former Highbridge Horizon.

Yvans Jean-Michel took this on Briggs Avenue between E. 194th and E. 196th Streets.
Reader Lynda sent us these shots of the snow piled high outside of her Eastchester home. 

Emily Dunkel had some fun sledding yesterday on Van Cortlandt Avenue and Orloff Avenue.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Snow Day from Yesteryear -- Jose Rivera in 1947

Assemblyman Jose Rivera shared with us -- and all his pals on Facebook -- this photo of himself after a 1947 snowstorm at E. 167th St. and Home St. Following the photo is Rivera's own description of the photo. We thought you'd find it interesting.

"My First experience with a snow storm. 1947 Picture taken by my uncle Julio Padilla. at 167 st. and home street. This was a storm! 24 inches. This picture was taken after we moved from a shelter in the lower Eastside of Manhattan. We moved to 995 e. 167th St. into a furnished room. My 2 sisters Santa and Chenta and My Mother. We were so poor that this is a hand me down PeaCoat. It had 3 missing buttons. We were never able to replace them. No money for buttons."  -Jose Rivera's description of this photo from Facebook

More Chilly Scenes From a Snowy Bronx

BxNN reader Dana Waddell sent us these two photos, taken from an apartment in Norwood. Dana's eight-month old cat was seeing snow for the first time. The houses shown in the second photo are on 206th Street between Perry and Bainbridge avenues.

This photo, from Carlos Reyes, was taken this morning on Tiebout Avenue between 182nd and 183rd streets.

The shots below are by Norwood resident Sally Dunford. The first is of building roofs on Bainbridge Avenue between 208th and 210th streets. The second is of the Bronx River Soldier statue which stands next to Valentine-Varian House, home to the Museum of Bronx History. The ironwork in the third photo is part of a fence near Williamsbridge Oval Park. The final photo is of Montefiore Medical Center's parking garage with North Central Bronx Hospital in the background.

E-mail your snowy Bronx vistas to bronxnewsnetwork[at]gmail.com. If we receive any overnight, we'll post them in the morning.

Bronx Snow Scenes

BxNN reader Robert Marrero, knee-deep in snow, at the corner of Creston Avenue and 183rd Street.

Send your Bronx snow photos to: bronxnewsnetwork@gmail.com

Bronx Snowstorm, 10 hours in 14 seconds.

Bronx Snow Photos: The Scene from Soundview

The blizzard isn't keeping everyone indoors--BxNN reader Phillip Walker sent us this action shot, taken in front of P.S. 152 in Soundview. 

Send your Bronx snow photos to: bronxnewsnetwork@gmail.com

Cabrera on BronxTalk - TONIGHT!

Tonight freshman Councilman Fernando Cabrera will be the guest on BronxTalk.  Beginning at 9:00pm on Bronxnet's channel 67, Cabrera will answer questions from host Gary Axelbank and take phone calls about his first year in office, gangs, crime, housing, the Kingsbridge Armory and living wage issues, and a variety of other topical issues.

To talk with Councilman Cabrera on BronxTalk call 718-96-7241 during the program.

One of New York City's longest running TV talk shows now in its 17th year, BronxTalk is seen live each Monday night at 9:00pm on Bronxnet's Cablevision channel 67. It's also on Verizon Fios channel 33 and streamed live at www.bronxnet.org. Hosted by Gary Axelbank and produced by Jane Folloro, BronxTalk is repeated each day at 9:30am, 3:30pm, and 9:00pm. Archives are available here: BronxTalk Archives

Bronx Transit Snow Updates

Hopefully you are reading this at home with a hot cup of something tasty -- and MTA and city officials are officially encouraging everyone to do so. But if you are an intrepid soul or just really need to get somewhere (like if you're wife's giving birth or something equally urgent), here's the latest on everything Bronx transit related, as of 12:03 p.m.:

--Airports: The metro area's three major airports -- JFK, LaGuardia and Newark -- remain shut down.

--Subways and Trains (go to mta.info for all the latest updates):

Metro-North's Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines have been suspended.

Delays are expected on all train lines throughout the borough and region.

B train service is suspended between Bedford Park Blvd. station and Brighton Beach (pretty much the whole line).

The D train is running its regular route through the Bronx and Manhattan, but is not running from 36th Street to Coney Island in Brooklyn.

Uptown service on the 2 train is running express from the 180th Street station to the Wakefield/241st Street station.

Downtown 1 train is bypassing Dyckman station.

5 train service has been suspended between the East 180th Street Station and the Eastchester-Dyre Avenue Station.

--Buses are experiencing major delays all over the borough and city, and many side streets remain covered in thick snow.

Again, stay home unless, of course, your wife is about to go into labor, which, hopefully, she won't until the streets clear up.

City Room is doing some fun and informative live blogging of the snow aftermath.

And send us your snow photos: bronxnewsnetwork@gmail.com.

Bronx Events: Snow Day in Crotona Park

If you've managed to score the day off from work and feel like braving the cold, bundle up the kids and head over to Crotona Park today, at Fulton Avenue and East 172nd Street, for a city-sponsored afternoon of snow fun. The Parks Department will be lending out free sleds until 3 p.m., serving up complimentary hot chocolates and hosting a snowman-building contest.

And make sure you send your snow photos to us here at the BxNN--we'll be posting as many as we can to chronicle the storm. E-mail them to bronxnewsnetwork@gmail.com, and let us know where the picture was taken.

This and other Bronx events are posted in our community calendar, below.

Editor's note: What did we miss? Send details to bronxnewsnetwork[at]gmail.com.

Bronx Weekend News Roundup, Dec. 27

We hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday weekend, and that you're all holding up post-blizzard!

It's 24 degrees and windy in the Bronx right now. Bedford Park's been hit with 22 inches of snowfall, as of this morning. The MTA is warning travelers to stay home if they can, as there are delays or suspensions on many subway lines and buses--you can check for service updates here.

On to some Bronx headlines:

A 17-year-old boy was shot to death early Sunday morning at the West Farms Square/E. Tremont Ave. subway station. Lewis Hawkins, of Harlem, was shot in the chest on the elevated platform after exiting a Manhattan-bound No. 2 train. Over a dozen people who were at the scene have been questioned by police so far, though no one has been charged.

On Friday, an ex-con from the Bronx held a family in Albany hostage for 15 hours before police shot him in the chest and took him into custody. Isaac Peterson, 38, faces charges of kidnapping, robbery, burglary and weapon possession.

Newly arrived immigrant and transfer students are still being directed to enroll at high schools which the city has deemed "failing," including Columbus High in the Bronx, despite the fact that the schools are likely to be shut down next year.

A Bronx girl who has struggled through the foster care system is featured in the New York Times as part of the newspaper's Neediest Cases Fund.

The body of a 28-year-old Bronx woman was found inside a suitcase in Harlem last week. Police have identified the woman as Betty Williams, who lived on the Cross Bronx Expressway.

A viewing service is being held in Soundview today for Angel Roldan, the city sanitation worker who was struck by a car and killed in Castle Hill last week.

Jose Pagan, a Bronx resident who has served two tours of duty in Iraq, found himself homeless this year just three days after leaving the military. This ABC News report says that Pagan is one of thousands of service members returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan who end up on the streets. Video at the link.

A Bronx family who lost their home to a fire this summer were one of many to receive holiday gifts from  NY Post readers who donated to Toys for Tots.

Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, visited the soup kitchen at Our Lady of Refuge School on Christmas day.

The Daily News pays homage to Ralph Farrait, or "Pastor Ralph," as he was known on the Bronx boxing scene. The legendary Golden Gloves trainer passed away earlier this month; he's been laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery.

Iran Barkley, a former boxing champion who was homeless in the Bronx this year, is getting back on his feet. Readers of the NY Post, which chronicled Barkley's hardships in a series of articles last month, helped land the retired boxer a home in Hunts Point and a number of prospective jobs.

A rundown building in Morrisania has become an irksome eyesore to neighbors.

A number of bus drivers in the Bronx purposefully slowed down service on Friday, in retaliation for the MTA's decision to cut a contract with a local Transport Workers Union.

South Bronx nonprofit Per Scholas refurbishes donated computers and gives them to low-income families for free or at discount.

Send Us Your Bronx Snow Photos!

Good morning, everyone. Hope all of you that celebrate Christmas had a wonderful one and are digging out of the blizzard without too much stress.

A very quiet day here at BxNN HQ at the Keeper's House on Reservoir Oval in Norwood. But we'll get a few posts up as the day goes on.

In the meantime, please e-mail us your Bronx snow photos from wherever you are (even if it's your living room window) and let us know where the photo was taken. We'll post as many as we can. Just e-mail bronxnewsnetwork@gmail.com.

Stay warm. Be cool.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Tree and Lights Grace Featherbed Lane for the First Time

Local children, wrapped up in hats and hoods, sang carols at the tree-lighting ceremony. (Photos: J. Fergusson)

Kathryn Speller has lived in Morris Heights since the '60s.  This year, she says, is the first time holiday lights have been put up on Featherbed Lane, one of the neighborhood's few commercial strips.

"It's making a lot of residents happy," said Speller, a BronxWorks employee and Community Board 5 board member. "To me, it's a symbol that the community is being revitalized... that it's on the upswing."

On Monday evening, 30 or so community residents and leaders - Speller included - gathered in the bitter cold at the intersection of Featherbed Lane and Macombs Road to light the Christmas tree, another first for the street. It's a real tree, planted about five years ago, that's never before been decorated.

But there was a hitch. Actually, two hitches. Because of the last minute planning, the city's Department of Transportation was unwilling to hook up the tree's lights to the main line. To get around this, organizers borrowed a generator so they could keep it lit during the ceremony. The problem this time: the generator failed.

The event went ahead anyway. James A. McGraw, pastor at the First Bible Church of the Lord’s Mission in Mount Hope, said a prayer, and children from a nearby shelter for homeless families sang carols.  Each child received a party bag for their efforts.

Featherbed Lane, a small commercial stip off University Avenue, is home to about 40 businesses

Organizers included Community Board 5, local resident Amelia Ramos, and Davidson Community Center, which is leading an effort to create a business improvement district (BID) on Burnside Avenue. The street lights, which extend to parts of Macombs Road and University Avenue, cost between $7,000 and $10,000 to rent. Affinity Health Plan, a non-profit health care provider, came up with the money.

Featherbed Lane is home to about 40 businesses, including an Internet cafe and a Rite Aid Pharmacy, as well as a brand new co-op building.

Local merchants are hoping the lights will encourage Morris Heights residents to shop local this holiday season.

And while pizza may not be a traditional Christmas food or gift, George Soydan Akkum, owner of My Pizza on University Avenue, said he liked the new look because it made the neighborhood "feel more upscale."  He said he felt "proud" to be a merchant in the area.

 James A. McGraw, a local pastor, gives a prayer

Editorial: The Armory Vote a Year Later

Editor's note: the following editorial is from the most recent edition of the Norwood News, which is out and online now.

It’s the one-year anniversary of the nearly unanimous City Council vote that scuttled the mayor’s juggernaut to stuff a cookie-cutter mall inside the landmark Kingsbridge Armory.

In that time, the city’s two tabloids, the New York Post and the Daily News, have taken every opportunity to whack at Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. for his opposition to the project, which gave the necessary juice to a community and labor-backed effort to defeat it in the City Council.

Regular readers know where we stand on this, but as long as the editorial boards of the city dailies continue to harp on this, we are compelled to reiterate our position.

For more than a decade, community organizations led by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition hammered out plans for a remake of the facility that made room for recreation, community programming, small businesses, a movie theater, etc.

Related, the city’s chosen developer, never offered details on what it was going to provide except for retail. Despite this and the clear sense that the Armory would be a mall pure and simple, the community’s only firm request in the end was that people had to be paid a living wage, particularly when the developer was going to receive over $70 million in taxpayer subsidies to remake a public landmark.

It was hardly an outlandish request. Several other municipalities have enacted wage guarantees on development projects benefiting from taxpayer subsidies.

It hasn’t been required in New York City, but, thanks to the Armory battle, living wage requirements are now an issue with wings as legislation is being considered in the City Council. (It won’t pass this year, but it will be back on the docket and a priority in 2011, says Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera.) That’s why all the Manhattan-based big-shots are so mad at Diaz. He picked a big, risky fight and he’s winning.

We might have a little more patience for the tabloid tirades if they ever really gave a whit about the Bronx when it mattered. Where were they when the Yankees took subsidies and local parkland for their stadium, delaying some local replacement parks as much as three years? They were cheerleading the project along.

What have they said about the scandal-plagued water filtration plant that ripped a stadium-sized hole in a local park, costing water rate payers $2 billion more than the original billion-dollar price tag? Right, nothing.

Yes, jobs are critical, but what’s even more critical is laying a foundation of fairness that has long eluded the borough. That includes jobs that pay decent wages and a real role in determining what is done with our precious public property.

Whatever the tabloids say, Diaz helped lay the cornerstone for that foundation, and we applaud him for it.

Freilich Jewelers Featured on Bronx Ink

The Bronx Ink, a news site produced by students at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, has this video profile on Norwood jeweler Allan Freilich, whose family has been in the local jewelry business for decades. Their store is on E. 204th St., between Perry and Hull Avenues.

Keeping the shine, Even in hard times from Connie Preti on Vimeo.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 23

A tree that was salvaged from the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11, and nursed back to health in Van Cortlandt Park, was once again planted back at Ground Zero. The tree's homecoming coincides with yesterday's passage of a bill that will give health benefits to 9/11 responders. 

The NYPD will start using hidden cameras in the interrogation rooms of two police stations, including the 48th Precinct in Tremont.

A group of Franciscan monks from the Bronx are looking to revitalize a rundown neighborhood in Ireland.

Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., says
things are looking up for Bronx businesses, thanks in part to the work of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.

A man is being charged with attempted murder after leaving threats on his ex-girlfriend's facebook page and attempting to kidnap her one-year-old daughter near Claremont Park.

The Bronx Zoo will be collecting food and toy donations for underprivileged New Yorkers until the end of the month; those who donate will get one free general admission ticket to the zoo. 

A group of Riverdale residents continue their campaign to boycott weekly community newspaper the Riverdale Review.

Nathaniel Linden, the man accused of robbing a handful of Bronx churches since November, told the Daily News he needed the money to feed himself and his pets.

Melissa Petro, the Bronx public school teacher who was removed from her classroom after she posted stories about her sex-worker past on the internet, is profiled in this month's issue of the magazine Marie Claire.

A profile of Dr. Richard Izquierdos,
a longtime pediatrician in Hunts Point who opened his own charter school this year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kwanzaa Celebration & Other Bronx Events

A community Kwanzaa celebration is taking place all day today at the Mosholu-Montefiore Edenwald Center, 1150 E. 229th St. The festival will feature food, dancing, arts and crafts, African drumming, live music and storytelling. Check out the flier for more details.
Kwanzaa Celebration

Other Bronx events taking place this week are posted in our community calendar, below.

Editor's note: What did we miss? Send details to bronxnewsnetwork[at]gmail.com.

Residents Split Over Phipps’ Housing Plan

This lot, at East Tremont Avenue and Lebanon Street, is the proposed site of a controversial affordable housing project. (Photo by J. Evelly)
Editor's note: This article first appeared in the December issue of the Tremont Tribune, which is on the streets and online now.


A not-for-profit developer’s plans to build three affordable housing complexes in the West Farms neighborhood has upset a number of residents who live nearby.

The project, approved by Community Board 6 at a tense public hearing on Dec. 8, is planned for lots on both sides of East Tremont Avenue, bordered by East 178th and Lebanon streets, on what was once the site of train tracks owned by the MTA—steel trestles still sit on the property’s overgrown grass lot.

Phipps Houses, the developer, is one of the city’s largest affordable housing owners. Its affiliate group, Phipps Community Development Corporation, runs a number of social service programs in the immediate area, like GED courses and career training.

The proposed developments have pitted nearby homeowners, who are worried about an influx of new neighbors and the buildings’ heights—eight to 10 stories—against other community members who praise the organization for its work in the neighborhood.

“I know Phipps. I’m a product of Phipps,” said Sandra Carter, who said she lived in another Phipps-owned building. “They develop the community. They’re good for people. If they don’t get the application, someone else will, and we’ll get some shelter. We have enough of that here—we need affordable housing.”

But a group of homeowners adamantly opposed the plan, saying that the proposed 141 affordable housing units will decrease their property values and add to already serious litter and crime problems around their homes.

“With more units comes more people, and with more people comes more crime,” said Stefan Leonard, who lives on nearby Bronx Park Avenue.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 22

A four-alarm fire that forced the evacuation of a building on the Grand Concourse yesterday was caused by a burnt batch of Christmas cookies, according to a neighbor.

Bronx teenager Justin Tavarez, 19, who was charged with a hate crime this weekend after a late night scuffle in a diner, told friends he was provoked by the victim, who was taunting him over a girl.  Tavarez allegedly smashed a plate over the head of a 42-year-old man while making racial comments, according to police.

John Martinez, the man accused of robbing a number of women in Co-op City and Manhattan while wielding an ice pick, pleaded not guilty yesterday.

The recently indicted Sen. Pedro Espada, Jr., submitted paperwork earlier this month to cash in on his $9,000 a year state pension.

A new bill introduced in Congress this week would provide federal funding for the removal of PCBs, a dangerous construction material, from the city's public schools. This summer, tests found elevated levels of the chemical in three schools, including PS 178 in Co-op City.

A Bronx woman was sentenced to 25 years to life yesterday in the Bronx Supreme Court for the 2003 murder of a 91-year-old woman.

A city sanitation worker was struck by a car and killed yesterday while crossing the street in Castle Hill. Angel Roldan, 39, worked with the Sanitation Department for 11 years; he leaves behind a wife and two children.

The suspected Bronx church burglar, who was busted by police last weekend, says he targeted the houses of worship because he was angry over pedophile-priest scandals. Nathaniel Linden, 51, is believed to be responsible for a string of church break-ins over the last month.

More Bronxites, and residents across the city, are opting to worship from their homes instead of a traditional church, according to ABC.

A&P, the supermarket chain which owns Pathmark, Food Emporium and Waldbaum's, filed for bankruptcy earlier this month. The future of all these stores is uncertain, though the company says it's refinancing and hopes to turn things around over the next year.

Bronx-born actor Steve Landesberg, known for his role on the long-running sitcom “Barney Miller,” died in Los Angeles Monday from colon cancer. He was 74.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Bronx is in the House -- The White House; NYBG President Gregory Long and Community Garden Activist Karen Washington Accept Award

New York Botanical Garden President Gregory Long and long-time community garden activist Karen Washington were guests at the White House on Friday, where Michelle Obama "presented the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services to The New York Botanical Garden and nine other cultural institutions. The NYBG was also singled out for its contribution to international cultural understanding."

Here's more of what the First Lady said:

"While some of your work may be national in scope," said the first lady in her opening remarks, "ultimately your most powerful impact is local ... For example, The New York Botanical Garden started the Bronx Green-Up revitalization program, and they helped plant hundreds of school and community gardens in struggling neighborhoods so that families could grow their own fresh produce."
For more information about the Garden of Happiness, founded by Karen Washington on an eyesore of a vacant lot across from her home on Prospect Avenue, or Bronx community gardens in general, check out our stories in the Tremont Tribune, by clicking here, here and here.

Congrats to the NYBG and to Washington, who serves on their board and is a Home Care aide at Montefiore Medical Center.

Q & A with David Lehmann of the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership

David Lehmann, the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership's program manager (photo by Jeanmarie Evelly)
[Ed. note: This article appeared in the latest issue of the Tremont Tribune.]


David Lehmann, a longtime worker in the public health field, heads the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership, a program funded by the State Department of Health and Human Services and based at 1826 Arthur Ave. The Partnership works with community groups and organizations throughout the Bronx to prevent young people from smoking and to shape public policy against the tobacco industry. Earlier this month, the Tremont Tribune sat down with Lehmann to get his take on cigarettes and smoking in our community.

How long has the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership been on Arthur Avenue?

The grant came through from the health department last January, but we officially launched in May of this year during the Borough President’s Bronx Week. So we’re sort of the new kids on the block.

What were you doing before you came to the Bronx?

I worked for the American Cancer Society—I retired for a year before I decided that I missed tobacco control. I’ve worked in tobacco control for 25 years.

What does the Bronx Smoke-Free Partnership do?

Tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and our main focus is keeping our youth smoke free, and creating more smoke-free environments. The City Council has introduced a bill that would prohibit smoking in parks and beaches, and almost all of our Bronx representatives have signed on as supporter. The Bronx has more parks and beaches than any other borough, so that would really transform the landscape here.

One of our other campaigns is our “point of sale,” campaign—we’re trying to get local merchants to either stop selling tobacco or to at least reduce the visibility where they place cigarettes.

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 21

Friends of a gay Bronx soldier who fought for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and died serving in Iraq, visited his grave site on Saturday, shortly after the Senate voted to repeal the controversial policy.

Beleaguered State Sen. Pedro Espada and his son, Pedro G. Espada, could be hit with more indictments in the coming months, according to the Daily News' Bob Kappstatter in his weekly column.

A Bronx teenager has been charged with a felony hate crime. Police say Justin Tavarez, who's a student at Skidmore College in upstate New York, took offense when he saw a white man dining with a black man and smashed a plate over the white man's head.

The man accused of using an ice-pick to threaten and rob several women in the Bronx and Manhattan, carried out the muggings so he could buy Christmas presents for his family, his cousin says. 

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, chair of the Transportation committee, says too many cyclists don't obey traffic laws.

Every year, Bronx resident Milagros Guzman decorates a Christmas tree she calls the "Tree of Angels," to remember victims of homicide, including her own daughter, Jessica, who was murdered in 1990. 

More on the arrest of Nathaniel Linden, the man police suspect of robbing at least two Bronx churches.

Plans are in the works to clean up a contaminated lot by the Major Deegan Expressway at 135th Street, and build a 80-90 room hotel

Tenants of 1204 Shakespeare Ave. are being allowed to return home in time for the holidays.  Many of the apartments were evacuated earlier this month after the Department of Buildings found that the building's emergency exits were blocked. 

The legendary Morris Park Boxing Club reopened yesterday, a year after it was almost completely destroyed by a fire. 

Last Thursday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. appeared on NY1's "Inside City Hall."  Topics for discussion included the Kingsbridge Armory and the Muller Army Reserve Center. Here's the clip.

Yesterday, NYPD Detective Robert Salerno gave out Christmas presents at Lincoln Hospital, the same hospital where he was treated earlier this year after being shot in the line of duty.

Billy Wharton, a writer and activist who edits the Socialist WebZine, was on jury duty recently at the Bronx County Hall of Justice. During his lunch break, he sat in on a few trials and then wrote about his experience for the Examiner website.

Veterinarians at Yonkers' Animal Specialty Center are hoping to reunite an injured Rottweiler with its owner.  The dog was found on a Bronx street two weeks ago, bleeding and limping.

Ed. note: Start a discussion about any of these stories, or anything else you want to talk about, in our forum. Highlight problems in your neighborhood with our SeeClickFix feature. And find out what's happening in our constantly-updated events calendar.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Minute Northwest Bronx Shopping Guide

[Ed. note: This article appears in the latest edition of the Norwood News, which is out on streets now.]

By Layza Garcia and Alina Rodriguez

It’s that time of the year again to search for that perfect gift for your loved ones: brothers, moms, maybe even your 80-year-old grandmother. But what to buy? The decision-making process can be agonizing.

Worry no more. The Norwood News is here to help! After vigorously shopping throughout the northwest Bronx, from Gun Hill to Fordham Road, you can find some of the most diverse and special gifts just outside your door.

In Wake of Bias Attacks, a Push to Build a More Tolerant Bronx

Earlier this month, gay rights advocates and a few dozen Bronx residents and community leaders met in Morris Heights to discuss ways to combat hate and promote tolerance in the borough. 

The town hall-style meeting was held on Dec. 9 at Davidson Community Center, a short walk from the vacant house on Osborne Place where several young men were were viciously beaten in early October. Police say they were assaulted because they were gay or perceived to be gay.

While condemning the attacks, the Bronx Community Pride Center, one of the non-profits behind the event, hopes some good can come of them; that the attacks can kick-start a borough-wide conversation and ultimately prevent future hate crimes. 

At the meeting, Ephraim Cruz, co-founder of the political group Bronx for Change, said it was time to call out the politicians and religious leaders who spout hate speech about homosexuals.

"The hate speech is a precursor to the violence," Cruz said. "If young people see our politicians speaking ill about gays and no one checks this, it sends a message."

I don't think Cruz mentioned him by name, but he was clearly referring to Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr., the outspoken state senator and gay marriage opponent who once compared homosexuality to bestiality. Cruz, it should be said, has a vested interest in seeing Diaz hurt politically; another of Bronx for Change's founders, Charlie Ramos, challenged Diaz in September's Democratic primary. Cruz has previously criticized the reverend's son, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., for not standing up to his father on this issue.

Others at the meeting, while supporting the need to challenge bigotry, advocated a more conciliatory approach, saying it was important to engage those with opposing views, not shut them out.

Dirk McCall (file photo by Alex Kratz)
Dirk McCall, the Bronx Community Pride Center's new executive director, and one of the panelists, said that while he and, say, a Pentecostal minster, may never see eye-to-eye on gay marriage, they should be able to find some common ground, and agree that the attacks, and all violent acts, are wrong. "If we can get them [churches] on the record saying the attacks are wrong, then that's a start," McCall said.   

Added an audience member: “Personally, I hate it when people say ‘Let’s agree to disagree,” because that’s when the conversation is over."

Bronx Events Calendar

Check out what's happening in the borough this week in our community calendar, below.

Editor's note: What did we miss? Send details to bronxnewsnetwork[at]gmail.com.

Venerable Lechonera Serves Up a Feast

El Nuevo Bohio (The New Hut) is located at 791 E. Tremont Ave. The holiday season is the restaurant's busiest. (Photo by G. Pinto)

[Ed. note: this article appears in the latest issue of the Tremont Tribune, which it out on streets now.]


At El Nuevo Bohio, pernil is prince. It is also in high demand, the hands-down favorite among all who visit the Puerto Rican restaurant.

“If I don’t have pernil, these people will kill me,” jokes manager Roy Fernandez.

Patrons come from all over for the pernil or roast pork, which is served with your choice of a side, a piece of crispy chicharron (pork skin), and a side of mojito, a crushed garlic sauce. They flock there from the five boroughs, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and upstate New York, as did recent newcomer Dan Shapiro. This was the second time in two months that he’d made the trip down from Rockland County.

“The atmosphere here is very easy and the roast pork tastes better than any other place I’ve been to,” said Shapiro, who likes to add a plate of white rice and red beans as well as chicken soup to his order.

Bronx News Weekend Roundup, Dec. 20

A 51-year-old Bronx man was arrested this weekend in connection to two church burglaries. Nathaniel Linden was caught inside St. Phillip Neri Church on Grand Concourse, and has been charged for another Dec. 13 robbery, though police are still trying to determine if he's responsible for a number of break-ins that took place this month.

Livery cab drivers in the South Bronx and parts of Queens and Brooklyn will receive bullet proof vests from the city, starting today. The move comes after a driver was shot by a passenger in Queens earlier this month.

A number of residents who were forced to evacuate their apartment building earlier this month because of a gas leak and other buildings violations are allowed to return home today.

A first grade teacher from PS 21 was arrested this weekend for driving drunk after she crashed her car near the Grand Concourse.

Manhattan-based nonprofit "Beat the Streets,"is helping a number of Bronx teenagers hone their wrestling skills.

The Bronx Hall of Justice, the criminal courthouse at E. 161st Street, is still suffering from structural problems despite its $421 million construction price tag and the fact that the building is only three years old.

Councilman James Vacca and another Brooklyn rep promised to introduce legislation to counter the Mayor's plan to hike parking meter fees in the outer boroughs. Bloomberg has proposed a 25 cents increase an hour to help close the city's budget gap.

A bill introduced by Bronx State Sen. Jeff Klein, allowing individuals to use a portion of their life insurance money to cover nursing home costs, was signed into law by the Governor last week.

A heroic MTA worker jumped onto the subway tracks and rescued a Bronx man from an oncoming train.

Monsignor Charles Kavanagh, a high-ranking New York priest who formerly led the parish at St. Raymond's Church in Parkchester, was officially dismissed from the clergy after being found guilty of sexually abusing a teenager by a church tribunal on Friday.

Seven South Bronx families got new homes from Habitat for Humanity NYC this weekend.

The MTA will spend $9.75 million next year to equip 426 buses with video surveillance equipment, starting in high crime areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bronx News Roundup, Dec. 17

Happy Friday afternoon everyone. Holiday housekeeping prevented us from getting this up earlier, but here's a brief Bronx news roundup, just in time for the Friday evening commute. Please, don't read and drive. 

The state health department ignored warnings that Pedro Espada Jr.'s network of nonprofit health care clinics was running afoul of regulations and a recommendation that Espada should give up control of the clinics, according to the Wall Street Journal. Espada and his son were indicted on Tuesday for allegedly using the clinics as their "personal piggy bank." They pleaded not guilty in court on Wednesday.

The Daily News focuses on the Kingsbridge Armory angle in sizing up Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.'s showdown with the mayor over the fate of the vacant Muller Army Reserve Center in Wakefield. We reported (in a BxNN exclusive, I might add) on Wednesday that Diaz was boycotting a meeting to prevent the mayor from voting to turn Muller into a homeless shelter. But what I didn't mention was that Diaz has an alternative plan: moving the National Guard units, currently housed in the Armory's annex buildings, to Muller to make way for new schools.

The Mindful Chef is from the Bronx.

The real estate company of Ex-Red Sox star Mo Vaughn, who makes a brief cameo in our New Yorker-esque story about Councilman Fernando Cabrera, is pledging $30 million to fix up two dilapidated Bronx apartment buildings.

The Fiscal Policy Institute issued a report today on the widening gap between New York's rich and poor, pointing out fun facts like: "Wall Street, with its stratospheric profits and bonuses, sits within 15 miles of the Bronx -- the nation's poorest county." Here's the report itself.

Eater.com's Manhattan/Brooklyn-centric "Who goes there?" feature takes a look at Arthur Avenue's 89-year-old Mario's Italian restaurant

Bronx River Art Center Open House & Other Events This Weekend

The Bronx River Art Center is holding an open house tomorrow at its new temporary headquarters, located 2064 Boston Rd. on the corner of 179th Street, from 4 to 7 p.m.

The center's main location on East Tremont Avenue is currently being renovated.

For details of other events and goings on this weekend, check out the calendar below.

Editor's note: What did we miss? Send details to bronxnewsnetwork[at]gmail.com.

Bronx Foodie: Cookies That Won't Break Santa's Diet

Cookies top the list of my favorite holiday desserts. They're easy to bake and there are so many ways to make them. The only thing I don't like is that a lot of cookies are made of mostly butter, flour and lots of sugar, i.e. not too good for your health or waist line. 

If you're looking for a healthier option, try these oatmeal cookies. They aren't exactly fat-free -- no cookie should be completely fat-free. But they are a bit healthier and filling because of the oatmeal and the maple syrup. Let us know what you'll be baking and cooking in the comments section. And stop by next week and we'll post some tips for healthy holiday eating.

Raisin and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from The Kind Diet

1 cup of quick-cooking rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon molasses
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins or other dried fruit

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the syrup, oil, vanilla extract, and molasses. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Fold in the raisins and nuts.

If the mixture is too wet, add some more flour. Then chill in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes. This will prevent the cooking from spreading too much. My first batch came out like crisps instead of cookies. Be careful not to let the dough freeze.

Using your hands, roll tablespoon-size scoops of dough into balls. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet, and press down slightly on the balls to flatten the top. Bake for 10-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a baking rack to cool completely.