Tag Archive | "Bronx"

A crying woman, shots and an officer down

By Alec Johnson

Early Monday afternoon Yesenia Rodriguez ran down the stairs from the second floor in the Morrisania Air Rights apartment complex at 3073 Park Ave. in the South Bronx.  She was crying. The man upstairs, she said in Spanish, had thrown her to the ground and threatened to kill her.

PO Robert Salerno

Police Officer Robert Salerno (NYPD)

She found neighbor, Jimmy Molina, 54, reading a newspaper in the lobby. She told him that Santiago Urena, the son of an elderly woman she cared for, was making repeated sexual advances towards her and she was fed up. When she threatened to call the police he pulled out a gun and yelled, “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you.”

She and Molina called 911 and as they waited she told him the story.  A few minutes later, about 12:30 p.m. four police officers from the 44th precinct entered the lobby.

“They asked where the guy with the gun was,” Molina said. He interpreted for the officers as Rodriguez told them Urena was on the second floor. Urena’s brother, Demetrio, 69, led them upstairs. Two cops, Molina said, ran up the stairs to apartment 2G and the other two took the elevator.

Less than a minute later Molina heard gunshots. Santiago Urena, 57, opened fire as officers approached a bedroom, police later said. Three .38 caliber bullets fired by Urena struck Police Officer Robert Salerno, 25. Two entered his unprotected lower abdomen and a third lodged in the bulletproof vest that covered his chest. Salerno returned fire, emptying his 16 round magazine. The three other officers shot a total of five times.

Molina was outside the building when about, he said, “two minutes later four cops brought him out carrying him.” Two held his legs and two held his hands — “running to the ambulance.”

Gun Recovered

This .38 caliber revolver was recovered by police from the crime scene. (NYPD)

Salerno, the first police officer shot in the line of duty this year, was taken to Lincoln Hospital where surgeons removed the bullets. Urena was not so lucky. Police who returned to the apartment after taking Salerno to the ambulance found Urena dead of what appeared to be a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. On Tuesday the medical examiner determined that police rounds killed Urena.

Urena’s 91-year-old mother was in another room of the apartment during the shooting and was later carried out of the building.

Police cordoned off the block and neighbors milled around the street in the afternoon rain. They were shocked by the shootout. Nelson Figuerola who lives on the 20th floor of the 23-floor building pointed across 158th street and said he would have expected gunplay over there, but not in his building.

“That building they call Vietnam,” he said. “This one is a lot better.”

Figuerola has lived in 2073 Park Ave. since 1982 and remembered Urena as a quiet man that used to work at the airport. “He cleaned airplanes,” he said. “Nobody expected this.”

Marie Garcia, 23, lives on the 16th floor and was awakened by sirens as dozens of police swarmed the area minutes after the shooting. She looked out her window and saw them running into the building. “They looked like sardines,” she said. “They were all trying to fit in the front door at once.”

The crowd of more than 100 that formed shortly after the shooting dispersed as heavier rain fell in the late afternoon. A handful returned after dark to watch the medical examiners wheel Urena’s body out on a stretcher.

A resident of 3073 Park Ave. in the Bronx reacts to questions by the media, Monday, after a police officer was shot in her building.

A resident of 3073 Park Ave. in the Bronx reacts to questions by the media, Monday, after a police officer was shot in her building. (Alec Johnson/The Bronx Ink)

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Southern BronxComments (0)

VIDEO – Health Care Reform – Bronx and Brooklyn React

by the staff of the Bronx Ink and the Brooklyn Ink

Video by Dan Lieberman and Rania Zabaneh

Text by Matthew Huisman

First came the campaign for healthcare, then a year of debate in Congress. Yet at the end of a nine-hour deliberation and a vote that will send the bill to the president’s desk this week, people seem unclear about what the law means to them.

On Monday morning the reaction of hospitals, businesses, politicians and people in the Bronx and Brooklyn was one of confusion. Jennifer Brookland examined the numbers, breaking down people enrolled in Medicaid and what it could mean for the people of the borough. We found that the majority of small businesses won’t be adversely effected by the bill, as business leaders greeted it with optimism.

State and local politicians added their own input on the legislation. Brooklyn Republicans were disgruntled, calling the law a slippery slope toward socialized medicine. State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol who represents Fort Greene, Williamsburg and Greenpoint praised the bill. Fellow Democrat Charles Barron, City Council representative of Brownsville and Canarsie as well as parts of East New York and Flatbush, had some harsh words for “blue dog” Democrats who watered down the bill.

The legislation also sent ripples through the Health Care Industry where Brooklyn pharmacists reacted with apprehension and confusion. Nursing homes faced similar confusion about the insurance coverage for seniors and those on Medicaid. One Brooklyn doctor with a 25-year career feared an increase in the number of patients  which could mean less one-on-one time between doctors and their patients. At the Montefiore Medical Center, some are concerned funding will be cut for low-patient care. While legal immigrants will enjoy the benefits of the law, undocumented immigrants won’t have access, which, many say, runs contrary to the goal of greater access to health care.

One of the lesser known facets of the bill is the revamping of the college loan system. The government would be the direct lender rather than going through private banks.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Health, MultimediaComments (0)

VIDEO – La Lechonera Criolla

La Lechonera Criolla is an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant in the South Bronx.

Reported and Produced by Elif Ince and Rania Zabaneh.

Posted in Bronx Life, Food, Multimedia, Southern BronxComments (0)

AUDIO SLIDESHOW – Mike Amadeo: Rey of the Bolero

Mike Amadeo, 76, is an established composer and musician. Amadeo was born in Puerto Rico and came to the U.S. in his early teens. Since 1969, he has owned  Casa Amadeo, one of the oldest Latin music stores in the city.

Audio Slideshow produced by Rania Zabaneh.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Tales, Multimedia, Southern BronxComments (0)

Students Fight Proposed Campus Relocation

The students of University Heights High School had a clear message for the Department of Education representative at Tuesday night’s public hearing about the proposed relocation of their school: “We are not moving.”

Department of Education and local representatives listen as students and community members urge them to leave University Heights High at its current location. (Photo: Sonia Dasgupta/The Bronx Ink)

Department of Education and local representatives listen as students and community members urge them to leave University Heights High at its current location. (Photo: Sonia Dasgupta/The Bronx Ink)

The refrain was echoed by several students who took to the microphone to try to convince the small panel before them that the high school should not be forced to move from the Bronx Community College campus, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) network.

The school, which has been on the campus since 1986, is scheduled to be relocated to the South Bronx High School campus, where it would share space with Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School. But students, administrators and parents at University Heights have organized to fight the move – about three and a half miles away and to another school district – citing concerns about the school’s culture, safety and students’ commutes.

The college says that it needs the high school’s classroom space to serve the college’s growing student body. Enrollment has increased 46 percent from fall 2001 to fall 2009. In December of 2008, CUNY asked the Department of Education to look for a new location for University Heights, in anticipation of the trend continuing. And the college’s enrollment continues to climb: the figure increased by 1,500 students from last spring to this semester.

Judy Wexler, assistant principal at University Heights, said she was happy for the college that its enrollment has grown. But she said she was frustrated that there had been no talk of a compromise – such as using the high school classrooms for late afternoon and night classes only. “It’s not feeling like it’s an open dialogue,” she said.

At the meeting Tuesday night, she implored the Board of Education to find a way to keep the school in its current location until the college’s construction of a new building is complete, two years from now.

University Heights, which serves 450 students and has received A’s on its last two report cards, was founded with the idea that a presence on a college campus would help make college seem like a realistic and attainable option for its students. Some students are even able to take college courses while still in high school.

Multiple students spoke Tuesday night about the positive message that being on a college campus had sent to them, contrasting that with the new location: less than half a mile up the road from a juvenile detention center. That sends a message “that the next step is jail,” Maria Ruiz, a senior, said after the meeting.

Other students worried more about the safety of the proposed location, some recounting stories of gunshots and gang violence in the South Bronx that they didn’t have to worry about on a college campus. “When we go up those steps, we don’t have to worry about our cell phones or iPods” getting stolen, said junior Aurelis Troncoso.

But Troncoso’s biggest concern about her school’s future is whether she’ll be able to continue to attend. Right now she lives close enough to the school that she can walk if need be. If the school moves to a new location, she’d need to take a bus and two trains to get there. And with the transit authority getting rid of student MetroCards, she doesn’t know if she’d be able to afford the trip; her mother is an unemployed single parent.

Wexler is hopeful though, that even if the school is forced to move, the vast majority of student will continue to attend.

Although the speakers Tuesday night were mostly students, representatives from elected officials and from the teachers’ union also made appeals for the relocation plans to end. The students have set up meeting with council members and written hundreds of letters. And many of them remained optimistic that their voices would be heard in the end.

“I’m always hopeful of everything. I don’t think it’s over until it’s over,” junior Tyriq Greene said. “I don’t have money. All we have are words and actions.”

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Education, Northwest BronxComments Off on Students Fight Proposed Campus Relocation

VIDEO – Tales of the Unemployed

In Feb. 2010, Omar Mitchell, 38, lost his job. That was when his life took a dramatic turn; his girlfriend left him with their child, his family and friends started treating him differently, assuming he’s knocking their doors for help… Yet, Mitchell is not giving up, he’s been spending most of his time between job centers in the Bronx and around.

Video produced and reported by Rania Zabaneh.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, MultimediaComments (0)

Bronx man falls to his death

A 35-year-old man died after he plummeted four stories down a freight elevator shaft around 11 p.m. on Monday in an apartment complex in Mount Hope.

Joseph Ryan stepped backwards into what he thought was the elevator on the lobby level as he and his wife were moving a mattress up to their seventh floor apartment, but the elevator car wasn’t there, police said.

Ryan was pronounced dead after he was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital. The New York Daily News reported that Ryan was an elevator repairman who pried the door open himself earlier in the evening to help with the move.

The apartment building,  located at 1749 Grand Concourse, has had issues in the past with the elevators,  residents said.

Olga Ayala, a 27-year resident of the complex, said her 13-year-old son wouldn’t use the elevator because he doesn’t like it.

“It’s always getting stuck,” Ayala said, “and then you have to ring the emergency bell.”

She said the elevators in the building break down often and one wasn’t working for a month.

There is an open complaint from last month, according to records on the Department of Buildings Web site, regarding one of the building’s main elevators. Another complaint from January was closed out with no violation issued.

Maria Mojica, who has lived in the building for more than five years, said the freight elevator is only supposed to be used for moving in and out of the complex, although sometimes people use it as an emergency elevator if the others aren’t working.

“There are a lot of residents who have handicaps,” Mojica said. “They need the elevator.”

A building official said the freight elevator runs until about 5 p.m.

Twelve-year resident Daryl Poe said the freight elevator must be opened in order for it to be used.

“I don’t understand how no one noticed that there was no elevator,” Poe said. “It had to have been pitch black inside the doors.”

Poe said the apartment has had accidents in the past including an Easter fire in 2007.

“It must have been horrible for the wife,” Poe said. “Can you imagine watching your husband fall to his death?”

Many of the residents hadn’t been notified of the incident Tuesday morning. Ayala found out about Ryan’s death by watching the news.

“We weren’t notified at all,” she said. “I would have liked to know.”

The superintendent of the building declined to comment, but a spokesman for the owners of the building extended their condolences.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim of this tragic accident and with his family,” said Bud Perrone, a spokesman with Rubenstein Associates. “We are cooperating fully with all relevant government authorities and will continue to do so until their investigations are complete.”

The police are still investigating.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Housing, Southern BronxComments (0)

VIDEO – A Bronx Church Helps Displaced Haitians Get Legal Status

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Multimedia, North Central Bronx, PoliticsComments (1)

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