Editorial: Assessing How the Bronx Fared This Year

If there’s one word once again blanketing the end-of-year lists relating to the Bronx, it’s “development,” a term that holds a double meaning in this context.  In Norwood, the neighborhood experienced some two-steps-forward-one-step-back moments with some seeds of development planted and sure to grow in 2016.

Starting with Norwood, major construction continues to dot the landscape with Webster Avenue serving as the epicenter to reshaping the neighborhood.

With two projects (residential and supportive) expected to open in 2016, this further underscores the question: will the city increase its services to meet the impending population increase? More pointedly, will Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for more affordable housing paralyze services altogether or keep up?

Elsewhere, Williamsbridge Oval Park, frequented by many Norwood residents, saw a great deal of new trees and repairs in the latter part of 2015. But it comes amid a wave of violent incidents involving a daytime stabbing, nighttime fires and random muggings, which the NYPD can’t seem to topple despite its best efforts. Those new repairs, mainly the grand stone staircase leading to the park, could be compromised.

Meantime, a bond was strengthened among the Catholic faithful, with St. Brendan’s Church and the now closed St. Ann’s Church merging. The sacrificial lamb here was St. Ann’s, a fixture that was a sanctimonious refuge for many in Norwood.

In the east, residents remain divided over new trees planted along the mall of Mosholu Parkway. Longtime residents saw it as a slap in the face to Norwood’s traditions of fall time football and a Christmas tree lighting, all forced to relocate since the trees impede activities.

Again, two steps forward, one step back.

On a Bronx-wide level, the borough hit its stride, but it’s not out of the woods.

When it came to crime fighting, most Bronx precincts didn’t exactly “win the year,” an expression used when crime dips for the year. As of press time (Dec. 22) four of the 12 precincts managed to see crime decrease, with the 52nd Precinct, covering Norwood, thankfully being one of those four. Overall, major crime within the Five-Two fell three percent. Credit is due to a 28 percent drop in burglaries, which initially gave the stationhouse the most trouble early this year. But gang problems still persist in the neighborhoods the precinct covers, contributing to a 42.9 percent climb in murders and a 17.4 percent spike in shooting incidents.

Political advancements added to the borough’s development, particularly for the Bronx’s African-American politicians. Carl Heastie, the low-profile assemblyman of the 84th Assembly District, ascended to the role of Assembly Speaker, arguably the third most influential position in state government, becoming the first African-American to assume the title. He rose following the arrest of now disgraced Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, becoming a symbol of political chicanery U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has attempted to dismantle for years.

Many said that Heastie’s representation is good for the Bronx, though his influence is not yet fully showing in the Bronx, save for a couple million in taxpayer monies to fund a pedestrian bridge connecting two sections of Van Cortlandt Park.

Darcel Clark, a longtime jurist at Bronx Supreme Court, became the borough’s first female district attorney, though it came under a major cloud of suspicion she’ll never climb completely out of despite the loopy legalities that justified her climb. Voters, yes, chose Clark, but even she can’t deny the awkward way in which she ascended.

Let’s hope the politicians the small number of voters put into office do right by them. If not, a knock by the U.S. Attorney is not too far behind.

On the jobs front, there was a dramatic drop in the borough’s unemployed–6.5 percent. Credit goes to an overall improved economy and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s interest in solving the Bronx jobs crisis, all good steps.

The next is getting the employed higher earning jobs, still a nagging problem. A 2013 report by the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank group, found 47 percent of Bronx residents working in low-wage jobs, the highest percentage citywide. The federal government defines low-wage workers in New York State as those earning $12.89 hourly or $26,818 yearly. It’ll likely take years before the Bronx pulls out of that hole.

But even as the borough chips away at its past, the storytellers and writers to the first draft of the borough’s history wanes. Newspapers such as ours have sat on their perch, witnessing all the changes, warts and all, using a tool that’s seldom used in the Bronx—the power of print.

In any case, the Norwood News will continue to sit on the perch, cataloging news and events with the interests of readers in mind.

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