Author Archives | smo2124

Sounding Off On Stop and Frisk

Tension between Bronx residents and police have been smoldering in recent weeks, in the wake of police killings of two unarmed young men.

Recent protests have followed a year of public outcry over reports that city police have disproportionately stopped and frisked Black and Latino young men, particularly those in the South Bronx, based on little more than police suspicion. Most recently, a five-borough protest spurred by residents took place last Thursday.

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the Bronx Ink staff decided to find out if Bronx residents thought the stop-and-frisk tactics  might in any way be contributing to the growing unrest. Reporters scoured 12 community districts and collected the stories of 33 people, ranging from the ages of 19 to 72.  Of those surveyed, 43 percent were Black, 30 percent Hispanic, 15 percent White, 9 percent South Asian, and 3 percent Asian. Six were women, 27 were men. Occupations ranged from student to dishwasher to paralegal. The overall population in the Bronx is 30.1 percent Black, 53.5 percent Hispanic, 10.9 percent White, and 3.2 percent Asian.

Police argue that the stop and frisk policy has resulted in removing dangerous criminals from the street. But a majority of men interviewed complained about being stopped multiple times, even though weapons were never found. Data released by the New York Police Department last year showed that more than 400 stops occurred in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx last year, resulting in only 10 confiscated guns. Most residents surveyed said they felt they were victims of profiling based on their race. Police data showed that young Black men represent 25.6 percent of the NYPD stops but only 1.9 percent of the city’s population. The same goes for young Latino men, who make up 16 percent of the NYPD’s stops but only 2.8 percent of the city’s population.

Some of the Bronx residents’ memories were fresh, and raw. Louis Soltren said he was sitting outside his Mott Haven apartment building one evening, dressed in a suit, drinking a Gatorade, taking a rest in the open air after a long day of work. That’s when a police officer approached him.

I pulled out my ID,” Soltren remembered. “The guy actually refused to see my ID. Instead of treating me like a human being, he treated me like an animal.

The officer ordered Soltren to take off his shoes and place his hands against the wall of his apartment building.

I look way different than what certain drug dealers look like,” said Soltren, a 31-year-old Spanish and Italian resident of the Bronx. “I still fall in that category. The way I see it is because of my Hispanic race.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union estimates that police stopped on average about 1,900 people per day in 2011. The policy allows an officer to stop a person for a variety reasons, including walking suspiciously or having a suspicious bulge. The data shows that 88 percent of those stopped were not charged with anything.

Police records show that in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, where Soltren has lived for 24 years, officers stopped and frisked residents 17,690  times – the fourth highest number in New York City.

Over half of the survey participants said they had been stopped. One-third of them admitted it happened more than once.

“One-hundred-one times I have been stopped by cops,” said Joys Reid, 53, a life-long Hunts Point resident, standing across the street from his apartment on Hoe avenue. “Everyday we get picked up for nothing.”

Of those interviewed, 77 percent said they opposed the practice.

“Stop and frisk I don’t think is going to stop anything because it hasn’t,” said Terrence Wilkerson, 36, a Highbridge resident for 30 years.

“Stop and frisk is borderline racism,” Wilkerson added.

The Bronx Ink poll reflects a greater trend among Black and Hispanic residents. According to a Quinnipiac University survey, 69 percent of Black voters and 53 percent of Hispanic voters disapproved of stop and frisk. In New York City overall, registered voters are split on the policy: 50 percent against, 45 percent for, and 5 percent undecided.

Only five of the people we spoke to supported the policy, two of whom were Hispanic.“I think it’s great. It’s extremely important,” said Robert Flores, 45, a Fordham resident. “I know a lot of people are against it but I feel that it needs to happen. Within this community, we are the only people robbing each other.”

Overwhelmingly, those surveyed said more positive police involvement in their community would prevent unnecessary stops. “If they see the same people everyday, they should know the community,” Peter Lorenzi, 19, a criminal justice major at Berkeley College said. “They should know people around them.”

Click on photos to hear their stories.


Additional reporting by Ana Ionova, Andrew Freedman, Annaliese Wiederspahn, Coleen Jose, Jan Hendrik Hinzel, Jika González, Kenny Suleimanagich, Margaret Badore, Natasha Lindstrom, Sadef A. Kully, Selase Kove-Seyram, Sonia Paul, Valentine Pasquesoone, Vidur Malik and Yi Du.


Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Featured, Morrisania, Multimedia, North Central Bronx, Northwest Bronx, Sizing up Stop and Frisk, Southern Bronx, Special Reports2 Comments

Dance Company Prepares for a Final Curtain Call in the Bronx

Kraven Dancers

Kraven Seneca dancers Alicia Waldie, Amin Jai, Noele Phillips and Natafa rehearse at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance.. (SYLVIA OBELL/The Bronx Ink)

It was May 2000 and Noele Phillips was set to take the stage at LaGuardia Community College for the first time with fellow dancers Amin Jai and Kiki Beckles.

“I’ll never forget,” said Phillips. “I was so excited to be a part of this dance with them.” Her performance would decide whether she could be a permanent part of the newly formed Kraven Seneca Dance Company, she said, and she was determined to make it.

That dance turned out to be the beginning of a 13-year partnership that is just now coming to an end with a final show Oct. 20 at the Bronx Art Academy of Dance. In that time, the three have performed around the Bronx spreading strong messages about the effects of racism and  homophobia through dance.

Back in 2000, all three were students at LaGuardia. Jai and Beckles had only been dancing together for two or three months before Phillips joined them. “I met them both separately,” said Phillips. “I saw Kiki on campus one day and I was like, ‘Oh shoot there’s another black girl,’ and we began to hang out. I knew of Amin from seeing him dancing around the college,” she said.

Jai had formed Kraven Seneca a year earlier and Phillips wanted in. She got her shot in March of 2000 when Amin allowed her to start practicing for the May performance that would serve as her trial run. He even raised the stakes by giving her a solo. Phillips wasn’t fazed at all. “It felt good,” she said. “I got a chance to show off and go hard.”

Phillips went on to do just that during their performance in May, becoming an official principal dancer. At the time, the company included Jai, Beckles, and five other dancers, a format that would change over the years. “We used to call ourselves Destiny’s Nieces,” Phillips said. “Dancers have come and gone but we always stuck.”

Their joke refers to Destiny’s Child, the popular girl group led by Beyonce Knowles. The group’s line-up went through a series of changes throughout the years but ultimately Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams remained until the group decided to split up and pursue  solo careers – another decision that the two groups have in common.

After 13 years of putting their lives into Kraven Dance Company, Jai, Phillips, and Beckles have decided to close the company and go their separate ways. “I feel it’s time,” said Jai. “Creatively we are in different places.”

Kraven Seneca Dance Company dancers Alicia Waldie, Amin Jai, Noele Phillips and Natafa strike a pose. (SYLVIA OBELL/The Bronx Ink)

Jai claimed the decision to close had nothing to do with financial issues. Grants  from organizations like the New York Road Runner Foundation have supported the dance company. They also receive a lot of personal donations during benefits they’ve held and through the web. They have been able to acquire residencies, which allow them a certain amount of hours and a performance in different venues.

Jai is heading to California to pursue his love of sound-work — a technical term in theater that ranges from writing scores for films and plays to producing music for artists.  Jai wants to do the latter. He currently is a track coach in the Bronx through the New York Road Runner’s Foundation. He also teaches dance at Allegra Dance School in Greenwich, Conn.

Phillips — who works during the day as a customer service coordinator for New York & Company  — has  been submitting head shots to different dance agencies. Phillips also hopes to develop the dance classes she currently teaches at KS JAMM in Brooklyn. “I want to expand where I teach throughout New York City, and create my own workshops in African and modern dance,” said Phillips.

Beckles plans to take lots of dance classes while trying to figure out what to do next. “I feel like I’m having the hardest time with this whole process,” she said. “My life was so much Kraven, I don’t know what I’m going to do next.”

Kraven’s performances deliver provocative messages. “Strange Fruit,” for example, is based on a lynching. Jai’s most personal dance is called “Classified: Faggot;” it represents his real-life struggles growing up as a gay black teenager.

Phillips describes the solo dance as a kind of autobiography for Jai. The piece has a lot of visual effects. Viewers see a video of where Jai grew up and hear a recorded narration while he’s dancing. The moves represent his realization that he was gay, the reactions of his family and friends, and his struggle for self-acceptance. It ends with him almost committing suicide.

“Being that vulnerable and open, it takes a lot out of you,” said Jai. “Some people say thank you after the performance, others cry; I just hope it makes someone change their mind about ending their life. That’s something you can’t take back.”

“It makes you feel like, wow, if he didn’t do XYZ, he wouldn’t be here today,” said Phillips. “It makes me happy he is who he is.”.

The final performance will include seven new dances and six old ones. There will also be some video footage. The event is open to the public. Tickets cost $20 and can be reserved through BAAD at (718) 842-5223 or Kraven at

Kraven dancers say they’re not afraid to be provocative as long as they get their message across. (SYLVIA OBELL/The Bronx Ink)

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Bronx Tales, Culture, Southern Bronx0 Comments

Fordham Manor Fire Injures Nine Residents, Two Firefighters

A fire broke out inside a second-floor apartment building near the rear of University Ave. in Fordham Manor at about 11:30 p.m. The fire caused a total of 11 injuries, nine residents and two firefighters, the New York Daily News reports.

According to FDNY Assistant Chief Ronald Spadafora, the smoke filled the six-story building’s upper floors quickly. Ladder 46 firefighter’s responded and rescued several tenants from both inside the apartment and outside through the front windows.

Bloodstains can be seen cascading down the front façade of the building. The blood belongs to a fifth-floor male resident who cut an artery in his arm after trying to escape the fire through his window.

All nine of the injured residents were taken to local hospitals.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Posted in Newswire0 Comments

New Pelham Parkway South sidewalk narrows service road, residents rally and sue

The city is being sued by Bronx residents over a new sidewalk that narrows their service road, the New York Daily News reports. The new sidewalk runs along the median that separates Pelham Parkway South from its service road.

The sidewalk reduces the service road to 26 feet wide — 12 feet with cars parked on both sides. Residents fear that fire trucks will not be able to navigate their street as a result.

On Monday, groups of residents marched along the service road to gather some support for their lawsuit. Props included sign’s that read “Dear Mayor, Tear up this sidewalk to nowhere” and cardboard coffins.

The city Transportation Department claims that the sidewalk is part of a $30 million restoration of Pelham Parkway, however residents still insist the sidewalk is unnecessary due to its dead end at the parkway’s South exit to Jacobi Hospital.

Posted in Newswire0 Comments