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VIDEO–Yankee Fans Bring in the Season

Posted in Multimedia, Southern Bronx, Sports3 Comments

Child struck at ‘terrible’ intersection

By Ryan Tracy and Dan Lieberman

Word that four year-old Joshua Delarosa was still alive came as good news Tuesday to folks familiar with the intersection at 230th Street and Broadway, but news of another accident in the area was no surprise.

Yolanda Ellerbe, 43, stood near the site of the accident that left Delarosa in critical condition at New York Presbyterian Hospital Columbia Monday as a pair of crossing guards in reflective vests tried, often in vein, to hold off drivers cutting through the crosswalks. Ellerbe called the intersection “terrible.”

Near 230th Street and Broadway, where a car accident injured a four year-old Bronx resident Monday morning, caution tape marked the site of the crash.

Near 230th Street and Broadway, where a car accident injured a four year-old Bronx resident Monday morning, caution tape marked the site of the crash. (Ryan Tracy/Bronx Ink)

Between 1995 and 2005, 19 crashes occurred at the location, according to, a website run by pedestrian advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. There were two pedestrian injuries at the same intersection last year, according to the city Department of Transportation.  Another injury occurred there in 2007, but none were reported in 2008 and 2009.

In 2005, a man in a wheelchair was killed after an SUV hit him at the intersection and dragged him 50 yards.  Another pedestrian was killed at the same intersection in 1999, according to

“There’s too many schools around here, they need to do something about the (traffic) lights,” said Ellerbe, who worked with Delarosa’s family at a Head Start Program in the Marble Hill public housing buildings next to the intersection.  Delarosa’s mother, Romula Fernandez, was walking him to day care on Monday morning when a swerving livery cab knocked over a nearby traffic sign.  The sign fell and hit the child.

Other observers echoed Ellerbe’s concerns about safety.

“This street, the cars, they running fast,” said Jose Avelar, who can see the intersection from his nearby barber shop.  “There’s something every week.”

After the crash, a nearby crossing guard lifted a traffic sign off Delarosa’s body.  The driver of the cab, who turned to avoid a city Department of Environmental Protection truck “could have run over (Delarosa).  He could have crushed him,” said the crossing guard, who asked to remain anonymous because she was not supposed to speak with the media.

The crossing guard, who has been working with the New York Police Department for 11 years, said she was nearly hit by the sign.  Her navy raincoat still had yellow stains on the sleeve from the spot where a street sign had fallen against it.  She quickly grabbed the heavy sign and surprised even herself with her strength.

“I’m still amazed I did that,” she recalled.

As rain fell, cars, buses and trucks rolled through from five directions.  Schoolchildren, mothers with strollers, people in wheelchairs and dozens of pedestrians walked from side to side, hiding behind steel pillars as vehicles rushed by and a subway train rumbled overhead.

Delarosa’s mother was also injured in the accident, but was discharged from the St. Barnabus Medical Center emergency room Tuesday, said a hospital spokesman.

Ellerbe said she had spoken to Delarosa’ mother Tuesday afternoon and she had reported Delarosa was “doing a little better.”  Ellerbe’s colleagues at Little Angels Head Start expect Delarosa to attend pre-school there this fall.

Last year, the mother had regularly dropped off his older sister at the center, and it was clear young Joshua wanted to go to school too.  “He would come in in the morning and go right in the classroom and sit in the chair immediately,”  Ellerbe remembered.

Despite statistics showing accidents in the Bronx have decreased since 2001, “There are still too many accidents caused by driver inattention, speeding, and failing to yield to pedestrians and too many motorists speed away from crash scenes,” said DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Northwest Bronx0 Comments

VIDEO – Inside the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse

Video produced by Dan Fastenberg and Dan Lieberman

For a city known for its cramped quarters, it’s not everyday you come across an 85,000 square foot building empty for more than 30 years. But the Old Bronx Courthouse is vacant and no one can agree what to do with it.

Posted in Multimedia, Southern Bronx0 Comments

Bill Clinton Marks Black History Month in the Bronx

Former President Bill Clinton greets Co-op City residents at Black History Month celebration.  Photo by: Diego Aparicio

Former President Bill Clinton greets Co-op City residents at a Black History Month celebration. Photo by Diego Aparicio

Former President Bill Clinton came to the Bronx on Wednesday night to address a crowd of nearly 1,200 African-Americans, and given the warm welcome he received, it was hard to recall the strain that had existed two years ago between African-Americans and the man once called America’s “first black president.”

In a packed auditorium in the Co-op City section of the Bronx, in a part of town that doesn’t often get presidential visitors, people eagerly awaited his arrival.  The former president was the keynote speaker for the neighborhood’s 11th annual Black History Month celebration.

“Now we have two black presidents,” declared Josephine Collins, 81, who described this year’s celebration as extra special because of who was coming to dinner.

A vibrantly dressed Irish dance troupe made up of 36 black and Hispanic students performed their own brand of Celtic dance for the former president. Inadvertently, they also served as his decoy to make his entrance into the auditorium a subtler one.

He was finally in the house.  For nearly 40 minutes he spoke about the need for community engagement and apologized for the frustratingly slow pace of politics in Washington, even in the age of Obama.  “Sometimes it takes us a long time to get things right,” he admitted. “But as Martin Luther King said, the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.”

Clinton’s speech invoked emotion and pride for Co-op City residents, like Mary McKinney, who was one of the local African-American leaders honored for her work in the community.   She said Clinton’s presence there made her feel like the Bronx was finally getting some much-deserved attention.

“A lot of people are misled about the Bronx,” McKinney said.  “They think we don’t want quality things.  We’re glad someone is finally listening to us.”

The Black History Month celebration was organized by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, who invited  Clinton to the gathering.  The event usually draws about 400 constituents, Crowley said, but this year  the crowd was nearly three times that.

This year’s theme focused on celebrating community service, and “by providence, he’s here,” Crowley said.

The former president was a fitting guest.  He is the United Nations’ special envoy to Haiti, and made his second trip to the Caribbean island just last week, where he is helping coordinate relief efforts in the wake of the earthquake that claimed more than 200,000 lives.

As Clinton spoke about his work in Haiti and other countries around the world, his message to people in Co-op City was: “No matter how bad it is, someone has it worse.”   But in the same vein, he also urged residents to take pride in the good things in their own community.

“This is a special place you live,” Clinton said. “It has a character. It has a personality.  It has a life, and I don’t want you to give up on it, and I don’t want you to give up on your country.”

The speech was visibly moving to many in the audience who couldn’t stop smiling, the room completely silent for the entire length of his speech.

“Lord, we thank you for William Jefferson Clinton,” said Dr. Robert A. Smith, Jr., pastor at the Church of the Savior, who led the benediction.

But after the speech, some community leaders reflected on Clinton’s relationship to the African-American community in the post-2008 election era — one that has its first truly “black president.”

Mary McKinney, one of this year's community leader honorees, looks on as President Clinton delivers his remarks.  Wednesday, February 17, 2010. Photo by: Diego Aparicio

Mary McKinney (center), one of this year's community leader honorees, looks on as President Clinton delivers his remarks. Wednesday, February 17, 2010. Photo by: Diego Aparicio

“People see him as the forerunner for Obama,” said the Rev. Sheldon Williams of the Co-op City Baptist church, who led the invocation at last night’s event.  “Because of him it was possible for Obama to become president because of the way he treated African-American people.”

Smith believes that Clinton’s connection to the African-American community did reach a low point during the 2008 election when he made some controversial racial remarks, but said it’s all in the past.

“We are a forgiving people,” Smith said.   “The visceral response of the community is that he is one of us.  His life’s work is always in the midst of people of color.”

None of this was on 65-year-old Vivian Wescott’s mind, though.  She has long been enamored with  Clinton and listened intently to every word of his speech.  “It was wonderful, “ she said.  “Such a stimulating force for a community trying to do its best.

“He just brought a lot of good vibes.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, East Bronx0 Comments

Auction at Stella D’oro: Nostalgia for Some, Bargain Hunting for Others

Ovens the size of pick-up trucks.  Mixing bowls bigger than bathtubs.  Baking trays and conveyer belts. Those were the kinds of items auctioned off on Tuesday at the Stella D’oro cookie factory in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, which closed its doors in October after nearly 80 years.  The factory shut down after a yearlong labor dispute could not be resolved.  Nearly 140 employees, some of whom had worked there for more than three decades, lost their jobs.


Neil Aprea, right, confers with another bidder at Stella D'oro baking headquarters in the Bronx, where equipment was auctioned Tuesday. Aprea's 82-year-old mother worked at the factory for many years. Photo by Dan Lieberman

Bakers, scrap collectors and several former employees gathered at the factory just after 10 a.m. to bid on equipment, some of which had been inside the bakery since it first opened its doors in 1932. The breadstick line that made the factory famous, along with several 200-foot ovens used to produce various kinds of cookies, were available to the highest bidder.

More than 40 people made bids, while 35 others made their bids through the company’s Web site, said Brian Hayes, site coordinator for Rabin Worldwide Inc., the industrial auction firm handling the sale.

Several former employees sat three rows from the front to watch the factory, where they had spent much of their adult life working, sold off piece by piece.

“Four dough troughs.  You can scrap that for sure!”  the auctioneer, Rich Reese announced.

“Buyer No. 3013: $32,000 for the oven!” Reese exclaimed.

One former employee, who would identify himself only as Luigi, worked at the factory for 31 years.  All morning long he watched the projector in disbelief, as it displayed images of the machines he had worked on. “I’m through,” he said bitterly.  “Thirty-one  years and I’m through. After today you won’t see me here.  I won’t even pass on the Major Deegan Expressway anymore.”

But for Richard Zinn, who rebuilds and sells bagel and bakery equipment, the auction marked an opportunity to turn a profit.  His winning bid of $20,000 earned him three mixers and four bowls.  “When you rebuild, you get $30,000 profit,” Mr. Zinn said.

Other people had less luck.   “We looked at the ovens but they’re too big,” said Wendy Friedman, co-owner of RW Delights Inc., a dessert manufacturer known for its “heavenly soufflé,” which  employs five people in its  bakery.

The protracted dispute at Stella D’oro between unionized workers and the current owner involved proposed cuts to employee health and retirement benefits.  While the bakery was family-owned until 1992, it had since changed hands three times.  In 2006, Kraft sold the company to a private equity group, Brynwood Partners, which sold the company in September to North Carolina-based Lance Inc. The new owner is moving Stella D’oro’s operations to a factory in Ohio.

“The mystique and nostalgia is gone,” said Jim Greenberg, whose company, Union Standard Equipment Co., worked on auction logistics.   “The modern-day bakery, candy and food companies are globalized now.  It’s all about numbers.”

But for some, like Neil Aprea, whose 82-year-old mother, Judith Conte, worked at the factory on the conveyer line, the mystique and the nostalgia aren’t going anywhere.

“They’ve been here forever,” said Mr.Aprea, 55.  “It’s like a landmark.  You pass it on 87 and you smell the cookies, no more.”

“You think something like this will last forever.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Southern Bronx1 Comment