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Bronxite Colleen Kelly, Who’s Brother Was Killed on 9/11, Testifies Before U.S. Senate Committee

6 Jan

Jan. 6, 2022 — Colleen Kelly is a long-time Bronx resident and nurse practitioner. A sister of Bill Kelly, Jr., who was killed while visiting the World Trade Center for a meeting on Sept. 11, Kelly testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last month demanding the resolution and completion of what’s been going on — actually what has not gone on — at Guantanamo for two decades. “One judge after another has been replaced,” as have many attorneys and other staff, Kelly said. A co-founder of Sept. 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (I wrote about Peaceful Tomorrows’ launch near the U.N. in early 2002 for The Nation), Kelly has been to Guantanamo several times witnessing its unjust and blatant bureaucracy. With 2,977 people killed, there is still “no justice, no accountability,” regarding “the information we’ve been denied for two decades,” she said. Following are links for Kelly testifying (text is here) and then answering the questions of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Democrat-CT):

https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4990100/user-clip-col-testimony-guant-hearing

https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4990104/user-clip-colleen-kelly-blumenthal

—Jordan Moss

After 8 Years of Nothingness, Armory Ice-Rink Plan Ditched

17 Dec

Dec. 17, 2021 …. Breaking News (really, I’m not kidding!): After almost 30 years of fits and starts (and a lotta stops) on the future of the Kingsbridge Armory, the plan the city, and its chosen developer, got the OK on has been officially and legally ditched.

Almost exactly eight years ago — on Dec. 10, 2013 — the future of the historic site was handed over to KNIC (Kingsbridge National Ice Center) a group that was planning to turn the armory into a home for nine ice skating rinks, particularly for hockey teams, and 50,000-square-feet of space for local nonprofit community organizations. (The armory — the biggest one in the world! — is over 520,000 square feet.)

But virtually zilch has happened since.

So, earlier today, wondering where the heck things were at long after after KNIC took on the project, I wrote to the city agency responsible for the program: the Economic Development Corporation (EDC). This was their breaking-news response:

“We are disappointed the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory — a centerpiece of the Kingsbridge community — has been set back but we look forward to working with the community to rethink the uses of this historic building.”

And referring to a recent legal ruling that led to their disappointment, EDC added this:

“In a recent decision, the First Judicial Department of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York agreed with New York City Economic Development Corporation that KNIC did not provide the necessary evidence of financing for the ice center project at Kingsbridge Armory by the required deadline in 2016.  Therefore, the project will not be proceeding. We are disappointed that KNIC has been unable to realize the financing for the project, despite continued efforts since the 2016 deadline.”

It’s been almost 30 years since I and the Norwood News first covered the armory (see photo below), when the state handed it over to the city. The paper covered it relentlessly over the next few decades. That had an impact on helping get the empty historic facility some attention from local politicians and city agencies, as did the relentless activism of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

But now that we’re back where it all started, it needs much more media and political attention, like if the Park Avenue Armory on Manhattan’s Upper East Side suddenly went empty. No one wants another freakin 30 years of this (or even 5 or 10!). Let’s get it on the top of our elected officials’ priority list and make them focus on what the community wants and needs. —Jordan Moss

The state of the Kingsbridge Armory was covered by the non-profit Bronx community newspaper, the Norwood News,
from 1993 to 2013 and beyond.
Photo by Jordan Moss

Kingsbridge Armory’s Endless Stall

18 Oct

It drives me a little nuts, everytime I walk or run by the Kingsbridge Armory. 

I first wrote about it in 1993; community organizers and activists with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition got involved soon thereafter; and after many starts and stops and Mayor Bloomberg’s heavily defeated proposal to make a mall out of the giant joint (more than 500,000 square feet!) without  a promise of a fair wage for workers, a group that adhered to a fair-wage deal finally got a plan saluted and signed by all sides. Named the Kingsbridge National Ice Center was going to be nine ice skating rinks for pro-hockey, and locals too. But the last word I found was in 2017 here and here. It’s been six years since there was a “deal” in 2014. Argh!!!!

Kingsbrige Armory. Where is it headed? Photo by Jordan Moss

Bronx Documentary Center Hosts Discussion with 2 Latin American Photographers

5 Aug

On Instagram, this Friday, Bronx Documentary Center is hosting discussions with two exhibiting photographers, Adriana Loureiro Fernández and César Rodríguez. Details here.

Assembly Speaker Heastie, Bronxite, Must Do the Right Thing on Raise Recommendation

14 Dec

10.14.18 — Most city residents don’t know who their state legislators are. It’s just a fact. I don’t know of a poll in this regard, but I bet a tiny, tiny fraction of us Bronxites know that an assemblyman from the northeast Bronx, Carl Heastie, is the speaker of the Assembly. A pretty important job especially considering that he and his Democratic colleagues could get some critically important legislation passed, now that the state Senate will be led by Democrats on Jan. 1.

So, Heastie has the power to do good. But there’s word that he might, well, do something very bad. A group of current and former city and state comptrollers was given the power to come up with recommendations regarding whether and how to increase state legislators’ pay from $79,500 to $110,000 on Jan. 1 and eventually to $130,000 in 2021. That would be the top pay for state legislators in the country. The critical caveat the comptroller-team put forward was that legislators’ outside income can only be 15 percent of what they earn in the Assembly or state Senate. That’s because so much of the vast corruption in Albany is related to hidden handshake money deals on legislation that is connected with lawmakers’ non-government gigs.  U.S. congressmen/women and  senators in D.C. are prohibited from doing other work while they’re in Congress for this exact reason.

So making $50,500 more than they make right now is a perfect incentive to do the right thing. Right?

Well, it seems many state legislators don’t think so. If the legislature does nothing (something we want for a change!) in terms of the comptrollers’ recommendations, all of the good stuff they proposed will take effect on Jan. 1. But according to a New York Times editorial today, Speaker Heastie is thinking of what the current State Senate majority leader John Flanagan is thinking: staging a vote in both chambers before Jan. 1 to get their big raise but also to keep allowing a ton of outside money to interfere with the critical government jobs voters hired them for.

Speaker Heastie, a Bronxite and like the second or third most powerful person in state government, needs to to do the right thing: vow publicly that he won’t allow a vote to undercut the comptrollers’ excellent and desperately needed small-‘d’, democratic good-government proposal.

If you agree, give Heastie a call at his office and tell him to the let his pay raise go forth the way the comptrollers recommended. So essentially, no more decision making or voting on this. It should be done, which would be good for democracy in our state. His office number is 718-654-6539 and/or email him at Speaker@nyassembly.gov.

-Jordan Moss

We Need Local Civic Education in the Bronx and Beyond

3 Dec

12.3.18 — “One of the primary reasons our nation’s founders envisioned a vast public education system was to prepare youth to be active participants in our system of self-government. The responsibilities of each citizen were assumed to go far beyond casting a vote; protecting the common good would require developing students’ critical thinking and debate skills, along with strong civic virtues.” This is from a recent article at NEAtoday.org 

And Horace Mann, a famous public education advocate, stated something similar in the mid-1800s, according to an article in The New York Times the other day: He “wrote in 1847 that education’s purpose was to foster ‘conscientious jurors, true witnesses, incorruptible voters.'”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the above during, and since, the most recent local election for the New York State Senate. I volunteered in the campaign for State Senator-elect Alessandra Biaggi.  The level of civic awareness and activity was encouraging, invigorating, and inspiring. More people voted in a mid-term election (between the presidential races) than they had in about the last half a century.

But this will not continue if it’s just us over-50 folks that get more involved. There will be fewer and fewer of us as time goes on, so, yes, high school students will play a key role in our near future whether they are politically engaged or not. And maybe even us middle-agers won’t stay so focused in the near future. Trump got us to the polls (on both sides) but he ain’t gonna be around forever (thinking this is the only way I can stay sane).

So, to interest young people in getting involved and having an impact, what’s more important than high school students learning about what city and state governments do (and don’t do!) and what students can do to have an impact. Elected officials are only going to know what their young-adult constituents are concerned about if high school students connect with them.

So civic education is critical. I’m no expert on this but I’d be surprised if more than a few high schools in the Bronx, and beyond, focus on that. Even if they do, it’s probably rather brief.

There are some efforts to teach teens civics but the results aren’t promising. As NEA today reports: “Only 25 percent of U.S. students reach the “proficient” standard on the NAEP Civics Assessment.  White, wealthy students are four to six times as likely as Black and Hispanic students from low-income households to exceed that level. Here’s why: Students in wealthier public school districts are far more likely to receive high-quality civics education than students in low-income and majority-minority schools.”

Beyond learning who their elected officials are, high school students should learn about what they can do to act on their own concerns. How many students (and adults too) know that they can go to a NYC website to check out what their landlord isn’t fixing, what the level of crime is in their communities, where their local community board office is and how they can get involved. And they should also learn about local community organizations that may be working on issues they’re particularly concerned about.

Norman Wechsler, a Bronxite and former great principal of DeWitt Clinton High School (long before it was chopped up into several separate entities under the same roof) shared this thought with me: “It would be great if there were a requirement for students to actually meet all of their government representatives — at the city, state, federal level (Congressmen/women, Senators), to identify an important issue with which each is engaged, and to write a letter to each advocating for a matter important to them.”

That’s a great idea. Students could also work together on an issue they think is important in their own communities. That could lead them to connect with elected officials, attend community board meetings, and more.

Wechsler also says that there is “one required semester of Social Studies, usually in the 12th year, is P.I.G.- Participation in Government.” I wonder how much, if at all, that class focuses on local politics and community issues.

The lack of civics education is a problem nationwide, according to a recent Times article about how students in low-income communities learn almost nothing about government and politics, and that Rhode Island has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that that’s unconstitutional.

Above are just some thoughts and facts about the need for civic education. I’d love to know what you think, especially if you’re a student or a teacher. The State Senate, newly empowered with Democratic leadership is about to take office. It’s a perfect time to tell them what you think they should take on.

—Jordan Moss

4 Days to Go — Voters on THURSDAY, Sept. 13 Can Put an End to the IDC

9 Sep

You, or people you know,  may think the state’s IDC (Independent Democratic Conference) is done and gone. Yes, State Senator Jeff Klein, its founder and leader, no longer has the fancy office or leadership positions handed over by his GOP pals, who wouldn’t be leading the NY State Senate without his help. But Klein and other IDC political pals use IDC money for their campaigns even though they’re not supposed to. They’re still using money that was raised for the IDC. Take a look:

IMG_4210

So this has been reported before, but more voters should know that the IDC is indeed still functioning campaign-wise and it’s just one of the many ways Klein has used — and still uses —  the IDC to benefit his current campaign and those of his entire tawdry team.

According to an article in City & State, Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement office of the New York State Board of Elections, recently issued a letter arguing that, “in order to be in compliance with a June court ruling, members of the IDC must return hundreds of thousands of dollars that was funneled through a finance account to the members from the state’s Independence Party. Of the $2.5 million that the IDC raised in conjunction with the Independence Party, Sugarman pinpointed more than $1.4 million that needs to be refunded.”

Meanwhile, Alessandra Biaggi is getting incredible endorsements and grassroots from so many organizations, unions, and elected officials (including City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has come to the Bronx to campaign for her several times). And all of that is great, but what’s even more critical to her campaign is your support financially and volunteer-wise. Just go to her website and do whatever you can! (Oh and here is the recent endorsement of The Daily News.)

IMG_3946

State Senate candidate Alessandra Biaggi, a real Democrat, at a forum for State Senate candidates, organized by the Northwest Bronx Community and Coalition last month. Klein didn’t show up. Photo by Jordan Moss

22 Days to Go: Biaggi Will Attend Bronx Town Hall Tonight for State Senate Candidates. Will Klein?

22 Aug

With only 3 weeks (+ a day) to go before the critical primary vote on Thurs., Sept. 13 for staten senator, in the 34th Senate District (and others all over the city), the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition is hosting a Town Hall tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Monroe College, 2501 Jerome Ave. (near Fordham Road) for Senate candidates interested in representing a few northwest Bronx districts. Alessandra Biaggi will be there. I heard that her opponent, incumbent Jeff Klein has not RSVP’d. Anyone interested in learning where candidates stand on many critical issues — health care, housing, schools, jobs, etc. — are welcome to attend.