Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

We collected New Year's resolutions from as many state and local officials as we could. If you'd like yours added to this list, email us!

Some gave us personal ones, some professional, and some both. Enjoy.

Rep. Eliot Engel: “My New Year’s Resolution is to have the Democrats return to the House majority, this way we could pass a real jobs bill and protect the middle class.”

Mayoral hopeful Tom Allon: “My New Year's resolution is to be an even better father to my three teenagers and a better media CEO, all while I am communicating my message of job growth ideas and real education reform to the voters in NYC. If I can accomplish all three of these in 2012, I will consider it a successful year, personally and professionally.”

City Comptroller John Liu: “For 2012, I resolve to uncover more waste to help the difficult budget outlook, to reform the way the City pension investments are made, to ease up a bit with my third base coaching of my son’s little league, and to check out the Corner Café in its new location.”

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli's New Year's Resolution: Use stairs more and elevators less.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens: To do all that I can to protect New York's precious natural resources, consume less energy and promote sustainable communities and  jobs, both personally and professionally.

Yankees broadcaster Suszyn Waldman: "To be a little kinder to myself."

Jean Cruz, the Bronxite who found Saddam Hussein: To move out of New York City, to a quieter place, like Ohio, to raise his four young children.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.: Learn how to cook dinner (Latin and Italian). Also, to help bring more jobs to the borough.

Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lenny Caro: Would like to create jobs for the borough, and to make it one of the best boroughs to live and work in.

Bronx Historian Lloyd Ultan: "I never give New Year’s resolutions. I give old years resolutions, I’m a historian!"

50th Precinct Commanding Officer Captain Kevin Burke: To reduce crime and improve the quality of life for the residents of the 50 Precinct.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz: "Unlike some of my colleagues in government, I won’t be making a resolution regarding any political issue, other than continuing to work hard for our neighborhood, resolving constituent complaints, passing good legislation in 2012 and fighting hard to re-elect President Obama and defeating the Tea Party Republicans. Rather, my resolution is more personal. December 31, 2010 was the last day I ate cake, cookies, ice cream or candy. I haven’t had these yummy sweets all year – and I intend to continue not to have any. Resolution made. Resolution carried out. This year my resolution is going to be just as tough for me. For 2012 I intend to do something that I have never done in my entire life: eat one or more vegetable each and every day. What an amazing feat that would be!"

City Councilman Fernando Cabrera: Personal: Go back to the gym and pay more attention to his health. In Government, to strike a deal by Feb. 12 that will legislate guaranteed access for churches at New York City public schools.

City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell: to lost weight and do more exercise. Professionally, to get the living wage bill passed.

City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez: "Once the weather warms up, I think we're going to see a huge surge in activity from the Occupy Wall Street movement. My prediction is that by working together with elected officials, OWS will influence the budget process. Organizing with thousands of city residents, the movement will stop the Mayor's pattern of balancing the budget on the backs of working and middle class New Yorkers. Apart from Occupy Wall Street, I also predict that State Senator Adriano Espaillat will soon be changing his title to Congressman Adriano Espaillat, taking his long history of great work for Northern Manhattan and the Bronx to Washington, D.C."

City Councilman Jumanne Williams: "My personal resolution is to take a few off the waistline. In fact, I'm getting a jump-start on that this week. My professional resolution is to continue to shine a spotlight on the issues of gun violence and police accountability. These should be discussed in tandem in the overall consideration of creating a safe place for our young people to learn and grow. Remember, it's never too early to get started on your goals!"

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz: “I have to commit in 2012 to lose weight. I easily went up one size and in order to fit into my shirts and suits again, I need to really ‘lighten up, Brooklyn!’”

State Senator Gustavo Rivera said he thinks about it right before the New Year; takes a few minutes to sit down and consider the last year and the upcoming year. He did point out that it was a good year and hopes for more of the same.

State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr.: “As the end of the year approaches, I praise and thank the Lord for so many blessings that I received in 2011. I thank the Lord for my family, my health, my constituents, my faith community, my colleagues, and for all of my achievements this past year.  It was a great year! As we prepare for the New Year to begin, I pray especially that the Lord will bless all of my friends and all of my foes. I will continue to place my trust in His mercy and love, and I will continue to pray that the Lord will use me at all times to serve His will.”

State Senator Tony Avella: He would like to stop hydrofracking in New York State.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Donald Trump to build public golf course in Ferry Point Park

A little bit of Jack Nicklaus is coming to the Bronx, via The Donald.

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe today announced that the City has negotiated a 20-year license agreement for the operation of the Ferry Point Golf Course to the Trump Organization. The course is a Jack Nicklaus Signature, tournament-quality golf course that will be open to the public and will generate economic activity in the Bronx.

The golf course is expected to open to the public for play in the spring of 2014.

In addition to the primary responsibilities of maintaining and operating a tournament-quality golf course, the Trump Organization has committed to a minimum $10 million capital investment to design and construct a new, state-of-the-art golf clubhouse – expected to create 100 new construction jobs. The clubhouse will include a cart storage facility, locker rooms and a grill room.

The parks department has not yet said when construction will begin.

The Trump Organization was selected through a public Request for Offers issued by the Parks Department.

“This new public golf course will be a great amenity for the Bronx, for the City, and for visitors,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “More than $600 million has been invested in parks around the Bronx during Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, and now this long-awaited golf course will soon be among them – bringing more people from across the country and around the world to the Bronx. The Trump Organization is known for operating world-class golf courses, and I’m excited to be able to partner with them to build and run the first tournament-quality golf course in New York City.”

“This is an opportunity to have one of our country’s greatest golf courses right smack in the middle of New York City – an unheard of opportunity,” said Trump Organization CEO and Chairman Donald J. Trump. “The residents of New York City will be very proud of the end result which will include championship tour play, with all of its benefits, right down the road.”

At 222 acres, Ferry Point Park East represents one of the largest pieces of previously undeveloped parkland in New York City, and one of the biggest opportunities for augmenting the City’s recreational resources. When complete, the new park will contain the golf course, a community park with playgrounds and ball-fields, and a waterfront park with rambling trails and scenic overlooks.

Ferry Point Golf Course is an 18-hole, links-style, Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course that will be open to the public. Sitting at the foot of the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx, it is designed specifically to take advantage of spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, East River, and Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges. In addition to the 18-hole course, the facility also will include a clubhouse, snack bar, comfort station, and driving range. It will be the only tournament-quality course in New York City, giving avid golfers a unique and more challenging alternative to the City’s other well-maintained (hehe, nice try Parks Department) public courses.

The Trump Organization has past experience developing, maintaining and operating first-class golf venues around the world including a recently completed links-style course in Aberdeen, Scotland. Trump courses have played host to major professional golf tournaments, including the LPGA playoffs in West Palm Beach and the PGA Puerto Rican Open. The Trump Organization is also an experienced Parks concessionaire with background operating the Wollman and Lasker ice skating rinks and the Central Park carousel.

Koppell grateful for new taxi accessibility law

As Chair of the Council Committee that deals with disability services and a longtime advocate for full taxi accessibility, City Council Member G. Oliver Koppell said he is particularly pleased that the legislation creating changes in NYC taxi service will provide for wheelchair accessibility and has praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo as being instrumental in making this happen.

In a letter to the governor, Koppell said, “Your leadership with respect to this legislation was crucial in moving the city toward the goal of full accessibility. Without your insistence that there be greater taxi accessibility for disabled people this would not have happened.” (Jump below for the full letter)

In addition to giving credit to the governor for the success of this historic legislation, Koppell also credited the disabled community and their advocates saying in a statement, “A victory of this magnitude does not happen in a vacuum. It can be attributed in large measure to those who have been forcefully calling for “taxis for all” for more than a decade."

As the prime sponsor of a bill in the City Council to make all new yellow cabs in New York City wheelchair accessible, Koppell has been a strong spokesman for equal transportation. It should be noted that a member of his staff is in a wheelchair.

The legislation provides for 2,000 more wheelchair accessible yellow cabs, whose medallion auction is expected to raise at least $1 billion for the city. It also creates a new class of livery cabs with metered fares, credit card readers and roof lights. Of the 18,000 new permits that the Taxi and Limousine Commission is expected to issue for these cabs, one fifth will be wheelchair accessible. The city will also provide up to $54 million in subsidies and loans to encourage livery drivers to buy vehicles that accommodate disabled riders. 

Head over to our post to see other Bronx politicians' reactions, and jump here to see how Assemblyman Carl Heastie celebrated.

As part of the deal, within a year, the city must create a long-term plan to convert the entire yellow cab fleet to disability access. The State Department of Transportation, which is overseen by the governor, will have to approve that plan before the city can auction all 2,000 new medallions. 

Koppell also said how grateful he is that people in northern Manhattan and the outer-boroughs will have vastly expanded access to taxi service, something his constituents have wanted for a long time.

“As the representative of an outer-borough district, I am delighted that my Bronx constituents will no longer be disadvantaged with respect to taxi service. I am equally gratified that, after a long fight, members of the disabled community will have equal access to taxi service,” Koppell said. 

Jump below for the letter.

Instead of one day of presents, they have eight crazy nights

Borough President Diaz (center), Rabbi Israel Greenberg (left),
and New York Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman (right),
lit the menorah to commemorate the Jewish holiday.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., together with New York Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman and the Bronx's Jewish leaders, hosted the borough’s annual Chanukah celebration at Borough Hall yesterday, the third day in the Festival of Lights.

"The celebration of Chanukah reminds us that we can triumph over oppression of all kinds, no matter what the odds," Waldman said. "It is a triumph of a little light over total darkness."

Diaz echoed that statement, saying one of the reasons for this celebration is "to understand the history of the Festival of Lights."

He also spoke about his past visit to Israel, saying "there is no better way to see the beauty of Israel than with your own eyes.

Traditional Chanukah foods, such as latkes and jelly donuts, were served. The event also featured a musical performance from world-renowned recording artist Dafka Israel-Potok and the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale Community Choir.

Jump below for a few more pictures of the event.

One year after DADT and "the sky hasn't fallen," Engel says

It was one year ago yesterday that President Barack Obama signed the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, allowing gay and lesbian people to openly serve in the military. 

“Despite the naysayers who claimed all sorts of dire consequences for our armed forces, it is now one year since the DADT policy became history and the sky hasn’t fallen," Rep. Eliot Engel said. "Regardless of the bumpy road which led to the repeal, one thing is for sure – America’s military no longer discriminates against gay men and women who wish to serve our country – and is stronger because of it.  If you believe in one of the core tenets of our nation – all people are created equal and deserve equal rights under the law – then this has been a good change in policy.  The gay community still has a long way to go before they enjoy equal rights– the next step will be marriage equality – but this was a giant leap forward. 

 “Unit cohesion remains strong in our military and instead of a drop in recruitment, all four branches have either met or exceeded their recruiting goals.  Bravery and dedication have never been solely possessed by heterosexuals.  As the 1964 Republican Presidential Candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater, said, ‘You can be gay and still shoot straight.’  The sky didn’t fall on our military after discrimination against the gay community ended, I am sure that the institution of marriage will also survive once that restriction is lifted for all Americans someday.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays, from Adriano Espaillat

Check out this Holiday mailer that's been landing in the mailboxes of state Senator's Adriano Espaillat's constituents (myself included, actually).

"What's more, I look forward to returning to Albany after the holidays to fight for our common goals--like creating more good paying jobs, improving access to health care for all families, strengthening our education system, and enhancing support for seniors..." Espaillat writes.

Espaillat Holiday Mailer Riverdale

State of Politics: Prison Redistricting Deal Struck

According to political reporting wiz Liz Benjamin, Senate Republicans have struck a deal to count more than 46 thousand of the state's roughly 58 thousand prisoners in their last known address, and not in the prison where they are being held.

The original homes of the other 12 thousand prisoners could not be located, so they will be counted where they are incarcerated, Benjamin reports.
Back in 2010, the legislature passed a bill requiring prisoners to be counted in their home neighborhoods for redistricting purposes. Senate Republicans sued arguing the law was unconstitutional, and lost. They did file an appeal to the states highest court, the Court of Appeals, but now appear to have dropped that lawsuit.

As we have talked about extensively on Capital Tonight, upstate prison populations have been utilized in the past by the Senate GOP to carve out districts that are more friendly for their conference. One example has been Senator Little’s district in the North Country, which contains about 12 thousand prisoners.

Liu audit finds thousands is uncollected revenue from Bronx parks

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

By Brendan McHugh 

In the Bronx, parks’ concessions have over $58,000 lying on the table in uncollected revenue, a recent audit found. 

City Comptroller John C. Liu audited the Department of Parks and Recreation’s controls over recreational, dining, and retail concessions and found that better management could have yielded $8.8 million more in badly needed revenue for the city. 

In Riverdale, uncollected revenue from the Major Deegan gas stations, mobile food carts in Van Cortlandt Park and even a tennis professional in Seton Park are among the amenities in local parks that are not being forced to pay what they owe to the city. 

“Parks are not just about concessions, but concession contracts should be better managed so that revenue flows to the City without unnecessary interruption,” Liu said.

Jump below for the full story.

Manhattan BP helps light Riverdale menorah

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer came up to Riverdale last night to help light the menorah in Bell Tower Park.

The menorah, at over 30-feet-high and over 600 lbs, is the largest menorah in the Bronx.
Stringer, lighting the menorah, for the second day of Chanukah.
Stringer, lighting the menorah.
PS 24 student Dylan also got to light one of the candles.
Stringer, a potential mayoral candidate, joined students from PS 24 and local Jewish leaders.

He seemed to enjoy himself during the ceremony. As he was in the crane, he joked to the crowd, "12 days ago my wife gave birth...she asked what I'd be doing in the Bronx...I told her I was only lighting a menorah...if only she could see me now!"

He quickly got back on track, playing to the Jewish crowd: "It's great to be in Riverdale--a wonderful, vibrant Jewish community."

'Doomed' post offices get year's reprieve

Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.

By Brendan McHugh 

The U.S. Postal Service is delaying any closing or consolidating of any post offices until at least May 15, 2012. 

This comes as good news to local leaders, who have fought against closures of 17 Bronx post offices for the past few months. 

“I am encouraged to see the Postal Service has chosen to listen to the rising chorus of voices from across the country urging it to stop trying to plug their financial gaps by cutting an essential service to the American people,” Rep. Eliot Engel said.

Jump below for the full story.

Bomb scare at RKA

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

By Brendan McHugh 

There was bomb threat Tuesday morning at the Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy. 

Around 10:30 a.m. Dec. 20, RKA was evacuated as police investigated the threat. A neighbor of the school said detectives from the 50th precinct told him that a brown paper bag with “bomb” written on it was found in a third floor stairwell. 

A Department of Education spokesperson said a school safety agent saw the suspicious package. After a bomb squad searched the building and determined the packaged was not a bomb, students were allowed to reenter the building at 11 a.m. 

The package was empty.

Students say a picture of the bag was posted on Facebook, which is what a school employee may have seen.

A school official said everything had returned to normal shortly after. 

RKA is located at 660 W. 237 St., along Independence Ave.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Newest Yankee helps give out toys at P.S. 7

Most people have never heard of Matt Duran, and certainly none of the students at P.S. 7 today have, but that didn't stop the hundreds of kids from exploding in cheers when they realized a New York Yankee was in the building.

Matt Duran and Ray Negron of the NY Yankees, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, PS 7 Principal Frank Patterson, Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lenny Caro, NY Yankees mascot Sultan and puppet Lucky pose with students from PS 7.
Duran joined Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lenny Caro in giving away toys to the students, part of the annual toy drives that the Yankees, the Chamber and Dinowitz each do (separately).

Also helping out was an adviser to the Yankees, Ray Negron, who told the students they need to show their teachers "that [you] are going to grow up and become really good people."

Duran, 18 years old future 3rd baseman for the Bronx Bombers, added that they need to follow their dreams and work hard at school.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz hands out soccer balls to PS 7 students.

Heastie serving his constituents in the most literal way possible

Bronx Democratic County Committee chairman Assemblyman Carl Heastie got behind the bar last night at the Monte Carlo room during their holiday party, serving drinks to the Bronx's movers and shakers.

Heastie was in Albany earlier in the day during the signing of the livery cab bill, of which he was a main sponsor, so what better way to celebrate than to get behind the bar and make some drinks?

A man of all trades?

Heastie, working the crowd.

Diaz Jr.'s Winter Wonderland

Here's another holiday video from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. This one's of the Winter Wonderland celebration at Yankee Stadium.

Bronx pols rejoice after new livery bill is signed

The illegal, yet mostly ignored, practice of hailing livery cabs on the street has finally been legalized, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that will increase outer borough service and also bring more handicapped-accessible taxis to the city.

It also calls for the city to sell 2,000 yellow cab medallions, which is expected to generate more $1 billion in new revenue, the New York Daily News reports:
The deal requires that the first 20% of 6,000 new street-hail livery licenses be made available in the first year to drivers with wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Another 6,000 licenses will be made available in each of the next two years, with determinations to be made about the percentages that will be assigned to drivers with wheelchair-accessible rides.
In addition, all 2,000 new yellow cab medallions must be for wheelchair-accessible vehicles.
Cuomo has ready to veto the bill if he did not get promises from the state Legislature that they would amend it to increase service to the physically disabled.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) will be authorized to issue up to 18,000 of these new licenses (livery street hails) and will be required to provide grants of up to $15,000 to retrofit vehicles to accommodate the disabled or to purchase accessible vehicles.

"By working together and finding common ground, I am pleased that we have been able to reach a deal that will extend taxi and livery service to the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan, while ensuring full access for the disabled," Cuomo said. "The bill as originally passed failed to address the needs of individuals with disabilities and did not provide any incentive for the livery industry to ensure disabled New Yorkers had full access to the taxicab system."

For Bronx leaders, this bill was long overdue.

“I am pleased that after months of negotiations over the details of this legislation, an agreement has been reached that will improve the quality of life of my constituents in the Northwest Bronx and will provide livery cab drivers, so many of whom live in the 33rd Senate District, with the much-needed ability to pick up legal street hails,” said state Senator Gustavo Rivera. “This plan is a victory for Bronxites and for all New Yorkers in the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan. I would like to congratulate the livery cab drivers for their relentless advocacy that played a critical role in ensuring that this legislation was passed and that it will be signed into law as well as Governor Cuomo for negotiating an agreement that all New Yorkers should consider a victory.”

“I am pleased that, following months of negotiation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature have reached an agreement on a plan that will increase outer borough livery service in our City while also bringing more handicapped-accessible taxis to our City’s streets," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said.

“This plan will raise much-needed new revenue for our City through the sale of new yellow taxi medallions while also bringing livery cab drivers out of the shadows, offering them considerable legal protection," Diaz added. "At the same time, Bronxites and residents in all of the outer boroughs will have the ability to hail a legal livery cab, while our disabled community will see their travel options increase significantly.

“This plan is a victory for commuters, and I congratulate both Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature for making it a reality. I also thank Mayor Bloomberg and his administration for their efforts on this important issue."

City pulls plug on Bronx skating rink

Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.

By Brendan McHugh 

There will be no ice-skating in the Bronx this winter. 

After months of delays, the Department of Parks and Recreation says the electrical upgrade needed to operate a skating rink will not be completed in time to operate this season.

This puts a black eye on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, who partnered together to bring a full-size rink to the Bronx, Bloomberg said in his 2011 State of the City address at the beginning of this year. 

"Parks has explored every possible means of bringing ice skating to the Bronx this winter. The engineering and capital construction issues involved with bringing the power needed for a skating rink make it necessary to forgo, for this season, what we had hoped would be a fun activity for all,” Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte.

The electrical hookup, needed for a rink of any size, will require the installation of an underground vault that will not be ready this winter.

Jump below for the full story.

This week's Riverdale Review & Bronx Press

Here are the stories from this week's issue (Dec. 22-Jan. 11) of the Riverdale Review. Yes, that's three weeks. As is our custom, the Riverdale Review will be taking a short break for the Christmas/Chanukah/New Years holidays. Our office will still be open for most of that time, but we won't be putting out any print editions. STILL, keep checking this blog for news! And just as importantly, please pass along this site to your Bronx friends and family so we can reach as many people as possible.

In the Review:
City pulls plug on ill-conceived skate rink
College garage fails to fulfill initial mandate
Parks' concession money disappears
'Doomed' post offices get year's reprieve
Bomb scare at RKA

And in this week's issue (Dec. 22-28) of the Bronx Press. We will still put out weekly issues of the Press.
New MRI facility at Einstein

Here is an online version of the Riverdale Review

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dinowitz says Common Cause proposed redistricting lines are anti-reform

The Bronx has begun speaking as one voice, borough politicians have been noticing. But that will all disappear if Common Cause had its way.

Proposed Bronx Assembly districts by Common Cause.
Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is highly critical of proposed redistricting lines drawn by Common Cause, a government watchdog group. He says the lines make things worse for the Bronx; it would dilute the Bronx's ability to influence government, both at the state and federal level, he says.

His northwest Bronx district, currently all of which is in the borough, would become a 'Hispanic district' and expand into northern Manhattan. Another district would also go into Manhattan, and two Assembly districts would reach into Westchester (see the photo, right).

He also rips into the Congressional lines, calling them "absurd."
Their “reform” proposal would give the Bronx parts of four Congressional districts, yet none would be totally within the borders of the Bronx. One only has to look at the Brooklyn-Queens-Manhattan district they drew for Nydia Velasquez to realize that racial- and ethnic-based gerrymandering in their plan trumped the neighborhood integrity that they claim is so important.
Jump below for the full statement, as well as photos of the Congressional districts in the Bronx, the state Senate picture and Nydia Velasquez's doozy of a district.

Rivera, Bronx CAN host healthy holiday party

Rivera speaks to children as they anxiously wait for toys.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera and his Bronx CAN Health Initiative partners hosted a healthy holiday party and toy-giveaway sponsored by Montefiore Medical Center and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce on Sunday, Dec. 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center. The gifts included athletic-related gifts such as basketballs, to continue to promote health through physical fitness and sports as part of Rivera’s on-going health initiative.

“On Sunday, I was able to thank many of the wonderful Bronx CAN Health Initiative partners that I have been working with over the past six months to promote healthy lifestyle choices in the Bronx,” Rivera said. “I was able to speak to hundreds of Bronxites about their commitment to staying healthy, and more importantly, to more than 100 kids who attended the holiday party, ate some healthy snacks and received toys that were donated by Montefiore Medical Center and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.”

Rivera was joined by Dr. Peter Selwyn from Montefiore Medical Center to hand out gifts to the kids who attended Sunday’s Bronx CAN Health Initiative holiday party.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kim Jong Il's death causing serious concerns in Asia

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's death has created more questions than it answered, apparently.

Rep. Eliot Engel, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who has visited North Korea twice in the last decade, issued the following statement:
“The world will not miss Kim Jong Il, who oppressed his people back to the Stone Age. When I went to North Korea, I was stunned by how the country appears to be a fossil from an age long gone. Seeing the starvation, the state-run propaganda and the lack of access to the rest of the world was jarring. North Korea is a throwback to East Germany from the Cold War era – a situation which is extremely dangerous. A vacuum in leadership for a dictatorship with access to nuclear arms is frightening, and we must closely coordinate any response with South Korea and our other allies in Asia. I am hopeful that the death of this tyrant could lead to change in North Korea – something which would only help the North Korean people, our Asian allies, and the world, but I am skeptical that any change will take place in the near future. In the end, the United States and our democratic friends in Asia, Europe, and elsewhere look forward to the day when the repression ends in North Korea and the regime makes the necessary reforms and enters the modern world.”

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio pushes living wage bill (UPDATE)

The center of the Living Wage battle: The Kingsbridge Armory
In a letter sent yesterday to Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has announced his support for a living wage bill.

The bill, which is currently in limbo in the City Council, would require certain companies receiving city subsidies to pay employees $10 an hour with benefits or $11.50 without. De Blasio is expected to face Quinn in the Democratic primary for mayor, and the debate over a living wage will be a hot topic.

This is going to be a difficult issue for Quinn; she receives major contributions from the business community, which is firmly opposed to it. Bloomberg is also strongly against the bill.

In his letter (below), de Blasio says the prolonged economic crisis has battered the middle class. "Underlying these problems is a rising income inequality that threatens our social fabric and economic future," he writes. 

But de Blasio is calling for one change to the bill, which is to protect smaller businesses by increasing the amount of annual revenue that a business must earn to require offering a living wage to $5 million.

The bill, introduced by City Council members G. Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma on the behest of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., has been sitting in the City Council for months now, and has gone through much debate, both in public and in the Council. Quinn has yet to decide whether or not she will bring it to a vote.

De Blasio goes after the bill's detractors, defending the stoppage of the Kingsbridge Armory shopping center.

"Some have claimed that a Living Wage bill would inhibit future development, citing the City's experience with the Kingsbridge Armory as an example," he wrote. "I am the first to say that it was a tragedy negotiations were not able to yield a project at the Kingsbridge Armory. I do not subscribe to the notion that no projects are better than imperfect projects. But what killed the Kingsbridge Armory project was brinksmanship in the negotiating processnot the principle of a Living Wage."

UPDATE: Here is a statement from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. It should be noted that de Blasio was at the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club's holiday party last week, where Diaz spoke about the living wage. The BFRDC is also home to Koppell.

“As a leader in the fight to bring a ‘living wage’ law to New York City, I enthusiastically welcome Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s support for the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act," Diaz said. "Public Advocate de Blasio has displayed a strong record of fighting for the rights of those underserved and often ignored residents of this City, and his support for this historic legislation is another great example of his commitment to justice and fairness for New Yorkers.

“For months, the public advocate met with individuals and organizations on all sides of this legislation as he engaged in a thoughtful, deliberative examination of the merits of this bill. After meeting with me personally last week, I am thrilled that he has joined the majority of our City in support of the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act. This further demonstrates that we are gaining momentum in our efforts to pass this important legislation.

“The ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act will ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent not only to enrich major developers, but also to provide a way forward out of poverty for their employees. Bill de Blasio understands that, and I welcome his support for this bill and look forward to working with him on making it law."

Living Wage

Holiday greetings from Diaz Jr.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. with a holiday message for everyone:

If you notice, it looks like he's brought back his Che Guevara 'stache.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A short photo essay of my night yesterday

For those of who have noticed a slight decline in posts the past week or so, it's been because our other reporter, Miawling, has been on vacation in her homeland of Australia (It's summertime there, by the way). Anyways, it's caused me to pick up the other half of the newspaper, leaving me less time to blog.

Here's some of what I was up to yesterday afternoon.
5 p.m.: Driving down Riverdale Ave, I ran into these two cars near W. 238th St.,
which ran into each other. No one was injured.
6:45 p.m.: On my way to the 50th Precinct for a Community Board 8
public safety committee meeting, I hit two of the most decorated houses
in the Riverdale Kingsbridge area, right behind the Riverdale Diner.
If you've decked your house out, email us a photo!
To cap off the night, I dropped by the Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club's
holiday party. Among the guests were Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.,
Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz,
and state Sens. Gustavo Rivera and Jeff Klein.

MTA was going to try and restore service, until the State took away $250 million

The new tax plan that's been presented as a victory for the 99 percent actually isn't that great of news for straphangers.

According to MTA board member Charles Moerdler, $250 million won't be coming to the MTA through the mobility tax this year because of the State's new plan. While legislators say they'll find a way to make sure the MTA gets that money back, Moerdler says he's skeptical, because he doesn't know how they will be able to do that with such a tight budget.

Here's the kicker: according to Moerdler, the MTA was going to make an effort to save around $20 million to restore some of the service that has been cut over the last year. Now that they're not getting that $250 million, plus another $85 million they're not getting in other taxes he added, those plans are out the door.

He made it a point to add that cuts to the budget will be cuts to service, not new fare hikes to keep service.

"I'll be damned if they're going to increase fares while I'm there," he told Community Board 8, of which he is a member of, earlier this week.

Jump below to see the Straphangers' Campaign Top 10 best and worst lists of events that happened to commuters this year, which include the loss of millions in funding.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bronx comes out on top in State awards

Here's another story that didn't make this week's Bronx Press.

By Brendan McHugh 

For once, the Bronx came out ahead of the other boroughs in something positive. 

In Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council (REDC), 13 Bronx and borough-related projects were tapped as top development priorities and therefore will receive funds nearing $37 million. 

Throughout the entire city, $66.2 million has awarded. This includes $29.5 million that will be used for the redevelopment of the Hunts Point Produce Market, as well as smaller grants for other borough projects. 

“I am extremely gratified that both Governor Cuomo and our State’s economic development leadership understand the importance of the Hunts Point Produce Market not only as a transformative economic engine for the Bronx, but for the entire region,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement. “Investing in the market and building a new 21st century facility will both preserve and create jobs here in the Bronx while also expanding opportunities for upstate farmers.” 

The New York City Economic Development Corp., which worked with Diaz and other Bronx officials to help keep Hunts Point from moving to New Jersey, said they will continue to fight for the redevelopment of the produce market to take place in the borough.

Jump below for the full story.

Throughout the Bronx, residents have different views of life

A story that didn't make the paper this week (though a Riverdale-centric article does appear in the Riverdale Review).

By Brendan McHugh 

Bronxites appear split on a number of issues, according to a recent study, highlighting the range of diverse neighborhoods in the borough. 

Last week, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. released the results of his office’s first-ever “Well Being Survey.” The survey, which was conducted between late August and the end of October, was designed to measure the opinions of Bronx residents and those who work in the Bronx on a variety of issues that impact their communities. 

Approximately 1,900 individuals took part in the survey, which was available both online and in print at a wide variety of locations across the borough. Of that number 92.6 percent, or more than 1,750 individuals, live in the Bronx. 

“I am happy that so many people who are connected to the Bronx, either because they live here or work here, took a few minutes out of their busy schedule to make their voices heard on the important issues that face our borough,” Diaz said, adding that he will use the information to help guide policy for years to come.

Jump below for the full post.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Diaz celebrates new living wage poll

City residents are overwhelmingly in favor of a living wage bill, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found. This comes as good news for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., one of the leading supporters of a living wage.

“The people of New York City have made it clear, again and again, not only that they support a ‘living wage’ law, but that they reject the arguments put forward by our opponents that this bill will hurt business. The ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act makes sense for our City, and it is time for this bill to be made law,” Diaz said in a statement.

Bronx City Council members G. Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma introduced the living wage bill on the behest of Diaz last year. Since then, Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been hesitant to lend her support to the bill, refusing to let the bill be voted on.

From the Quinnipiac report:
The "Living Wage" proposal currently before the New York City Council is a "good idea," voters say 74 - 19 percent. Support is 56 - 39 percent among Republicans, 83 - 11 percent among Democrats and 67 - 25 percent among independent voters.
Voters say 81 - 17 percent, including 60 - 39 percent among Republicans, that it is the government's responsibility to make sure workers are paid a decent wage.
New York City voters reject 56 - 36 percent the argument that a "Living Wage" bill would drive jobs out of the city. Women reject the argument 62 - 30 percent while men reject it by a narrower 49 - 44 percent.
A living wage bill would force certain companies that receive taxpayer money pay their employees at least $10.00/hr with benefits or $11.50 without.

This is the second time that a poll has shown major support for both the “Fair Wages for New Yorkers” Act and the concept of a “living wage.” In May, a poll by Baruch College Survey Research was released, showing that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support such “living wage” laws. That survey showed that 78 percent of New Yorkers agreeing with the idea, while just 15 percent did not. This includes 83 percent of all Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 56 percent of Republicans.

Henry Hudson Bridge turns 75 years old

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

By Brendan McHugh 

The Henry Hudson Bridge has hit the diamond anniversary. 

The Henry Hudson Bridge turned 75 years old on Dec. 12. All photos courtesy of the MTA.

On Monday, Dec. 12, 1936, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and master-builder Robert Moses cut the ribbon on the Henry Hudson Bridge.

Exactly 75 years later, the New York Public Library’s Riverdale branch has begun showing a month-long photo exhibit, highlighting the construction and life of the bridge. 

The exhibit includes more than a dozen photographs from the MTA Bridges and Tunnels Depression-era collection and will include a section for schoolchildren, focusing on different types of bridges and the building of the Henry Hudson, and another geared to the community before the bridge was built.

Jump below for the full story and some fascinating photos from the 1930s when the bridge was being constructed.

Bronx Board 8 "deplores" process with temporary ice rink in Van Cortlandt

Here's a story from this week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press. But before we get to that, let us provide you with an update:

Community Board 8 overwhelmingly passed a resolution at last night's (Tuesday) general board meeting saying they "deplore" the parks department's decision to circumvent the public-review process by introducing a smaller, temporary rink that only needs a permit to operate. The board is planning a public forum to discuss the ice rink--both the temporary permit rink and the full concession rink--for January with the community, though a date has yet to be finalized. We will have a full story on the actions of Board 8 in next week's paper.

By Brendan McHugh 

As the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation continues to negotiate with Ice Rink Events to try and bring the boroughs only public skating rink to Van Cortlandt Park, their efforts to appease the community may have only enraged them more. 

A number of Community Board 8 members have expressed outrage over a new plan for a smaller—“mini”—29-day rink that skips public scrutiny. 

“There are a lot of disturbed people,” said one member of the board, who wanted to be kept anonymous until the general board meeting Tuesday night. 

The Tuesday, Dec. 13 meeting at the Rivedale YM/YWHA, which is after press time, is the community board’s best chance to collect public input on the skating rink. 

The board had scheduled—and subsequently cancelled—five meetings over the past few months as they attempted to hold a public meeting to discuss the larger, 15-year rink. However, with very little details, they did not want to hold a meeting. 

Community Board 8 has a resolution they plan to vote upon Tuesday night that, if passed, would say the board “deplores DPR’s decision to circumvent the public-review process…” 

Jump below for the full story.

Yankee Stadium hotel propsects looking promising

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

By Brendan McHugh 

Diaz is hoping to do what former Bronx BP's couldn't:
bring a first-class hotel to the borough.
The proposals for a hotel in the shadow of Yankee Stadium are a home run, Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. president Marlene Cintron says. 

Four proposals have come in on the BOEDC’s Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI), Cintron told the Bronx Press last week. 

Cintron said she was, “Quite pleased, actually,” with them. 

She wouldn’t go into detail, but did say two are “chain” hotels and the other two are more mixed-use facilities that incorporate a number of amenities. 

None of the projects would need taxpayer money, according to Cintron.

In September, Cintron joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., seeking interest from hotel developers to develop what would be the Bronx’s only major hotel. They called for a conference center, a top-class restaurant and a permanent location for a Latino Baseball Hall of Fame. The current Latino Hall is a traveling exhibit only.

Jump below for the full story.

This week in the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

This is your friendly reminder to stop putting off your holiday shopping. Festivus is only nine days away!

Moving on, here are the stories from this week's issues (Dec. 15-21) of the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press:

Outrage grows over 'temporary' rink plan
RKA full of pride at first ever pep rally
Principal applauded for 'new tone' at RKA
Racism charge is latest controversy at troubled PS 24
Henry Hudson Bridge is 75 years old
Diaz survey measures 'quality of life'
New Holocaust Center director expands role of her organization
'U' rating of Bronx Science teacher reversed in dramatic court decision
Mistrial in Seabrook corruption case

Also in the Bronx Press:
Hotel may finally be coming to the Bronx
Stadium Post Office looking for some Yankee magic

Here's a bonus! Check out the entire Riverdale Review, as if you just pulled it hot off the presses Internet.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Diaz Jr. appoints school board slot for PEP

Wilfredo Pagan is the new Bronx representative on the PEP.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced that Wilfredo Pagan has been appointed as the borough’s representative to the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), which holds approval power over the actions of the New York City Department of Education.

As Gotham Schools points out, this is just in time for the PEP's monthly meeting, tomorrow.

“Wilfredo Pagan is a strong advocate for the children of the Bronx, and he will make us proud in his new role on the PEP. I look forward to working with Mr. Pagan to advance a strong agenda on education for the parents, children and families of the Bronx and the entire City,” Diaz said. 

Pagan, a resident of West Farms, was born on Sept. 14, 1971, in the Bronx, where he has resided his entire life. He is the youngest of seven siblings, all of whom have graduated from the New York City public school system. He is the father of six children—four girls and two boys—each of whom have also attended New York City public schools. His three youngest are currently enrolled in the very school he has volunteered in for the last six years, P.S. 50/The Clara Barton Elementary School, also located in West Farms.

“Every child has a voice, and I am deeply honored to be able to represent that voice on behalf of parents, families and the Bronx community. I am thankful to Borough President Diaz for this opportunity, and I look forward to working with his office on the critical education issues that face our borough and our City,” Pagan said. 

As the President of the parents’ association at P.S. 50 and president of the District 12 President’s Council, Pagan has represented the parent community in different educational forums that range from Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Councils, public educational hearings, the Citywide Council on High Schools, educational space planning meetings and other activities.

Pagan replaces Monica Major, who currently serves as Borough President Diaz’s director of education and youth policy.

Though Gotham Schools says Pagan hasn't exactly committed to following in Major's footsteps:
While Major carried out the tradition of opposing city policies as part of a borough presidents’ bloc, Pagan is not ready to commit to that stance and wouldn’t say how he will vote tomorrow when controversial issues, such as co-locations and school expansions, are on the table. The three most pressing issues he sees in education right now are communication, organization, and school closures.