Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Keep Rangel out of the Bronx, Rev. Diaz says

State Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz has come out with another 'What You Should Know,' and this one goes after Assemblyman Denny Farrell. Diaz says Farrell (Manhattan), has no respect for Bronxites.

Farrell was recently quoted in the Daily News about redistricting, saying the first thing they work on is Rep. Charlie Rangel's district to ensure his reelection. Diaz hates this and goes after the 'machine' of Albany

"Are they are all a bunch of sell-outs or do they have the best interest for our community as their top priority?" he says. Here's the full post:

Assemblyman Denny Farrell shows no respect for Bronx residents, for Bronx elected officials, and especially no respect for the Bronx’s growing Hispanic population.

“You must understand, for the last 40 years, whatever district Charlie Rangel wants, we give it to him. I say, ‘Charlie, we can’t draw anything else in the state till we draw you.’ That’s always been our position — we do you and then everything. He’s the dean. He’s the No. 1.”

These words expressed today in a Daily News column by Bill Hammond titled ‘Albany's Gift to Charlie Rangel’ practically confirmed to the world what I have been asking all along about our representatives in Albany: Are they are all a bunch of sell-outs or do they have the best interest for our community as their top priority?

Today, my dear reader, Harlem is a very different community. Charles Rangel and Keith Wright may have brought “progress” to Harlem with great business proposals, 125th Street is thriving with stores and businesses, and people now go to Harlem to shop, but there is one big problem. They pushed their residents out – especially the African American community. They did not protect Harlem residents.

There are not enough African American residents in Harlem to keep Charles Rangel in his position, and there is no one to blame but Charles Rangel himself – and his colleagues. They allowed African Americans to lose Harlem to others communities. In other words, today Harlem is owned by others – not by African Americans as it used to be.

We cannot deny, and you should know, that Charlie Rangel is a legendary figure in the African American community and that whatever he wants for Harlem he has always gotten.
We also have to note that the historical beauty of Harlem has been their residents, their struggle for survival and their history. Harlem was a strong political power for the African American community in the eyes of the nation, until their leadership, led by Charles Rangel, sold them out to former President Bill Clinton and his business associates.

Now Charles Rangel, Denny Farrell and Keith Wright – after losing Harlem – want to come to the Bronx and without respect or consideration to the leadership, to the people of the Bronx, and to all of us who have fought to keep our community intact, contrary to what they did in Harlem. Remember Denny Farrell’s words, “Charlie, we can’t draw anything else in the state till we draw you … we do you and then everything.”

What a joke! What a farce! What a lack of respect to Sheldon Silver, to the rest of the Assembly members and to the people of the Bronx!

We in the Bronx have built housing to protect the Black and Hispanic community from leaving us. The census verified that the Bronx did not lose people – the Bronx gained residents because the Bronx leadership has been responding to the needs of its community and has not allowed others to come and push our people out.

We do not need Charles Rangel to come to the Bronx. We have enough people to get two congressional districts independent and apart from everything else, to take over our struggles and our fight.

When I hear Denny Farrell practically say that the Assembly will not do anything until “we do” Charles Rangel. I must wonder who is the real Speaker, Sheldon Silver or Denny Farrell. I also wonder how my Bronx colleagues will respond to this insult. I’d like to know how they can allow themselves to be disrespected like that.

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

Monday, January 30, 2012

MTA releases first-ever Late Night Map

Although the map won't be accessible to everyone--the MTA is releasing it first in a collectible series--here is a Late Night Map, perfect for when you have to find your way back to the Bronx from Brooklyn.

The map shows the scheduled overnight service of the subway system, when three subway lines don’t run, three lines become shuttle trains, six express trains run as locals, and a night-only shuttle appears. The map has a gray background color to prevent confusion with the normal subway map.

The New York City Subway is the only large subway or metro system in the world to maintain service to all its stations around the clock. The overnight service shown in the night map runs generally from midnight to 6 a.m., although certain lines’ overnight service patterns depicted in the map may begin or end slightly earlier or later than these times.

The MTA has printed 25,000 copies of the map in tandem with its normal press run of a million copies of the standard subway and railroad map. The night map is available free of charge while supplies last at the New York Transit Museum, at Boerum Place & Schermerhorn Street in Downtown Brooklyn, and at the Transit Museum Annex in Grand Central Terminal.

The night map, developed in-house by the MTA, is the same size as the standard map and similarly folds into a handy pocket-sized document. In addition to the folded version, 300 pristine, unfolded press sheets of the night map are available for purchase at the Transit Museum Annex for $20 each.

“The standard subway map depicts morning to evening weekday service,” said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota. “This companion night map will, for the first time, depict service for a particular portion of the day. This is the latest effort we’ve taken to improve the availability of information and detail we provide to our customers.”

The following details the major differences in service shown on the night map, as compared with the standard subway map:

·         Three subway lines (the B, C and Z) and the 42nd Street Shuttle do not operate overnight and are not shown on the map.
·         Five subway lines offer shorter service than usual:
o   The 3 terminates at Times Square.
o   The 5 runs as a shuttle in the Bronx between E. 180 St and Dyre Av
o   The M runs as a shuttle between Myrtle Av, Brooklyn, and Metropolitan Av, Queens.
o   The Q terminates at 57 St/7 Av in Midtown Manhattan.
o   The R runs as a shuttle in Brooklyn between 36 St and 95 St.
·         Six lines make additional stops they don’t make during the daytime.
o   The 2 makes all local stops in Manhattan.
o   The 4 makes all local stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn and is extended to New Lots Av, Brooklyn.
o   The A makes all local stops in Manhattan and Brooklyn; it runs to Far Rockaway but not Lefferts Blvd or Rockaway Park, which are served by shuttle trains.
o   The D runs local via Fourth Av in Brooklyn.
o   The E runs local via Queens Blvd.
o   The N runs local via the Financial District.
·         There is no skip/stop service on the J, which terminates at Chambers St on weekend overnight periods
·         Six subway lines (the 1, 6, 7, F, G, and L) and Franklin Avenue Shuttle run their normal routes as local trains. (There is no 6 or 7 express service.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

New maps under-represent City voters

The proposed maps for the state Senate released today by New York’s legislative task force on redistricting (LATFOR) systematically under-represent voters from New York City, New York World has found.

And they put together this nifty map showing just that. Under the proposed new lines, the average state Senate vote by a New York City resident weighs 7.3 percent less than the average vote cast upstate. The population of almost every district north of Westchester is more 4.5 percent smaller than the average-sized district.
The principle of “one person, one vote” is a cornerstone of American election law, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there must be no more than a 10 percent difference between the largest and smallest districts in a state. But even this margin allows room for manipulation. By creating systematic discrepancies in the sizes of districts, parties can create additional districts in regions that support them and dilute the voting power of regions that favor their opponents.
You can see all of our coverage on the LATFOR maps here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Redistricted Bronx lines for Senate and Assembly (UPDATE)

There's a handful of days that resemble Christmas morning for diehard political fans (filing days, primary elections, general elections), and this is one of those days. The first draft of the state Senate and Assembly lines have been released by the legislative task force (LATFOR).

We'll go through each one in separate posts, which will all be linked from here (and they are all available to download at LATFOR's website).

29th Senate-Jose Serrano Jr.
32nd Senate-Rev. Ruben Diaz
33rd Senate-Gustavo Rivera
34th Senate-Jeff Klein
36th Senate-Ruth Hassell-Thompson

As for the Assembly, you can look at the individual maps here, but I'm not going to both going through each one because there are 11 of them and they don't drastically change. However, I have been able to speak with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who briefly talked about his district and the Bronx as a whole:
81st Assembly-Jeffrey Dinowitz

If you love or hate these lines and want to tell LATFOR about it, Tuesday will be your chance.

And here are the citywide maps of both the Senate and Assembly:
There is mostly just minor adjustments for the Bronx Assembly districts. The biggest change is Peter Rivera's district would no longer be the 76th, it would now be the 87th. The new 76th ends up on the Upper East Side somehow. Oh LATFOR, you and your crazy ways.

Here's what the Assembly looks like now:
Jump below for the Update, the Senate lines, as well as a response blasting the Senate lines.

The proposed 81st Assembly district (UPDATE)

Maps of Assembly districts drawn by the legislative redistricting task force (LATFOR) have been sent to the relevant Assemblymember. We've reached out to the Bronx members and are waiting to hear back to get each one. Here's the first we've gotten, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz's 81st. 

UPDATE: All the lines are out now on the LATFOR site, and you can check another post on Bronx Press Politics to see our breakdowns of the Senate. 
The proposed lines add the rest of Van Cortlandt Village, the Jerome Park Reservoir, Clinton HS, Bronx HS of Science, Harris Field and Lehman College, much of Kingsbridge Heights, the four buildings from the Marble Hill Houses that are in the Bronx, and returns the one election district at the bottom of Riverdale (2400 and 2500 Johnson Ave) that was taken away in 2002. Several election districts in Norwood were moved to the 80th Assembly District. The population of the new district is 126,402, a -2.08 percent deviation from the statewide average. The current district has 119,653. 

Every single Bronx AD is within 31 people of one another.

Dinowitz said he absolutely loves this proposed district because it puts nearly all of Community Board 8 in his district. It also gives him Lehman College and Bronx High School of Science, both which he attended, as well as a junior high school that goes by a different name now. It also has a good portion of Kingsbridge Heights, which is the neighborhood he grew up in.

In terms of the overall Bronx Assembly districts, "they're very reasonably drawn," he said. There aren't many "zig zags" but instead you see a lot of straight lines that keep communities together.

"To the extent that you can not divide neighborhoods," LATFOR did a good job with the Bronx.

For your consideration, here is Dinowitz's district as it looks now, drawn up in 2002:

Proposed 36th Senate District, Ruth Hassell-Thompson

Here is LATFOR's redistricted lines for the 36th Senate District, occupied by Ruth Hassell-Thompson.

Her district is much more compact now, no longer weaving along the Bronx River Parkway.
And her district as it is now:

Proposed 34th Senate District, Jeff Klein

Here is LATFOR's redistricting of the 34th Senate District, occupied by Jeff Klein. This is one of the more drastic changes for the Bronx. Klein's Westchester portion has been nearly completely destroyed, but the district itself is now actually legal. A rule, that not many people know, does not allow districts to cross county lines in two separate places. Klein's district does that now, but under the proposed lines, his district would run through the Bronx and only goes to Westchester one time.

He gains the Hunts Point Market, all of Riverdale--which previously had three senators--Norwood, and actually makes the connection in the central Bronx. The massive additions in the Bronx, as we reported earlier this week, was to make room for Republicans to gain votes to help win the soon-to-be vacated 37th District in Westchester.
And here is what Klein's district looks like now:

Proposed 33rd Senate District, Gustavo Rivera

Here is LATFOR's redistricting of the 33rd state Senate District, occupied by Gustavo Rivera.

The biggest change is that he loses Jerome Park Reservoir and a significant portion of land all directly below Van Cortlandt Park. That area been taken by state Sen. Jeff Klein, who was pushed farther into the Bronx to give the soon-to-be vacated 37th District seat a better chance to win for Republicans.

Rivera's new district would run much farther south, now having a solid chunk below the Cross Bronx Expressway.
And here is what Rivera's district looks like now:

Proposed 32nd Senate district, Ruben Diaz Sr.

Here is LATFOR's redistrict of the Bronx's 31nd Senate District, currently occupied by Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr.

He loses some waterfront access to state Sen. Jeff Klein, whose district was pushed farther into the Bronx to give the soon-to-be vacant 37th District in Westchester more Republican support. He also loses the Hunts Point Market
And here is what Diaz's old district looked like:

Hundreds protest Lehman High School turnaround plan


Former Bronx teacher and education activist Peter Lamphere
speaks during a rally to save Lehman High School.
THE odds are stacked against them, but more than 200 former and current students, teachers and parents have mounted a fight to keep Herbert H. Lehman High School open.

Clutching an array of posters and wearing black t-shirts emblazoned with the words “Lehman United,” the crowd packed into the school’s auditorium last night to rally against its closure.

Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial proposal, 33 of the city’s most troubled schools will close in June before being renamed and reopened three months later with the same students.

The radical proposal, which was announced during this month’s State of the City address, will also remove more than 1,500 teachers—up to half of the faculty—from these schools.

The aggressive strategy was developed after negotiations over teacher evaluations broke down, causing the state to withhold $30 million in federal funding from the city.

Of the 33 schools under fire, 10 are located in the Bronx including M.S. 391 in Tremont, Banana Kelly High School in Longwood and Fordham Leadership Academy in Belmont.

Proposed Senate District 29, Jose Serrano Jr.

Here is LATFOR's proposed new district for state Sen. Jose Serrano Jr., who currently represents the 28th district. It appears that by adding a 63rd district, some people's district number has changed.

In terms of the Bronx, just some minor adjustments it looks like. But he does pick up some prime real estate in Central Park. Enjoy having one of the most economically diverse districts on the planet, Jose.
And here is his district as it is now:

New Poll! What would you like to see in a new development?

We just put up a new poll (left sidebar), which stems from the 230th Street development. The city is currently examining proposals, which you can read about here. Beyond voting, considering leaving comments as to what you'd like to see in the space (and why!) either at this post or at the story we've linked to.

LATFOR meeting in the Bronx this Tuesday

As the maps designed by the legislative task force (LATFOR) continue to trickle out, there will be more and more debate over whether or not they were done fairly.

And if you have a comment on the lines and would like you voice to be heard, Tuesday, Jan. 31 will be the day to do it in the Bronx.

At 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, LATFOR will be at the Bronx Museum of the Arts to listen to constituents' and elected officials' ideas of the proposed lines. Unfortunately, we won't be able to attend due to a scheduling conflict, but we'll do our best to report back the main concerns expressed at the meeting.

At the first LATFOR meeting in the Bronx last year, residents complained about their neighborhoods being represented by multiple elected officials and asked they be consolidated into one. For example, the neighborhood association for Mosholu Parkway is represented by three different Assembly members. Judging by the only map we have thus far, it looks like they may have narrowed it down to two. Similarly, Riverdale is represented by three state Senators. Based on insider information, state Sen. Jeff Klein may now have all of the neighborhood.

Mostly, people at the first LATFOR meeting discussed congressional lines, which may not come out for a few more weeks. They mostly asked for either a black district or Latino district, which could combine parts of Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester counties.

2012 LATFOR Statewide Hearing Schedule -- Second Round

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Five Bronx post offices saved, 12 others still at risk

Here's a story from the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

By Brendan McHugh 

The Bronx went postal on the United States Postal Service when 17 post offices were being studied for closure last year. Through rallies and community meetings, along with sending thousands of letters, five of the 17 have been saved so far. 

Fieldston, Einstein in Co-op City, Castle Hill, Hunts Point and West Farms Post Offices have all been removed from the list, the USPS announced last week. 

Robert Gratz, far right, held a successful
rally to save the Fieldston Post Office.
“I am so glad USPS has come to realize what the community and I have known all along: these post offices are much more than a place to drop off mail; they provide the essential services that residents rely on every day,” said Rep. Joseph Crowley, who has four of the offices in his district. 

Rep. Eliot Engel, who has the Fieldston office in his district, was thrilled at the news as well. 

“It is also encouraging that the Postal Service is listening to the rising chorus of reason. The Postal Service is facing difficult times but cutting off service to its customers is not the way out. The Post Office cannot fix its financial problems by making access to post offices more difficult and inconvenient.  This is a business plan designed for failure,” Rep. Engel said, noting that the Mount Vernon office in his district has also been saved. 

230th Street shopping plans come into focus

Here is our headlining story from this week's Riverdale Review.

By Brendan McHugh 

The city’s Economic Development Corporation is choosing between five bids for the 230th Street development, ranging from a single supermarket to a 16-story mixed-use development with 200 units of housing. 

The development will rise near the corner of 230th Street and Broadway, sandwiched between the elevated No. 1 subway and the Major Deegan Expressway. 

A source close to the project laid out basic details of the plans and stressed that they were in no particular order. 

The first, which the source dubbed the “Foodtown murderer,” is a 72,000-square-foot supermarket with 300 parks spaces on the roof. Foodtown, which was recently renovated, is directly across the street. 

Another proposal is a 32,000-square-foot, two story building with a supermarket on the ground floor. The second floor would be office space, and 90 parking spots would be available at grade level. 

A third project has 133,000 square feet of retail space as a two-story building. It would be a mix of businesses, such as a specialty grocer and national chains. There would also be 130 parking spaces below grade. 

It's official: Boycotter leader just another politician

Another story from this week's Riverdale Review.

By Brendan McHugh 

Stanton is running for City Council.
Cliff Stanton, a Van Cortlandt Village resident who is involved in the boycott of the Riverdale Review, has opened a campaign committee with the Board of Elections to run for City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell’s seat in 2013. 

Koppell is term limited, forcing him to vacate the seat. 

Stanton also runs United Snacks, which has a relationship with the Nuts4Nuts street vendors. Locally, he is involved with the parents associations of P.S. 24 and Bronx High School of Science and is the treasurer of the Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corporation. 

During a brief phone interview, Stanton said he is not inclined to speak with this newspaper. 

"This is not the best time to have the conversation. Frankly, I'm not going to have a whole lot to say," he said. 

When asked if he would continue to boycott our newspaper, he would not say. "Listen, we have nothing to say to each other. I have nothing against you personally, OK?" he replied. 

And when pressed further, he stuck to his guns. "I have nothing to say to you." 

After trying to change topics, asking what he would bring to office, he abruptly hung up. 

Stanton did speak with the Observer, blaming the Bronx Democratic Party for spreading political cynicism. “I’m certain that it is responsible. I’m not opposing individuals here, but I’m opposing this culture, and I’m holding them responsible for perpetuating this culture,” he said. 

Hebrew Home explores options for expansion on Palisade Ave.

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

By Brendan McHugh

Reingold (right) and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
listen to constituent complaints at the Hebrew Home.
The Hebrew Home is planning to add new buildings for more senior services on the adjacent 14-acre plot, recently sold to them by the Passionist Fathers of Riverdale. 

A meditation center, possibly an underground garage and a consolidated entrance are also preliminary ideas Hebrew Home president and CEO Daniel Reingold said he has for the future. 

The land was bought for $16 million about two months ago from the Passionists, who could no longer afford the land with increased expenses, fewer retreat guests and fewer new recruits. 

“We are excited about this opportunity,” Reingold said Friday. “We think it will be something the community will be proud of. We hope to involve the community early on in discussions about what we’re going to try and do.” 

He added that the Hebrew Home will go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which requires months of public review and community involvement. 

“The Hebrew Home is considered among the best, if not the best nursing institution in the country,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. “Increasing their ability to provide services to seniors is a good thing.” 

Reingold said he was excited to work with the community, noting that the Hebrew Home was the first institution in the area to submit a ‘master plan’ to the community board. 

“This is very premature, but our plan would be to demolish the existing structures and replace them with an environmentally sound green building,” he said, calling the larger building an “eyesore.” 

State of the Union response

Rep. Eliot Engel issued the following statement after President Obama’s State of the Union address. Make the jump to read U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's statement. 
“The President’s speech tonight was essentially a strategic plan to bolster the American Dream – which is slipping out of reach for far too many Americans.  President Obama cited the fear of losing out on the American Dream for low- to middle-income families as the reason he sought public office.  As the son of an ironworker growing up in public housing, and educated in New York City Public Schools and at the City University of New York, this struck close to home for me.  I was afforded the opportunity to one day serve my country in the United States Congress.  As a parent, we always seek better opportunities for our children than we had ourselves.  That should be the case for all American families.
“Our economy has come a long way since the dark days back in 2007-08 when we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs each month.  We cannot ignore 22 consecutive months of growth, and over three million private sector jobs added since the President’s first State of the Union address.  Recovery has been slower than anyone wants, but the fact remains our economy is getting better.

“We must return to the days where both parties worked together for the good of the country.  Compromise cannot continue to be a dirty word.  Our challenges are far too great for us to continue self-defeating partisanship.  Our goals should be for the betterment of the American people, not cold-hearted electoral politics. 

“I was pleased to hear the President sees energy as one of the main avenues for shoring up the American Dream.  Clean energy investments created tens of thousands of good paying jobs in recent years. Reducing pollution will also protect the health of all Americans by, cutting down the rates of serious diseases.  Promoting alternative fuel sources will help lead our country to a future free from dependence on foreign governments, many of which are hostile to our interests.  Oil production has never been higher, and Democrats must remember we must avoid saying no all of the time and find other ways to produce domestic energy sources. 

“Far too many families can barely keep pace with their mortgage payments and household expenses.  Our focus must remain on jobs and the economy, and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.  However, we are sadly mistaken if we lose sight of the crisis our public education system faces.  We must reform No Child Left Behind, or every American will be left behind.   We must fix our borders and reform our immigration system.  We cannot forget that immigration done correctly has made our country the successful melting pot it is today.  We must also finally come to grips that health care in this nation is a right and not a privilege. We have much more that needs to be accomplished to keep America great, and enable more people to take part in the American Dream. 

“I am hopeful that 2012 will be more productive than 2011, when manufactured crises dominated our national rhetoric.  Americans expect more from their government, and we should demand it of ourselves.  We must show that we can still come together to preserve and expand the American Dream.”

Gizmo will direct you to empty parking spots

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

By Brendan McHugh 

DOT hopes the senors can withstand the
New York weather and traffic conditions.
Need a parking spot? There may soon be an app for that. 

If the technology proves durable, drivers in the Bronx will be the first to find parking spots by checking their smartphones. 

Hockey puck sized sensors were drilled into the streets near Arthur Avenue last week in 177 parking spaces on both sides of 187th Street in Belmont. If they can survive the harsh weather conditions of New York for the next three months, motorists will be able to download a free application on their phones to find vacant parking spots. 

"We are making it easier for drivers to park. We are actually piloting new technology that will bring parking information into the palm of your hand," said Janette Sadik-Khan, the NYC DOT Commissioner. 

“There are benefits, not only to drivers but to the surrounding community,” she said. “You’re relieving the congestion and pollution associated with those people who are cruising around looking for parking.” 

The app will tell drivers if there are a high number of open spaces, if it is beginning to fill up, or if there are virtually no spots available. 

Sadik-Khan said they haven’t figured out how drivers will use the app while driving; using a mobile device not physically connected to the car is illegal in New York. 

“Right now we’re just testing the equipment,” she said. “The parking app has worked in other cities that have done it.” 

This week in the Riverdale Review & Bronx Press

As always, here are the stories in this week's (Jan. 26 - Feb. 1) issues of the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.

230th Street shopping plans come into focus
Hebrew Home explores options for expansion on Palisade Ave.
Not much support for expanding alternate-side parking on Henry Hudson Parkway
Community awaits details on plan for the skating rink that won't die
Objections raised to charter expansion
Delays plague restaurant construction
Fieldston post office is saved but 12 Bronx facilities still at risk
It's official: Boycott leader just another politician
No Child Left Behind: The death star of American education (Op/Ed by Diane Ravitch)

Also in the Bronx Press:
Gizmo will direct you to empty parking spots

And here is the online print version of the Riverdale Review:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Diaz hopes to see Grand Concourse become a historic district

During the mid-20th century, if you lived on the Grand Concourse, that meant you 'made it.' Today, you're still rewarded with classic architecture, a vibrant commercial district and loads of history, and that's why Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is asking the City Council to designate the Concourse a historic district.

Here is Diaz's testimony to the Council subcommittee on landmarks and maritime uses from today:
Last year, I applauded the designation of a Grand Concourse Historic District by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Center, and now I urge its approval by the New York City Council.

Designation as a New York City Historic District will complement the Grand Concourse’s already established listing on the National Register of Historic Places. In the future, I hope to see this historic district extended to match the more extensive national register boundaries.

This Grand Concourse Historic District is significantly intact, and contains many notable examples of art deco and other classic apartment houses. As I mentioned in my testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the threats to buildings on the Grand Concourse are in the details. Poorly done renovations and building management with short vision are carving away at the inherent value of this illustrious built environment. As an historic district, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission can guard against ill conceived and undesirable solutions that threaten proper maintenance of these buildings.

The area of the new district has been richly added to with the new Yankee Stadium and Gateway Center. The City itself has invested greatly in the area with infrastructure improvements, including improvements to both the concourse roadway and park system. The lower Grand Concourse has also been re-zoned to create a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income community with new housing, waterfront open space, and an array of retail services. 

Its status as an historic district is the finishing touch to the revival of the entire area, and I urge its support. Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, January 23, 2012

LATFOR lines dropping soon

The southern end of Oppenheimer's district.
The new lines reportedly give the district Eastchester.
The first public draft of the new state legislative lines will (probably) come out later today, drawn by LATFOR, the agency charged with the project.

We haven't seen a map yet, but from sources we've spoken to, state Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer's (D) district will be expanded to include republican-heavy Eastchester. State Sen. Jeff Klein (IDC) will be giving up Eastchester and taking over all of the Bronx's Riverdale, which current is split between him and two other senators.

Oppenheimer is retiring this year, so Republicans hope by adding Eastchester to the district, they'll be able to snag the seat away from the Democrats.

From what one of our Democratic sources pointed out, if Klein had anything to do with this change, that would mean he has directly helped the Republicans expand their slim majority. Klein's creation of the Independent Democratic Conference and his involvement with the Republican party last year has already irked Democrats, so this move certainly wouldn't be of any help to mend relations.

Of course, this is just the first public draft, and there's also a chance Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoes the lines altogether and sends them to be drawn by a court, which could create chaos.

Council district 11 gets its first entry in Cliff Stanton (UPDATE)

Stanton is running for City Council.
Cliff Stanton, a Van Cortlandt Village resident who runs United Snacks (which partly owns those Nuts4Nuts street vendors), has opened a campaign committee with the Board of Elections to run for District 11. The seat will be vacated by City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, who is term limited.

Stanton is involved with the parents associations of PS 24 and Bronx High School of Science.

He's also leading the boycott of the Riverdale Review.

Ari Hoffnung, a deputy comptroller for John Liu, has a committee from races years ago (that has $76,000), but when we last spoke to him in December, he wouldn't say whether or not he will run for the seat in 2013.

Maybe ironically, Hoffnung's campaign received $180 from Stanton in 2008 that Hoffnung could use for this race.

We have been able to speak with Koppell, and he said he is unsure how involved he will be in the race, only saying that he will be retiring from public service.

We'll have updates soon, so make sure to come back for more information.

UPDATE: We spoke to Stanton over the phone, but he said he wasn't going to speak with the Riverdale Review. 

"This is not the best time to have the conversation. Frankly, I'm not going to have a whole lot to say," he said.

When asked if he would continue to boycott our newspaper, he would not say. "Listen, we have nothing to say to each other. I have nothing against you personally, OK?" he replied.

And when pressed further, he stuck to his guns. "I have nothing to say to you."

We tried to change the question, asking him what he would bring to office, but he hung up on us.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quinn on running for mayor, gambling and the living wage

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was on, what we're going to start calling, the 'pre-campaign' trail today. She brought her father along to the Hebrew Home for the Aged, and according to this 2008 Times article, when Papa Quinn is around, it's for the campaign.

Her and City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell spoke to around 150 residents of the Home, mostly about the power of seniors to fight budget cuts and the vitality that the senior community has (though we counted at least 10 seniors fast asleep during the event).

Quinn and Koppell speak to the crowd at the Home.
That's Papa Lawrence Quinn in the background, in brown.
This is the second visit Quinn's made to Riverdale in the last two months, and we couldn't remember the last time she was up here before that. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was also up here twice in the last month on his own pre-campaign trail.

One member of the Home, while they were waiting for her to arrive, was overheard saying, "She's going to lose a lot of votes; it's not very nice making us wait." 

While they were waiting, Quinn and Koppell were touring the Hebrew Home's newest technology, the nations first low-vision living area, developed by Rensselaer Institute of Technology (RIT).

But Quinn seemed to win over most of the audience once she did arrive, taking questions from the audience until no one had anymore. They ranged from the hyperlocal, requesting W. 261st Street be paved, to the citywide, on whether or not she will run for mayor, to the statewide, on gambling.

As for running for mayor, "I won’t let my father have the microphone because he’ll tell you the answer to that question," she said. "You know, it’s something that I’m thinking about. I haven’t declared yet but it’s certainly something I’m thinking about.”

A member of the audience also questioned her about legalizing gambling (because whose grandparents don't like to gamble!? Stereotypes!). She ducked the question, but we caught up with her afterwards and got a decent answer, though still no commitment from her for either side of the issue.
Quinn speaking to Home residents.
The Home's CEO Daniel Reingold is to her left.
"I'm not a huge fan of gambling, its generally a regressive way to raise money," she said. "That said, if it's going to exist in New York, then I want it to exist in the whole state and then we can decide what we want to do on the city. I wouldn't want the city excluded from it. I'm sympatheic to Governor Cuomo's situation of having to generate revenues."

We also asked her about the living wage and whether or not she thinks it could become broader with a mayor who is more favorable to it (Bloomberg may veto the bill). “I think the key thing for creating more jobs at a living wage in the retail sector is for the Economic Development Corporation to do what L.A. and San Francisco's have done," she said. Both city's have adopted an aggressive policy "where they’re always negotiating towards [a living wage] and with that, you need a mayor who believes in it," she said.

Could the Bronx get chopped up even more?

Unfortunately, that's not a clever pun for a story about Fresh Direct, the Hunts Point produce market or any other food related issue in the Bronx. It's the thought of another New York State senator getting a small piece of the Bronx, while the majority of his district remains outside the borough, causing the Bronx to get the short end of the stick, again.

This, from City and State's daily 'Heard Around Town':
Meanwhile, controversial Councilman Dan Halloran apparently formed a state fundraising committee yesterday that could lay the groundwork for a long-rumored challenge to Democratic Sen. Tony Avella. There is talk about extending the district into more conservative Bronx neighborhoods, and Bronx Republican Chairman Jay Savino is said to be on board with the idea.
Could Tony Avella's Queens district enter the Bronx?
This is the first we've heard about it, but checking with some of our Bronx insiders, the possibility that Avella's district goes to the east Bronx is highly unlikely. The only area Queens Republicans could want of the Bronx would be places like Throggs Neck, Country Club and maybe places like Morris Park and Westchester.

However, this would mean they would have to start messing with Sen. Jeff Klein's district.

"Klein has lived in Morris Park his whole life and has had a very good working relationship with the Republicans this last year as he formed his Independent Democratic Conference," a source in the state Senate said. "I doubt very seriously that this is being seriously considered."

If this is being considered, it would be a slap in the face to Bronxites. Only two state senate districts are in the Bronx 100 percent: Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. and Gustavo Rivera. Four other districts go into another county at some point, which has angered constituents and even some elected officials. At the LATFOR (the government committee charged with redistricting) Bronx public hearing last year, some spoke about creating districts that better represent the Bronx and don't go off into other counties.

If Republicans did chip away at Klein's district, it would only make it more difficult for them to win there when/if Klein decides to run for Congress. The district was first gerrymandered for Guy Velella, a republican, and includes highly conservative areas of Westchester County. It's much more likely that if the Republicans would take away an area of Klein's district to better their chances of beating a Democrat, it would be in the north. This would give them a better shot at stealing a seat from the Democrats if they can win soon-to-be-retired Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer's Westchester seat.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rivera raked in $83K over last six months

Rivera has had a successful fundraising period.
Bronx State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, elected to office in 2010 after defeating the embattled Pedro Espada Jr. in the 33rd District, has raised a solid $83,121.60 in the last six months, according to the most recent campaign filings with the New York State Board of Elections.

Looking at this handy spreadsheet, put together by Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), Rivera is only outpaced in the Bronx by fundraising heavyweight state Sen. Jeff Klein and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who is toying with the idea of running for a citywide office. Diaz raised $90,880.13 and Klein raked in over $300,000.

We took a minute to chat with Rivera, who said the successful fundraising has been another reminder that he works for the people.

"I think that’s definitely very humbling," he said. Rivera added that this success is reminiscent of the election, when a larger-than-expected amount of people came out to support him.

"This is a very big show of support that im very appreciative of. It reminds me of all the people I'm working for--the folks in my district."

Rivera did spend just over $39,000 this period, giving him a total balance of $64,964.24 when including funds he already had.

He said he hasn't heard any rumblings of a challenger for the Democratic primary, but did say that "I want to make sure I have the strongest filing possible so I can continue to represent the Bronx."

As for the primary itself: "We don’t even know when the primary will be. We have to figure that out up here [in Albany]."

We put the spreadsheet below the jump. It was slowing down the whole blog.

Throggs Neck or Throgs Neck?

The Throgs Neck Bridge, with one 'G.'
Photo courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels.
"There's always been a controversy," Bronx Historian Lloyd Ultan says of the preference to use one 'G' or two in the name.

The bridge is Throgs Neck--one 'G'--that's for certain. But for fans of history and the way things used to be, Throggs Neck is the name of the community.

The name Throggs is originally named after John Throckmorton, who came to the Bronx in 1642 with a party to settle down. However, a Native American uprising started almost immediately, and they were saved by a passing English boat. The Native Americans slaughtered their cattle and burned their houses.

"But the name of Throckmorton was stuck to that neck of land," Ultan said.

Over time, people simplified the Throckmorton name, eventually having Throggsmorton, which then eventually became Throggs. "Some maps labled it Frogs Neck," Ultan said.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the older, more established people in the area spelled it with two 'G's. Some businesses, and even the area's post office, use two. But there were people who, for no reason in particular, had shortened Throggs to Throgs.

Today, the reason so many people only use one 'G' is because of, but who else, 'master builder' Robert Moses.

When the Throgs Neck Bridge opened in 1961, Moses used the one 'G' because he wanted to save money with sign costs. "It would take less paint to make all the signs leading to the bridge," Ultan said.

After consideration, Diaz Jr. jumps on board with Ferry Point Park golf course

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. didn't come right out praising or damning the Donald Trump deal to bring a Jack Nicklaus golf course to the South Bronx. He sat back, considered the options, and finally chose to praise the deal.

“After extensive discussions and meetings between myself, my office and the Trump Organization over the past week; in addition to hearing from local elected officials, business and community leaders in the area, I have decided to support their concession for a golf course at Ferry Point Park," he said in a statement released Wednesday, Jan. 18.

“The Trump Organization has answered my concerns on this project, and has vowed to be a good neighbor to the people of the Bronx. This includes commitments on local hiring, outreach to our business community, both in the surrounding neighborhood and across the borough; and vital community access to the golf course for both young people and Bronx residents alike, among other points."

The reason this will be a good project for the Bronx, Diaz says, is because Trump is committing a significant amount of money to the Bronx, and having a PGA Tour quality course will enhance the borough's reputation nationally and internationally (No one exactly equates golf with crime and poverty).

City Councilman James Vacca came out praising the project yesterday, after the city's Franchise and Concession Review Committee approved the project.

“A patient and appreciative Throggs Neck community has reason to celebrate today!" Vacca exclaimed. "Although it was initially proposed 32 years ago, a vote by the Franchise and Concession Review Committee means that Ferry Point Golf Course is finally full steam ahead. This project has gone from one misstep to another, and had many observers truly wondering whether this course would ever be finished."

In 1979, as Chairman of Bronx Community Board 10, Vacca was involved in creating this project. "Today, as the District 13 Councilman, I am seeing the reality. It’s been a long fight and a long wait, but let me be clear, there is no reason for any further delay and my community will accept none."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

From one amigo to another: Diaz Sr. wants to hand over power to the IDC to regain Senate control

Diaz would like to see the Senate Democrats hand over
leadership positions to the IDC to help regain the majority.
State Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. really brought it this time with his "What you should know" essay.

He says the Democrats in the state senate should give state Sen. Jeff Klein and the rest of his Independent Democratic Conference members leadership positions if they agree to come back to the Democratic Party.
They should start negotiating right away with Senator Jeff Klein and his three Independent Members – even to the point, if necessary, for the New York State Senate to transfer Senator Klein’s leadership position and the leadership positions of his Members to the Democratic Conference.
Everyone needs to put aside all personal differences – and pride – and do with Senator Klein and his Members as was done with Pedro Espada when the Democrats wanted him back.
Diaz, as most remember, was one of the 'four amigos' that held the Democratic Conference hostage in 2009 after jumping to the Republican side. They only returned after they were given leadership positions, with head honcho Pedro Espada Jr. becoming Majority Leader. 

Diaz won't have the full support of his fellow Dems, however. A Democratic senate insider tells us that they will not be toyed with like they were with the Amigos. 

"Senator Diaz does not speak for his colleagues," the source said. "We will not allow the Democratic Conference or the state Senate to be taken hostage by another four amigos who care more about power than they do about the future of New York State."

A message was left with the IDC's spokesman as of Wednesday evening. 

Jump below for Diaz's full statement (the bold is his):