Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Diaz rocking Movember

If you've happened to see Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. this month, you might have noticed the new beard.

The facial hair isn't exactly a fashion choice. It's part of Movember, an annual, world-wide charity movement dedicated to changing the face of men's health- all through the power of the moustache during the month of November (get it now?).

Men start clean-shaven on Movember 1st, then grow a moustache or beard for 30 days while raising funds and awareness for men's health, specifically cancer affecting men in the US.

Since it's beginning in Melbourne, Australia in 2003, Movember has grown into a global movement, with more than a 1.1 million participants raising $174 M USD to date. In the US, Movember raises funds for its men's health partners, the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) and LIVESTRONG, the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

No word on if he's going to shave the beard off after today. It is finally getting cold out, so maybe he wants to keep it for the warmth?

Diaz, Rivera, 50th Precinct kick off annual coat drive

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and state senator Gustavo Rivera joined the volunteer organization New York Cares and Health Plus to kick off the 2011 “Keep The Bronx Warm Month” annual coat drive. Diaz kicked off the coat drive at the 50th Precinct in the Kingsbridge.
The goal is to collect 100,000 coats this year.
During the month of December, individuals can donate coats at Diaz’s office in the Bronx County Courthouse, local police precincts, and other public locations.

The 50th Precinct collected the most coats last year, and Commanding Officer Captain Kevin Burke said he hopes they can defend their title and collect the most again.

Check out next week's Riverdale Review or Bronx Press for the full story.

Firefighters honored for capturing chain snatcher

A story from this week's Bronx Press.

By David Greene

New York's bravest took a page from New York's finest last week when three firefighters chased down and detained a suspected criminal. City Councilman James Vacca (grey suit) honored (L-R) Ronny Fuentes, John Hessler and Chris Magnotta last week for their heroic efforts. They are all from Engine Co. 90, Ladder 41 in the Bronx.
Members of fire companies Engine 90 and Ladder 41 were recognized once again for their heroic efforts, but not for running into a fire or performing a rescue, instead the honor came for capturing a chain snatcher in the Allerton neighborhood of the Bronx.

Oddly enough, the two units were returning from a call at about 8:25 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, when the units requested police to the scene for a, "robbery in progress." Five minutes later they would report that they had the suspect in custody.

At a press conference outside of the White Plains Road firehouse, City Councilman James Vacca presented firefighters Ronnie Fuentes, John Hessler and Chris Magnotta with special citations for their heroic actions, not knowing if the suspect was armed with a weapon or not.

Deputy Inspector Kevin Nicholson of the 49th Precinct said the three firefighters helped stop a repeat offender. 

"The (same) perpetrator... robbed a female white, 62. Four hours later he's out robbing an 18-year-old girl and these guys caught him."

Jump below for the full story.

As post offices are set to close, Crowley wants to rename one

Another story from this week's Bronx Press. Enjoy.

By Brendan McHugh 

While news of 17 Bronx post offices fighting to stay open has been the norm, Rep. Joseph Crowley would like to see at least one other post office be renamed for a man who fought for the country. 

"Rename this post office!!!"
(OK, not really what he was yelling)
Last week, Crowley announced the reintroduction of his bill, H.R. 3413, to name the post office on West Avenue in the Bronx after Private Isaac T. Cortes, an Army soldier and Bronx native who was killed in Iraq in 2007. 

We should recognize and thank our veterans not just on Veterans Day, but every day. And, renaming this post office after Private Cortes – a true son of the Bronx and a hero in every sense of the word – is a chance to do just that,” Crowley said. “This legislation will serve as a reminder to us all of Private Cortes’ courage, integrity, spirit and sacrifice.”

Cortes was raised in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx and attended Christopher Columbus High School. He enlisted in the Army on Nov. 21, 2006, completed his individual infantry-training course in Fort Benning, Ga., and then moved on to Fort Drum before being deployed to Iraq in September 2007.

“Isaac was a great soldier and an even better son and father,” said Emily Toro, Cortes’ mother. “Isaac lived by the motto, ‘Go big or go home’ and that was evident in everything he did. I know that he would be honored to have this post office named after him so the entire community could recognize the sacrifice he made for us all.”

Jump below for the full story.

Classes to be taught by state Senator Rivera

A story from this week's Bronx Press.

By Brendan McHugh

A popular series of civics classes is coming to the Kingsbridge Library this month. 

Rivera teaches civics classes
throughout the 33rd Senate district.
Beginning Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m., state Senator Gustavo Rivera will be teaching classes on civics, citizenship and local government. 

“I’ve always believed that people need to know how their government works,” Rivera said. “As a political science professor for 11 years, it’s something I do all the time.” 

Rivera is teaming up with local resident Irving Ladimer for the second of the three classes. He heard Ladimer had taught similar classes in the past and wanted to team up with him for this round of classes. 

“We sat down and had a long conversation and he had the same concerns I did about citizenship and civic involvement,” Rivera said. 

Last month, the rookie senator held four one-hour classes at the Bronx Library Center that netted about 75 people each time. 

“It was overwhelmingly positive,” Rivera said, adding that he had “folks of all ages and all ethnicities” attend the classes from every corner of his district, including some from out of his 33rd state Senate district. 

He says the benefit of classes like this, and one that’s taught by an elected official, gives the public an opportunity to ask questions that they normally wouldn’t be able to ask. 

The first class—each one is on a Wednesday night—will focus on the constitution and civil rights and liberties. The second, taught by Ladimer, will be on citizenship. The final class is on voting and elections. 

Ladimer, the law, rules and ethics chairman of Community Board 8. 

Rivera recommends that people attend all three, but it is not required. The classes will end on Dec. 14 with a graduation ceremony to celebrate the completion of the course.

Will new heating oil rules bankrupt co-ops?

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

By Brendan McHugh 

The metal sleeve runs all the way
down to the boiler in the basement.
It cost $90,000.
It started as an environmental issue and it’s now become an affordable housing problem. 

A new city-mandated rule requires all residential buildings to switch from No. 6 heating oil to at least No. 4—a cleaner, more expensive oil—by 2015, but then to No. 2 or natural gas by 2030.

Environmental activists across the city celebrated the mandate, but for Riverdale, the mandate will end up costing thousands. 

“You hear about a boiler conversion, but for the rest of the building, it’s a big expense,” said Community Board 8 housing committee chairman Thomas Durham. 

His building, at the corner of Waldo Avenue and Manhattan College Parkway, is one of hundreds in Riverdale that burns No. 6. At least it did, until this summer when the building underwent a conversion from No. 6 to a duel system of natural gas and No. 2 oil. If Con Edison shuts down the gas line, Durham’s building still wanted to have a heat source, hence the backup No. 2.

Jump below for the full story.

Hoffnung named to key post

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

By Brendan McHugh 

Ari Hoffnung will start his new position
as deputy comptroller Dec. 19.
Riverdale resident Ari Hoffnung was promoted to deputy comptroller this week.

City Comptroller John C. Liu appointed Hoffnung, 38, to Deputy Comptroller for Public Affairs. Hoffnung, who most recently served as Assistant Comptroller of Budget & Chief Policy Officer, will assume his new role on Dec. 19. He replaces Alan van Capelle, who is departing the comptroller’s office.

“Ari has been a consistent and constant driving force on some of our office’s highest priority initiatives over the past two years, and he's proven to execute with precision,” Liu said in a statement. “Ari also shares my deep commitment to public service and improving city government. I’ve no doubt he will excel even more as part of my leadership team.”

Hoffnung will oversee all operations pertaining to the Public Affairs Bureau of the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which includes the Community Action Center, Public Affairs, and Communications departments.

“I am hopeful that my professional experience in the non-profit, business and government sectors will help me build upon the work of my predecessor, Deputy Comptroller Alan van Capelle,” Hoffnung said in an email.

Jump below for the full story.

This week's Riverdale Review & Bronx Press

Here are your stories in this week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.

Will new heating oil rules bankrupt co-ops?
Delayed again, skating rink plan appears to be melting away
Hoffnung named to key post
Locals oppose renewal of bar license
Committee questions parent involvement
On trial pol was Engel opponent in 2000
Officials face an epic budget battle
Next for the 'nanny' state: No smoking in your own house

Also in the Bronx Press:
As post offices are set to close, Crowley wants to rename one
Firefighters honored for capturing chain snatcher
Classes to be taught by state Senator Rivera

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bronx Press Editorial: New day for the Bronx

Here's the editorial that ran in last week's Bronx Press. 

From Hunts Point to Riverdale, the Bronx is booming. 
Diaz (at podium) and Cintron (left, in grey) are big
reasons why the Bronx is rebounding.

Not in a long recent memory has the Bronx seen such a positive economic outlook. While high unemployment still looms over the borough, for once there is light at the end of the tunnel. Light in the form of new businesses, new jobs and the end to a stereotype that haunts Bronxites whenever they leave the city. 

Credit for this change can be given to Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the economic arm of his office, the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp (BOEDC), led by Marlene Cintron. 

Since 2009, BOEDC’s Bronx Business Initiative Corp. has provided dozens of loans to both corporation-owned and family-owned Bronx businesses, totaling over $32 million. Through advances in green infrastructure, the borough is making developments towards a more healthy and affordable urban lifestyle. 

Smith Electric Vehicles recently announced they’re opening their second U.S. branch in the South Bronx, which will lead to over 100 new jobs and show that the city is serious about creating green jobs at the same rate California does. Not only will this supply jobs to the borough, but also it will give the Bronx the reputation that the Bronx is the place for green companies to invest in. 

The department store Macy’s is adding a location to the Bronx in the expansion of the Bay Plaza Shopping Center, to be completed by 2014. The Target at 225th Street holds the reputation of being the most successful branch in the nation, and the BJ’s Wholesale Club in the Gateway Center is in the top five. The Bronx saw a 3.8 percent increase in the amount of chain stores from last year, trailing only Queens at a 5.8 percent growth. The amount of chain stores in Manhattan decreased by 2.1 percent. 

The Bronx is no longer burning, but in fact, is just on fire. 

For the first time in a long time, there is positive movement in the borough. By this time next year, we could be celebrating a groundbreaking at the 230th Street Broadway shopping center, considered by the city to be one the last great commercial development opportunities available. Seven blocks north, the Stella D’oro factory is to be developed into a shopping center as well. 

It’s always been too convenient to drive to Westchester or take the train into Manhattan when shopping. Soon, the convenience will be to stay in the Bronx. 

After many years of disappointment, false starts and broken promises, things are finally getting done, and it’s not time to let up. Diaz and Cintron need to continue to find ways to entice businesses to come to the borough. 

Savor the Bronx!, also known as Restaurant Week, was a great start. It was able to show city residents what Bronxites have known for years: the Bronx has an eclectic array of food, and Arthur Avenue is the true Little Italy. Foodies from all over flocked to the borough and spent their hard-earned money here. 

We’d be hard-pressed not to mention the simple fact that businesses are beginning to piggyback on the borough’s namesake as a marketing ploy. 

Two bubbling startups, Bronx Brewery and Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company, are hoping that using the borough’s reputation will lead to success, much like Brooklyn Brewery has done over the past two decades. The biggest honor may however by Bronx Toys, a Long Island toy company that is using the Bronx name to parlay themselves into “a quintessentially New York brand,” according to their website. 

Would this have happened even ten years ago? Of course not. And there is still work to be done. The Bronx still holds a sour reputation in the eyes of the rest of the country. As Diaz often says, he’s sick of being first in everything bad, and last in everything good. 

As Bronxites continue to oust leaders who do not lead from their foxholes they call political office, and put in people of action such as Diaz, the Bronx will rise above the negativity that has haunted it for half a century.

Electric trucks will be manufactured in the Bronx

Here's a story from last week's Bronx Press.
By Brendan McHugh 

The Bronx is getting electric.

Smith Electric Vehicles Corp, a leader in zero-emission, all-electric commercial vehicles, is bringing their business to the Bronx.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined state and city officials, as well as representatives of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, to announce that electric truck manufacturer Smith Electric Vehicles will soon open a new state of the art electric truck manufacturing facility at the former Port Morris lamp warehouse at 275 Locust Avenue. Smith Electric Vehicles hopes to create more than 100 local “green” jobs.

Expected to create more than 100 new jobs, the announcement was also about unveiling a new incentive program for electric vehicles in New York State. Purchasing zero-emission trucks will now come with a $20,000 rebate from the Feds for each new truck. The program is designed to improve air quality and the environment.

Smith will lease a 90,000 square foot building near Hunts Point in the South Bronx and make investments in renovations, equipment, training and other project costs. A package of state and city incentives valued at over $6 million, including $3.4 million in Excelsior tax credit benefits from Empire State Development, and $1.7 million in tax exemptions approved by the New York City Industrial Development Agency, is being provided to augment the company’s private investment.

"Creating over 100 new jobs in the South Bronx is a victory for the local community and a clear sign that New York is rapidly attracting innovative opportunities to grow our economy," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Jump below for the full story.

Wanted for homicide

Here's Sean Davis, a 17-year-old who is wanted for homicide.

At 4:10 p.m. on Nov. 21 at 2800 Sedgwick Avenue, Davis allegedly fired two bullets that killed someone.

The fine print says there is a $2,000 reward for information leading to the indictment of the person or persons responsible for the crime.
Homicide suspect

Diaz hoping to collect 100,000 coats to give out this winter

Sure, it's November, but it's been a really warm November, so we haven't heard much about how much it must suck to be without a coat in the winter. But that's going to change. It's almost December, which means it's almost January, and if it's anything like last time we had those months, there's going to eventually be some snow.

So tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 30, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will join the volunteer organization New York Cares and HealthPlus to kickoff the 2011 “Keep The Bronx Warm Month” annual coat drive.

Diaz will announce that during the month of December individuals can drop off and donate coats at his office in the Bronx County Courthouse, local police precincts as well as other public locations.

Last year coat donations declined, leaving 10,000 children city-wide without a warm coat. This year’s goal is to collect 100,000 coats to help meet the unprecedented need in the borough and across the City.

When:  Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011
Time:   11 a.m.
Where: On the Steps of the 50th Precinct
              3450 Kingsbridge Avenue

Monday, November 28, 2011

Letter from PS 24 parents association to the school staff

The parents association at PS 24 in Riverdale sent a letter to the school staff, asking them not to speak to us here at the Riverdale Review & Bronx Press, because they claim we run a smear campaign against the school.

"On behalf of the parents of PS 24, who hold our school's administration, and its staff, in the highest regard, we ask that whoever is responsible for these leaks, to cease and desist immediately," the letter states.

We wrote a news story on the letter--and the reaction to the letter--in this week's Riverdale Review. Also, you can read our recent editorials to get our response and thoughts about the PA. I'm not going to speak on behalf of the paper on the blog, but I will say that we're not printing lies about the school; if we didn't report the bad grades that the city gives the school, the school still gets a bad grade. We just let the public know about it.

We welcome good news and accomplishments from all local schools and hope you'll let us know about it. Head over to the Contact Us page to get in touch.

A commenter requested to see the letter they sent, so here you go. Ask and you shall receive!

Letter from PS 24 Parents Association to Staff

A case against Walmart in New York City

I posted something earlier from the Rev. state Sen. Ruben Diaz supporting Walmart, so here is something pointing out the problems Walmart has. While Diaz told us it would be beneficial to have the store's discounts available to the city's poor, there are many who have serious problems with how Walmart treats and pays their workers.
Clergy and community leaders slammed the so-called “community partnership” announced Wednesday between Washington, DC and Walmart. Activists denounced the agreement as window dressing for Walmart’s well-documented practice of providing low-wage jobs with poor benefits, and vowed to fight against similar agreements from being reached in New York.

“People should not forget that this is a company that has a history of making promises and then breaking them,” said Rev. Jerome Washington of the New Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. “They can negotiate all kinds of backroom deals, but we’re not going to forget their history of taking our communities for granted. We’re not going to allow this to be replicated in our city.”
“We know what people in our community need: good jobs that come with healthcare and other benefits,” said Joyce Scott-Brayboy of Community Board #5 in Brooklyn. “The agreement reached between Walmart and Washington, DC does nothing to provide that kind of employment. We refuse to be fooled in East New York and we’re going to make sure our elected officials know that.” 

“We have to remember that this company has broken promises over and over again,” said Rev. Demetrius Carolina of First Central Baptist Church. “Today, we need to send a clear message: We’re not going to be fooled by sham community benefits agreements. Instead, we want our political leaders to demand real, enforceable change from Walmart or keep it out all together.” 

“This so-called CBA is nothing more than a glorified press release. If Walmart wants to enter NYC, it's going to have to make real commitments to our communities. Walmart's so-called CBA isn't worth the letterhead it's printed on. If the world's richest retailer actually wanted to do right by DC, they'd make it binding. This is a gimmick, pure and simple,” said Maria Maisonet of East New York.

These types of agreements are not the only way that Walmart tries to fool the public. For example, the company came out in support of national health care reform back in 2010. The company claimed it wanted to expand coverage for employees, but then significantly cut back on health care back less than two years later.

Diaz Sr. tells us what we should know about Walmart

The Rev. state Sen. Ruben Diaz sent out an email today titled "What you should know." His emails are usually full of bold statements, so I hope he continues to use this title.

In the first of hopefully many "What you should know," Diaz tells us that he supports bringing Walmart to New York City. He says that a Walmart would be great for the poor Hispanics and African-Americans in the city because of their bargain deals, but because many of them can't get out of the city to shop, they miss out on the deals, and specifically the Black Friday deals from last week.

By the Rev. Senator Ruben Diaz
The Rev. state Sen. Ruben Diaz loves Jesus and Walmart.
While the City’s poor residentswere the losers of the week, Walmart was the big winner.

The local, state and national mediahave reported that, in terms of sales, this past Thanksgiving weekend wasthe largest in history.

"Black Friday," as thesales date after Friday is called, generated an unprecedented 52.4 billionsin sales, providing an enormous boost to the economy. Despite thefiscal crises, consumers spent an historic amount of money on “Black Friday.”

Shopping centers, supermarketsand all types of stores were overcrowded with people, including rowsof consumers who either slept or stood in lines for more than 48 hoursprior to "Black Friday."

Despite reports of fights, insultsand pepper spraying, because of the astronomic sales, “Black Friday”was a blessing for Walmart. “Black Friday” provided the opportunity ofthe century for the nation’s poor to take advantage of the bargain pricesfor clothing, household goods, food and other items sold at Walmart.

However, because the family ofSam Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s club, has not been allowedto build a store in New York City, the City’s poor residents who couldnot afford to travel to a Walmart store, were not so fortunate.

I understand those who oppose buildinga Walmart in the City. What I do not comprehend is why the City’spoor, mostly Hispanics and African-Americans pay the consequences? Becausethey could not benefit from these mega bargain sales, they were the biggestlosers. However, despite major opposition in the City, theWalton family still reaped in major profits. Clearly, oppositionto Walmart does not extend to the average person. There was no evidenceof any major boycott, including the City’s poor residents.

Although I deplore the violentincidents at some at some Walmart stores, I congratulate Walmart and Sam"s Clubs for their astronomical sales. However, I feel muchmore sympathy for the City’s poor who failed to benefit from Walmart’sbargains.

I am the Rev. Senator Ruben Diaz and this is what you should know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bronxite who found Saddam honored at G.I. gala

Another story from this week's Bronx Press. Enjoy.

By Brendan McHugh 

U.S. Army Specialist Jeans Cruz, the war hero who found Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole in 2003, was among five distinguished veterans and veterans’ activists who were honored by the G.I. Go Fund at its third annual gala. 

Cruz, a Bronxite, deserves better recognition, according to those at the celebration. 

“When I heard Jeans story I thought to myself: how is this guy’s name not world renown? Sixty years ago, if someone had caught Hitler, we would all know who that person was, that person’s name would go down in history,” said G.I. Go Fund Executive Director Jack Fanous. “I want [the people in] this room to start today: we will know who Jeans Cruz is and we will honor him for what he did.” 

Cruz received the “Veteran of the Year” Award for his outstanding service. He worked in the World Trade Center when they were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and never imagined that during his first and only tour in Iraq, he would be the one to find and capture the fallen Iraqi dictator hiding in a ditch outside of his home city of Tikrit, after the fall of Baghdad. 

Jump below for the full story.

'Slow Zones' latest DOT measure to curb speeders

Here's the story from this week's Bronx Press that explains the new 'slow zone' that will be coming to more neighborhoods throughout the city. A Riverdale elected official has already said that he wants to bring the zone to part of his district, which you can read about here.

By Brendan McHugh 

Those with a lead foot are about to find it much more difficult to drive through the city. 

Slow zones create 20 mph
speed limits throughout a neighborhood.
The Department of Transportation began the city’s first-ever Neighborhood Slow Zone on Monday, reducing the local speed limit in Claremont from 30 mph to 20 mph and adding certain traffic calming measures.

Chosen because of the neighborhoods high accident and fatality rate, Claremont is getting nine new speed bumps in addition to the five already present, and other traffic calming measures such as signage and street markings are being added to the roads. 

Signs posting the 20 mph speed limit are at 14 entranceways to the quarter-square mile zone. Also, 14 more speed limit signs are post throughout the neighborhood and stencil speed limits on the street itself are in 45 different places.

Jump below for the full story.

New answer for school traffic woes?

A story from this week's Riverdale Review. There is a similar story in a separate post that fully explains the 'slow zone' practice that debuted in Claremont this week.

By Brendan McHugh 

Last month, elected officials requested slower speed limits, new signage and speed bumps for the area around PS 24 and MS/HS 141. 

Turns out, the City has a new program that can do just that. 

On Monday, the Department of Transportation announced its first-ever Neighborhood Slow Zone in Claremont. The slow zone reduces the speed limit in the quarter-square mile neighborhood from 30 mph to 20 mph, adds nine new speed bumps and over 50 new signs—both on poles and stenciled onto the street—to the area alerting drivers of the speed limit. 

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, one of three legislators who wrote to DOT in October, says Independence Avenue is a model candidate for the new traffic safety program. 

“Given the area’s proximity to several schools, a public library, and houses of worship, I believe this stretch of Independence Avenue would be an ideal location for a Neighborhood Slow Zone,” he wrote in a letter to DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan earlier this week. 

Jump below for the full story.

$9.9 million restoration coming to Soundview Park

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

By Brendan McHugh 

Groundbreakings, am I right?
The mouth of the Bronx River is getting a makeover. 

The US Army Corps of Engineers, the same group that oversaw the highly necessary reconstruction of Orchard Beach, is restoring the Soundview Park wetlands, lagoon and upland forests. 

The $9.9 million restoration should take about a year, officials said. They added that the wetlands would help curb flooding during heavy storms, something that was all too obvious to area residents during Tropical Storm Irene. 

The ecological restoration will include the excavation of approximately three acres immediately north of the park’s lagoon area and the creation of tidal wetlands in its place. Aside from preventing flooding, restoring the tidal wetland will provide a habitat for birds and marine life, improve water quality and promote a healthier ecosystem.

Jump below for the full story.

Holiday toy drive kicks off at Bronx Zoo

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

By Brendan McHugh 

Children of PS 205 kicked off the
annual holiday toy drive in the Bronx.
Donating a new toy for underprivileged children this holiday season can offer not only the feeling of generosity, but also a free ticket to the Bronx Zoo.

 The Bronx Zoo has teamed up with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for the third annual toy drive. Last week, students of PS 205 and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce made the first donations. 

“This year there’s going to be a lot of happy faces,” said Lenny Caro, president and CEO of the chamber of commerce. “It’s a nice feeling when you’re able to give like that.” 

Caro donated 1,000 toys in this toy drive and will be holding his own toy drive as well, where he’ll be donating 10,000 additional toys. Among the toys are sports balls, electric mini-helicopters, stuffed animals and toy police cars and fire trucks. 

The second graders of PS 205 are glad to be helping others.
“We’re donating stuff to children who need it,” said 9-year-old Guadelupe. “They’re going to be happy about it.”

Jump below for the full story.

This week's Riverdale Review & Bronx Press

Here are your stories in this week's issues (Nov. 24-30) of the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press:

Angry crowd protests postal closings
P.S. 24 teachers vow: 'We will not be pressured into silence by parent group'
Espaillat prepares for Israel trip
New answers for school traffic woes?
Engel calls balanced budget amendment 'fantasy'
Over half at RKA gain AP credit
Class sizes increase at local schools
Relief in sight for local bus commuters
Public recycling bin program to be expanded here
USPS must adapt to new era of mail service (Op/Ed that we wrote in last week's Bronx Press)

And also, in the Bronx Press:
'Slow Zones' latest DOT measure to curb speeders
Holiday toy drive kicks off at Bronx Zoo
Bronxite who found Saddam honored at G.I. gala
$9.9 million restoration coming to Soundview Park
Electric trucks will be manufactured in the Bronx

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SLA undercover investigation finds 11 Bronx bodegas selling to minors (UPDATE)

The State Liquor Authority (SLA) nabbed 11 Bronx bodegas for selling alcohol to minors in a three-day sting.

Throughout the city, 118 city stores were caught selling alcohol to minors by the SLA and NYPD. The investigation was part of a coordinated enforcement action to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors statewide and has happened before.

The investigation was conducted jointly by the SLA and the NYPD between Nov. 16 and 18.
SLA investigators and NYPD officers sent underage volunteer decoys into 234 licensed groceries and liquor stores in all five boroughs of New York City. In total, the decoys were able to purchase alcohol at 118 of the premises, including 11 of 25 in the Bronx, 41 of 54 in Brooklyn, 26 of 62 in Manhattan, 34 of 67 in Queens, and 6 of 26 on Staten Island.

This is a better outcome for the Bronx than earlier this year, when the SLA found 38 of 48 bodegas were selling to underage kids.

State Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen said, "Preventing the sale of alcohol to minors is a top priority for the State Liquor Authority. These large scale enforcement efforts will continue to be a
part of our proactive measures to prevent alcohol abuse among our youth."

The investigation targeted specific locations and neighborhoods found to have a high activity of selling to minors. Licensees charged by the SLA with underage sales face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, with fines starting from $2,500 to $3,000 for a first time offense. Repeat offenders also face potential suspension or revocation of their licenses. In addition, the NYPD issues criminal court summonses for those making underage sales, charging clerks with Unlawfully Dealing with a Child in the First Degree (a class A misdemeanor) and Prohibited Sale of an Alcoholic Beverage (an unclassified misdemeanor).

UPDATE: Here's a from the SLA's office after we asked them if they thought the recent crackdowns are the reason Bronx bodegas are selling to minors less than they were earlier this year: 
"We believe the SLA’s increased enforcement efforts have had a deterrent effect. By conducting these large details, we are sending a message to our licensees that if they sell to minors, they’re going to get caught and they’re going to face serious consequences.  These underage sweeps will continue, as we want to make it crystal clear to licensees, if you sell to a minor, you are putting your license in jeopardy."

The Bronx businesses charged with sales to minors are:

*         East 174th St. Deli Grocery, 920 E. 174th Street

*         1309 First Stop Deli Grocery, 1309 Clinton Avenue

*         JJP Food Center, 1086 Boston Road

*         Weeks Deli Grocery, 1777 Weeks Avenue

*         Rivas Grocery Corp, 1824 Weeks Avenue

*         Felomar Grocery Store, 154 E. 175th Street

*         Andres Food, 237 E. 194th Street

*         Nizao Grocery, 2840 Briggs Avenue

*         The Bronx Gourmet Deli, 226 E. 198th Street

*         Deli & Grocery, 29 E. Kingsbridge Avenue

*         A & A Grocery & Deli, 361 E. 204th Street

Unemployment up in the Bronx

Well this is disturbing. Unemployment has risen in the Bronx over the past year 0.1 percent to 12.4 percent.

Overall in the city, unemployment held steady at 9.0 percent since last year. Staten Island lowered its unemployment rate and every other borough remained the same.

Unemployment reached 67,300 people in the Bronx, according to the State Department of Labor. This is up from 66,300 in October 2010.

If you compare it monthly, the Bronx comes out even worse, although every borough had similar bad results. Bronx unemployment was at 12.1 in September, 0.3 percent lower than it is now.

The only good news is that the amount of employed people in the borough also went up over the same period 2,400, from 473,800 in October 2010 to 476,400 this year.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell from 8.8 percent in September to 8.5 percent in October; in October 2010, the national rate was an even 9 percent.

The state as a whole dropped a tenth of a point, 7.8 to 7.7, over the same period; in October 2010, the unemployment rate was at 8.0.

Here's the county by county breakdown:  NY DOL Oct. Unemp

Diaz testimony for living wage

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, like many others throughout the city, is giving testimony today to the City Council about living wage. A living wage law would require developers who take a certain amount of taxpayer money to provide their employees with a higher minimum wage of $10/hr with benefits or $11.50 without. Below is his testimony. Make the jump for the full speech.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.:
Good afternoon.

Diaz has been pushing for a living wage.
Chairwoman Mealy, thank you for offering me this opportunity to testify before your committee on the “Fair Wages for New Yorkers” Act, an important piece of legislation designed to ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent more wisely.

The premise of the “Fair Wages for New Yorkers” Act is simple. When developers take heavily from the taxpayer wallet, they must do better by their future employees. This bill would make sure that happens, by requiring those receiving heavy taxpayer subsidies pay their employees a “living wage.”

That “living wage,” as defined by our bill, is a modest sum. What we are asking for is that employees at heavily subsidized projects earn $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 an hour without, as defined by federal law.

Although it would not hurt the financial viability or profitability of these major developments, this small sum would, indeed, dramatically alter the lives of their employees. A few dollars more each week could mean the difference between food on the table, new clothes for the children, much needed medication or an on-time rent payment.

Jump below for the full testimony.

Jennifer Lopez never came to the Bronx to shoot her commercial

No surprise to me. Jenny from the Block was in fact, no where near the block for her Fiat commercial that touted her as a proud Bronxite. We wrote about JLo before, specifically how she doesn't often come back to the borough and how she hasn't given much back at all, even to her own high school.

From the Smoking Gun:
Specifically, the 42-year-old actress will not visit the Bronx in service of shilling the subcompact car.
While Lopez, Fiat, the automotive firm’s PR people, and its Detroit ad agency would have consumers believe that the star deigned to return home to film a low-speed pilgrimage through the gritty streets of her hometown, she actually never set foot in the Bronx during the filming of the Fiat spots.
Instead, the role of “Jenny from the Block” was played by a body double, according to two sources familiar with the commercial production. While the Lopez lookalike was actually behind the wheel in the Bronx, Lopez herself was in Los Angeles, where she was filmed inside a Fiat 500.
The shots of the actress were artfully merged to make it appear that she was tooling around New York City’s poorest borough. Big Block, a Los Angeles digital production studio, was hired to merge live action footage with computer-generated imagery to make it appear as if Lopez was in the Bronx.

A new 60-second Fiat spot that debuted last Thursday shows Lopez driving a limited edition Fiat 500 through Manhattan. Like “My World,” Lopez was digitally put into the city.

Here's the Bronx video. Note the urban stereotypes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

HPD kept nearly $10 million in unused funds

Despite being under fire from his own financial situation, City Comptroller John Liu is still at work, announcing that a city agency should have given the city back $9.8 million in unused funds from expired contracts.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) kept $9.8 million that should have been returned to the City treasury, Lui says.
“This money could have and should have been used to improve shelters, especially in light of rising homelessness,” Comptroller Liu said.  “If HPD can’t use it right then the money should be put back in the City treasury.”
Auditors found that the agency inappropriately used a portion of the funds to supplement its operating budget and get around the budget process. The money uncovered by the audit was part of the HPD’s Relocation Shelter account, which is earmarked for capital expenditures at emergency shelters.  As of October 2010, the agency had accumulated over $9.8 million in excess funds in the account.  The bulk of that money came from contracts that had expired, with HPD holding on to money that could have been used for capital improvements. 
The audit recommends that the agency return the $9.8 million to the City treasury. Agencies are not generally permitted to keep unused funds from expired contracts. The audit disagreed with HPD’s assertion that it had received prior permission to retain the unused funds.
The scope of the audit was July 1, 2009, through Oct. 31, 2010.
Comptroller Liu credited Deputy Comptroller for Audit Tina Kim and the Audit Bureau for presenting the findings. The full report is available at:

Diaz Jr. doling out the turkey

On Monday, Nov. 21, 2011, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. teamed up with Western Beef for the company’s annual giveaway of 2,500 free turkeys to Bronx families in need. Borough President Diaz participated in the turkey distribution at the corner of West Burnside Avenue and Grand Avenue, where more than 400 free turkeys were given away to residents.

Diaz will be giving away hundreds of free turkeys as part of his annual turkey giveaway at various locations in the Bronx throughout this week.

Friday, November 18, 2011

MTA Service for Thanksgiving Weekend

If you manage to get through the possible school bus strike next week, expect to be rewarded with increased MTA service for Black Friday and the weekend.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) services will operate on special schedules on Wednesday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 27, in honor of the Thanksgiving weekend.

New York City Subways and Buses

MTA buses and subways will operate on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving Day. On Black Friday, service will operate on a weekday schedule with some exceptions.  The closest subway stations to the start of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are the 1 at 79th Street and the B, C, at 81st Street. Selected north and southbound A and D trains will operate as locals and extra trains will be made available as needed. There will be additional service on the 42nd Street S shuttle as well as increased early morning service on the 1 line. A number of bus routes will be impacted by the parade.

Long Island Rail Road 

The LIRR will operate additional trains on Wednesday, Nov. 23, and on Thanksgiving. Off-peak fares will be in effect for the entire four-day holiday weekend. On Black Friday, Nov. 25, traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the LIRR will run a full weekday train schedule even though off-peak fares will be in effect all day. 

Metro-North Railroad 

MTA Metro-North Railroad will operate extra trains on Wednesday, Nov. 23, departing Grand Central beginning at 1 p.m. On Thanksgiving Day, Metro-North will operate a holiday schedule with extra AM inbound service for those going to see the Macy’s Parade, and extra late morning and early afternoon outbound service. And for the first time this year, Metro-North is providing train service to a popular annual five-mile road race in Southport, Conn., on Thanksgiving morning.

On Black Friday, Metro-North will operate a Saturday schedule with a lot of extra service during the AM and PM peaks. Metro-North is also operating weekend Shoppers’ Specials service on the New Haven Line and Hudson Line from Nov. 19 to Dec. 17.

West of the Hudson River, bus service has replaced Port Jervis Line trains between Suffern and Harriman. Shoppers’ traffic jams around the Woodbury Common outlet center mean Metro-North is allowing more time in the Port Jervis Line bus schedule to ensure that buses make their train connections in Ramsey/Route 17.

Off-peak fares will be in effect for the entire four-day holiday weekend.

Staten Island Railway 

Staten Island customers looking to get a head start on their holiday weekend will be able to catch earlier afternoon express train service on Wednesday, Nov. 23, with extra SIR trains added earlier in the afternoon beginning at 2:31 p.m. from the St. George Ferry Terminal. There will be one express train and one local train awaiting every boat until 7:50 p.m.

On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, SIR will operate a Sunday schedule, while on Friday, Nov. 25, trains will run on a regular weekday schedule.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels

To ease travel for its customers this Thanksgiving, routine maintenance and temporary construction work at all MTA Bridges and Tunnels crossings will be suspended beginning Noon on Wednesday, Nov. 23, until early Monday morning, Nov. 28.

Diaz Jr. Celebrates Puerto Rican Heritage Month

On Thursday, Nov. 17, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined Comité Noviembre and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation to celebrate Puerto Rican Heritage Month. Diaz honored community leaders for their accomplishments presenting citations to the 2011 honorees including Bill Aguado, former president of the Bronx Council on the Arts; Elizabeth Figueroa, director of community relations at the New York Botanical Garden; and Ricardo Fernandez, President of Lehman College. Dahlma Llanos Figueroa, award winning author of “Daughters of Stone,” served as the event’s keynote speaker. The event took place at Kismet Caterers on Westchester Avenue.

Where's Miss Frizzle's Magic School Bus? Probably on strike

The school bus union is prepared to strike if they don't get a better contract. That means no school bus service for the kids until it's resolved.

"We regret the possibility of what could be a major disturbance in the lives of students and their families. We continue to hope that the bus driver and escort union will not take such unwarranted action in response to what is the proper, legal course of action for the Department of Education to take on behalf of our students and the City taxpayers," Walcott writes.

He says that parents can request MetroCards for their children through the school, or for children in IEP classes, parents who will need to drive their children can get reimbursed 51 cents per mile or the cost of the taxi fares (you'll have to fill out a reimbursement form, of course).

The worst news, to the students, is that any field trip that is suppose to use school buses during the strike is cancelled!

On the bright side, at least next week's only a three day week! Good luck, parents.

Parents Bus Transportation Chancellor Letter_English

Dinowitz feeds the needy then fights Verizon

A pair of photos popped into my inbox yesterday. Looks like Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has been busy fighting the injustice in the world.

Dinowitz collected donations from P.S. 81 students for the purchase of Thanksgiving turkeys for needy families. Here, he is pictured with members of the P.S. 81 Student Government and Student Government Advisors Steve Ozer and Shari Galligan after collecting their donations.

Also, Dinowitz joined with Verizon workers today in their ongoing contract battle against Verizon's efforts to reduce their health and pension benefits.
(L-R) State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Dinowitz,
Council Member Fernando Cabrera, and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.