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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bronx Events: Conference for Parents of English Language Learners

The Department of Education is hosting a conference tomorrow aimed at the parents of English Language Learners students that will focus on preparing for college. "College and Career Readiness: The 21st Century Includes You," will run from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Fordham University's Keating Hall.

From the DOE: "Today's young people need to become 21st century thinkers, able to recognize and understand the challenges and opportunities they will encounter and the complex environment in which they will arise. Encourage the families of your students to attend this conference to learn what they can do to help prepare their children for post-secondary education and careers in the exciting but challenging world they will face."

Translation services and complimentary breakfast and lunch will be provided. For more info, call the DOE's Division of Students with Disabilities and ELLs at 212-374-6072.

For other Bronx events taking place this week, check out our community calendar, below.

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

Bronx Pols Want Out Of Federal Immigration Program

Local elected officials are speaking out against a program that requires law enforcement agencies to share digital fingerprint records of people who are arrested with federal immigration officials, who then check the prints for a person's green card status.

The program, known as "Secure Communities" and run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was originally intended to deport criminals who were determined to be in the country illegally and to focus on "the most dangerous and violent offenders," according to the ICE's website.

But data shows that the so far, 79 percent of the 102,000 immigrants deported under the program have never been convicted of any crime, according to the Gotham Gazette.

A group of 38 New York legislators, including 13 Bronx Senate and Assembly members, sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month imploring him to withdraw the state from the program.

"Our communities are far less safe because of this program," State Sen. Jose Serrano told the Gazette.

"It will only further fuel what law enforcement officials and immigrant advocacy communities have been saying for years: immigrants will be distrustful of their local law enforcement and will allow for crimes to go unreported or unsolved," State Sen. Gustavo Rivera said in a press release.

At the moment, counties in 44 percent of the state have been activated in Secure Communities--none yet in New York City.

In early May, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced that the state would stop participating, though the Department of Homeland Security has said the program is mandatory and that all U.S. counties will have to be enrolled by 2013.

Congressman Jose Serrano, representing the Bronx, also issued a letter urging Cuomo to withdraw, and along with several other member of Congress, called for President Obama to halt the policy entirely until it can be reviewed further.

Bronx News Weekend Roundup, May 31

Weather: The holiday weekend has ushered in a wave of summer-like weather. Today will remain sunny with a high of 81 degrees. Scattered storms are in the forecast for tomorrow.

Story of the Day: Bronx Woman Murdered While Holding 2-Year-Old Son
A woman was shot and killed Sunday night in East Tremont while walking home with her youngest child, who was found crying next to his mother's body on a Park Avenue sidewalk near 178th Street. Claudia Millan, 29, was shot in the head just a block from her home, where her brother and three other children were waiting for her. Her two-year-old son Jah-mere was found unharmed other than a cut on his calf. Police have no suspects as of yesterday.

The tragic act of violence came at the end of a bloody Memorial Day weekend: eight people were shot to death in seven different shootings across the city, according to the Daily News, including 16-year-old Johnny Moore, who was killed in Mott Haven on Sunday night, supposedly during an argument over a basketball game. On Friday, three other people--including a five-year-old girl--were injured in a shootout in Soundview.

Quick Hits:
A 14-month-old girl is in critical condition at Jacobi Hospital after falling five stories out of her apartment window on Monday morning.

Hip-hop pioneer and spoken word poet Gil Scott-Heron, who grew up in the Bronx for most of his teeange years and attended the Fieldston School in Riverdale, died on Friday at the age of 62.

A Bronx man was arrested Friday for calling in a bomb threat to television station W-PIX11--because he no longer wanted to see reruns of the Charlie Sheen sitcom "Two And A Half Men." Freddy Caldwell threatened to detonate the building if they didn't stop running the show, according to police.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Bronx native, has received a whopping $1.2  million to pen a memoir for Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

A section of a South Bronx street, on Cortlandt Avenue and 156th Street, was renamed this weekend to honor Sgt. Jose Velez, who was killed in Iraq five years ago at the age of 35.

City beaches--including the Bronx's own Orchard Beach--officially opened to visitors this weekend.

An intersection at the corner of Olinville and Waring Avenues will finally be getting a traffic light installed, to the relief of parents and administrators at nearby PS 96 who say several accidents have taken place there.

This fall, a group of entrepreneurs are set to unveil the first beer named after the borough this fall--the Bronx Pale Ale. 

Ricard Azzopardi, who works as a spokesman and aide to Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein, chased off a would-be rapist who was attacking a woman on the street outside of his home in Albany.

Editor's Note: BxNN will keep posting this clock in our daily news roundups -- tallying the days until the NYPD releases neighborhood sector crime stats, which we requested from them via a Freedom of Information Law request last year. For some background, see our Norwood News' editorial here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bronx Riviera Opens This Weekend; Plus Other Things To Do in the Boogie Down

Well, at least someone's at the beach. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. hung out with 5th graders from PS 79 earlier today. He joined other elected officials and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the beach's creation and the opening of beach season. Over the off-season, Orchard Beach received an infusion of 268,000 cubic yards of new sand to fight off erosion. Orchard Beach is open daily and staffed with lifeguards from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Here's some other Bronx events going on this weekend:

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

Bronx Sports: MS/PS 279 Team Dominating Foreign Game, Improving Grades in the Process

MS/PS 279's extraordinary success on the rugby field (or court, as the case may be) has translated into academics as well. (Photo by F. Pinto)
 Editor's Note: This story appears in the latest print edition of the Mt. Hope Monitor, out on streets in Community District 5 now.

By Fausto Giovanny Pinto

In the concrete courtyard of PS/MS 279 in Morris Heights on a school day afternoon, coach Mike Rosario screamed at the Bronx’s most successful youth rugby team. “You already know!” he yelled. “Yes! Yes!” a varying range of pubescent middle school boys and girls yelled back, as two teams of five lined up for a drill.

Rosario tossed what looked like a bloated and misshapen football at the kids, who were all wearing what appeared to be oversized karate belts around their waists.

While the players went at each other, tossing the oblong ball at odd angles (never forward) amongst each other while defenders sought to strip them of their karate belts, local residents stopped at the school fences, curious and fascinated to see the foreign game of rugby being played by a group of mostly Hispanic youngsters.

“You get a lot of people from the neighborhood who stop and ask, ‘What’s going on?’ and when I tell them, they are like, ‘Rugby?’” said Rosario, a PE teacher at the school for 12 years now.

Yes, rugby. While many don’t associate the Bronx with rugby, PS/MS 279’s recent success is putting a spotlight on a sport that enjoys most of its popularity in countries like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Rosario’s team recently won four trophies in two separate tournaments, prompting local Councilman Fernando Cabrera to honor them with a city proclamation.
The MS/PS 279 rugby team with coach Mike Rosario (top left). (Photo by F.G. Pinto)

Gun Buy-Back Program Aims to Bring 'Peace to Our Streets'

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. are sponsoring a Gun Buy-Back Program on June 4 in partnership with pastors of three Bronx churches.

The program, which aims to reduce the number of illegal handguns and other firearms on the streets, will reward participants who surrender eligible weapons with a $200 pre-paid cash card, no questions asked. Those turning in rifles and shotguns will receive $20 bank cards. Participants can receive a maximum sum of $600. Firearms that belong to active or retired law enforcement officials are not eligible for buy-back.

“The Bronx has come a long way, and Bronxites can no longer tolerate gun violence in our neighborhoods," Diaz said. "I urge all of our residents to join us in the fight to bring peace to our streets.”

Police Commissioner Kelly says that “programs like the gun buy-back have real quantifiable results. Since this program started in 2008, it has been responsible for taking over 6,000 guns off the street of the five boroughs.”

However, some question the success of these programs. Here’s a story about the gun buy-back program held March 2009 on a weekend when there were 13 shootings.

Firearms may be turned in at any of the three drop-off locations (listed below) between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Grace Temple
2401 Marion Avenue

Bronx Pentecostal
1755 Watson Avenue

Our Lady of Grace
3985 Bronxwood Avenue

Bronx News Roundup, Friday, May 27

Happy Friday and Memorial Day weekend everyone out in the Bronxosphere. On to the news!

Weather: Hot and muggy with a chance of thunderstorms tonight. Isolated thunderstorms could break through the sunny humidity throughout this Memorial Day weekend.

Story of the Day: Late Bronx Soldier Honored with Street Sign
Fittingly, on this Memorial Day weekend, Army Sergeant Jose Velez, who was killed in Iraq five years ago, will have a street corner, E. 156th and Courtlandt Ave., named after him during a ceremony tomorrow morning. Velez grew up near the corner that will bear his name in the Jackson housing projects and attended school in the northwest Bronx at DeWitt Clinton High School. After spending several years as a truck driver, Velez (nicknamed "Cafe Joe" because of his affinity for coffee at home and abroad) joined the Army in 2004, where he was assigned to a transportation battalion in Queens. In February 2006, the friendly, jovial Bronx boy was shipped to Iraq, where he was stationed in Baghdad. Just four months after his arrival and two months before his 36th birthday, Velez was killed when an explosive device exploded near his Humvee. Velez's buddy Rafael Rodriguez, who spearheaded the renaming effort, said Velez, who had two kids and was engaged to be married when he died, "always had a positive attitude."

Quick Hits:
The Post says Bloomberg is enlisting Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., a recent adversary in Bronx development deals (see: Kingsbridge Armory and the Muller Center in Wakefield), to push his plan to create a new fleet of hail-able taxis in the outer boroughs.

During a drunken driving trial against a former Bronx prosecutor, the Bronx trustee for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Joe Anthony, was heard on wiretaps talking about fixing tickets, or as officers are now calling it, "professional courtesy."

Students at the Bronx's Samuel Gompers High School want the same federal help other low-achieving are receiving through a new "re-start" program.

Not leaving for the extended weekend? Daily News movie critic Joe Neumaier says you can chill out and watch some classic New York movies at site throughout the five boroughs starting with a showing of "The Red Shoes," showing at the Eastchester Library at noon. (On a side note: Libraries will be closed for the rest of Memorial Day weekend, May 28-30.)

A union rep called the negotiations between New York and New Jersey over the Hunts Point market "tense," and said if the market's lease expires without a deal on Tuesday, then the cooperative will operate on a month-to-month basis.

Bunch of good stuff in the Riverdale Press this week, including this story about 50th Precinct cop Matthew Delaney who moonlights as a crime novelist and this story about the complicated battle for control of the 15-building, 234-unit Sholem Aleichem housing complex in Van Cortlandt Village. The owners, who are in foreclosure, say they want to hold on to the building, but tenants aren't sure that's a good thing. (Side note: longtime tenant and former state senate candidate Dan Padernacht says "Sholem Aleichem" is the correct spelling, although it's apparently debatable. The Press says its "Shalom.")

Editor's Note: BxNN will keep posting this clock in our daily news roundups -- tallying the days until the NYPD releases neighborhood sector crime stats, which we requested from them via a Freedom of Information Law request last year. For some background, see our Norwood News' editorial here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bronx Crime Watch: Police Seek Attempted Robbery Suspects

Police released this surveillance video of two men trying to rob a parking garage attendant in the South Bronx last month.

The two suspects, one armed with a knife, entered the garage at 260 E. 143 St. on April 24, shuffling with and stabbing the attendant in the torso. The victim was treated at Lincoln Hospital and later released.

Anyone with information in regards to this attempted robbery is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

New Children's Health Center Opens in the South Bronx

Employees from the Children's Hospital at Montefiore and Children's Health Fund, along with elected officials, cut the ribbon on their new site on Monday. (Photo by Monika Graff)
A medical clinic that will focus on the effects of stress on childrens' health opened in the South Bronx on Monday, at 890 Prospect Ave.

The Center for Child Health and Resilience is the joint effort of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center and Children's Health Fund, a pediatric mobile healthcare provider for low-income families.

According to a  press release, the clinic will look to address health disparities that affect South Bronx children--including high rates of obesity and diabetes--by trying to manage stress factors that lead to such  health problems over the long term. Services like parent education programs and stress management workshops will be offered in addition to regular doctor visits.

Muller Center Public Hearing Set for June 22 as Bronx BP Looks Again to Stop Homeless Shelter

A public hearing to discuss the redevelopment of the Bronx's Sergeant Joseph A. Muller Army Reserve Center will be held next month as the fate of the vacant Wakefield-area building once again hangs in the balance.   

It's been a while since we've talked about the Muller Center, so here's a quick refresher (for more background, click here, here and here.):

Last year, the local redevelopment authority (LRA) created to find a new use for the Muller Center fractured. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., one of three voting members of the authority (along with Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and the Tokumbo Shobowale, chief of staff for the deputy mayor for economic development) adamantly opposed a plan put forth by his two co-members to turn the building into an enormous homeless shelter. He declined to attend the late-year meetings of the LRA to prevent them from voting on the homeless shelter plan.

Joining Diaz, other Bronx elected officials, activist groups and local community boards also opposed the homeless shelter plan. Instead of a homeless shelter (the area already has it's share, opponents say), Diaz proposed transferring the national guard units currently housed in the annex buildings at the Kingsbridge Armory to the Muller Center, which would free the annex building up to become badly needed schools. The National Guard has said it would be willing to move the Armory-based units to the Muller Center, but with financial help from the city.

The deadline for agreeing on a plan was extended from the end of last year to the end of this June.

Diaz spokesman John DeSio said the borough president's hope is that the LRA adopts some of the suggestions and ideas raised at the public hearing -- scheduled for June 22, at PS 21, 715 E. 225th St. from 6 to 8 p.m. DeSio wouldn't comment on whether Diaz would again refuse to attend a vote if the other LRA members (read: the mayor's office) wouldn't budget on their desire to use the Muller Center as a homeless shelter. If the the LRA doesn't vote, the Muller Center's fate would be decided by the Department of the Defense, which could be swayed by influential members of Congress. DeSio said they might have better luck dealing with the DoD, then with the mayor's office.

LRAs for every former military building that is being closed as part of DoD's BRAC program are instructed to look at the needs of the local homeless population. But LRAs are not limited to transferring the property to homeless service providers.

Representatives of the city's Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which is managing the LRA process for the mayor's office, have said there's a glaring need for shelters in New York City and that's why they haven't budged on their desire to use the Muller Center to house the homeless.

Update: To see the draft plan for the Muller Center, click here.  

Bronx News Roundup, May 26

Weather: Another warm one. Partly cloudy for most of the day, with temperatures in the high 70s.

Story of the Day: Budget Cuts Threaten Firehouses (Again)
Mayor Bloomberg's proposed city budget could shutter 20 FDNY firehouses across the city, three of which are in the Bronx: Engine 60 in Mott Haven, Engine 46 in Bathgate and Ladder 53 on City Island. The move has spurred neighborhood protest rallies and one angry column from Daily News Bronx bureau chief Patrice O'Shaughnessy, who says the mayor should focus on fixing his budget instead of his "Orwellian" city park smoking ban (which went into effect yesterday).

It's not the first time the city has threatened to shut firehouses: much like the budget dance over senior center closures, Bloomberg has threatened the FDNY before only to restore funding at the last minute. Eddie Brown of the Uniformed Firefighters Association called it a "budget game the mayor plays with the Council, using the people as pawns."

Quick Hits:

A first-class hotel and banquet hall could be coming to the Hutch Metro Center in Pelham Bay, according to director Joseph Kelleher, per Bob Kappstatter's column. bringing a major hotel to the borough has long been a dream of Bronx political leaders, including Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Two Bronx high schools--John F. Kennedy and Herbert Lehman--are among five chosen by the city to get solar panels installed on their roofs. 

The Bronx River Art Center is showing off its students' work with a free reception and opening exhibit tomorrow afternoon,  at 4 p.m. at the BronxArtSpace, 305 E. 140th St.

Livery cab drivers in the outer boroughs are worried about competing with yellow cabs, as the city looks to increase their number outside Manhattan.

A fire broke out on the third floor of a Claremont nursing home yesterday, injuring two people.

In a poll, researchers at Baruch College found more people in the Bronx fear becoming the victim of a hate crime than in the rest of the city. The survey also found that Hispanic New Yorkers are the most fearful of being attacked.

A Bronx man was sentenced to seven years in jail for sexually abusing one of his patients at a nursing home in Morningside Heights, where he worked as a nurse's aide.

Editor's Note: BxNN will keep posting this clock in our daily news roundups--tallying the days until the NYPD releases neighborhood sector crime stats, which we requested from them via a Freedom of Information Law request last year. For some background, see our Norwood News' editorial here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Clock Ticking on NYPD Freedom of Information Request for Neighborhood Crime Stats

We’ll keep tallying the days until the NYPD fulfills its duty to provide basic public information to the citizens it has sworn to protect. For more, see here.

Bronx News Roundup, May 25

Weather: Finally, a full day of sunshine and blue clouds, with a high of 82 degrees this afternoon.

Story of the Day: Ticket-Fixing Scandal Could Foil Another Court Case
The arresting officer in a drunken-driving case admitted on the stand in Bronx Supreme Court yesterday that she's fixed tickets for family members and friends, the second time such testimony has been brought up in cases unrelated to the ongoing NYPD scandal. Officer Julissa Goris was questioned in the trial of defendant Stephen Lopresti, a lawyer accused of driving under the influence and crashing his car on the Grand Concourse in 2006. Last week, a man on trial for a murder in Mott Haven was acquitted after defense lawyers painted his arresting officers as corrupt and unreliable due to their ticket-fixing histories.

Meanwhile, celebrities Derek Jeter, late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z are among those who have had traffic tickets taken care of. The grand jury hearing of the case will likely last through June, the Daily News reports.

Quick Hits:

Supporters of the controversial living wage bill, sponsored by two Bronx Council members and backed by a large coalition of local groups, are looking to amend the legislation in the hopes of winning over some critics. The bill currently has the votes of 30 City Council members but needs 34 to override Mayor Bloomberg's likely veto (see our recent coverage here.)

From Kappstatter's column: BP Diaz and City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo are at odds over the Borough President's choice for the city Planning Commission, Community Board 2 chair Orlando Marin. Arroyo supposedly has a personal vendetta against Marin and is trying to block the nomination, Kappy writes.

Bronx High School of Science and Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School, long considered the top public schools in the city, enroll  startlingly small numbers of African-American students. Students of color now make up about 2 percent of the population at both schools, compared to 10 percent in 1971.

A 19-year-old Riverdale man is suing the NYPD, saying he was wrongfully accused of smashing a rock through a car window. Student Bryant Dale says he was held by police for 40 hours and dragged through months of litigation for the crime, even after the real culprit came forward and confessed.

The "Battle of Bronx" skateboarding competition took place this weekend at River Avenue Skate Park.

Bronx residents and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera are fighting cuts to the city's childcare subsidies, which would take a hit should Mayor Bloomberg's budget pass.

John Alberquerque, a 19-year-old Bronx resident, shares his story of coming out as gay with the New York Times in this audio slideshow feature.

BronxTalk - Access to the Jerome Park Reservoir

In advance of a June 2 public hearing on the subject, this week BronxTalk featured the notion of public access to the Jerome Park Reservoir as well as exclusive photos taken during a recent tour by public officials who were examining the possibilities for the historic water facility.

On the show, Community Board 12 Chairman Fr. Richard Gorman, who is also the chair of the Croton Facilities Monitoring Committee, and CB8 parks committee Chairman Bob Bender discussed the question of access as well as plans to renovate Ft. Independence Park, which borders on the reservoir, and some of the reservoir's environs.

Here's a link to it:  BronxTalk - May 23, 2011

Next Monday, BronxTalk will feature new technology that is making caring for the elderly and ill easier.

One of New York City's longest running TV talk shows now in its 17th year, BronxTalk is seen 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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bronx BP Heavily Involved in Hunts Point Negotiations, Spokesman Says

Despite a Crain's article that does not mention his involvement, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is heavily involved in negotiations to keep the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, said spokesman John DeSio.

In our news roundup earlier today (now updated), we made note of the conspicuous fact that Diaz was not mentioned in the Crain's article as being part of the city and state's Hunts Point Market negotiating team. It did mention Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, the Empire State Development Corp., the city's Economic Development Corp. and other Bloomberg officials.

Diaz has said keeping the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx is a top priority of his administration. DeSio says this remains the case and that Diaz and Duffy are in regular contact, as is Marlene Cintron, the head of the Bronx Overall Development Corp., and the city's EDC. He added that Diaz was instrumental in bringing New York's U.S. Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, into the negotiating fold. 

On Sunday, Crain's reported that the market cooperative is on the verge of signing a short-term lease to stay in the Bronx, at least temporarily, while they continue to negotiate a long-term lease, either in Hunts Point or New Jersey.

Bronx LGBT Career Fair This Thursday

The Bronx Community Pride Center in collaboration with
Bronx AIDS Services, Community Healthcare Network, The Center, Hispanic AIDS Forum, SAGE, Next Magazine, Go Magazine and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC) present:

The first Bronx LGBT Career Fair
Thursday, May 26, 10am - 2pm at Hostos Community College
Companies hiring include TD Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Enterprise, AHRC, Fed Ex Office, Monroe College, the Bronx Zoo and Neighborhood and Family Health Center.
120 Walton Avenue, 2nd Flr (at 149th St., a block West of the Grand Concourse) 149th Street/Grand Concourse Stop on the 2, 4 and 5.
Come meet with employers, learn about positions, submit your resume, ask questions!
Please email your resume to resumes@bronxpride.org in advance.
Visit the Bronx Community Pride Center online (www.bronxpride.org) for more information.

Bronx News Roundup, Tuesday, May 24 (Updated)

Welcome to the show, Bronx people and cognoscente. To the news!

Weather: My shirt was drenched with sweat by the time I made it into the office today. It's hot and muggy and cloudy and we're in for a wildly unpredictable day and evening. There's a 60 percent chance of precipitation, which means, with these conditions, we could be looking at anything from a drizzle to thunderstorms to hail.

Story of the Day: Hunts Point Market to Stay in the Bronx, For Now
On Sunday night, Crain's NY reported that the Hunts Point Market (full name: Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative Market) were not close to signing a long-term lease, but were "hammering out a short-term extension while they haggle over a 30- or 40-year lease that would include a $320 million revamp of the antiquated facility, the country's largest wholesale produce market." New Jersey is aggressively wooing the market cooperative, offering them tax incentives to jump across the Hudson. But the city and state have formed a negotiating team that includes Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, the Empire State Development Corp. and the city Economic Development Corp. and other Bloomberg officials (where is the Bronx borough president on this?), and are ramping up their efforts to keep the market in the Bronx. One union official told Crain's that about 40 percent of the 47-member cooperative are leaning toward a move to Jersey, but others think they might lose customers if they do. Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has said keeping the market and it's 8,500 jobs in the Bronx is one of his top priorities, but according to Crain's, it doesn't appear that he will have much say in the matter.

(Update: John DeSio, a spokesman for the borough president's office says that Diaz is, in fact, in regular contact with Duffy and that Marlene Citron, the head of the Bronx Overal Development Corp., the BP's development arm, is in constant contact with the city's EDC. DeSio says Diaz was also instrumental in bringing New York's two U.S. senators into the fold.)

Quick Hits:
Lots of wrongfully accused Bronxites trying to cash in these days. In one case, a Bronx man who was arrested after police thought his Snapple beverage was something a little stronger and then was thrown in jail for 40 hours, is suing the NYPD. 

In another case, a Bronx teenager who was acquitted of criminal mischief charges is suing the city for falsely arrest, malicious prosecution and violation of civil rights.

A Bronx police officer copped to ticket-fixing at a drunk driving trial. Defense lawyers are going after any police officer involved in the ticket-fixing scandal as a way to undermine their credibility. It's working.

The lion triplets born in the Bronx Zoo last January are getting soooo big!

A new Bronx housing project, Fordham Village, provides housing for low-income and homeless veterans

A talented Bronx high school basketball player at Wings Academy, Deonte Houston, was acquitted of robbery charges.

Bronx-born photographer Ken Regan has a new book out documenting Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue Tour in 1975.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Famous Bronxites Inducted Into Bronx Walk of Fame

Joy Bryant, Irene Cara, Charles Latibeaudiere and Chazz Palminteri are this year's Bronx Walk of Fame additions. (Photo courtesy Bronx Borough President's office)

As we mentioned in this morning's news roundup, the grand finale of Bronx Week took place yesterday, and four successful Bronx natives were honored by BP Ruben Diaz, Jr., with spots on the borough's walk of fame.

This year's inductees: actress Joy Bryant of the NBC sitcom "Parenthood;" singer and actress Irene Cara, best-known for starring in the 80s hit film "Fame;" Charles Latibeaudiere, a producer for the celebrity gossip show TMZ; Chazz Palminteri, an actor who wrote and starred in “A Bronx Tale.”

Street placards bearing the names of the four new honorees, posted along the Grand Concourse, were unveiled yesterday before the big annual Bronx Week Parade. 

Bronx Crime Watch (Editorial): Clock Ticking on NYPD Freedom of Information Request for Neighborhood Crime Stats

Editor's Note: This editorial appeared in last week's issue of the Norwood News. We will continue to display this counter (above) until the NYPD releases sector statistics for every Bronx police precinct.

Editorial: NYPD Hides Neighborhood Crime Stats

The NYPD has been proud to trumpet plummeting crime stats over the last 15 years or so. Citywide and precinct-wide crime stats are easy to come by. But when it comes to information about crime in your neighborhood or on your block, well, not so much.

A little history:

In early 2008, the Norwood News asked James Alles, then commander of the 52nd Precinct, for the previous year’s crime stats broken down broken down by the precinct’s 15 sectors.

No problem, Alles said, directing a lieutenant to print out the stats. It took all of two minutes.

The statistics allowed us to publish a map showing crime trends in specific neighborhoods, something residents have long sought. We received loads of positive feedback from readers.

“Although I feel safe in my neighborhood, evidently our autos are targets,” one reader said. “Is it possible to receive these reports on a sector basis each month? The overall report for the entire precinct does not really inform the public about their own neighborhood.”

Months later, we asked Alles about doing a follow-up piece. He smiled sheepishly and shook his head. He told us the published sector stats had landed him in hot water with NYPD brass and that we would have to go through the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information (DCPI) at police headquarters if we wanted more sector stats.

In December 2008, when we asked for the year’s sector stats, DCPI said we would have to file a formal Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. So, we FOILed. A month later (government agencies are required to respond within five business days of receiving the request) the NYPD wrote us saying they probably had the records but that it would take them three months to dig up the same information that it took the 52nd Precinct two minutes to produce.

By mid-March, three months after filing the request, we wrote an editorial saying the delay was unacceptable. The day the article was published, the NYPD called us and then faxed over the stats. It probably took them two minutes.

Now, here we are again, waiting on the NYPD.

'Aurora' Sculpture in West Farms Square Comes Down

"Aurora," a wooden sculpture that's occupied West Farms Square
since 2009, was removed on Saturday. (Photo by Fausto Giovanny Pinto)

Something is conspicuously missing now from West Farms Square, the pedestrian plaza underneath the No. 2 and 5 train subway platform at the corner of East Tremont Avenue and Boston Road.

A hulking wooden sculpture that's been on display in the center of the square's brick circle for nearly two years was de-installed on Saturday, to make room for another public art piece to be erected in the same spot over the next few months.

"Aurora," an unpainted wooden abstract by Mexican-born artist Diego Medina, stood over 14 feet tall and was inspired, the artist said, by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca’s 1930 poem, “La Aurora de Nueva York” (Dawn in New York).

The sculpture was installed by the Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) and the Department of Transportation in August 2009, part of the DOT's "UrbanART" program. BRAC says a new piece will replace it in the coming months.
"Aurora" filled the West Farms Square plaza for nearly two years. (Photo courtesy of BRAC)

Diaz Sr. Blasts Mayor and Speaker, Forgets Supporting Espada's 'Rent Freeze' Bill

Diaz at a rally in Albany last year for former Sen. Pedro Espada's "rent freeze" bill, which tenant advocates called a "de-control bill in disguise." (File photo by Alma Watkins)
Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. is on the warpath again, this time blasting Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for supporting a same-sex marriage bill when, he says, they should really be focusing on the renewal of the state's rent stabilization laws, which expire on June 15.

But, over the past year and a half, Diaz himself has done his share to divert attention away from the strengthening of rent regulations.

"I would love to see Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn set their priorities straight and spend a day in Albany to push for an extension of our affordable housing laws before the deadline passes," Diaz wrote in a statement sent out last week after Bloomberg and Quinn had trekked to the capitol to lobby for gay marriage.

"The Rev" has spent a fair amount of his own time focusing on same-sex marriage -- he organized a rally last Sunday against its legalization -- but he says that was just in response to other politicians pushing the issue.

"I'm not putting [same-sex marriage] as a priority," he said in a phone interview last week.

His priority, he says, is the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, the set of state laws that protect the rent-regulated status of hundreds of thousands of apartments in the Bronx, and about a million across the city. Tenant advocates have been pushing to see the laws not only renewed before the June 15 deadline, but strengthened to close some of the loopholes that landlords use to hike rents in regulated units.

Diaz said the mayor and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were ignoring the approaching June 15 deadline, and that, he says, "is a crime."

But last year, Diaz supported a bill (former senator and housing committee chair Pedro Espada's "Rent Freeze" legislation) that many tenant and housing advocates say would have done the opposite of what he now says is his priority.

Bronx News Roundup, Monday, May 23

Welcome back to the program, ladies and gentleman of the Bronx and beyond. Let's get down to Bronx business. To the news!

Weather: Our first post-Bronx Week day will, unfortunately, be more of the same: cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms -- the National Weather Service has issued a "hazardous weather" warning. If we can gut it out until Friday, however, we might see some sunshine.

Story of the Day: Bronx Week Honoree's Life Comes "Full Circle"
The 40th edition of Bronx Week ended yesterday with a parade and festival on Mosholu Parkway that featured more than 80 of the borough's schools and culminated with a performance by rap legend Big Daddy Kane. Before the parade, a quartet of successful Bronxites -- actor/playwright Chazz Palmintieri, "Fame" star Irene Cara, actress Joy Bryant and TMZ executive producer Charles Latibeaudiere -- were honored with their very own street signs on the Bronx Walk of Fame and given Bronx blankets and a plaque. The Wall Street Journal caught up with Bryant as she prepared for her walk of fame induction. Turns out, she already has a landmark named after her: Manhattan's Bryant Park, she told WSJ, joking. In her speech at the Bronx Ball on Saturday night, Bryant said she talked about how her career in show business had come full-circle when she filmed "Get Rich or Die Trying" close to her childhood home near Yankee Stadium. "They told us we were shooting near Yankee Stadium, and we were actually shooting in my neighborhood. I talked about what a trip that was, how it came full circle, how it was so crazy shooting a movie a few doors down from my bedroom window," Bryant told WSJ. "It made me really feel blessed to be from the Bronx."

Quick Hits:
And then there are other Bronxites who make a name for themselves in other capacities, like drug dealing. Police say a handful of Bronxites were at the top of a major narcotics operation that was recently dismantled in Scranton, Penn.
For a mayor who prides himself on getting things done, Daily News transportation columnist Pete Donahue says Bloomberg has fallen short with his plans to improve mass transit

Back from a mysterious illness, Throgs Neck teen Mark Schoenstein is now raising money for the Blythedale Children's Hospital where he spent nearly five months recovering.

A Bronx man was acquitted of murder charges largely because the arresting officer admitted to being embroiled in the NYPD's widespread ticket-fixing scandal, which dealt a huge blow to his credibility.

This is an alarming statistic: A federal study says one in six Latina teenagers in the Bronx have tried to commit to suicide.

The city is apparently following up on news reports about illegally subdivided apartments in the Bronx and elsewhere.

One of the most popular Bronx Week festival events is the arm wrestling competition. Yesterday, Queens resident John Kosmidas took took home the title for strongest left arm, while Brooklyn's Joyce "Queen of Arms" Boone won the ladies division. A 13-year-old Bronx girl, Jaelen Vasquez, came in third place among heavyweights.

Here's some footage from the Bronx Week Parade, where the Bronx Children's Museum made its debut.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bronx Foodie: What I Learned at the Bronx Urban Farm Tour (Slideshow)

[Slideshow: These photos by Adi Talwar are from the last stop of the Urban Farm Tour at Rincon Criollo, 156th Street and Brook Avenue. For more of Adi's photography, check out his website: rawlat.com/adi.]

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of visiting one of the stops on the Bronx Urban Farm Tour, the Garden of Happiness, at 182nd Street and Prospect Avenue. The tour -- which also stopped at La Finca del Sur at 138th and Grand Concourse and Rincon Criolloa at 156th Street and Brook Avenue -- was part of Bronx Week and organized to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Bronx Food Summit, which was held last May. This year's eco-tourism event was organized by The Bronx Tourism Council, the Bronx Food and Sustainability Coalition, and the New York Botanical Garden. They are planning monthly farm tours through out the summer, so stay tuned for more details. You can also visit ilovethebronx.com for updates.

Anyway, here's what I learned:

Bronxites can (and are) raising chickens.

State laws allow residents to have hens (but not roosters) as long as they are kept in clean conditions. The hens at the Garden of Happiness are kept in a chicken coop that allows them to walk around and protects the chickens from the wind and rain. The Garden has about a dozen hens and they all lay eggs in the most beautiful shades of blue and white.

It's easy to compost
I used to think indoor composting was kind of gross because it meant having a bin of dirt and worms somehwere in the house. But Jodie Colón, compost educator with the NYC Compost Project, assured me that composting is much easier, and cleaner, than I thought. You also don't need that much space. You can start with a container that is the size of a shoebox. And if you do it right, the worms, who prefer the darkness, will never want to leave the bin. Composting is a great way to get ride of garbage and keep it out of landfills. To learn more about composting, visit the NYC Compost Project in the Bronx (located at the NY Botanical Garden) for information and workshops.

The Bronx has an organic restaurant
The Peace Love Cafe was the food sponsor for the event and I got to try a veggie burger, which tasted great. The Peace Love Cafe is located in Melrose and serves organic food and beverages. To learn more about the Peace Love Cafe, visit www.peacelovecafe.com.

Bronx BP: DEP's Plan for Limited Jerome Park Reservoir Access 'Unacceptable' (Video)

[Video: Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. talks about how the DEP's limited access plan for the Jerome Park Reservoir is unacceptable.]

A group of concerned local residents, community leaders and elected officials gathered on a terrace overlooking the Jerome Park Reservoir today to demand better public access to the reservoir's perimeter.

Echoing community frustration with the city’s proposal to allow residents a mere three days of access to the Jerome Park Reservoir two years from now, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. publicly invited the city’s commissioners of Parks and Environmental Protection to a public hearing at Amalgamated Houses on June 2.

The hearing stems from a meeting of the Croton Facility Monitoring Committee (FMC) in March where members of the committee -- mainly the chairs of the surrounding community boards -- decided that they had little if any influence over the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and thought their concerns would be taken more seriously if raised by the borough president.

Instead of access inside the reservoir, the city is planning to spend $3.8 million “to construct a stone jogging trail parallel to the existing sidewalk,” according to the Parks Department. In the first phase -- which would include seating, plantings, fencing, lighting, adult fitness equipment, and reorganized dog runs and basketball courts -- a path would be constructed along the northern section of Sedgwick Avenue.

Bronx Arts: Melrose Mania

Yesterday marked the kickoff of the “From the Bronx” Pop-Up Shop Museum, and cultural showcase. The four-day event features the work of Bronx photographers, musicians and visual artists.

The showcase, hosted by Mainland Media, is being held in a landmark Melrose home on 614 Cortlandt Ave. and will continue through Sunday May 22.

The showcase features a photography exhibit from the 1970s and 1980s by photojournalists Michael Kamber, Rickly Flores and David Gonzalez. Bronx landscape painter Daniel Hauben, Bronx sculptor Sean Paul Gallegos and graffiti artists TATS Cru are also featured. In addition, an exhibit by the Bronx County Historical Society will highlight the history of the Melrose area.

The showcase also includes musical performances, as well as a food tasting, which will feature food samples from various restaurants in the area. The tasting, called “The Taste of Melrose,” will be held on Saturday, May 21.

Bronx Health: Caregiver Fair This Saturday and Upcoming Public Baby Shower

Caregiver Resource Fair
Bronx Borough President Rubin Diaz Jr., Emblem Health, and Presbyterian Senior Services will be holding a Family Caregiver Resource Fair on May 21 at PSS/WSF Grandparent Family Apartments (Lower Level), 951 Prospect Ave. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In case you were wondering whether you're a family caregiver, here's the broad definition. You are a Family Caregiver if you: provide unpaid assistance to a spouse, partner, relative or friend who is ill, disabled or needs help with basic activities of daily living, make frequent calls to check in on a loved one, prepare meals for someone, provide transportation for doctor’s appointments, shopping or recreation, assist with bathing, dressing or feeding, assist with bill paying and other financial affairs, monitor medication intake, prepare medications or assist with administration, help someone with household chores and repairs, or coordinate someone’s medical care.

Save the Date: Bronx/Westchester Public Baby Shower
Pregnant women from the Bronx and Westchester counties are invited to a free open house two weeks from tomorrow. Baby Shower Saturday June 4, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Union Community Health Center, 260 East 188th St., at Valentine Avenue (1 block east of Grand Concourse; 1 block south of Fordham Road) Come learn about the Stork’s Nest, a free, prenatal education program. Refreshments will be served. Free gifts for all pregnant women. To RSVP or for more information on the Stork’s Nest call (866) 841-9139, ext. 1121.

Bronx News Roundup, Friday, May 20

First a quick plug for everyone to come out on Sunday for the grand finale of Bronx Week, the parade on Mosholu Parkway up here in the northwest part of the borough. Last year was a blast. This year should be no different. Come celebrate the Boogie Down!

Now, to the news!

Weekend weather: Thunderstorms are possible this afternoon and evening, with temperatures in the low 70s. Saturday will be warm, high 70s expected, and hopefully rain-free. Sunday (parade day) looks like it could go either way. If it doesn't rain, (there's a 30 percent chance it will), then it should be a lovely, mostly sunny, day in the low 70s.

Story of the Day: Bank Criticized for Dumping Over-Leveraged Properties
 Last week, just as city officials, local advocates and federal bank authorities were in talks with New York Community Bank to find suitable buyers for their long list of distressed properties, it turned out that the bank had already sold the mortgage note for one of those distressed properties, the Sholem Aleichem Houses in Van Cortlandt Village. City officials were not happy, particularly because they sold the note to Riverdale-based Chestnut Holdings. Last year, the bank, which city officials say has dumped mortgages for about three dozen distressed buildings, wanted badly to unload the 10 rapidly deteriorating Milbank buildings to Chestnut. But Chestnut ended up pulling its bid after city officials criticized it for being too high. A bid that high, they and other housing advocates said, would lead it be "over-leveraged" or worth less than they paid for it, which can lead to all sorts of problems. Sholem Aleichem, a beautiful, sprawling complex of buildings off of Sedgwick Avenue, has gone through several rough periods ever since it was founded as cooperative by Yiddish-speaking socialists in the 1920s. It currently has nearly 1,000 housing code violations and tenants there are now contemplating a rent strike.

Quick Hits:
A man was arrested yesterday for selling pipe bombs out of his Subaru in Co-op City.

An armed robbery in Morrisania was caught on videotape.

The mobile Bronx Children's Museum makes it's debut on Sunday at the Bronx Week Parade (yet another reason to come out to Mosholu Parkway). 

The Bronx Zoo is facing a $4.7 million cut in Mayor Bloomberg's budget proposal.

A Fieldston mansion is selling for $3.9 million.

Producer (and Alicia Keyes' husband) Swizz Beatz raised money for the Bronx Charter School for the Arts.

Another reason to show up Sunday: Arm wrestling!

And, finally, we'll leave you with this clip of a Darth Vadar trombonist playing at the Andrew Jackson senior center on E 156th Street.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Fight for Consumer Protections Comes to a Check Casher Near You (Updated)

(Update: Please note the corrections on the actual vote below.)
Opinion by Gregory Lobo Jost
I have to admit it is downright depressing that Republicans in Congress are doing whatever they can to block the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from fully getting off the ground.  The bureau came about as a response to the failure of the various protection agencies to do their job on subprime and predatory products in the decade leading up the collapse.  Many of these agencies had arguably been bought off by the industries they were supposed to protect us from.  These same industries are now working the politicians in Washington to keep the CFPB from having any teeth.

What may actually be even more depressing is that New York State is now considering a bill that will relax some of our own strong consumer protections – mainly the state’s longstanding civil and criminal usury laws, which cap interest rates on small loans at 25%.  The Senate Committee on Banks voted yesterday in favor of a bill that would exempt check cashers from this usury cap and allow them to make triple-digit interest rate short term loans.

New Yorkers for Responsible Lending, a statewide coalition of 151 groups (including University Neighborhood Housing Program where I work) called on the committee to withdraw this piece of legislation (S.3841 / A.7047) known as the "short-term financial services loan act", as it would likely open the door to predatory payday lending, which thankfully our state has long prohibited. Despite this strong public opposition from NYRL groups and others around the state, the Committee approved the bill yesterday morning, sending it to the Finance Committee for review.

(Updated/Corrected:) Both Bronx Senators Ruben Diaz, Sr. and Gustavo Rivera are on this committee, but according to footage of the meeting on YouTube (skip ahead to minute 30 for this bill) were not present for the actual vote.  They both submitted their votes, however, with Diaz voting in favor and Rivera against. Senator Rivera was in another meeting with the Department of Corrections (he is also on the Crime Committee) about the potential closing of downstate prisons, and his staff has made it clear that he is strongly opposed to this short term loan bill as it stands. Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan was the lone Senator to raise questions about the bill at the actual meeting, and the final vote was 14-5 in favor, with Malcolm Smith, Neil Breslin and Carl Kruger joining Senators Rivera and Krueger in dissent.  Meanwhile, Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie is sponsoring identical legislation in the Assembly. 

Bronx Crime Watch: Suspect Wanted for Mugging Old Ladies

Police say the man running in the above video is wanted for brutally mugging six old ladies (ages 64 to 81) in the Bronx's 48th and 52nd precincts over the past month. Exact locations of the robberies are unavailable, but the suspect's M.O. is the same in each case. He pushes or punches his elderly female victims and then takes their money. In one instance, the woman fought the attacker off before he could steal her money.

On victim described the attack to the Daily News: "I didn't see [the suspect's] face. He grabbed my face and put his hand over my mouth because I was screaming. He didn't say anything. He scratched my face, and he made my mouth bleed. He went through my pockets. He got 50 cents. All that for 50 cents."

The video, police say, shows the suspect running away after his assaulting his fifth victim on May 4. Below is a still photo of the suspect.

Anyone with any information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477) or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Bronx News Roundup, Thursday, May 19

Home stretch of Bronx Week(s). Let's get down to business. To the news!

Weather: Brief reprieve from monsoon season right now, but more rain and thunderstorms are possible this afternoon.

Story of the Day: A Bronx Underground Rock Scene Emerges
In a Throgs Neck church basement, the seeds of a Bronx rock movement are taking root. A decade ago, a trio of young Bronx musicians and music lovers -- Dave Rose, Anita Colby and Adam Fachler -- made a simple observation about their borough's music scene: It sucked. So they decided to build one themselves, creating Bronx Underground to put on and promote rock concerts in a borough identified as the birthplace of hip hop. For a few years, they used venues on City Island and other east Bronx locales until finding a permanent home at First Lutheran Church, near Country Club, where a growing list of bands are finding a fan base. Marc Makowski, an assistant music director at Sony, compared the scene to England in the 1960s. "Just like the Beatles," he told a writer for NY Press, "one band is going to break out and the rest will follow." Here's a 2009 clip from A Moment's Worth, one of the Bronx Underground-grown bands that could blow up:

Quick Hits:
We knew City Island's Engine 53 firehouse was on the chopping block, but now, after the mayor released the list of firehouses slated for closure, we know that two other Bronx firehouses could be gone as well: Engine 46 at 460 Cross Bronx Expressway (Mt. Hope) and Engine 60 at 341 East 143rd Street (Mott Haven).

In response to the investigation into widespread ticket-fixing by Bronx cops, the NYPD announced it will form a unit dedicated to preventing it from happening in the future.

While eight Bronx schools got a reprieve from closure and will be "re-started" with independent oversight, the teacher's union is suing the city to stop other schools, including the Bronx's John F. Kennedy High School, from being closed.  

Speaking of school closures, state officials say the Kingsbridge Innovative Design School, a charter school that just opened last year, will be closed at the end of year because of financial mismanagement. And St. Dominic's School in the Bronx's Van Nest neighborhood will also close, but the church will stay and get a facelift.

The hotel maid, who police say was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the now former head of the International Monetary Fund, is a widow and single mother from Guinea who lives a quiet life in the Bronx's Concourse Village neighborhood.

The NYPD was upset with the cancellation of the Bronx Puerto Rican Day Parade on Sunday. In the same column, Bob Kappstatter says Ruben Diaz Sr.'s anti-gay marriage rally drew about 1,500 folks, much less than the 10,000 that were expected.

A fundraiser is being held tonight for Assemblyman Nelson Castro, who survived a re-election bid last fall despite the Bronx Democratic party's best efforts to replace him. Apparently, other candidates are already lining up to take him on in 2012. 

Singer Johnny Mathis performs at Lehman Center this weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Health Conference Looks to Improve Care For Transgender Community

Freddy Molano and Catherine Abate (right) of Community
Healthcare Network, with transgender activist
Ashley Love, at last week's conference.
(Photo courtesy Community Healthcare Network)
On Friday, health care providers and transgender advocates gathered at Lincoln Hospital for a day of discussions on the specific health needs of the borough's transgender population--a group organizers say is often overlooked by the medical community at large.

The event was hosted by the nonprofit health care provider Community Healthcare Network and the Bronx Pride Center, the borough's only LGBT advocacy organization.

"Bringing together over 150 service providers and consumers has put transgender health on the health agenda for the Borough," said Bronx Pride director Dirk McCall. "We look forward to taking the next steps towards full equality for the transgender community."

Advocates say the transgender population has a unique set of health needs and faces several barriers when it comes to accessing proper care, including a lack of health insurance, using street hormones, self medicating, and significantly higher rates of HIV/AIDS infection.

At 110, A Bronx Church Tries to Reinvent Itself

Editor's note: Been meaning to post this story that first appeared in the May 4 edition of the Norwood News. So here it is. Photo slideshow by Adi Talwar. See more of Adi's work at rawlat.com/adi.

By Lulaine Compere

If not for an official from a faraway West African nation, the Church of the Holy Nativity in Norwood would have seen its 110th birth year come and go without so much as a peep.

“One of our wardens from Sierra Leone got us to celebrate our 110the anniversary,” says Richard Kelly, a longtime parishioner.

That Holy Nativity, an Episcopalian congregation, was reminded of its lengthy local history by a man from Sierra Leone, says a lot about the state of the church. Some long-standing church members, like Kelly, remain. But like many area churches, Holy Nativity’s numbers have shrunk and its congregation has diversified racially and ethnically.

Holy Nativity sits planted on the corner of Bainbridge Avenue, right where the street takes a hard turn south at 204th Street, with its stone structure and wooden doors overlooking the neighborhood as it has since 1906. The congregation moved there from its original location a few blocks away on what is now Mosholu Parkway.

“My parents were married in the church,” says Ruth Dittmar, who has attended Holy Nativity since the 1930s. “I grew up going to this church.”

In Living Wage Battle, Vacca Remains Unconvinced

Editor's note: A version of this article first appeared in this week's Norwood News, out today.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. at a rally last week in support of the living wage bill. (Courtesy Borough President's Office)
The City Council held a long-awaited hearing on a controversial living wage bill last Thursday, with both sides of the debate testifying about the potential effects of the legislation in a session that lasted over two hours.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, sponsored by Bronx Council Members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma, would require developers of projects receiving taxpayer subsidies of more than $100,000 to pay workers $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 without.

The bill, which sprang from the living wage fight that derailed a plan to develop the Kingsbridge Armory into a shopping mall, has the support of every Bronx Council member, with the exception of James Vacca, who had said he was waiting for a hearing on the issue before taking a side.

“He’s wary of any legislation that might prevent jobs, and I’m not sure he’s convinced,” said Vacca spokesman Bret Nolan Collazzi, in a phone interview after the hearing.

“We’re not planning on signing on at this time,” he said.

The legislation currently has the support of 30 Council Members; 34 are needed to override a mayoral veto.

The assertion that a living wage mandate would kill jobs was put forth in a report released by the city’s Economic Development Corporation last week. The 44-page study concluded that requiring employers to pay a higher wage would ultimately stifle commercial development and job growth.

Arthur Avenue Retail Market Event, Plus Our Vendors Guide

Editor's note: Head on over to the Arthur Avenue Retail Market in Belmont's "Little Italy," this afternoon, from 4 to 7 p.m., for the market's celebration of Bronx Week. Tour the space, meet the vendors, and enjoy free samples and cooking demos.  Remember, Bronx Week will run through this Sunday, May 22. For a full calendar of events, visit www.ilovethebronx.com. For those and other Bronx happenings, check out the BxNN community calendar here.

The story below was originally published in this month's issue of the Tremont Tribune, out now.

Arthur Avenue Market Gets a Makeover
By Fausto Giovanny Pinto

The Arthur Avenue Retail Market is undergoing major renovations this year, including a new exterior facade. (Photo by F.G. Pinto)

In 1940, then-Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia opened indoor markets throughout New York City, a move to get pushcarts off the streets to make room for the increasingly popular automobile.

Among them was the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, an indoor bazaar of vendors hawking foods and goods in the heart of Belmont’s “Little Italy,” on Arthur Avenue between Crescent Avenue and East 187th Street.

Now in existence for over 70 years, the market is undergoing an estimated $1 million renovation this year, thanks to a grant from the city’s Economic Development Corporation with help from Councilman Joel Rivera and Congressman Jose Serrano.

The market’s new modern-looking exterior was unveiled last month and a new service elevator and tiling are also in store.

Bronx News Roundup, Wednesday, May 18

Lots going on today in the Bronx, like the distribution of the latest Norwood News in the Fordham, University Heights, Bedford Park and Norwood communities and some other stuff. We'll roll out the NN stories in this space over the next few days, but don't wait for that. Pick up your copy today. Ok, I'm done plugging. On to the news!

Weather: Flood Watch still very much in effect today, with thunderstorms possible after 2 p.m. Keep galoshes, emergency row boat, handy.

Story of the Day: Yankee Parking Garages Flailing 
Sometimes I think Juan Gonzalez, the Daily News columnist, only writes about the mess that has become of the Yankee Stadium parking garages. Today, he's back telling us how terrible the garages are doing financially and that the nonprofit created to manage them, Bronx Parking Development, Inc., is on the verge of defaulting on its $237 million tax-exempt bonds. In April, only 31 percent of the garage complex's 9,000 parking spaces were filled with paying customers. To make up for last year's losses (when 60 percent of the spaces were being used), Bronx Parking hiked it's rates to $35 for self-parking and $48 for valet. So much for former deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff's prediction that the parking garages would pay for themselves and put money back into city coffers. Right now, they're a money pit. On the plus side, this could give more ammunition to the borough president's idea to take one of the garages and turn it into a fancy hotel. 

Quick Hits:
Here's the DN's take on the Living Wage bill debate. (We'll have more on this later today, including the news that Bronx Councilman Jimmy Vacca is leaning toward the mayor's view that the bill will impede development and away from the rest of the Bronx delegation's view that it won't and that it's a step toward providing quality jobs in the borough.)

Were the recent Bronx Zoo "escapes" (see: cobra and peahen) really just an elaborate and brilliant PR stunt? Bravo, says Sal Cataldi, who predicts a slew of Bronx Zoo-related headlines that could be on the horizon, including: "Lady Gaga Image Found in the Spots of a Newborn Giraffe" and "Bronx Zoo African Grey Parrot in Talks to Replace Regis Philbin." Hilarious stuff.

Comptroller (and possible mayoral candidate in 2013) John Liu is making the rounds in the Bronx, saying the city needs to address the problem of homelessness, which he believes is about to explode due to the ending of a voucher program, with a more "holistic" approach. Liu, a Bronx Science grad, also recalled biking on the Grand Concourse during his high school years: "There were blocks where you had to ride your bike fast. There were a lot of dogs around."

Bronx rapper Cory Gunz talks about his hip hop influences growing up in the Boogie Down.  

On the 420th anniversary of her birth, the charismatic feminist and early Bronx settler Anne Hutchinson is getting her due. Today, in conjunction with Bronx Week, borough historian Lloyd Ultan is leading a trolley tour that will detail her life. The first scheduled tour already left, but the afternoon tour begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse.