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For Some Students, Negative Statistics Are Motivation

January 26, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following story was originally published in Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free journalism program for Bronx high school students run by the Norwood News. We are currently accepting applications for our spring semester. To find out more about the program and how to apply, click here. The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is supported by the North Star Fund, the Johnson Family Foundation Fund, and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, and is run in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program at Hostos Community College.

By Anthony Caldwell

This year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg invested $127 million into a new Young Men’s Initiative to address the city’s racial achievement gap. Black and Latino male students in New York City are three times more likely to be in special education classrooms than their white counterparts, and are less likely to graduate from high school, according to a report from the program.

On television, on the radio and in the news, young people often hear that Hispanic and African-American teens don’t do as well in school, or in life. But for many Bronx youth, this data only motivates them.

“Us black people should try not to be another statistic,” said Richard Bennett, a senior at Urban Assembly for Careers in Sports, who says he often sees these statistics play out in his neighborhood.
Read more

Bronx New School Parents Unite for Strategy Session

January 25, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Parents of past and present students of PS 51, the Bronx New School, which was housed in a highly toxic Bedford Park building for two decades before moving this past summer, are coming together tonight to discuss a strategy going forward as they look to keep pressure on the Department of Education.

Following the discovery of cancer-causing toxins at the school’s building early in 2011, the parents, who have formed a group called PS 51 Parents United, say the DOE has been unresponsive to their demands for the agency to come up with a way to track students’ health-related problems.

Tonight, they are meeting at the Concourse House, 2751 Grand Concourse, at 6:30 p.m. to start strategizing. All parents whose children might have been affected are encouraged to come. A representative for the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest will be on hand to help the group discuss their options. Two of the parents involved, Adaline Walker-Santiago and Helene Hartman-Kutnowsky, are members of Community Board 7 and can be reached through the board office, (718) 933-5650.

To Reach the Community, Health Advocates Look to the Pulpit

January 25, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Breaking Bronx features a health-related story, event or tidbit as part of an online expansion of our Be Healthy! column.

Pastor Liz Townes-Shuler, of Jubilee Baptist Church, gets her blood pressure checked. The church participated in a months-long hypertension workshop with Montefiore Medical Center. (Photo courtesy of Montefiore’s Care Management Company)

Your body is a temple.

That biblical message is one that a number of Bronx-based health and fitness groups are hoping to spread to residents — by reaching them at church.

Health advocates are turning to faith-based organizations as a means of reaching the community, engaging churches and other houses of worship in programs and activities that promote nutrition, fitness, and overall healthier living.

“What we found was a tremendous amount of support within the faith communities that we encountered,” said Nicole Hollingsworth, senior director of Community & Population Health at Montefiore Medical Center’s Care Management Company. “The theory was to provide education in a way that would be rooted in everyday life.”

Read more

Bill to Allow Worship in Schools Advances in Senate

January 25, 2012

A bill that would amend the state’s education laws to allow houses of worship to use public school space for services during non-school hours was passed by the Senate’s Education Committee yesterday, bringing it one step closer to passage.

Bronx City Councilman Fernando Cabrera and a number of other local and religious leaders have been pushing for the bill, which was introduced as a response to the city’s decision to ban churches and other house of worship from operating in public school buildings.

“I salute the New York State Senate Education Committee on taking bold and decisive action on this important issue,” Cabrera said in a statement. “I am confident the Assembly will follow suit, and urge Governor Cuomo to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.”

Bronx Household of Faith, a small congregation based in University Heights that has been worshiping in the auditorium at PS/MS 15 for years, had challenged the DOE’s ban in court, a legal battle that went on for 17 years. But the group lost their appeal this December after the Supreme Court declined to review their case, and the city announced that faith-based organizations which currently rent school spaces have until Feb. 12 to find new homes. About 60 or so organizations that had been renting space from the DOE are estimated to be affected by the change.

This Sunday, Cabrera and others fighting the DOE policy are planning to march across the Brooklyn Bridge, ending their walk at City Hall for a prayer vigil.

 

Free Tax Prep Help in the Bronx

January 24, 2012

The following groups and organizations are providing free tax prep help at locations throughout the Bronx:

  • Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr., in conjunction with Bronx Independent Living Services is offering Free Tax Assistance and preparation to seniors in the Bronx, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 4419 Third Ave., Suite 2C, (between 181st& 182nd Street). You must bring W-2 and/or 1099 statements, and the 2010 tax return.  All tax forms are prepared by certified volunteers, who were trained by the Internal Revenue Service. Space is limited. Call (718) 590-6248 to make your reservation.
  •  The University Neighborhood Housing Program, Ariva, a non-profit organization that trains volunteers who provide pro-bono (free) tax preparation services, and FB Community Services, are offering Free Federal and State Income Tax Assistance to low-income residents of the Bronx. Certified Tax Preparers will be ready to assist you at Refuge House, 2715 Bainbridge Ave. (near East 196th Street). Appointment days and times are: Wednesdays Jan. 25, Feb. 1, 15, & 29, March 28, April 4, and 11, from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m., and Saturdays Jan. 28, Feb. 4, 11, & 25, March 24, 31, and April 14, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Space is limited, so call (718) 933-2539, to secure your appointment.  Spanish language services also provided.
  •  Ridgewood Savings Bank in conjunction with Ariva, a non-profit organization, which trains volunteers who provide pro-bono (free) tax preparation services, are hosting Free Tax Prep Days to eligible low-income Bronx residents at four of Ridgewood Savings Bank’s convenient locations.  The dates, times, and locations are: Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. ti 4 p.m., at the Jerome Avenue Branch, located at 3445 Jerome Ave., (718) 881-3430; Saturday Feb. 25, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., at the White Plains Road Branch, located at 4101 White Plains Road at 229th Street, (718) 882-0440; Saturday, March 10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Allerton Avenue Branch, located at 711 Allerton Avenue, Bronx, NY 10467, (718) 882-2220.  Space is limited, so qualifying taxpayers are urged to call the branch of their interest in advance to schedule an appointment.

Bronx Council District 11 Race Gets a Runner

January 23, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Cliff Stanton, a Kingsbridge Heights resident who is involved with parents’ associations at PS 24 and Bronx High School of Science, is moving ahead with plans to run for the Council District 11 seat currently occupied by Oliver Koppell, Stanton told Politicker NY. Koppell’s district, which includes Norwood, Kingsbridge Heights and Riverdale, will be up for grabs in 2013.

The Bronx Press Politics first reported that Stanton had started a campaign committee earlier today, but Stanton wouldn’t talk to them because he is leading a boycott against the Riverdale Review, which produces the blog. Stanton and other PS 24 parents were irate when the Review interviewed students at PS 24 without parental consent in 2010.

Last Tuesday, Stanton attended the Community Board 7 monthly meeting to talk about the need for a traffic study for the streets surrounding Bronx Science. Stanton is also a board member of a new charter middle school looking to set up shop in the area.

The Bronx Press blog speculated that Ari Hoffnung, a Riverale resident who is now a deputy comptroller for John Liu, might also be a candidate. Both might have to take on Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, who would be considered the frontrunner for the seat if, as widely assumed, he throws his hat into the ring.

Stanton told Politicker he’s been disturbed by the “stubborn refusal to consider creative solutions to our problems in our neighborhood.”

Packed Classrooms Cramp Learning, Students Say

January 23, 2012


Editor’s Note: The following story was originally published in Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free journalism program for Bronx high school students run by the Norwood News. We are currently accepting applications for our spring semester. To find out more about the program and how to apply, click here. The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is supported by the North Star Fund, the Johnson Family Foundation Fund, and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, and is run in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program at Hostos Community College.

Some classes at Jonathan Levin High School in the Bronx have as many as 37 students. (Photo by Leila Nombre)

By Leila Nombre

At Jonathan Levin School for Media and Communication in the Bronx, there are as many as 37 students in a classroom, and learning has become a struggle.

“I barely learn anything,” said Ashlee Sandino, a junior. “I don’t get equal attention. It’s a waste of time. Class is disruptive.”

Students say the overcrowded classes make them feel left out of classroom discussions.

“I hate it,” said Tanairie Mastarreno, a senior. “It’s too much, and the teacher cannot focus on students, and less learning is done.”

As for teachers, this kind of environment has also been a struggle. Osvaldo Mancebo, a math teacher at Levin, described his large class as “extremely challenging.”

Read more

Monday Bronx Links

January 23, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Happy Monday, readers! Hope you enjoyed the cold and snowy weekend. Here are some news stories we’re following this morning on Breaking Bronx:

A double shooting on Hone Avenue in Morris Park left one dead and another wounded on Saturday. There have been no arrests, according to NY1.

Who knew? Single men in New York City outnumber single women, according to a Census data analysis conducted recently by the EDC. And if you’re looking to meet an un-wedded guy, Kingsbridge is a hotpot neighborhood, with a ratio of 1.7 single men for every woman.

Good news for uninsured artists! Lincoln Hospital launched a new program that will let musicians, dancers, artist who don’t have health insurance put their creative talents to use at the hospital in exchange for needed medical services.

The Times writes about how schools like the Bronx’s PS 55 are using technology to connect students with tutors.

A man is suing the city after a broken traffic light on Webster Avenue caused him to collide with an oncoming livery cab. Both cars got the green light to go ahead.

An interesting twist to the typical tenant/neglectful landlord dispute story: the Department of Education is on a rent strike, refusing to pay the landlord who owns a rundown Jerome Avenue building that houses PS 315, until he makes needed repairs on the property.

Bronx Breakdown: Star Bronx Teacher Banished to Basement & More (Updated)

January 20, 2012

By Alex Kratz


[Video: See an introduction to the Green Bronx Machine and then read about its plight below.]

This week on the Bronx Breakdown we break news about Discovery High School teacher Steve Ritz whose successful program somehow landed him in the basement and unable to continue the work he started. Plus, speaking out about the unspeakable violence over jackets, the Bronx’s famous new resident and what you should do this weekend.

The story of Steve Ritz, the special ed teacher at Discovery High School who turned an in-class science project into a training ground for environmentally-friendly food production and “green” jobs, has been well-documented here and in the pages of the Norwood News. It’s garnered nation attention and spawned a separate nonprofit group, Green Bronx Machine, that has nearly 3,000 Facebook fans. Last year, some 500 people came to Discovery and bought fresh produce that Ritz’s students had grown.

Tomorrow, Ritz is giving a presentation about the program at a high-profile TEDx (Technology, Education, Design) event in Manhattan called, “Changing the Way We Eat.” The Norwood native will attempt to show 245 slides in 13 minutes. Most of those slides will be from the Discovery High classroom where it all began more than two years ago.

There’s just one little problem. The program no longer exists at Discovery.

Local administrators forced it into homelessness this fall when Ritz was banished from his large, well-lit classroom with running water and high ceilings to a cramped, glorified closet in the basement that he shares with an English teacher. A large pipe hangs from the middle of the ceiling that might injure a big man on the Walton basketball team. There isn’t room to fit the vertical growing walls that Ritz used to teach and train his students and there isn’t any water source to feed the plants even if the walls did fit. Read more

Aspiring Young Actors, Dancers and Musicians Wanted for Mind-Building

January 20, 2012

Musical theater students of Mind-Builders Positive Youth Troupe perform original productions throughout the city and region.

Madaha Kinsey-Lamb, a former public school teacher, started Mind-Builders in 1978. The nonprofit program that uses professional, working performing artists to share their expertise and instruct the next generation has grown into a thriving organization with a $600,000-a-year budget. Mind-Builders is scheduled to move into a newly-renovated building on the corner of White Plains Road and East Gun Hill Road this fall. But for now is using an annex building at St. Brendan’s School in Norwood as a temporary home.

On Tuesday night, Kinsey-Lamb, still the program’s executive director three decades after its founding, was doing the dirty work of any nonprofit group — passing out flyers and speaking publicly at the general board meeting for Community Board 7 –to  recruit for Mind-builders’ next session of classes, which begins soon. Dance registration closes Jan. 31.

Mind-builders offers free sample classes and is now auditioning for special programs and scholarships. They provide instruction for pretty much every age group, from toddlers to adults, and includes classes for a wide variety of styles and instruments. Registration is Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mind-Builders’ interim home – 260 E. 207th Street between Bainbridge and Perry avenues. For more information or to register, call (718) 652-6256 or visit the website at www.mind-builders.org.

Bronx Biz News: VIP Cafe Reopens After Fire

January 20, 2012

By Emily Piccone

VIP owner Steve Larous is happy to be open after a July fire kept him closed until December. (Photo by Adi Talwar)

The VIP Café, on the corner of Rochambeau Avenue and East Gun Hill Road, recently reopened after a fire in early July left its doors closed for four months.

Steve Larous, the restaurant’s owner since 1997, said that they had cleaned up the water damage from putting out the fire, but it was a complicated permitting process that kept their doors closed until Dec. 5.

“For safety reasons we had to be issued all new permits,” he said.

Whatever the reason, VIP, located directly across from the Montefiore Medical Center, is finally open again and sporting a fresh facade and a leaner menu. Read more

New Bronx ‘Green’ Program Seeks to Cut Home Energy Costs

January 20, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Bronx officials are hoping to make the borough a more environmentally-friendly place, with the launch of a new community outreach program this month that aims to reduce energy usage in Bronx building and homes.

Green Jobs/Green New York Bronx will provide building and home owners with free inspections and assessments of their properties, to provide recommendations on how the sites can be retrofitted to save on energy costs. Read more

Bronx Sports Report: Fantastic Finishes

January 19, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Fordham University senior Albert Estwick goes up for the winning three-point shot against Rhode Island last night with 28 seconds remaining. The Rams held on for the 66-64win. (Photo courtesy Fordham University Athletic Dept.)

Editor’s note: The Bronx Sports Report is a new feature on Breaking Bronx and will appear every Thursday. We will include the latest and most compelling sports stories coming out of the Boogie Down. We can’t get to every story, but if there is some athlete or sport you would like us to cover, let us know in the comments section or send us an e-mail at norwoodnews@norwoodnews.org and we’ll do our best give it some coverage.

Tremendous hoops action coming out of the Boogie Down just in the past two days. The photo above shows Alberto Estwick’s clutch shot in last night’s college basketball thriller between Fordham and Rhode Island, which may have saved the Rams season. But we have to start with Tuesday night’s insanely schizophrenic heart-stopper that cemented Wings Academy as the best public high school hoops program in the Bronx.

Wings Reigns Behind Jenkins
For the past several years, Wings and John F. Kennedy have traded the title of best in the Bronx. (Although Eagle Academy is loudly knocking on the door.) Last year, Wings took the Bronx AA Division title, finishing 16-0, and cruised to the borough championship by slaughtering JFK, 73-54, in the final. The Wings (it’s the small aerospace-themed school’s name and nickname) ended with a loss to eventual champion Boys & Girls in the PSAL semi-finals.

This year, Wings is again off to a fast start and was undefeated going into Tuesday night’s road game at JFK’s gym in Riverdale. Earlier in the season, Wings beat JFK at home by 6. In the rematch, the Knights came out strong, taking an eight point lead in the first quarter. Wings responded with a ridiculous 27-0 run behind the scoring of dynamic senior guard Justin Jenkins, who is being recruited by several Division I schools in the region (he just received an offer from St. Peter’s College) and is writing a diary about his senior season for the NY Post. Read more

Officials Step Up Efforts Against Cyber-Bullying

January 19, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following story was originally published in Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free journalism program for Bronx high school students run by the Norwood News. We are currently accepting applications for our spring semester. To find out more about the program and how to apply, click here. The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is supported by the North Star Fund, the Johnson Family Foundation Fund, and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, and is run in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program at Hostos Community College.

A recent study found that 60 percent of kids have experienced cyber-bullying. (Photo by Giselle Lam)

By Giselle Lam

Last month, 17-year-old Kenneth Wong was tidying up his bedroom when his Blackberry vibrated on his desk. He was expecting to read a text from a friend, but instead found words that beat him up inside. The anonymous text accused him of being a bad friend who would “die alone from smoking” and need a “brain transplant for being a dumbass.”

Sixty percent of kids have experienced mean and hurtful things said to them either online or through their phones, according to i-SAFE, a non-profit foundation dedicated to educating the youth on internet safety. In addition, more than 50 percent have admitted to saying these insulting words to another person online.

Traditional schoolyard bullying has moved from campus grounds to the computers, and cell phones, of many teenagers. After a rash of bullying-related deaths last year, the public’s awareness of cyber-bullying has grown, and school administrators and government officials are taking more serious actions to prevent it.

Read more

Calling All Future Bronx Journalists!

January 18, 2012

The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free high school journalism after-school program run by the Norwood News, is now accepting applications for the Spring 2012 semester.

Founded in 2008, the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is open to any high school student who lives or goes to school in the Bronx. Spring classes will start at the end of February and are held every Wednesday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. at Hostos Community College, on the Grand Concourse. The application deadline is February 15.

The course runs for 12 weeks, and teaches the ins and outs of reporting, writing, and photojournalism. Students work on their own articles (often story ideas they pitch themselves), which we then publish in Bronx Youth Heard, a special supplement we distribute in the Norwood News–meaning they will get a real news clip with a byline. Their work will be seen by thousands of readers and have an impact on the Bronx community.

We are looking for students of all academic abilities, but they should be highly motivated, love to write, be naturally inquisitive, and care about what’s going on in their communities. Click here to find out more about the program or to download an application form. If you have any questions, please call Jeanmarie or Alex at (718) 324-4998.

To see some of the most recent stories published by our youth reporters, see here, here and here.

You can also “like” the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative on Facebook! See what our current and former students are up to. Click here to become a fan.

Local Groups Campaign Against Cigarette Ads in Bodegas

January 18, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following story was originally published in Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free journalism program for Bronx high school students run by the Norwood News. We are currently accepting applications for our spring semester. To find out more about the program and how to apply, click here. The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is supported by the North Star Fund, the Johnson Family Foundation Fund, and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, and is run in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program at Hostos Community College.

By Michaela Ritz

Bold colors, a large font, highlighted words and smiling people. Producers of cigarette ads use these design elements to lure customers. Health advocates say these ads prey on low-income communities of color, particularly in the Bronx.

“The tobacco industry saturates poor communities like ours, where there are high stress levels and unemployment,” said Juan Ramon Rios, of the High Bridge Community Life Center, which runs the Partnership for a Smoke-Free Bronx. The group has been pushing for legislation that would limit the number of cigarette ads displayed in city bodegas, and regulate where ads are placed in stores so that teens and kids are not targeted. The effect of such a law would be large in the Bronx, advocates say, as there are more than 1,600 bodegas and small groceries here.

Many teens, however, say they aren’t influenced by the advertisements.

Cigarette ads on display at a Bronx deli. (Photo by Michaela Ritz)

“I have never seen a cigarette ad before,” said Nusrat Ahmed, a 16-year-old student who lives in Parkchester. Nusrat says she’s never smoked before and that she has a built-in prejudice against it because her uncle smokes and her father chews tobacco.

“Cigarettes make you feel good for a short while, but they bring you closer to your death,” she said. “Cigarette companies try to promote the short-term experience.”

Nic Arenas, a 16-year-old smoker who lives on Allerton Avenue, says he thinks graphic anti-smoking ads — such as those launched by the Health Department — are more noticeable than those that advertise the sale of cigarettes. Read more

Bronx Newspapers Combined Editorial: Living Wage Dies

January 18, 2012

Editor’s note: This editorial reflects the opinion of the Norwood News, The Riverdale Press, Hunts Point Express and Mott Haven Herald, and appears (or will appear) in all four publications.

The battle to require businesses that receive city subsidies to pay their workers a living wage began with a bang when Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. led a fight to reject the creation of a shopping mall at the Kingsbridge Armory if retail workers weren’t paid enough to make ends meet in this most expensive of cities.

The battle has ended with a whimper.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn has gutted the bill sponsored by Bronx Council members Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma. Developers to whom taxpayers give $1 million or more will be required to pay a minimum wage of $10 an hour. Their tenants, however, can continue to pay $7.25. Read more

Be Healthy! Wednesdays: Bronx Expert Weighs in on Country’s Best Diets, Free Lead Screenings & More

January 18, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Breaking Bronx features a health-related story, event or tidbit as part of an online expansion of our Be Healthy! column.

Einstein Expert Helps Rank Best Diets

A nutrition researcher from the Bronx’s own Albert Einstein College of Medicine lent her expertise to the U.S. News & Reports Best Diets of 2012, the consumer magazine’s annual ranking of the country’s most popular diets and weight loss plans, which was released this month.

This is the second year that Dr. Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani (above), an associate professor at Einstein who specializes in nutrition assessment, has served on the panel of experts for U.S. News. She reviewed 25 different diet methods selected by the magazine–popular programs, like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig–and rated them on seven criteria, like their ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss.

Read more

School Cell Phone Bans Don’t Apply to Teachers

January 18, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following story was originally published in Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free journalism program for Bronx high school students run by the Norwood News. We are currently accepting applications for our spring semester. To find out more about the program and how to apply, click here. The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is supported by the North Star Fund, the Johnson Family Foundation Fund, and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, and is run in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program at Hostos Community College.

By Elfrida Johnson

At Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications on Morris Avenue, some students leave their cell phones at home. Some try to sneak them in. Others pay a dollar to keep it at the bodega next door. Their teachers, on the other hand, don’t have this problem.

While students are forbidden from having cell phones in school, some say their teachers use them in class. They find the double-standard distracting and unfair.

“The rule says phone prohibited — not phone prohibited except for teachers,” said Alexis Watson, a student at Levin.

The Department of Education banned cell phones at public schools for students in 2006, but there is no official policy for teachers and administrators. Teachers at Levin said they are told not to use their cell phones in class, but some still do.
Read more

Ex-Bronx Senator Espada and Son Indicted, Again

January 18, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Federal prosecutors piled more criminal charges on former Bronx State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. and his son, Pedro Gaultier Espada, last night, as first reported by Capitol Tonight’s State of Politics blog. The two were charged with using a for-profit janitorial services company to bilk money from Espada’s nonprofit Soundview Healthcare Network. Father and son already are already facing charges of the embezzling money from the health care clinics that Espada founded in 1978.

Both have pleaded not guilty to the previous charges and will be arraigned on the new charges, Jan. 25. For the past several months, Espada and his supporters have been fighting the government’s efforts to deny Soundview from receiving Medicaid funding, its primary source of income. Espada was ousted from his seat in the Bronx’s 33rd District in 2010 by Gustavo Rivera.

Bronx Residents Make ‘Occupy’ Movement Their Own

January 17, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following story was originally published in Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free journalism program for Bronx high school students run by the Norwood News. We are currently accepting applications for our spring semester. To find out more about the program and how to apply, click here. The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is supported by the North Star Fund, the Johnson Family Foundation Fund, and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, and is run in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program at Hostos Community College.

By Brandon Diop

While Occupy Wall Street has been raging in downtown Manhattan since September, New York City’s outer boroughs have commenced their own protests that focus more on problems in that particular community.

Each Saturday, a group of residents and local activists have held Occupy the Bronx events at various locations: Fordham Plaza, “The Hub” at 149th Street and 3rd Avenue, the No. 6 train station at Hunts Point, and along Gun Hill Road.

While it started out small, the movement has grown. Well-known local advocacy group the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy

File photo by Emily Piccone

Coalition joined the protests in October, and an average group of 75 people have been attending the weekly events.

“The one percent have too much money and power,” said Sean Petty, a registered nurse at Jacobi Medical Center. “That money and power should belong with the 99 percent.”

Organizers use the website occupythebronx.org to post a calendar of planned rallies and videos of past events. The website has become an archive chronicling the importance of the movement, as well as the various problems going on in the Bronx community.

Like the Occupy movement in Manhattan, protestors say they are involved for a number of reasons. Signs at a recent rally read:  “Un-Occupy the Bronx from the NYPD,” “Cuts Hurt,” and “Somos el 99 Percent.”

“The rules are stacked against us,” said Sergio Cuevas, treasurer of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, who said he holds corporate banks responsible for much of the borough’s foreclosed property.

Desiree Pilgrim Hunter, the group’s president, says that she would like to see better regulated instead of feeding off of the Bronx’s low-income residents.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the median household income in the Bronx in 2009 was $32,888.

“We are used to doing more with less,” said organizer Lisa Ortega.

Bronx Museum of the Arts Wants Your Baseball Photos

January 17, 2012

The Bronx Museum of the Arts is calling for submissions from Bronx residents, artists and non-artists alike, who have photos of baseball being played in the Bronx, whether it be for a high school team or a pick-up game in the neighborhood sandlot. Selected pictures will be displayed in an exhibit this spring called “Baseball in the Bronx,” that will chronicle the evolution of the sport–and the Bronx communities that play it–from the 1940s to present. For more info, check the flier below.

Parks Department Worker Charged in Doll Hanging

January 17, 2012

By David Greene

After a 3-week long investigation by the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force, police have arrested an employee with the Department of Parks and Recreation who allegedly hung a doll at the Parks Department’s Bronx headquarters on Bronx Park East.

A photo of the doll found at Parks Department headquarters on Bronx Park East. (Courtesy of the NYC Parks Advocates)

Police were called to the site on Tuesday, December 20, after workers discovered a black doll hanging from its neck by a metal chain, inside a fenced-off area, but was clearly in public view. A photo was taken and quickly distributed to media outlets by the group New York City Park Advocates.

Last Thursday, the NYPD announced the arrest of Fariz Ahmemulic, described as a 38-year-old white male, charging him with aggravated harassment and aggravated harassment as a hate crime. He was released without bail.

Repeated attempts to reach Ahmemulic, believed to be a resident of Morris Park, were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, the Parks Department has suspended Ahmemulic without pay and the worker who discovered the doll has served the city with court papers notifying the city he plans to sue for, “emotional distress.”

Bronx Councilman Cabrera Plans March to Protest City Schools’ Church Ban

January 17, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

File photo, courtesy of the New York City Council.

Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera and a group of the city’s religious leaders are planning a press conference and protest march tomorrow, their latest effort to fight the city’s decision to ban houses of worship from using public school spaces during non-school hours.

The group will hold a press conference in front of the Tweed courthouse in downtown Manhattan tomorrow afternoon, then march to City Hall, where the City Council is convening for its Stated Meeting. The plan is the latest in several protests in recent weeks over the ban of churches in schools–last week, some 40 people were arrested protesting outside the Mayor’s State of the City speech, at Morris High School. The week before that, Cabrera himself was arrested while rallying outside of the New York City Law Department.

Read more

Tuesday Bronx Links

January 17, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Welcome back to the workweek, Breaking Bronx readers. Hope you enjoyed the long weekend, if you happened to have off. Here are some local news stories we’re following this morning:

A new study that looks at the earnings of retail workers found that those in the Bronx make less than in any other borough, with a mean pay of $8 an hour. Some chains pay their Manhattan workers more than their Bronx workers for the same job, the study found. Mayor Bloomberg, meanwhile, said in his State of the City speech last week that he supports raising the city’s minimum wage. But the Bronx-based “living wage” bill, which sought to up pay for workers in city-subsidized development projects, would not do much for retail workers if the latest, watered-down version that Council Speaker Christine Quinn is backing is what’s ultimately passed. The “compromise” version of the legislation would require firms receiving subsidies – but not their retail tenants – to pay the higher wages.

Members of the Caldwell Temple A.M.E. Zion Church in Morrisania marked the Martin Luther King holiday by giving back at the parish’s soup kitchen.

Read more

Bronx Breakdown: A Living Wage Deal, Hockey at the Armory and More

January 13, 2012

By Alex Kratz

IMG_1109
This photo, from St. Ann’s Church’s processional in honor of the Feast of Guadalupe held in December, has nothing to do with this week’s Breakdown, but it’s a great photo from our own Adi Talwar. Read on for more about today’s living wage deal, hockey possibly coming to the Armory, the relentless push by religious leaders to keep churches in city school buildings, Fordham’s hoops “powerhouse” and some good old-fashioned soul music. Let’s break it on down.

Spin for a Watered-Down Living Wage Deal
We’ll start with the big story of the day: Speaker Christine Quinn strikes a deal on living wage legislation. Everyone involved in this deal is positing the agreement reached today as an historic moment. But when you read between the lines, it’s clear that this legislation is nowhere near what living wage advocates set out to accomplish. In fact, it’s unclear exactly what it accomplishes.

While details are still forthcoming, we do have an outline of what the new living wage legislation will look like. It will require developers who receive substantial city subsidies (funding, tax breaks, etc.) to pay their own workers a living wage ($10 an hour, plus benefits, or $11.50 an hour, without) for work they do on the development projects they’re receiving the subsidies for.

Let’s break this down, Bronx Breakdown-style with the information we have. Read more

Quinn Expected to Announce Living Wage Compromise Today (Updated)

January 13, 2012

By Alex Kratz

As negotiations are still on-going, everyone is remaining tight-lipped at this point. But it appears Council Speaker Christine Quinn will announce a compromise agreement on living wage legislation this afternoon. The Riverdale Press Tweeted the news earlier today. We do know that a press conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today and that all the players involved are waiting for the speakers cue. Not sure exactly what a compromise on the bill would mean since there have already been several compromises made already.

Last week, I asked Quinn about the legislation and she said there was “no update.” This latest development may have something to do with the mayor’s announcement yesterday about re-issuing a request for proposals to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory. This could also have to do with Quinn’s mayoral aspirations. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, another possible mayoral candidate, recently endorsed the legislation and so did the NY Times.

The legislation would require developers to guarantee living wage jobs at projects that receive substantial city subsidies. Bloomberg has opposed the idea, while Quinn has remained completely neutral.

We’ll have more hopefully soon. Stay tuned.

Update: The Riverdale Press has confirmed that Quinn will make an announcement today of a living wage compromise bill that significantly alters the original intent of the legislation. According to the Press, only direct beneficiaries of the public tax subsidies would be required to pay living wages, $10 an hour plus benefits, or $11.50 without benefits. That means tenants at city-subsidized projects would not be required to pay living wages, which goes against the original intent of the legislation. The original intent was to create permanent living wage jobs. The new agreement means only those employed by developers, mostly construction workers who already make living wages, would be required to pay living wages.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan Visits POTS in the Bronx, Blesses New Space

January 12, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly


[Slideshow by Adi Talwar. For more photos from Adi Talwar, click here.]

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who just last week was elevated to the post of cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, came to the Bronx yesterday to visit local nonprofit Part of the Solution (POTS), taking a tour and officially blessing the organization’s new building on Webster Avenue.

“This is what it’s all about–God giving us gifts, and us giving those gifts to others, which is what you do here at POTS,” Dolan said to the crowd gathered in the lobby of the sparkling new facility, as he read a blessing and sprinkled the space with holy water.

POTS originated as a small soup kitchen on Fordham Road in 1982, then moved to Webster Avenue, and has since blossomed into a multi-purpose center offering hot meals, food pantry services, hair cuts, showers and legal advice to Bronx residents in need. POTS’ new, much larger facility at 2759 Webster Ave. has been operational since this fall, but the group held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the space last week on its 30th anniversary.

Read more

Transcript of Mayor’s Prepared State of the City Address

January 12, 2012

Here is prepared text of Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City speech, which he is delivering today at Morris High School in the Bronx. It may not match up exactly with how the speech was delivered.

“Thank you. Mayors Koch and Dinkins, Speaker Quinn and Minority Leader Oddo, Public Advocate De Blasio, Comptroller Liu, Borough Presidents, District Attorneys, members of the City Council and State Legislature, my fellow New Yorkers – it’s great to be in the Bronx.

“This is the birthplace of legends like Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the workplace of legends like Mariano Rivera. And it’s also the home of future superstars like every member of The Celia Cruz High School Latin Band, the PS 32 Chorus and the Keltic Dreams Irish Dancers. Weren’t they fantastic?

“In a city that is the ‘Capital of Innovation’ – this one borough has given us some of the world’s great authors, artists and architects, not to mention the pioneers of hip-hop and salsa. Read more

Report: 25 People Arrested for Protesting Outside of State of the City (Updated)

January 12, 2012

The Riverdale Press and other news are reporting via Twitter that 25 people, including five pastors, were arrested for protesting outside of the Bronx’s Morris High School, where Mayor Bloomberg is about to give his annual State of the City address. The demonstrators were protesting the DOE’s policy banning churches from worshiping inside public school buildings. Last week, seven people, including Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera, were arrested for protesting in front of the city’s law department.

Update: It now appears that more than 40 people were arrested for attempting to bring the protest across the street to entrance to Morris High School. Cabrera was not among them. But Bronx Pastor Dimas Salaberrios and several members of his church, Infinity NY, were among those arrested.

Bronx Councilman Arrested During ‘Prayer Protest’; More Rallies Planned

January 12, 2012

By Alex Kratz

[Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Jan. 12 edition of the Norwood News.]

Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera and six other demonstrators were arrested last week in Manhattan during a peaceful protest designed to highlight what they say is the city’s increasingly discriminatory policies against religious groups that rent public spaces for worship.

While the protest appears to have staved off eviction for churches using public facilities at city housing complexes, Cabrera and other clergy are continuing to fight a government policy that bans religious groups from using public school buildings for worship services. Another protest, at Morris High School in the Bronx, is planned to coincide with the mayor’s “State of the City” address on Thursday at noon.

Last week’s “prayer protest,” held in front of the building at 100 Church St. that houses the city’s law department, was organized by Pastor Dimas Salaberrios after the New York City Housing Authority told him that his church, Infinity New York, might not be able to continue to rent space at the Bronx River Houses, a city-run housing complex where the church has worshipped for the past five years. (Salaberrios said the church has had a presence there for the past seven years.) Read more

State of the City Comes to the Bronx Amid Protest; More Armory Notes

January 12, 2012

By Alex Kratz

We are about to head down to Morris High School, on Boston Road near East 167th Street, the site of Mayor Bloomberg’s annual State of the City address, which will be preceded by a protest in the school’s parking lot. We’ll be Tweeting updates from @norwoodnews.

Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera will be among those protesting the Department of Education’s policy banning religious groups from worshiping inside public school buildings. (After a court ruling upheld the DOE’s policy, groups have until Feb. 12 to find new places to worship.) Also in attendance will be religious leaders, representatives from some of the church’s facing homelessness and Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator who now heads the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, which advocates for conservative Christian values.

Cabrera adamantly opposes the DOE’s policy and is working with Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro to have it changed legislatively on the state level. Through the DOE policy and other recent decisions (like not allowing prayer at the 9/11 anniversary ceremony this past fall), Cabrera says Bloomberg is showing himself to be an “anti-religious” mayor.

The protest starts at noon, an hour before the speech is scheduled to begin.

Whether he’s in attendance or watching from home (or his iPhone, as Bloomberg is streaming the speech live), Cabrera will be applauding the mayor’s announcement during his speech that the city will be issuing a request for proposals to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory. Cabrera released this statement earlier today: Read more

Be Healthy! Wednesdays: Cuomo Calls for End to Food Stamp Fingerprints, Free Caregiver Resource Guide & More

January 11, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, Breaking Bronx features a health-related story, event or tidbit as part of an online expansion of our Be Healthy! column.

Gov. Cuomo Calls to End Fingerprinting for Food Stamps
Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his annual State of the State address early this month, and one item on his agenda has food and hunger advocates cheering. While addressing his plans to eliminate child hunger in New York, the governor called to end the controversial practice of fingerprinting food stamp applicants in New York City.

“I’m saying stop fingerprinting for families with children for food. Stop it all across the state, and let’s stop it this year,” Cuomo said, echoing the concerns of hunger advocates who say the requirement further stigmatizes the food stamp program and discourages New Yorkers in need from accessing the benefits. New York City is one of only two places in the country — the other is Arizona — that requires food stamp recipients to get fingerprinted before receiving benefits. Mayor Bloomberg has defended the practice as a necessary protection against fraud.

But advocates and local officials have criticized the requirement as unnecessary and time-consuming.

“Mountains of evidence prove that the practice keeps nutrition benefits away from eligible families, costs the state millions of dollars and, even when working properly, finds only duplication that can be detected through less costly, less intrusive methods,” said Joel Berg, of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Free Resource Book for Family Caregivers
A new resource guide for Bronx residents caring for an aging parent, spouse, partner, child with an illness or disability, or someone else close to them is now available from Montefiore Medical Center’s Office of Community Health and the Montefiore Caregiver Support Program. “Caring for Yourself While Caregiving: A Bronx Resource Guide” provides 32 pages of helpful, low-cost and easily accessible resources, with information on support groups, lowering stress, staying healthy, seeking spiritual support and expanding your creativity/social life.

“Caring for a loved one can be a wonderful experience of giving, sharing and receiving, yet it is common for caregivers to neglect their own emotional and physical needs,” said Ronit Fallek, director of the Healing Arts Program at Montefiore. “The reality is, we are better caregivers when we are also taking care of ourselves.”

The guide is available free of charge, in both English and Spanish, by calling (718) 920-6576, or by emailing PCareSupport@montefiore.org. You can also download a PDF version by clicking here (for English) or here (for Spanish).

Ask Be Healthly! Send Us Your Health Questions.

Got a pressing health, fitness, or nutrition question on your mind? Send them our way! We’re ready to tackle your queries about food, sex, illness, health insurance, prescription medications–any health-related topics that puzzle or interest you.

We’ll answer your question in a Q&A feature appearing in the Norwood News‘ Be Healthy! column. If we don’t know, we’ll ask the experts. You can sign your name or send it anonymously.

Send your queries to: norwoodnews@norwoodnews.org.

Here’s a link to the first installment of Ask Be Healthy!

Advertising Note: If you’re a business or advertiser interested in targeting our Be Healthy! audience online or in print editions of the Norwood News, call Marketing and Advertising Solutions (MAS) at (718) 676.1626 or email info@masmarketingny.com.

Bloomberg to Announce New RFP For Kingsbridge Armory

January 11, 2012

By Alex Kratz

At his State of the City address tomorrow in the Bronx, Mayor Bloomberg plans to announce a new RFP for the Kingsbridge Armory. (File photo by Adi Talwar)

In an interview with Crain’s NY today, Mayor Bloomberg said the city will issue another request for proposals to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory with a few new tweaks.

The announcement marks something of a victory for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. who has been pushing hard for the mayor to re-issue an RFP for the Armory since releasing a report this past summer showing wide and varied interest from groups who want to use the Armory.

“I’m so happy that we’re working with the mayor and the administration and we’re moving forward,” Diaz told Crain’s.

After Diaz released the report, some were skeptical that groups interested would be able to provide the resources to actually develop the Armory. Many also believed Bloomberg, still hurting from having an administration-backed plan to turn the Armory into a shopping mall defeated overwhelmingly in the City Council two years ago, would not agree to re-issue an RFP. Read more

POTS Officially Unveils New ‘Community House'; Dolan Visiting Today

January 11, 2012

By Alex Kratz

The “Mayor” of POTS Wally Johns (right) is congratulated after cutting the ribbon for POTS’ new multi-service center on Webster Avenue by (right to left) Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and State Senator Gustavo Rivera. (Photo by Alex Kratz)

Editor’s note: A version of this story appears in this week’s print edition of the Norwood News. Today, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan is visiting POTS to officially bless the building for the Catholic Church.

After all the politicians, reporters and board members had left the grand opening of its sparkling new building on Webster Avenue, Part of the Solution, known as POTS, quickly got back down to business.

For POTS, a nonprofit organization that started 30 years ago as a soup kitchen and has since blossomed into a multi-service center offering everything from hair cuts to legal advice, that means putting food on the table and serving those in need. It was almost noon. Lunch was about to begin.

Bright-eyed high schoolers shuffled in to volunteer and friendly staffers, some of them former clients and volunteers, put them to work.

Though food wouldn’t be served for another half hour, a line 30-deep had already formed outside of POTS’ new building near the corner of East 197th Street. As it does almost every day, POTS would go on to feed around 400 people.

Less than an hour earlier, Speaker Christine Quinn helped Wally Johns, a former POTS client who volunteers and hangs around the place so much he was dubbed the “mayor” of POTS, cut the ribbon on the organization’s new $8 million, 15,000-square-foot building.

The facility has been operational since the fall, but POTS waited until its 30th anniversary, Jan. 6, to officially open its doors. The delay also allowed the group to fill its vacant executive director position with former finance director Chris Bean, who had left POTS for about two months before returning in his new role. They announced his hiring at the ribbon cutting. Read more

After Protests and Arrests, NYCHA Extends Agreements With Bronx Churches (For Now)

January 9, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Following demonstrations that led to the arrests of seven people last week, including Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera, the New York City Housing Authority agreed to extend rental agreements with two Bronx churches who worship in city-owned buildings.

The churches — Bronx Bible Church at the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses and Infinity New York Church at the Bronx River Houses — will be allowed to continue renting space at the facilities until at least Feb. 26 while NYCHA completes its comprehensive review of all of its rental agreements with organizations.

Cabrera and pastors from both churches were arrested on Thursday morning after conducting a “prayer protest” in front of the downtown Manhattan building that houses the city’s law department. Cabrera and the clergyman say they were told the law department directed NYCHA to evict them following a court ruling that upheld the city’s ban on worship in public school buildings.

NYCHA and the law department insist that the two cases are completely separate and that NYCHA does not have a policy that excludes religious organizations from renting its public spaces for worship. Read more

Bronx Science Students, Alumni Protest Against Principal

January 9, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

A group of alumni at Bronx High School of Science protesting on Thursday. (Photo by Jeanmarie Evelly)

A group of current and former students from the Bronx High School of Science, organizing under the name “Take Back Bronx Science,” rallied  across the street from the prestigious public school last Thursday, protesting administrative policies they say are harming the school’s reputation and causing a number of  teachers there to resign or retire prematurely.

The students, a few dozen in number, stood on the edge of Harris Field across the street from the school, holdings signs that read “Where Have the Teachers Gone?” and “We Have a Voice.” Organizing members of the group said the dissention stemmed from reports that a number of teachers have left the school in recent years over conflicts with administrative staff, namely the school’s principal, Valerie Reidy.

Read more

Teenager Arrested in Shooting of 11-Year-Old Bronx Boy

January 9, 2012

By Alex Kratz


[Video: After making an arrest on Friday, police say they are still looking for one of the suspects on this video clip.]

Police arrested a 17-year-old on Friday and charged him in connection with the shooting of 11-year-old Ryan Aguari, who remains in “serious” condition at Jacobi Hospital after being shot in the stomach last Thursday night. Investigators are still looking for a second suspect they say was caught on video (above) at the Creston Avenue apartment building where Ryan lives.

Kijana Jenkins, who lives on Claflin Avenue in Kingsbridge Heights, just blocks away from where the shooting took place, was charged with assault, weapons possession and reckless endangerment and arraigned on Saturday. NY1 reported that police said Jenkins made incriminating statements to police.

Police say Jenkins is one of two suspects caught on video around the time the shooting took place. They are still looking for the second male suspect and are seeking the public’s help in tracking him down.

Ryan was reportedly playing video games late Thursday night, Jan. 5, when the door bell rang. When he went to answer it, several bullets were fired through the door, one of them hitting him in the stomach.

It was the second time a child has been shot in the 52nd Precinct in the past two months.

Editor’s note: Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Monday Bronx Links

January 9, 2012

Happy Monday! Here are some local news stories that Breaking Bronx is following this morning:

Police are looking for a man who groped a woman in the Kingsbridge Road B/D train subway station.

Local Bronx activist Brian Hynes, of Bedford Park, was among a group of demonstrators arrested and convicted of disorderly conduct for protesting Guantanamo Bay detentions during a House of Representatives session in Washington, D.C. According to the blog Legal Times,  Hynes was one of five people convicted for shouting slogans during hearing at the capitol; he told the website he was happy the incident could bring their cause to a wider audience.

Cops have identified the one of the suspects accused of shooting  11-year-old Ryan Aquari.  According the Daily News, police arrested 17-year-old Kijana Jenkins as one of the assailants. Aquari was shot Thursday in his apartment building at 2735 Creston Ave.

Two off-duty corrections officers were arrested in the Bronx this weekend, one for getting into a brawl on E. 204th Street in Norwood, and the other for allegedly trying to pick up a prostitute in Hunts Point.

Meanwhile, a Bronx assistant district attorney was arrested for drunken-driving early yesterday.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., continues to make his case for the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, this time with a YouTube video urging the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to talk a vote on the bill. For some background on the legislation, see some of our coverage here. Check out Diaz’s video below.

Bronx Breakdown: The Other Pastor Arrested Yesterday and More

January 6, 2012

By Alex Kratz

We’re back with our first installment of the Bronx Breakdown in 2012, which will include: an argument for keeping churches in city housing projects, readers debating the true meaning of separation of church and state, the worst landlord in the Bronx, a blues playing Bronx defense attorney and what you should do this weekend. Let’s get it started.

The Other Pastor Arrested Yesterday
The biggest story in the Bronx this week was the arrest yesterday of City Councilman Fernando Cabrera who was handcuffed by police and charged with trespassing for kneeling in front of the entrance 100 Church St. in downtown Manhattan, the building that houses the city’s law department, and conducting a brief “prayer protest.”

He was not alone. In fact, Cabrera was one of seven arrested yesterday and was only there to support the organizers of the protest. The primary organizer was Pastor Dimas Salaberrios who heads Infinity New York Church at the Bronx River Houses. Cabrera didn’t go there expecting to get arrested; he had made plans to meet with other church leaders soon after the protest.

Salaberrios, on the other hand, had a pretty good idea police would forcibly remove them from blocking the building’s entrance and take them into custody. And unlike Cabrera, it was not the first time Salaberrios had been arrested. Read more

11-year-old Bronx Boy Shot Inside Creston Ave. Apartment; Police Seeking Suspects

January 6, 2012

Police say they are looking for two suspects (shown on the above video) in connection with the shooting of an 11-year-old boy inside a Creston Avenue apartment building.

According to NY1 and the Bronx Borough President’s office, 11-year-old Ryan Aquari was playing video games when the door bell rang at his apartment at 2735 Creston Avenue. As he approached the door, three shots were fired though it, one of which struck him in the stomach. Ryan was taken to Jacobi Hospital where police say he is in stable condition.

It is the second time in the past three months a child has been shot in the 52nd Precinct. In November, 4-year-old Cincer Balthazar was shot during a botched robbery attempt about a mile away at Grand Avenue and Evelyn Place.

Bronx Borough President released a statement denouncing the violence earlier today: Read more

Rev. Diaz Irked By Cuomo’s Casino Dreams

January 5, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr. (File photo by Jeanmarie Evelly)

Bronx State Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr., has some objections to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plans for New York–particularly his idea to legalize casino-style gambling–which the governor laid out yesterday in his State of the State address.

Diaz admits he’s one of the only not lauding yesterday’s speech (the Rev., very descriptively, called himself “the lone voice crying in the wilderness”), in which Cuomo described his plans to boost New York’s economy by investing in infrastructure, and, yes, amending the state constitution to allow for the operation of casinos.

“Governor Cuomo has already legalized gay marriage,” Diaz laments. “Now he wants to legalize casino gambling. What’s next – legalizing prostitution and marijuana and drugs – all in good “faith” to make money to raise tax revenues for the State?”

Bronx High School Students Wanted for Free Journalism Program

January 5, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free high school journalism after-school program run by the Norwood News, is now accepting applications for the Spring 2012 semester.

Founded in 2008, the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is open to any high school student who lives or goes to school in the Bronx. Spring classes will start at the end of February and are held every Wednesday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. at Hostos Community College, on the Grand Concourse.

The course runs for 12 weeks, and teaches the ins and outs of reporting, writing, and photojournalism. Students work on their own articles (often story ideas they pitch themselves), which we then publish in Bronx Youth Heard, a special supplement we distribute in the Norwood News–meaning they will get a real news clip with a byline. Their work will be seen by thousands of readers and have an impact on the Bronx community.

We are looking for students of all academic abilities, but they should be highly motivated, love to write, be naturally inquisitive, and care about what’s going on in their communities. Click here to find out more about the program or to download an application form. If you have any questions, please call Jeanmarie or Alex at  (718) 324-4998.

The application deadline is February 15.

You can also “like” the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative on Facebook! See what our current and former students are up to. Click here to become a fan.

Bronx Councilman Cabrera Arrested During ‘Prayer Protest’ This Morning (Updated with Photos)

January 5, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Councilman Fernando Cabrera being arrested this morning for trespassing during a peaceful protest in front of NYC Law Department's building downtown. (Photo courtesy of Cabrera's office)Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera was arrested this morning along with six other pastors while protesting a city policy that they say is now excluded religious groups from worshiping inside city-run buildings.

At about 8 a.m. this morning, Cabrera, a pastor himself who represents the 14th Council District (which includes Kingsbridge, University Heights, Mt. Hope and Morris Heights), went downtown with around 20 other people to rally in front of the New York City Law Department at 100 Church St. The “Prayer Protest” was organized by Pastor Dimas Salaberrios of Infinity New York, which was recently evicted from the NYCHA-managed Bronx River Houses.

James Duffy, a spokesman for the NYPD, said that at around 8:30 a.m., Cabrera and six other pastors sat in front of the entrance to the building, blocking the entrance. After repeated warnings to move, Duffy said police arrested the seven protesters for “trespassing” and took them to the local precinct. Cabrera was released later this morning, according to his staff. (Duffy said trespassing is a minor “violation.”)

A spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed that several people were arrested in front of the law department’s office for obstructing traffic, although they said charges are still pending. The spokesperson wouldn’t say whether Cabrera was among those arrested.

Kate O’Brien-Ahlers, the communications director for the law department, said she was aware of the protests outside of their offices, but not the arrests. She said it didn’t seem like the protesters were getting out of control.

Cabrera was handcuffed by police and arrested after repeated warning to move from the entrance to 100 Church St. where he and six other pastors were protesting. (Photo courtesy Cabrera's office)Following a court decision that upheld a city policy banning religious groups from worshiping inside public school buildings, Cabrera said the city is now evicting churches from other city-owned property, including Infinity from the Bronx River Houses and the Bronx Bible Church from the Justic Sonia Sotomayor Houses in Soundview.

O’Brien-Ahlers said the law department worked on the case to prevent from worship in public schools, did not direct NYCHA to evict the churches from NYCHA-owned buildings. She did say the NYCHA was in the process of re-evaluating its permitting process for all groups that use their public spaces. (She said the churches don’t have leases with NYCHA. They apply for permits to use the public spaces in the buildings.

NYCHA did not immediately respond to inquiries.

Read more

Bronx Science Group Plans Protest Against Principal, Administration

January 4, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

A flier posted on the Facebook page of the group Take Back Bronx Science

A group of current and former Bronx High School of Science students and faculty are planning to stage a protest tomorrow afternoon, across the street from the prestigious public school, in opposition to administrative policies that they say are harming the school’s reputation and causing a number of well-respected teachers there to resign, or retire prematurely.

Complaints about the school’s administration, and largely its principal, Valerie Reidy, have been simmering for a while now, but organizers say they felt prompted to take action after a New York Times story in September reported an “exodus” of teachers fleeing the elite school because of conflicts with administrative staff.

“Me and other alumni, and also current students, saw wonderful teachers who were very intelligent, very effective, leaving because they’ve had enough of the harmful, hostile working environment,” said Jonathan Aris, a graduate from the class of 2010 who is one of several people organizing tomorrow’s event. The protesters have dubbed themselves “Take Back Bronx Science,” and created a Facebook page of the same name, which  currently has 106 “likes.” Two other Facebook groups, “Occupy Bronx Science,” and “Concerned Alumni of Bronx Science” also have a few hundred members each.
Read more

City Pays for 2010 Blizzard Claims, $100,000 in Bronx

January 4, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

The aftermath of 2010's blizzard in the Bronx (Adi Talwar)

The post-Christmas blizzard that slammed New York last year with over two feet of snow, and brought slew of criticism on the Bloomberg administration for how it handled the storm, cost the city over $1.8 million in damage claims settled to residents so far, according to tallies by the Comptroller’s office.

In the Bronx, 46 claims were filed by residents who said they were injured or their property damaged during the storm, totaling $113,693.62, less than what was paid in the other four boroughs. The largest Bronx settlement was $17,500 paid to a man who fell on an icy, unsalted sidewalk in front of PS 160 in Baychester. Other payments went for cars that were struck and damaged by unwieldy city snowplows and sanitation trucks during the storm cleanup.

Brooklyn has had by far the most damage claims–$856,737.29, almost half of what the city’s paid out.

Fordham Hoops Makes a Statement With Upset of #21 Harvard

January 4, 2012

By Alex Kratz


[Video highlights and rockin’ soundtrack courtesy of Fordham University.]

Fordham University pulled off a stunning college basketball upset of Harvard, the 21st ranked team in the country last night in the Bronx — the first time since 1978 the Rams have toppled a top-25 opponent. They had lost 54 straight games to ranked teams.

After suffering a humiliating 81-47 thrashing at the hands of cross-Bronx rivals Manhattan College and then getting routed by Siena, the Rams have turned their season around. They showed fight in losing by just six to St. John’s, an NCAA tournament team last year, in Madison Square Garden, then came back and beat Texas St. handily at home. Last Thursday at Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx, they beat Georgia Tech, one of the top programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference if not the country (although they’re down a little this year).

And now, a win over nationally-ranked Harvard, which has turned into an Ivy League hoops powerhouse over the past few seasons under former Michigan head coach Tommy Amacker.

The turnaround is remarkable considering the Rams won a grand total of nine games over the past two years. Read more

Meet The First Baby of 2012: Bronx-Born Rania Ali

January 3, 2012

Mom Alia Ali and dad Imdad Ali holding first baby Rania are flanked by Karen Nelson, RN (left) and Nirmala Pillalamarri, MD, one of the doctors who delivered the baby. (Photo courtesy of Montefiore)

The first baby of 2012 in all of New York City was born in the Bronx this New Year’s Eve, just as the clock struck midnight. Rania Ali was born at Montefiore Medical Center’s North Division, weighing in at 7 lbs. 3.8 oz. and measuring 18 1/2 inches. Her parents, Alia and Imdad, live in Throgs Neck with 3 1/2-year-old big brother Ryan.

Strike Averted for Bronx Nurses, Office Cleaners

January 3, 2012

Unions that represent two sets of Bronx workers announced on Friday that they’d reached a tentative contract

Photo courtesy of 32BJ SEIU

agreement with their respective managements, avoiding a potential strike in both cases.

Over 2,000 registered nurses at Montefiore Medical Center were threatening to strike by Jan. 10 if a deal wasn’t negotiated with the hospital. But on Friday, the New York State Nurses Association, representing the group, announced they’d agreed on tentative four-year contract that provides salary increases for existing workers and positions for another 125 nurses.

Another major union, 32BJ, which represents tens of thousands of office cleaners across the city, came to a deal with the Realty Advisory Board, one that maintains family healthcare coverage benefits for workers.

Both groups still need to vote on the proposed contracts this month, but the threat of a strike has been withdrawn.

2011 Year in Review: Bronx Housing Stories

January 3, 2012

Editor’s Note: The latest edition of the Norwood News is out now, and its our annual Year in Review issue–-a recap of the biggest stories that took place in 2011, in the Bronx and beyond. Over the next week or so, we’ll be rolling these top stories out here on Breaking Bronx. Enjoy, and a happy and healthy New Year to all of our readers!

The following are some of the top housing-related stories that appeared this year in the Norwood News.

City officials and Milbank tenants celebrate the sale of the portfolio at a press conference this spring (Jordan Moss)

Milbank Buildings Sold, Repaired
After years of living in rundown, dilapidated apartments, tenants at the infamous Milbank buildings got relief this year, after a new owner bought the foreclosed portfolio of properties and repaired thousands of housing code violations.

The Milbank tenants, with the help of housing advocates and organizers from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, had been campaigning to have buildings fixed, and their plight drew the attention of a number of City Council members, HPD and even Mayor Bloomberg. After months of negotiations, the city brokered a deal to sell the debt-riddled buildings in May to Steve Finkelstein, a Scarsdale-based landlord, for $28 million.

This summer, several months after Finkelstein took over, Milbank tenants gave him a good review.

“The new owner and his workmen are fantastic,” said Gloria Thomas, who has lived at 2505 Aqueduct Ave. for nearly 30 years. “I’m very, very pleased with everything going on with Finkelstein. They’re working on all the apartments diligently.”

City Cuts Homeless Assistance Program
A Manhattan judge ruled this September that New York City could legally cut a popular but controversial affordable housing program, despite efforts by homeless advocates to keep it afloat.

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