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Criminal Justice Focus at Bronx Documentary Center Screening and Panel Discussion

9 Jan

The Bronx Documentary Center in Melrose will host “Visualizing Criminal Justice,” a screening and panel discussion, with the Marshall Project. on Thurs., Jan. 11 at 7  p.m. “Jenny Carchman’s We Are Witnesses takes a deeper look at the faces behind the complex and highly-flawed criminal justice system.” More info here.

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Who, and What, You’re Voting For in Bronx and Beyond

2 Nov

Wnyc.org has a great site listing who and what you’re going to be voting for this coming Tuesday, Nov. 8.

The city itself has its own detailed site.

Pass this along. The more who know about these links the merrier.

City Limits Highlights 40 Years of Critical Reporting

3 Feb

City Limits is 40 years old this year. For most of its life thus far it was a hand-held magazine, but for a couple of years now it’s been a website with the same critical coverage of urban policies that affect all New Yorkers and their neighborhoods.

Celebrating its impressive anniversary (how many nonprofit publications are around for four decades?) City Limits highlights a story from each of those 40 years (including my piece -part of a series produced by Tom Robbins and his excellent students at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism – about a boy’s death following a fire in a disastrous Bronx building long-ignored by its landlord.)

What City Limits also has up and running are essays by many of its former editors including Robbins, Alyssa Katz and Doug Turetsky. (Bronx and Norwood neighborhood resident Jarrett Murphy is the current editor who made this whole lookback happen.)

Take a read and pass it on. It’s good for everyone to know more about where we were and focus on what policies still need focus and change.

 

A Reminder of Corrupt Bronx Politicians

24 Nov

Bronx Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo will resign from office at the end of the year, according to press reports. She cites “pressing family needs,” which could very well be the case. But the mere possibility of more corruption accusations headed toward a Bronx elected official (a few issues were raised during Arroyo’s last campaign, as I reported in City Limits) made me think of how depressingly common this is in our beautiful borough and beyond. Following is a list of 10 convicted Bronx elected officials I know of. Each name is linked to an article on their particular situation. (Some are articles from the Norwood News which I was editor of between 1994 and 2011.) If there are any I’m forgetting — and, unfortunately, that wouldn’t surprise me — please add your comments or email me at bronxmatters@gmail.com and I’ll include them in a future post.

Assemblyman Eric Stevenson

Assemblyman Nelson Castro

State Senator Guy Velella

State Senator (who later became Councilman) Israel Ruiz

State Senator Efrain Gonzalez

State Senator Pedro Espada

 Councilman Larry Seabrook

Councilman Pedro G. Espada (son of Sate Senator)

Borough President Stanley Simon

Congressman Mario Biaggi

High School Student Highlights NYC’s Crime Data Cover-Up; Adds to Previous Bronx Reporting

11 Nov

In the Daily News last Friday, high school student Josh Waldman’s letter to the editor tops the page with the headline: “Let us see all the crime numbers.”

Waldman reports how the Police Department keeps all but the current week’s crime statistics a secret. He points out, when the NYPD posts the current precinct-wide weekly data known as CompStat, it removes all prior stats off the site!

Congrats Josh for highlighting this critical issue that virtually no press is paying close attention to, save the Norwood News and City Limits, where I wrote this article almost two years ago.

It focused on the fact that it’s critical to know how current precinct stats compare to past precinct data and, even more importantly, to know where in those precincts specific criminal activity is growing or consistently problematic. That’s called sector stats, more material that the NYPD won’t release. Precincts are the same size as the community districts they are in and many, serving 100,000 residents, are bigger than most American cities. That’s why sector stats are so critical. They keep track of the same crime data — assaults, car thefts, robberies, burglary and murder — as CompStat data. But sector stats provide the data virtually neighborhood by neighborhood.

In the City Limits article, I reported on Bronx councilman Fernando Cabrera’s bill that resulted in law. He was inspired by Norwood News coverage by me and Alex Kratz on the fact that the NYPD refuses to make sector data available. Norwood News did eventually acquire the info through FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) requests but that took more than a year. All media, community boards, community groups, and interested individuals should submit similar FOIL requests to pressure NYPD and city government in general to make the information regularly available.

Cabrera achieved some, but not all, of the change he sought, particularly the provision of sector stats. In maps where you can click on circles indicating some data, the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) website does show generally what block crimes have been committed on but only on a monthly basis. And the site doesn’t indicate sector or neighborhood crime totals. So forget about complete, clear neighborhood sector data. DoITT has kept that hidden as well.

When it became law, Greg Faulkner, Cabrera’s chief of staff, said his office had a similar concern about the map. “It doesn’t have enough details and our vision of it was there was going to be a lot more,” said Greg Faulkner, Cabrera’s chief of staff, in the City Limits article. “We need to hear whether there were specific security concerns about why they were left out.” He added back then that the website was not shared with Council members before it was fully implemented. Had it been, Faulkner says, the city “would have been able to determine whether their implementation matched the Council’s intent.”

It clearly hasn’t.

One more thing:

Waldman, the high school student, even created a NYC Shootings website that holds on to crime stat data that the NYPD removes. (It looks great but it’s not functioning at the moment. Josh, let me know when it’s up an running again.) If students at every high school in the city were keeping an eye on what was going on around them, and acting on it like Waldman, it would have an impact on city policy.

NY1 Report: Bronx DA Candidate at Center of Controversial Rikers Case

23 Oct

The Bronx Democratic candidate Darcel Clark faces new controversy beyond the fact that she is essentially an appointed successor to retired district attorney Robert Johnson in a borough led only by Democratic elected officials. As a former judge she presided over the case of Kalief Browder, “a Bronx youth who committed suicide earlier this year after he had been held at Rikers Island for three years without trial,” NY1 reports.

More on Bronx DA Race, and Lack Thereof

6 Oct

As explained in previous post, Darcel Clark replacing District Attorney Robert Johnson is a virtual certainty thanks to Johnson’s post-primary resignation and Bronx Democrats dropping Clark in his place. A Republican lawyer, Robert D. Siano, has entered the race, but with no other elected Republican in the entire Bronx of 1.4 million residents, his chances are, uh, a tad limited.

In the Daily News today, Errol Louis writes about wrongful convictions during Johnson’s 28-year tenure,  and says, “voters deserve to hear much more about the decade [Clark] spent in Johnson’s office and how she intends to correct the scourge of wrongful convictions.”

Great Links to Bronx Artists and Growing Art Scene

3 Jun

There are so many Bronx artists and an emerging art scene. BX 200 has done a great job on its website promoting and linking to both. Check out this list of artists and this list of art scenes (organizations, galleries, etc.).