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Runners race around Yancey Field with Yankee Stadium in the background

Yankees strike out on promises

Runners race around Yancey Field with Yankee Stadium in the background

Yancey Field is a new track and soccer field built as a compromise to Bronx residents on top of one of the Yankee Stadium parking lots. (NIGEL CHIWAYA/Bronx Ink)

The parking was supposed to get better. That’s what New York Yankees president Randy Levine promised Bronx residents and city council members back in March 2006 when the team was negotiating for a new Yankee Stadium. By adding 3,000 parking spots, Levine said, Yankee fans would not need to cruise the streets looking for curbside parking spots. The result would be a less congested South Bronx. Bronx residents don’t see it that way. According to them, things have actually gotten worse since the new stadium went up. “It’s a nightmare,” said Joyce Hogi, who has lived on 165th Street and the Grand Concourse for over 30 years. “There are still people that are looking to park on the streets, but now the police block off 161st Street on game days. I have friends in Highbridge and it takes them two hours to get through.” Decreased street congestion was just one of the four key promises the Yankees made in 2006. At that city council meeting Levine also pledged to create new public parks to replace those lost during stadium construction, to establish a benefits fund for Bronx non-profits, and to provide 1,000 permanent new jobs at the stadium. But five years after the team broke ground on the new stadium, the parking garages sit half empty during game days, the benefits fund has come under fire for the way it manages the money, and no one is exactly sure how many Bronx residents work in the stadium. While the city may have determined that the new Yankee Stadium was worth over $60 million to New Yorkers, those who live next door to it in the South Bronx believe is not nearly as valuable. “All you have to do is look around to see that it wasn’t worth it,” said Ramon Jimenez, who runs the For the South Bronx Coalition, a community group that has been trying to pressure the Yankees into living up to their promises since 2009.  “The new Yankee Stadium has not added to the community.” Requests to the Yankees organization and city council members Helen Foster, Joel Rivera and Maria Carmen del Arroyo for comment were denied. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz did not return calls to the Bronx Ink.

Parking garages: The increase that nobody needed

“The same number of cars and buses already come to the stadium.  However, today, they just park all over the street, and all over the community… It causes disruption.  So we're trying to fix it. By building the new parking spots, the cars will get out of the community.  Won't circle around the community and disrupt it.  And will go into parking lots.”  -Randy Levine to New York City Council, March 28, 2006 As part of the stadium proposal, the Yankees asked the city and state to build about 3,000 new parking spaces. Critics balked at this request, citing the fact that 7,000 parking spaces already existed and the current stadium would seat almost 4,000 fewer fans. Additionally, the stadium is located along the busiest subway station in the Bronx and the MTA planned to build a Metro North station a few blocks away, providing car-free transportation for Yankees fans from upstate New York. Finally, even the best parking garages wouldn’t attract those that were determined to park for free on the street. “Additional parking spots doesn't necessarily mean the fans are going to elect to park in those garages,” said Councilmember Maria Arroyo at the 2006 meeting.  “And as long as there's free community parking, they may opt to do that before they go into the garage.” Nonetheless, the City Council approved the Stadium along with the new parking facilities in April 2006 and the city’s Economic Development financed the parking garages with $237 million in public bonds. Three new garages were built: one adjacent to the new stadium and two across 161Street behind the old stadium. The city selected Bronx Parking Development Corporation; a company located 121 miles north of the Bronx in Hudson, New York, to operate the garages. Five years later, the critics have been proven correct. Though the Yankees have drawn more fans than any other team in baseball since the stadium opened, the garages have struggled to reach 60 percent capacity. In fact, city records show that the parking garages were only 45 percent full during September 2011, when Yankee closer Mariano Rivera recorded his baseball-record 602nd career save. The anemic performance of the garages has caused Bronx Parking to repeatedly alter its financial projections. The company expects to bring in only $12 million in revenue from the garages in 2012, down from the $22.6 million it projected in September 2010. On top of the empty garages, Bronx Parking must repay the public bonds issued in 2006 and must make two payments of $6.9 million to the city in April and October of each year. Facing a revenue shortfall, financial records show that the company has had to dip into its cash reserves to make the last three payments, withdrawing $2.3 million in October of 2011. With only $9.2 million remaining in its reserves and facing a projected deficit of $8.3 million, Bronx Parking will have little choice but to reach into its reserves once again next year. The company’s own financial projects show that it is on pace to exhaust those reserves by April 2013.

Too many options

The garages have struggled to compete with free parking offered at the nearby Gateway Center. Budget-conscious fans leery of paying the $35 fee to park at Yankee Stadium have instead opted to pay the Gateway Center’s $10 fee. “People are trying to save money,” said Jimenez. “So you park in the mall and you walk three blocks to the stadium.” View Yankee Stadium Parking in a larger map   Yankees fans have several options for traveling to and parking at Yankee Stadium. In the chart above, items in blue represent Yankee Stadium parking lots, items in red represent competing lots and items in green represent mass transit options.
And in direct contradiction to Levine’s promise, fans are still parking on the streets. "Seasoned fans that know they can find a spot on the street do that,” said Hogi. “It’s gotten so bad that we’ve tried to get a resident parking permit. The garages have not freed up the streets at all.” Faced with an embarrassing default, the city has begun searching for exit strategies. In September, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. announced a plan to tear down one of the garages and replace it with a hotel. Diaz, who admitted that the parking lots face “severe financial problems” in his 2011 state of the borough address, believes that replacing garage 8­– the 1970’s-era garage that stood next to the old stadium­– with a 200-300 bed “world class hotel” would be a win-win for the Bronx and Bronx Parking. “This development would serve as a new tourism hub for our borough, while creating hundreds of good jobs for Bronx residents and greatly enhancing the area surrounding Yankee Stadium,” said Diaz. Community Board 4, which voted against the new Stadium in 2005, is on board with the new plan. And while William Casari, a librarian at Hostos Community College who sits on the board’s parks commission, would rather see the garage turned into parkland, a hotel is better than nothing. “If it’s done correctly, sure; it’s better than a parking garage,” Casari said. “But it’d have to be a Marriott or something. Not some government-assisted thing.”

Public Parks: The long wait to play

“There will be baseball and softball fields on the site of the original stadium, where Bronx and City kids will play on the same hallowed ground that Yankee greats from Ruth to Gehrig, to DeMaggio to Mantle, to Berra, to Jackson, to Rivera and Jeter have played. The new park will have a new running track, a new soccer field, new baseball and softball fields, new basketball courts, new handball courts, and new tennis facilities.”                                                        -Randy Levine to New York City Council, March 28, 2006 Yancey Field is a racetrack and soccer field that sits across the street from the new Yankee Stadium. Every morning, even before she has her breakfast, Hadiyah Colbert runs laps around the track. Colbert, originally from Yonkers, is quite fond of the track. “This one is cleaner,” said Colbert, who moved to the Bronx seven years ago.  There used to be garbage in the old one.” The track that Colbert runs on is part of a grand compromise that the parks department and the Yankees made with Bronx residents. The new Yankee stadium was built on top of Macomb’s Dam and Mullaly parks. To replace the destroyed parkland, the parks department spent $195 million rebuilding Macomb’s Dam Park across the street from the stadium. Yancey Field–part of the new park–sits on top of one of the stadium’s parking garages. It didn’t come easily. Originally scheduled to open in 2009, Yancey field didn’t open until 2010, which meant that Bronx residents went four years without a track. Colbert made do by running around the remainder of Mullaly Park, but added that she would have preferred the old park. “They didn’t need to build a new stadium,” Colbert said. “I think the money could have been put to better use.” Baseball players have had to wait even longer. The area lost its only regulation baseball field when Macomb’s Dam Park was paved over. The parks department promised to replace it when Heritage Field–a complex of three ball fields built in the footprint of the old stadium–by 2010, but delays in the demolition of the old Yankee Stadium pushed the park’s opening date back to fall 2011. The park opened for one day in late November, when Little Leagues competed on the field. The park was then shuttered for the winter the next day. Casari said that he has noticed parks officers shooing residents away. “Two guys with big bags for baseball bats were headed toward the field,” Casari said, “and the officers took them off the field.” When they finally open to the public, the ball fields will require a permit to play on. While it children under 18 will be able to obtain a permit for free, adults will have to pay, which Jimenez said makes them less attractive to the community. “The old parks were open,” Jimenez said. “This just doesn’t replace the old parks.”

Community Benefits Fund: money with no oversight

“As part of the benefits agreement that we're negotiating, we're talking about putting a very sizeable amount of money  -- I’ll give you a ballpark right now, about $700,000 a year, which, for each of 40 years, which will go to a committee… There will be a grant apparatus set up.  That everybody in the community will come, make an application, and the people in the area, in the community, will decide which is appropriate, which is prioritized, and which is not.  -Randy Levine to New York City Council, March 28, 2006 If the parking situation irritates Hogi, the Community Benefits Fund makes her seethe. To Hogi, the fund is another example of the lack of input given to the people of the Bronx. “Nobody knows how much money is in there and how it’s handed out,” Hogi said. “It’s demoralizing to the community to be so left out of the loop.” Despite its name, the Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund operates independently of the community and the Yankees. Created in 2006 as part of an agreement between the team and four Bronx politicians, the fund is a non-profit organization that handles $800,000 worth of grants provided annually by the Yankees. The fund has been a magnet for contention since its inception. While the Yankees said they began donating money annually in 2006, the fund’s committee wasn’t established until 2008. According to the fund’s 2008 and 2009 tax documents, it has distributed over $1.6 million to several Bronx non-profit organizations. Records show that the Highbridge Community Life Center and the Highbridge Voices children choir received grants of $20,000 and $7,500, respectively, in 2009.  However, groups outside of the community, like the Manhattan-based New York Road Runners club, which received a grant of $16,250 in 2009, also have access to the money. “That money was supposed to benefit the people in the South Bronx,” said Jimenez. “It’s supposed to be for those who had to deal with the disruption the stadium caused. How does that money go to Throgs Neck and Riverdale?” The fund came under further fire in September, when the New York Post reported that several groups without non-profit status were receiving grants. The groups in question include El Maestro, a Foxhurst boxing gym that was for-profit when it received $5,100 of sports equipment in 2009, and Flo-bert Ltd., a Manhattan tap-dance troupe that last filled out tax forms in 2007 yet still received $2,000 in 2009. Flo-bert’s non-profit status was revoked in 2010. Serafin Mariel, the fund’s president and the former chief executive of National Bank, refused to comment or provide copies of the fund’s annual reports to the Bronx Ink. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak to reporters,” Mariel said.

Jobs: the unproven investment

“This new stadium will create thousands of construction jobs, and at a minimum, as President of the Yankees, I'm telling you 1,000 new, permanent additional to what we have, new permanent jobs at the new stadium. And they will be good jobs… A commitment by the Yankees to significant Bronx employment.”                                                    - Randy Levine to the New York City Council, March 28, 2006 In the same agreement that created the fund, the Yankees also promised that 25 percent of all new jobs created at the new Yankee stadium would be reserved for locals. It is difficult to verify whether this promise has been fulfilled, however, because the Yankees have not provided figures. Even so, Levine’s promise of 1,000 permanent jobs rings hollow. A 2009 report by former New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky revealed that the Yankees reported to the city’s Industrial Agency that they intended to add only 15 full-time jobs in 2009. And while the Yankees disclosed in a 2008 application for public funding that they would add 1,100 contract jobs, the majority of those jobs were in concessions. If Bronx residents are outraged by the lack of transparency, they are powerless to combat it. Only five people signed the community benefits agreement: Levine, former Borough President Adolfo Carrion, and council members Arroyo, Maria Baez, and Joel Rivera. Only the politicians that signed the document have the legal standing to enforce its terms, and both Carrion and Baez are out of office. This lack of community input has caused the community benefits agreement to be widely criticized as a sham that was thrown together to help the Yankees get their stadium. “I’d give an ‘F’ to whoever drew up that benefits agreement,” said Jimenez, “if I thought they were drawing it up in the interests of the community.” Bettina Damiani, Project Director at Good Jobs New York, a watchdog group that tracks government subsidies, summarized the community’s legal woes by saying: “there is no CBA – not a real one anyway – at Yankee Stadium.”

Unhappy anniversary

For Hogi, the anniversary of the groundbreaking is not one she cares to mark. In fact, these days she does her best to avoid the stadium altogether. “If I have to be out driving on the game day I go all the way east and come around,” Hogi said. Part of her reason for staying away is to avoid the traffic, but part of it is to escape the irritating feeling of being right. “Those of us that were really fighting the intrusion,” Hogi said. “Everything that we said would happen, has happened.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Featured, Southern Bronx, Sports1 Comment

Teen girl shot in Morris Heights – NY Daily News

An 18-year-old girl is clinging to life after being shot in the head Sunday morning, reports the Daily News. The Victim, whose name has not been released was shot while walking with two men at 2:15 a.m. near West Tremont and Grand Aves. She was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital.

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34 suspects face drug charges – NY1

34 suspects are facing charges of conspiring to sell crack cocaine near two Bronxwood housing projects. 19 of the suspects have already been arrested, reports NY1. Eight more are being held on other charges, with seven remaining on the loose. According to officials at the US District Attorney's office undercover cops have made over 150 purchases near the Allerton Ave Co-ops and the Parkside Houses since 2006. The officers have obtained over 500 grams of cocaine during the operation.

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Post Offices to remain open until May – NY1

The United States Postal Service will delay closing 3,500 facilities across the country until May 15, reports NY1. The moratorium, announced Tuesday, is part of a deal with the Senate that will give Congress more time to develop a cost-cutting plan. 34 New York City facilities are in danger of being closed by the Postal Service.

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Troubled Bronx buildings flipped again

Troubled Bronx buildings flipped again

Dyan Kerr

Dyan Kerr deals with a wall of mold in her Williamsbridge apartment. (STEVEN GRABOSKI/The Bronx Ink)

With a single tap of the finger, mailboxes open at 1585 East 172nd Street in Soundview. It’s a trick anyone can pull off. “Social Security and Section 8 checks have gone missing,” said Andres Rios, the leader of the building’s tenant’s association. Broken mailboxes are just one problem facing Rios’ building, one of six notoriously distressed buildings in Highbridge, Morris Heights and Soundview. The buildings have been in disrepair since 2006, bouncing from owner to owner, each either without a plan to fix them or the money to carry the plans out. The buildings were sold again in September, this time to Bronx real estate agent Anthony Gazivoda, for $21.4 million. Gazivoda paid almost $7 million more than the previous owner, a surprisingly high purchase price that has tenants and housing advocates afraid that the new owner will find himself just as cash-strapped as the previous ones. “There is no financial story that justifies that sale,” said Dina Levy, executive director of the Urban Housing Assistance Board, the advocacy group that has been following the plight of the buildings. “You can twist it but you still can't justify it. There's no amount of rationalization that gets you to $21 million. That's troubling.” Anthony Gazivoda did not respond to numerous interview requests. From the outside, Gazivoda appears to have very few options for turning a profit on the buildings, which house low-income families who cannot afford to pay high rents. Gazivoda is also limited by city regulations, which prevent him from raising many of his tenants’ rents above a small percentage every year. With no clear profit prospects, tenants and housing advocates are worried that Gazivoda will not have the financial means to make the repairs that are desperately needed. Even worse, they fear that he will stop maintaining the buildings altogether, just like the previous owners. “I cannot believe we're here again,” said Levy. “Except this time it's more money, more money than has ever been put on these buildings.” The buildings, which sold for $13.5 million in 2010 to previous owner BXP 1 LLC, had 379 violations of the city’s housing code on Dec. 6. The violations range from broken windows and leaky ceilings to padlocked fire exits, entrances that do not lock, and exposed electrical wiring. Four of the buildings have lead-based paint violations.
History of Neglect Anthony Gazivoda is the fourth landlord in the past five years for the six Bronx buildings. The previous three have not been able to improve the dilapidated conditions in the buildings.
The problems are nothing new in the buildings, which have been poorly maintained since the now-defunct Ocelot group purchased them in 2006. After a bitter power struggle left Ocelot without the money to carry out repairs, the group became an absentee landlord, neglecting maintenance until things were so bad that the city took the group to court and ordered them to repair nearly 3,000 violations and pay a $60,000 fine. They were then sold in 2009 to Queens realtor Sam Suzuki of BXP 1 LLC. Suzuki ended up being no better than Ocelot; under his ownership the buildings racked up over 2,500 housing code violations and two of the Morris Heights buildings made the city’s most distressed list. Angered, the tenants of the Soundview buildings took Suzuki to court where a judge ordered that he make emergency repairs and sentenced him to jail when he failed to do so. The Manhattan-based Bluestone Group took control of the buildings in June of 2010, promising to make repairs and take a long-term interest in the buildings. Yet Bluestone orchestrated BXP 1’s sale of the buildings to Gazivoda a little over a year later, and angry tenants accused the company of doing just enough to sell the buildings for a profit. Tenants were initially weary when Gazivoda took over and reported that, like Bluestone before him, Gazivoda asked for a month to begin carrying out repairs. But since then, tenants in the Highbridge and Morris Heights buildings say that security has improved. “Most of these owners, when they first come here they promise one thing, but then it changes,” tenant Wilfreda Gonzalez said back in September. Gonzalez had high hopes when Gazivoda purchased her building at 1640 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. "This owner, at least I can say that he put in the cameras and intercoms.”
Anthony Gazivoda

Anthony Gazivoda

But more than a month later, the 11-year resident felt differently about ownership. A leak from the apartment above damaged her bathroom walls last summer, and the tiles have yet to be replaced. “They're giving me the runaround,” said Gonzalez, who has called the landlord repeatedly. “He bought the apartment and he has to fix it.” Gazivoda is both an important and mysterious figure in the Bronx real estate market. The 51-year-old Albanian realtor, who sits on the business development board at Hudson Valley Bank, has been in the real estate business since 1978. Since then, city records show that over 40 real estate companies tied to the Gazivoda family have come share the same 3200 Cruger Ave. address. Altogether, Gazivoda and his family own almost 40 buildings in the Bronx.
Bronx Albanians move into real estate Albanians first migrated to America in 1876, according to Constantine Demo, author of The Albanians in America. But they began to move to New York City in big numbers in the 1960s, settling in the Bronx around Morris Park, Arthur Avenue and Pelham Parkway, said Ismer Mjeku, the publisher of the Albanian Yellow Pages, an annual guide for Albanian personal and commercial contacts all across the countryAs Albanian immigrants were settling in these Italian enclaves of the Bronx, they concentrated in the food and restaurant industry, which until then had been mainly run by Italian families. Gradually Albanians took over the business and, in the 1980s, displaced many Italian owners from those restaurants.In their pursuit of business diversification, Albanians got into real estate and started amassing properties. According to Mjeku, today the Albanian community owns almost a third of all the apartment buildings in the Bronx, although he said there is no official data to support his claim.The 2011 edition of the Albanian Yellow Pages shows at least 26 Albanian-owned real estate companies operating in the Bronx and Mt. Vernon. -Mahmoud Sabbagh
Despite owning so much land, very little is known about Gazivoda himself, and the lack of information is worrying to housing advocates. “Who these people are is not clear to us,” said Levy, who has worked at the Urban Housing Assistance Board for seven years. Levy added that Gazivoda “has a very insular network.” Gazivoda has a mixed record as a landlord. Some of his buildings have no violations, others have as many as 98. And though none of the buildings are as bad as his latest purchases, tenants in his more troubled buildings paint a negative picture of the landlord. Dyan Kerr lives in one of Gazivoda’s older properties with her family at 678 East 225th St. in Williamsbridge, where violations decreased from 58 to 26 from October to December. Despite the drop in violations, Kerr said she has been dealing with mice and mold for over a year. “I’m tired of this place,” said Kerr, who has inch-long mold dots clearly visible in her bathroom. Kerr said that management has cleaned the mold in the past, but it kept growing back. In addition, Kerr revealed brown filth in her kitchen cabinet that she said were mice droppings. “This is how we’re living now because people don’t want to fix nothing,” Kerr said. Bathroom mold is also a problem a few miles away in Belmont, where Shantelle Guzman lives in another of Gazivoda’s older properties. “They paint over the mold and the super doesn’t fix anything, he doesn’t live here,” said Guzman, who lives at 611 East 182nd St. Guzman’s apartment also has holes in the walls, where she said mice enter her one-bedroom apartment. She is also upset about shoddy heating that forces her and other residents to use their ovens for heat and an irregular flow of hot water in the building and would like to leave. Back in Soundview, moving has never been an option for Rios, who has led his tenant’s association through five different landlords in 14 years. If necessary, Rios is gearing up for the next battle. “I like to bark and bite,” said Rios, who showed Gazivoda the faulty mailboxes in front of a group of tenants at a meeting on Nov. 9. Before exiting, Gazivoda assured his tenants that the mailbox problem, as well as the dysfunctional fire alarms, would be addressed. “He said it would be taken care of but that it’s not going to be done quick,” he added, discouraged. “I guess to them it wasn’t a priority.”

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Brazen thieves run off with a bag of cash through Melrose streets

Brazen thieves run off with a bag of cash through Melrose streets

Armored Truck perps

Footage from a surveillance camera shows the two suspects in the robbery (photo via NYPD)

Shots rang out early Thursday morning on the streets of Melrose near the Hub as an armored truck security guard fired at two thieves who ran off with the bag of  cash he was trying to deliver to a local check cashing store. The shootout happened just before 8 a.m. outside of David's Check Cashing on Third Avenue and 155th Street. Police said two unidentified men--one wearing a construction hat and an orange vest--approached the security guard in his armored truck as he was unloading his delivery. The suspects sprayed mace at the Rapid Armour Company guard, who then fired at them with his handgun. The suspects wrestled his firearm away before fleeing on foot down 155th Street, turning onto Elton Avenue and escaping with an unspecified amount of cash.
Police stand outside of a check chasing store with a broken window.

The shootout occurred early Thursday morning outside of David's Check Cashing in Melrose. (Nigel Chiwaya| THE BRONX INK)

"I just started hearing shots, I didn't know what was happening," said Abdel Akaaboune, who works at a convenience store across the street from the check cashing store.  "I didn't think it was guns." Remnants of the robbery could be spotted at the crime scene. A white construction helmet was dropped in front of the store. A single bullet hole punctured the window of a Foreman Mills across the street, and the front door of the check-chasing store was shattered. Another bullet hit the door of an MTA bus. A trail of blood led up 155th Street toward Elton Avenue. Witnesses said the fleeing suspects left behind a handgun. Neither the driver, the security guard, nor bystanders were hurt. Residents said that even though they’re used to violence, this wild-west-like shootout defied belief. “There have been robberies around here before with knives and things, but nothing like this,” said David Luciano, who owns an auto shop across the street that was robbed four years ago. “To try to rob an armored truck, that takes some serious guts.” Police  have asked the public to help them identify the suspects. One is described as a 5-foot-4-inch black male, between ages 25 and 40, with a "low caesar-cut hairstyle and bad skin." The second suspect is a 5-foot-8-inch black male, in his 40s, last seen wearing black sunglasses and a tight black skull cap beneath the white construction helmet that was left at the scene.  

Posted in Crime, Featured, Southern Bronx0 Comments

Bloody week in the Bronx

Bloody week in the Bronx

Violence in the Bronx has escalated in this week with three shootings in a span of three days, leaving a 4-year-old boy in critical condition and Bronx residents feeling rattled. Click on each marker for more details. View Bloody week in the Bronx in a larger map

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Multimedia0 Comments

Cycling renaissance pedals slowly to the Bronx

Cycling renaissance pedals slowly to the Bronx

A cyclist rides on the Grand Concourse ahead of traffic

A cyclist shares the road with traffic on the Grand Concourse. (Nigel Chiwaya |THE BRONX INK)

Every morning Shardy Nieves rides his bicycle 11 miles from his home in Crotona to his job at Champion Courier on 37th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan.  The 31-year-old Nieves said that he makes the ride, which takes almost an hour by subway, in 35 minutes. “Faster than a train, less congestion,” said Nieves, who works in customer service at Champion Courier. “You can’t beat it.” Still, he noted, cycling in Manhattan is far easier than in the Bronx. “Manhattan is more bike friendly," Nieves said. “In the Bronx you have to fend for yourself.” The Bronx has been pushed to the slow lanes in New York City’s current cycling renaissance.  Not only does it have fewer miles of bike lanes than Brooklyn and Manhattan, and it is not yet included in the city’s ambitious bike sharing program. The result is a cycling community that is smaller than the ones in Brooklyn and Manhattan, something that was on full display during the Oct. 23 Tour de Bronx. The tour, an annual non-competitive bike ride through the borough, drew cyclists from all five boroughs. At the Yankee Stadium Number 4 station, riders from Manhattan and Brooklyn poured out of uptown trains in droves. Across the platform, a single cyclist came from the north Bronx, a symptom likely caused by the tip of the borough's lack of bike lanes. There are 88.5 miles of bike lanes in the Bronx, 56.5 of which have been added since 2006. Of the five boroughs, only Staten Island has fewer miles of bike lanes. Lanes in the outer boroughs were placed in areas that provide easy access to midtown Manhattan. In Brooklyn and Queens, this means lanes in the waterfront communities of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Long Island City and Astoria, respectively.
A graphic showing the miles of bike lanes in each borough

The Bronx trails Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan in miles of bike lanes. (Click to Enlarge)

Similarly, most of the Bronx’s bike lanes have been placed in the South Bronx, in close proximity to the Harlem River bridges on streets like the Grand Concourse, Third, Walton and Jerome Avenues. The placement of the lanes on major streets has been a blessing and a curse for riders, who now have dedicated travel paths to Manhattan. But they have to be willing to weave through busy side streets in order to reach them. Some cyclists choose not to deal with the threats of traffic, opting instead to take their bicycles on the subway. Jennie Heslin, who runs the New York City social bicycle club, had to get from her apartment in Morris Heights down to 161st Street for the Tour de Bronx. “I ended up taking my bike on the train,” Heslin said. “I wanted to avoid riding in the streets.” It’s not uncommon to see cars parked in bike lanes, said Sebita Lekhraj, one of Heslin’s club members. “People don’t have any respect for bikers,” said Lekhraj, who also lives in Morris Park. Dedicated bike lanes are not the only area where the Bronx rides behind Manhattan and Brooklyn. In September, the city debuted plans for an ambitious public bike-sharing program. The system, which calls for 600 stations and 10,000 bikes, will launch in September 2012 in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Alta Bicycle Share, the company that will run the program, excluded the Bronx from the trial after conducting feasibility studies, but has indicated the possibility of establishing a smaller, disconnected satellite system in the borough at a later date. Cycling has been a contentious issue in New York. The city began a push to increase the number of riding paths in 1997 with the release of the bike master plan. However bike lane construction didn’t begin in earnest until Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrived in 2001 and began championing the issue. In fact, Bloomberg made so much progress that disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, a mayoral frontrunner before a lewd photo scandal forced his resignation, once told the mayor that if elected, he’d spend his first year in office “tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.” In Brooklyn, Park Slope residents banded together to sue the city over a lane on Prospect Park West. The case was dismissed in August. The Bronx hasn’t seen any similar uprisings, said Ben Fried, author of the alternative transportation website Streetsblog.org. “I’d be shocked if we heard a story like that,” Fried said. While Brooklyn residents fume over bike lanes, Bronx residents seem to be rolling with the idea. A June 2011 poll showed that 63 percent of Bronx residents support bike lanes, a rate that tied with Manhattan for highest in the city. Some expect those numbers will grow. “In terms of the number of people cycling, it's not quite up there, but I think there's a lot of people that don't have cars, said Fried.”

Posted in Culture, Featured, Sports0 Comments

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