Monday, October 31, 2011

Snow storm knocks out power for thousands

The snowstorm that blew through the city this weekend knocked out electricity for over 9,500 people, Con Edison said. As of earlier today, a little over 1,000 were still without power. They hope to restore most of what's left by midnight tonight. Judging by the drive I took around Riverdale today, they're going to have a hard time fulfilling that promise.

Driving through leafy Fieldston proved impossible this morning, as Con Ed had crews throughout the neighborhood blocking roads as they cleared up massive amounts of debris. On the other side of the Henry Hudson Parkway, many of the narrow roads were made even narrower by branches that had fallow to the wayside. One tree was hanging over the street, daring drivers to travel underneath it (see photo below).

We haven't received any statements blasting the Mayor or the City for poor performances on storm management (though we haven't received any congratulating them, either), but we did see this on City Councilman James Vacca's Facebook page during the storm:
I've got to say something tonight and say it very clearly. Can you imagine how many people would not be losing power tonight if NYC pruned its trees on a regular basis? Our city's tree maintenance program or the lack of one that meets the needs of its residents comes home to roost when we have storms like this.
He did later thank City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Con Ed and DSNY for reaching out to him to coordinate help for the east Bronx, which took a good portion of the beating from the storm.
Firemen move a power line on Riverdale Avenue during the storm.

A house along Palisade Avenue in Riverdale.

A car is forced to go onto the other side of Palisade Avenue on Monday.

W. 249th Street on Monday. No work appears to have been done by the City to stabilize the tree.
That didn't stop me from driving (quickly) under it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Diaz and MTA's Prendergast tour 149th Street-Grand Concourse subway

The 149th Street-Grand Concourse station
is one of the worst in the city.
Earlier this week, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. met with MTA President Thomas Predergast in one of the worst subway stations in the Bronx, if not the city, to discuss much needed improvements to the station.

In September, Diaz announced that the MTA had agreed to major renovations at the station. The 138th Street-3rd Avenue subway stations will also undergo major renovations. They are scheduled to begin in Spring 2012.

The 149th Street-Grand Concourse station will get a new paint job, reconstructed platform edges, special grouting to prevent leaks and ventilation repairs. Repairs to the 138th Street-3rd Avenue station include reconstructing the east mezzanine passageway and an interior stairway. The work should be completed by early 2013.

Community Board 8 calendar

Here is the calendar for Community Board 8's public meetings.

Not on the calendar are the 50th Precinct's community council meeting and the public hearing to discuss the possible closure of the Spuyten Duyvil Post Office (both on Thursday, Nov. 10).

November 2011 Calendar

Thursday, October 27, 2011

230th Street shopping plaza delayed

One last story from this week's Riverdale Review.

By Brendan McHugh 

The future shopping center at 230th Street and Broadway has gone through delay after delay over the past decade, and after being scrapped and restarted, has hit it’s first delay. 

The deadline for interested developers to submit proposals to the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has been extended two weeks, from Monday, Oct. 24 to Nov. 7. 

However, this may be the first good delay the project has ever seen. According to EDC spokesperson Kyle Sklerov, “There is significant interest in the Broadway Plaza site and we have extended the deadline to allow respondents more time to finalize their proposals.” 

Sklerov added that developers requested the additional time because they needed more time to finalize their proposals on the 80,000 square foot lot that will include a pedestrian plaza where Kimberly Place currently is. 

Jump below for the full story.

Electeds meet their constituents in West Bronx town meeting

Here's a story from this week's Bronx Press.

By Brendan McHugh 

Engel courts future voters at the town hall meeting Sunday.
Stray cats, street repairs, the millionaires’ tax and much more were brought up in during a ‘meet and greet’ with local elected officials last week at Vladek Hall.

In the first of four town hall meetings, residents were able to spend some one-on-one time with their local elected officials, a change from the typical town halls where residents fire off questions publicly and the officials respond in an open forum.

Rep. Eliot Engel, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, state Senator Gustavo Rivera and City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell spoke with their constituents on a variety of issues Sunday afternoon in one of the Amalgamated Houses.

“People brought up a lot of local issues,” Dinowitz said after the gathering. “Some people talk to us about more national issues. They’re very pro-Democrat and want Obama to be stronger in his fight to get bills passed, his fight with Republicans. We got a lot of that: Obama needs to be tougher with Republicans.”

Jump below for the full post.

Street renaming sought for Frank Durkan

Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review.

By Brendan McHugh 

An Irish name may be added on to Tibbett Avenue. 

The traffic and transportation committee of Community Board 8 unanimously voted in favor of adding ‘Frank Durkan Way’ to Tibbett Avenue between 240th and 238th streets, adjacent to Gaelic Park. 

Over a dozen people came to last week’s meeting to share an antidote about Frank Durkan’s sincerity and commitment to Gaelic Park and the Irish community, and dozens of other people and organizations sent letters. 

“He died a rich man in his heart,” said Martin Lyons, a longtime friend of Durkan’s and the organizer of the effort.

Frank Durkan Way wouldn’t become the actual name of the street; that would remain Tibbett Avenue. The new street name would be an honorary distinction only.

Jump below for the full story.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rivera's health initiative headed to schools and families

Here's a story that didn't make this week's Riverdale Review.

By Brendan McHugh 

Is Diaz enjoying this a little too much?
Rivera has lost 16 lbs. since June.
As the first Bronx CAN Health Initiative winds down, state Senator Gustavo Rivera and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. spent Monday kicking off the new family-oriented initiative in Bronx schools.

Standing for ‘Changing Attitudes Now,’ the CAN initiative encourages Bronxites to eat healthier and work out more. Rivera has joined with Diaz, Montefiore Medical Center and various community groups throughout the Bronx, encouraging children and adults alike to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

"For the last few months, the Bronx CAN Health Initiative has inspired Bronxites to take responsibility over their own health and make changes to their habits in order to lead longer and healthier lives," Rivera said.

Rivera and Diaz attended a celebration of National Food Day on Monday, Oct. 24 at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula, one of several schools in the Bronx that have adopted the Bronx CAN Family Health Challenge.

Jump below for the full story, including a picture of Rivera from June and information about a campaign the NYC health department started today.

Grand Concourse to be given landmark status

Check out Daniel Beekman's story in the Daily News on the landmarking of a portion of the Grand Concourse.

Here is Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s statement:
“Today, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated a portion of the Grand Concourse as a historic district. My office has long been a supporter of this designation, and I am thrilled that this has finally been achieved. The Grand Concourse features one of the great repositories of art deco buildings in the United States, and this designation will help to preserve this heritage in Bronx County for generations to come.”
The boundaries of the designation lie between East 153rd and 167th streets along the Grand Concourse.

Yahoo! features NYC's oldest bridge: the High Bridge

It's not often that the Bronx cracks Yahoo's homepage with good news, so I wanted to pass this along.

They took a look at the High Bridge, which connects the Bronx to Washington Heights over the Harlem River. Yahoo mentions that the bridge will reopen to the public in a few years for pedestrians and bicyclists as part of the city's PlanNYC program.

This week's Riverdale Review & Bronx Press

Here are the stories from this week's (Oct. 27-Nov. 2) Riverdale Review and Bronx Press:

For local schools: A long way to the top
RKA's high school gets an 'A'
230th Street shopping plan delayed
Short notice on Post Office closure hearing criticized
DOT studies schools' traffic woes
Street renaming sought for Frank Durkan
RCT holds arts high school audition seminar for Bronx kids

Also in the Bronx Press:
Electeds meet their constituents in West Bronx town meeting

Jason Bateman and Alexander Skarsgard in Riverdale (Sad UPDATE)

Bateman is (not) shooting
a film in Riverdale.
Movies and television shows are shot in New York City all the time; it's part of our life. But they're more often shot in Midtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, and only occasionally do film sets come to the Bronx, and specifically Riverdale.

So head over to the NoMa Blog to see an exclusive photo of the film set "Disconnect," starring Jason Bateman and Alexander Skarsgard. The blogger promises more photos coming from an "insider."

According to NoMa, they will be filming at the Solaria until 3 a.m. tonight and from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursday and Friday nights. They note that Skarsgard is from True Blood, though I am more focused on trying to catch a glimpse of Bateman, the star of Arrested Development.

"Disconnect" is a "Crash"-style ensemble piece that explores various characters and how they are affected -- and in some cases destroyed -- by the Internet and other forms of modern communication. The cast also includes Frank Grillo ("Prison Break"), Andrea Riseborough and Michael Nyqvist, with Bateman set to play the overprotective father of Colin Ford's character.

UPDATE: My insider tells me Bateman and Skarsgard probably won't be in Riverdale. The filming taking place in the Solaria is some of the lower level celebs. Just to clarify, NoMa never said the actors would be there. I was just hoping to see them if they were.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meeting Wednesday to determine fate of Fieldston Post Office

This will be in the Riverdale Review this week, but I wanted to give you a preview of the story. You'll see why. 

By Brendan McHugh

The United States Post Service only gave four days notice for a public hearing on the possible closing of the Fieldston post office. 

A letter acquired through Community Board 8 dated Oct. 22 announces a meeting to discuss the possible closure of the 444 W. 238th Street office on Oct. 26 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at St. Gabriel’s School. 

The lack of notice has infuriated local elected officials who have been fighting the closures. The USPS plans to examine 17 Bronx offices for possible closure. 

“I’m not sure how they expect to get reaction from the community when they don’t give enough notice,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. “That’s disgraceful.” 

Dinowitz added that he believes the USPS is giving short notice on purpose so they can go ahead and point to a poor turnout when they choose to close the office. 

Check the Riverdale Review tomorrow for the full story!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Diaz Sr. congratulating Hispanic colleagues in Skelos boycott

State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. has congratulated the members of the state legislature who joined him in boycotting Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' Unidad Latina Legislative Conference last week. We've got the full backstory here and here.

The GOP called the conference a success, citing the fact that two current Hispanic members of the Assembly attended. Diaz ponders why they did attend, but ultimately is pleased that most of the Hispanic members of government did not attend. Diaz said in an earlier letter that he was boycotting the conference because Republicans hurt Hispanics in the state budget this year, and the conference was nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Jump below for the full statement.

From Diaz to the members of the Puerto Rican/Latino Caucus:
This memo is to congratulate my Senate colleagues who serve as Members of the New York State Senate Puerto Rican/Latino Caucus: Senator Adriano Espaillat, Chair; Senator Gustavo Rivera, Vice-Chair; and Caucus Members Senator José Peralta, Senator Martin-Malavé Dilan, and Senator José M. Serrano.  I congratulate all of you for showing real unity on behalf of our Caucus and our community by not attending the so-called Legislative Hispanic Unity Conference that was organized by our Senate Majority (Republican) Leader Dean Skelos.

Most importantly, I have to admire our Caucus Chairman, Senator Adriano Espaillat for his leadership.

I have to admire our Caucus Vice-Chair Gustavo Rivera for being forthright in the media last week by stating: “I will not be attending the conference. If the majority leader and the Senate Republicans were serious about addressing the issues affecting Latinos, they would have asked their Latino counterparts in the Senate to help them organize a conference that reflects the issues that are impacting Latinos throughout the state such as immigrants’ rights issues as well as the need to extend the millionaire’s tax so that New York State is able to continue funding important services like education, housing, and healthcare that are so critical to our communities.”

Diaz Sr. urges Skelos to open a dialogue

Last week, state Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. urged his fellow Hispanic colleagues in government to boycott Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos' Hispanic gathering, Unidad Latina Legislative Conference. Diaz says that no Hispanic legislators attended the conference, though the GOP says a number of them did.

The letter, released today, is directed at Skelos and calls for him to open up a dialogue with Hispanic lawmakers to start better serving their needs, which were ignored during the state budget agreement, Diaz said.

According to Capitol Confidential, the GOP says Diaz has his facts wrong.

Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif told the Times Union blog that Assembly members Guillermo Linares, Naomi Rivera and Nicole Malliotakis were on hand, as well as former Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez, the first Puerto Rican Democrat county leader in the state, “along with dozens of Hispanic business and community leaders.”

Reif’s full response to CapCon:
This is absolutely not true, and Senator Diaz should be ashamed of himself for putting politics ahead of what’s best for New York’s Hispanic community.  Sponsored by Senator Skelos and the well-respected Hispanic Federation, Unidad Latina was attended by hundreds of people, Senators and Assemblymembers from both political parties, and many Hispanic lawmakers.  And, despite Senator Diaz’ best efforts to bully people into not attending, this conference was an enormous success which gave serious legislators an opportunity to make contacts, to listen and to learn, and to advocate for issues important to the Hispanic community.  The Senate Democrats should spend less time trying to tear people down and more time trying to bring people together, as Senate Republicans have been doing.
Here's a sample of the letter from Diaz. Jump below for the full piece.

"I hope (and in speaking for myself) you will understand that until you build a dialogue with the six Hispanic Senators who serve as your colleagues in the New York State Senate, some of us will have a reason not to participate in your publicity events."

Unemployment in the Bronx three times higher than in Manhattan

Last week, City Comptroller John Liu released data highlighting the disparities in education, race, age and borough throughout the city. Most alarming to Liu is the difference between unemployment between the Bronx and Manhattan.

By borough, the unemployment rate in Manhattan has fallen to 4.7 percent, while in the Bronx it is nearly three times as high at 13.6 percent.

Staten Island

While the Bronx has seen unemployment drop over 25 percent since 2009, the fact that it is still nine points higher than Manhattan is troublesome.

“Jobs are vital to everyone regardless of race, age, or zip code. Persistent inequities in unemployment threaten the economic health of the City as a whole,” Liu said. “It’s important that the City economy works for everyone, so the crisis like the one we’ve seen doesn’t happen again. Growth that is unequal, jobs that don’t pay, and gaps in educational achievement and infrastructure investment will only create an unequal playing field and, worse, conditions for another downturn.”

The breakdown was designed to help provide policymakers with a snapshot of areas of persistent unemployment. Even as the city’s overall unemployment rate declined year-on-year – to 8.7 percent in the third quarter of 2011 from 9.5 percent in the same quarter of 2010, and 10.7 percent in 2009 – stubborn disparities are evident.

Jump below for the rest of the statistics, including unemployment broken down by race, age and education levels.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Engel celebrates Obama's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq

Rep. Eliot Engel issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s announcement that all American troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year. Engel is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I applaud President Obama for this decision to bring our troops home and I hope in the not-so-distant future he can do the same in Afghanistan.  After nearly nine years, the war in Iraq is finally coming to a close.  The President fulfilled his campaign promise to end the war, which has lasted twice as long as World War II, cost our nation billions of dollars and sadly we have lost approximately 4,500 American lives.  I have been calling for the end of the war since 2007, and at long last it is coming true.  While the mission was often muddled, the bravery and dedication of our men and women in uniform was never in question.  They can return home for the holidays, to the loved ones they left behind, knowing that they served their country honorably, and that they have the gratitude of the entire nation.

“This action is long overdue, and has my full support.  Unfortunately, the lasting legacy of this war is the emboldening of Iran, the loss of American lives, and the sacrifices we must now demand in order to pay the bills and take care of America’s veterans.  I fully believe the war in Afghanistan could have ended long ago, if we didn’t divert attention and resources to Iraq.

“Iraq once again belongs to the Iraqi people.  Between this, the deaths of Moamar Qadaffi and Osama bin Laden, the systematic elimination of al Qaeda leaders, and the continued withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan, perhaps this long chapter in our history will come to a close.  We must remain vigilant, as our enemies still lurk and remain committed to attacking us at home and abroad.  However, today is a great day for the families of our service men and women, for the Iraqi people and for the American people.  I commend the President for his actions, and look forward to the day where the last American boot finally leaves Iraqi soil.”

Koppell calls for 100% wheelchair accessible taxi fleet

City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell hasn't fallen into a rut in his final term. In fact, he may be getting more attention and taking more risks than ever before. He's been fighting Bloomberg, Quinn and the city's biggest developers on the living wage issue for the past year, and more recently he's been battling Bloomberg over a taxi design for the disabled.

Earlier this week, Koppell held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to advocate for people with disabilities for a taxi fleet in New York City that is 100% wheelchair accessible.

Koppell, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services, joined colleagues and advocates for people with disabilities Wednesday, calling for Mayor Michael Bloomberg to stop ignoring federal regulations that call for every city cab to be wheelchair accessible.

According to the Daily News editorial on Oct. 16, “of the 13,237 yellow cabs in New York City, only 231 can accommodate a wheelchair. That‘s 1.7%, making the chance of hailing one almost impossible."

“This is wholly unacceptable,” Koppell said. “Also unacceptable is the fact that the Mayor and the Taxi and Limousine Commission have chosen an inaccessible Nissan model to be the so-called 'Taxi of Tomorrow' that  will be the exclusive design for New York City taxicabs for at least the next decade.”

Jump below for the full story.

85 public Wi-Fi spots in the Bronx; a few more in Manhattan

Give or take a few, I counted 85 places where people can find a Wi-Fi signal in the Bronx. Most of them are McDonald's and public libraries.

The map has been created by NYC Digital, a city office pushing the city government into the 21st century.

The Village Voice reached out to a NYC Digital spokesperson, who told them, "the entire platform is new" and that "This new platform includes API-enabled data and powerful data visualization tools that allow anyone to instantly create charts, graphs and interactive maps like the one of Wifi Hotspot locations.

The biggest thing we noticed is the disparity of Wi-Fi spots between the Bronx and Manhattan. The 'Starbucks on every corner' joke seems to be true. Try clicking any of the spots below and it seems like 90 percent of them show a Starbucks. That being said, I'm pretty sure the Starbucks on Johnson Avenue and West 235th Street in Riverdale has Wi-Fi, but the map doesn't show it. We've contacted NYC Digital asking them how accurate the map is and are waiting to hear back.

Powered by Socrata

Carrión attempting a city comeback?

One last story from this week's paper. This one on the possibility of former borough president Adolfo Carrión running for city comptroller. Check out Bob Kappstatter's Daily News column to read about how he's heard Carrión may decide to run for his former BP post instead. 

By Brendan McHugh 

After mediocre success on the federal level, it is possible that former Bronx Borough president Adolfo Carrión Jr. could come back to New York to run for city comptroller, which would make him the first Latino to hold a citywide office in New York City.

Carrión has $2.3 million in a campaign account, most of it left over from an abandoned run for comptroller in 2009, according to New York City Campaign finance records.

Carrión was instead tapped to run the White House Office of Urban Affairs in 2009, and left a year later to run the regional office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a move some consider to be a lateral career move at best—current Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, had the HUD position under President Bill Clinton before taking citywide office.

The funds the former borough president has amassed put him in good position to run for comptroller, which caps candidates’ total funds at slightly over $4 million.

Jump below for the full story.

"Living" Wage proposal refuses to die

Another story from this week's issue.

By Brendan McHugh 

With increasing pressure from living wage advocates and a new, watered-down bill, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has scheduled a public hearing on the controversial living wage bill.

“The living wage bill introduced last year has undergone significant amendments,” Quinn said in a statement. “Given all of the responsibilities of the council, it is appropriate that the new legislation is given a full public hearing.”

The hearing, scheduled for Nov. 22, breathes new life into the bill yet again, which has had to undergo significant changes due to staunch opposition from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, real estate giants and big business.

Quinn has yet to take a stance on the bill and thus far has refused to let it come to a vote on the Council floor despite support from at least 30 of the 51 Council Members.

Jump below for the full story.

Tour de Bronx rolls into borough this Sunday

Here's a story from this week's issue of the Riverdale Review. 

By Brendan McHugh 

One of the best ways to see the hidden gems of the Bronx is on two wheels, according to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

On Sunday, Oct. 23, thousands of bicyclists from all over the globe will join Diaz in the 17th annual Tour de Bronx.
Diaz will be riding the 25-mile race in this Sunday's Tour de Bronx.

“The reason why we do the Tour de Bronx is because the Bronx has come back from such a long way in the last 2 ½ decades that it is worth bragging about and it is worth having people come from beyond our borders and experience the renaissance,” Diaz said last week at during a press conference at Montefiore Medical Center promoting the race.

The race, which can be done in either the 25- or 40-mile routes, weaves through most parts of the borough, highlighting Bronx gems such as Pelham Bay Park, the Botanical Gardens and SUNY Maritime College.

Jump below for the full story.

Groundbreaking ceremonies are an necessary evil

Before I begin, let me just say that this is my opinion only, which as you'll find out in about four sentences, probably doesn't count for much.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't like groundbreaking ceremonies. Reporters at a groundbreaking in Brooklyn overheard him saying, "I can't wait for the last one. You have no idea." Well, Mike, I don't think most people like the ceremonies either. To put it simply: they're awkward.

Now, I only have 14 months of professional journalism experience, but I've covered a fair share of groundbreakings in the Bronx. Most recently, the groundbreaking of Owen Dolen Park in Westchester Square.
Look at this picture. Notice how nobody is looking at the same camera. Half the people are looking at the ground or a different camera. I took over twenty pictures during the five times they threw the dirt. This was the best one. The Daily News has a slightly better picture, with about half the people looking at their camera.

Groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, plaque unveilings, they're all the same. Speaker after speaker after speaking thanking one another, until the main speaker does a final round of thank yous and then transitions to the posed action shot.

So why do this? It gets everyone "important" in one picture without being totally posed. (As in, everyone just standing together smiling, still not looking at the same camera.) Every newspaper on the planet hates using photos like that. Also, it's awkward to abruptly end an event. Most of the people speaking aren't professional speakers, so events tend to just...stop: "And, uh, that's it. Thanks for coming."

The best way to end an event without awkwardness is to take questions because you can say, "One last question," take the question, answer it, then say, "Thank you, that is all," and walk off the stage. Everyone knows the end is coming, so it's not awkward.

But in small ceremonies, there usually aren't too many questions to ask, if any, about the event. It'll be two Bronx reporters, News 12 and maybe one or two others from the citywide press, so there usually isn't a formal Q&A session. We're all there to cover the event only, and we have direct access to the local officials after the event. Reporters can speak with the local officials in private if they want to get a quote about another story they're working on. At the Owen Dolen event, I spent a few minutes talking with someone about the Westchester BID. That's not an appropriate question to ask in public because it wastes a lot of other people's time.

Bloomberg takes questions publicly because he has an entire press corps following him around 24/7, so they have to do the Q&A portion out in the open. And after that, Bloomberg runs into his car and disappears. He doesn't stick around. If you have a question to ask, you better ask it there.

So how should an event end? People really should just learn how to wrap up an event effectively, but the easiest out will always be to hold a contrived, cheesy ritual that very few actually enjoy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Engel reacts to Gadhafi's death

Rep. Eliot Engel issued the following statement in response to the death of Moamar Gadhafi in Libya today. Engel is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:
“With the death of Moamar Qadaffi, it is time for Libyans to get on with the difficult job of setting up a functioning government and rebuilding their country. The United States and our European allies should help the transitional authorities in Libya as they establish democratic institutions, but we must also caution that they contain radical elements. It is my hope that a democratically-chosen government in Libya will promote the freedom and prosperity of its citizens and will quickly discard the extremist agenda of Qadaffi who spent more time propping up dictators in Africa, vilifying Israel, and blowing up civilian airliners than bettering his own country.”
The spelling in Engel's statement differs from ours. AP Style spells it Gadhafi, and there are even more different spellings beyond that. The various media outlets are spelling it every which way.

Lhota, raised in Pelham Bay, named head of MTA by Cuomo

Former Bronxite and current Madison Square Garden Inc. executive vice president Joe Lhota has been named chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority by Gov. Andrew Cuomo today.

"Joe Lhota brings one-of-a-kind managerial, government, and private sector experience to the job and a lifelong commitment to public service that will benefit all straphangers," Cuomo said. "I look forward to working together as we continue to reform the MTA, reduce costs, and improve service for New Yorkers. I thank the members of the MTA Search Advisory Committee for their diligent work and thorough review."

Current MTA chairman, Jay Walder, announced in July that he was leaving to run an international transportation company based in Hong Kong. Tomorrow is his last day.

"Millions of New Yorkers depend on the MTA every day and they deserve the most efficient and effective service," Lhota said in a statement. "Throughout my career in both the public and private sectors, I have initiated reforms that are performance-based and that cut costs, and I look forward to bringing this same approach to the MTA. I thank Governor Cuomo for this exciting opportunity to serve the people of New York."

Lhota, now a Brooklyn resident, received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and graduated cum laude from Georgetown. He has New York in his blood; he is the son of a retired NYPD lieutenant and the grandson of a FDNY firefighter.

New York City Council Transportation Chair James Vacca applauded the decision, citing Lhota's experience in city government. 

"The MTA will face a number of challenges in the years ahead, from preserving service for straphangers to completing many of the mega-projects across the city, all under the threat of further budget cuts. This is one of the most difficult jobs in the country,” Vacca said. “Joe Lhota’s successes as a Deputy Mayor for Operations and City Budget Director mean that he has the expertise and leadership needed to weather the storm ahead.

“I heard from Mr. Lhota today and was encouraged by his enthusiasm and also by the fact that he has roots in the outer boroughs. When I learned that he grew up in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx, in my district, I must confess feeling a sense of relief. This is not an out-of-towner. Mr. Lhota knows New York, he knows the transit system, and he knows the particular needs of folks in the outer reaches of the city. I look forward to working with him to improve service for all residents of this city." 

Former Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer and current MTA board member said Lhota stood out amongst a number of other qualified candidates.

"Following an extensive search process, where we reviewed many top public transportation professionals, it was clear that Mr. Lhota was the best candidate for the position," Ferrer said. "He is a dedicated public servant with unparalleled expertise in business and government who will bring great energy and vision to the MTA."

There are only 93 millionaires in the Bronx (REPOST)

We had to delete this post because it was doing something strange to the blog. Here it is again. Jump below for the table, which may have had something to do with the problem.

There are less people from the 1% in the Bronx than there were three years ago.

Check out this spreadsheet from the Department of Taxation and Finance, which shows the amount of people in various tax brackets, county by county. The second county on the list is the Bronx, which had only 93 millionaires in 2009 (the latest year the data is available).

It's a sharp decline for the borough, which had 159 millionaires in 2007. The spreadsheet goes back to 2006, but the borough had more seven-figure income earners in 2007.

According to the Times Union blog Capitol Confidential:
The real trick will be to compare these data to the numbers for 2010. Democratic lawmakers approved a temporary income tax surcharge in the 2009 budget that raised the top tax rate to 8.97 percent for New Yorkers earning over $500,000 and to 6.85 percent for single New Yorkers making over $200,000 or joint filers making more than $300,000. Conservatives as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ran on the Democratic Party’s line, argue that the higher tax rate is prompting wealthy New Yorkers to move to other states. Cuomo as well as most Republicans controlling the state Senate have refused to renew it.
The tax expires at the end of the year. The fight about this, likely to culminate in next year’s budget battle, has just begun anew.

Manhattan had 14,990 millionaires in 2009, a drop of over 3,000 from 2007, when they had 19,247.

Community Board 8 hosting free business census workshop

Business Census Workshop

Occupying Whole Foods

Diaz and Johnson announce major grant for domestic violence prevention

Domestic violence prevention in the Bronx is getting a $1 million upgrade from the feds, Bronx officials announced Wednesday. 

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson say the federal grant will help protect battered women in the borough, prosecute offenders and track them as their cases move forward, according to the Daily News. The grant, from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, will be used to bolster enforcement, beef up victim protection, increase community outreach and create a range of new services, officials said. 

Some of the funding will replace or supplement domestic violence officers in the 46th and 52nd Precincts, the precincts with the most reported incidents of domestic violence. 

"With our city's budget shrinking, I am proud to be able to attract funding to supplement the cuts in services for victims of domestic violence,” Diaz said.

Jump below for the remainder of the press release Diaz's office sent out, but check out the Daily News story for the story.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Plaque Unveiling Honors Woodlawn as National Landmark

A story that didn't make this week's paper. Enjoy.

By David Greene

At the unveiling are (l-r) Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan, Comptroller John Liu,
Woodlawn President John Toale and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Photo by David Greene.
Dozens of Bronxites joined local elected officials in a plaque unveiling, celebrating Woodlawn Cemetery's recent inclusion to a list of America's national landmarks.

At the unveiling, held at Woodlawn on Sunday, Oct. 16, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. told the crowd, "In the United States, there are 2,500 known landmarks and in the state of New York, we have only 262, and today we are celebrating the 5th national landmark of the Bronx."

Diaz continued, "When you look at the wonderful resurgence and the renaissance of our borough, and the fact that we have been designated as a national historic landmark, it doesn't come easy; it comes with a lot of work."

New York City Comptroller John Liu remarked, "People are coming to the Bronx, no question about it, and in a time when our city and indeed our country is still struggling to get out of what is the deepest recession since the great depression. We have things that we can look forward to and great things are happening right here in the Bronx."

Jump below for the full story.

Walking around Riverdale is safe

And not just because of the low crime numbers.

From 1995 to 2009, there were 8,604 motor-vehicle crashes involving pedestrians in the 42 blocks that make up Manhattan Community District 5. In Bronx District 8 (Riverdale, Fieldston, Marble Hill, Van Cortlandt Village, Kingsbridge) during the same period, only 788 crashes occurred; less than 10 percent of Manhattan's District 5, which is Midtown.

The data comes from Transportation Alternatives new interactive map, CrashStat.

The only area that is considered safer than Riverdale is the South Shore of Staten Island (Community District 3) with 653 crashes.
The city's Department of Transportation disputes these findings, however (even the good ones). A spokesman points out to Crains New York that reporting the 15-year neighborhood-by-neighborhood totals misses an important point—the decline in injuries and fatalities over the period:
"Safety has actually increased and nowhere is this more evident than in places like Manhattan Community District 5, where fatalities and serious injuries were down 54% from 1995 to 2009; and in Brooklyn Community District 14, where fatalities and injuries down 65% from 1995 to 2009."
Citywide, pedestrian traffic fatalities have dropped 37% from 1995 to 2009.

Transportation Alternatives has called for stricter enforcement of traffic laws by the New York City Police Department, saying that the department should pursue harsher punishments, deploy more traffic cops and more rigorously enforce the 30 mph speed limit.

Jump below for the rest of the story.

This week's Riverdale Review & Bronx Press

As always, here are the stories appearing in this week's issues (Oct. 20-26) of the Bronx Press and Riverdale Review:

Ravitch rallies crowd at education summit
'Living' Wage bill refuses to die
Skating rink appears dead
Carrion tries to revive dead career
Memorial Grove finally moves ahead
Community Board sets budget priorities
Tour de Bronx set for Sunday
Ursachi exhibit at Hebrew Home

Check back later this week for some of those stories and some that didn't make the paper!

GOP contender Herman Cain donated $250 to Rep. Serrano

Did the pizza man want to open up a Bronx location in 1993?

Probably not, but that didn't stop GOP presidential candidate and former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain from donating $250 to Bronx Rep. Jose Serrano that year. As Yahoo! reported, Cain claims all five Democrats he gave money in the mid-90s to were "moderate Democrats." The other donations were made to politicians in Nebraska, where the pizza chain is based.
"They were business decisions and personal decisions," Cain told The Ticket (Yahoo!) when asked about the donations to Democrats. "One was a restaurateur. One was a personal friend. All moderate Democrats."
Except, as The National Review points out by highlighting his National Journal profile, Serrano isn't exactly moderate, at least over the past 10 years. The bold is the Review's:
In opposition to Cuban Hispanics in Congress, Serrano has been Fidel Castro’s greatest champion in the House. He has sought repeal of economic sanctions against Cuba. When questions arose about Castro’s future after major surgery in July 2006, Serrano issued a press release telling President George W. Bush, “Hands Off Cuba.” When Castro’s brother, Raúl Castro, took control, Serrano said that it was “long past time to end the charade and begin dialogue and engagement with Cuba.” Another of his issues is statehood for Puerto Rico, which he calls an American “colony.” He backs a long-stalled referendum to determine the status of the island. In 2000, Serrano was arrested at the White House while protesting the Navy’s bombing range at Vieques, Puerto Rico. He also took credit for working with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Citizen Energy Corp. to strike a deal to bring cheaper oil to the South Bronx. He has criticized the reluctance of House Democratic leaders to pass immigration reform.
In New York politics, Serrano backed former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer for mayor in 2001 and 2005. He backed civil-rights activist Al Sharpton for president in 2004.
Jump below for the rest, included Serrano's response, via the Observer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bronx State legislators calling on Quinn to support living wage

There will be a full story in this week's Bronx Press and Riverdale Review on the living wage, but check this out anyways.

Letter to Speaker Quinn from Bronx State Legislators

WANTED for robbery

Wanted Poster 65 W Kbridge

Remarks of Borough President Diaz at Bronx Education Summit

Jump below for the full post of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s remarks from last week's education summit. You can read the full analysis of the event in the upcoming issue of the Bronx Press & Riverdale Review.


Good morning!

On behalf of all 1.4 million Bronxites, I would like to welcome each of you to the first ever Bronx Education Summit, “From Cradle to Career.” Thank you all for participating in the first step towards the development of a strong new agenda for education in the Bronx, from our pre-K students straight through high school, college, and into the modern workforce.

Education is an important issue in our borough, perhaps the most important issue we face. My office has made it very clear that we value our public schools, a commitment that’s apparent when you look at our record in regards to capital funding. In each of my three years in borough hall, education has been my highest priority when it comes to our budget. In total, I have placed almost $22 million into necessary school projects across the Bronx. When it comes to education, we are putting our money where our mouth is. 

And we have good reason to do so. Our children only get one chance at a quality education. Education is the key to upward mobility, a better life, and a road out of poverty. 

Jump below for the full post.

Crowley rakes in $$$ in third-quarter fundraising

Here are the three Bronx congressmen's latest campaign filings, in case you were wondering:

Third Quarter Take (Cash on Hand)
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-7th): $237,571; ($933,462)
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-16th): $12,075; ($14,504)
Rep. Eliot Engel (D—17th) : $73,750; ($111,542)

Check out the full list at the Daily Politics, or surf around Open Secrets and see what you can find.

Diaz Sr. urges Espaillat to ignore Skelos (UPDATE)

Outspoken state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. sent a letter to his fellow Democrat, state Senator Adriano Espaillat, asking him to not attend a Hispanic legislative conference that GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos is planning.

Diaz asks that Espaillat--who chairs the Senate's Puerto Rican/Latino Caucus--and the rest of the Hispanic community boycott the conference to show Skelos they do not approve of the way he voted on the budget.

Here's a little snippet of the letter. Jump below for the full letter, as well as Espaillat's response.
I believe that many will agree with me that this event has been whipped up by Senator Dean Skelos to win the affection of Hispanic New Yorkers and is insulting  and  disrespectful  to  the  New  York State Puerto Rican/Latino Caucus and to New York’s Hispanic community.
(UPDATE) Also below is a statement from fellow Bronx state Senator Gustavo Rivera, who will not be attending the conference.

Fake Con Ed worker-scam migrated to Queens from the Bronx

Remember when people posing as Con Ed workers scammed a handful of Bronxites last year?

Well, one politician is trying to remind people of the scam in hopes it doesn't happen again.'s not a Bronx pol. 

Queens state Senator Tony Avella is out with a press release warning homeowners to not let anyone inside if they're not positive they're from Con Ed.

According to the release, scammers in Queens normally call from “Brooklyn Gas” or “Brooklyn Union Maintenance” companies to schedule “overdue” inspections. Once inside, the so-called inspectors convince the homeowner that emergency repairs need to be conducted immediately and convince their victims to pay for the work in advance.

In the Bronx, the workers would just steal things straight from the house. 

“Unfortunately it is easy to see why people would fall for this sort of scam,” Avella said. “Today homeowners are faced with numerous inspections and fines for things they don’t even realize are their responsibility. Scams like these prey on that lack of knowledge and allow con artists to take advantage of unassuming homeowners that want to follow the rules."

Jump below for the rest of the story.