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Bronx Voters Flocked to the Polls in Spite of Sandy

Superstorm Sandy made its presence known on Nov. 6, as voters in the presidential election throughout New York City scrambled to find alternative  polling sites to replace the ones damaged by the storm. Sandy caused 60 total changes in voting locations across the five boroughs. Three of those changes took place in the Bronx. The Locust Point polling site moved from the Locust Point Civic Association to the parking lot of the MTA Throgs Neck complex. Soundview residents voted at the I.S. 174 Eugene T. Maleska School instead of P.S. 69 Journey Prep School, and Riverdale voters went to the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, which served as a substitute for Draddy Hall at Manhattan College. Though some people in the affected areas may not have been aware of last minute changes, most voters said they were notified with time to spare.

An MTA parking lot in Throgs Neck served as a makeshift polling site. (VIDUR MALIK/The Bronx Ink)

Riverdale residents relied on the Internet to get updates on site changes. Those without online access were left in the dark. “On the news they’re telling you to go to a website to check your polling site, but what if you don’t have Internet?” said Irene Bernstein, 63, of Riverdale. Bernstein expressed concern for the elderly, who she said may not use computers or may have lost Internet access in the storm. “The elderly are going to be disenfranchised,” Bernstein said. Several voters from outside the Bronx cast their ballots in the college polling site, making use of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to let New Yorkers vote anywhere in the state. In Locust Point, a quiet, picturesque neighborhood in the southeast Bronx, voting seemed to take place without any hitches. A makeshift white tent was set up off the Throgs Neck Expressway on Monday evening. Voting machines were brought in Tuesday morning. Despite the quick turnaround, Locust Point residents said they were notified of the change in good time by the Civic Association and the Board of Elections. They received emails, letters, Facebook notifications and information from local newspapers.

In addition to flyers and email notifications, residents found the new polling sites posted on the the Civic Association gate on Locust Point. (YI DU/The Bronx Ink)

“This was not an inconvenience at all,” said Debbie Suarino of Locust Point. Suarino’s basement was flooded with three feet of water during the storm, but she made sure to vote. She got her polling site updates from the Civic Association and the New York Daily News. Louis Bevilacqua, who lives across the street from the Civic Association building, was hit with almost six feet of water. He made it to the voting tent, but said he was focusing more on getting through the aftermath of the storm than the election. “Was it a top priority? If I missed out on it, I would not have cried,” said Bevilacqua. For Daniel Tyx, a senior at SUNY Maritime, the storm may have actually made his voting experience easier. Tyx, who is originally from Buffalo, would have had to vote absentee or in Buffalo if not for Cuomo’s executive order. He said he logged into Google to find the new polling place and had to ask for directions to find it, but understood the difficult circumstances.

A last-minute white tent served as the polling site for Locust Point residents. (YI DU/The Bronx Ink)

“With the given situation, it was more of the best they could do,” Tyx said. Ruth Desplant, 52, of Soundview, learned about the changes in voting locations from flyers posted on storefronts, on gate entrances and slipped under residents’ doors. Desplant was constantly checking the Board of Elections website on Monday until it crashed later that evening. Along with her neighbors in a 2-block radius on Underhill Avenue, Desplant did not have electricity for a week after the storm hit. She woke up on Monday morning with the lights inside her home turned on. Desplant waited for her husband and 19-year old son to finish voting after she cast her own ballot at I.S. 174 Eugene T. Maleska School on White Plains Road.  Desplant made sure to inform her son, a first-time voter, about the candidates’ positions in the months leading up to Election Day. “I explained the ballots to him and that he has to be aware because this will affect him for years to come,” said Desplant. “You can’t complain if you don’t vote.”

Posted in East Bronx, Featured, Northwest Bronx, Politics0 Comments

Riverdale and Kingsbridge Gasoline Stations Sell Last Drop

As early as Wednesday morning, motorists in the West Bronx experienced shortages and limits on refueling their vehicles in many stations. Today, stations are  completely closed, The Riverdale Press reports. A supply terminal in Brooklyn is awaiting a third-party pipeline and gasoline barges to replenish depleted stock after a buying frenzy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Posted in Newswire0 Comments

After Sandy, Hunts Point’s Low Lying Areas Struggle with Flooding

A disaster relief organization in the low-lying Hunts Point area of the Bronx experienced heavy flooding and a challenge to distribute supplies. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

Early this morning, when Tim Reeve opened the storehouse of the disaster relief organization World Vision in Hunts Point, he saw devastation up close: water from Sandy had flooded the building. A delivery truck was submerged in three-feet-deep water. Pink collared-shirts inside plastic bags floated beside cases of pencils and hygiene kits that awaited delivery from the Hunts Point warehouse to hard-hit areas in New York and the region. As emergency response teams rush to rescue residents from flooding and fires, organizations that are gearing up to join the efforts are facing challenges in the storm's aftermath. In Hunts Point, a flood-prone area in the Bronx, organizations like World Vision and major food distribution companies are struggling to resume operating. “At this point, we’re trying to do emergency response, but right now, it appears that we’re in a disaster ourselves,” said Reeve, World Vision’s storehouse manager for New York. Reeve estimates that supplies will be ready for distribution by Thursday and that the warehouse may move to an alternative space. The extent of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation on millions of residents from the shores of North Carolina to Maine is still being determined, as floods, power outages and snow continue to displace thousands of residents from their communities. Eight million people in 15 states remain without electricity. The federal government estimates $20 billion in damages from the storm. Sandy hits the industrial zone in Hunts Point, Bronx from Adam Perez on Vimeo. Inside World Vision's office, a fire alarm blared as a project coordinator pointed to a water line three feet above the soaked carpet. A kitchen refrigerator was flipped on its side. Relief supplies were strewn across the warehouse. Reeve did not expect water from the East River to reach the storehouse, which is located near a boardwalk in Barretto Park. But the park’s benches were already underwater as the storm raged and the sea rose on Monday. There were no sandbags to buffer the area from the surge. Chad Narine, an MTA track worker, witnessed an electrical transformer exploding underneath the sidewalk outside of the MTA compound on Tiffany Street around 11:30 p.m. on Monday. “I was standing in the transit yard inside,” said Narine, 34, “when I heard a loud boom and saw a white a flash.” Steam continued to rise from a hole in the sidewalk on Tuesday while an emergency vehicle from ConEdison, which provides electricity, gas and steam, monitored the damaged transformer.

"New York needs to be more careful with powerful storms like these," said Adama Makouyate, an employee at a food-distribution plant in a flood-prone area of Hunts Point. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

New York City's Office of Emergency Management lists the low-lying area in Zone B, meaning it faces a moderate risk of flooding and likelihood of evacuation during storm surges and hurricanes. But the flooding in the area could have a major impact on the entire metropolitan area. Hunts Point is home to the region’s largest-food distribution center. Everyday, more than 15,000 delivery trucks come in and out of the area’s produce, meat and seafood market, which supplies much of the city and surrounding region’s grocery markets and restaurants. In the Co-Op Meat Market, warehouse manager Milton Pinto recalled being stranded with 31 fellow workers before the storm neared landfall. Most workers lived in Brooklyn and the Bronx. They didn't arrive home until 5 p.m the next day.The meat market closed operations on Tuesday for the first time. Raphael Candelario, a worker at New Fulton Fish Market, was one of two employees in the distribution plant while the waves pummeled the rocky shores. Candelario, 47, arrived to monitor the site at 5 a.m. Monday. “Water came up to the plant between 3 to 4 a.m.,” said Candelario. The river's waters also reached the top of a staircase in a pier house next to the market. In a nearby food distribution plant, Sultana Distribution Services Inc., a security guard surveyed damages from the storm. Adama Makouyate, 45, dressed in a red raincoat and black pants, expressed awe at the 22 stone barriers that were blown 10 to 20 feet away from the edge of a lot facing the East River. The barriers, which weigh more than a ton, lined the lot to protect the distribution plant from the surge. Metal fences lay flat on the pavement, indicating the hurricane’s wind power, which exceeded 70 miles per hour. Hurricane Sandy exposed the city’s lack of storm barriers and infrastructural safeguards. During separate news conferences today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed plans to armor the city from storm surges and sea level rise. Cuomo proposed the possibility of building levees in Lower Manhattan. “We have a 100-year flood every two years now,” said Cuomo. “The construction of this city did not anticipate these kinds of situations. We are only a few feet above sea level.” Additional reporting by Adam Perez and Jan Hendrik Hinzel.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Featured, Food, Transportation0 Comments

Sandy Bears Down on the Battered Bronx

Parks and Recreation workers warned residents about the powerful storm before locking entrance gates in Barretto Park and other recreational spots in the Bronx. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

The Bronx opened evacuation centers Sunday night, as Hurricane Sandy continued its path toward New York City. About two thirds of the 4-square-mile peninsula is categorized as Zone B by the New York City Office of Emergency Management, meaning that residents can expect a moderate possibility of evacuation. Click here to find out where the nearest evacuation center is near you. In Hunts Point, wind gusts, cloudy skies and light rain covered an area where one of the world's largest food-distribution centers operates in a low-lying location facing the East River.  Hunt Point's produce, meat and seafood market supplies much of the city and surrounding region's grocery markets and restaurants. The National Hurricane Center estimates that the storm system will touch down in New York on Monday evening. The city opened 72 evacuation centers in public schools to accommodate more than 370,000 residents living in flood-prone communities. City officials suspended service of the entire city's transit system and issued mandatory evacuations on Sunday as Hurricane Sandy neared landfall. The tropical storm system gains speed and strength as it travels northward to densely populated areas along the East Coast.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, East Bronx, Featured, Front Page0 Comments

Hurricane Sandy Barrels Northeast, Raising Caution in Bronx Waterfront

Memories of damages from last year's Hurricane Irene frame cautious preparation for a powerful storm system barreling towards the northeast. Hurricane Sandy, known in social networking sites as 'Frankenstorm', is expected to hit the Eastern Seaboard as early as Sunday evening. Residents in waterfront areas of the East Bronx are preparing for the worst: protecting windows that may shatter from debris brought by strong winds and stocking up on basic needs, NY1 reports. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city officials urged residents in flood-prone areas to be alert and informed about evacuation zones. Severe weather is forecasted to last for several days.    

Posted in Newswire0 Comments

Bernard Kerik Hovers Over the DiTommaso Perjury Trial

 

Peter DiTommaso appeared relaxed during the first day of proceedings in his trial on perjury charges. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

Prosecutors argued Thursday in Bronx Supreme Court that construction company owners Frank and Peter DiTommaso lied to the grand jury six years ago about paying for renovations to the Riverdale apartment of disgraced former police commissioner Bernard Kerik. “Back in 1999, these defendants thought that Bernard B. Kerik was a big shot, that he had  juice, power and influence,” Stuart Levy, assistant district attorney told the jury on Thursday.  Prosecutors argued that the two brothers used the relationship with Kerik to gain government contracts and licenses. Kerik is scheduled to testify next month. “He will not take responsibility for their actions,” said Levy. Kerik, 57, is serving a 48-month sentence for eight federal crimes, including lying to White House officials when he was being considered to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Frank DiTommaso's attorney opened her defense with a flourish. "I'm tempted to quote 'My Cousin Vinny,'" said Cathy Fleming, referring to the 1992 Hollywood movie starring Joe Pesci. "What he said is BS," she said, waving her hand dramatically toward the prosecutor.  Members of the jury nodded and chuckled. Fleming then held up a poster-sized copy of her client’s indictment, in an attempt to argue that the district attorney's case is based on conspiracy theories. "The prosecutors blurred the timeline, blurred the brothers and blurred the companies,” she said. Frank DiTommaso, 53, is charged with one count of perjury while his brother, Peter DiTommaso, 51, faces two counts. The DiTommasos own the New Jersey-based companies, Interstate Construction, Interstate Drywall and Interstate Materials. Levy told the jury that the cost of the renovations that included a jacuzzi and a marble foyer totaled $255,000. He added that Kerik often complained to his friend Lawrence Ray that his government salary was insufficient to cover living expenses.

Justice John W. Carter ordered the DiTommaso defense attorneys (above) and prosecutors to refrain from issuing public comments. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

Ray loaned money to Kerik for the down payment on his apartment. He was also employed by the DiTommasos from 1998 to 2000 as a business consultant. The defendant’s attorneys also stressed the relationship between Kerik, Ray and the DiTommasos. “How nicely that [Ray] fits in to the prosecutor’s conspiracy theory,” said Michael A. Marinaccio, the attorney for Peter DiTommaso. Ray was convicted of stock manipulation in 2000. The DiTommasos terminated his employment less than a week after his conviction. The trial is expected to resume Friday, Sept. 28, at 10:30 a.m. “I am confident that you will find the defendants not guilty as charged," concluded Levy, "but guilty as proven."

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Featured, Front Page, Money, Politics, Southern Bronx0 Comments

Bronx Robber Threatens Five More Victims with Hypodermic Needle

A robber who uses a hypodermic needle to threaten his victims was linked to five more incidents in the Bronx. The recent robberies make a total of eight reported incidents in the East Tremont area. The police released a video of the man who is described as about 40 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall and 120 pounds. His victims, all male, and as young as 14 had iPads, cell phones or other electronics stolen when they were stopped, NBC New York reports. The man was last seen wearing a black leather Yankees hat, a black hooded sweatshirt, gray jeans and black sneakers. Anyone with information in regards to these incidents is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS or atNYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

Posted in Newswire0 Comments

Family Mourns Unsolved Murder of Bronx Woman

Pamela Graddick, a daycare worker, was last seen by a friend who shopped with her at the Gateway Center mall near Yankee Stadium. Relatives quickly took action two days after she vanished on August 11, posting flyers around Highbridge for clues of her status. On September 4, Graddick, 26, was found stuffed in a trash bag near the Bronx River Parkway, the New York Daily News reports. Graddick was the youngest of four children. Family and friends mourn the loss of a woman who, according to her father, Bernard Graddick, was an excellent student and a star basketball player at Walton High School. She continued her academic and athletic career at Sullivan County Community College in upstate New York. The NYPD and Yonkers detectives are investigating her death.

Posted in Newswire0 Comments

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