Tag Archive | "Bronx"

Soundview’s booming juice bar market attracts customers, and some concerns

Carmen Arias, an employee at Blended Up juice bar, pours a pineapple smoothie customers coming in for the afternoon rush.

Carmen Arias, an employee at Blended Up juice bar in Soundview, preparing pineapple smoothies to-go. (JENNIFER LUNA/BronxInk)

Bright orange carrots and yellow cubes of mango spun into liquid inside large plastic blenders one September afternoon at Blended Up, a new juice bar on Westchester and St. Lawrence Avenues in the Bronx. A steady stream of customers ordered smoothies named “big-fighter” or “detox power.” Many said they were grateful for a healthier option to the more established fast-food fare at the nearby Checkers, McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts, according to owner Maribel Vilas, 44, a native of Puerto Rico.

“There’s a misconception that black and brown people don’t want to eat healthy,” said Yasmin Tejeda, 28, drinking a mango smoothie on her lunch break from Primary Care Information Project where she is a clinical quality specialist. “But if it’s affordable and it’s available we want to eat it.”

Fresh juices are quickly becoming a staple in the local diet and economy. Vila’s business is the newest of four juice bars that have opened in the Soundview area of the Bronx within the last five years, three of them just within the last year.

The trend began in 2010 when Rapper David Styles—known by fans as Styles P—opened the popular Juices for Life on 1026 Castle Hill Ave. Its success inspired other Bronx entrepreneurs to follow suit. Three years later, Fresh Take, a juice shop on 2245 Westchester Ave., opened its doors and four months ago, GP Smoothies and Gift Shop opened on Castle Hill Avenue. Fresh Take owner Eric Glisson, 38, said the shop sells up to 400 juices a day, with many of the customers coming in after a work out at the Planet Fitness gym above the shop.

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Dr. Samuel Walters recommends juicing to his patients, many of whom are diabetic or pre-diabetic. (JENNIFER LUNA/BronxInk)

“People were so excited and very receptive, saying, ‘Thank God something healthy is coming to the neighborhood,’” Glisson said. GP Smoothies and Gift Shop owner Geoconda Pin said she distinguishes her business from others by including a deli and groceries. Juices, however, are still her most popular product. “People like the concept of green juices,” Pin said. “We use vegetables and natural fruits and that’s why they buy a lot.”

Affordability is key to business in Soundview. A small juice at Blended Up and Fresh Take sells for $3.50, compared to $5 at Juices for Life. Some customers compare the cost favorably to fries and a shake at McDonalds. “You can’t be a juice place coming in here selling a ten-dollar organic juice,” said Nancy Guevara, 28,a Bronx native who was visiting from Pennsylvania.

Prices don’t seem to be a factor for many customers, especially when their doctors recommend the products. Dr. Samuel Walters, an Internal Medicine specialist in Unionport, estimates 20 percent of his patients to be diabetic and 70 percent hypertensive. Juicing, the doctor said, is a good way to get fresh fruit. “I am a naturalist in the way I treat patients,” the Jamaica born doctor said. “Patients ask if I recommend juice and I do.”

But his recommendation comes with a caveat. Diabetes rates are high in Bronx neighborhoods. According to the New York City Community Health Survey of 2002 to 2004, the greater Pelham Bay area had a diabetes rate of 11 percent. In 2010, the Center for Disease Control reported that 8 percent of Americans have the disease. Restricting calories, Dr. Walters said, is the key to losing weight and keeping diabetes in check.

An improved diet and increased exercise also helps. Orlando Castro of Soundview dropped 50 pounds over the last year by making these lifestyle changes. The 31-year-old lives near Blended Up and comes for breakfast frequently throughout the week. “My father died of diabetes and my mother has diabetes,” Castro said, sipping on a strawberry and pineapple smoothie. “I’m not going out that way.” Some health experts, however, are concerned about the dangers of the high sugar content found in fruit juices. An 8-ounce serving of juice with sugary fruits such as apple, pineapple or grape can have up to 44 grams of sugar. “Juicing has become a big hit with my patients,” said Priya Massand, a health educator at Montefiore Medical Group on 2300 Westchester Ave. “In an area that is so laden with diabetes it’s almost a dangerous trend because it’s not being done in an educational way.”

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Health educator Priya Massand warns patients about juice bars that add agave syrup, honey or enhanced protein powers that are high in sugar. (JENNIFER LUNA/BronxInk) 

Massand said she recommends that her patients drink juice that includes only one fruit, not several mixed together, and that they make sure no sweeteners are added. The educator keeps photocopies of the juice bars’ menus and points out which beverages are best—vegetable-based drinks—for her diabetic patients. “It can help but I think it requires so much attention to detail that is being missed that it’s not helping yet,” Massand said. “I’m concerned that it’s a trend and not a lasting change.”

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Parks department officials announce water safety measures following drownings in the Bronx

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New York Parks Department officials unveiled new safety measures on Friday for more than 50 city-wide boat launches in the wake of the tragic deaths of two boys who drowned in the Bronx River earlier this summer.

Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver expressed condolences to the families of the two 13-year old cousins, Erickson Villa and Wellington Gavi, who jumped off a boat launch site in June after cooling off from playing basketball in Starlight Park. Neither boy knew how to swim.

Responding to recent criticism over his department’s slow reaction to the incident, Mitchell said that “a period of reflection, listening and studying the situation” had been necessary before executing changes.

The new safety measures include self-closing gates at the pier entrances, additional life rings and throw lines, weekly inspections by the Parks Enforcement Patrol as well as solar-powered emergency call boxes on eight city-wide docks that lead directly into deep water. Additionally a total of 40 pier sites have added bilingual warning signs. The commissioner added that costs had been kept under $100,000, excluding the emergency boxes which are to be installed in the coming weeks.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. praised the comprehensive plans, while pointing to the bittersweet nature of this event. “This is not a happy day or occasion to make such an announcement,” said Diaz, Jr., “but it’s a necessary one”.

Rev. Joel Bauza spoke on behalf of the victim’s families, who did not feel ready to take part in the event. The families had been pushing local elected officials for two months to move more aggressively to prevent more drownings. “We are moving forward,” Rev. Bauza said. “And that is what is important”.

Some local residents at the Hunts Point Riverside Park press conference praised the new bilingual signage, pointing out that many Bronxites still mostly speak Spanish at home. Spanish was the first language of the two young boys who drowned in June.

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Others were more skeptical of the initiative. “The neighborhood kids that want to jump will jump – with or without a fence,” said Bronx resident Cicy Martinez. She also revealed that the new fence shown at Riverside Park on Friday had been demolished a couple of weeks prior to the press conference and had been replaced before the event. For Martinez the only solution is “better communicating water safety issues in ways that kids will actually listen”.

Silver said his office has planned a high-profile public campaign before next summer to inform children about water safety. “Teaching our children how to be safe around water,” Silver said, “should be as basic as teaching them to be safe around traffic.”

New York City is surrounded by water, with more than 500 miles of shoreline — 14 miles along the Bronx River alone. There are also 14 miles of beaches, which were visited by nearly 15 million people last summer, and 55 outdoor pools, which were visited by nearly 1,600,000 people last summer.

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Police seek information on driver in hit-and-run case

After a hit-and-run in the Bronx on Monday, the police have released a surveillance video and have asked for any information on the case, NY1 News reports.

A white sedan hit a 50-year-old woman around 1 pm on Bruckner avenue, according to the New York Police Department.

The woman is in critical condition and has been admitted to Lincoln Hospital.

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Yankee Stadium installs metal detectors

The Yankee Stadium in the Bronx increased security at some of its gates on, News 12 reported on Tuesday.

According to a new initiative by the Major League Baseball (MLB), all stadiums are required to install metal detectors at their gates by 2015.

Baseball fans will now have to walk through full body metal detectors or be manually scanned by security before they head to watch the game.

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Architects to Restore a Historic Bronx Train Station

Located at the intersection of Westchester and Whitlock Avenue in the Soundview section of the Bronx, the Westchester Avenue train station is about to be restored by two architects based in Manhattan, the New York Daily News reports. Built in 1908, the abandoned place is now covered with ivy and graffitis.

The architects’ plan is to transform the station in two parts, making it an entrance for the Concrete Plan Park. It could also help launching a waterfront community center in the area.

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Bronx Residents Help Affected Communities in Queens After Sandy

Residents from the Edgewater Park section of the Bronx have started donating and volunteering to help highly-affected Queens communities recover from Hurricane Sandy, NY1 reports.

Firefighters and volunteers from Edgewater Park operated in the Breezy Point section of Queens, along with other neighborhoods in the Rockaways.

They bought supplies and lent material, including a generator, to residents of these devastated areas. In Breezy Point, a massive fire burnt more than 100 homes during the hurricane.

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Legal Aid Claims Police are Still Making Illegal Marijuana Arrests


Map compares arrests for criminal weapons possession, in red, to drug possession arrests, in green, that resulted from stop-and-frisk in the Bronx in 2011. Created from 2011 New York City Police Department stop-and-frisk data by Selase Kove-Seyram, Juanita Ceballos, and Annaliese Wiederspahn.

For 38-year-old Obediah Poteat, being stopped and frisked by the police is just a part of life in the East Tremont section of the Bronx where he lives with his wife and five children.

What’s worse, he said, is that officers end up arresting people for minor crimes, like disorderly conduct or having small amounts of marijuana in their pockets. “They are always trying to find a reason to put their hands on you,” said Poteat,  who has been stopped  multiple times, but never arrested. “To search you, to arrest you for whatever.”

Even though the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy is meant to only uncover guns, it has resulted in more and more arrests when officers inadvertently find marijuana in people’s pockets instead.

According to a July New York Times editorial, the number of arrests citywide for possession of small amounts of marijuana increased from less than 1,000 in 1990 to 50,000 in 2011. Almost 94 percent of the 16-to-19-year-olds arrested last year had no prior convictions and nearly half had no arrest record.

In September of last year, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly released a memo instructing officers not to arrest people who have small amounts of marijuana only if the drugs were in public view at the time of the initial stop. The memo cites a 1977 New York State law that changed the treatment of offenders caught with a small amount of marijuana from being grounds for arrest. Instead officers are to issue a summons ticket, similar to a speeding ticket.  The maximum penalty under New York State law for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana that is not burning or in public view is a $100 fine.

Nine months later the Legal Aid Society filed suit against the police department in New York State Supreme Court charging officers with ignoring the commissioner’s directive, continuing their “illegal marijuana arrest practices.”

Plaintiffs in the case included residents of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

The Legal Aid Society drew early support for its case from an unlikely source, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. The former mayor published an op-ed in the Huffington Post in June supporting Legal Aid’s efforts to stop misdemeanor possession arrests. Koch qualified his support for stop-and-frisk saying he would only continue his support for the policy so long as it is not used to falsely make criminals out of citizens.

According to analysis by the New York World, in August of last year, the New York City Police Department made 2,486 arrests after police stops. In the month following Commissioner Kelly’s order, the New York City Police Department arrested 2,661 people on misdemeanor marijuana charges. Unlike other boroughs that saw slight drops in misdemeanor marijuana arrests in November and December, arrests in the Bronx continued to rise through the end of 2011.

The first half of 2012 yielded encouraging news. The Wall Street Journal reported in June that police made 27,492 arrests for small possession of marijuana between October and May. That represented a 24.4 percent drop from the previous eight months.

The lead Legal Aid Society attorney on the marijuana arrest practices case said police need to be bound by court orders, “Our objective is to stop this business of improperly arresting people and taking them down to central booking,” said Thomas O’Brien. “It leaves a troubling stain on their record.” The case is still pending, awaiting a judge to be assigned.

Interview with Obediah Poteat by Wiederspahn

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Hurricane Sandy Watch

As Hurricane Sandy approaches New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered mandatory evacuations of the city’s low-lying Zone A by 7 p.m. today, reports NY1.

Zone A includes Throggs Neck and Pelham Bay.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this morning that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s subway and rail service will shut down at 7 p.m. and bus service will end at 9 p.m.

Public schools in New York City will be closed on Monday.

Click here to find out if you live in an evacuation zone.

 

 

 

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