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Out & About

April 22, 2010

By Judy Noy

Onstage

The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Pk. Blvd. E., presents Legends of Salsa 3, featuring salsa greats and Jimmy Delgado’s Orchestra, April 24 at 8 p.m. (tickets are $40 to $55); and The Spencers: Theatre of Illusion, featuring magicians, April 25 at 4 p.m. (tickets are $15 to $25; $10 for ages 12 and under). For more information, call (718) 960-8833.

The Bronx Arts Ensemble presents Chamber Music at Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, 895 Shore Road, April 25 at 3 p.m. For more information, call (718) 601-7399.

The Bronx Library Center, at 310 E. Kingsbridge Rd. off Fordham Road, hosts Mariachi Real de Mexico, April 24 at 2:30 p.m.; and Silk and Swords, by the Chinese Red Silk Dancers, May 1 at 2:30 p.m. For more information, call (718) 579-4244/46 or visit www.nypl.org.

The Bronx Museum, located at 1040 Grand Concourse (at 165th Street), presents First Fridays! And the Beat Goes On!, featuring jazz pianist Dr. Valerie Capers, May 7 from 6 to 10 p.m., free, in the South Building, lower gallery. For more information, call (718) 681-6000.

Events

The public is invited to celebrate Earth Day at Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture’s Meeting House, located at 4450 Fieldston Rd., on April 25 at 11 a.m. For more information, call (718) 548-4445.

The Mass Transit Street Theater celebrates 40 years of creating and performing original plays on Earth Day 2010. Join them in their celebration on Friday, April 23 from 6 to 10:30 p.m. at the Longwood Gallery, at Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture located at 450 Grand Concourse on 149th Street. RSVP is required to nccampos@gmail.com. Suggested contributions are between $5 and $25 and will help support Mass Transit’s in progress video, “Another Bronx.”

The Woodlawn Cemetery, located at the corner of Bainbridge and Jerome avenues, presents walking tours to visit final resting places of the famous: Jazz Greats of Woodlawn, April 25 at 2 p.m.; and Irish Eyes are Smiling, May 2 at 1 p.m. (includes concert in the Woodlawn Chapel at 2:30 p.m.; 25 percent discount for those who attend both tour and concert). Meet at the Jerome Avenue entrance. Fee: $10; $5/seniors/students; free for ages under 6. For more information, call (718) 920-1470.

The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park invites the public to its Hike-a-Thon, May 1 starting at 10 a.m., to help raise funds for the restoration of the park’s hiking trails by seeking out supporters to sponsor their hike. Participants who raise $25 or more will receive gifts. For more information, call (718) 601-1460 or visit www.vancortlandt.org.
n Wave Hill, located at West 249th Street and Independence Avenue, offers a family art project: Shake a Flower, Wear a Garden, to make a flowerpot hat and blossom-shaped seed shaker, April 24 and 25, in the Kerlin Learning Center from 1 to 4 p.m., for the end of the day festive musical parade. On-the-grounds music begins at 2 p.m. and the parade at 4 p.m., and last until 5 p.m., rain or shine. Admission to the grounds is free till 11 a.m. on April 25. For more information, call (718) 549-3200 or visit www.wavehill.org.

The public is invited to ride the May 5 free Bronx Culture Trolley, a replica of a 20th-century trolley, which transports visitors on the first Wednesday of every month (except January and September) to Bronx hot spots, all featuring a variety of entertainment options and ends at the Bruckner Bar & Grill for music, food and drink. Trolley night starts with a 5 p.m. reception at the Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos Community College, 450 Grand Concourse (at 149th St.). From there, the trolley departs at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. New attractions are added monthly; admission to most venues is free. Riders can get on and off at any scheduled stop and spend as much time as they wish at any or all of the featured venues. For more information and a detailed schedule, call (718) 931-9500 ext. 33 or log on to www.bronxarts.org.

Bronx Council on the Arts presents its Culture Trolley Saturdays, featuring a Mott Haven Open Artist Studio Tour on May 1 and 2, to visit Bronx artists’ private studios, galleries, and alternative art spaces. Visitors will be shuttled from Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos, 450 Grand Concourse (149th Street) from noon to 5 p.m. and can get on and off at any point. All trolley rides and events are free. An opening party will be held on April 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. at 112 Lincoln Ave. featuring live bands and a preview show of artists’ work. For more information, call (718) 401-7866.

The Bronx River Alliance is inviting everyone to come kick off the paddling season at the Bronx River Flotilla on May 1. Experienced paddlers, 18 years of age and older are invited to join the five-mile canoe procession beginning at 9 a.m. Online registration is required. Go to www.bronxriver.org. Following it at 1 p.m. will be a picnic at the Concrete Plant Park between Westchester Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard. For more information, visit the Website or call (718) 430-4665.

Exhibits

The Museum of Bronx History, located at 3266 Bainbridge Ave. (at 208th Street), presents Parkchester: City Within a City, through Oct. 3. The opening reception is on Thursday, April 29 at 4:30 p.m. For more information, call the Bronx County Historical Society at (718) 881-8900.

Lehman College at 250 Bedford Pk. Blvd. E. hosts traveling exhibit, “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Emancipation,” in the Leonard Lief Library, through April 30. Complementing this exhibit are several free programs. For more information, call (718) 960-8577/8715.

The New York Botanical Garden hosts Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers, May 1 through June 13. For more information, call (718) 817-8700.

The Bronx River Art Center, together with the NYC Department of Transportation, present an abstract wooden art sculpture, Aurora, 14 feet tall, 11 feet wide and 11 feet deep, to be on view for 11 months until June at the center of West Farms Square Plaza located at the base of the West Farms Square/East Tremont Avenue subway station on the corner of East Tremont Avenue and Boston Road, one block away from BRAC which is located at 1087 E. Tremont Ave. BRAC is also presenting Dialects IV, through May 29. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/urbanart.

Library Events

The Bronx Library Center, at 310 E. Kingsbridge Rd. off Fordham Road, presents the following programs for preschoolers and school-aged children: Preschool Story Time, April 22 and 29 at 11 a.m.; Book Mark Making, April 22 at 4 p.m.; Toddler Story Time, April 24 at 11 a.m.; The Secret Garden, April 25 at 2 p.m.; and films, April 28 at 4 p.m. For teens and young adults, there is What’s Your Story, April 22 at 4 p.m.; and Crafternoons, April 23 and 30 at 3:30 p.m. Adults can attend Family Resource Day, for information on family events, April 24 at 10 a.m. For more information, call (718) 579-4244/46 or visit www.nypl.org.

The Mosholu Library, at 285 E. 205th St., hosts Knitting Circle, April 22 and 29 at 3 p.m. for adults. For more information, call (718) 882-8239.

The Jerome Park Library, at 118 Eames Place, presents Crafternoons, April 22 and 29 at 4 p.m. for teens and young adults. For more information, call (718) 549-5200.
                                           
NOTE: Items for consideration may be mailed to our office or sent to norwoodnews@norwoodnews.org, and should be received by April 26 for the next publication date of May 6.

With Espada’s Help, PS 86 Kids Head to Japan

April 22, 2010

By Anelgi Solis

Students at PS 86 in Kingsbridge will have the opportunity to expand their horizons beyond the Bronx and all the way to Japan, thanks to a late contribution from State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr.

Sheldon Bernardo, who attended PS 86 as a child and has been principal at the school for the past 19 years, said the school had been planning to visit Japan to connect with student pen pals and experience some of the country’s cultural offerings. But they were lacking the funds to make it happen.

Bernardo had read that Espada, who represents most of the northwest Bronx, had ascended to majority leader last summer and might have some extra cash for community groups and schools. So Bernardo reached out to him in October and sure enough, Espada agreed to provide the school with $25,000 from a pot of discretionary funds Espada controls.

From May 15 to 23, the top students will travel to Tokyo and Kyoto and take in a Sumo wrestling match and sleep in a Buddhist monastery.

“Children learn tolerance, love and an understanding of the world at large from the enriching experience of meeting children in faraway places like Japan,” Espada said in a statement. “This experience will have a lasting impact on these wonderful fifth graders.”

Bernardo said he couldn’t thank the senator enough. “We are extremely excited,” he said. “This will be so broadening for these kids, an opportunity to expand beyond the reach of their parents’ pocketbooks.”

Since the beginning of the year, PS 86 students have been learning about Japanese culture, as well as writing and speaking on Skype to their Japanese counterparts. 

-With ALEX KRATZ

Memorial Ride for Megan Charlop

April 22, 2010

By Jordan Moss

On April 10, dozens of friends, family and co-workers of Megan Charlop gathered with their bicycles in front of the Bronx Museum of History (Valentine-Varian House) on Bainbridge Avenue. The group cycled with a police escort to Crotona Avenue at the corner of East Tremont Avenue where Charlop was killed by a bus while riding her bike on March 17.

A white “ghost bike” (pictured) was dedicated to Charlop and it was chained to a pole near the site of the accident. Several people spoke briefly and emotionally about Charlop, a beloved Norwood resident and mother of four who made children’s health her life’s work. She was director of community health at Montefiore’s School Health Program at the time of her death. Later, many of those gathered, including her children, placed flowers in the wheel spokes, handlebars and other parts of the bike. To close the event, riders lifted their bicycles over their heads — a tradition known as a “bike lift” — in tribute.

The memorial event was organized by the cycling and pedestrian advocacy group Transportation Alternatives and Montefiore’s School Health Program.
 

Baseball Season Preview

April 22, 2010

By Alex Gibbons

With the high school baseball season just starting to heat up, local teams are busy working out the knots and kinks of the long hiatus.

This corner of the borough will be duly represented by its usual teams. John F. Kennedy, DeWitt Clinton, Evander Childs and Walton high schools will hold the line in the Bronx A division, while The Bronx High School of Science will be the sole Division B team from the borough’s northwest.

Past seasons point to JFK as the favorite team to watch. Last year, the Knights went 15-1 to capture the borough championship, but lost their shot at the city title in the semi-finals. The team lost a portion of its talent from last year, but Coach Alex Torres says promising young players, like freshman Erich Gonzalez, who displays prowess all over the ball field, keep hopes high for the Knights.

“I think we’re starting to turn the corner now,” says Torres, acknowledging a rough loss to Morris Educational Campus in the Knights’ season opener.  The team has since tightened things up, and JFK has won its last three contests. “Our biggest hurdle is trying to win the division,” says Torres. “Every game means something.” 

The DeWitt Clinton Governors started their season smoothly. Despite losing talent in significant positions, Coach Dennis

D’Alessandro remains confident in the team’s abilities. “Our pitching is starting to fill in,” he says. “Just in time, because the schedule is about to get tough.”
Though confident, D’Alessandro remains realistic when discussing the team’s prospects. “We should make the playoffs,” he says.

“I’d like to make a run at the whole thing.” To do so, he said his team would have to “play perfect, clean, fundamental baseball,” adding that “we’re getting there.”

D’Alessandro also shared what he believes to be the best kept secret in the city. Senior Kevin Hernandez, a center fielder, who, aside from proving his worth in the outfield, is a formidable pitcher as well.

The remaining three teams in the northwest Bronx all endured rough starts to their seasons. The Walton Wildcats came out strong with a 13-3 win against Jane Addams in their season opener, but have suffered three consecutive losses since. Evander

Childs remain winless and faces difficult games against JFK and Clinton in the near future (see upcoming northwest Bronx Games). Meanwhile, the Bronx Science Wolverines are one game above the .500 mark after five games.

Through Fits and Starts, Filter Plant Coming Together

April 22, 2010

By Alex Kratz

By Alex Kratz

Bernard Daly, the project manager for the city’s massive water filtration plant project under way in Van Cortlandt Park, is relentlessly upbeat. Despite the cost overruns, delays, federal fines and accusations of impropriety in the siting of the plant on public parkland, Daly looks out over the sheer vastness of the $3 billion undertaking and beams.

“I think people are really going to appreciate it,” he said while taking media members on a tour of the facility, which Daly said is about 60 percent complete.

The tour was designed to showcase the plant and let people know what they’re getting for that $3 billion, which will partially be paid for through a 12.9 percent hike in water rates this year and probably near that amount in the years to come. Daly said the plant should be finished sometime in 2012.

There are somewhere between 1,300 and 1,400 workers on site every day: Sandhogs, carpenters, electricians, crane operators, masons, plumbers, steel workers, safety guys, security, spotters. The site is an enormous and noisy beehive of activity throughout the day.

At this point, the tunneling associated with the project is 99 percent complete, Daly said. The giant piping — which will take raw water from upstate into the plant for filtration and spit it back out for use in city homes — is being laid now and should be completed by the end of the year, Daly said.

The plant’s “pump station,” which will process the intake and dispersal of the water is close to finished. When fully functional, the plant will be able to process 290 million gallons of water a day.

Most of the city’s tap water comes from the Catskill and Delaware watersheds. The Croton water will amount to about 10 percent of the city’s tap water and is essentially a backup plan should the other sources be shut down like they were a year and a half ago.

The steel-and-concrete bare bones of the filtration plant structure fills what used to be a gaping hole that drops 80 feet into the earth. Some of the piping and filtration equipment is being installed, but for now it’s simply a skeleton waiting to be filled with the veins, organs and muscles of the plant. The four high-ceiling floors are damp and cool even on a hot day.

While construction is in full swing —and on-site injuries have been minimal, Daly said — questions and concerns remain. For one, many feel Bronxites are not benefiting from the project as much as was promised. Bronx residents make up about 18 percent of the current workforce. As of February 25, there were 191 Bronxites working construction and another 30 doing security, administrative work and cleaning. That’s well below the “thousands” of jobs promised.

Currently there are no union apprenticeship or training programs under way, but the DEP?funded three previous programs.
Out of the biggest $1.3 billion contract, only $83 million worth of goods and services has been purchased from Bronx contractors. Most of that money has gone to just two Bronx companies — Jenna Concrete ($41 million) and CFS Steel Company ($32.9 million). 

There is also the matter of the city incurring more federal fines due to delays. Federal regulators forced the building of the plant to keep the city compliant with national water quality standards. The deadline for completion of the plant is October 31, 2011. With a completion date sometime in 2012, the city will start racking up thousands of dollars in fines every day after the deadline passes.

Supporting the ‘Sugar Tax’

April 22, 2010

By Norwood News

Childhood obesity in the Bronx is a crisis. There are many reasons for this including a general lack of physical activity and access to nutritious food.

But one reason no one can argue with is that kids consume too much sugar, and the biggest source of that sugar is soda.

Governor Paterson proposes taxing soda and other sugary drinks, and health officials estimate this will get 10 percent of the population to drink a lot less of the stuff. That means 150,000 fewer obese people in the city.

Why wouldn’t we do this? Opponents say it will accelerate our descent into a “nanny state,” where government tells us everything we can and can’t do.

Government has a legitimate role in health care issues because it pays for so much of it. Government at its best  also protects those most vulnerable —  like kids who have no idea that drinking a big bottle’s worth of soda a day adds about 25 pounds a year to their weight.

We strap on our seatbelts every day because of laws enacted by government. We don’t smoke on airplanes and in offices for the same reason.

The soda tax doesn’t even outlaw sugary drinks. It just says that if you want to engage in an extremely unhealthy activity, you’re going to pay a little more for it in the hope that it discourages you from drinking something with negative nutritional value and that it keeps you out of hospitals and emergency rooms. An added benefit to the tax is that the revenue will support health care in the state.

We’re glad Montefiore Medical Center (Norwood News is published by an affiliate of Montefiore), city health officials and 1199, the health care workers’ union, have taken such a strong stand on this (see cover article).

We hope state legislators can look past the beverage industry lobby, which heavily contributes to many of their campaigns, and do the right thing.

Immigration Center Combats Census Fears

April 22, 2010

By Anelgi Solis

According to the latest survey from the Census Bureau, the Bronx is among the top 10 most diverse cities in the country. Some 31 percent of its 1.4 million residents are immigrants, the survey says. Initially, the bureau and city officials felt the immigrant community, especially those without visas or green cards, would  not participate in this year’s full census count because of fears that they might be deported.

But at least in the northwest Bronx, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

In the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigration Rights’ Bronx office on Bainbridge Avenue in North Fordham, Haydee

Muñiz, a census representative, helps clients fill out their census forms. “I encourage people to fill out the forms by telling them that this is how they are counted as a community member, this is what will help them get the benefits they want,” Muñiz said.

Once coalition clients were told the purpose of the census, Muñiz said they were compliant and filled out their forms. Since their citizenship status wasn’t asked about, they felt more secure.

Muñiz was able to get at least 10 applications completed weekly, she said.

One undocumented immigrant client who preferred to remain anonymous said she filled out her form the instant she received it. “I know that whether I’m a citizen or not, I count,” she said. “And I need them to count my children because they need to receive an education.”

 “The main question is usually what they should answer under race because there is no Hispanic option,” said Muñiz. This was an issue that many Hispanics in the community faced, leaving them no other choice but to mark the option of “other.”

The Census Bureau website explains: “The 2010 Census is not designed to capture data on a person’s ancestry.”
According to the website’s mail participation rate tracker, as of

April 19, the Bronx’s mail-back rate was 59 percent, besting 2000’s rate of 57 percent. New York City as a whole had a rate of 57 percent, while the state’s mail-back was up to 69 percent.

Locally, the Norwood area was sending in about 59 percent of its forms, while Bedford Park’s rate was at 64 percent and University Heights, 70 percent.

Residents who did not return forms by April 16 will be receiving home visits between May and July.

Ed. Note: The North Manhattan Coalition is located at 2715 Bainbridge Ave. on 196th Street and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (718) 484-8294 or visit the U.S. Census Bureau Website at http://2010.census.gov.   

Cuomo Sues Espada for Theft

April 22, 2010

By James Fergusson

In a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said his office is suing State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. for allegedly stealing $14 million from the Comprehensive Community Development Corporation, a network of non-profit health centers Espada founded and heads up. 

“Taxpayer money was given to this not-for-profit to provide healthcare services to underprivileged patients, but our investigation has found the funds flowed into the pockets of

Senator Espada and his supporters,” Cuomo said in a statement.
In a statement, Espada did not address the charges specifically, except to say they were “no where [sic] near commensurate to the resources devoted to it.” He added that civil charges are brought when a “tenant has a dispute with their landlord, or when spouses are divorcing.”

The charges were “political payback for what the establishment like to call the senate coup,” Espada said, referencing the time last summer when he switched party allegiances and stalled senate business for more than a month. He eventually came back to the Democrats in exchange for the role as majority leader.

The lawsuit says Espada lavished the money on himself and his political operations, and on his family, friends and aides. For example, the non-profit (also known as Soundview) allegedly covered the cost of vacations Espada took with his family. And it paid for $100,000 worth of campaign literature and $80,000 in restaurant bills, including $20,000 in take-out sushi delivered to Espada’s Westchester home.

While the lawsuit is a civil case intended to oust Espada from Soundview, and make him pay restitution and damages, criminal charges could follow.

Nineteen current or former Soundview officers and directors are also named in the suit, news of which was quickly seized upon by Eric Koch, a spokesman for Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a likely opponent of Espada’s in this fall’s Democratic primary.

“The Attorney General’s complaint details a shameful story of an elected official taking resources from the community he represents — instead of bringing resources to the community,” Koch said in a statement.

It has been a miserable few days for the controversial senator. Last Friday, CBS reported that two consulting firms with links to Espada, his son, and a staffer, are the subject of a federal probe into alleged tax fraud and money laundering. Espada denied having ties to the two firms and called the allegations 100 percent false.

On Monday he held a rally in Albany to promote a housing bill he’s sponsoring. Travelling on buses chartered by his office, more than 150 Bronx residents, community leaders, and clergy made the trip upstate to show their support. If passed, the bill would freeze the rent of New York City families for five years, provided they earn $45,000 or less a year and pay more than a third of their income as rent. 

“We need a place to live where we don’t need to work three jobs to keep an apartment,” said Jeffrey Sampson, a Wakefield resident who attended the rally and who is a fan of the bill.

But some affordable housing advocates have slammed the legislation. A clause would allow landlords who have illegally deregulated apartments while receiving special tax breaks to keep the units at market rate, providing they pay back the breaks — saving them millions of dollars.

It’s a pro-landlord bill disguised as a pro-tenant one, these advocates say.
 

Two Candidates Mount Challenge to Espada

April 22, 2010

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Things are heating up in the State Senate race for the 33rd District—the seat currently occupied by Democratic majority leader Pedro Espada, Jr. 

Fordham Hill resident Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a Democrat who began exploring a candidacy back in February, officially kicked off her campaign with a speech and press conference across from the Bronx Library Center last Saturday.

On April 14, the Daily News reported that Daniel Padernacht, an attorney and Community Board 8 member, is also jumping in the race for the Democratic nomination. 

In a phone interview, Padernacht said he decided to make his first foray into politics because he wants to make quality of life issues and responsible development priorities in his campaign. Padernacht says he’s waiting for his campaign committee to be officially registered with the state before he starts fund-raising.

“I’ve got my list of family and friends that I’m going to start calling” for contributions, he said.

“I think it is really difficult to challenge an incumbent, but I think it’s definitely worth doing,” Padernacht added. “I think change is needed, especially in our district.”

Alluding to Espada’s legal troubles, Pilgrim-Hunter cited what she called “a failure of leadership on top of rising deficits of integrity and trust.” Speaking in front of a backdrop of about 50 supporters, Pilgrim-Hunter said she was running “to offer this district a fresh start. I believe that what happens in Albany matters greatly in the northwest Bronx and I am convinced we can at long last get the government we deserve.”

Pilgrim-Hunter, who is president of her co-op board and was a leader in the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition’s campaign to defeat a plan to develop a mall at the Kingsbridge Armory, is ramping up her campaign with the help of fund-raiser

Lisa Hernandez-Gioia and the political consulting firm Berlin Rosen. An endorsement from the Retail Workers union, an ally in the Armory battle, was also expected this week.

Franck LaBoy, an Espada spokesman, attended Pilgrim-Hunter’s announcement event and videotaped it, but he declined to offer any comment to reporters.

-With JORDAN MOSS
 

Montefiore Gets Behind ‘Soda Tax’ to Fight Obesity

April 22, 2010

By Alex Kratz

At a recent press conference in the lobby of Montefiore Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital, Dr. Philip Ozuah held up a big bottle of soda. “Every day in my practice, children come into my office holding one of these,” he said.

Ozuah, the Chairman of Pediatrics at Montefiore and Physician-in-Chief at the Children’s Hospital, said each bottle contained 400 empty calories. Doctors estimate that drinking one of those bottles each day adds 25 to 30 pounds to an average 9- or 10-year-old per year, he said. “To burn this off, for an average 9-year-old, you’d have to play full-court basketball, be a starter, play every minute of every quarter and play two games a day, seven days every week, 365 days every year,” Ozuah said.

Ozuah, along with other Montefiore leaders, including its president, Steven Safyer, MD, as well as Deputy Health Commissioner Andrew Goodman and union representatives, wanted to hammer home the ill effects of sugar-heavy drinks — like Coke, Pepsi, Snapple, etc. — as they pushed for the governor’s proposed “soda tax.”

Health officials say the tax will cut consumption of sugary drinks by 10 percent, which, in turn, will prevent 150,000 people from becoming obese, Goodman said.

The beverage industry says the tax will unfairly hit poor and working-class families hardest. But health care advocates say these drinks are the primary culprit in the Bronx’s (and the state’s) growing obesity and diabetes “epidemic.” Safyer said the scope of the crisis was akin to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

The fight for and against this proposed state tax — which health officials say would amount to about a 17 percent increase in the cost of sugar-heavy drinks – is being waged on the airwaves. Crain’s recently estimated that the beverage industry (against the tax) and the Alliance for a Healthier New York (for the tax) had each spent some $2.9 million on their campaigns.

Ken Raske, president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said the revenue would go back into the state’s struggling hospitals. He pointed to the recent shuttering of lower Manhattan’s St. Vincent’s Hospital as a reminder of what can happen when a facility is “chronically” underfunded. Safyer compared the proposal to cigarette taxes, saying they had proved effective in curtailing smoking.

The state legislature has yet to act on the proposal. So far, Bronx senators Jeff Klein and Ruth Hassell-Thompson have stated their opposition to the tax, while Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz says he’s for it.

Ed. Note: Mosholu Preservation Corporation, which publishes the Norwood News, is a not-for-profit affiliate of Montefiore.

Slaying Still Unsolved

April 22, 2010

By Alex Kratz

Paul Garrison vividly remembers the last time he spoke to his lover and longtime companion Michael Lorge, the Norwood resident who was brutally and mysteriously murdered on Valentine’s Day 2009.

At 4:30 a.m., after a long night of playing video games, Garrison, a Michigan transplant, went to wake Lorge, who got up early most mornings to drive to his job as a taxi dispatcher in Yonkers.
While Lorge rose to face the day, Garrison sat down to check his e-mail. “Go to sleep,” Lorge told him.

Garrison obliged. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he told Lorge. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Lorge replied. “Now go to sleep.”

The next time Garrison would see his lover’s face was five days later at Lorge’s open-casket wake. Friends who attended said Lorge looked remarkably good for a man who had been shot in the head at close range as if he had been executed. He was 42.
More than 14 months later, the murder remains unsolved, leaving Garrison and others struggling to make sense of Lorge’s sudden, violent death.

‘Everybody knew Mike’

Lorge grew up an only child in the same five-room apartment at 3228 Decatur Ave. that he shared with Garrison. (Lorge was murdered just across the street from the building.) Like many kids in the area, he attended St. Brendan’s School, a couple of blocks away. “Everybody knew Mike,” Garrison said.

“I knew him since he was 3 years old,” said Anna Galvin, a longtime local resident. “He was a great guy. It’s horrible what happened to him.”

Lorge’s cousin, Joanie DiBella, who lives in Massachusetts, is a year younger than Lorge. She grew up in Manhattan, but spent summers in the Bronx. The two filled hours on end, just hanging out, laughing, she said. “We always had a lot of fun together,” DiBella said.

Bob Anderson lived nearby, but met Lorge over the CB radio wire. “We talked all the time and stayed friends for years and years,” said Anderson, who eventually married and moved upstate. “He protected me like a big brother.”

Anderson said Lorge lavished his three kids with gifts. He called his heavyset friend — “he was pushing four bills,” he said — a “giver” and “the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off of his back.”

Besides being a CB radio buff, Lorge loved music, trains (one of the few pictures of Lorge shows him smiling in front of one) and was a “huge Trekkie,” Garrison says. He taught himself how to play a variety of instruments and started a couple of Web radio shows. The latest effort was called Freedom One, which he worked on with a group of kids in Duluth, Minnesota. He called himself “The Dispatcher.”

Lorge’s last job was as a dispatcher for Millennium Cab Company in Yonkers, where he worked for the last few years. Milos Roganovic, the owner of the company, called Lorge a “very good dispatcher” and said he was a “good employee, a good person” who “people got along with.”

Garrison met Lorge through a chat line in 1995. The two quickly fell in love and Garrison moved into the Decatur apartment in January 1998. Both cared for Lorge’s elderly parents. His father died in 2001 and his mother was put into a nursing home with dementia in 2003. On Christmas day in 2006, Lorge and Garrison exchanged wedding rings in an informal ceremony in their apartment. 

Most people who knew Lorge didn’t know he was gay. He often introduced Garrison as his cousin. Anderson said he knew, but that Lorge never actually told him. “Mike thought it was nobody’s business,” Garrison said.

Before he died, Garrison said Lorge, a diagnosed diabetic, had quit a 25-year smoking habit and was on a diet. “He’d really turned things around,” he said.

‘Rock bottom’

At about 7 a.m. on the morning Lorge was murdered, Roganovic called his usually-punctual employee’s home to see why he hadn’t shown up for work. Garrison picked up the phone.

After the call, Garrison was concerned, but decided to get up and head to the store to play the Lotto numbers Lorge had picked out the night before. When he walked out of the building, his stomach dropped. Dozens of cops, emergency workers and onlookers lined the streets. Police met him as he walked down the building’s front steps. He could see police circled around the red Mitsubishi sedan he and Lorge shared. Its front driver door was open.

Garrison began walking toward the car, but police stopped him. “What’s going on?” he demanded. There had been “an incident this morning,” the cops said. He watched as medical workers placed a white sheet over a body obscured by the gathered police. At that point, he knew.

Two detectives asked him to go down to the 52nd Precinct on Webster Avenue to answer a few questions. Garrison, a former military policeman, spent most of the day answering them politely. Garrison said the detectives let him know they didn’t consider him a suspect. But when they dropped him off, they checked his apartment for signs of a struggle. There were none, he said.

That afternoon, several reporters stopped by. The phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Finally, he took the phone off the hook and fell asleep.

For months afterward, Garrison would have trouble sleeping. He lost 40 pounds. In May, he said he took 127 sleeping pills with alcohol in an attempt to never wake up. The next thing he knew, he was in the Montefiore Intensive Care Unit. He still doesn’t know how he got there.

“I had hit rock bottom,” he said. A doctor told him “he was lucky to be here.”

The Investigation

Meanwhile, the investigation into Lorge’s murder, as far as anyone could tell, had stalled. Garrison and Lorge’s cousin both said the precinct didn’t return their repeated phone calls. An NYPD?spokesman said 52nd Precinct detectives “continnue to investigate this homicide and the case remains active.” Lorge’s case is the only 2009 murder case in the precinct that wasn’t solved, the spokesman said.

Those who knew Lorge said they couldn’t think of any reason someone would want to kill him, but the shooting appears to be premeditated. He was shot in the back of the head six times, according to the medical examiner’s report, and nothing was stolen from Lorge’s person or his car.  The shooting occurred at 5:30 a.m., the exact time Lorge left for work nearly every day.
“Somebody knew his pattern,” Anderson said. “He had his issues, man. But Mike wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Lorge did have at least one skeleton in his closet. In 1998, he went to prison for nearly three years for possessing child pornography and was a registered sex offender. Garrison and Anderson both said the charges and sentence were unfair and dismissed any notion that it might have had something to do with his murder.

Several residents who knew him didn’t find out about the prison stint until the New York Post reported it in an article a day after the murder.

The Landlord Conflict

One constant in Lorge’s life was an ongoing conflict with his landlord, Ndue “Tony” Gelaj, who owns Lorge’s building and two identical buildings connected to it. For several years, after Lorge’s mother moved into a nursing home, Gelaj’s company, Fleishman Realty Corp., tried unsuccessfully to evict Lorge from the apartment he had lived in since childhood, according to Garrison’s lawyer and court documents.

Lorge was paying $257 for a five-bedroom apartment, a steal at least five times below market rate. In suing for eviction, Fleishman’s attorneys refused to acknowledge Lorge as the successor to the apartment and accused him of not paying rent, according to court documents. Lorge’s attorney, in response, said Fleishman was refusing his rent checks.

On top of that, Lorge had discovered — backed up by a February 2008 finding by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) — that Fleishman had been overcharging his family $111.12 a month since 1991. Based on this, Lorge was counter-suing for $23,001.84 and court fees, court documents say.

Lorge found himself in court a couple of times a year. Garrison said Lorge wasn’t interested in the money. He just wanted to stay in his apartment. He kept a red bag filled with all of his court documents and filings with him at all times. It was in his car when he was murdered. Garrison said Lorge kept him out of the fight in order to protect him. In instant message exchanges, Anderson said Lorge would often make morbid jokes, such as, “If anything happens to me, it’s my landlord’s fault.”

In April of 2008, nine months before he was murdered and three days before he was scheduled to appear in housing court, Lorge was viciously attacked near his apartment by two silent assailants while he was getting into his red Mitsubishi. It was early in the morning. He was on his way to work. “They beat the snot out of him,” Anderson said. The NYPD?confirmed that Lorge filed a report for felony assault on April 4.

Lorge was scheduled to appear in housing court for his case on Feb. 17, three days after his murder. 

The Fight Continues

A month after Lorge’s murder, Fleishman dropped the case against him. Twice, after the murder, Garrison came home to find glue in his lock. A couple of months later, Gelaj’s lawyers began trying to evict Garrison on the same grounds as in Lorge’s case. Garrison, who is on public assistance for disabilities, retained a lawyer, Brian Sullivan, from MFY Legal Services, a nonprofit.

During the trial in December, Gelaj’s brother, Miter, who did maintenance at the building, claimed he had never seen Garrison before and the landlord’s lawyers said he had no right to live there. Sullivan said the landlord’s lawyers “offered a comically low buyout.”

Garrison sees the case as something Lorge would have wanted him to keep fighting. “I’m just as stubborn as he was,” Garrison said.

Sullivan argued that Lorge and Garrison were partners and had lived together in the apartment for more than a decade. Proving the couple’s closeness was crucial to Sullivan’s argument.

The Norwood News made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Tony Gelaj at his office on East 208th Street in Norwood and on the telephone. Last summer, the office’s front door had a glass window marked with a single National Rifle Association (NRA) sticker. No one was there.

There is now a heavy steel door in front of the glass door. Last week, the steel door was open, as was the office. When approached about the building and the murder, an older man sitting at a back room desk who refused to give his name said he knew nothing about either the building or the murder and added that he didn’t have to tell this reporter anything. “Go away,” he said.

Several tenants interviewed for this article did not want to be identified, some saying they didn’t want to start trouble with the landlord. One longtime tenant said the landlord could be vindictive and mean, but didn’t know him to be violent. Others said they never had any problems.

The ‘Smell of a Hit’

Wilford Pinkney, Jr., a criminal justice professor at Monroe College and a former detective with the Bronx District Attorney’s office, said the clearance rate (how often someone is arrested) for murders is somewhere around 30 to 40 percent. “The further and the farther out from the crime, [the rate’s] going to be lower,” Pinkney said.

Homicide is the one crime where police work especially closely with the district attorney’s office before making an arrest, Pinkney said. Even if investigators have good leads or know who did it, there’s still the matter of proving it in a court of law. “There’s a time when you know who it is, but you can’t get the evidence,” Pinkney said. “I’m sure we could go to some precincts where you could find some cases sitting there that have been there for 20 years.”

When briefed on the few facts of Lorge’s case, Pinkney said, “How many people roll up on somebody at five in the morning? That would smell of a hit.” 

In a recent interview, Garrison said he is feeling better, but still thinks about Lorge all the time. “Now whenever I think about him, I think about good memories,” he said. Like others, Garrison would like to see some closure in the murder investigation.
 While waiting for the housing court decision, Garrison spent his days in the apartment, which is still filled with Lorge’s stuff. At night, though, he stayed with a friend. “For my safety, I’m staying away,” he said.

In late March, the court ruled in Garrison’s favor. In his opinion, which was published in the New York Law Journal, Judge Jaya K. Madhavan wrote: “Although [Garrison] has lost the only family he has ever known, he need not also lose his family home.”

Out & About

April 8, 2010

By Judy Noy

Onstage

The New York Opera Forum presents Das Rheingold by Vaughner at Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church at 2430 Walton Ave. on April 16 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more information, call (718) 367-8330.

The Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Pk. Blvd. E., presents Klezmer Conservatory Band on April 11 at 3 p.m. (tickets are $15 to $25; $10 for ages 12 and under); Gotta Get a Gimmick, featuring Quinn Lemley performing numbers from burlesque to Broadway, April 17 at 8 p.m. (tickets are $25 to $35). For more information, call (718) 960-8490/8833.

Lehman College, located at 250 Bedford Pk. Blvd. W. presents the following: Chamber Music, performed by musicians on April 11, and Lehman Woodwind Quintet, featuring classical music, April 25, both at 2 p.m. in the Recital Hall, 3rd floor, Music Building; Lehman Jazz Combos, April 18 at 2 p.m., and A Celebration of Poetry Month, April 15 at 12:30 p.m., both in the Studio Theatre; and Dance in the Bronx, April 22 at 12:30 p.m. in the Lovinger Theatre; all free. For more information, call (718) 960-8247/8715.

The Bronx Arts Ensemble presents Romantic Chamber Music at Fordham University Church on April 8 at 1 p.m. For more information, call (718) 601-7399.

The Bronx Library Center, at 310 E. Kingsbridge Rd. off Fordham Road, hosts Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican Folkloric Music, by Cuatrísimo, April 10 at 2:30 p.m.; and Marimba Maya Quetzal in Concert, April 17 at 2:30 p.m. For more information, call (718) 579-4244/46 or visit www.nypl.org.

Events

Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture at 450 Grand Concourse (149th Street) will host The Afro-Latino Experience, April 8 at 5:30 p.m. Young Latinos will discuss relieving racial conflicts in our communities. For more information, call (718) 518-6700.

The Bronx Museum, located at 1040 Grand Concourse (at 165th Street), presents First Fridays! Cubanísimo!, short films, live bands, and DJs celebrating the arts and music of Cuba, April 9 from 6 to 10 p.m., free, in the North Building, 2nd floor. For more information, call (718) 681-6000.

The Woodlawn Cemetery, located at the corner of Bainbridge and Jerome avenues, presents Discovering Woodlawn, a 1.5-mile walking tour including stories of the lives of those buried there ($10; $5/seniors/students, free/children under 6), April 18 at 2 p.m. Meet at the Jerome Avenue entrance. For more information, call The Friends of Woodlawn at (718) 920-1470.

Wave Hill, located at West 249th Street and Independence Avenue, offers two family art projects: My Green Heaven, to paint and create a collage, April 10 and 11; and Forms in Clay, to sketch and shape blossoms in clay and pot them up, April 17 and 18, both in the Kerlin Learning Center from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call (718) 549-3200 or visit www.wavehill.org.

Exhibits

The Bronx Museum of the Arts, located at 1040 Grand Concourse (at 165th Street, North Building entrance), presents two civil rights exhibitions through the works of young African-American artists: “Road to Freedom” featuring 150 vintage photographs showing acts of discrimination and moments of unity among its citizens between 1956 and 1968; and “After 1968” showing the civil rights legacy. The exhibition runs through Aug. 11. The public is invited to workshops and guided tours including hands-on activities, free, April 10 from 1 to 4 p.m., in the North Building, 2nd floor. For more information, call (718) 681-6000.

Bronx Community College, located at 2155 University Ave. (West 181st Street), presents Women: At the Table, Off the Wall, Every Day, through April 21 at the Hall of Fame Gallery in Bliss Hall. For more information, call (718) 289-5208.

The Museum of Bronx History, located at 3266 Bainbridge Ave. (at 208th Street), presents The Bronx: Then and Now, a comparison of the Bronx of today with that of the 19th century, via prints and photographs; and Edgar Allan Poe – A Bicentennial Celebration,.to learn about Poe, his life and his time spent in the Bronx; both through April 15. The museum will also host Parkchester: City Within a City, April 16 through Oct. 3. The public is invited to an opening reception on April 16 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. For more information and to RSVP, call the Bronx County Historical Society at (718) 881-8900.

Lehman College at 250 Bedford Pk. Blvd. E. hosts traveling exhibit, “Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Emancipation,” in the Leonard Lief Library, through April 30. Complementing this exhibit are several free programs. For more information, call (718) 960-8577/8715.

NOTE: Items for consideration may be mailed to our office or sent to norwoodnews@norwoodnews.org, and should be received by March 29 for the next publication date of April 8.

 

Neighborhood Notes

April 8, 2010

By Norwood News

Bronx Parks Speak Up!
Come join the Bronx Coalition for Parks & Green Spaces at the Lehman College Faculty Dining Room this Saturday, April 10, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn about the park resources in your community and what you can do to help them flourish. Presentations include a rainwater harvesting workshop, organic growing techniques and information on indoor composting (with worms!). A panel will also discuss sustainable green development. Also included will be refreshments, lunch courtesy of Con Edison, and live music. For more information, email bxspeakup@hotmail.com or to reserve seating, email speakuptabling@hotmail.com.

Local Food Co-op
The Norwood Food Co-op CSA is accepting members for the 2010 summer share. Members receive a share of the weekly organic vegetable harvest from Norwich Meadows Farm, usually five to eight different items per week. Past seasons have included deliveries of tomatoes, lettuce, squash, peppers, beans, beets, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Members can also order additional special items for a cost, like fruit, cheese, milk, eggs, and more. The season lasts from mid-June to early November; single shares, which feed two to three people per week, cost $315. Weekly pickup takes place at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 302 E. 206th St. Food stamps/EBT are accepted. For more information, visit www.norwoodfoodcoop.org or call (718) 514-3305.

Walk for Health
Every Wednesday, join The Mosholu Preservation Corporation in walking for your health. Meet at 3400 Reservoir Oval E. for either Session 1 at 12:15 p.m. or for Session 2 at 1:15 p.m. For more information, call Linel Salcedo at (718) 324-4466 or e-mail at intern3@mpcbronx.org.

Adult ESL Level 1 and 2 Classes
PS 94, located at 3530 Kings College Place, will be offering Level 1 and 2 ESL classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. through June. For more information, call Ms. Seminario at (347) 563-4772 or (718) 405-6345, or come to room 201.

Family Resource Day
The New York City Child Care Resource & Referral Consortium invites all families to come out to a free Family Resource Day in the Bronx on April 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bronx Library Center, Pre-Function Lobby, 310 E. Kingsbridge Rd. Parents can obtain information on summer camps and programs, childcare, enrichment programs and other community resources. For more information, call (888) 469-5999.

Census Jobs Available
The U.S. Census Bureau is hiring as many as 750,000 temporary workers by May to help with the 2010 Census. Census-taker positions are open to U.S. citizens 18 and over and most require a valid driver’s license and use of a vehicle. You can work within your neighborhood with good pay and flexible hours. To apply and schedule an appointment to take the employment test, call your local census office at (347) 284-0213 or the Census Bureau’s toll free Jobs line at (866) 861-2010. A photo ID and a valid passport or birth certificate must be brought to the test site. For more information or to download an application, visit http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/.

Give Art to the Park
The Mosholu Preservation Corporation is looking to bring an assortment of art to Bronx parks. Local artists who would like to donate art pieces for display in a park should contact Christian Cato at (718) 324-4461 or e-mail intern2@mpcbronx.org. If an art piece is chosen, the artist will be recognized by their name next to their art.

Kindergarten Registration
PS/MS 20, located at 3050 Webster Ave., is accepting Kindergarten registration applications for the 2010-2011 school year. Children must be five years old on or before Dec. 31, 2010. Documents required: birth certificate; record of immunizations; two forms of proof of residence. For more information, call Rosemarie Ryan (718) 515-9370, ext. 1153.

After-School Youth Program
Youngsters ages 11 to 16 are invited to participate in the newly re-opened free after-school program at The COVE, located in the basement of 3418 Gates Pl. The program will have recreation, dance/talent shows, trips, homework help, and it will teach participants how to create film and edit their own videos. The program runs with open enrollment through May and takes place on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. For more information or to enroll, call Doug Knepper at (347) 374-7928.

Summer Resort Worker Training Program
Lehman College and City Tech of the City University of New York, along with Councilman Oliver Koppell, are offering a summer employment program for college students interested in working in the hospitality industry. They are currently looking to recruit 30 students to work at camps and resorts throughout New York and the Metro area. Applicants must be 18 or older and have a valid college ID. Applicants must by motivated and willing to live in a camp, hotel or resort for the summer. There is limited enrollment. For more information, call Arlene McLaren at Koppell’s office (718) 549-7300.

Food Drive
The Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture, located at 4450 Fieldston Rd., is having an ongoing food drive, seeking canned food, that will benefit the Kingsbridge-Riverdale-Marble Hill Food and Hunger Project, Inc. Perishable or expired foods will not be accepted. For more information, call (718) 548-4445.

Service Changes on 2 and 5 Trains
For the next 16 months through August 2011, there will be no weekday rush hour 5-train express service in either direction between East 180th Street and 3rd Avenue/149th Street. During this time, 5-trains will make all 2-train local stops. The service change is necessary in order to support two projects on the 2 and 5 lines, including new signal equipment and various station improvements. These service changes are anticipated to add five minutes to riders’ trips. For travel information, call (718) 330-1234.

Juvenile Fire Setters Intervention Program
Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano wants to remind parents concerned about their child’s inappropriate interest in fire that the free Juvenile Fire Setters Intervention Program is available to help them. For more information, call 311.

Crime Prevention Alert
Due to the high rise on the theft of removable automobile GPSs, the NYPD offers some crime prevention tips: Park in highly visible areas, detach GPS and mounting bracket from windshield, eliminate all evidence that a GPS is in the car including suction cup marks and wires. Do not leave any other electronics or any property visible in the vehicle. Keep your vehicle’s console and interior free of clutter. For more tips, visit the crime prevention website at www.nyc,gov/html/nypd.

Mobile Mammography Van
On Tuesday, April 13 a Mobile Mammography Van will be available for women 40 and over who haven’t had a mammogram in the past year, at 3450 DeKalb Ave. for free or at a low fee. Mosholu Montefiore Senior Center and the American Italian Cancer Foundation are sponsoring this visit. No co-payment will be charged to women with health insurance and no bill will be sent. Women without insurance will be screened for free. To make an appointment, call (800) 453-8378 ext. 1 or (718) 882-4000 ext. 342.

Youth Leadership Club
The 4-H Club youth organization, whose goal is to develop citizenship and leadership skills for ages 9 to 19, will hold meetings the first Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m., through June 7 at the Riverdale-Yonkers Society of Ethical Culture’s Meeting House, 4450 Fieldston Rd. For more information, call (718) 548-4445.

Spring Semester at Bronx River Art Center
Come register for the spring semester at the Bronx River Art Center (BRAC) on 1087 E. Tremont Ave. Registration is from March 22 – April 10, Mon-Fri 3-6 p.m. and Saturday April 10, 12 – 4:30 p.m. This spring semester will be the last session of classes in the building for the next two years because the building will be undergoing renovations. For more information call (718) 589-5819 or visit www.bronxriverart.org.

Free Cancer Programs
Albert Einstein Cancer Center is offering two free research programs for cancer patients to help cope with the stress and concerns of the disease. The “Yoga Based Cancer Rehabilitation Program” includes 12 weeks of yoga classes as research to see if yoga can help people with breast, lung and colorectal cancer. There is also the “Stress Management for the Mind, Body & Spirit Program,” which is for eight weeks and offers group discussions on how to cope with stress and other physical and emotional difficulties along with helping patients become more in touch with their spiritual side while dealing with cancer. For more information or to find out if you are eligible to participate, call (718) 430-2380. In addition, free workshops are offered to cancer patients and loved ones by the Bronx Oncology Living Daily Program, featuring fitness and nutrition. For more information, call (718) 430-3613.

Walk Now for Autism
Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization has announced that the New York City Walk Now for Autism will be on June 13. The kick-off event in the Bronx will take place at Fordham University Saturday, March 27 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Conference on Elder Abuse & The Latino Community
On Thursday, April 22 from 9:30 a.m.- 3 p.m. “Contra Viento y Marea” A conference on Elder Abuse & the Latino Community will be held at Lincoln Medical & Mental Health Center Auditorium on 234 East 149 Street. The presentation will focus on different types of elder mistreatment and abuse and also on the help that is available. The conference will be in Spanish. To have this presented in English in your senior center call (718) 239-4358. From more information, call Larcenia Walton at (718) 590-6248. Register at www.gerolatino.org/contact.htm.

Free Workshops on Marketing Your Business
Learn how to promote your small business and gain more customers by attending the free “Marketing for Smarties Challenge, 14 Steps to Sustained Growth” workshop, held by the NYC Small Business Development Center. The workshop will be held Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., March 25 and April 8, at CUNY on the Concourse, 2501 Grand Concourse, 3rd floor. To register, call (718) 960-8806 or visit clarence.stanley@lehman.cuny.edu.

Help With College Applications
Mosholu Montefiore Community Center’s FREE College Bound Program, located at 3512 Dekalb Ave., is offering assistance to high school students who need help with the entire college application process. Students will receive professional, individual counseling and supportive services. For more information or to set up an appointment, call (718) 652- 0282.

Become a Better Parent
Continuing and Professional Studies at Bronx Community College, located at 2155 University Ave., at West 181st Street, is offering parenting courses that can help you become a more effective parent and decrease parenting stress. Courses will be offered Mondays from 7 to 10 p.m., March 15 through June 14. For more information, call (718) 289-5170 or visit www.bcc.cuny.edu/cps.

Volunteers Needed at MS 80
MS 80 is calling on parents/guardians to volunteer as little as one hour per week. The school needs student mentors, math/reading tutors, cafeteria aides and part-time sports coaches. For more information, contact Mrs. Alejandro, Parent Coordinator, at (718) 405-6300, ext. 1131.

Free Classes at State University
The North Bronx Career Center of The State University of New York, located at 2901 White Plains Rd., offers free basic to advanced daytime and evening classes, including computer courses, college prep courses, and more. Some restrictions may apply. For more information and to register, please call (718) 547-1001.

Place for Teens With Issues
The Power Project is a free program for teens ages 12 to 18 who are dealing with substance abuse and other problems. Located at 3464 Webster Ave., Power Project provides case management, individual and group counseling, trips, and is just a place to get away from it all. For more information, call (718) 515-7971.

Paid Lifeguard Training Program
The Department of Parks and Recreation will be recruiting and training summer lifeguards for the city’s 54 outdoor pools and 14 miles of beaches. The paid training program consists of 40 hours of instruction in swimming and rescue techniques, First Aid and CPR, and includes a final swim test and written exam. First-year lifeguards will earn at least $13.57/hour, and work 48 hours a week. For more info, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/parks.

Quit Smoking Program
The Albert Einstein Cancer Center/Montefiore Medical Center will be hosting an 8-session Quit-Smoking program created by a licensed Health Psychologist. Groups are now forming at Montefiore’s North Division at 600 E. 233rd St. (between Bronx Boulevard and Carpenter Avenue). For more information or to register, call (718) 430-2697 or email besmartquitsmoking@gmail.com.

Job Fair
Promoting Specialized Care and Health (PSCH) is hosting a job fair with on-the-spot job interviews every Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m. Those interested working in health and human services who have relevant requirements should attend one of the fairs, which are held at 30-50 Whitestone Expressway, Flushing, NY. For more information, call (718) 559-0576. Resumes can be e-mailed to Recruiter2@psch.org or faxed to (718) 358-6790.

Free ESL and GED Classes
MS 80 at 149 E. Mosholu Pkwy. N. offers free ESL and GED classes. Applicants must be 21 years or older. Registration takes place every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting Nov. 7. For more information, call Mrs. Alejandro, Parent Coordinator, at (718) 405-6300, ext. 1131.

Children’s Baseball Sign-Up at MMCC
The Mosholu Montefiore Community Center at 3450 DeKalb Ave. is accepting baseball registration for ages 5 to 15 in divisions by age, and girls softball for ages 9 to 15. To register, stop by the Center with your child’s birth certificate weekdays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., or Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information or to volunteer as a coach, call Chris Pinto (718) 882-4000, or visit www.mmcc.org.

Free Classes for Immigrants at NAWC
The Bronx YMCA New Americans Welcome Center (NAWC) is a “safe haven” committed to serving the immigrant population to achieve literacy, cultural competence, and self-sufficiency. It is currently offering four free classes: English as a Second Language (ESL) Beginners; ESL Intermediate; Citizenship Preparation; and Computer Literacy and Job Readiness. Classes will be held at Ellis Preparatory Academy, 99 Terrace View Ave. For more information, contact Irma Salvatierra Bajar at ibajar@ymcanyc.org or call the Bronx YMCA at (917) 673-8688.

Theodore Roosevelt H.S. Reunion
Theodore Roosevelt H.S. is celebrating its 30-year class reunion, and will be honoring the classes of 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1981 on June 19. This event will take place at the Royal Regency Hotel at 165 Tuckahoe Rd., Yonkers, NY. Guests should call the hotel for discounted room rates. Tickets are on sale online at www.showclix.com/event/7922. For more information, call Diana Diffut at (917) 476-3458.

Networking and Career-Building Travel Experience in Turkey
The Atlantic Council of the United States, in partnership with the Istanbul Policy Center at Sabanci University, is seeking participants for a one-month exchange program in mid-2010. They are seeking Turkish and American young professionals, aged 22-30 who have started careers in the fields of public policy, business and journalism. All expenses for the program will be paid. For more information, and to be considered for the program, contact David Kirk at dkirk@acus.org.

Participate in Medical Research Studies
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University is inviting all interested parties to sign up for ResearchMatch.org, a new online medical research volunteer registry. Once registered, research institutions across the country can contact you to participate in various research studies based on your qualifications.

NMCIR Immigration Assistance
The Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights is offering immigration assistance to Bronxites. There is assistance with U.S. citizenship, family petitions, and travel permits. It is offered at Refuge House, 2715 Bainbridge Ave., Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (718) 484-8294 or email info@NMCIR.org.

Scouting for Girl Scouts
Girls from 5 to 17 years old looking to serve the Bronx community, make friends and learn life skills are encouraged to join the Girl Scouts of the Bronx. For more information about joining a Girl Scout troop, visit www.girlscoutsnyc.org or email webbx@girlscoutsnyc.org.

School Salon Reopened
The School for Professional Beauty Care at Grace Dodge Career and Technical High School, located at 2474 Crotona Ave., has reopened its after-school beauty parlor, The New Image Salon, for the fall semester. The salon, whose services are reasonably priced, is open every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and is staffed by graduating seniors of the school’s cosmetology program. To schedule an appointment, call (718) 584-2700.

PS/MS 20 School Shirts on Sale

PS/MS 20 requires that all students wear the appropriate uniform shirt. If parents wish, they may buy the shirts directly from PS/MS 20. Parents can call Rosa Rosado at (718) 515-9370 ext. 2154, to request an order form. Shirts for Pre-K to 5th graders are $10, and $12 for 6th to 8th graders.

Fall Into Fitness at MMCC
The Mosholu Montefiore Community Center at 3450 DeKalb Ave. has begun its fitness schedule. Classes range from step aerobics and zumba classes to belly dancing. For details and/or to register, call (718) 882-4000 ext. 256 or 280.

Volunteer at North Bronx Healthcare
The North Bronx Healthcare Network is seeking volunteers for the Sexual Assault Treatment Program run at North Central Bronx Hospital, Jacobi Medical Center, and Lincoln Medical Center. Those interested should be willing to volunteer twice a month and commit to serving the program for one year. For more information, call (718) 519-4788.

Free Medicine Programs for Cancer Patients
The Complimentary Medicine Program at Albert Einstein Cancer Center is offering two free research programs for patients with cancer. The Yoga-Based Cancer Rehabilitation Program includes 12 weeks of yoga to see if yoga can help patients with breast, lung, and colorectal cancer. A certified yoga instructor teaches classes in both English and Spanish. The Mind-Body Cancer Program includes 8 weeks of Mind-Body groups (The Stress Management Education Group and the Spiritual Support Group) for patients with most types of cancer. Some restrictions apply to these groups, which have been specifically designed by a psychologist and an oncologist. For more information and to find out eligibility, call (718) 430-2380.

Foster Parents Needed
The Foster Care Network is reaching out to potential foster parents in the Bronx. Hundreds of foster children in the area need loving and caring families to make a difference in their lives. Foster parents receive tax-free financial assistance for the expenses of each child, free training, and Foster Parent certification. For more information, call (800) 454-3727 or visit www.fostercarenetwork.org.

Workshops: Children With Disabilities
The Jewish Child Care Association at 555 Bergen Ave. will host monthly workshops through June of 2010 for families and professionals requiring services for children with disabilities. For detailed information and to register, call (212) 677-4650 ext. 20 or visit jccany.org.

Breast Oncology Program
The Breast Oncology Living Daily Program also known as BOLD living offers a variety of free educational, support, and mind-body workshops. They are designed to empower and nurture breast cancer patients, survivors, and loved ones, but are open to all. For more information or to register, call (718) 430-3613 or email outreach@aecom.yu.edu.

Donate Backpacks to Homeless Kids
Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. is encouraging Bronx residents to donate backpacks and school supplies to “Operation Backpack.” “Operation Backpack” provides homeless children and students in New York City with backpacks and school supplies to help them succeed in school. To contribute, drop off a new backpack at the Bronx BP office at 851 Grand Concourse, Room 209. To find out more information about Operation Backpack or to make a donation, visit www.OperationBackpackNYC.org.

Self-Defense and Boxing at MMCC
The Mosholu Montefiore Community Center at 3450 DeKalb Ave. is offering self-defense classes on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting at 5:30 p.m. Its boxing program meets on Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. for ages 7 and up. For more information, visit www.mmcc.org or call (718) 882-4000 ext. 0 or ext. 256.

Aid for Veterans and Their Families
The Warriors Family Assistance Program, launched by the American Legion Auxiliary, comes to the direct aid of veterans and their families in New York State. Veterans and their families can apply for up to $1,500 in aid in maintenance grants, medical grants and employment opportunities. Any veteran who has served honorably within the last four years, or is currently serving in one of the Armed Forces, and is a NYS resident, is eligible to apply. All grants are non-repayable. For an application or more information, call (800) 421-6348.

Free Career Information Seminars
Lehman College Office of Continuing Education is holding free career information seminars for its non-credit certificate programs. For dates, times and locations of seminars, please call (718) 960-8512 or visit www.lehman.edu.

Free Prescription $aver Card
The NY State Health Department is accepting applications for the free New York Prescription $aver Card. The program offers discounts on thousands of prescription medications. It will serve low-income New Yorkers who are disabled or between the ages of 50 and 64. To be eligible, income for single individuals must be $35,000 or less, and $50,000 or less for married individuals. Medicaid and EPIC recipients are not eligible for the Prescription $aver Card. To learn more or apply, visit www.nyprescriptionsaver.fhsc.com or call (800) 788-6917. (TTY users should call (800) 290-9138.) Applications are also available at pharmacies.

Healthy Women Needed for Two Research Studies
Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, 1695 Eastchester Road, are looking for healthy women between the ages of 18-40 to test a vaginal gel for 12 weeks that could help prevent the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In addition, Doctors are looking for healthy women to test a vaginal gel for 14 days that could help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). In this research study, doctors want to learn about the cells that protect women from infection when using the gel. Participants will be compensated for time and travel in both studies. For information call Anna at: 718-430-3253.

English, Citizenship and Computer Classes
MS 80 at 149 E. Mosholu Pkwy N., is offering English as a Second Language (ESL) and General Equivalency Diploma (GED) classes. For those interested, or if you have any questions, call Mrs. Alejandro at (718) 405-6300 ext. 1131.

St. James Recreation Center at 2530 Jerome Ave. offers free classes in Microsoft Office, Resume/Cover Letter Writing, Computer Basics, and much more. For more information, call Justin Young at (718) 367-3659.

Fordham University, 557 E. Fordham Rd., is currently holding free computer and English Language classes for parents, Mondays through Thursdays and on Saturdays. Classes can either stand alone or as an 8- to 12-week series. For more information or to register, call (718) 817-3503.

Senior Employment
The American Association of Retired Person (AARP) and the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) are assisting low-income Bronx residents, 55 and older, to receive employment through their outreach, training, and internship programs. For more information, call AARP located at 384 E. 149th St., Ste. 608 at (718) 585-2500.

MS 80 Needs Love
MS 80 is asking parents and community members to show some love and volunteer for just an hour each week. The school needs mentors, math and reading tutors, part-time coaches and volunteers to help with cafeteria duty. For more information, call Ms. Alejandro (718) 405-6300 ext. 1131.

MMCC Grade School & Teen Programs at Tracey Towers
The Mosholu Montefiore Community Center is accepting registration for their free after school program at Tracey Towers, 40 W. Mosholu Pkwy. The program meets Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. and is open to children in the third through sixth grades. From 6:30 to 9 p.m., the free Teen Center is open for youth ages 12 to 18. Programs include homework help, computers, arts and crafts, sports, acting, and quiet games. To register, stop by the Youth Community Room on the second floor of Tracey Towers and speak to Antoine Fields, or call (718) 733-4260.

Programs for Teens, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
Mosholu Library, 285 E. 205th St., is offering various activities for children and teens. On Mondays at 4 p.m., teens can enjoy playing free Wii video games, and can meet on Wednesdays and 4 p.m. for “Teen Tech Time.” Toddler Storytime for children 1-3 years of age is held on the first Thursday of each month at 10:30 a.m. For children from 3 ½ – 5 years, Preschool Films is held on the second Thursday of each month at 10:30 a.m. For more information, call (718) 882-8239.

Free Career Workshops
The State University of New York, located at 3950 Laconia Ave., is offering free career workshops, including job readiness training, resume and cover letter preparation, help with job searches and computer skills, job placement assistance, an Office Skills Certificate Program, college prep and more. For more information, call (718) 547-1001 or visit www.NBX.SUNYEOC.org.

After School Care
The Mosholu Montefiore Community Center, 3450 DeKalb Ave., provides after school care for children in elementary school. Children are transported from their schools in Norwood, Bedford Park, Williamsbridge and Van Cortlandt Village. The center provides a snack, help with homework, and an array of activities to keep children busy. Financial aid is available. For more information, call Ruth Moore, program registrar, at (718) 882-4000.

Free Respite Program
Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC) is offering free after-school services to families with mentally retarded or developmentally disabled children ages 5 to 21 from 3 to 6 p.m. KHCC is also offering a Saturday Respite Program for ages 15 to 25, and on Sundays another Respite Program is provided for ages 18 to 65. Weekend Respite Program hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are held at the KHCC, 3101 Kingsbridge Terrace (near Sedgwick Avenue) at West 230th Street. To register or for more information, call Hanna Gabris at (718) 884-0700 ext. 202.

Aphasia Clinic Accepting Clients
The Lehman College Speech and Hearing Center, which provides therapy on a sliding scale payment schedule, is now accepting new clients in its recently expanded aphasia clinic. The clinic will provide individual and group therapy sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m. and 2 to 3 p.m.; group therapy sessions also take place on Tuesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. Diagnostic and therapeutic sessions will be supervised by faculty members who are licensed by the NYS Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and certified by ASHA (American Speech Language Hearing Association). For more information, call Wanda Adams at (718) 960-8138.

 

 

The Passion in Bedford Park

April 8, 2010

By Ivonne Salazar

On Good Friday, April 2, St. Philip Neri Catholic Church held its annual street procession, called the “The Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion,” before the 3 p.m. service. The 45-minute procession went around Bedford Park to Valentine Avenue and 205th Street and ended at the church on the Grand Concourse. Pictured left to right: Nicholas Muniz (Roman soldier) and Tony Muñoz (Jesus), both members of the church’s youth group.
 

Gun Hill Road Pet Shop a Hidden Paradise

April 8, 2010

By Anelgi Solis

On Gun Hill Road, just a few blocks up from the Bronx River, among bodegas, nail salons and pizza shops, is a small, hole-in-the wall pet shop. It may not seem like much from the outside, but inside is a world of tropical fish, turtles, guinea pigs, exotic birds and friendly parrots who welcome you with “hello.”

Besides the sounds of birds chirping and fish tank filters rumbling, salsa music greets you, making it known that a prideful Puerto Rican owns the 37-year-old store. Edgar Santana—also known as Augie—shuffles around, organizing and cleaning while a cat lounges on the counter.

Inspired by his love for animals and a desire to operate his own business, the blue-eyed, gray-haired Santana opened Pet Paradise in 1973. Now, at the age of 57, he thanks God for his business’ long-term success.

Though there are slow business days, Santana maintains a loyal customer base that swears by his store for pet food, supplies or free advice.

“Even though other businesses are struggling due to the economy’s deficit and rising prices, he doesn’t,” says Derek Haley. “He has great prices and gives good deals and advice.”

Haley moved to the Bronx about a year ago and purchased fish from a commercial pet store. When they all died, he tried Pet Paradise. “He has fresh fish, things you would never expect or even think existed,” Haley says.

Santana sells all types of exotic fish from Florida to as far away as China. There are parrotfish, African chiclets, Columbian sharks, flowerhorn fish—the list goes on. Santana also carries parrots like African grays and macaws, which he raises from birth.

He also takes requests. On a recent Wednesday morning, a customer called asking for an Albino fish. It wasn’t in stock at the moment, but Santana promised it would be there by Friday, two days later.

In accordance to the holiday or season, Santana brings in different offerings. For Easter he sells rabbits. On Valentine’s Day, you can buy fish tattooed with hearts or “I love you.”

In exchange for the support, love and friendship of the community, Santana works hard to give back.

Sometimes that means doling out free advice. He remembers a time when an online reporter came to him for medicine for her sick fish. He gave her a home remedy of salt and warm water instead. Two days later, she called thanking him because her fish were healthy again.

It also comes in the form of working with the sick, disabled and disadvantaged, which appears to be a family trait. His wife is a teacher of autistic children, his daughter is a speech therapist and his son works with Bilingual Inc., an agency that provides educational and therapeutic services to disabled children.

Santana sets up fish tanks in hospitals and he and his parrots make regular trips to neighborhood schools and nursing homes. He treasures photos from visits with disabled children at United Cerebral Palsy of New York City — a parrot sitting happily on each child’s shoulder — others of children visiting his store on field trips.

“They don’t have to go to a zoo, they can come here,” he says.
And he’ll be here for the foreseeable future.

“My family asks me to retire, but I can’t,” Santana said. “This store, these animals, they’re my life.” 

Ed. Note: Pet Paradise is located at 289 E. Gun Hill Rd. and is open Monday toi Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more information, call (718) 881-2870.
 

Census As Important as Voting

April 8, 2010

By None

By Ken Small

Millions of Americans have received the 2010 census form in the mail. While we generally dread government forms, we should welcome this one. In a very real way, the census form, which can be completed in five to 10 minutes in most cases, is as powerful a tool as the right to vote or the freedom to assemble, dissent, and express unpopular opinions. Just as those things are part of the U.S. Constitution, so is the mandate for a census to be conducted every 10 years.

The Census Bureau estimates that $400 billion in federal funds will be disbursed to communities each year through 2020 as determined by formulas based on the 2010 census count. The higher the population count for the Bronx, the more we will benefit from these funds.

In terms of politics, the census count determines how the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are apportioned, as well as how seats in the state legislature and City Council are allocated.

Equally important is the fact that the census count is tied to the number of electors who represent the Electoral College, which every four years selects the president.

Demographers, market researchers, and others who study population patterns believe the Bronx has experienced population growth since the 2000 census. The way to confirm this is for all Bronx residents to be counted in 2010. More people should equal more representatives.

Bronxites face many challenges that could create a “perfect storm” for an undercount. The majority of Bronx residents define themselves as being persons of color. Historically, non-whites are more likely to be undercounted than people who define themselves as white. This is also true of low-income persons:

One-third of Bronx residents live in poverty. One in three Bronx residents is a first generation immigrant and the foreign born historically have been undercounted. This is particularly true for those who are undocumented.

According to the 2000 census, in some Bronx communities more than half the people said they did not read or speak English well.

With about two in five Bronx residents having a language other than English as their first language, this could result in thousands not being counted.

All of these groups need to be counted. Nobody should be afraid to participate in the census. The data the census collects is confidential and not shared with any government organization, including immigration or law enforcement officials.

Ken Small is the development director of BronxWorks, one of several organizations partnering with the Census Bureau to promote a complete and accurate count. For more information on these efforts, contact Tim Sarraille at tsarraille@bronxworks.org or (718) 508-3153, or Tiara Williams at twilliams@bronxworks.org or (718) 508-3070.
 

Armory Task Force

April 8, 2010

By Editorial

We are pleased that Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has assembled a strong team of well-known professionals and community leaders to serve on a new Kingsbridge Armory Task Force.

We hope they can quickly come up with some creative ideas that break the tiresome mold of cookie-cutter malls that don’t offer the community anything it really needs and do little to lift workers into even the working class.

A tremendous public resource like the Armory should fulfill myriad public needs.

Retail does not have to be excluded entirely, despite the collapse of the Related Companies proposal in the City Council. The beauty of the Armory’s half-a-million square feet is that it can accommodate so many critical community uses like recreation, entertainment, job training, small business incubator and youth development. Stores can be part of the mix, too. Many of these ideas have been on the community’s drawing board for years.

There have been many Kingsbridge Armory task forces throughout the years, and this one has no real authority aside from the bully pulpit. But maybe that’s a good thing.

The recent task force created by the city’s Economic Development Corporation didn’t have any power, either, and it had to conform to the city’s limited concept of what the Armory could be.

The city may not be in the mood to listen right now after suffering the defeat of its mega-mall plan. But if it takes this responsibility seriously, Diaz’s task force can devise a bold, detailed, sustainable proposal that will make the Bloomberg administration pay attention.

Holy Nativity Returns After Fire

April 8, 2010

By David Greene

In addition to the 10 Bainbridge Avenue stores that were destroyed in a horrific Oct. 31 blaze, the adjacent Holy Nativity Church was also damaged.

But a $100,000 facelift of the church is nearly complete just in time for its 110th anniversary later this year.

The church suffered extensive smoke and water damage, according to Father Jean Baptiste Kenol Rock.

“You needed a little boat to get back there [to the rear of the church] that was amazing,” Rock said of the flooding after the fire.

The $100,000 insurance payout produced a total restoration of the church’s two prayer areas, and a new gathering area with a kitchen. The church is already in the process of collecting donated items for Haiti’s earthquake victims.

The church, which is Episcopal, rents space to other churches and community-based organizations.
 

Bronx Bangladeshis Celebrate Independence Day

April 8, 2010

By David Greene

The Bronx is home to about 2,500 Bangladeshis, according to the 2000 census, and the vast majority of those residents live in Norwood.

So it was not surprising that 250 Bangladeshis from across the city gathered at the Church of the Holy Nativity on Bainbridge Avenue in Norwood on Sunday to commemorate the 39th anniversary of their country’s independence

On March 26, 1971, with India’s backing East Pakistan declared itself the independent state of Bangladesh and a war with West Pakistan continued until West Pakistan’s surrender on Dec. 16, 1971.

“Independence Day to me is commemorating the people who have died, and for their sons and daughters to have and enjoy freedom of speech, press and liberty,” said one young attendee who did not want to give his name.

The event’s guest speaker, Mohammed S. Rahman, Ph.D., a scientist with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said those gathered for the event were “showing our solidarity,” with relatives back home.

Many of the guests wore traditional clothing and dined on a Bangladeshi meal of Chana Bhaji, Pajji and Samosa.

Public and Community Meetings

April 8, 2010

By Norwood News

•    The Community District 10 Education Council will meet on Thursday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S 8 at 3010 Briggs Ave.
•    The Community Board 7 general meeting will be on Tuesday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Tracey Towers, 40 W. Mosholu Parkway in one of the community rooms. For a full listing of committee meetings or more information, visit bronxcb7.info/calendar or call (718) 933-5650. 
•    The Parent Council Elections are going to be held on Thursday, April 22 at 5 p.m. at DeWitt Clinton High School (100 W. Mosholu Pkwy. S.). Candidate forums include: Citywide Council on English Language Learners at 5 p.m. and Citywide Council on Special Education at 6:30 p.m.
•    The New York City Department of Transportation will be holding a public meeting for the East Gun Hill Road Congested Corridor Study at Mosholu Montefiore Community Center, 3450 DeKalb Ave. For more information, call Kol Gjelaj at (212) 839-7722.
•    The 52nd Precinct Community Council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 22. For more information, call (718) 220-5824.
 

Serrano Sees Bronx Benefits In Student Loan Reform

April 8, 2010

By Alex Gibbons

Bronx Congressman Jose E. Serrano recently praised the student loan reform bill that was included within President Obama’s Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Serrano, who was present at the signing of health care reform, considers the act a significant step toward making higher education a more realistic goal for families and children in the Bronx.

“For those getting started or continuing their college careers at a community college like Hostos or Bronx Community College, this package will help them,” said Serrano, refering to a more than $2 billion investment in the nation’s community colleges included in the student loan reform.

Serrano also pointed out the additional $2.55 billion in funds that will go toward colleges and universities that serve black, Hispanic, and other predominantly minority student bodies. An additional $40 billion will go toward the Pell Grant program in order to further help students from low-income families pay for the cost of higher education.

The loan reform also seeks to lighten the burden of post-grads struggling with loan payments. Graduates who choose to work in public service will qualify for “debt forgiveness” after 10 years and, beginning in 2014, new borrowers will not be required to pay more than 10 percent of their income in loan payments. Students who are consistent with their payments will have remaining debts forgiven after 20 years.

Congressman Serrano said he considers the student loan reform a “turning point in our nation’s commitment to higher education.”    

Lehman College Gets MATH-UP Grant

April 8, 2010

By Alex Gibbons

Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel recently announced that Lehman College’s Mathematics Achievement with Teachers of High-need Urban Populations (MATH-UP) program will receive a $7.6 million grant from the Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Grant Program.

Engel, a former educator, says the grant will improve education in the Bronx by better preparing teachers for the job.

The $7.6 million will create a new MATH-UP program aimed at training teachers of grades 1 through 6. Teachers will receive training before they begin teaching that will allow them to better communicate with students and, subsequently, impart a better grasp of mathematics.

“With this preparation, [teachers] will be able to give younger students a strong foundation in math upon which to build, including students with special needs and those for whom English is their second language,” said Lehman College President Ricardo R. Fernandez in a

Bronx Charter Revision Hearing Set for April 12

April 8, 2010

By Alex Gibbons

On Monday, April 12, the New York City Charter Revision Commission, set up by Mayor Bloomberg to review the city’s rules and regulation, will take testimony from Bronx residents. 

The hearing will take place at Hostos Community College (500 Grand Concourse), in the Repertory Theatre, and starts at 6 p.m.
On March 3, Bloomberg appointed the commission to review the entire City Charter and propose to the city’s voters any possible amendments that would improve it.

Specifically, the commission will be looking at how the city budget process functions, whether the comptroller and public advocate should get their budgets set by the mayor and council, whether the public advocate’s office should exist, whether New York needs borough presidents and what their power should be and whether the Uniform Land Use Review (the process by which all city land use options are reviewed) needs to be fixed or not.

The commission is also supposed to take a look at the amendments made in 1988 and 1989 and incorporate what has been learned over the past two decades.

Two Bronx residents were named to the commission: Tony Cassino, the former City Council candidate and ex-chairman of Community Board 8, and Father Joseph McShane, the president of Fordham University.

Those who wish to give testimony at the meeting must do so by signing up 30 minutes in advance. To submit a written testimony,

you must submit to the Commission’s website at www.nyc.gov/charter and click on the “Contact the Commission” link.

To get to the meeting, take the 2, 4 or 5 train to 149th Street or take the Bx1 or Bx19 bus to 149th St.

Community Boards Fight Back Against Budget Ax

April 8, 2010

By David Greene

Local elected officials joined representatives of the borough’s 12 community boards on Monday afternoon to protest Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed cuts that would cut funding to each board from $200,000 to $186,517. That amounts to a nearly 7 percent decrease.

At the rally, held outside of the Bronx County Courthouse on East 161st Street, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. said, “We’re here today because we want to protect our partners in government.”

Diaz said community boards are “the first place people go if a tenant is being threatened in terms of eviction by the landlords, when a family is looking for a place to sleep, or when senior citizens have no place to turn.”

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who was the district manager of Community Board 11 for 26 years, recalled the budget cuts of the 1970s. “[The cuts were] meant to cut the legs off of multiple grassroots community organizations that wanted to protect and fight for their neighborhoods.”

“We’re hoping that the mayor is listening,” remarked Fernando P. Tirado, the district manager of Community Board 7. Tirado stated,

“We have been operating on a shoestring budget for over a decade,” and added the mayor should be using a, “precision scalpel,” instead of an “ax.”

School Rally Calls for Solution to Overcrowding

April 8, 2010

By Jeanmarie Evelly

Community groups and elected officials rallied at the Bronx County Courthouse on Tuesday afternoon to underscore the overcrowding problems in Bronx schools and renew the push for new schools at the Kingsbridge Armory’s annex buildings.

For years, local organizations like the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance have fought to secure space for new schools on West 195th Street, in the annex building of the sprawling, long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory.

The neighborhood is part of school district 10, which comprises most of the northwest Bronx and is one of the most crowded districts in the city.

Fatima Daffen, a senior at DeWitt Clinton High School who attended the rally, said it isn’t unusual for students to fight over seats in a classroom or for teachers to run out of books. “Just getting inside the building is a hassle, there’s so many people,” Fatima said.

Others at the rally complained of schools that lack gyms or auditoriums, and classes being held in storage closets. Flor Cabrera, whose 11-year-old attends PS 79, said her daughter’s class of 32 students is too big for anyone to get individual attention.

“It’s just way too many fifth-graders for one teacher to handle,” she said. “Even the best teacher.”

Advocates say the site near the Armory on West 195th Street could accommodate up to 2,000 students and would alleviate some of these space problems. The building is currently home to the New York Army National Guard, which organizers say should relocate to the Muller Army Reserve Center, an unoccupied building in Wakefield. But some homeless service providers have been eyeing the space to use as a shelter, something community leaders have adamantly opposed.

“The Muller Center should be used by the Army Reserve, it should not be used to warehouse the homeless,” said Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, who attended the event. “There are many places that the city can house the homeless, if they do it in a smart way. In fact, I hear that Gracie Mansion—no one’s living there right now,” he joked.

Other officials, like Council member Fernando Cabrera and Assemblyman Jose Rivera, as well as potential state senate challenger Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, were also in attendance.

The original development proposals for the Kingsbridge Armory space included plans for schools. But advocates worry Mayor Bloomberg’s administration might lose interest in rebuilding the space since the city’s proposal to build a shopping mall there was shot down in December due to community opposition.

“Let [the mayor] have his grudge,” said John Rozankowski. “But he cannot ignore the young people.”
 

Tenants in Bainbridge Building Want Landlord Removed

April 8, 2010

By Jesse Bernardini

A group of tenants in a nightmare North Fordham building is seeking the removal of their landlord.

Last Thursday, about 30 tenants from 2710 Bainbridge Ave. along with Assemblyman Jose Rivera, attorneys from the Urban Justice Center, and members of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), held a rally after they filed a lawsuit to have their building management transferred to an independent administrator known as a 7A.

There are 980 housing code violations in the 56-unit building, including collapsing ceilings, broken windows and a lack of hot water.

Two hundred of those violations are class C, immediate hazards that could be life threatening.

The landlord, Frank Palazzolo, controls Semper Fi Management Corporation, according to city Department of Finance records, and has a long history of neglecting his properties.
In 2004, the New York Times reported that city officials said Palazzolo buildings had amassed 19,000 violations.

In March, Palazzolo was named to the Village Voice’s annual list of the city’s 10 worst landlords.

Eight years ago, the Norwood News reported on a similar Palazzolo building at 3569 DeKalb Ave. with 387 violations (many of them Cs) after an electrical fire in one apartment claimed the life of an 8-year-old boy. Tenants there, too, had been demanding a 7A in Housing Court. 

The Norwood News tried to contact Palazzolo, but he did not return several messages.

The 30 tenants, which included children of all ages, held signs in both English and Spanish that read, “We are tired of living with roaches and rats,” and “NO More Rats…NO More Bad Landlords.”

“I have to sleep in my boots in the winter time,” irate tenant Peggy Vargas screamed at the rally. “I’ve had two separate surgeries in two years and this is no place to get healthy.”
After the rally, reporters were invited to follow tenants into their apartments.

There are no working locks on the building’s dented front doors. There are no security cameras and tenants demonstrated how none of the locks work on their apartment doors.  One can literally walk in off the street and into any unit in the building.

Tenant Lorenzo Crucito pointed out exposed wires that run through his apartment. Only one light fixture works and the bathroom has several leaks. In the living room, there is a giant hole in the ceiling, which Crucito says rats have fallen through into his apartment.

“I don’t know how much more we can take of this,” Crucito said. “This is just not right to do this to people.”

Walking through the apartments, it is hard to ignore an odor that comes through holes in the walls that residents insist come from dead rats that are in the basement.

 “This is the worst building I’ve ever seen,” said Gabriel Pendas of the NWBCCC.

Outside, Assemblyman Jose Rivera pointed to all the cracks in the concrete outside the building.

“I don’t understand how a senior citizen, like myself, could get to their home through this,” he said. “And look at the door frame, it’s the same wood that was there when the building went up, and there are no locks,” added Rivera. “This is no way for people to live.”

In November 2008, the building became a part of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) Alternative Enforcement Program, which was set up to aid the 200 worst buildings in the city.

The program gives the landlord an allotted time to make repairs. If he fails to do so, HPD has the right to make the necessary repairs and charge the landlord.

Palazzolo failed to comply with the program’s requests and told HPD that he had hired private contractors to deal with the situation, but that didn’t happen.

HPD was then supposed to jump in and make the repairs, but a spokesman for the agency said they were denied access to the building. They went to court last year and were finally granted a warrant to enter the building.

HPD representatives recently met with the tenants and told them that after April 12 they will have an idea of when their contractors will be able to begin work.

As for the lawsuit to replace Palazzolo with a temporary administrator, it will begin on May 12.

“We will take down one of the worst landlords this city has ever witnessed,” said Urban Justice Center attorney Garrett Wright, who will represent the tenants.

Arts Org Bridges Communities In Temporary Norwood Digs

April 8, 2010

By Alex Gibbons

A funky concoction of noises emanate from the windows of a squat building between the St. Brendan’s Church and school on East 207th Street in Norwood, indicating an air of constant activity.

The building, which once housed the St. Brendan’s School of Music, is now the interim location of Mind-Builders, a creative arts center founded and directed by Madaha Kinsey-Lamb.

The old convent serves the organization’s 500 students while Mind-Builder’s main campus on Olinville Avenue in Wakefield undergoes renovations expected to last anywhere between 18 and 24 months.

Kinsey-Lamb sees an “opportunity to bridge communities” in Mind-Builders’ temporary residence in Norwood. The interim location is just one mile from the Olinville Avenue property, but situated in a neighborhood of different cultures and demographics. “We want to connect [the two] communities through music, dance, and performance,” said Kinsey-Lamb.

Mind-Builders was founded in 1978, the idea conceived by Kinsey-Lamb during long commutes to her daughter’s violin lessons in Manhattan. A former public school teacher, Kinsey-Lamb imagined a Bronx-based independent creative arts school that would render such commutes unnecessary. She pursued the idea, and established a modest program with space at Crawford Church on White Plains Road. Within weeks, Kinsey-Lamb was forced to seek larger accommodations to satisfy a growing waiting list.

A walk through Mind-Builders reveals the extent of activities the center has to offer. In one room, several girls practice their violins. In another, students learn how to play Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” on a set of keyboards. An assortment of dance tracks reverberates from the basement where, in different rooms, students practice ballet, African, and hip-hop dances.

On the building’s upper floor, Tyler Gaines practices the drums as his mother, Evelyn Gaines, and an instructor, Lon Ivey, look on. Evelyn Gaines first heard of Mind-Builders from a friend’s daughter, and decided to enroll Tyler to take drum lessons. “This is his first time taking classes,” says Gaines, whose son, struggling with immobility in his left hand, keeps a beat with two drumsticks in his right. “He looks forward to this every morning.”

Aside from music and dance lessons, Mind-Builders offers two programs, the Positive Youth Troupe (PYT) and the Community Folk Culture program that invite teenagers to apply their interests to their communities.

The PYT is a free program that trains participants in a wide array of drama-related fields. When not practicing, PYT members are busy traveling around the city performing.

The Folk Culture program challenges students to observe and record different facets of their community’s folk culture. Students in this program interview local artists and document their work in an effort to build an understanding of local folk cultures.

Mind-Builders tuition works on a sliding scale, says Kinsey-Lamb, adding that the organization aims to “never turn anyone away.” Mind-Builders also offers scholarships and work exchange programs; several employees at the center have children enrolled in classes, and subsidize tuition through work exchange.

Recently, the number of group lessons has been increased in order to make classes more affordable. Making programs affordable, however, has one downside, as Kinsey-Lamb acknowledges tuition prices barely cover the cost of staff salaries.
Once the renovations at the Olinville site are complete, Kinsey-Lamb expects to double Mind-Builder’s student capacity to 1,000. The updated facilities will include several new recording studios, a cafe, and an outdoor seating area where Kinsey-Lamb plans on holding performances for the community every weekend.

“We usually have a huge waiting list [for classes],” said Kinsey-Lamb, who remarked that the condition of the Olinville property made expanding classes difficult. “The renovations will offer more studio space,” she continued, “where we can offer more senior programs and more local school workshops.”

As of now, with help from the Bronx Borough President’s office, Mind-Builders has raised $7 million for the Olinville renovations. Kinsey-Lamb estimates they need another $2 million to complete the work.

Until then, music will continue to flow from the windows and doorways of the old St. Brendan’s convent as Mind-Builders, despite structural adversity, continues to blossom.

Ed. Note: For more information on Mind-Builders visit www.mind-builders.org or call (718) 652-6256.
 

Mosholu Post Office Closes for Repairs

April 8, 2010

By Alex Gibbons

Sidewalk denizens stood dazed and confused outside of Norwood’s suddenly shuttered Mosholu Station post office at 3445 Jerome Ave. this week. Four fliers taped to the location’s security screen informed them of the post office’s temporary closure, made necessary due to “structural damage” that required immediate repair.

The announcements said the post office would remain closed for approximately six months and urged customers to use surrounding post offices, such as the Van Cott Station (3102 Decatur Ave.), the Williamsbridge Station (711 E. Gun Hill Rd.) or the Botanical Station (2963 Webster Ave.). For stamps, customers were told to frequent the surrounding CVS, Ridgewood Savings Bank, and Stop & Shop locations.

Norwood residents and workers looking to pick up mail or send packages to loved ones were caught off guard by the post office’s sudden closing.

Dava Maiello couldn’t believe the office had been closed without any prior warning. “Get outta here,” she said as she read the fliers. “I’m really disappointed,” she continued. “It’s nice having it in the neighborhood. I heard nothing of it being closed.”

Pete Deluca walked up beside her. “You’re kidding me,” he said, adding that the post office was usually very convenient and fast with deliveries.

Just off the curb outside the office on Tuesday afternoon, two postal vans were parked to provide service to customers. One of the announcements on the security screen claimed the vans would offer stamps, envelopes, and small packages, but a handwritten note taped inside one of the van’s windows declared that no stamps or money orders were available. It also said no cash, credit cards or debit cards would be accepted, leaving doubts as to how customers would pay for anything. The other van sat vacant.

Arturo Aguila, who works at Montefiore Medical Center just around the corner from the post office, and Hiram Ayala, a Norwood resident, were nonplussed by the closure.

“Convenience-wise, yeah, it’s a problem,” said Aguila, who usually walks around the corner to the office during his lunch breaks. “I’ve got to go to [one of the other offices] now, a long walk,” he continued.

Both men speculated as to the source of the building’s “structural damage.” “There was a lot of rain, a lot of snow,” said Ayala, suggesting the winter’s inclement weather had beaten away at the Jerome Avenue station. Aguila agreed. “They probably never fixed the roof,” he said.

A postal service employee manning one of the vans declined to comment on what had happened. Representatives for the post office or the city’s Buildings Department could not be reached for comment by press time.