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Bronxites Welcome Refugees (well, not ALL Bronxites)

12 Jan
refugee pic

Poster on our front door in Kingsbridge Heights

A few weeks ago I ordered 10 copies of the poster above for the front door of our house in Kingsbridge Heights and for some friends and neighbors sharing our feeling. It’s a bit of a wish as the U.S. has barely opened the nation’s doors yet, with only 2,290 allowed in since 2011. Canada, a much smaller nation population-wise, has opened its doors for more than 9,000 people.

No one has said anything much to us. Our neighbors either share the same views, or respect our right to make them known. We’ll leave it up until the U.S. speeds up and expands its policy.

But in the Norwood neighborhood, where we lived for many years, our pals Jarrett Murphy and Eileen Markey did get a written response taped to their door. Little did that person know it was a letter to an editor.

Jarrett didn’t hesitate to share his feeling with quite a larger audience on the City Limits website. Well-written and humor-providing. Check it out.

Oh, by the way, I have like 4 posters left, so if you want one for your front door, just e-mail me at bronxmatters@gmail.com and we’ll make it happen! They’re $18 each.

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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

Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera’s Other Public Passion: Performance

20 Nov

Bronx State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D, WF, 33rd District) did more than raise some drinks and hug his pals at his 40th birthday/fundraiser last night at Escape Restaurant and Lounge on Jerome Avenue in Norwood. He sang — a lot, with like 12 musicians! And, regardless of whether you might vote for him or someone else potentially challenging him next year (so far no one is on that route), it’s hard to expect you won’t be impressed with, and surprised by, his performance in the following video (mine).

School Space for Priced-Out Bronx Artists?

16 Nov

Adam Forman, a researcher at Center for an Urban Future, has an opinion piece in the Daily News today regarding the diminishing availability of art studios citywide thanks to the growing hike in real state prices all around the city.

He suggests that city schools be made available in the evenings and on weekends. “There are 1,285 visual arts rooms, 1,111 music rooms, 932 auditoriums, 408 dance studios and 200 film production and editing facilities in the Department of Education’s 1,200 buildings,” Forman states.

As he explains, making this public space available could be complicated — liability and security issues, insurance and until expenses, etc. — but he states, “…these challenges are hardly insurmountable.”

Check out the story and let Bronx Matters readers know what you think.

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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.

In Bronx District Attorney Election, Vote for Kalief Browder, Who Committed Suicide After 3 Years of Clark’s Court Delays

3 Nov

A Bronx Matters Editorial:

There is little excitement about voting in Bronx elections that are non-mayoral, non-presidential, non-borough-presidential, and not even for a city councilperson or a state legislator. It is, however, judicial. It’s not that that’s unimportant, but since there is virtually no coverage, debates, or campaigning, what do we know about any of these people? We could all spend the time finding them on-line and reading a little about them, but that highly unlikely, especially on Election Day.

It’s 1:06 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 3 that I’m beginning to write this and I have no clue who I’m going to vote for in eight judicial elections, or whether I’m even going to take part in voting for people I know nothing about.

But here’s one thing I know I will do – vote in the district attorney election today because the story behind it is such a signal of our borough’s lack of sufficient democracy in a so-called democratic society.

Robert Johnson, the 27-year veteran district attorney, left his position not by stepping out of the Democratic campaign, but by staying in his position, avoiding a primary in September (clearly no Democrat thought they had a chance of defeating this multi-term incumbent) and then simply quitting when the Bronx Democratic Party placed him in another virtual victory lane to be a judge.

But in today’s election, I’m writing in the name of someone who couldn’t even serve if he did win. Kalief Browder served three years in Rikers, where he attempted suicide. He was accused of robbery but spent more than a thousand days in jail without a trial. In six court dates, nothing occurred except for delays.

At home, Browder apparently was better and attending Bronx Community College. But he didn’t stay better and eventually hung himself outside his bedroom window.

So, who was the judge? Darcel Clark, the judge that Bronx Democrats chose to replace Johnson. (She is the Democrat running against Republican Robert D. Siano, who has little chance to win a borough with zero Republican elected officials.)

Whether or not you vote for her, Clark is going to be the district attorney. But maybe if enough write-in votes go to Browder, it will encourage more Bronxites and journalists to keep a close eye on Clark for an obvious reason. And more voting could possibly make Bronx pols think before they continue to exacerbate this pervasive dwindling of democracy.

Sharing this with you now at 3 p.m on Election Day is late in the game. But if you haven’t voted yet and reading this soon after I post it, you’ll have about 6 hours to go. You many not feel like voting in any of these “races,” but vote nonetheless. You can choose anyone on the ballot or write in a name. So, please … vote, vote, vote!

One last thing: Choosing Kalief Browder as a write-in vote for district attorney was not my idea. A friend mentioned it to me and I felt it was such a good idea I had to share it.

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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.

Phenomenal Bronx Documentary Photo Exhibit in a Muffler Shop. No Kidding.

7 Oct
Just one impressive photo in the unusual, creative exhibit scene at Vasquez Muffler on Jerome Ave. This photo in exhibit is by Osaretin Ugiagbe. This blog photo by Jordan Moss.

Just one impressive photo in the unusual, creative exhibit scene at Vasquez Muffler on Jerome Ave. This photo in exhibit is by Osaretin Ugiagbe. This blog photo by Jordan Moss.

The Jerome Avenue Workers Project, a remarkable exhibit put on by the Bronx Photo League and the Bronx Documentary Center, had a remarkable, packed opening on Oct. 3 at — get this — Vasquez Muffler at 1275 Jerome Ave.  Sixteen photographers took photos of community residents and workers in the south Bronx neighborhoods that Jerome Avenue links, like Mount Hope and Mount Eden. Though the exhibit is independent, its focus is linked to efforts by community organizations like CAAAV and Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition which are working with residents to challenge and change city plans that would rezone the area. That would allow landowners to sell their property to housing developers. The city plan, they say, will not be affordable and will essentially lead to illegal removal of local tenants, a crisis growing around the city.

The exhibit is on until Oct. 18. The hours are Monday – Saturday 4 to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Here’s a bit of what to expect: 

Vasquez Muffler was packed for the Workers Project photo exhibit opening on Oct. 3. Photo by Jordan Moss

Vasquez Muffler was packed for the Workers Project photo exhibit that opened on Oct. 3. Photo by Jordan Moss

Bronx photographer Adi Talwar took two photos for the exhibit including this at a hair dresser in the area. Photo by Jordan Moss

Bronx photographer Adi Talwar took two photos for the exhibit including this at a hair salon in the area. Photo by Jordan Moss