Thursday, July 26, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's issue (July 26 - August 1) of the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

 Bronx residents flocked to Van Cortlandt Park for New York
Philharmonic's 2012 Concerts in the Park series on July 17.
* Parents demand restoration of PS 24 music program > Parents at PS 24 have stepped up their efforts to restore the school's cherished music program and are preparing to take their fight to the Tweed Courthouse. A group of more than 70 concerned parents and residents last week sent a letter to Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott pleading with him to save the school's music department.
* Eleanor McGrath, former school board member, passes away > Eleanor McGrath passed away surrounded by her loving family on the afternoon of Sunday, July 22 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was a lifelong Bronx resident and settled in Riverdale in 1954 after marrying Philip McGrath.
* Local activists protest anti-Israel billboard in Metro-North station > A provocative anti-Israel billboard greets locals as they start and end their daily commutes at the Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale Metro-North train stations. Described by Isaac Geld as "a real poke in the eye," the ad uses a series of four color-coded maps to illustrate a progressive "Palestinian loss of land" from 1946 through 2010 and to support the statement, "4.7 million Palestinians are classified by the U.N. a refugees."
The controversial anti-Israel billboard
* PS 24 ratings fizzle while PS 81 soars > Satisfaction ratings at PS 24 have plummeted, Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy has lifted its game and PS 81 has retained its title as the local school darling among its parents and teachers. Results from the fourth NYC School Survey, released by the Department of Education this week, reveals Riverdale's three schools recorded mixed results. PS 24 was the only school to record a drop in all four assessed categories--academic expectations, communication, engagement, and safety and respect.
* Few local kids excel on state tests > Just 1 percent of Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy students exceeded the state's proficiency level on this year's standardized English test. A special analysis of data from the state's English and math exams found results varied across Riverdale's three public schools when the number of students scoring at Level 4 was taken into account.
* Famous local figure hooks up with the Glee gang > Archie Andrew, one of Riverdale's most famous residents, will be introduced to the cast of Glee in an eagerly awaited collaboration announced by the comic book's publishers. Archie, along with Betty, Veronica, Dilton and Jughead, are slated to meet their match in the crew from McKinley High in an upcoming storyline to hit bookstore shelves next year.
* Koppell reports progress > Department of Transportation crews are currently repaving a section of the Henry Hudson Parkway service road, following a request from Councilman G. Oliver Koppell. Koppell lobbied for the measure after constituents complained about the poor conditions along the busy road, particularly between West 227th and West 232nd streets.

And, in the Bronx Press:
* Bloomberg forces new homeless shelter in Wakefield > City officials are forging ahead with plans to transform the Muller Army Reserve Center into a 200-bed homeless shelter and have negotiated a $91 million contract with a social advocacy group. The Mayor's Office of Contract Services blindisded Bronx residents and held a public hearing on Thursday, July 19, to discuss a proposal to award The Doe Fund, a $91.27 million contract. According to the negotiated contract, the social advocacy group would be charged with developing and operating a "stand-alone transitional residence for homeless adults." The proposed agreement would be retroactively dated and run from July 1, 2012, to December 31, 2033, authorities said.
* MTA caves to politicos and community to restore transit service > Relief is finally on the way for thousands of Bronx bus and Metro-North commuters. As part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's sweeping $29.5 million package, weekend bus service on the Bx34 will be restored, while service on the Bx13 will be extended from East 161st Street to the Gateway Mall. Officials will also establish a brand-new bus route that connects the booming neighborhood of the South Bronx to the commercial areas of Hunts Point.
* Cabrera fights mayor on proposed super-sized ban > Bronx merchants fear their businesses will be driven to the ground if the city approves plans to ban the sale of super-sized sugary drinks. Merchants raised their concerns about shrinking profit margins to Councilman Fernando Cabrera during an impromptu neighborhood walking tour around University Heights last Thursday. Cabrera said many owners pleaded with him to fight the health policy. Although many acknowledged it was proposed with good intentions, they said the plan would adversely affect their bottom line.
* City unveils latest healthy eating plan in The Bronx > Fresh produce will be shifted to grocery entrance areas and water will be displayed at eye level in hundreds of coolers as part of the city's latest healthy eating plan to debut in The Bronx. Authorities unveiled the Shop Healthy NYC Initiative during a news conference outside the C-Town supermarket on Crescent Avenue in Fordham last Wednesday. Under the voluntary pilot program, bodega and supermarket operators will be asked to display a range of healthy foods including fresh fruits and vegetables in prime areas like entrances and checkout aisles, to relegate junk food to the back of their store and to post signs identifying nutritious choices.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's issue (July 19 - July 25) of the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.

* State test scores a mixed bag for local schools > Local elementary and middle school students posted mixed results on this year's standardized tests. Data form the state's English and math exams, released by the New York State Education Department on Tuesday, shows while proficiency levels rose at PS 24 and MS/HS 141, fewer students at PS 81 were performing at grade level in English. PS 24 emerged as the clear winner in the battle of the two local elementary schools, with nearly 84 percent deemed proficient in math, up from 81 percent last year. In English, 75 percent met or exceeded the state's bar for proficiency, compared to 71 percent in 2011.
The massage parlor suspected
of serving as a prostitution front
* Second massage parlor could be out of business > Law enforcement officials are seeking to shutter Riverdale's only remaining massage parlor after an employee was busted for soliciting sexual services yet again. In March, undercover NYPD officers swooped on Riverdale Skin & Body Care, a massage parlor located at 3733 Riverdale Avenue, but news of the bust emerged only this week. Commanding officer of the 50th Precinct Captain Kevin Burke said Kisook Kim, 35 from Queens, was arrested and charged with prostitution during the covert operation on March 2. Authorities allege she agreed to perform sexual intercourse with a client for $140. The second undercover sting was carried out shortly after two employees were first nabbed for prostitution in February.
* Espaillat will run for Manhattan seat > After narrowly losing to Rep. Charles Rangel. Adriano Espaillat has hit the ground running in a bid to seek re-election to the New York State Senate. The elected official began campaigning outside subway stations on the Upper West Side on Tuesday, just days after his campaign staff submitted 4,238 petitions to secure his place on the ballot. Under newly drawn political boundaries, the 31st Senate District will no longer include parts of Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil.
* Retired priests eye expansion of residence > Riverdale is set to become a whole lot holier. The Archdiocese of New York has unveiled preliminary plans for a major expansion of the John Cardinal O'Connor Clergy Residence for retired priests on 5655 Arlington Avenue. Under the proposal, which is subject to approval from the City Planning Commission, a new two-story 27,000 square-foot residence will be built to accommodate up to 25 additional retired priests.
Local war veterans Herb Barret and Don Tannen led efforts
to restore the Memorial Grove in Van Cortlandt Park
* Censorship candidate falls short on fundraising > City Council candidate Cliff Stanton raised less than $33,000 in the first half of 2012, according to the latest campaign disclosure report. Document filed with the Campaign Finance Board on Monday reveal Stanton collected $32,829.89 from January 26 through July 10, thanks in part to contributions from food service companies.
* Memorial Grove is finally opened in Van Cortlandt Park > After a six-year battle, the Memorial Grove in Van Cortlandt Park is officially reopened to the public. The once-beleaguered grove, which sits on the northwestern corner of Van Cortlandt Park, was unveiled by a slew of city officials during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday.
* Riverdale Y hosts youth theater awards > Talented young actors from far and wide will gather in Riverdale this month for the seventh annual National Youth Arts Award ceremony. The Riverdale Y will host this year's Eastern region event on Sunday, July 29, and many award winners won't have far t travel--the Y's own theater troupes, the Riverdale Rising Stars and the Rising Stars Jr., garnered no fewer than eight awards, and the ensembles merited an additional 25 nominiations.
* Local Marine supports stop and frisk > A former Marine from Van Cortlandt Park South has come out with a new video, headed for YouTube, where he defends the NYPD's rights on the stop and frisk issue. He points to two incidents in his life, first being shot in the South Bronx while driving a livery taxi, and more recently, when young punks threw garbage at him in a subway near his home.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Candidate claims dirty politics in Parkchester campaign > The longtime chief of staff to Assemblyman Peter Rivera is charging that his opponent may be using dirty politics in a fight for the seat recently vacated by Rivera. Danny Figueroa came out swinging after a Bangladeshi newspaper incorrectly reported that bronx Democratic County Committee Chairman Assemblyman Carl Heastie had stated that Congressman Joseph Crowley was supporting Figueroa's rival, Luis Supulveda, in the contest.
* Summer madness on Bronx roads > At least six serious crashes in the past week have resulted in the death of several individuals, and others were injured due to speeding, alcohol and reckless or careless driving.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's issue (July 12 - July 18) of the Riverdale Review and Bronx Press.

* State official to probe P.S. 24 music cuts > Dr. Betty A. Rosa, who represent The Bronx on the New York State Board of Regents, has agreed to look into the actions surrounding the elimination of the music program at P.S. 24. She said she intends to ask the State Education Department to make sure the school remains in compliance with regards to arts education.
State Senator Adriano Espaillat at a news conference outside
his campaign headquarters in Inwood on Monday, July 9
* Espaillat concedes congressional race to Rangel; plans next move > The battle for the 13th Congressional District is over, once again, and the Lion of Harlem is heading back to Washington D.C. State Senator Adriano Espaillat officially dropped his lawsuit and conceded defeat to veteran politico Charles Rangel during a press conference in Inwood on July 9. He remained mum on whether he would seek reelection for his state Senate seat, but promised to make an announcement by Wednesday, July 11.
* Koppell pushes budget reform > Major reforms are needed to ensure City Council slush funds are doled out more equitably among the 51 members, according to Councilman G. Oliver Koppell. The local elected official said City Council speaker Christine Quinn currently wields too much power and urged for discretionary monies to be distributed according to a district's needs rather than to officials with the most clout or the closest political ties.
* Property tax abatement for co-ops and condos renewed > Local co-op and condo owners can breathe a sigh of relief now that Albany lawmakers have agreed to renew the city's tax abatement scheme for the fifth time. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, along with the state Assembly and Senate, last week struck an accord to retroactively extend the program, which gives apartment owners significant property tax breaks.
* Two Riverdale groups to receive funds from Borough Hall > The Spuyten Duyvil library branch will receive $125,000 to replace and repair its sidewalks, while Wave Hill will be given $35,000 for a new audio and visual system. The local groups are just two of the 67 Bronx schools, community groups, public parks and housing and economic development projects that will share in nearly $23 million, thanks to a capital funds bonanza. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced on Monday that he secured $22.97 million in capital funding as part of his fiscal year 2013 budget requests.
* Spaces still available at college garage > The lucky residents who snapped up coveted free parking spoys in Manhattan College's Broadway garage have begun filing into the facility. Officials from the Lasalian educational institution said most of the 50 available spaces, which were offered on a first come, first served basis last month, have already been assigned. One space for a handicapped driver is still available, as are a few regular spots.
* Dinowitz obtains Neighborhood Slow Zone around school crossings > City officials have agreed to establish a Neighborhood Slow Zone outside two of Riverdale's public schools in a bid to improve pedestrian safety and reduce speeding. The designation will encompass the stretch of Independence Avenue between West 232nd Street and West 246th Street and will result in he area's speed limit being lowered from the current 30 mph to 20 mph. Speed bumps, road markings, stop signs and other traffic calming measures will also be employed to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and fender-benders.
* New indoor play space opens here > Two Riverdale moms have combined forces to open Kidaroo, Riverdale's first and only indoor play space and enrichment center. The facility, which is located at 3603 Fieldston Road, opened two weeks ago and has already attracted nearly 400 clients. The space caters to children from infancy through age 10 and was born out of a desire to provide local young families with a fun space to congregate and mingle.

Also, in the Bronx Press:
* Mom charged in deaths of two children > A Parkchester mother has been arrested and charged with the deaths of her  two young children after her own failed suicide attempt. Fire officials were called to investigate gas odors coming from a ninth-floor apartment at 1500 Noble Avenue just before midnight on Thursday, July 5. Officials discovered two children, later identified by police as Trevor Noel Jr., 5, and his 4-month-old sister Lillian. who were unresponsive and both were declared dead at the scene. Paramedics removed the children's mother, Lisette Bamenga, 29, an elementary school teacher, and rushed her to Jacobi Hospital for smoke inhalation and slash wounds to both her wrists.
* Club violence leaves one dead, eight wounded > Two incidents in area bars have left one man dead and eight others wounded. Three others were killed and at least four others were wounded in at least five other violent incidents reported across the borough.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

This week's Riverdale Review and Bronx Press

Here are the stories in this week's (July 5 - July 11) issue of the Riverdale Review.

* The day the music died at PS 24 > The fallout continues from PS 24's controversial decision to excess both of its music teachers and shut down its music department. Outraged parents have penned letters to protest the cuts, claiming it was reckless and unnecessary, and that their children will be adversely affected.
State Senator Adriano Espaillat at a press conference outside
a senior center in Washington Heights on Monday, July 2
* Engel wins big; Rangel up in air > An official winner has yet to emerge following last week's five-way 13th Congressional District race. Amid claims of voter suppression, irregular tally counts and ballots not being counted, an attorney for State Senator Adriano Espaillat has filed a lawsuit against the city's Board of Elections. Incumbent Charles Rangel currently leads by a razor-thin margin of 802 votes  with more than 3,00 absentee and affidavit ballots still to be counted. Those are due to be tallied on Thursday, July 5.
* More work on Henry Hudson Bridge > MTA workers are preparing to repair the steel structure underneath the roadway of the bridge. However, before that project begins, a temporary shield has to be built over the course of four weeks starting on Monday, July 9, and that the work will be performed between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Workers cannot work during the day because it is over Metro-North's right of way. As a result, residents in Spuyten Duyvil have been warned they may notice some lights.
* New MTA bus schedules draw mixed results > Planned schedule changes on six bus routes in Riverdale have yielded mixed results for local commuters. Under the revisions, to take effect in September, straphangers who ride the Bx3, Bx7 and Bx10 on weeknights will face a slightly shorter wait for the bus. However, those who take the BxM1 and BxM3 during the morning peak period will endure slightly longer waits.
* Local groups funded by Koppell > Community nonprofit organizations, local groups and public schools will share nearly $5.5 million in discretionary funds from City Hall in the upcoming fiscal year. City Council documents reveal Councilman G. Oliver Koppell was allocated $5 million for capital projects-slightly less than last year-and $500,000 in expenses as part of the new $68.5 billion city budget.
* Chef's Warehouse to expand in Hunts Point > Another food company is planning to expand in the Bronx and some locals aren't too pleased. The Chef's Warehouse, a speciality food service distributor, last week announced they would take over a massive 176,000 square-foot building in Hunts Point as early as next June.

We also have a great photo of the Stella D'oro cookie factory, or what is now left of it. Construction workers have demolished the cherished biscuit plant and are currently removing tons of debris from the site. A shopping mall, anchored by BJ's Wholesale Club, will rise from the ground in its place. The center, dubbed Riverdale Crossing, is scheduled to open in October 2013.

That's how the cookie crumbles: The former Stella D'oro cookie factory has been razed
and will make way for a shopping mall to be anchored by BJ's Wholesale Club.

And, in the Bronx Press:
* More than 8,500 union ConEd employees were locked out of plants across the city as contract negotiations broke down after a midnight deadline on Saturday, June 30. The workers are now picketing outside plants across the city as some 5,000 managers perform the emergency repairs needed to keep the power flowing.

PS Happy belated July 4th! To the right is a photo of local Korean war veteran Herb Barret placing US flags at each of the 40 plaques at the Memorial Grove in the lead-up to the birthday celebrations. Barret had spent the past six years fighting for the grove's refurbishment and finally got the beleaguered memorial finished in late May.