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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dancing In The Rain

Sunday, Sep 12 2010, was a wet and gray day. A few thousand people braved the over cast soggy conditions to take part in the Fordham Road BID Renaissance Festival. A constant drizzle kept covering my lens giving a soft and at times vintage look to the photographs I made that day.

Tenants Hold Prayer Vigil; Demand Change

Residents at a portfolio of foreclosed and dilapidated buildings hold candles at a prayer vigil last night. (Photo by Jeanmarie Evelly)
Tenants from ten crumbling Bronx buildings gathered in the courtyard of 2770 Kingsbridge Terrace last night for a an emotional candlelit prayer vigil, fed up with conditions in apartments that many describe as unlivable. Their homes have been in foreclosure proceedings for over a year after private equity firm Milbank Real Estate defaulted on its $35 million mortgage.

"We shouldn't have to live like this," said Sergio Cuevas, whose apartment at 2785 Sedgwick Ave. is plagued by leaks, mold and rotting floors. "I don't invite anyone over to my home."

His neighbor, Chuck Davie, says he won't let his four-year-old son use their bathroom because the mold is so severe. He showers every morning at Bally's Gym to avoid using his leaky bathtub at home.

The vigil was held just hours after a Bronx Supreme Court judge ordered LNR Property LLC, the servicer to the loan that oversees the portfolio of buildings, to pay $2.5 million within the next 30 days on repairs. Housing advocates hailed the decision as a milestone step.

"As far as I know, this is the first decision of this kind," said Jonathan Levy of Legal Services-NYC, which filed a motion on behalf of the tenants to hold LNR or Wells Fargo, the bank that serves as the trustee on the mortgage, financially responsible for fixing the buildings.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 30

Mayor Bloomberg wasted no time in yanking Bronx teacher Melissa Petro from her classroom at PS 70 after he learned of her very public musings about her past as a sex worker.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera, whose district includes PS 70, chimed in about Petro--and her tenure--in a panel discussion on Fox News yesterday. Watch the video here.

A group of Bronx high school students are weighing in on the debate over the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory.

BronxTalk host Gary Axelbank was on the radio program The Perez Notes yesterday to talk about his show and Bronx politics.

A Parkchester man turned himself in to authorities yesterday for allegedly beating a traffic cop who gave him a ticket.

The Daily News has footage of two sets of baby tiger cubs born at the Bronx Zoo. 

Vandals spray painted and etched swastikas into the green at Van Cortland Golf Course yesterday.

Cesar Mercado, the Nicaraguan diplomat who was found dead in his Mount Hope apartment last week, had ingested a bottle of Drano cleaner before he died, according to police.

A new breakdown of Census figures ranks Jose E. Serrano's South Bronx Congressional District as the poorest in the country, with 38 percent of residents living below the poverty line.

The much talked about change in street signs this week--where the DOT is replacing capital letters with lowercase ones--is part of a federal mandate intended to "improve readability." It'll cost the state a whopping $27 million to make all the required replacements.

The murder rate is up across New York City, with a particularly high rise in the number of killings in the North Bronx--the rate went up 46 percent this year.

Actress Rosie Perez, in a video released by gay rights group Fight Back NY, told Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. that she is "extremely disappointed" in him for his opposing stance on gay marriage. "You are not speaking for the majority of New York Latinos," she said.

Bronx-born actor Tony Curtis died yesterday at the age of 85.

The Department of Homeless Services has shut out hundreds of families from using the agency's "Homebase" program in an attempt to see how effective it is.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Judge Orders Servicer to Pay $2.5 Million to Fix Milbank Buildings

A big update in the ongoing Milbank saga--the portfolio of ten apartment buildings that have fallen into disrepair since Milbank Real Estate went into foreclosure proceedings on them.

Tenants have been trying to get LNR, the servicer that oversees Milbank's $35 million mortgage, to help finance some of the 3,000 housing violations that need repairing, and Legal Services-NYC Bronx had filed a legal motion on behalf of the residents this year to try and make that happen.

Meanwhile, LNR is supposedly looking to sell the buildings to a mystery buyer in a deal that was rumored to be closing today. But according to Dina Levy of the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, LNR came to Bronx Supreme Court and announced that they weren't ready to close on the transaction. The judge then ordered the Florida-based company to fork up $2.5 million in the next 30 days to start fixing some of the apartments' many problems.

"As far as I know, this is the first decision of this kind," said Jonathan Levy, of Legal Services-NYC.

The order, however, could be rendered moot if LNR's deal to sell the properties goes through in the next month. We'll have more details on this, and from tonight's candlelight vigil, later.

What's Going On?

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

Vigil and Press Conference Planned for Millbank Buildings; Rent Strike Anticipated

Tenants from 10 distressed and deteriorating Bronx buildings owned by Milbank Real Estate are coming together tonight to hold a prayer vigil and conduct a press conference at Our Lady of Angels Church in Kingsbridge Heights. 

The vigil, organized by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, is designed to bring more attention to the worsening condition of the buildings and to put pressure on the city to intervene on tenants' behalf.

Milbank is in foreclosure on the properties and there is supposedly a mysterious buyer who wants to buy them, but they have not been identified. Tenants want the buyer to come forward with a rehabilitation plan or they say they may launch a rent strike.

Here's more on the situation.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 29

Lehman High School teacher James McSherry’s independent film based on his life experiences won him several awards and recognition. The film tells the story of McSherry’s friend who was arrested in Throgs Neck for a drug-related murder during the 1980s.

Prosecutors showed a video of a car being blown up with the same tools that they say were planned to be used in an attack on a synagogue in Riverdale last year. The defendants claim they were entrapped by an FBI informant who provided them with fake weapons.

A motorist in the Bronx viciously attacked a traffic agent yesterday after being issued a ticket. The driver was blocking a lane when Edgar Saeteros issued the summons. Cops are still searching for the attacker.

The MTA is going to eliminate toll booth arms on the Henry Hudson Bridge, which connects the Bronx and Manhattan. The ultimate plan is to eliminate the toll gates and cash lanes entirely to speed things up for drivers while also saving money.

After she blew up the Internet with blogs about her infamous past, sex-worker-turned-teacher Melissa Petro was granted tenure at a Bronx elementary school.

Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein says a new bill he sponsored will protect homeowners from loan scammers. The bill requires consultants -- who often take advantage of distressed homeowners by telling them they will save them from foreclosure -- to put a disclaimer on loan modification ads telling homeowners they can receive similar services for free through the New York State Banking Department.

BronxTalk - Pelham Parkway Trees and More

Click here for this week's show on Pelham Parkway trees.

Upcoming shows:
October 4 - the latest Bronx books
October 11 - the city's plan to close the Mary Mitchell Community Center
October 18 - Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. (16th anniversary)

For the past sixteen years, BronxTalk has been 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 bronxnet.org. Produced by Jane Folloro, BronxTalk is repeated each day at 9:30am, 3:30pm, and 9:00pm. Archives are available at blip.tv; search for "BronxTalk."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NRI and Gustavo Head Upstate

What will Bill Samuels and his New Roosevelts do now that they've reached their goal of defeating Pedro Espada? According to a press release, they're taking their show on the road--and bringing Gustavo Rivera with them--to throw support behind Mary Wilmot, a Democratic candidate running for State Senate in Rochester against a Republican incumbent.

The most-likely-to-be-elected Rivera was in Rochester today to officially endorse Wilmot, who, in turn, had endorsed him against Espada back in August.

Samuels, a wealthy businessman and former candidate for Lieutenant Governor, founded the New Roosevelt Initiative this year to change Albany, he says, by helping to elect more "reform-minded candidates."  His group spent much of the summer campaigning in the Bronx against Espada, handing out leaflets, knocking on doors and pledging $250,000 to see Rivera on the ballot instead.

NRI said the group's next move is to help get more women elected to the legislature. The general election will be on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Orchard Beach To Expand; Help for the South Groin

Between October and next summer, 250,000 cubic yards of sand -- about 15,000 dump truck loads worth -- will be added to Orchard Beach to expand its total area and help protect the beach's eroding "south groin," according to a press release sent out today by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps say they are partnering with the city's Parks Department, 50-50, on a $10.6 million contract they recently awarded to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company of Oak Brook, Illinois.

"The work will help combat erosion at Orchard Beach by replacing lost sand and repairing the south groin to inhibit future erosion," the release says. "It will also make the beach safer by relieving overcrowding and eliminating dangerous drop-off zones."

More than 1.4 million people visited the man-made Orchard Beach, a.ka. the "Riviera of the Bronx," this past summer, the release says.

Although we've never heard of a non-human element at a beach referred to as a "groin," this appears to be great news for the Bronx and badly needed for Orchard Beach.

Parks Commish Adrian Benepe: "This WPA-era, man-made beach was last nourished with sand in 1964. Over time, the beach has lost sand naturally due to tides, winds, waves and storms. We hope to add as 250,000 cubic yards of sand -- or the equivalent of 15,00 dump truck loads that will be barged to the site -- to restore this popular crescent shaped beach for millions of visitors to enjoy beginning next season."

Bronx Events This Week

Check out our newly updated events calendar to see what's happening this week, or to plan your weekend. Details are below (and you can access the calendar anytime by clicking the What's Going On? link on the right side of this page.)

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

Survey for Rezoning of Fordham Road

Community Board 6 is asking residents to fill out the following survey (see below) for ideas on how to rezone a portion of East Fordham Road, between Bathgate Avenue and Cambreleng Avenue. Read more about the plans in this month's issue of the Tremont Tribune, here. 

Completed surveys should be mailed to 1932 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY 10457, or sent by e-mail to brxcb6@optonline.net. Forms are also available in Spanish, Italian and Albanian; call the Board at (718) 579-6990 for more information.

Fordham Road Rezoning Survey in English

The Mystery of New Lowercase Bronx Street Name Signs

Boogiedowner beat us to the punch on this, but we also noticed over the weekend that many street name signs have been changed to lowercase -- not all of them, just some. Is the DOT changing them all over the Bronx, the city, etc.? What's the reason? How much is it costing?

We put these questions to DOT  this morning. We'll let you know as soon as we hear back.

City Council Releases Report on Milbank's Woes

Council Speaker Christine Quinn at City Hall last week, announcing a new strategy to deal with distressed buildings like Milbank's (Photo by Jeanmarie Evelly)
Members of City Council and a number of housing advocacy groups unveiled a plan last Thursday to deal with the city's growing number of distressed, overleveraged properties--including 10 Bronx apartment buildings owned by Milbank Real Estate, which have been in worsening states of disrepair since the company went into foreclosure on the properties last year.

The program will elicit the help of pro-bono engineers and architects to assess the damage in properties like Milbank's so that tenants can have a detailed list of their building's problems, and better hold landlords accountable for making repairs.

"We believe it's important for residents to be armed, so they can advocate for their own solutions," said Andrew Reicher, executive director of the Urban Homestead Housing Board, which has been working with Milbank tenants for the past several months.

The first property survey, done by Baer Architect Group and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, is a nightmarish list of 3,300 housing violations in the 10 Milbank's properties, which are scattered throughout the northwest Bronx. The study confirms what tenants have long been saying.

Complaints include leaking walls and ceilings, broken elevators, rotting floors and months without a working toilet in some apartments. It calculated that the cost of repairs for all the buildings could add up to over $24 million.

"It's reprehensible," said Charlene Barton, who lives in one of the properties at 1576 Taylor Avenue, and says she's been fighting a mold infestation for almost a year. "Why manage a building if you're not going to take care of it?"

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 28

Police are hunting for a hit-and-run driver who struck and killed a man on the Cross Bronx Expressway this morning.

A funeral service will be held Friday for the six members of a Bronx church who died earlier this month when their van crashed on the New York State Thruway.

A Bronx motorcyclist was killed on the Taconic State Parkway on Sunday.

Lehman High School's football team is one of the best in the city, but it can never play at home because its field is 20-yards short of the regulation size.

In Riverdale last night, a man traveling on a city bus squirted a mystery chemical into the driver's face.

There were few surprises at last week's Bronx Democratic County Committee Convention, unlike the 2008 event, where there were fireworks, so to speak.

In 2003, 91-year-old Nelli Hocutt was brutally murdered in her Williamsbridge home.  The trial of one of her accused killers began yesterday in Bronx Supreme Court.

Here's The Times' coverage of the borough's new “Peace in Our Streets” initiative, which was officially launched at a church on White Plains Road on Saturday.  We had a post about this yesterday.

Lawyers defending the four men accused of trying to blow up two Riverdale synagogues are asking the judge to throw out the case. The government's star witness (an FBI informant) lied repeatedly on the stand, the defense claims.

The MTA is hoping to speed up traffic on the Henry Hudson Bridge by removing toll gates and cash lanes. This doesn't mean the bridge will be free.  The new lanes will either be E-ZPass or set up for video tolling, with a camera catching a driver's license plate.

The PS 70 teacher who was reassigned after writing about her past as a stripper and prostitute, also talked about her exploits at open-mic events.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bronx Leaders Take to The Streets for Peace

Congressman Engel and B.P. Diaz work for "Peace in our Streets" in Wakefield on Saturday.
On Saturday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. teamed up with members of the Bronx Clergy Task Force, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, local elected officials, and community leaders, launched the “Peace in Our Streets” initiative.

The new program will bring elected officials like Diaz, religious leaders, law enforcement officials, and others into direct contact with Bronx residents to discuss growing safely concerns and violence in neighborhoods. They are especially concerned about the proliferation of illegal guns.

“Gun violence is a scourge on our communities, and Bronxites have made it clear to me that they will not sit by and allow the action of a few thugs to ruin the good work we have done rebuilding the Bronx," said Diaz in a statement.

The Bronx is currently experiencing a surge in gun violence, with murders and shooting incidents both rising significantly borough-wide.

The initiative kicked off at the Greater Faith Temple on White Plains Road in Wakefield. Diaz, Congressman Eliot Engel and others handed out literature on gun violence and other issues. They also spoke with neighborhood residents about fixing problems in their communities.

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said curbing the gun problem would take a borough-wide effort.

“The D.A.’s Office will continue to prosecute and incarcerate those who possess illegal guns: ultimately, however, it’s going to take all all-out effort by every segment of our community to educate about the dangers in order to bring about a change in the culture,” Johnson said in a statement.

Going forward, the “Peace in Our Streets” initiative aims to regularly take to the streets and outreach. The next meeting and outreach campaign will take place on Saturday, Oct. 9, at the Mount Hermon Baptist Church, 1170 Nelson Avenue, in Highbridge at 1 p.m.

--By Layza Garcia

Bronx (Weekend) News Roundup, Sept. 27

I thought this would be a more appropriate title to our Monday roundups, where we try to corral everything from Friday afternoon to this morning. As always, if we miss something, let us know in the comments section or send us an e-mail at bronxnewsnetwork@gmail.com. Enjoy. 

A gigantic steel piece by renowned sculpture artist Richard Serra sits in a south Bronx crane yard. The piece, which could be worth millions, is essentially just sitting there rusting. Some intrepid art geeks have made trips to see it over the past few years, while Henry Bubbins, a die-hard advocate for waterfront access in the Bronx, wants it to be part of a sculpture garden near where it now sits, in Port Morris.

On Friday afternoon, dozens of students went home late after police locked down a school bus yard to look for a suspect who had allegedly robbed and shot a man in Hunts Point. 

Massive service changes over the weekend, including the shutdown of the 1 Train, led to mass confusion throughout the city.

An assistant teacher at the Bronx's PS 70 has been very candid about her former life as a stripper and prostitute, publishing accounts of her exploits online. The teacher, Melissa Petro, was put on administrative duties pending an investigation by the DOE.

Police are now saying the bloody death of a Nicaraguan diplomat, Cesar Mercado, who was found in his Mt. Hope apartment with bloody stab wounds to his throat and torso, may have been a suicide. Gawker first reported the hints of suicide -- Mercado recently found out he was HIV positive and he had pin-prick-sized (testing type) punctures in his neck -- on Saturday.

Connecticut investor Mario Gabelli donated $25 million to Fordham University. It's the largest gift in the Bronx school's 169-year history and the undergraduate business college will be renamed in his honor.

Newscaster Tom Brokaw says he sees eerie similarities between the crash he was involved in last year and the crash that claimed the life a stranded motorist on Bruckner Expressway  on Friday. In both cases, the crash led to someone being pitched over the edge of the expressway, a drop of some 75 feet.

The Bronx Science boys soccer squad destroyed Lehman H.S. 4-0 and remains undefeated this season. Meanwhile, Bronx Science's equally un-vanquished girls soccer team beat JFK 9-0.

Friday, September 24, 2010

All Are Invited

I made these photographs last year at the 2009 Jerome-Gun Hill Road BID festival. Hope to see you at the 2010 festival on September 25th, Saturday. Jerome Avenue will be blocked off for the PARTY between Gun Hill Road and Mosholu Parkway. The festivities shall start at 11:00 a.m. and last till 6:00 p.m.

Pelham Parkway Trees on BronxTalk

This Monday night BronxTalk, will present a discussion on the controversy over cutting down trees on Pelham Parkway.  Beginning at 9:00pm David Varenne of the Pelham Parkway Preservation Alliance and
John Fratta, the District Manager of Community Board 11 will talk with host Gary Axelbank about the renovation of the historic parkway and what impact it will have on the environment.

Viewers can add their comments by calling in at 718-960-7241.

On October 4, BronxTalk will feature Bronx authors and the latest Bronx books and on October 18th the program will celebrate its 16th anniversary with Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

For the past sixteen years, BronxTalk has been 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 bronxnet.org. Produced by Jane Folloro, BronxTalk is repeated each day at 9:30am, 3:30pm, and 9:00pm. Archives are available at blip.tv; search for "BronxTalk."

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 24

A Nicaraguan diplomat was found dead in his Grand Concourse apartment yesterday morning. César Mercado, 34, had been slashed in the throat and stabbed several times. There have been no arrests. Just about every major city paper and media outlet covered the killing. Here's the Times's coverage, the Wall Street Journal's, the Daily News', the Post's, and NY1's

Yesterday, the federal judge presiding over the trial of four men accused of trying to blow up two Riverdale synagogues, chided the FBI informant who is the government's star witness. "I'm tired of you playing games," she told him, after he refused to give yes or no answers to questions from defense attorneys.

An elderly man was beaten up and mugged of his cellphone in Parkchester on Tuesday evening. 

A new student-designed playground has opened at PS 7 in Kingsbridge. The public can use it after school and on weekends.

A teacher at Lehman High School has won yet another award for his short film "Poetry Man."

Jennifer Lopez is worth more than $100 million. But the singer and actress hasn't given her old school in the east Bronx a dime. "Jennifer hasn't even sent us a CD," says Claire La Tempa, the principal of Holy Family School.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tomorrow: Rally to Save the Mary Mitchell Center

On Tuesday night, the city abruptly closed the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center in Crotona, following a disagreement over permit fees. Tomorrow, staff, local residents, and others will rally outside the building to protest the decision.

The Department of Education took over the building's lease in 2000. At the time, a deal was struck allowing the center to continue running its programs after school and on weekends, Mary Mitchell staff say. The DOE also agreed to maintain the building and waive the permit fees for the space.

Now, ten years later, the department's gone back on its word, says the center's Executive Director Heidi Hynes. When payment was requested - and not received - DOE custodians locked the center's staff out of the building.

Located on Mapes Avenue near East 178th Street, the Mary Mitchell Center serves hundreds of children each week. It also supports other local groups and organizations (including one of our newspapers, the Tremont Tribune, whose reporter has desk space there), and has long been a force for good in the neighborhood. The center has played a key role, for example, in raising awareness of, and drawing attention to, gun crime in the area. And it's been raising funds to build a new community center in a nearby park where a derelict building currently stands.

Check out the flier below for details of tomorrow's rally. We'll be there and will have more coverage next week. 

Rally Details

Jerome-Gun Hill Road BID Street Festival on Saturday

This is a photo from last year's Jerome-Gun Hill Road BID festival. This year's festival is happening on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Stop by. It's always a good time.. If you're not familiar with this particular street festival (as you can tell, tis the season for them), Jerome Avenue from Gun Hill Road to Mosholu Parkway is blocked off for a boisterous block party, complete with food, fun activities for kids and a packed lineup of performers. Honored guests include MTV's DJ Skribble and freestyle artist Judy Torres.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 23

Tensions are high in the ongoing Bronx synagogue bomb plot trial. According to NY1, Judge Colleen McMahon got into verbal spats yesterday with lawyers on both sides of the case.

Police arrested a 30-year-old woman yesterday in connection to a fire she allegedly started last week in the basement of an apartment building in West Farms.

There may not be alligators in New York's sewers, but a Bronx man found a 3-foot snake in his toilet earlier this week. Authorities say it was a harmless corn snake, and likely someones discarded pet.

A Bronx man is being charged with the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl Throgs Neck girl who went missing last week. She has since safely returned home.

A man from Riverdale is going to court today for leaving his dog locked in a van during 95-degree weather last July. The dog died, despite attempts by police to revive it.

Martha Stewart designed the Bronx Botanical Garden's "Edible Garden" exhibit. The homemaking maven also hosted a cocktail party at the garden on Tuesday.

Bronx-born Jenny-from-the-block Lopez will be the next new judge on American Idol. 

The City Council will announce a new plan today to deal with the city's distressed and over-leveraged buildings--like the crumbling Bronx properties owned by Milbank Real Estate.  We'll have more on this later.

The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts celebrates its 30th anniversary season this year. 

A Bronx student traveled to the White House this month to participate in a dance program.

First Harlem River Festival on Saturday

Just got this...

  Harlem River Festival – September 25th from 11 am to 5 pm
Celebrating the Harlem River
The Harlem River Working Group* is holding its first annual Harlem River Festival on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at Mill Pond Park, the new riverside park created under the 2006 Yankee Stadium Parks’ Redevelopment projects.  The day will be celebrating the Harlem River and edge through walking, biking or boating activities including:  Arts and Crafts; Hawk Talk; Live Music; Educational Workshops; Water Demonstrations; Boat Tours; Tennis Lessons and much more .... 
Guided Walks
10am from High Bridge Park
(170th and University Avenue)
Day of Walk call: 646 719 0034
Guided Bike Ride
10am from Randall’s Island
(Meet on the Bronx Side of the RFK Bridge)
Day of Ride call: 718 796 1648
Refreshments at noon
Harlem River Ferry Tour
4pm from Mill Pond Park
Take a ferry boat ride up the Harlem River!
(Meet at Yankee Stadium Dock)
 Getting Here
·        Subway #2, 4 or 5 to 149th/Grand Concourse
·        Metro Hudson Line to Yankee Stadium Station
Mill Pond Park is on the waterfront at 153rd and Exterior Street
Across from the new Gateway Center Mall
The Harlem River Festival is sponsored by NY WATERWAY and represents the efforts of the following organizations and agencies: Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., National Park Service, Partnerships for Parks, Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, Friends of Brook Park, Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Highbridge Community Life Center, Friends of the Woods, Harlem River UDEC, and more
*Harlem River Working Group is a coalition of community organizations and agencies working on, at or near the Harlem River. For more info:  HarlemRiver@bceq.org or call 646.719.0034



I made this photograph during the September 22 evening thunderstorm.
The camera was positioned on the Oval Park end of Tryon Ave looking east.
Please click on the image to view it larger.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Help for Homeowners in Council District 14

Last week’s Homeowner Resource Fair attracted more than 40 households to community space at 2270 Walton Avenue near East 183rd Street.  Co-sponsored by University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP) and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, the fair targeted neighborhoods that have not received much attention during the recent foreclosure crisis.

While apartment buildings dominate the landscape of City Council District 14, there are more than 2,000 one-to-four family homes spread throughout its neighborhoods.  These neighborhoods had some of the highest rates of subprime lending in the City during the last decade, and there have been about 170 foreclosure filings within the district since July of 2008 (about one in every 12.5 private homes).  

Despite the torrential downpour that plowed through the Bronx at around 5:30 that evening (and leveled trees in parts of Brooklyn and Queens), turnout and feedback were impressive for a homeowner event in the west Bronx. 

Attendees were able to speak directly with staff from the Department of Environmental Protection regarding water billing issues, while foreclosure prevention counselors from the West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center and the Parodneck Foundation also met individually with homeowners.  Free weatherization kits and information were handed out by the Weatherization Assistance Program of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

Customer Representatives from DEP had their computers with them and were able to access and review the accounts of 26 homeowners that evening.  Attendees received assistance with usage clarification, payment plans, and metering and leakage problems.

Councilman Cabrera was on hand for the duration of the event and heard from homeowners on a number of issues. Homeowners in the district face unique challenges such as high water bills and foreclosure issues; just to name a few,” stated the Councilman.  “When I get the chance to partner with organizations like University Neighborhood Housing Program that help remedy some of these issues, I welcome the opportunity.”

Homeowners that were unable to attend the fair but have issues regarding foreclosure, water billing, or are interested in weatherization are urged to call the UNHP outreach line at 718-933-2539 for assistance and referrals.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Assemblyman Castro Reflects on 'Great Victory'

Assemblyman Nelson Castro on primary day (Photo: Alma Watkins)

Last Tuesday, Assemblyman Nelson Castro fought off a primary challenge from Hector Ramirez, a district leader who'd received the support of the Bronx Democratic Party, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and all the big unions.

In what was the tightest race in the borough, Castro secured 54 percent of the vote to Ramirez's 46, giving him a 269 vote victory margin.

While the certified results won't be released until all the absentee and affidavit ballots have been counted, and the voting machines re-canvassed, Ramirez has already called Castro to congratulate him. (The Board of Elections is expected to have these numbers tomorrow.)

Reached by phone yesterday, Castro was in high spirits. "I feel great. It's a great victory," he said. "Now going back to Albany I have a lot of expectations. I'm not a freshman anymore and so I should be able to ask for more and deliver more for my district."

Castro, who pulled in few endorsements himself, put his victory down to voters knowing him, liking him, and recognizing what he's done in the community.

While his opponent focused on attacking him (mailers were sent to voters reminding them of Castro's checkered past), Castro says he was out there talking to people.

"We put strategy over theatrics. All the negative stuff they did, they did to cover up the fact that he [Ramirez] hasn't done anything in the community," Castro said.

Sherman Browne, a primary opponent of Heastie's in 2008, and a former aide to ex-Councilwoman Maria Baez, worked on Castro's campaign and said they successfully identified his supporters and then made sure they voted. "We took a personal approach," Browne said.

Said Castro: "I myself even went out and picked up a couple of older ladies and drove them to the polls."

On primary night, Ramirez held what was supposed to be a victory party at a small restaurant on East Tremont Avenue. In the end, though, it was a rather somber occasion. With most precincts counted, the results favored Castro.

"I just want to say to Hector, no matter what happens tonight, you have always been my friend, and for that I will always be your friend," said Diaz in a brief speech.

He continued: "When it's all said and done, if you ask me as leader of this borough would I do it again, Yes! Yes! Yes!"

"Whatever happens tonight, I am not going to move from the District 86," said Ramirez. "I'm going to continue to fight to improve the quality of life for the people that live in the District 86, and the Bronx, and New York State."

Heastie added: "We need to give Hector a lot of credit, he ran tremendous race. It's tough to beat and incumbent, incumbency is a powerful tool."

Castro, who said he's spoken with Heastie and is now looking to move forward without "animosity," is holding a "community victory celebration" at the Luna Lounge on Webster Avenue this Sunday.

BronxTalk: Primary Analysis - here's the show

Here's the link to tast night's edition of BronxTalk featuring David King, the Albany editor from the Gotham Gazette and Roberto Perez from the Perez Notes who analyzed Bronx primary election results.  
BronxTalk - September 20, 2010

Next week we'll do a show on the prospect of cutting down trees on Pelham Parkway. Then on October 18th Borough President Diaz will help us celebrate our 16th anniversary. 

For the past sixteen years, BronxTalk has been 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 bronxnet.org. Produced by Jane Folloro, BronxTalk is repeated each day at 9:30am, 3:30pm, and 9:00pm. Archives are available at blip.tv; search for "BronxTalk."

Tenant Activists: HPD Must Block Sale of Milbank Buildings to Mystery Buyer

Milbank Memo

The Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition fired off a memo to HPD Commissioner Rafael Cestero earlier today, asking that he block a mystery buyer's attempts to purchase 10 rundown apartment buildings.

The memo, which is also signed by several of the buildings' tenants associations, warns:

Every indication is that these buildings are being purchased for the sum of $ 35,000,000, the original cost of the mortgage. We view this as an unsustainable sum that will produce further deterioration of these properties.

The buildings, which combined have 3,336 housing violations, were previously owned by Milbank Real Estate, a private equity firm which defaulted on its loan.

For background see here, here, and here.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 21

A prayer vigil was held in Baychester last night to mourn the six people who died in a crash on the New York State Thruway on Saturday. The pastor of Joy Fellowship Christian Assembly, a church on East Gun Hill Road, and his wife, were among the victims.  Speakers at the vigil included a Brooklyn pastor whose own church suffered a similar tragedy two years ago.

A Bronx man who drove drunk and killed a man in Westchester last December, pleaded guilty to several charges yesterday.

A fire broke out under the 138th Street Bridge yesterday afternoon, interrupting Metro-North train service for several hours.

The Daily News' Bob Kappstatter says a piece of him is going to miss State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. who was defeated in last week's primary.

Espada staffer Haile Rivera thinks State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. should replace Espada as majority leader.

The Hunts Point produce co-op is set to resume on-again, off-again talks with the city's Economic Development Corp. over plans for a $320 million renovation. 

A man was shot several times when armed robbers burst into his Morrisania apartment yesterday. He's in a stable condition at St. Barnabas Hospital.

A Soundview man got the fright of his life last night when he found a three-foot long corn snake coiled around his toilet seat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Arrests Made, But Shootings Continue in the Five-Two

After the shooting (Photo: Greene)

By David Greene and Alex Kratz

A wild, sprawling shootout in the Knox-Gates neighborhood in Norwood last Friday night left four people injured, two of them with gunshot wounds.

None of the injuries were life-threatening and police say the shooters were arrested, but the incident underscores a continuing rise in the number of shooting incidents and victims in the 52nd Precinct, which stretches from Norwood to University Heights.

Through August, not including this incident in Knox-Gates or another shooting on Decature Avenue, there had been 20 shooting in the 52nd Precinct this year, compared to 12 during the same period last year. Last year, through August, there had been 14 victims. This year, not including the latest incidents, there had been 25 victims through August.

“It’s frustrating right now,” said Deputy Inspector John D’Adamo, the commanding officer of the 52nd Precinct.

On Friday night, just before 9 p.m., Sept. 17, police were called to Knox Place, between West Gun Hill Road and West Mosholu Parkway North, with reports of a person shot. When they arrived on the scene, they discovered four people wounded -- two Hispanic teenage males with gunshot wounds and two girls who were injured when they fell while ducking bullets.

The altercation allegedly began at the Twin Donut shop on Jerome Avenue, but police had several crime scenes established along Knox Place, Gates Place and W. Mosholu Parkway North.

D’Adamo said the scenes were established around where police found bullets, but that those involved in the shootout were “running from each other” along Knox Place. He said the alleged shooter was apprehended in a car with a loaded firearm, along with two other suspects, near Harris Field in Bedford Park. One of them, Jose Guzman, 17, was charged with attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of firearm, according to a police spokesperson.

D’Adamo said the suspect arrested for the shooting was from Manhattan and that there was a reason he was in the area. Despite the Knox-Gates neighborhood’s reputation for heavy drug trafficking, D’Adamo said the incident did not appear to be drug related.

In 2007, one drug-related shooting left a teenager paralyzed. That same year, another apparently non-drug-related shooting left four young men from Tracey Towers, just across Mosholu Parkway, with gunshot wounds.

One resident who asked not to be identified said, "The police are not patrolling as much as they should, because there are a lot of gangs around here . . . they’re not doing enough."

Earlier last week, police arrested another suspect in a shooting incident at 2860 Decatur Ave.

While shooting incidents continue to pile up, D’Adamo said he’s happy his officers are making arrests and still “extremely proud of the men and women of the 52nd Precinct.”

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 20

A tragic car crash on Saturday killed six members of the Joy Fellowship Church, on East Gunhill Road, when their van overturned on the New York Thruway. The group was on their way to a church event in upstate Schenectady when a tire blew out on their van. The church's bishop, Simon White, and his wife, Zelda, were among those killed. A vigil will be held to honor the victims tonight.

Former Yankees managers Joe Torre and Don Mattingly will return to the Bronx tonight for a tribute to the late George Steinbrenner.

A Bronx woman was arrested after a fatal hit-and-run accident that killed a motorcyclist in Manhattan on Sunday night.

A section of Valentine Avenue in Bedford Park is being called "Heroin Avenue," for its rampant drug and gang problems. The area has long been a hotspot of violent activity for the 52nd Precinct. 

Former beat cop Anthony Mango, who patrolled the St. Mary's Park Houses in Melrose in the 1970s, inspired a young Kevin Taylor to join the force himself. Taylor is now an NYPD lieutenant in Manhattan.

A second beaver was spotted in the Bronx River this summer. It will join Jose, the first beaver to call the river home in over a century, who was first spotted back in 2007 and named after Sen. Jose Serrano.

An 11-year-old Throgs Neck girl who went missing last week has returned home safely, according to police.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Primary analysis on BronxTalk

This Monday night, David King from Gotham Gazette and Roberto Perez from the Perez Notes will analyze the Primary election results on BronxTalk, the borough's flagship TV talk show for the past sixteen years.  Beginning at 9:00pm on Bronxnet's channel 67, along with host Gary Axelbank, Mr. King and Mr. Perez will take calls from viewers about the defeat of Pedro Espada, Jr. and the victory of all other Bronx incumbents.

Viewers can call in at 718-960-7241 during the program.

For the past sixteen years, BronxTalk has been 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 bronxnet.org. Produced by Jane Folloro, BronxTalk is repeated each day at 9:30am, 3:30pm, and 9:00pm. Archives are available at blip.tv; search for "BronxTalk." 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Free Journalism Program for High School Students

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

Classes will begin on Sept. 29 and run on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m. at Hostos Community College.

Students will learn the fundamentals of writing, reporting, and photojournalism through classroom instruction, and through hands-on reporting in their own neighborhoods.

We will take them on field trips, and they will learn about community activism and civic responsibility, how their neighborhoods work (or don't), who has power, who doesn't and why.

Students' stories and photographs will be published in our youth paper, Bronx Youth Heard.

Click here for more information and to download an application form. The deadline for applying is Sept. 22.

Tomorrow: Back to School Health Fair in Claremont

Health Fair Flier

Editor's note: For more upcoming Bronx events, check out our Events Calendar.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 17

Wow, looks like the Bronx lucked out yesterday when a torrential, tornado-like storm ripped through Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Long Island. Here's a link to some intense footage taken by readers of the City Room blog.

In the Riverdale bombing plot trial, the FBI informant at the center of the case revealed a complex past during his testimony that involved a friendship with the former Prime Minister of Pakistan.

A Bronx man was charged with sending explicit pictures of himself to an 11-year-old Throggs Neck girl who has been missing for three days. The man maintains he had nothing to do with her disappearance.

In perhaps the least surprising new story of the day, people in the Bronx and elsewhere in the city are struggling to make ends meet during this recession.

Fordham University's The Ram newspaper opines about plans to beautify Fordham Plaza.

A City Island woman who works at Montefiore Medical Center is selling bags and donating a portion of the proceeds to a women's center in Ethiopia.

"Krackoon," a horror film about a crack-addicted raccoon, made by Throggs Neck film makers in the east Bronx is generating some buzz.

City Limits riffs off of a Norwood News story about the death of a homeless man in Norwood. Police are considering the death an accident, but friends believe it was the result of a beating. A new study says the country's homeless population is increasingly becoming a target for attacks.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Diaz Sr. Wants Hispanics to Fill Espada's Power Positions

State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.
A week before Tuesday's primary, State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. predicted both he and his fellow amigo, Pedro Espada Jr., would win re-election and come back bigger, stronger and better than before.

He was half right. 

Diaz lamented Espada's loss to Gustavo Rivera on Tuesday night, but he's already looking ahead to life without him. In a press release, Diaz said he wanted to see a Hispanic lawmaker placed into the two positions of power Espada had carved out in the state senate: majority leader and housing committee chair.

He said he didn't want the positions himself, but offered up a handful of alternatives, including Rivera. Here's his full statement:
“As the Chair of the New York State Senate Puerto Rican/Latino Caucus, I must insist that since the voters of Senator Pedro Espada’s district have lost him as their Senator, New York’s Hispanic community must not also lose the leadership roles he had while in the State Senate.
Senator Espada served as Chair of the Senate Housing Committee, and more importantly, as the Senate Majority Leader. I will not accept a “one step forward, two steps backwards” approach toward participatory democracy for Hispanics in the Senate. I urge the Senate leadership and my Senate colleagues to select a Hispanic Senator to fill those positions.
I want it understood by my supporters and to my critics that I am not interested in either of those roles and I will not accept them even if offered.

I do believe that my colleagues , Senator Martin Malave Dilan, Senator Jose Peralta, Senator Jose Serrano, as well as Gustavo Rivera and Adriano Espaillat - who won last night’s election and will likely be sworn into office in January - should be selected to serve in these leadership positions.”

Homeowner Resource Fair Tonight; Advice on Water Bills, Foreclosure Problems

The University Neighborhood Housing Program and Councilman Fernando Cabrera are hosting a home owner resource fair tonight, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 2270 Walton Ave., between 183rd and 184th streets.

Homeowners can learn about how to save on water and energy bills and learn about to get help in avoiding foreclosure. Representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection will be on hand to talk specifically about water bills.

In a press release announcing the fair, Cabrera, who represents parts of Kingsbridge, University Heights and Mt. Hope, said, “There are upwards of 2,000 homeowners in my district. And through these tough economic times, our residents need all the resources they can get to help manage what has in some cases, become unmanageable.”

For more information, call (347) 590-2875 ext. 204.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 16

A suspicious fire that tore through a building in West Farms yesterday, badly injuring an adult and a child, may have been started by a woman who had earlier argued with one of the building's residents.

State Senator's Pedro Esapda, Jr.'s defeat in Tuesday's primary has been grabbing the headlines, for obvious reasons. But there were other, less significant, upsets in the borough, including Mark Escoffery-Bey's victory over district leader Venancio Catala.

Senate Democrats are celebrating Espada's downfall.

When Espada's victorious opponent, Gustavo Rivera, arrives in Albany, he'll likely have favors to repay

At a public meeting last night at Hostos Community College, straphangers took turns telling MTA officials exactly what they thought of the proposed fare hikes.

A convicted carjacker will get a new trial after it was determined that a Bronx Supreme Court judge had been verbally abusive towards his lawyer.

The ASPCA believes someone has been poisoning animals in the Woodlawn.  A local resident's dog recently died after possibly eating contaminated food.

Yankees caps, it seems, are often the headwear of choice for bank robbers and other crooks. 

Daly News columnist Michael Daly is glad to see the back of Espada and Hiram Monserrate, but asks: Why on earth did voters re-elect "bums" Ruben Diaz, Sr. and Carl Kruger?   In 2008, the so-called "Gang of Four" refused to caucus with their fellow Democrats, or back then-Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. 

There will be no No. 1 train service for the next two weekends.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Primary Night in Pictures

Ace BxNN photographer Adi Talwar was on hand for Pedro Espada's concession speech at La Luna Lounge and Gustavo Rivera's victory party at the Monte Carlo Room. Enjoy.

Espada Defiant in Confusing Concession Speech

When Pedro Espada Jr. stepped down from the podium in the back of La Luna Lounge in Tremont after giving a short, fiery and somewhat confusing concession speech into a crush of reporters, the small but raucous crowd began chanting.

"ESPADA! ESPADA! ESPADA!" they bellowed.

One of the most vocal chanters was Mike J. "Hollywood" McCray, "a.k.a 'Nine Milli,' but not because I like guns, if you know what I mean," he said. When asked what he thought about Espada's loss, McCray's face momentarily dropped. "He lost? I thought he won."

Laura ("but everyone calls me 'Cookie'") Rosario was equally perplexed. "We win? No, we lost?" she said. No matter, Rosario said, "I'm proud and I'm glad I worked for him. I'm still a winner."

Rosario and McCray were typical of Espada's supporters last night. They didn't realize what was saying to them -- there were no TVs in the place to show results -- and they didn't believe any of the negative press surrounding Espada's re-election campaign, even as it became the overriding theme of nearly every news story about him.

McCray, sporting a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey and toting a Heineken, said he voted for Espada because "he comes to the hood. Homeboy is all over," he said. "And he gave me some of them platanos the other day."

After Espada exited, McCray and others provided an animated background for television reports filming their segments for the evening news.

Sitting at one of the tables, sipping a Budweiser and chatting to two other older white men, was Steve Pigeon, the Buffalo political activist who became Espada's $150,000-a-year general counsel after helping him orchestrate last summer Senate coup, along with billionaire Tom Golisano.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Pigeon said, adding that he felt coverage of the race was obviously "one-sided" and that the media had turned Espada into some kind of "Beelzebub."

"There was no fair reporting about him," Pigeon said.

No one gave Espada credit for bringing some reform to Albany as a result of briefly siding with Republicans last summer, Pigeon said, citing the end of "three-men-in-a-room" decision making and the empowering of committee chairs. (Many pundits brushed the reforms off as mostly cosmetic at the time.)

Talking to reporters, Espada said much the same thing. "What I tried to do was become an independent voice," he said, "at a great cost to myself and my family." 

"I think he was dealt a bad hand," Pigeon said. "But you haven't seen the last of him -- or me."

Diaz Sr. Wins Primary, But Loses an "Amigo"

In last night's primary election, Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr. defeated his challenger, community organizer Charlie Ramos, to move on to the general election in the Senate's 32nd District, where he's been in office since 2003.

But it wasn't all smiles for Diaz. While he was victorious, his Senate buddy, Pedro Espada, Jr., lost his seat to challenger Gustavo Rivera. Diaz has been a staunch defender of Espada throughout this election season, endorsing and even campaigning for him.

"I'm going to lose an amigo," Diaz told reporters as poll numbers started coming in during his election party last night--a classy buffet dinner and open bar celebration at Morris Park restaurant Maestro's.

This afternoon, Diaz sent out a press release saying that with Espada's looming departure, he "refuses for hispanics to forgo leadership" in the State Senate, and expects his colleagues to fill Espada's vacant spots with other Hispanic legislators (Espada is the Majority Leader, and also heads the Senate's Housing Committee).

Gustavo Rivera: 'The People of the Northwest Bronx Have Spoken' [VIDEO]

Within minutes of State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. conceding defeat last night, his victorious opponent Gustavo Rivera arrived at the Monte Carlo Room on Jerome Avenue, where hundreds of his supporters had gathered.

He entered through a side door, to a chorus of roars and cheers, and made for the stage, hugging and high-fiving anyone in his way.

"Tonight, the people of the Northwest Bronx have spoken," said a pumped up Rivera, occasionally looking down at his prepared speech. "They've sent a clear message that will echo all across New York State: We want our government back, and we won't take no for an answer!"

"For far too long our community has been ill-served by a corrupt politics," he continued. "We've been the brunt of jokes and the object of ridicule. Well, tonight you had a choice. You had a choice between progress or patronage. You had a choice between honest policy or the politics of "me." You had a choice between ethics or indictments. Tonight, I am here to report that the people of the Bronx made the right choice!"

To hear Rivera's speech in full, click play on the video above. At about five minutes in, he starts thanking all the elected officials and organizations that backed him. It's a list that is long and impressive - from BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. and businessman Bill Samuels, to large unions (32BJ, 1199 SEIU, CIR/SEIU and more) and the Working Families Party - and it took Rivera a while to give everyone their due.

These were no half-hearted endorsements, as Rivera acknowledged. Just yesterday, the Working Familes Party, for example, had 105 people campaigning in the district, according to Executive Director Dan Cantor. 32BJ, meanwhile, had 200. 

Speaking before the results were announced, Cantor described the race as the "most important in the state" and a major priority for his party. "The Senate coup was really a terrible thing he [Espada] did, and so this is payback, recompense," he said.

"I feel like I'm going to have a partner to work with on real issues like on housing," said Councilman Fernando Cabrera, after Rivera's victory was confirmed. "We are going to make a difference. We'll have a partnership the district actually deserves."

Cabrera and Diaz left the party early, heading instead to a more somber affair for Assembly candidate Hector Ramirez, at a restaurant on East Tremont Avenue. (While unconfirmed, the incumbent in that race, Nelson Castro, leads by a few percentage points, and has claimed victory.)

Rivera himself stayed behind with his supporters - an eclectic mix of millionnnaries (or at least one millionaire: Samuels), Bronxites of varying ages and races, and union members and organizers from across the city, most in their twenties and thirties. Late in the evening, Governor David Paterson also showed up to join in the fun.

Near everyone wore a huge smile, and there were long lines at the bar. Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" (Neeeew York! Neeeew York!) seemed to be on a loop, and the dance floor was packed.  When we left at 12:30 the party was still going strong.

In November's election, Rivera faces Republican John McCarthy and John Reynolds of the Green Party. In a district with few registered Republicans, Rivera will be expected to secure an easy victory.

Additional reporting by Jordan Moss.

Bronx News Roundup, Sept. 15

NY1 has all the results from last night's Democratic primary. If you missed our coverage, you can read our  tweets from various election parties on the right side of this page. And we'll have more from several Bronx races later today, but until then, here are some highlights:

  • Besides Espada, every other Bronx incumbent in the Senate and Assembly who faced a primary challenge came out victorious. 
  • Sen. Eric Schneiderman, whose district includes parts of Riverdale, will head into November's election as the Democratic candidate for Attorney General. He was one of five candidates vying for the spot, and just barely defeated candidate Kathleen Rice.
On to some other, non-election Bronx news:

Four people were injured in an apartment fire that broke out this morning on Bronx Park Avenue. 

A disgruntled worker who was fired from his job at a Domino's pizza set fire to two locations of the chain restaurant--one on White Plains Road and the other on Boston Road. No one was injured. 

A suspect in the Riverdale synagogue bomb plot apparently forgot to set the timer on one of his explosive devices, according to recorded tapes play during the trial. 

Jay-Z and Eminem wrapped up their concert series last night at Yankee Stadium. The performance brought fans to tears, according to MTV.com

City Limits has this piece on the death of Norwood resident Billy Murphy, and on the alarming raise in violent acts committed against the homeless (see more on Murphy's death in the Norwood News, here.)

Residents in Woodlawn suspect someone targeting stray cats may have poisoned a family's pet dog. 

The Daily News writes about a student exchange program between Bronx CUNY Prep students and a school in Berlin, Germany.