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Fresh Direct Will Move Headquarters to the Bronx

February 7, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

The Boogie Down comes out ahead–again!–in the latest business battle with New Jersey, with the news that grocery delivery company Fresh Direct will be  relocating to the Bronx from their current headquarters in Queens.

The company had been contemplating lucrative tax deals from both New York City and New Jersey, but will build its new site in the south Bronx’s Harlem River Yards after accepting $130 in grants, tax breaks and tax credits from Gov. Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., according to the Daily News.

Last June, New Jersey tried to lure the Hunts Point Produce Market over the river from its long time Bronx location, but the Market ultimately opted to renew its lease and stay put, at least for the time being.

The News reports that the move will keep the Fresh Direct’s 2,000 current jobs in New York, and will also add 1,000 new jobs by 2020. Its planned 500,000-square-foot new warehouse is estimated to open by 2015.

The article notes that some good-government groups are criticizing the city’s generous tax breaks offerings, citing the fact that Fresh Direct pays 38% of its workers less than $25,000 a year.

In the living wage bill compromise struck last month between City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and supporters of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act, Fresh Direct would be exempt from the mandate required of other publicly subsidized companies should the bill get passed–that direct workers get paid $1 0 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 an hour without.

Weekend Bronx Links

February 6, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Breaking Bronx’s roundup of local news from today and this past weekend.

Tensions are high here in the Bronx after police officers shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old, Wakefield resident Ramarley Graham. The Amsterdam News reports that Graham’s family and friends have been rallying today and over the weekend. The Daily News and the Times report that Graham’s grandmother, who was home when the shooting occurred, says she was held for hours by police afterwards for interviews, against her will. Recently released surveillance video footage of the incident shows officers kicking down the door to Graham’s home after the teen had entered it.

In other Bronx/NYPD news:
The Associated Press reports that the lawyer for Jateik Reed, a 19-year-old whose beating at the hands of police officers was caught on tape and went viral, is asking for a special prosecutor to investigate the incident on the grounds that Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson is too close to the NYPD to to be considered impartial.

Fernando Cabrera is taking his fight for churches using public school space to Albany today. The councilman and a number of faith leaders are hoping to garner support for a state law that would reverse a city ban on churches holding service in schools.

DNAinfo profiles the two men behind the Bronx Brewery, the Mott Haven-based beer makers who turn out brews like the aptly named Bronx Pale Ale.

The Daily News profiles Deirdre Scott, head of the Bronx Council on the Arts. 

The Department of Education will vote Thursday on whether to close 25 schools on the city’s list of struggling ones, which includes Samuel Gompers, a vocational high school on Southern Boulevard. Four other Bronx schools are on the list of possible closures, and the city wants to eliminate grades at another. You can find the full list here. 

 

Bronx Budget Hearing Date Changed to Feb. 16

February 6, 2012

Editor’s note: Last week we mistakenly reported the Bronx public hearing on the mayor’s proposed budget would be Feb. 1 (the original date). It was rescheduled for Thursday, Feb. 16. Details are below:

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. invites the public to attend The Bronx Borough Board Public Hearing on the mayor’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2013, and the capital and service needs of the Bronx. The meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at 198 E. 161st St., in the third floor Litigation Room. Anyone interested in presenting testimony should email their name, title, organization, and telephone number to bmccray@bronxbp.nyc.gov to register in advance, or for more information, call (718) 590-3500.

Bronx State Sen. Klein to Sponsor Minimum Wage Bill

February 6, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Bronx State Sen. Jeff Klein announced this morning that he is introducing a bill in the Senate to raise the state’s minimum wage, a version of which was first introduced in the State Assembly last week by Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Klein, who broke from the Senate Democrats last year, is currently the head of a four-person Independent Democratic Conference. Most Republicans oppose the idea of a wage hike.

If passed, the bill would raise the minimum wage required in New York to $8.50 an hour, up from the current $7.25, and would tie the minimum wage to the rate of inflation.

“New York is failing to live up to its tradition as a progressive leader as long as this state’s minimum wage remains stagnant,” Klein said in a statement.

“Living on $290 a-week is virtually impossible in this state, yet that’s what thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers are struggling to do each day. I believe we can do better as a state and as a society.”

Mayor Bloomberg came out in support of a minimum wage hike in his State of the City speech last month, and several Bronx elected officials have expressed their support for it.
Read more

Bronx Neighborhood Note: Public Hearing on Van Cortlandt Park Ice Rink

February 6, 2012

Every weekday, we highlight a Bronx program, service, opportunity, public meeting/hearing or community event. Find a full listing on our Neighborhood Notes page.

The Franchise and Concession Review Committee and the Parks Department will hold a joint public hearing on Monday, Feb. 6, at 2:30 p.m., at 22 Reade St. in Manhattan, to review the intent to award one 15-season term development, operation, and maintenance license to Van Cortlandt Park Ice Rink, LLC. A draft copy of the license agreement may be reviewed or obtained at no cost from Monday, Jan. 30 through Monday, Feb. 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding weekends and holidays, at the Parks Department offices, 830 Fifth Avenue, room 313. For more information, call (212) 788-7490.

Bronx Breakdown: Unarmed Teen Shot By Police & Other Bronx News

February 3, 2012

By Marcos Sierra and Alex Kratz

The Bronx Breakdown, brought to you commercial-free every Friday, spent the week compiling all of the latest and most compelling Bronx stories and packaged them here for your reading consumption. Enjoy. And please, tune in again next week.

Unarmed Bronx Teen Shot by Police Officer

It’s never a good thing when police and citizens are trading body blows. This week, we’ve seen victims on both sides of the law. So far, the tally includes three dead (and one badly-beaten up) citizens and one cop fighting for his life after taking a bullet to his head. The latest altercation played out to its fatal end yesterday afternoon in the Wakefield-area of the Bronx, near the corner of East 229th street and White Plains Road.

Ramarley Graham, 18, was pronounced dead at Montefiore Medical Center after being chased by a group of plainclothes narcotics officers into his home at 749 East 229th Street and fatally shot.

According to police reports, plainclothes officers spotted Graham on White Plains Road in the Wakefield section at around 3 p.m. Thursday. They saw him adjusting his belt and thought he had a gun, so they chased him into his home on East 229th Street. In the bathroom, a struggle ensued and Graham was shot in the torso, while his 6-year-old little brother and grandmother watched.

The NYPD’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne said, “there was no evidence that he (Graham) was armed” when the officer, a member of a narcotics unit, shot him once in the upper left chest, according to the NY Times.

Today, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly addressed the shooting with reporters. He said the officers involved saw a gun sticking out of Graham’s waistband and that he fled when they approached him. After Graham went into the apartment he lived in with his grandmother, one of the two officers pursuing him became entangled. The struggling officer’s partner said he heard his colleague yell, “Gun! Gun!” before the fatal gunshot rang out out. Kelly did not say that Graham was actually carrying a gun, although police say they did recover a small amount of marijuana at the apartment.

Graham’s friends and family say the punishment didn’t fit the crime. Read more

Local Faith Leaders Bless Bronx Pride’s New Home

February 3, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Local faith leaders visited the Bronx Community Pride Center's new building last week (Photo courtesy Bronx Pride)

Last week, the Bronx Community Pride Center celebrated its new home, and eight pastors from varying faiths visited the group’s new building to participate in an interdenominational blessing ceremony for the new site, on Kelly Street in Hunts Point.

“Our clients and staff have strong ties to the faith community and religion has played a large role in their lives and upbringing,” said executive director Dirk McCall. “While we might not always agree on all issues, we want to engage in dialogue and find areas of common ground, working together to improve the lives of all LGBTQ Bronxites.” Read more

Bronx Neighborhood Note: Children’s Speech Classes

February 3, 2012

Every weekday, we highlight a Bronx program, service, opportunity, public meeting/hearing or community event. Find a full listing on our Neighborhood Notes page.

The Speech Center at Mount Saint Ursula Academy, 2885 Marion Ave., is accepting children for its spring speech, language and reading programs. For more information, call (718) 584-7679 or e-mail msuspeech@aol.com.

Bronx Sports Report: After Down Year, Jaspers Catching Fire

February 2, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Manhattan College freshman and Bronx native Emmy Andujar, with the ball for the Jaspers against Fordham earlier this season, is a key component to the Jaspers' remarkable turnaround this season. (Photo courtesy Manhattan College Athletic Department)

Following its seventh straight win on Sunday night — to complete a road sweep of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s western New York schools, Niagra and Canisius — it’s time to acknowledge the remarkable turnaround of Manhattan College’s men’s basketball program, which is fielding the hottest hoops team in the Bronx. (Manhattan plays tonight at Marist.)

Last year, the Jaspers suffered through one its worst season ever with a 6-25 overall record and just three MAAC wins. The abysmal performance cost head coach Barry Rohrssen his job.

This year, behind 34-year-old first-year head coach Steve Masiello the team already has 16 wins, making it the biggest one-season turnaround (from last year to this year) in the entire NCAA Division I, according to sports information director Steve Dombrowski.

Masiello is doing with it with mostly the same team as he inherited, but with a new winning, blue-collar attitude that he has preached from Day 1, when he told reporters at his introductory press conference in April: “We’re gonna win and win big.” He added that the Jaspers would be “the hardest-working team in the country, bar none.” Read more

Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative–Apply Now!

February 2, 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 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.

To check out some of the stories published by our fall semester students, click 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.

Bronx Crime Watch: Children Injured in Two Bronx Shootings

February 2, 2012

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Two shootings that took place this week in different Bronx neighborhoods left a 10-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy recovering from bullet wounds, according to the New York Daily News.

On Tuesday, a gunman opened fire in the crowded basketball court in Vidalia Park, on E. 180th Street and Daly Avenue in West Farms. A 12-year-old boy was injured, as were two 20-year-olds and an 18-year-old. Police believed the assailant was targeting one of the older victims; no arrests had been made as of yesterday. All four injured are expected to recover.

On Wednesday, a 10-year-old girl was nicked in the leg by a bullet while walking home from school after someone opened fire in a Morrisania intersection. She is expected to survive.

Bronx elected officials sent out statements conveying their alarm over the two incidents.

“Innocent children and their families should not be scared nor terrorized to play in their neighborhood playgrounds in fear of becoming a victim of senseless violence,” City Councilman Joel Rivera said in a statement after the West Farms shooting.

State Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr., responded to the Morrisania shooting.

“I thank the Lord that she is expected to be fine, and hope that she will be able to put this trauma behind her fairly quickly, resume her life as a child, not fear her walk to and from school, and not fear growing up in her neighborhood,” he said.

City Council Hears Testimony on Worship Groups Using School Space

February 2, 2012

The City Council is holding a public hearing today on whether or not to pass a resolution in favor of a state law that would allow churches and other faith-based groups to use public school space, a debate which stemmed from a long legal battle by University Heights church Bronx Household of Faith, which had been fighting for years to continue holding services at PS 15.

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, a decision that many–led in large part by Bronx City Councilman Fernando Cabrera–have been fighting through city and state legislation.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., expressed his support for the faith-based community in a letter to DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott last week, saying he thinks the decision to let religious groups use school space should be left to the discretion of principals, and cited the important role that faith groups have played in their neighborhoods.

“The Department of Education should encourage schools to connect with their neighboring community organizations, in order to forge good relationships that can reverberate out into the community-at-large,” Diaz wrote. “Such relationships can have a direct positive effect on the school community and the families of the students they serve.”
Read more

Bronx Crime Watch: Commercial Robberies in Bedford Park (Video of Suspects)

February 2, 2012

By Marcos Sierra

Bedford Park merchants and vendors are on guard following two commercial robberies and a “noticed increase” in crime during the past month. The two robberies happened on Bedford Park Boulevard, near Jerome Avenue. (Police are looking for help identifying and locating the suspects from the second robbery, shown in the video above,, of Connie’s Laundromat, located at 39 East Bedford Park Blvd., on Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.)

At approximately 3 p.m., on Jan. 5, a robber, described by police as a Hispanic male, standing between 5-feet-5 and 5-feet-7, and weighing 150 pounds, brazenly entered the K & C Candy Store, located at 239 East Bedford Park Blvd., while the store was filled with customers.

According to the owner who declined to be identified, he walked up to the cash register and menacingly barked two words, “Open and money,” while gesturing as if he were armed.

“I was in shock and afraid to move, so he just reached over and grabbed all the money; he didn’t care that the store was full of people and children,” said the owner who has been a staple in the area for the past 21 years.
Read more

Bronx Neighborhood Note: Bedford Mosholu Community Association Meeting, Flea Market Donation Drive

February 1, 2012

The Bedford Mosholu Community Association meets tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. at the BMCA office, 400 E. Mosholu Pkwy.So. Apt.B1 (Lobby Floor). All are welcome. Donations are needed for BMCA’s annual Flea Market on March 10. Bring new and used items (except clothing) to the BMCA office on Wednesdays, Feb. 15, 22 and 29 from 1:30-4 p.m. or on Wednesday evening March 7, from 7:30-9 p.m.

Bronx Crime Watch: Cops Find Marijuana Farm in 5-Story Van Nest Building

February 1, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Police discovered 1,550 pounds of marijuana in a Bronx building yesterday. (Photo courtesy NYPD

Bronx police raided a five-story building in Van Nest yesterday and found an expansive marijuana growing operation that they estimated was producing $250,000-worth of product each month.

At about 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, police executed a search warrant and discovered 593 plants, some seven-feet tall, inside 610 Morris Park Ave. They said there was also 75 pounds of marijuana already cut, dried and packed in plastic. Combined with the plants, police said there was a total of 1,550 pounds of marijuana on the premises.

Three Bronx residents — Brian Munoz, 24; Diego Reyes, 25; Victor Reyes, 23 — were arrested in connection with the massive grow house discovery and charged with criminal possession of marijuana and criminal use of drug paraphernalia.

“It’s kind of genius,” local resident Dwayne Dent told the NY Times. “Until they got caught.”

Bronx Crime Watch: iPhone Shooting Suspects and Arrest in Car/Child-jacking

February 1, 2012

By Alex Kratz

iPhone Robbery Attempt Ends in Gun Violence
Police are looking for two suspects (pictured in the above video) who they say shot a 23-year-old man who refused to give up his iPhone during a recent robbery attempt in University Heights.

On Jan. 18, at about 6:30 p.m., the victim and a friend were walking on West 190th Street, between Grand and Aqueduct avenues, when they were approached by two men who demanded the victim give up his iPhone. When the victim refused and turned to run, one of the suspects shot the victim in the back. The suspects then fled on foot. The victim was transported to St. Barnabas Hospital and treated for his injuries, which were not life-threatening.

Suspect #1, who is believed to be the shooter, is describing as being 5-feet-7 and 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, a dark Marmot jacket, blue jeans, black boots and carrying a gun. Suspect #2, 5-feet-8, 150 pounds, was last seen wearing a blue Yankees cap, black jacket, black pants and brown boots.

The robbery attempt occurred in almost the exact location where Bimal Chanda was killed during a violent robbery attempt almost three months ago. Police arrested one of the two suspects in Chanda’s case last week. The other suspect remains at large.

Anyone with information in regards to this 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.

Police: We Caught Carjacker Who Stole Child Along with Car Read more

Bronx Neighborhood Notes: Budget Hearing

January 31, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Every weekday, we highlight a Bronx program, service, opportunity, public meeting/hearing or community event. Find a full listing on our Neighborhood Notes page.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. invites the public to attend The Bronx Borough Board Public Hearing on the mayor’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2013, and the capital and service needs of the Bronx. The meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to noon at 198 E. 161st St., in the third floor Litigation Room. Anyone interested in presenting testimony should email their name, title, organization, and telephone number to bmccray@bronxbp.nyc.gov to register in advance, or for more information, call (718) 590-3500.

Bronx Hearing Today Seeks Public Input on Controversial Redistricting Process

January 31, 2012

New lines for local legislative districts that were proposed last week

Bronx residents have a chance to weigh in on the state legislature’s controversial redistricting plans today: the task force charged with re-drawing New York’s political district maps is holding a hearing at the Bronx Museum of the Arts this afternoon, one of several public forums being held at different locations across the state over the next few weeks.

Every ten years, following the release of new Census numbers, the state redraws its legislative district maps, intended to update Senate, Assembly and Congressional districts to reflect population changes. The process has long drawn criticism from good government groups, since the parties in power–currently, Republicans in the State Senate and Democrats in the Assembly–are the ones who do the re-drawing, and will create maps that benefit the members of their party.

Advocates, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other legislators, including many Bronx reps, have been calling for the formation of an independent panel to take over the redistricting process, but to no avail. Cuomo has said he will veto any maps put forth by LATFOR, the group of lawmakers currently in charge of drawing the new district lines.

The group released sets of proposed maps last week (see above) which show some interesting changes to a few Bronx districts. Riverdale, for example, which is currently split between three senators, would fall entirely under Sen. Jeff Klein’s jurisdiction under the new lines. Senate Republicans have also proposed adding an extra senate seat, a move many have criticized as an attempt for the party to try and maintain their slim majority in the chamber.

We’ll be at the hearing this afternoon–it’s at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, at 3 p.m.–so stay tuned.

Bronx’s Cabrera Leads Thousands in March Against Ban on Worship in School Buildings

January 31, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera leads a protest march across the Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday afternoon. (Photo by Joseph Hout)

Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera was joined by thousands on Sunday for a protest against a city policy that bans churches and religious organizations from using school buildings during off-hours for worship services. Cabrera said opposition to the city’s policy is gaining momentum as dozens of churches face homelessness when the city stops allowing them to use its school facilities on Feb. 12.

“Communities turned out in mass to show their support,” said Cabrera. “Black, White, Latino and Asian, young and old. Our momentum is growing.”

“Our constitution has an anti-establishment clause and we respect that,” he added, “but it also has a free exercise clause. This policy restricts the right to free exercise by discriminating against religious groups. Our stance against this policy does not ask for special treatment, but for fair treatment.” Read more

Breaking Bronx Eats at Mar & Tierra; Caribbean Cuisine Comes to Bainbridge

January 30, 2012

By Emily Piccone

Mar & Tierra recenlty opened on Bainbridge Avenue in Norwood. (Photo by Emily Piccone)

Breaking Bronx Eats is a periodic feature where we highlight neighborhood restaurants. If you would like us to check out a restaurant in your area, write to us at norwoodnews@norwoodnews.org.

The shops and restaurants clustered around the last stop on the D train are multiplying.

A mile from the Botanical Garden and right below the newly-refurbished Reservoir Oval Park, the few blocks of commerce have a unique charm that still reflects an older time.

Within less than a mile, there’s Mc­Dwyer’s Pub, the oldest Irish bar left standing in Norwood, Sal’s Pizza, the neighborhood’s oldest (and possibly best) pizza spot that just lost its namesake to retirement (but not its pizza, don’t worry), and a piano bar on the corner of Webster and 204th that looks untouched since the ’70s.

Joining these legends are a couple of newcomers that are bringing something fresh to the streets: a sign of nightlife. Catering to the expanding Dominican population of Norwood, the Beso Lounge and Mar & Tierra have just recently opened their doors. Mar & Tierra moved in recently, filling the bottom floor of the ever-in-flux yellow brick building on the corner of Bainbridge Avenue and Reservoir Oval East. Read more

At Bronx’s Armory, Ice Center Group Says It Would Create School and Programs

January 30, 2012

By Lindsay Armstrong

Last Thursday, John Nolan (right) and Jonathan Richter (left) talked with Community Board 7 about their group's vision for an ice center at the KIngsbridge Armory. (Photo by Lindsay Armstrong)

There was only one item on the agenda at last Thursday night’s meeting of the Community Board 7 Land Use Committee: the proposal to transform the Kingsbridge Armory into a state-of-the-art complex for ice sports. A group of private investors known as the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) presented their vision for the Armory, which would include a school and youth programs, to the committee and a handful of community members.

“The idea isn’t to create just another rec center in just another armory, but to create an iconic arena in an iconic building,” said Jonathan Richter of the Kingridge National Ice Center (KNIC). “The hope is that it becomes a best-in-class facility and a destination on par with the [New York] Botanical Gardens.”

As the Norwood News reported last week, the facility would include a 5,000-seat arena and seven or eight additional skating rinks. The group plans to fund the project with private investments rather than city subsidies.

KNIC representatives were tight-lipped on many of the specifics of the plan, not wanting to reveal too much information before the city’s March 22 deadline for proposals. They did, however, provide an overview of how the ice complex could address community needs, specifically in the realms of education and youth development. Read more

Kingsbridge Armory Open for Business; Hockey Group Emerges

January 30, 2012

By Alex Kratz

A late Christmas gift for the Bronx? The possibility of a redeveloped Kingsbridge Armory is once again a reality after the mayor released a request for proposals two weeks ago. (Photo by Alex Kratz)

Editor’s note: This article appears is in the latest print edition of the Norwood News, which you can find now at locations throughout the northwest Bronx.

Two years after the City Council killed a plan to turn the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory into a giant shopping mall, the city is once again seeking development proposals for the 600,000-square-foot, castle-like structure.

In his State of the City speech at Morris High School in the Bronx, Mayor Bloomberg said his office had received unsolicited interest in the Armory from groups with the resources to revamp the nearly 95-year-old building. Although the new request for proposals, released on Jan. 12, does not rule out the possibility of another mall project, momentum is building for another type of use.

“We’ve heard from a variety of interested parties who want to develop it into recreational space,” Bloomberg said in his speech.

The frontrunner emerging with recreational plans appears to be a group of investors, including former New York Rangers star Mark Messier, who want to turn the Armory into the region’s (and possibly the nation’s) biggest hockey complex. Read more

Bronx Breakdown: Terrifying Attack Leaves Woman Hurt, Frustrated and ‘A Nervous Wreck’

January 27, 2012

By Alex Kratz

This is a special edition of the Bronx Breakdown, dedicated to a singular story of a broken down woman struggling after a savage brush with death.

A woman called the Norwood News office this morning with a harrowing tale of unprovoked violence. I want to share her story here because it can happen to anyone, but also because it doesn’t happen to everyone. She’s not ready to go public with her name or exact location just yet (calling the newspaper and telling her story to a reporter was an important step in regaining her confidence), so I will call her “Jane.”

Four days before Christmas, Jane arrived home at her Norwood-area apartment building, laden with bags from some last-minute gift shopping. When she got to the door, she noticed a large man behind her, talking on his cell phone. “No need to buzz me in,” he told the person on the other end of the line. She was a little suspicious of his presence, but has lived in the area for 25 years and didn’t think too much of it. “I wasn’t alarmed,” she said.

After she made it through the building’s security doors with the man following behind, she headed to the stairs. “Can I help you with your bags?” the man asked. But when she turned around to get a better look at him, he shielded his face. When Jane headed up the stairs, he grabbed her and forcefully carried her up to the top of the steps and put his hands around her neck.

“Shut the [expletive] and give me all your money or I’ll kill you,” said the man, who Jane described as being about 6-feet tall and weighing 300 pounds. He was older, she said, not some kid, which surprised her. Read more

Bronx Public Safety Forum Tonight at Monroe College

January 27, 2012

The leaders at Community Board 7 want to invite anyone in the Bronx to talk about public safety and quality of life issues at a forum tonight at Monroe College’s King Hall Gym, 2501 Jerome Ave., from 6 to 9 p.m.

Walter Bell and Community Board 7 Chairman Paul Foster say they hope the forum allows people to speak up about their concerns, whether it’s violence, prostitution, litter or any other issue they feel is affecting their lives. For more information, call CB7 at (718) 933-5650.

Bronx Crime Watch: Arrest Made in Murder of Bengali Man; Police Looking for 2nd Suspect (Updated)

January 27, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Police arrested a suspect yesterday in the murder of Bimal Chanda, a Bengali immigrant and longtime northwest Bronx resident who was beaten to death in the stairwell of his apartment building at 30 W. 190th St. on Oct. 29. Inspector Joseph Dowling, the commander of the 52nd Precinct, said police are still looking for a second suspect in the case. (Update: We’ve removed some of the information included in this post in order to assist authorities in apprehending this suscpect.) Read more

Bronx Sports Report: Lady Knights Rebound, The Bombers’ Big Trade from Seattle’s Perspective & More

January 26, 2012

By Alex Kratz

Monroe College's Davon Marshall puts up a jump shot vs. ASA last week. Marshall leads the Mustangs with 15.6 ppg. Monroe is 19-2 on the season and ranked #5 in the NJCAA Division I. See more on Marshall below. (Photo courtesy of Monroe Athletic Department)

Every Thursday, The Bronx Sports Report compiles the latest youth, high school and college action and stories coming out of the Boogie Down. We’ll also occasionally mention a certain professional baseball team that plays on River Avenue in a large stadium you may have heard of.

The Lady Knights Rebound With Huge Win

Let’s start with the ladies.

Specifically the Lady Knights of John F. Kennedy High School. Consistently one of the best public school girls teams in Gotham, the Lady Knights are again a force to be reckoned with this winter. But when they lost badly to perennial champions Murry Bergrtraum (seriously, Bergtraum winning the title is like tax season, it happens every year) last Wednesday, it appeared to signal another close-but-no-cigar season for the Riverdale-based program.

But hold on. Two days later, the Lady Knights made a statement, trouncing South Shore, 47-32, highlighted by a tenacious and stifling defensive effort. (Click here for photos from the game.)

South Shore suffered its first league loss and just its second defeat overall and is the NY Post‘s fourth-ranked girls team (public or private). In December, South Shore soundly beat Bergtraum and destroyed Harry S. Truman, the Bronx’s other major contender. Truman beat JFK, 58-56, in JFK’s home gym and only fell to Bergtraum by three.

“It was a good win after a bad loss,” JFK’s Joya McFarland, who led the Lady Knights with 11 points, told the NY Post. “It’s something we really needed.” Read more

International Students Miffed by Mandarin-Only Classes

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.

While most high schools offer language classes like Spanish and Italian, students at International Leadership Charter School in Marble Hill can only take Mandarin. (Photo by Kiki Olafimihan)

By Kiki Olafimihan

Despite its multicultural name, International Leadership Charter High School offers its students only one language class choice for all four years of their high school attendance: Mandarin, a dialect of Chinese most commonly spoken in northern and southwestern China.

Some students dislike this arrangement and wish it could be different.

“I don’t only want to learn one language,” said Mariamah Bah, a junior at the school. “I don’t like [Mandarin]. It’s hard, and I wish we had other subjects to learn, like French.”

According to the Department of Education, public and charter schools are only required to offer one language other than English to students. Last school year, International Leadership offered both Spanish and Mandarin classes — students were required to take Mandarin in grades 9 and 10, then transitioned to Spanish during grade 11. The school’s administration got rid of the Spanish classes this year, which upset many students who regarded Spanish as an easier option for the state’s Regents language exam.

Read more

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.”

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