Thursday, December 20, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

UPDATE: Community Board 8 aging committee chair and City Council candidate Andrew Cohen donated festive lights and lit the Christmas tree at the Riverdale Monument earlier this afternoon.

Here are the stories in this week's issue (December 20 - 26) of the Riverdale Review.

* PS 24 music gets $19,000 boost from Klein > Local elected official and newly minted state Senator Jeffrey Klein will allocate $19,000 towards arts enrichment at PS 24. School principal Donna Connelly announced the funding injection at last Tuesday's parents association meeting. Klein, who visited the school in October, said he was happy with the educational offerings but was interested in helping to expand the school's music program.
* Community board rejects proposal for fundraising affiliate > Members of Community Board 8 have nixed controversial plans to establish an auxiliary organization that would raise money to support board operations. Members last week voted 21-13 against a proposal to create a Friends of Bronx Community Board 8 following frenzied discussion and opposition. Three members abstained from voting. Under the proposal, conceived fours years ago, the Friends of CB8 group would raise extra funds by soliciting bids from vendors to host street fairs and other public events.
* Commission approves project rejected by Board > The Landmarks Preservation Commission has voted to approve the building of a four-story mansion in the Riverdale historic district--almost a month after Community Board 8 unanimously rejected the project. Under the preliminary plans, the vacant lot at 5241 Independence Avenue would be developed into a seven-bedroom house equipped with eight and a half bathrooms, an indoor swimming pool, two laundry rooms and a maid's room. Members of the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 10-0 on December 11 to approve the mansion after its architect proposed several modifications. Among the revisions is the elimination of a proposed tower on the side of the house. The mansion will also have a semicircular driveway and will be set back from the street to match the houses around it.
* Six new cops for 50th > Six new police officers have joined the ranks of the 50th Precinct, providing the command with a slight boost in manpower. Commanding officer of the 50th Precinct Captain Kevin Burke said the new cops have been tasked with responding to 911 calls and with patrolling high-crime areas within the precinct.
* In slap at board leadership, new rules set for street permits > Community Board 8 has overhauled its street activity permit procedures in a push to become more transparent and to maximize community input. CB8 members last week voted 23 to 13 to change the process governing how street activity permits for street fairs, block parties and farmers market are issued. One member abstained from voting. Under the changes, all street activity permit applications submitted to CB8 for review will now be directed to a committee for approval, approval with conditions, or denial.
* Dog walker slashed on Palisade Avenue > A man walking his two poodles at around 6 a.m. Tuesday on Palisade Avenue at Kappock Street was accosted by two men and was slashed across the face with a knife by one of the men. According to police, Richard Marshall, 65, of 2621 Palisade Avenue, was attacked by two black men who appeared to be in their early 20s, before the pair ran east on Kappock Street. The men demanded no property, Burke said, and ran away after inflicting the wound.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly breaks ground on
the new student commons building, set to open in 2014
* MC breaks ground on new student commons > Manhattan College has ceremonially broken ground on its long-awaited Raymond W. Kelly '63 Student Commons, a $48 million multipurpose complex scheduled to open in fall 2014. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly joined more than 200 people, including college officials, local politicians, faculty and students for the ground-breaking event last Thursday. The five-story complex will be located at the intersection of Manhattan College Parkway and Waldo Avenue--a site that is now a parking lot.
* Press can't be barred from Board meetings > The chair of Community Board 8 has conceded that executive committee meetings are subject to the state's open meetings law and are therefore open to the public. CB8 chair Robert Fanuzzi Robert Fanuzzi made the declaration at last Tuesday's board meeting after receiving an official ruling from the New York State Committee on Open Government. The determination came less than a week after a reporter for the Riverdale Review was asked to leave the Board's December 5 executive committee meeting when members objected to the media's presence. But referencing the determination from Robert J. Freeman, the executive director of the Committee on Open Government, Fanuzzi said the executive committee was required to comply with the law.
* Jewish leader concerned over missing Christmas tree > Ari Hoffnung, the community leader widely thought of as a potential candidate for the City Council seat being vacated by the term-limited G. Oliver Koppell, has expressed his personal dismay that Riverdale, for the first time in memory, will not have an official city Christmas tree. The city's Parks Department has scrubbed the annual display due to "budgetary constraints."
* Hurricane Sandy relief concert > Local storm victims will benefit from the proceeds collected at Sunday night's Hurricane Sandy Relief Concert at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, but they would also benefit from knowing that so many professionals donated their time and extraordinary talent to help out during this event. Children's choirs, a legendary a capella group, a unique rock band, and Broadway and TV stars joined Riverdale's own indigenous performers for a great evening of entertainment.
* Stringer gets Bronx support for Comptroller bid > Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has vowed to help advance The Bronx's economic agenda if he is installed as comptroller during the 2013 citywide elections. Stringer, who last month abandoned his plans to become mayor and announced his candidacy for comptroller, committed to including The Bronx in the city's wider long-term financial plan. The popular Democrat believed his comments after enjoying breakfast with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. at the Riverdale Diner on December 12. If elected, Stringer said, he would be fiercely independent and would work with the mayor and all borough presidents to drive change and progress--and that The Bronx would benefit from these efforts.
* Issues raised at town hall meeting > Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz held the first of four town hall meetings at the Riverdale Senior Center in a bid to answer the questions of local senior citizens. "In order to do my job, I really have to know what people are thinking," Dinowitz said to a packed room of seniors last Monday.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Community prays for miracle at St. Jerome school > Nearly 100 people stood at 230 Alexander Avenue in front of St. Jerome Catholic School on December 12 to protest a plan to close down the school. It was cold and classes had just let out, but parents, local politicians and students stayed to fight for their school. Many held signs written in Spanish and English, and chants of "save our school" and "don't close St. Jerome" echoed through the streets.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr lights the menorah
during Chanukah celebrations at the Bronx County building
* FreshDirect modifies plan > Online grocer FreshDirect has bowed to community opposition and will give up three acres it had planned to use as a parking lot for trucks when it moves into its new headquarters in the South Bronx. The supermarket giant filed court papers last Thursday indicating that it would adjust its plans and integrate the trucks within its new main facility site.
* Chanukah celebration at the Bronx County building > Latkes, jelly donuts, indoor and outdoor menorah lightings, and a few Chanukah songs performed by the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale Community Choir are annual traditions now at Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s festive Chanukah event at the Bronx County building. Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was again mistress of ceremonies at the December 12 bash, where hundreds of community members heard the borough president express his support for Israel and his affinity for the Jewish community.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's issue (December 6 - December 12) of the Riverdale Review:

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr joins Rabbi Levi Shemtov to
light the largest menorah in the Bronx, located at Bell Tower Park.
* Engel and Klein reach for the pinnacles of power > Congessman Eliot Engel has been anointed as  the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington D.C., and as such he wants to push for peace in the Middle East. The Foreign Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over bills and investigations related to foreign affairs of the United States.
* DNA evidence helps local police solve cold case murder > Detectives from the 50th Precinct finally may have cracked the 1993 murder of a prostitute in North Riverdale, thanks to DNA analysis. Police said Lucius Crawford, a 60-year-old ex-con from Mount Vernon, last week confessed to the fatal stabbing of Nella West--a crime he allegedly committed nearly two decades ago. According to police, the body of West, 38, was found by a cab driver face-up outside 5815 Liebig Avenue just after 3 a.m. on October 20, 1993. The victim, a known prostitute, suffered multiple stab wounds to the head, face and torso, a broken eye socket and a crushed skull during the brutal attack that took her life. The cold case had remained unsolved until five-og Detective Chris Boerke and Malcolm Reiman from the Bronx Homicide Squad made a breakthrough earlier this year. The pair ran biological evidence collected from the scene through the current DNA database and found a match.
* Local nursing home rocked by sex assault allegation > The distraught family of an 81-year-old female resident who was sexually assaulted at Hudson Pointe may file a lawsuit against the nursing care facility. Experienced Cheryl R. Eisberg Moin, who has been enlisted by the victim's family, accused the facility's administration of breaching their duty of care toward Gertrudis Munoz. Police allege Munoz was sexually assaulted bby a janitor in  the third-floor dementia unit of the Hudson Point at Riverdale Center of Nursing and Rehabilitation on November 29. Jorge Sarmiento, 56, of Washington Heights, has since been arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of an incompetent person and attempted sexual assault.
* Algiers still without gas > Residents of The Algiers in central Riverdale remain without gas nearly three weeks after a fire on the south side of the complex forced Con Edison to shut off gas service.
* Reporter tossed from community board meeting > The chair  of Community Board 8 allegedly violated the state's open meetings law when he tossed the media out of this month's executive committee meeting. CB8 chair Robert Fanuzzi asked a reporter from the Riverdale Review to leave last Wednesday's meeting after members spent 40 minutes discussing whether the law applied to the executive committee.
* Settlement in co-op discrimination suit > Parties involved in a housing discrimination lawsuit at 3800 Independence Avenue have reached an agreement. According to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office, Loventhal Silver Riverdale, Goodman Management and Jesus Velasco allegedly discriminated against African-American apartment seekers. The release charged that Velasco, the building's superintendent, admitted he informed prospective African-American buyers that there were no vacant units in the complex. On the very same day, he informed potential Caucasian buyers that there were available units. The United States District Court in the Southern District of New York signed a settlement and consent decree on October 16, but news of the decision only surfaced last week. Loventhal Silver Riverdale and Velasco are required to pay a $40,000 civil penalty.
* North Riverdale merchants weigh BID > Merchants in North Riverdale are in the preliminary stages of establishing a business improvement district in the neighborhood. The ambitious plan is still two to three years away, but local merchants said the BID's formation is part of a wider beautification project.
* Fuel conversion strains local buildings > Building owners and managers are already scrambling to meet their first deadline under the Clean Heat program announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year. The program requires all residences to convert from No. 6 heating oil to cleaner-burning No. 4 by 2014. By 2030, all buildings must upgrade to the still-cleaner No. 2 or to natural gas. According to Con Edison's gas conversion procedures, building owners have until January 11, 2013, to submit both an acknowledgment and a load letter in order to participate in the 2013 area growth program. A load letter requires that a certified plumber examine a buildings' heating system and come up with an estimate for the conversion. But with the influx of requests, there are not enough certified plumbers to go around because many are involved with repairs in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
* Spellman charged with manslaughter > Riverdale resident Kevin Spellman, a now-retired NYPD detective, was convicted last Thursday of second-degree manslaughter for the death of Kingsbridge resident Drane Nikac in October 2009, Bronx district attorney Robert Johnson announced. Witnesses said Spellman drove through a red light on Kingsbridge Avenue near West 232nd Street at around 6:30 a.m. when the victim, a 66-year-old Albanian native, began crossing the avenue with a cart containing bottles and cans for recycling. Spellman, 45, faces up to 15 years in prison and is free on bail awaiting sentencing on February 15.
* Benefit concert at HIR for Sandy relief > A varied lineup of performers will offer a Hurricane Sandy Relief Concert this Sunday, December 16, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. Admission is $36, but donations of larger amounts are welcome. Proceeds will go to a fund administered by the UJA-Federation of New York to help those still in need as a result of the October storm that wrecked several of the city's neighborhoods.
* Local workers sought for 230th Street mall construction > It will be the $54 million two-story shopping mall that Bronx workers helped to build. The developer of the Broadway Plaza shopping center has announced that the borough's tradesmen will have first crack at filling a portion of the construction jobs on offer. Equity One last week revealed they have started hiring for the project and are seeking resumes from qualified, but currently unemployed, tradesmen who live in the northwest Bronx.
* Koppell declares war on graffiti > Graffiti vandals be warned: If you plan to tag in Riverdale, it probably won't stay up for long. Councilman G. Oliver Koppell has teamed up with CitySolve, a graffiti removal business, to remove to handiwork of graffiti vandals across his district. Koppell kicked off his campaign last Friday and personally painted over defaced sections of the West 235th Street Henry Hudson Parkway pedestrian overpass during the launch.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Campaign to save Clinton HS gathers steam > DeWitt Clinton High School on Mosholu Parkway, labeled as a failing school for the past three years by the Department of Education, has been on the chopping block twice and has become a dumping ground for failing students. Yet students, parents and teachers poured into the school auditorium for a hearing on December 6 to show their support and to prove to the DOE that their school deserves another chance.
* Eight injured in mattress fire in Longwood > At least five residents of an apartment building, said to be a recently converted homeless shelter, are recovering after a mattress fire near the lobby entrance. Firefighters got the call at 5:30 p.m. on December 9, as the billowing black smoke climbed up into the six-story building at 941 Intervale Avenue, creating panic among the trapped residents. RMS reported at least eight injuries, including five civilian and three firefighters. 
* Norwood resident gunned down along Murder Row > A popular Norwood man was shot and killed during an early-morning dispute on Decatur Avenue, just two blocks from his home. The deadly confrontation took place outside of a three-family home at 3089 Decatur Avenue between Mosholu Parkway North and East 204th Street at 2:2 a.m. on December 9. The victim was later identified as Gary Rodriguez, 46, of 3285 Decatur Avenue.
 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's issue (December 6 - December 12) of the Riverdale Review:

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz demands Con Edison
bury power lines underground to prevent blackouts.
* After Sandy, pols urge Con Edison to bury power lines > Con Edison has vowed to meet with local residents to discuss the feasibility of running power lines underground--instead of overhead--to prevent future electrical outages. The Riverdale Review can reveal the utility provider has indicated it will hold a series of meetings with area residents in the coming weeks to explore the idea of burying cables. Con Edison officials agreed to meet with residents after Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz renewed his call to abolish overhead lines during a press conference in Spuyten Duyvil last Friday.
* Ari Hoffnung edges closer to possible City Council run > Riverdale resident and city deputy comptroller Ari Hoffnung is mulling a run for Councilman G. Oliver Koppell's seat in 2013 citywide elections. Koppell is currently serving his third and final term and must vacate office due to term limit rules. Hoffnung said he remains undecided about whether to jump into the much-anticipated City Council District 11 race but gave the strongest indication yet that his political aspirations were still alive.
 * George Gilbert, photographer, dies at 90 > George Gilbert, a noted photographer and former Fieldston Road resident, died last month at the age of 90. He was living at the Regency Park Assisted Living senior community in Portland, Oregon, near his daughter's home, when he succumbed to lymphoma.
* Honest commuter returns found laptop > The spirit of kindness is alive and well in Riverdale. Local resident Dana Charlton, an employee of the law firm Klein Zelman Rothermel, was on her way to work last Friday when she noticed something on top of the parking meter at the Riverdale Metr0-North station--a laptop and binder. Area commuters soon mobilized to reunite the laptop with its rightful owner.
* At VC Park, you still have to hold it in > The $1 million-plus project to renovate the comfort station and district headquarters in Van Cortlandt Park has been postponed indefinitely. Efforts to refurbish the single-story building, located on Broadway just north of West 242nd Street, were slated for completion this fall. But city officials now say the long-awaited project has been hit with another setback.
* Vinmont Park neglect hit by board > Local residents are mobilizing to establish a "Friends of Vinmont Park" group in a bid to assist city officials with parks maintenance. Community Board 8 is currently seeking volunteers and aims to have the group up and running by spring 2013.
* Sunday's South Riverdale street fair deemed a success despite iffy weather > The holidays came to Riverdale a little early this year. Hundreds turned out to the Riverdale Holiday Festival on Riverdale Avenue between West 236th and West 238th streets last Sunday. The festival featured holiday tunes, pony rides, a petting zoo, the Bronx Culture trolley and face painting.
* Engel gets funding to repair damaged roads > New York State has been granted $20 million in federal funding for the emergency repair of roads damaged by superstorm Sandy, Congressman Eliot Engel announced last Friday.
* Senior centers seek standards > The City Council is proposing that the state begin to regulate all agencies that provide social adult dat services, making Medicaid funding contingent upon compliance with state standards of care. Community Board 8 aging committee supports the Council's proposal and expressed concern at a recent hearing about the proliferation of for-profit facilities that might seek Medicare funding without meeting regulations set forth by the New York State Office for the Aging.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Bronx high schools improve on progress reports > Chancellor Dennis Walcott released progress reports for New York City high schools last week, and statistics show a slight uptick for the Bronx. The average letter grade for Bronx public high schools was a B, almost a full letter grade higher than last year. Out of the 116 schools in the Bronx, half received a B or C grade.
Officials unveil the newly-renovated office building
at 1775 Grand Concourse
* Renovated Grand Concourse office building opens for business > Local officials have unveiled the results of a $5 million facelift to a majestic multistory office building in the Bronx. Renovations to the 347,000-square-foot building at 1775 Grand Concourse were revealed during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Thursday.
* Slain teen laid to rest > The young teenager who was mysteriously found dead in the hallway of a relative's home was laid to rest at St. Raymond's Cemetery on December 3. The body of Destiny Sanchez, 15, was discovered in the hallway of 632 Barretto Streets in the Hunts Point sections on November 23. Investigations are continuing, but police said the popular teen had been strangled.
* Bronx DA convicts unlicensed lawyer > A Bronx woman has been convicted for practicing law without a license. After less than a day of deliberating, the jury found Kehinde Jobi of 1407 Croyona Avenue guilty on two counts of grand larceny in the third degree, one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree and eight counts of judicially disbarred attorney practicing law. Jobi had been suspended in October 2008 for taking money from a victim with an indictment without permission. Despite the suspension, Jobi continued to represent herself as an attorney. A press release from Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said Jobi stole more than $53,000 from 10 people.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's issue (November 29 - December 5) of the Riverdale Review:

Selfhelp, a nonprofit organization, wants to redevelop
this service station at 6469 Broadway
* Housing, commercial space planned for gas station > A North Riverdale gas station will be completely razed to make way for a new multi-story, mixed-use development comprised of senior housing and commercial space. The Riverdale Review can reveal that nonprofit organization Selfhelp Community Services Inc. has submitted plans to redevelop the Prime has station site located at 6469 Broadway. Filings submitted to the New York Stat Department of Environmental Conservation show the group has proposed a building with up to 95 units of senior housing on the 17,424-square-foot site. Under the plan, the project will boast up to 28 parking spaces and up to 12,000 square feet of "community facility space."
* RKA high school records slight dip on latest progress report card > Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy's high school earned a B on this year's school progress report--a drop of one letter grade. The annual evaluation, released by the Department of Education on Monday afternoon, reveals H.S 141 racked up to 69.2 points out of a possible 100--down from its score of 73.9 in 2011. The local high school has registered an A grade for the past three consecutive years. But RKA principal Lori O'Mara said the high school was on the way up and insisted there were glimmers of hope. She also noted the school missed out on an A grade by just 0.8 points.
* City to apply popular tax break on next property bills > Local co-op and condo owners will continue to reap the benefits of an expired $430 million property tax break even though Albany lawmakers have yet to renew the scheme officially. City officials have confirmed they will retroactively apply the popular Cooperative and Condominium Tax Abatement in the next round of tax bills in the hope that an accord is struck.
Police remove the body of Eric Martinez from the tracks
* Man struck and killed by train > A man jumped to his death on Thanksgiving morning by leaping in front of a moving No. 1 train, authorities said. Police said Eric Martinez, 26 of Manhattan, was struck by a southbound No. 1 train at the 231st Street station in Kingsbridge early last Thursday. Commanding officer of the 50th Precinct Captain Kevin Burke said the man's lifeless body was discovered around 6:30 a.m., roughly two cars length south of the platform. "We suspect he was struck by an earlier train," he said.
* Riverdale building on HHP remains without gas following leak > More than 50 residents of 3616 Henry Hudson Parkway have been without gas service after a fire started on the fifth floor of their apartment building last week. According to Con Edison, building staff at the Algiers reported a possible gas leak on the south side of the complex on November 20 at 8:33 p.m.
* Mayor proposes $4.5 million NYPL funding cut > Weekend library service may be slashed, up to 50 full-time employees could be laid off and fewer library books may be purchased if new mid-year budget cuts transpire. Under a revised budget released by Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this month, the New York Public Library could see their funding axed by $4.5 million in fiscal year 2013.
* Congregation Tehillah rabbi feted in two-day tribute > Song of praise is one translation of the Hebrew word 'tehillah,' and when Riverdale's Congregation Tehillah honored Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn this month, they sang a song of praise that started Friday evening and continued until late the following night. Shriner-Cahn has been Tehillah's spiritual leader for several years. But members felt it was time for an official installation, a way to offer gratitude and tributes. Two Shabbat services and a Saturday night concert event were dedicated to the celebration.
* Verizon breaking ground here for FiOS > Verizon has begun installing an underground conduit system for cabling that will bring the much-anticipated FiOS to Riverdale by spring. The initial stage of work, evidenced by a long ditch in the road on West 239th Street near Blackstone Avenue, should be done by the end of the week, according to Verizon spokesman John J. Bonomo. But additional work will continue through January.
* Bronx woman dies on vacation > A local woman died while on vacation after she was denied seats on three separate New York-bound flights because of her size. Vilma Soltesz, who was 425 pounds with only one leg, was vacationing in Hungary with her husband Janos--on a trip they take almost every year. The couple, who live at Van Cortlandt Park South, planned to fly back to New York on October 15 so Soltesz could continue her medical treatment.
* Local resident oozes zeal for ice hockey > Many locals are excited about transforming the Kingsbridge Armory into a nine-rink national ice center, but no one is more enthusiastic than Jim Breidenbach. A Riverdale resident for 53 years, Breidenbach believes that the ice rink facility could be "just what the doctor ordered" for the community and for hockey enthusiasts like him.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Black Friday horror after teen found strangled in Hunts Point > A popular teenager was strangled and left for dead in the hallway of a Hunts Point building just hours after she celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with relatives. Police were called to 632 Barretto Street at just after 8 a.m. on Friday, November 23. Family members said Destiny Sanchez was semiconscious when found by her brother in the hallway of the three-family home.
* Carrion lags in Quinnipiac poll > Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion has a lot of work to do if he wants to be elected the next mayor of New York. In a new Quinnipiac poll released last week, only 11 percent of voters said they would vote for Carrion compared to 62 percent who would vote for the opposing Democratic candidate. Though he may be the only Hispanic in the race, the poll reported that only 12 percent of Hispanic voters would choose him.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's issue (November 22 - November 28) of the Riverdale Review:

Andrew Cohen kicks off his election campaign 
* Cohen throws hat in ring for Council run > It's official: Community Board 8 member Andrew Cohen has entered the race for Councilman G. Oliver Koppell's seat in the 2013 citywide elections. Cohen, a Riverdale resident, ended weeks of speculation and declared his intention to jump into the electoral race during a press event on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan on Tuesday. The announcement means Cohen will now be pitted against Cliff Stanton, the only other candidate in the hotly anticipated City Council District 11 race.
* Bidding war erupts as Delafield Estates goes under the hammer > A Long Island-based developer has snapped up the remaining lots in the troubled Delafield Estates development for a whopping $6.375 million. The 22 parcels were sold off as a single lot during a frenzied public auction at the Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale on November 19.
* Community Board approves street renaming > Efforts to rename a local street in honor of James V. Downey has moved a step closer to reality after it got the Community Board 8 nod. Members of CB8 voted 32 to 0 in favor of renaming the stretch of Mosholu Avenue between West 254th Street and West 256th Streets to 'James V. Downey Way.'
* City officials break ice on new Van Cortlandt Park skating rink > The brand-new Van Cortlandt Park ice-skating rink in officially open for business. The Bronx's first public skating rink in nearly 30 years was unveiled by a slew of city officials during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday.
* Hebrew Home takes in displaced Sandy victims > The Hebrew Home at Riverdale has announced that it will temporarily house 130 adult home residents displaced by superstorn Sandy at its recently acquired Passionist Retreat House, a dormitory formerly used by the Passionist Fathers of Riverdale. The Hebrew Home will host the displaced residents until their permanent homes, damaged by the storm, are fully repaired.
* NYPD Bronx Task Force in Riverdale following Gaza crisis > The NYPD is taking steps to keep Riverdale synagogues safe while demonstrators gather in Manhattan to express their anger at Israel's retaliation for ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza. Officials said eight to 12 police officers from the Bronx Task Force are in the area to supplement precinct staff.
* Diaz to seek reelection as Bronx BP > Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has abandoned plans to run for office of public advocate and will instead seek to keep his current job during the 2013 citywide elections. In a lengthy email to supporters on Tuesday, Diaz said he would not pursue the city's second-highest post because he still had several loose ends to tie up in The Bronx.
* Local restaurants take advantage of Thanksgiving trend > Restaurants in Riverdale are accommodating guests who don't have time or energy to cook an elaborate Thanksgiving feast by opening their doors on the holiday.
* Local artists exhibits tiny whimsical portraits at library > More than 200 portraits by Riverdale artist Nina Seigenfeld-Velazquez are on display in an exhibition called 'What's Mine is Yours' at the Riverdale branch of the New York Public Library through the end of May.
* Area merchants host food drive > Local politicians and members of the North Riverdale Merchants Association came together to do a little good for the community on November 16. The NRMA spearheaded a new food drive to collect nonperishable items for those in need.
* Bronx residents object to MTA fare hikes during public hearing > The Metropolitan Transportation Authority  held a public hearing on November 13 for Bronx residents to voice their opinions on the proposed fare hikes.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Three wounded at funeral home shooting > Three people were wounded when a gunman opened fire on a crowd in the doorway of a Parkchester funeral home. Cops were called to the R.G. Ortiz Funeral Home, located at 2121 Westchester Avenue, at 7:15 p.m. on Sunday, November 18. Police said the three victims were shot in the parking lot of the funeral home, around the vicinity of the parlor's entrance.
* Bronx father sought in bizarre kidnapping > Police continue to hunt for the father wanted in connection with a one-man crime spree that included firing a handgun, setting an apartment on fire, kidnapping his own kids, carjacking a man and fleeing the scene.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Paradise Theater set to become Creflo Dollar megachurch


By TESS McRAE

The Paradise Theater, an 83-year-old Bronx cultural institution, will soon be home to the World Changers Church of New York.
The nondenominational mega-church signed the lease to occupy the cherished city landmark on October 20. It is understood the site will become an official residence for the New York branch of the World Changers Church International.
As of press time, no grand opening date for the WCCNY church has been announced, and the public relations firm representing the WCC did not return repeated calls for comment. A request for comment from Jones Lang LaSalle, who represented WCC in the transaction, was also not returned.

230th Street mall may expand with key corner


By MIAWLING LAM

Equity One snapped up this abandoned gas station at
West 230th Street and Broadway for $2 million
The developer of the yet-to-be-built $54 million Broadway Plaza shopping mall has purchased the adjoining vacant lot—the defunct Getty gas station.
The Riverdale Review can reveal that Equity One last month acquired the 7,500-square-foot parcel at 5510 Broadway from a California-based LLC for a hefty $2 million—more than three times the current market value of $630,000.
Documents filed with the New York City Department of Finance show the property deed for the commercial site was transferred on October 15.
Equity One currently owns the 80,000-square-foot parcel on the eastern boundary of the gas station. The site, now a city-owned parking lot, will be developed into a two-story multi-tenant shopping mall set to open in mid-2014.
The newest acquisition means the national developer now commands two of the three coveted parcels of developable land along the busy intersection of West 230th Street and Broadway—a clear indication that the area is viewed as a worthy spot for major commercial development.

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's issue (November 15 - 21) of the Riverdale Review:


The abandoned gas station at West 230th Street and
Broadway has been acquired by Equity One.
* 230th Street mall may expand with key corner > The developer of the yet-to-be-built $54 million Broadway Plaza shopping mall has purchased the adjoining vacant lot--the defunct Getty gas station. The Riverdale Review can reveal that Equity One last month acquired the 7,500-square-foot parcel at 5510 Broadway from a California-based LLC for a hefty $2 million--more than three times the current market value of $630,000.
* Local pols eye Senate leadership battle > Election Day is over, but a few state Senate races upstate are still too close to call, which could have an impact on the careers of some local politicos.
* Board rejects plans for new mansion > Community Board 8 has rejected controversial plans to construct a new mansion in the heart of the Riverdale Historic District. Following fervent opposition, board members last week voted unanimously against a proposal to develop the vacant lot at 5241 Independence Avenue into a four-story, single-family house. Under preliminary plans, the house would boast seven bedrooms, eight and a half bathrooms, an indoor swimming pool, two laundries and a maid's room.
* MTA's Bus Time program will let you track your ride on your phone > Local straphangers can finally track the real-time location of every local and express bus in Riverdale after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority quietly launched its Bus Time program. MTA officials flicked the switch and activated GPS hardware on all 54 Bronx bus routes, inculding the Bx7, Bx9 and Bc10, on Saturday, October 27. However, with efforts underway to restore subway service and repair critical signal and switch components in the wake of superstorm Sandy, the launch has received little fanfare.
* New president a kindred spirit at Riverdale rabbinical school > Open-mindedness, outreach and independent thinking--along with broad-based textual study--will still be the basics at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah when its presidency transfers from Rabbi Avi Weiss to Rabbi Asher Lopatin this July.
* iPhone stolen from woman at gunpoint > The armed serial robbers terrorizing Riverdale have struck again. Police said the two men suspected of carrying out at least five local robberies nabbed yet another iPhone on Sunday.
The Fieldston Lofts apartment tower
* New Fieldston Lofts building on Riverdale Avenue hits market > Luxury condominiums at Fielston Lofts, a boutique apartment building in Riverdale, have been re-listed for a price tag of around $1 million each. The seven-story building, located at 3751 Riverdale Avenue, features 10 three- and four-bedroom units, ranging in size from 1,849 to 2,164 square feet. Each condo boasts high-end finishes including bamboo floors, granite countertops, towering ceilings, marble tiles, custom kitchen cabinets and modern appliances. But it's the asking price--between $899,000 and $1.059 million--that has courted controversy among locals.
* Paradise Theater set to become Creflo Dollar megachurch > The Paradise Theater, an 83-year-old Bronx institution, will soon be home to the World Changers Church of New York. Pastors Creflo and Taffi Dollar reportedly signed the lease on October 20.
* Community leaders get a glimpse of learning at RKA > There was an upbeat vibe at M.S/H.S 141 as community leaders were treated to snapshots of learning in progress as they took a tour of the school on Tuesday morning.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Dominic Castore dies > Passionate Bronx resident and longtime Community Board 11 chairman Dominic Castore passed away last weekend.
* Veterans housing opens > At-risk war veterans now have a new, supportive place they can call home. Kingsbridge Terrace, the second of two state-of-the-art Bronx residences created by Jericho Project, will enable veterans to live in affordable, furnished housing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review

Here are the stories in this week's issue (November 8 - 14) of the Riverdale Review:

* Troubled aftermath of hurricane horror > Local homes are slowly getting back on the grid but mail delivery has ground to a halt and residents are facing a crippling gasoline shortage following the devastation of superstorm Sandy. As city agencies, utility providers and elected officials continue relief efforts in the battered region, those in Riverdale are reeling from the damage caused by the historic storm.
* Long delays and foul-ups mar voting in Riverdale > Hundreds of voters inundated local polling sites on Tuesday to exercise their democratic right. Although many Riverdale residents turned up to vote for one of the presidential candidates, some were also concerned about weighing in on the local Congressional and Senatorial races. However, reports of lengthy queues and broken scanning machines trickled in as the day wore on.
* Police hunt two men in connection with string of armed robberies > Police fear that a recent rash of armed robberies in Riverdale, including two over the past weekend, could be part of a wider trend. Detectives from the 50th Precinct believe the same two suspects, both descried as black males in their late teens or early 20s, are responsible for at least five local robberies reported between October 18 and November 4. Police said the pair's modus operandi follows the same pattern: They target individuals traveling on foot and demand that victims hand over their smartphones and other valuables. On at least three occasions, the men even flashed a firearm.
Veterans' Day ceremony
* Local veterans honor fallen comrades > The crisp, sunny day made the perfect backdrop for the annual Veterans' Day ceremony in Riverdale on Sunday, November 4. Attendance at the ceremony, held at the newly-refurbished Memorial Grove, was much lower than anticipated, with around 25 Bronx residents there to celebrate the men and women who served our country. This was in part due to miscommunication within the parks department, which had been informing callers that the ceremony had been cancelled due to superstorm Sandy.
* Delayed Bronx Restaurant Week is now underway > Foodies, dining enthusiasts and bargain hunters, take note: Bronx Restaurant Week is still on. Borough officials kicked off the second annual event during a subdued launch preview at Oregano Bar & Bistro in Riverdale last Thursday. Dubbed Savor The Bronx, the promotion aims to showcase the borough's diverse gastronomical delights and elevate its culinary cred. Under the promotion, rescheduled due to superstorm Sandy, around 35 Bronx restaurants are offering diners a three-course lunch for $16.41 and a bargain dinner for $20.12 through Friday, November 16.
* Local renaissance girl awarded full college scholarship > Riverdalian Jessica Lavery, a freshman at the University of Scranton, is the winner of a four-year Presidential Scholarship that covers full tuition. She was one of only 19 students the university selected for this comprehensive scholarship award, reserved for incoming freshman with outstanding high school records and community involvement.
* HIR hosts Global Hunger Shabbat > There was an abundance of food, with choices for everyone from vegans to omnivores, so the concept of hunger seemed distant for 300 community members who enjoyed a Sabbath meal last Friday night at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. The November 2 Global Hunger Shabbat event was one of hundreds taking place worldwide through an American Jewish World Service initiative. 
* Local dentist plans relocations > Riverdale residents will soon have a brand-new dental care facility in town. Dr. Gabriel Shalmi of Riverdale Dental Care will be moving his practice on Riverdale Avenue to a location around the corner of West 259th Street. The move is planned for December or January.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Delayed Bronx Restaurant Week gets underway


By MIAWLING LAM

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. enjoys a sample of what
diners can expect during a launch event for Savor The Bronx
Foodies, dining enthusiasts and bargain hunters, take note: Bronx Restaurant Week is still on. Borough officials kicked off the second annual event during a subdued launch preview at Oregano Bar & Bistro in Riverdale last Thursday.
Dubbed Savor The Bronx, the promotion aims to showcase the borough’s diverse gastronomical delights and elevate its culinary cred.
Under the promotion, rescheduled due to superstorm Sandy, around 35 Bronx restaurants are offering diners a three-course lunch for $16.41 and a bargain dinner for $20.12 through Friday, November 16.
A few establishments are even throwing in a free dessert or taking 15 percent off the entire tab.
The $16.41 price for lunch bears a special significance—1641 marks the year that Jonas Bronck purchased a 500-acre farm and settled in the borough.
Bronx Tourism Council executive director Olga Luz Tirado said this year’s event has taken on added importance, given the widespread devastation caused by the historic storm.
Tirado admitted that organizers flirted with the idea of canceling the promotion altogether but decided against it, saying it was more crucial than ever before to promote local businesses.
“We have to make sure that the people know that The Bronx is open for business,” she said.
“What’s best for Bronx businesses is to move forward and get back to business as quickly as possible, and what’s best for the community is to get The Bronx back up and going. We just have to keep moving forward.”
Among this year’s participants is the critically acclaimed Cuban establishment Havana Café, the popular Italian joint Antonio’s Trattoria and the casual restaurant Muscle Maker Bar & Grill. Bruckner Bar & Grill in the South Bronx was also due to participate but was forced to withdraw just days before the launch after Sandy flooded its entire basement.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. made no apologies for moving ahead with Savor The Bronx, claiming it would help boost the city’s spirits.
“In the aftermath of Sandy, we have to be mindful that this is good for morale,” he said.
“We have a lot of Bronx families who need to know that they can come out and eat something at an affordable price at 35 different restaurants and spend time with their family and help out a restaurant. These restaurants haven’t had any traffic in almost a week.”
Oregano Bar & Bistro, a Franco-Iberian restaurant in Riverdale that opened to much fanfare earlier this year, seized on the opportunity to participate and will offer prix-fixe options for both lunch and dinner.
At the launch event, chef Claude Alain Solliard gave a hint of what diners could expect and served Iberico pork and bacon-wrapped beef short ribs drizzled with black peppercorn sauce.
Restaurateur Erick A. Caceres said he hoped the event would expose Oregano to a larger demographic.
Stephane Kane, chef/owner of the quaint French restaurant Bistro SK, echoed the sentiments.
The City Island-based restaurant escaped Sandy’s wrath and is offering diners a prix-fixe dinner menu.
Kane, who served a smorgasbord of authentic French bites including tuna tartare, escargots and crème brûlée at the preview launch, agreed the 12-day promotion gave restaurants unprecedented exposure.
“Being on City Island, we are very secluded to start with, and I’m doubly secluded because I’m a French restaurant around a lot of seafood restaurants and Italian restaurants,” he said.
“So I thought it would be—and it is—a good opportunity for me to open up to the rest of The Bronx and say, ‘Hey, we are here. Come and try.’” 
This year’s Savor The Bronx is produced by the Bronx Tourism Council in conjunction with the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation and is sponsored by financial services juggernaut American Express and the New York State Restaurant Association.
For more information, please visit savorthebronx.com.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Superstorm Sandy leaves trail of disaster in Riverdale (UPDATE)


UPDATE: The severe gasoline shortage gripping the New York metro area is forcing locals to endure epic-long lines to secure fuel for their cars and generators.
Gas pumps at the Sunoco station, located on 5914 Riverdale Avenue, and the Prime station, at Broadway and Mosholu Avenue, were completely dry as of Friday lunchtime. 
However, the Gulf station on Riverdale Avenue, just north of West 263rd Street, was open and filling the near-empty tanks of hundreds of motorists.
Some drivers told us they had been waiting in line for over 40 minutes and that the queue even stretched for seven blocks--back to West 256th Street--at one point.

Northbound traffic on Riverdale Avenue was reduced to one lane on Friday afternoon as motorists queued for gas.
This line stretched from West 259th Street to the city line, with some drivers reporting waits of around 40 minutes.

By MIAWLING LAM

More than 3,000 local homes were left without power after superstorm Sandy ripped through Riverdale and left a path of mass destruction.
These two trees, located at the corner of Fieldston Road and
Waldo Avenue, brought down power lines in the area  
The unprecedented storm swept through the region last night, bruising Riverdale with its relentless near-hurricane-force wind gusts and sporadic rain.
Dozens of trees were uprooted, widespread power outages were reported, Internet and cable service was disrupted and several homes in Fieldston were damaged.
As of noon Tuesday, Con Edison said 46,805 Bronx customers were without power, including 3,489 in Riverdale. Citywide, more than 613,237 were left in the dark, including much of lower Manhattan.
Locally, early indications suggest the leafy enclave of Fieldston bore the brunt of Sandy’s wrath. Half of its residents were left without power and its usually pristine streets were littered with leaves, branches and other debris while several roads were blocked by fallen trees.
On Waldo Avenue between West 246th and West 250th streets, two trees fell onto the attic of a two-story house, while four blocks away on Delafield Avenue, several trees toppled over and brought down utility wires.
Further south, Palisade Avenue was rendered impassable after a tree came crashing down in front of 2521 Palisade Avenue. Another tree on West 232nd Street between Independence and Palisade avenues was also upended from its roots, blocking both lanes of traffic.
This tree on West 232nd Street blocked two-way traffic
Despite the destruction, commanding officer of the 50th Precinct Kevin Burke said there have been no reports of local fatalities or injuries.
He said the five-oh operated at full capacity during the storm and that around 150 officers—each working 12-hour shifts—answered the deluge of 911 calls.
“Most of the emergencies were in regards to downed power lines and trees falling onto cars,” he said.
“I think most people heeded the warnings and understood that it was a once-in-a-lifetime storm.
“What we found out is that a large majority, if not everyone, stayed indoors, which prevented the loss of life.”
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said Riverdale fared remarkably well compared to the rest of the city, thanks in part to the neighborhood’s high elevation.
“I think that under the circumstances, we can consider ourselves fortunate—we’re not flooded, and our homes didn’t burn down,” he said, referring to the devastating blaze that destroyed more than 50 homes in Breezy Point, Queens.
However, Dinowitz said residents in Fieldston suffered a battering.
“In Fieldston, there wasn’t just a downed tree here or there. You really had to know where you were going because there was blocked street after blocked street,” he said.
In fact, Councilman G. Oliver Koppell likened the situation outside his Fieldston 
house to a war zone.
The elected official sought refuge in a Manhattan hotel on Monday night because his house is surrounded by a slew of old trees. “My yard looks like a battleground. It really is amazing,” he said on Tuesday.
This tree on West 250th Street in Fieldston came perilously
close to hitting the private house on the left
“A tremendous number of branches—probably around 50—came down around my house, and it confirms that I was wise not to sleep here. We were very worried because we have very large trees.”
Fieldston Property Owners Association president Stephen Boatti said at least half of Fieldston descended into darkness after strong winds toppled power lines. He estimated at least 12 trees were uprooted in the area.
“We had a tornado two years ago and another hurricane last year, but this is much worse as far as the number of trees and the damage,” he said.
Boatti said private crews were methodically traversing each block in Fieldston and clearing streets of debris.
As city agencies scramble to deal with the aftermath and begin the massive cleanup, local community organizations are also doing their part.
The Riverdale YM-YWHA opened its bathrooms and showers to those without power on Tuesday night, while the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale notified congregants of changes in prayer service schedules due to safety concerns.
Meanwhile, the Riverdale Review understands just two people checked into the city-run evacuation shelter at M.S./H.S. 141. However, sources claim both individuals were homeless and not residents in the area.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New apartments planned for Henry Hudson Parkway


By MIAWLING LAM
Three houses will be demolished and could be replaced
with a seven-story apartment building

Three local residential houses will be completely demolished to make way for a new seven-story apartment residence, the Riverdale Review can reveal.
Excavation crews are slated to begin razing the row of two-story homes, located at 2727-2737 Henry Hudson Parkway, on Thursday, October 25.
According to filings with the New York City Department of Buildings, a developer plans to build a new 56-unit residential building with 45 enclosed parking spaces on site.
The project, an as-of-right development, does not require community-board approval.
The plan is still going through other approvals processes, but if given the green light, it will be the first multi-unit apartment residence to begin construction in Riverdale since the economy bottomed out.
Demolition crews began erecting a safety fence on the Henry Hudson Parkway side last Thursday, with one worker confirming the redevelopment plans.
“Once we have all the fencing up, we’ll start bringing the machinery in and start getting the work done,” he said, adding that a temporary fence will also be built at the rear of the site.
The employee said the demolition “shouldn’t take that long,” but declined to provide a more specific timeframe or estimated completion date.
Published reports indicate that HH Realty purchased the 0.47-acre lot for $2.875 million in an all-cash deal in April 2012.
As of press time, Shay Zach of Itzhaki Properties, the broker who represented both the buyer and seller, did not return a call for comment.


This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

After a two-week hiatus, here are the stories in this week's issue (October 25 - October 31) of the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.


The entrance of Delafield Estates
* New apartments planned for Henry Hudson Parkway > Three local residential houses will be completely demolished to make way for a new seven-story apartment building, the Riverdale Review can reveal. Excavation crews are slated to begin razing the row of two-story homes, located at 2727-2737 Henry Hudson Parkway, on Thursday, October 25.
* Long-delayed Delafield Estates may be back on track > The remaining 22 lots in the troubled Delafield Estates development will finally go under the hammer on Wednesday, November 7. The real estate firm marketing the estate, Brown Harris Stevens, announced news of the upcoming public auction on Monday.
* A fast look at the Riverdale Neighborhood Slow Zone > Nine new speed humps will be installed on Riverdale streets by November as part of a staggered implementation of the city's Neighborhood Slow Zone program. For the first time, officials circulated a map pinpointing the nine proposed speed hump locations, with the majority positioned in the immediate vicinity of PS 24 and MS/HS 141.
VCP's delay-prone comfort station
* Relief may be on the way in Van Cortlandt Park > After three years of delays and setbacks, the comfort station and district headquarters at Van Cortlandt Park could finally be opened by Christmas. The dilapidated single-story building, located on Broadway near West 242nd Street, has been covered in scaffolding, plywood slabs and blue tarpaulins since late 2009. But a Department of Parks spokesman said: "We are scheduled to ope the district headquarters/comfort station this fall."
* Motorists get a break from confusing ticketing on Independence Avenue > City officials have removed the confusing road markings in front of the Riverdale Jewish Center following claims that local motorists were being unfairly ticketed. Department of Transportation officials recently scarified the section outside 3700 Independence Avenue and eliminated lines that had previously indicated three legal parking spaces.
* Local student involved in presidential debate > Riverdalian Yaritza Pena, a Hofstra University student, was selected to work as a volunteer during the October 16 presidential debate held on the campus in Hempstead, New York.
* Rabbi Avi Weiss to turn over leadership of innovative yeshiva > Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the open Orthodox rabbinical school founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, has announced that the role of yeshiva president will transfer from Rabbi Weiss to Rabbi Asher Lopatin this coming July. Rabbi Weiss will continue to teach there and to serve as senior rabbi at HIR, a vibrant 850-family congregation on Henry Hudson Parkway.
* Anxious foodies get ready to Savor the Bronx during restaurant week > Move over Manhattan and Brooklyn--it's time for The Bronx to grab the dining spotlight. The second annual Bronx Restaurant Week--Savor The Bronx, which showcases the borough's diverse  delights kicks off on Monday and runs through Friday, November 9. Under the promotion, foodies will be able to score a three-course lunch for $16.41 and a bargain dinner for $20.12 from more than 25 Bronx resturants. A few establishments will even throw in a free dessert or take 15 percent off the entire tab.
* Superintendent cleared over theft charges > A North Riverdale building superintendent, who was arrested on April 16 after being accused of pocketing cash from an elderly tenant's bank account, has been cleared.
* Former governor speaks to Manhattan College students > Former New York governor David Paterson addressed Manhattan College students and faculty last Tuesday with a discussion on subjects ranging from student loan debt to MTA encounters.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Heartless criminals steal stereo system from Norwood church > An Episcopal church in Norwood that had overcome a devastating fire in 2009 must now deal with the damage left by an invader who got away with only a sound system worth about $1,000.
* More Bronx restaurants now have all-important Zagat listings > A record number of Bronx restaurants have landed a highly coveted mention in the 2013 Zagat dining guide. A total of 33 Bronx establishments made it into the latest version of the gastronomic bible, compared with 28 the previous year and 24 in the 2011 guide.
* Police arrest four over Pelham Parkway murder > Bronx homicide detectives have charged four individuals and are seeking a fifth in connection with a double shooting that resulted in one man's death.