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Easter in a Black Pentecostal Church

Pastor Michel White leads the Greater Faith Temple in an energetic Easter Service.

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Bronx Zoo has a missing Cobra

A Bronx Zoo staff member noticed that an adolescent Egyptian cobra was missing Saturday afternoon. The snake is 20-inches long and can kill a person within 15 minutes. Zoo officials are confident that the snake is within the confines of the Reptile House, for this type of snake is not prone to seek out wide-open spaces such as the outdoors.

“We are confident that the snake is secure within the Reptile House.  To understand the situation, you have to understand snakes,” writes James Breheny.  “Upon leaving its enclosure, the snake went to a place where it is hidden and feels safe.  When the snake gets hungry or thirsty it will start to move around the building.  Once that happens, it will be our best opportunity to recover it.”

Breheny is the Senior Vice President of Wildlife Conservation Society and Director of the Bronx Zoo.

The snake escaped from an off-exhibit enclosure in the Reptile House. The Reptile House closed yesterday afternoon and will remain closed until further notice, stated Mary Dixon, a spokesperson for the Bronx Zoo.

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Bronx sees 3.9% population increase

Bronx Census 2010 numbers were just released. They show a 3.9% population increase since 2000.  The Bronx currently has 1,385,108 residents.

Please click here to read more.

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The Bronx’s own Green Isle celebrates

The next generation of Irish kids growing up in Woodlawn. Photo Credit: Michelle Bialeck

Photo montage of Woodlawn’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

By Michelle Bialeck

When parade goers and bar hoppers, many in shamrock sunglasses and leprechaun hats, line the streets of Manhattan trying to get a glimpse of the parade, or win St. Patrick’s day T-shirts, a little pocket of down-home revelry takes place in the Northeast Bronx.

About a block away from Yonkers on Katonah Avenue, kids paint their faces green, the Irish musicians of Jameson’s Revenge play the violin and Irish flute, and neighbors and friends celebrate the country they left behind.

“Oh! And I wish I were with the gentle folk, Around a hearthened fire where the fairies dance unseen,” recited Martin Miller outside the Rambling House pub a few days before the St Patrick’s Day celebration. Taking not even a full moment to recall the verse by the Irish nationalist Bobby Sands, Miller, 32, began reciting the poem while successfully lighting his cigarette in the cool wind.  The sound of his own words had such a nostalgic quality, they almost brought him to tears.  He stopped short, but not from lack of memory.

For Miller, being away from home, a small town outside of Belfast, is difficult, but he wouldn’t want it any other way. Miller, like the many young Irish men and women who have come to New York for work, has found not only a job here, but a home away from home in Woodlawn, or the Bronx’s little Ireland. For Miller and his friends, Woodlawn is a community, a safety net, and a starting point, for a new life.

This St Patrick’s Day in Woodlawn, there is not only a celebration of history, but of the future of the vibrant Irish community that has withstood its own tremors of prejudice, immigration back and forth, and the ever-changing city around it.

The Irish neighborhood of Woodlawn, with Katonah Avenue as its backbone, is not slipping away, but teeming with Irish and Irish-Americans of all ages, new and old to the U.S. It is truly an Irish Diaspora, as alive as the green mountains of home.

The Economic and Social Research Institute estimates that amid an economic downturn in Ireland, a thousand people leave that country every week in search of opportunity abroad. The unemployment rate has peaked, almost reaching 14 percent, in the past few months, and it’s difficult to find a person on Katonah Avenue who will leave a conversation without speaking of his or her friends on welfare back in the homeland.

Watch this video to see what residents of Katonah Avenue have to say about recent immigration:

William Hurley, historian and librarian at the American Irish Historical Society, speaks of a tightening on American visas and the flow of many Irish immigrants to Canada and Australia where it’s easier for Irish to obtain legal status, but he acknowledges that there is still a pull to the U.S. for those who are willing to try and stay illegally, and especially among young Irish immigrants who are lucky enough to get legal sponsorship.

“If you want to work, you’ll get work here,” says Miller who has found work in construction.  There is a sense of looking after each other in the Irish community in New York.

Danny Maloney, owner of the moving company Liffey Van Lines & Storage, says that the number of people who go to him from Ireland asking for work has risen by 70 percent in the past couple of years. Maloney’s son, also Danny, was quick to chime in, “I’ve seen what’s happening over there, and it’s a disaster.” The elder Maloney says he is willing to do whatever he can to find work for his fellow countrymen and women in the many branches of his business, but it’s tough work finding something for everyone.

Maloney estimates that for every five people he knows who went to Ireland a decade ago, four of them are coming back. Many homeowners or business owners in Ireland are stuck with mortgages they can’t pay; many are simply stuck in Ireland because they own instead of rent.  This is why a good part of the wave of Irish immigrants to the U.S. remains young. They are looking to start a life here and haven’t yet bought a house in Ireland or started a family.

“If you think you are going to have a mortgage and a car payment there…” he laughs with slight disappointment in his squinting eyes and uneasy round face.

Hugh O’Lunney is another business owner who has seen the effects of Ireland’s high unemployment rate here in New York. “The Celtic Tiger is dead, or very sick,” says O’Lunney, referring to the economic boom that Ireland experienced starting in the mid 1990s. The owner of O’Lunney’s Times Square Pub, O’Lunney has been in New York for more than 30 years, longer than most of the new immigrants have been alive.

Hurley speculates that Woodlawn remains a pocket of Irish culture, not only because of the connections to loved ones in Ireland, but because of the zoning. Many people own their own homes in Woodlawn, as opposed to renting, said Hurley, this causes families to stay in the area instead of moving out like in other New York City neighborhoods such as Woodside, Queens.

While Irish neighborhoods have dwindled and populations moved away from areas like  Riverdale, Norwood or Woodside, many people come to Woodlawn to stay, start families and raise kids.

Woodlawn has one of the best schools in the Bronx. P.S. 19 Judith K. Weiss is located right in the heart of Katonah Avenue.

“The focus and discipline is significant…above and beyond,’’ said Donna Katz, a substitute teacher who works at schools all over the Bronx. “I don’t know if it’s the administration, the kids or the parents.  I think it’s the connection between the three.”

The neighborhood also has two popular churches and a well-known Irish bank, Country Bank, all within walking distance.

Mike Mullen, a native of Ireland who was employed by Danny Maloney at Liffey Van Lines & Storage after he finished college, says a big part of the success of Woodlawn as an Irish enclave is its outward distinctiveness.

“From a city planning perspective, you know when you arrive and you know when you leave,’’ he said.  “You can sit and read your Irish paper and have your Irish soda.”

And he’s right, on a normal day, you know you’ve arrived because Irish accents fill your ears and that quintessential Guinness sign tags most of the storefronts.  There are people old and young, buying Irish products, reading the Echo, ordering chicken burgers at Mary’s Celtic Kitchen, listening to either football or the faint swing of traditional Irish music in the background of any of the local bars — there are about two on each block.

“It’s warm here, that’s the word,” Miller said as he scoured his head for the perfect way to explain what keeps his friends and family in Woodlawn.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Multimedia, The Bronx Beat, Video0 Comments

Teen sentenced to 29 years in subway shooting

With family members of the teenager he was convicted of shooting in 2007 watching in the courtroom, Robert Denis, 19, was sentenced Wednesday to 29 years in prison.

He will be eligible for parole after 21 years, said his lawyer William Flack.

“My client was originally offered 35 years to life,” said Flack, who said he was glad that he was able to get Denis’ sentence reduced.

Yesterday’s sentencing was the end of a long road for the family of Rayquon Story, who was gunned down by then-16-year-old Denis in 2007.

Story was with a group of three friends on the No. 5 train at Dyre Avenue, when Denis opened fire with a .38 caliber revolver killing Story and injuring the three other young men, Joseph Lacombe, Marlon Lacombe and Lawrence Garcia. Story was shot twice – once in the neck, once in the thigh. Marlon Lacombe was also shot and still has the bullet lodged in his body, said the prosecutor. Garcia, according to Flack, said that he and his friends had plans to “bust up” Denis that night. Denis knew of the teens’ plan and fired three to five shots at the group of friends.

Denis expressed remorse in court Wednesday. “I apologize to the deceased and the victims and apologize to their family and friends,” Denis said. “I will live with this for the rest of my life.”

Denis did not have a criminal record before the shooting. The maximum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is 50 years. The judge took his age and clean criminal record into account and gave him the lower sentence of 29 years.

“That’s nothing for taking someone’s life, I don’t accept it, that’s not closure,” said Vanessa Belle, Story’s aunt. “He can come back out here and do it to somebody else.”

Belle was one of the victim’s many relatives who left the courthouse disappointed .

“As a mother I’m disappointed, he should be doing life for taking someone’s life,” said Tornette Story, the victim’s mother.

Story was pregnant at the time of her son’s murder, said her daughter, Tarnel Joie, 17. The stress caused her to go into cardiac arrest and have an emergency cesarean section in January of 2008. Her infant daughter had a tracheotomy and now, three years later, doctors do not know if she will ever be able to live without it, Joie said.  Joie was 13 when her brother was killed, and with tears pouring down her face, she spoke at Wednesday’s sentencing.

“He was my everything,” she said, and went on to say how hard it is to tell her younger sister about their older brother’s death. “She only knows him through pictures.”

Story links her three-year-old’s tracheotomy to her son’s death. “There is a hole in my daughter’s neck, right where Rayquon was shot,” she said. “It is an everyday reminder of what happened.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Newswire0 Comments

Fatal stabbing leaves broken hearts, fatherless children

Christopher Reid (Photo Credit: Faith Bryen)

Faith Bryen says she thought Valentine’s Day was going to be a special day for her and Christopher Reid, her boyfriend of four years and the father of her two-year old son.

But on Friday, Feb. 4 when Reid went to spend the evening with a neighbor, Gurvus Nembhard, he did not come home.

“He had never gone out and not come home before,” said Bryen, 29.

Throughout the night and into the next morning, Bryen said she called Reid’s cell phone repeatedly. At about noon on Saturday, a woman answered Bryen’s phone. Bryen said she was taken aback to hear a woman’s voice on her boyfriend’s phone – but then the woman introduced herself as a detective and confirmed Bryen’s worst fear — Reid was dead.

Police say Nembhard, 50, stabbed Reid in the neck at 4:40 a.m. Saturday morning in the basement apartment of Nembhard’s Bronx home. Nembhard was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and the criminal possession of a weapon, police said. Reid was pronounced dead at 5 a.m. when he arrived at Jacobi Medical Center via ambulance.

The murder happened during a card game attended by four or five other men, said police, who did not disclose the witnesses’ names.

A relative of Nembhard who did not want her name used but who attended his bail hearing, said a witness told her that Nembhard and Reid got into a tussle over $200 and that Reid “fell on a knife.”

Reid’s family has a hard time believing this story. “How do you fall on a knife and have it stab you in the neck?” said Patrick Reid, the victim’s older brother.

Reid worked as a security guard and lived with Faith Bryen. In addition to their two-year old son, he had a four-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, said Bryen.

Reid and Nembhard were both Jamaican immigrants who lived four blocks apart in the Edenwald section of the Bronx. Neither men had a criminal record, their relatives said.

Reid was a hard-working loving father, said Bryen. His mother, Leonora Allen, however, said she worried about him.

“When I immigrated to this country, I had expected more from Chris,” said Allen. “He attended the highest high school in Jamaica, he’s an intelligent guy. I don’t know what happened.”

Nembhard is the father of five and his wife of 20 years died in October, said his relative. According to Bryen, Nembhard ran a bar out of the basement apartment where the murder occurred. Nembhard is currently in jail and his next court date is March 11 at Bronx County Supreme Court.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Former Featured, North Central Bronx0 Comments

Mubarak steps down

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down and handed power to the military. [AP]

‘Bronxites on twitter’

There isn’t a lot of Egypt chatter on twitter from the Bronx. The few who are expressing an opinion are supportive of the Egyptian people.

‘Feedback from Bronx Egyptian’

In an earlier interview Egyptian business owner Muhammad Ahmed of the Bronx told NY1 that he wanted President Hosni Mubarak to stay in the country. “We don’t want him to leave the country. Stay with us. Maybe we need his opinion, with all of his experience.”

Ahmed also told NY1 that his home country needs not only a new president, but also a new political structure.

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Man charged in recent Bronx murder

A Bronx man was arrested and charged with stabbing another man to death Saturday at a Bronx home where a card game was taking place in the early morning, police said. The victim, Christopher Reid, 39, was stabbed in the neck and pronounced dead on arrival at Jacobi Hospital, Police said. Police arrested Gurvus Nembhard, 50, for this murder which occurred in Nembhard’s own home in the Edenwald section of the Bronx.  Nembhard is scheduled to be in court on Thursday.

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