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Bronx News that Matters

19 May

Today, The New York Times reports on the heavy uptick in homicides in the Wakefield section of the 47th Precinct in the northeast Bronx. At this point last year there was one murder. This year, there has already been eight. Police Commissioner William Bratton is pushing a change in patrolling, having cops make contact with families “on every block in the precinct.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a long-time partner of former assemblyman, councilman, state attorney and school board president Oliver Koppell, is not supporting him in his bid to unseat incumbent Jeffrey Klein. Instead Dinowitz endorsed Klein on Friday. This is a big Bronx race but it has statewide relevance as Klein’s small Independent Democratic Conference has pulled Senate control out of Democrats’ hands. As leader of the IDC group, he often partners with Republican leaders regarding legislation.

BronxTalk (channel 67 on Bronxnet) highlights the push for a Hudson River Greenway going up through Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale.

On Saturday, the refurbished gym in Our Lady of Refuge Church was renamed for Daniel Barden, one of the 7-year-0lds who died in the Newtown mass shooting. His mother attended OLR in the Fordham-Bedford Neighborhood (196th Street and Grand Concourse).

To check out some Bronx events coming up, click here.

Schlein May Cash In with No Money Down on No-Bid Project

25 Aug

A Bronx community garden the city razed to make way for a housing development project looks like it’s going to grow some greenbacks for Stanley Schlein, a long-time Bronx Democratic political fixer with a rather controversial work history.

Sean Carlson, a CUNY Graduate School of Journalism student guided by veteran investigative journalist Tom Robbins’, wrote this piece for the Mott Haven Herald. It’s a must-read, particularly in a city run by a mayor whose biggest claim to accomplishment is he hasn’t had to abide by parochial politics as usual.

More Delays on Oval Park Visitors’ Center and Bathrooms

2 Jul

By Jordan Moss

Ongoing delays in renovations at the Williamsbridge Oval Park in Norwood are aggravating local park advocates. Following past delays in construction of a new track and field, as well as basketball courts, a new playground and a sitting area with spray showers (all now open and popular) it is now the recreation center with its bathrooms, fitness center, and ample room for community programs, that have been put on hold for a second time. (It was originally scheduled to open last spring, according to the Norwood News.)

Friends of Williamsbridge Oval Park member Eileen Markey wrote Parks Department officials in late June demanding answers.

“… June 21 marked not only the beginning of summer, but yet another deadline blown in the frustrating Rec Center renovation project,” Markey stated in a letter addressed to Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte and two other agency officials.  “The completion date has shifted a number of times. The most recent date was Spring 2012, which is now behind us. If it looked like completion were imminent, we’d let the date pass unmentioned. But the site is quiet and I hear dark rumblings that there is another problem on this project.”

Markey added: “We can’t go another summer without bathrooms, a rec center and most importantly: on site staff.”

But park users may indeed have to cope with those absences for a good bit longer.

A Parks spokesperson said the bathrooms are done but could not provide a clear completion date for the project that would result in the building’s opening.

“Construction on the interior bathrooms is complete, and the exterior bathrooms will be complete after the bathroom fixtures are installed,” the spokesperson said. “We are currently cleaning the interior spaces of the recreation center, and intend to have the building open later this summer.”

Parks said the cause of the latest missed deadline was “delays with the plumbing contractor procuring the bathroom fixtures.”

A Harlem River for the Bronx?

15 Jun

Friends of Brook Park members canoe in the Bronx Kill. Photo by Dirk Ewers.

The Harlem River, which borders the Bronx’s south and west sides, is not really a recreational resource for Bronxites. But just like in the borough on the other side of the river (Manhattan) it can be. There are major difficulties — the presence of industry and factories, and a 99-year-old lease granted long ago for a chunk of waterfront land, and the lack of city elites’ obsession with Bronx waterfront space, unlike similar efforts in Manhattan (see Highline) — but they are not insurmountable.

Haven on the Harlem, a special project of the Mott Haven Herald and the NYCity NewsService, both of which are published by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, digs deep and wide all along the river, interviewing officials, activists, residents and landlords, coming up with  articles (as well as on-line videos and interactive maps) detailing the state and potential fate of the waterfront and the river itself.

This project was led by by Bronxite David Lewis, the veteran journalist and CUNY professor, and produced by his students.

Haven on the Harlem, and all the other work associated with the the NewsService and the Herald, as well as its sister publication the Hunts Point Express, are really models for the kind of public service that academic journalism projects can provide.

John Liu on BronxTalk Tonight

4 Jun

Update: Here’s the link for the video of the Liu interview: http://www.bronxnet.org/tv/bronxtalk/viewvideo/1634/bronxtalk/bronxtalk–june-4-2012

Comptroller John Liu will be on Gary Axelbank’s BronxTalk tonight at 9 p.m. According to Axelbank: “He’ll talk about the Fresh Direct deal, the filtration plant, politics, and much more. BronxTalk is Monday nights at 9:00pm on Bronxnet’s channel 67 (Fios 33).”

2 Years After Completion, Bird-Shaped Visitor Center May Soon Open in Poe Park

16 Apr

The Poe Park Visitors' Center may soon open to the public after being closed since its completion in 2009. (Photo: J. Moss)

The Poe Park Visitor Center,  its winged-shape inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe poem “The Raven,” may   soon take flight.

The building, on the Grand Concourse, just south of Kingsbridge Road, has been off-limits for more than two years, locked to the visitors and tourists it was designed to attract when it was completed in late 2009. But when Bronx Matters asked the Parks Department for an update last week, a spokesman told us that the agency  “will soon be recruiting two seasonal Parks staffers for the Visitor Center. Once we find suitable candidates we hope to have them start as soon as possible.”

Those seasonal staffers will cover nine months of the year, the spokesman said.

Neither the Bronx County Historical Society nor The Parks Department had been able to come up with the money necessary to open the facility, the creation of which was initially envisioned by the nonprofit Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation. As The New York Times reported last fall, a proposal to attract individual donors by putting their names on paving stones was rejected by the city, despite that method being used to support the renovation of Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan.

Poe Park, where Edgar Allan Poe lived the last years of his life (1846 to 1849), is also home to Poe Cottage, a museum that attracts more than 10,000 visitors a year. The vision for the one-story $4.5 million dollar structure was to build on the Poe intrigue and create more space for local groups to host art and cultural activities at the center. The visitors’ center has a giant window on its northern end to look out onto the cottage. Council Member Joel Rivera allocated much of the funding for the building, which also brings much-needed bathrooms to the park.

—Jordan Moss

The Bronx in 1980

16 Apr

Assemblyman Jose Rivera posted this on his Facebook page yesterday, a video documenting the 1980 South Bronx People’s convention in the rubble of Charlotte Street. There’s footage of President Carter famously visiting the area in 1977 along with south Bronx activists joined by allies from around the country as they met in a makeshift conventional hall on Charlotte Street and marched to the official Democratic Convention site at Madison Square Garden in 1980.

The Bronx faces incredible challenges, struggling with high unemployment, poverty and some of the worst health statistics in the state. But as we address those issues it’s important to remember what Bronxites have already overcome on Charlotte Street and devastated neighborhoods all over the borough.

Anyone out there take part in the South Bronx Peoples’ Convention? Would love to hear from you.

Morning Matters — 4/6/12

6 Apr

Good morning. Today’s Morning Matters is dedicated to the Heritage Field opening and the Times’ coverage.

Heritage Field opened yesterday on the site of the old Yankee Stadium. (Photo: J. Moss)

The New York Times is in loooove with Heritage Field, the high-quality three-diamond spread in the footprint of the old Yankee Stadium, so much so that it merited above-the-fold placement on the front page. It is a lovely sight, but it is laden with the recent history of the city prioritizing the Yankee corporation over the kids in Highbridge and other nabes surrounding the stadium. As Juan Gonzalez reported two years ago in the Daily News

Three and a half years after Mayor Bloomberg closed huge portions of Mullaly and Macombs Dam parks to make way for the Yankees new $1.5 billion stadium, the replacement ballfields the city promised are nowhere to be seen.

It has been nearly 18 months since the last game was played in the old stadium. Yet its concrete hulk still looms like a gray ghost across the street from the Yankees new palace.

I’ll admit, I have a pretty firm point of view on the democracy-ignoring deals regarding the new stadium, its impact on taxpayers and the community around it. I wrote this lengthy editorial in the Norwood News back in 2006. But I think I’m looking at it with fairness and not bias when I say that in a story regarding a land use issue this big for the Bronx an interview or two with one of the prominent local activists or former community board members who opposed the stadium deal (they were ditched from CB4 by then-BP Adolfo Carrion, Jr.) would have been warranted.