Tag Archive | "Bronx"

Gains in National Job Figures Don’t Mean Bronx Resurgence

Gains in National Job Figures Don’t Mean Bronx Resurgence

Bronx residents line up outside a Workforce 1 job center in February. (Zabaneh/Bronx Ink)
Bronx residents lined up outside a Workforce 1 job center in February. (Zabaneh/Bronx Ink)

Story by Shreeya Sinha, Lynsey Chutel and Sunil Joshi

While the national jobs figure for March indicated that the country is on the path to economic recovery, the employment picture in the Bronx was not so sanguine. Unemployment in the borough remains several points above the national average, and thousands of residents are still unable to find work.

For more coverage of Bronx job hunters, click here.

Above the bustling business hub of 149th Street and Third Avenue, rows of almost 50 people sat on Thursday in a cordoned-off waiting room in the Workforce 1 office, looking for help from the Bronx branch of the citywide employment agency.

This was Veronica Eaddy’s second time at the “one-stop employment center.” With a soft round face under thick waves, in a casual jeans and T-shirt, Eaddy, who asked that her full name not be used, doesn’t look her age at 42. But the string of jobs she has tried her hand at reveal a long struggle with unemployment. “I’ve been through many systems where a job has been promised and nothing happened,” Eaddy said.

Nationwide, there may be reason for optimism after the jobs report revealed that the depressed economy may be turning around. The U.S. Department of Labor announced on Friday that 162,000 jobs were added to the national economy, though the nationwide unemployment rate remained steady at 9.7 percent. But an increase in the national jobs number does not necessarily correlate to an increase in the number of jobs in the Bronx, said James Brown, an analyst with the New York Department of Labor. “There’s not a one-for-one increase,” he said. For Bronx job-seekers like Eaddy, economic struggles are still festering.

“You pretty much need a master’s degree to pick up the garbage,” said Eaddy, who feels that living in the Bronx has been a disadvantage for her. She’s spent the last seven years looking for a full-time job. Unemployment in the borough soared to 14 percent in January, well above the national average. Hunger and poverty are stark realities in the borough that is already struggling to compete with a higher-skilled workforce.

“That doesn’t bode well for the Bronx, which has a pretty high percentage of the local workforce that doesn’t have high levels of educational attainment,” said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future, a research firm.

About half of Bronxites work outside the borough, Brown said. Many of these jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors are not only low-paying but largely dependent on consumer spending, which has sunk deeply in the recession. Analysts are hopeful that consumers will grudgingly start spending. Consumer spending picked up for the sixth month running in March.

“A lot of establishments are closing,’’ Eaddy said. “There aren’t many jobs that you could get if you come straight off school, like low-skilled jobs. And most of them can be pretty crap.”

Arthur Merlino, manager of Workforce 1, has worked in the labor market for 48 years, crisscrossing labor offices across the city’s five boroughs. After two years managing the Bronx branch, he admits that the borough poses a specific challenge. “This is a real serious time,” said Merlino, his eyes closing as he spoke. “I’d say, experientially it’s been a very difficult couple of years.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. has made economic development and job creation a priority but critics have accused him of costing the Bronx thousands of jobs at a mall he opposed at the Kingsbridge Armory. Diaz opposed the project on the grounds that it would not provide Bronxites living wages. The City Council voted against the mall.

Franck Strongbow, associate director of the James Monroe Senior Center agreed with Diaz. After he spent eight months living “between a rock and a hard place,” Strongbow lived paycheck to paycheck when he was 25 years old trying to make ends meet. For him, a job is all about dignity. “What the borough president was saying was, “Let’s start with affordable living range because people should be paying an honest day’s labor.” According to the Center for Urban Future, 42 percent of the Bronx workforce is making less than $10 an hour.

The payroll company Automatic Data Processing said this week that U.S. employers cut 23,000 jobs in March, dampening expected forecasts ahead of Friday’s job report. Much of the nationwide growth in March was in temporary government jobs, particularly by the Census Bureau, which hired 48,000 temporary employees, according to the Department of Labor, including enough staff for four Census offices in the Bronx.

Elsewhere, there are signs of life in the borough’s jobs market. A coalition of construction workers in the Bronx said it has seen employment opportunities tick upward in March, with more activity on job sites. While the overall number of new building permits issued in the Bronx during the first three months of the year is down from 2009 — 44 to 18 — there were eight new building permits issued in the Bronx in March (up from four last year), according to the Department of Buildings. Richard Rodriguez, an administrator for United Hispanic Construction, said that his labor coalition was able to connect more workers with jobs in March, particularly with a new development on 163rd Street in Morrisania.

Despite the real-estate market’s more than two-year struggle, prices in Manhattan remain high, fueling new development in the outer boroughs, said Ken Margolies, director of organizing programs at the Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations. But while Margolies noted the signs of improvement, he cautioned against unbridled optimism. “The key thing about the news,” he said, “is that, by and large, the new jobs that are being created pay less than the ones that are being lost.”

The manufacturing sector is another industry that saw accelerated growth in March, according to the Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group. In February about 11,000 jobs were created, the largest increase in almost four years. Other sectors like health care have also done well, especially after President Obama’s health care plan passed. In March, 27,000 new health care jobs were added to the national economy, according to the Department of Labor.

That’s where Eaddy hopes to try her luck. She’s optimistic that the health care reform will revitalize jobs in this sector. “Since there was such a push going on in public health, I think that a lot of jobs are going to start that I want to get into while the getting in is good,” she said. Eaddy is trying to secure a voucher from the New York State Department of Labor that will cover a six-month-long Medical Billing and Coding course at Hostos Community College. Waving a manila folder on Thursday, with the college brochure inside, she checked that she had all her documentation. She had been waiting for move than an hour for her 4 p.m. appointment.

While she waits for a steady job, Eaddy decided to start her own business. “Splendidly Me,” a cosmetic business that she runs out of her East 180th Street apartment, supplements her income. When she is not teaching customers how to make coconut oil or twist their hair, Eaddy is pinning her long-term hopes on the health care industry.

“Now I have to come back,” she said, “but this time I’m doing something smart with a marketable skill so that I can have some leverage.”

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VIDEO – The Bronx Celebrates Holy Week, the Indian Way

At St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of India, more than 170 families gathered in the Bronx to celebrate the start of Holy Week. A story by Rania Zabaneh and Dunia Kamal.

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Seekers Hunt for Jobs in the Bronx

Seekers Hunt for Jobs in the Bronx

At the Morton Williams in Kingsbridge, people lined up to apply for an entry-level job. (Sam Fellman/Bronx Ink)

At the Morton Williams in Kingsbridge, people lined up to apply for an entry-level job. (Fellman/Bronx Ink)

Atavia Scott dreams of being a chef. Nicole Garcia wants to write about travel. And Sophia Pritchet wants to work at the retailer Forever 21. But each has had to put these dream jobs aside for now, and search more widely for that increasingly elusive commodity in the Bronx: the job.

Read more about umemployment in the Bronx here.

On a recent morning, they joined the line of some 40 job applicants at the Morton Williams in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, where the supermarket chain holds weekly interviews for openings at its 12 stores in the city. A manager laid out the application guidelines to the job seekers while a few shoppers strolled by.

“Again, you must know the name of the company and the address of the company” you use as a reference on the application form, explained Valerie Sloan, a vice president at the supermarket.

After explaining other aspects of the hiring process and twice stressing that those without proper identification should leave, Sloan, who declined any comment, returned to the small office perched in a corner above the store exit and called the first applicant.

Those near the front of the line sat down on the ledge running along the storefront window. The line snaked along the wall past the checkouts and the nine-foot-high stack of Malta India soda bottles until finally coming to an end half-way down aisle three just before the Stella D’Oro cookies. Since the supermarket chain holds their applications for six months, most of the job seekers were new.

Even as the national economy added 162,000 jobs nationally in March, according to the latest Department of Labor estimate, in the Bronx, where the unemployment rate is now at 14 percent, the employment market is becoming cutthroat, forcing experienced workers to apply for entry-level positions and others to vastly expand their job search.

Supermarket work wasn’t Atavia Scott’s first choice, but she lost her job as a health aide in January and has applied for over a dozen others without luck. In the last two weeks alone, Scott, who is 27 and lives in Soundview, has applied to more than 15 places—everything from health care to Rite Aid.

“Right now, I’ll work anywhere,” Scott said. “I’m not being a chooser.”

Scott said her interview with Sloan “went OK.” The manager told her that the supermarket was hiring five applicants to work as cashiers or in the deli, and that she’d get a call next week if they had a position for her. They were minimum wage jobs, Scott said, but at least there was a union and some benefits. Still, Scott wasn’t content to wait a week. Afterwards, she left to inquire at a home health agency in Mott Haven.

In many respects, Ben—who declined to give his last name because he feared it might hurt his prospects with the supermarket chain—has had a harder time. He said he had spent 30 years working in supermarkets, until he lost his job managing a food market in Queens in 2007. Ben, now 56, can’t find a job fitting his experience level.

“Some tell me I’m overqualified, some tell me I don’t have enough experience for the position that available,” he said. “All those fast food places—they’re all hiring. But it’s part time work at a minimum wage. They don’t require experience because they do on-the-job training.”

He’s applied to Macy’s, the Restaurant Depot, Sears. “I’ve gone so far as to apply for a job as a secretary,” he added.

Meanwhile, the pressure to stay solvent has been mounting, Ben said. Unable to afford his rent, he had to move his wife and two children to a shelter and now supports them on only $41 in food stamps and $1,720 in public assistance a month.

“It’s really hard to make ends meet when you don’t have much coming in each month,” he said. “I’m out here every day looking for a job. Even on Sundays.”

At the interview, Ben told Sloan that he was applying for a department head position at Morton Williams. Sloan said that no positions were available, but that she’d forward the application to her supervisor. Ben said the supermarket’s benefits were good—medical, dental, raises every six months—and hoped to hear back if a position opened up over the next few months.

Ana Pena, meanwhile, needed a job now. The 56-year-old Dominican immigrant has been out of work for nearly a year after she lost her job cleaning at a McDonald’s. Although she is living with a niece, she said that she wasn’t on Medicaid and needed to get a job as much for the pay as for the health insurance. She was attracted to Target for the employee benefits.

“I was trying to get a job with Target, but they never called me,” she said. “I wish I could get me a job making $8 an hour.”

Pena’s niece suggested she try Morton Williams. But Pena arrived at 9:30 am—15 minutes after they stopped accepting applications. Sloan told her to come back next week.

“It’s ok,” she said. “I’ll be here next time at 8 o’clock.”

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On Day of Census Snapshot, 37 Percent of Bronx Has Responded

What does the Bronx look like today? The answer could resonate for the next decade after the 2010 Census is complete.

If the Census is a decennial snapshot of the American populace, today would be the day the photo is taken. That’s because the Census forms ask respondents to answer questions about their household as of April 1. The information gleaned from the national headcount will be used to divvy up more than $400 billion in federal money for hospitals, schools, emergency services and roads, among other things. When money is allocated, it is based on the number of responses in a given area. People who are not counted can cause services to become overextended.

“The accuracy of the Census is crucial,” said Rafaela Santos, a specialist with the Census Bureau.

Watch a video on one group’s efforts to get the word out about the Census.

With two weeks remaining before the April 15 deadline, however, the Bronx has only 37 percent participation, according to figures published on the Census Bureau’s Web site. The borough lags behind the state total, 46 percent, and the national total, 52 percent. Currently, the Bronx ranks in the middle of the five boroughs in response rate, ahead of both Brooklyn and Queens.Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. challenged his constituents on Wednesday to finish first among the five boroughs, telling the New York Daily News, “We are going to be the first borough this year.”

Language was a key barrier to participation for many Bronx residents in the past, but the Census Bureau is working to bridge the gap this year, offering surveys in several different languages, including Spanish, Urdu and Mandarin. Santos said that participation has increased as non-English speakers have learned more about the process.

“People are much more receptive,” she said. “They are understanding. They are getting factual information about what the Census is all about and how it affects them.”

One measure of public opinion suggests that the Census Bureau’s efforts to sell the national count to non-native English speakers in the Hispanic community may be paying off. Roughly 80 percent of foreign-born Hispanics said that the Census is good for their community, as opposed to 57 percent of native-born Hispanics, according to the Pew Research Center. Overall, 70 percent of Hispanics said that the Census was good for their community.

The Bronx is 51 percent Hispanic according to 2008 data published by the Census Bureau. Santos said that roughly 56 percent of Bronx residents participated in the 2000 Census, a figure that officials hope to top this year. “A good number is anything beyond 2000,” she added.

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Former Champ Looking for Boxing’s Future

John’s Gym buzzed with young fighters on Monday while New York public schools were closed for Passover. Two teenagers sparred in the smaller of two rings, taking swings at each other with misguided hooks. One punch finally caught the taller of the two.  He spiraled to the ground. Dazed, he got up and grabbed the ropes, staggering off to his trainer who fixed his headgear.

Edwin Viruet, 59, a retired professional boxer, trains fighters six days at week at John's Gym in the South Bronx

Edwin Viruet, 59, a retired professional boxer, trains fighters six days a week at John's Gym in the South Bronx. (Michael Ratliff/ The Bronx Ink)

Edwin Viruet, 59, sat in his “office,” a ringside table plastered with photos from his professional lightweight career. With glasses and permanent grin, he doesn’t look like much of a fighter. But every boxer that entered the gym offered Viruet a handshake. He critiqued the boxers and their trainers, and pointed out that the kid who was getting beat was wearing heavier gloves. The first thing Viruet does with a new fighter is make sure the gear is right. Then he moves into the basics. Jabs, footwork and defense.

“I love teaching,” Viruet said. “I get fun out of it. It is like watching them learn to walk.” For a retired fighter, one of the few ways to stay in the game is to train a promising member of the next generation.

Viruet learned to box at 10-years-old at the Boy’s Club in the Lower East Side. He went 18-0 as an amateur, and turned pro after winning the New York Golden Gloves for the second time in 1969. Viruet fell a few points short of becoming the World Lightweight Champion in 1977. He now trains amateur fighters six days a week at John’s Gym, though most of his money comes from managing and arranging fights.

Big things have been happening at the small gym. Joshua Clottey, a boxer from Ghana who trains in the Bronx, fought world welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao on March 13. He lost by unanimous decision, but was watched by millions in the pay-per-view fight. Stivens Bujaj, another John’s Gym regular, won the 2010 Daily News Golden Gloves heavyweight title. Neither fighter, however, trained with Viruet.

He contends that they would be even better if they had. Viruet’s favorite tool is the double-end bag, an inflated red ball that hangs from the ceiling from a thin rope and is attached to the ground with a rubber cord. Unlike a traditional punching bag, the double-end hits back.

“It teaches you to move your head,” said Viruet, working with a new boxer. The novice was stalwart, powerful and quick, but lacked coordination. Viruet saw his potential and quickly picked him up. His first fight is in a month, and Viruet said he would be ready.

“The way I prepare, you are going to have a hard time with my fighter,” he said.

Viruet is the most accomplished trainer at the gym. During his prime, Viruet was known for his footwork and classiness, and was even compared to a young Muhammad Ali. He is the only man to have gone 25 full rounds with Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Durant, one of the best fighters of all time. Their genuine rivalry was one of boxing’s best.

Viruet first met Durant in a 1975 fight, which he lost by unanimous decision. The crowd was shocked, as was Viruet, who thought he had won. The two met again at the 1977 World Lightweight Championship title fight. Durant retained the belt after 15 rounds. Viruet blamed promoter Don King for swaying the judges and in turn ruining his career. In spite of the loss, Viruet reveled in the experience, knowing he gave Durant the fight of his life.

“When you get to fight the biggest man, the champ of the world, it is like going to the moon for the first time,” Viruet said. “I played with him, he couldn’t knock me out.”

Not many boxers could. Viruet went 37 professional fights before being knocked out. He was only knocked out twice; they were his last two fights. Viruet retired in 1983 with 31 wins, six loses and two draws. He went on to train Wesley Snipes for a 1986 boxing role in ‘Streets of Gold’.

Viruet plans to continue training at John’s Gym for now. If he gets bored, Viruet might move back to Puerto Rico to spend time with his 90-year-old father and start up a gym. When he is not looking for a champion, Viruet tries to keep up with the ladies the best he can.

“I have fun, I look for girls,” Viruet said, letting out a gruff laugh. “I am a bachelor here! But, it’s not easy, you got to make sure you got the right one.”

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Riverdale Deli Serves Up Seder

It’s a rainy Monday afternoon on the corner of 235th Street and Johnson Avenue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. On any other Monday many storefronts would be open and ready for business in this predominantly Jewish neighborhood, but many businesses catering to this community closed at noon for Passover.

With an estimated population of 21,600 observant Jews, according to The Jewish Community Study of 2002, Rabbi Judith S. Lewis, of the Riverdale Temple still says the community is diverse.

People of various ethnic backgrounds and of different ages, scurry along the sidewalks attempting to stay dry. While others park along the street to grab last-minute items, like Manischewitz and packages of matzo in bulk.

The strip is a world market, loaded with ethnic restaurants from Chinese and Indian to Thai and Japanese, with Italian eateries too, none of which are crowded, because many have rushed home already to prepare the seder.

Although he expects business to be slow the week of Passover, Salim Ahmed, owner of Cumin, a local Indian eatery, keeps his restaurant open for other customers who may be in the mood for some spicy cuisine.

“It’s usually like this during Passover,” Ahmed says, looking around his empty restaurant. “This year Easter’s this week too, so I know it’ll be slow.”

He says he decreases the number of staff working and also prepares less food to adjust to a slow week. But he’ll probably see some regulars during the week like modern Jewish families or those who don’t practice.

Ruben Velazco displays the seder plate available at Liebman's Delicatessen in Riverdale, Bronx. (Photo: Sonia Dasgupta/ The Bronx Ink)

Ruben Velazco displays the seder plate available at Liebman's Delicatessen in Riverdale, Bronx. (Photo: Sonia Dasgupta/ The Bronx Ink)

Liebman’s Delicatessen, off 235th Street, is the only business that is busy, with customers rushing in and out the front door with their orders of potato kugel, coleslaw, sweet-smelling brisket and roasted chickens.

The deli, which has been in the neighborhood since 1953, serves traditional foods and isn’t Kosher for Passover, according to its owner, Yuval Dekel, who grew up in the neighborhood and worked at the family business his father bought in 1981.

“I was thrusted into this business after my pops passed in 2002,” says Dekel, who runs the deli alongside his wife and brother-in-law.

“Most of the Kosher establishments are closed, but they should remain open since Passover is the busiest day of the year,” he adds.

As customers pile into the restaurant to eat a quick lunch with family, the staff promptly fills orders. Dekel says the restaurant rents a refridgerated truck for the holiday to hold the extra orders of meat and poultry. The menu stays traditional to cater to the families and people who have been coming there for years.

“We also have people order ahead for the holidays,” he says. “This year there’s been a lot of chopped liver, but also brisket, roast chicken, stuffed cabbage and matzah ball soup.”

The only changes to the menu since Dekel took over are two chicken marinades — olive oil with rosemary and thyme with lemon.

“If I changed too much, people wouldn’t come,” he says.

Although other Jewish restaurants cleaned their entire store over the weekend for Passover, he says Liebman’s operates through the weekend until 5 p.m. on Monday when they close for the week.

As the afternoon wears on, the number of pedestrians on the street decrease as some head to local synagogues and others join families to celebrate the holiday.

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Bronx Church Fights to Keep Neighborhood Affordable

Bronx Church Fights to Keep Neighborhood Affordable

(L-R) Bobby Britt, Frederick Crawford and Ruben Diaz Jr. look on at a ceremony breaking ground at a new housing development. (Joshi/Bronx Ink)

(L-R) Bobby Britt, Frederick Crawford and Ruben Diaz Jr. look on at the ground-breaking ceremony. (Joshi/Bronx Ink)

East Morrisania was at its lowest point when Bobby Britt moved there 31 years ago. After a meeting with his pastor at the Union Grove Church in the mid-1980s, Britt set about rebuilding the community. Though his efforts were successful, he also saw many parishioners being priced out of the community.

On Friday, Britt saw the first step in stemming that tide, a housing development aimed at low-income neighborhood residents. Construction on the Fletcher C. Crawford Housing Development, which is expected to provide 84 units of low-income units, began with a ground-breaking ceremony.

East Morrisania’s population ballooned by more than 63 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to Census data. But much of the growth was in younger, more affluent residents, causing rents in the neighborhood to grow. Lester Souder, a deacon of the church, estimated that as much as 50 percent of the church’s membership is economically disadvantaged. Congregants are leaving the neighborhood in droves, unable to afford the rising costs of living there. Many are opting to live in more affordable boroughs or to leave New York completely.

“They lost their housing. They lost their apartment. They lost their sense of who they were when they moved out of the Bronx area,” said Frederick Crawford the current pastor of Union Grove and the son of Fletcher Crawford, the pastor who initially gave Britt the directive to rebuild the neighborhood.

To stem the parish’s exodus from East Morrisania, Britt turned his efforts to building affordable housing on a plot of land next to the church. After years of work, he succeeded in securing financing, and the church is now partnered with Macquesten Development to build the development, which will cost $27 million.

“This is a place where people are going to be able to afford and continue to invest in their futures in the Bronx,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who was on hand to celebrate the groundbreaking. Diaz presides over one of the nation’s poorest urban counties, where more than 25 percent of the population was below the poverty level in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Public housing in the Bronx is not meeting the needs of the economically depressed population.

“There’s always more of a demand for low- and middle-income housing in the Bronx,” said Joan Tally, a senior vice president for the New York City Housing Development Corp., which helped finance more than 81 low-income projects in the Bronx, including the Union Grove construction. Since 2004, the City of New York has invested $1.9 billion in the borough in the form of bonds and corporate subsidies through the Housing Development Corp. However, Tally said, “There’s never enough funding to go around.”

For now, money is not a problem for the construction of the Union Grove project, which is expected to be finished a year from now. Church leaders expect the new building to maintain and even grow the parish’s membership rolls.
“We’re trying to build our city back,” said the younger Crawford.

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Called “Burger Boy,” Teenager is Cleared of Assault Five Years Later

Called “Burger Boy,” Teenager is Cleared of Assault Five Years Later

Now that this is over, I can live my life, said Albert Garcia. (Joshi/Bronx Ink)

"Now that this is over, I can live my life," said Albert Garcia. (Joshi/Bronx Ink)

Albert Garcia was manning the grill at a McDonald’s in the Bronx late one night when Officer John Florio of the New York Police Department bought a Big Mac in the drive-through. The next day, Garcia was arrested, with Florio alleging that Garcia, then 18 years old, put ground-up shards of glass in the sandwich. Florio claimed that one bite of the sandwich left him with a chipped tooth and cuts in both his mouth and throat.

Five years later, on Tuesday, Garcia was cleared by a Bronx Supreme Court jury of all charges, including a felony count of attempting to assault a police officer. Garcia’s attorney, Raymond Aab, called the case, “one lie after another, an outrage.” Garcia, now 23, expressed relief in a press conference on Thursday.

“People from my neighborhood who didn’t know would come up to me and say, ‘Oh, look, that’s him, that’s burger boy,’ ” Garcia said. “It was hard for me to get a job. I have a son, so it was hard for me to support him, to get work. This was on my back. This was in my way of living my life.”

Garcia was working at the McDonald’s at 875 Garrison Ave. in the Bronx on January 29, 2005, when Florio, a 20-year-veteran of the police department and a member of the city’s K-9 unit, purchased a Big Mac. After eating part of the hamburger, Florio complained to his supervising officer that glass had been put in the hamburger. Officers from the 41st Precinct were then dispatched to the restaurant to investigate.

There, they arrested Garcia, taking him back to the police station, where he claims that he was interrogated for hours and was the subject of verbal and physical coercion by the officers. He maintains that as a result of the harsh treatment, he gave a false confession in writing and on videotape.

“I felt trapped, really confused. I really didn’t know what was going on,” said Garcia, who told police officers that no glass was in the hamburger. He added that police officers “kept putting so much pressure on me, so much pressure. I was scared. I was crying. I didn’t know what to do, so I kind of gave up, and I gave them what they wanted to hear.”

He added, “They really treated me like a dog.”

In Garcia’s confession, which he later recanted, he admitted to smashing a picture frame, grinding the shards of glass and putting them in the hamburger. The Bronx district attorney’s office began prosecuting Garcia soon after his arrest. “There’s nothing in the statements and in the video that shows physical or psychological coercion,” said Gary Weil, the prosecuting attorney. Calls to the 41st Precinct were not answered. By Friday afternoon the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information had not responded to a request for comment.

However, forensic analysis of the glass, which was revealed in court, indicated that it was rounded and its thickness was inconsistent with that of a picture frame. Expert testimony indicated that the shards were consistent with “ubiquitous container glass.” Investigators also compared DNA evidence from both Garcia and Florio to a hair that was found on the sandwich; neither returned as a match. The jury took 40 minutes to return a not guilty verdict.

Aab said he believes that Florio made up the story in order to sue McDonald’s. “The fact is the cop made the whole thing up to get a pay day,” said Aab. “Within a couple days, he sued McDonald’s, and that speaks for itself.”

Florio was unavailable for comment, but his attorney, Richard Kenny, strongly disputed that claim. “The allegation that this is feigned is utterly ludicrous,” Kenny said.

Aab and Garcia said that they are considering filing a countersuit, but until then, Garcia said that he’s looking forward to spending more time with his 4-year-old son and enjoying a life without looming court dates.

“Now that this is over, now I can live my life,” he said.

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