Tag Archive | "Bronx"

West African Patients Lost in Translation

Less than two weeks into his first visit to the United States in August this year, Kamissoko Cheickno began having unusual chest pains. The 55-year-old initially dismissed it as jet lag from his 13-hour flight from Mali to visit his daughter and nephew in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx. But persistent night coughs left his body weak.

A private doctor in the Bronx decided Cheickno was medically fit after a brief examination, but the Mali native was not so sure. The doctor spoke only English, which Cheickno’s nephew translated for him into his native Mandingo. It was his first time he had spoken to a doctor through a translator.

“It was like a wall, I could not talk with him directly,” Cheikno said later said through a translator.

Two weeks later, Cheickno’s health had deteriorated. He was rushed to an emergency room and hospitalized for one week. “My blood pressure had gone high and the doctors found out that I had a kidney problem,” Cheickno said.

The doctors who finally got the diagnosis right were part of the recently opened Diaspora Clinic, a new idea in health care designed to break down the cultural and language barriers between doctors and immigrant patients. The health facility associated with the Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center opened in June specifically for the growing West African immigrant population in the Bronx. It is staffed with West African volunteers who speak the various dialects of the region. Known as cultural brokers, the volunteers assist patients with registration and help translate for the doctors.

“There is a limit to what the cultural brokers can do. They help patients feel at home, but patients must agree to having a third party in the doctor’s office before we use them,” said Sohaib Majeed, a medical doctor who works at the clinic. So far, the Diaspora clinic has registered 1,100 visits since it opened four months ago.

Kamissoko Cheickno (seated), with a blood pressure meter fastened to his arm, waits for a medical laboratory result on one of his followup visits at the Diaspora Clinic. (SELASE KOVE-SEYRAM/The Bronx Ink).

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that over 23 million people in America needed the services of specially trained in-person translators or telephone translation to communicate with doctors. Without translation, the consequences could be dire.

President Bill Clinton passed a regulation in 2000 mandating that federally funded agencies must provide translators for speakers of minority languages. As a result, many hospitals created telephone translation services. These services allow doctors to call toll free numbers, where a specially trained translator brokers the conversation between doctor and patient.

In spite of new telephone technology, the lack of direct human connection still often stands in the way.

“From my experience, many West African immigrants I have worked with speak their local languages,” said Dr. Aboyemi Salako, head of primary care at the Lebanon Hospital. “Doctors who do not speak those languages cannot communicate.”

Dr. Salako, a Nigerian immigrant, has realized the need for hospitals to communicate with this population for more than 30 years. Since 1985, more than 36,000 Africans have moved to the Bronx, most of whom are from the West African countries of Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Few speak international languages. More commonly they speak West African languages such as Hausa, Mandingo, Twi and Ewe.

Before the Diaspora Clinic opened, health workers at the Martin Luther King Hospital found that many patients who speak minority languages ended up in emergency rooms. They tend to avoid early treatment due to language, cultural or economic difficulties.  “We reach out to West Africans because we want to emphasize the need for primary health care,” said Lionel Stewart, executive director of the hospital.

Many patients now visit the clinic regularly for appointments with four specialist doctors who operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The clinic has a social worker, who helps those without medical insurance to sign on to what they require. For the unemployed, undocumented or temporary residents like Cheickno, the hospital provides charity care – at little or no cost. This goes beyond the language and cultural differences.

study published in a 2008 issue of Journal of the National Medical Association found most parents of pediatric patients were satisfied communicating with doctors by telephone translation services. It differs from other studies, which reported low satisfaction. Dr. Dodi Meyer, an Associate Clinical Professor in Pediatrics with the Columbia University Medical Center, said using human interpreters in a medical environment is ideal, but that is costly. Telephone translators are better than nothing.

Dr. Dodi Meyer argues that cultural brokers are very important as long as they don’t violate patient rights. (SELASE KOVE-SEYRAM/The Bronx Ink).

“Those cultural brokers are very important to bridge the trust between the patients that we serve and the medical system,” she said. “You only have to be careful it does not violate the privacy of the patient.”

Once, she remembers, a newborn baby with hip dislocation at birth had to be rushed to an emergency room because the non-English speaking parents could not read the instructions telling them to see a pediatrician regularly. “It almost got out of hand when the parents finally showed up,” she said. “That was a 100 percent case of language barrier.”

One Thursday evening in October at the Diaspora Clinic, Cheickno was waiting with more than 12 patients for a follow up visit. Many of them had heard about the clinic in their churches or mosques. They knew either of two cultural brokers who were present.

Cheickno was speaking in his native Mandingo with one cultural broker, Bourema Niambele, a Malian immigrant who has lived in the Bronx for 16 years. A former AmeriCorps worker, Niambele now owns a car-rental service in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. He was present on the day Cheickno got rushed to the emergency room.

His health has improved since he came here, Niambele said. He gestured to Cheickno, who had a blood pressure meter fastened to his arm. “My blood pressure usually goes high and I’m glad I found this place,” Niambele translated from Mandingo to English.


Posted in Bronx Life, Featured, Health, Southern BronxComments (2)

Lack of Cheap Housing Boosts Illegal SROs in the Bronx

The Brook, an affordable housing complex located at 455 East 148th St., offers 190 units to people with mental health problems and low-income residents. (MARIANA IONOVA / The Bronx Ink)

Edgar Gamble has everything he needs packed into 250 square feet of living space. His compact home includes a bed, a small bathroom and a partial kitchen. His window looks onto a leafy, tidy courtyard.  A miniature walk-in closet tucked in the corner of the bedroom would be the envy of most New Yorkers. All of it costs him $600 per month and it certainly beats his last address: a shelter for homeless veterans.

The 49-year-old ex-Marine lived on the street for nearly five months before residence management approved him for a unit at The Brook, a nonprofit supportive housing development providing single-room homes in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. The 190-unit nonprofit complex was built just three years ago. It has a shiny, pale grey exterior, which stands out next to the neighboring crumbling brownstones with facades slashed by strings of colorful laundry hung onto fire escapes.

The luxury of the Brook is an anomaly in the world of single-tenant homes, which often offer cramped quarters the size of a parking space. Gamble, who recently got hired as a blood laboratory specialist at Bronx Lebanon Hospital, has lived in about a half dozen single-unit homes in specialized Single Room Occupancy (SRO) residences since he left the Marines. Most lacked cooking facilities and extra space was unthinkable. “If you were lucky, you got a room with a bathroom,” he said. “If you got it, it was smaller than a jail cell.”

About 30,000 of these legal SRO units exist in New York City today and they account for only about 8 percent of the housing market. The city defines them as one-bedroom dwellings that usually share bathroom or kitchen facilities with other units. Rooms must be at least 150 square feet and each one has to have a window, city regulations say. All rooms must have access to a fire exit and only tenants over 16 are allowed to occupy them. Owners usually collect the rent each week, charging each tenant somewhere between $100 and $200.

While today single room units are a sliver of the city’s real estate, this wasn’t always the case.  Researchers estimate that, in the 1950s, approximately 200,000 units existed in New York City. But in 1955, the city, motivated by a deep belief that cramped single rooms offered substandard conditions, banned further construction of new SRO residences. The idea was to phase out poor housing and replace it with better-quality dwellings, said Brian Sullivan, an attorney with the SRO Project at MFY Legal Services, a nonprofit firm that represents low-income tenants in housing claims.

“The problem is that the people of the ’50s imagined everyone would prosper and be able to afford good housing,” he said. “So the number of legal SROs plummeted catastrophically over the last 50 years, without any real sense of alternatives.”

The response has been a boom in illegal single room units, which have been springing up outside the city’s regulatory reach with unprecedented speed. City officials say that owners of one- and two-family houses are illegally chopping up their homes to convert them into multiple-unit dwellings that can be rented out to desperate tenants looking for low-cost housing. These homes are often crowded to the point of exceeding city regulations and rooms lack access to proper fire exits, posing a serious risk to tenants.

Francisco Gonzalez, manager of Community District 9, said illegal single units in the Bronx in particular have been on the rise in the last two years, as more new immigrants looking for cheap housing have moved into the borough. The increase in his district has been mostly around Boynton and Ward Avenues, where most newcomers have settled in recent years, according to Gonzalez.

“Many immigrants, they can’t pay $1,000, $1,200 for an apartment,” he said. “These places, some of them cost $150 or $200 a week. That’s much more doable for them.”

But illegal single room occupancies remain a highly contested issue. The city came under fire last year  when three Mexican immigrants died in an early-morning fire that engulfed an illegally converted brownstone in the Belmont section of the Bronx. The tenants, a couple and their 12-year-old son, were living on the second floor of the home and could not reach the fire exit.

The way the city currently deals with illegal units like that one is through inspections and fines, which are usually triggered by complaints from neighbors. Between January 2010 and March of this year, the city received 5,587 complaints about illegally converted homes in the Bronx, according to city records of 311 service requests.

The borough also has the highest rate of serious housing code violations, says a report by NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, which found them in 9.4 percent of all rental units. By comparison, similar violations exist in six percent of rental units in Brooklyn, four percent of those in Manhattan and just two percent of those in Queens. The overall city average hovers around 5.4 percent.

Citywide, the Department of Buildings receives approximately 20,000 complaints about illegal conversions each year, according to spokesperson Tony Sclafani. Inspectors investigate all complaints and, if the residence houses more people than legally permitted by the city’s zoning codes, the Environmental Control Board issues the landlord a fine. They are typically asked to pay around $2,400 but the fine can go up to $25,000 for repeat offenders.

If inspectors find pressing hazardous conditions, they can also issue an order for tenants to leave the building on the spot. Last year, city inspectors issued more than 1,200 vacate orders for converted residences that posed an “immediate threat,” lacked fire exits and were not safe for occupancy, said Sclafani.

But the inspection process is far from seamless. Many inspectors face owners who refuse to open the door and, in such cases, they have no other legal way of gaining access to the inside of the building. They can visit the residence again but, after the second time, they have to post a form requesting access on the door and mail it to the owner. If they still receive no response, the department’s policy says the case must be dropped. This year, inspectors were able to gain access to just 46 percent of properties that received illegal conversion complaints, according to the Mayor’s Management Report. Inspectors can only request an access warrant when there are visible signs hinting the building is an SRO, like multiple mailboxes or doorbells.

Since 2009, the city has tried to crack down on illegal conversions in a more concerted way. Sclafani said his department has orchestrated undercover operations into illegal dwellings, distributed 160,000 fliers as part of an education campaign and formed a task force to target high-risk conversions. The task force — a joint effort between Sclafani’s team, Housing Preservation and Development and the fire department — is aimed at focusing resources on buildings with structural problems and histories of fire incidents.

But the crackdown on illegal conversions will not curb their popularity because there is a large pool of renters looking for cheap housing, said Harold Shultz, a senior fellow at the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, a nonprofit research group that aims to improve housing conditions in the city.

“It’s an issue of a demand that is being unmet by the housing market,” said Shultz, who spent 30 years in the city’s Housing Preservation and Development department, working in the areas of housing preservation and code enforcement. “There’s a lot of single people looking to rent and they don’t have a lot of money.”

This is especially true in the Bronx, where 80 percent of people rent and tenants spend 34 percent of their income on housing, the highest percentage citywide. Although the borough still offers the cheapest rents in New York City, with prices 25 percent lower than those in Manhattan and 22 percent lower than in Queens, upward rental trends have not spared tenants. In 2011, prices averaged $1,008 per month, nine percent higher than what rents were two years ago.

“Illegal units are going to occur as long as there’s a lack of cheap alternatives,” said Sullivan. “There’s just a need for that level of cheap housing.”

The city has attempted to address the shortage of affordable, smaller housing in New York City by toying with the idea of loosening the rules and legalizing technically illegal single room occupancies that pose no real risk to tenants. The city has received recommendations by research organizations like the Pratt Center for Community Development that point to legalization of those SROs as the best way to cope with the demand for affordable housing. Erik Martin Dilan, chair of the city’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, has publicly said that he’s begun to look into the suggestion but no concrete plans have been made yet.

Jill Hamberg, a long-time urban planner and housing expert, worked on drafting legislation that would legalize safe single room occupancies back in the mid-1990s, when the issue first caught the attention of the City Council. The draft legislation was eventually tossed aside but, in the course of the year and a half she spent on the project, she began to understand just how difficult it would be to implement.

“The zoning and building codes are just too complicated to allow for that,” said Hamberg, who now teaches urban planning at Empire State College. She said building owners looking to bring their converted homes up to par with legal SROs will often find it impossible to meet regulatory standards. Most brownstones, for example, would never meet the size requirements of legal SROs because the rooms are often less than the mandated 150 square feet. Technicalities like that, she says, pose barriers to legalization of single room occupancies.

But, Shultz argues that preserving this type of housing is crucial to the city’s low-income population because, without it, homelessness would reach new, unprecedented levels.

“Imagine if you could effectively enforce the rules on all the illegal SROs in New York City,” he said. “Suddenly, you might have another 100,000 homeless people. What would you do with them? Would you rather have them sleeping on the street?”

Mariana Ionova can be contacted via email at mi2300@columbia.edu or on Twitter.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, HousingComments (0)

New Tax Rules Shut Down Hundreds of Bronx Nonprofits

Experts estimate that, of the 842 Bronx nonprofits revoked since June 2011, about a third are small charities struggling to remain operational.  (MARIANA IONOVA / The Bronx Ink)

Music has always been a passion that Greg Waters wanted to share.

Since his early days at the University of North Texas, Waters was immersed in smooth jazz and whimsical instrumentals. He studied woodwind instruments and, later, composition at the Chicago Conservatory College. He has spent his whole life playing and teaching.

When he speaks, the 64-year-old Fordham resident often interrupts himself to breathlessly lament the state of uninspired, “copycat” music today. Art appreciation is on the decline, he says, and this fuels his quest to educate today’s youth about the beauty of finer music.

Waters started Creative Music Productions Inc., a charity dedicated to that goal, nearly 35 years ago. He never got much by way of donations but he did receive a few grants in the 1990s, which he used to produce television programming teaching children about jazz and instrumental music in half hour segments. Since then, his work has been smaller-scale, mainly consisting of his own volunteer efforts.

But, a few months ago, Waters opened a letter from the Internal Revenue Agency (IRS) and found out his homespun organization had lost its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. The notice said he had failed to file a new tax form required of charities under recently instituted IRS rules so he could no longer call himself a nonprofit. “It was very governmental, like an electric bill — pay your bill or we’ll turn it off,” he said.

The revocations have been looming since 2007, when a federal law changed the rules for nonprofits registering under $25,000 and began requiring them to submit an electronic 990 tax form, something smaller charities historically did not have to do. But Waters said this was the first he heard about the new requirements, which he believes create barriers for community volunteers. “It shouldn’t be so hard for people to give back to the community.”

Hundreds of other charitable organizations in the Bronx have also lost their nonprofit status amid these changes, which were meant to clear the system of defunct agencies but have inadvertently affected thousands of small nonprofits nationwide. The IRS gave charities three years to file the paperwork needed to keep their nonprofit status, which lets donors write off funds they contributed to the organization. Because of the new regulations, the tax bureau has revoked the status of more than 280,000 religious, educational, scientific, advocacy and sport nonprofits nationwide, 842 of them in the Bronx.

“There were many organizations in the Internal Revenue Agency’s list of exempt organizations of the smaller type and many of those organizations no longer existed,” said Dianne Besunder, the bureau’s spokesperson for New York State. “It is our belief that most of the ones that lost exempt status were in that situation.”

Yet, many of those revoked are small but legitimate community agencies lacking the knowledge and resources to make the changes, according to Abraham Jones, executive director of Claremont Neighborhood Centers, a Morrisania-based nonprofit that has provided the area with childcare, educational programs and other services since 1956.

“They get into trouble because they don’t have the expertise to fill the requirements for remaining a viable, recognized nonprofit,” Jones said.

The requirement changes have hit volunteer-run, community-based nonprofits like Waters’ the hardest, according to Francisco Gonzalez, district manager for Community Board 9 and president of the now-revoked nonprofit that organizes the Bronx Puerto Rican Day Parade, one of the borough’s largest events. He said those affected by the revocations also include churches, community centers and local resource groups.

“Not-for-profits, many of them are constantly struggling to make ends meet,” Gonzalez said. “Yet they want to provide a service, yet they want to go out there and do the counseling…But you can’t do all of that and not have a person dedicated to submitting paperwork.”

But Besunder said the tax bureau tried to minimize the effect of the changes on legitimate nonprofits by issuing notices repeatedly and reaching out to inform them.

“If they drop off the list, we have already tried to contact these organizations,” she said. “People did receive letters that told them they were losing their status and explaining what their options are.”

The agency is also offering a transitional relief program for small organizations, which will help them get reinstated for a reduced fee if they apply by the Dec. 31 deadline and are approved by the bureau. The regular fee ranges from $400 to $800, depending on the size of the nonprofit but those qualifying for transitional relief will have to pay only $100, according to Besunder.

The Bronx Puerto Rican Day Parade has taken steps to have its status reinstated and is currently waiting on results, according to Ruben Rios, vice-president of the organization. He maintained the agency’s revocation will not affect next year’s parade.

But Waters said he doesn’t have plans to apply for the reinstatement since his organization isn’t big enough to make it worthwhile. “What’s the point? They’re trying to get rid of the paperwork, to get us off their books.”

Mariana Ionova can be contacted via email at mi2300@columbia.edu or on Twitter.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, MoneyComments (0)

Obama the Favorite in this Bronx Barbershop

Ghanaian immigrants watching Tuesday’s presidential debate in a Bronx barbershop concluded that Obama deserves another term. (SELASE KOVE-SEYRAM/ The Bronx Ink)

Seated between two Hispanic women on the Number 4 train heading to the Bronx, a middle-aged looking African woman talked on her cellphone in a language that was a world away from her immediate surroundings.

The woman was speaking Twi, a language that is common in the West African countries of Ghana and Ivory Coast. “As for today, Obama needs to pull up,” she said. After a pause, she continued, “If the other man wins, he’s going to put a tag reading ‘For Sale’ on all of us.” Her reference to the second 2012 presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney was clear. The debate would be live in less than 15 minutes.

An estimated 14,769 Ghanaians live in the Bronx, the single largest group from an African country in the borough. A recent report from the American Community survey shows that Africans are the second largest immigrant group in the Bronx out of six continents. And even though they are more than 5,000 miles away from their homeland and many can’t vote here, they are deeply engaged in the current election.

Inside a large barbershop on Walton Avenue in the Bronx Tuesday night, over a dozen men watched the live Presidential debate amidst cheers and catcalls. Aged  29 to 48 years old, they all identify themselves as Ghanaian immigrants. They said they were united in the view that health care, immigration and foreign policy are the issues they are most concerned about and they prefer Obama to Romney.

Awudu Issu, 36, was one of the men. Looking calm in his green sweatshirt, he seemed removed from the discussion until the debate ended. When he finally spoke, it was with careful deliberation. His views of the two candidates are influenced by his own experiences. “I don’t support Obama because he is black,” he said.  “He is the U.S. President and I’m supporting him objectively.”

Issu arrived in this country in June, 2011, on a Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which gives permanent residence visas to persons who meet eligibility requirements set by the State Department. He now holds a green card and can access free medical care. A graduate of a technical university in Ghana, Issu works as a shop attendant in a Goodwill store in the Bronx. “I came to America because there are opportunities here for immigrants,” he said. “Obama is consistent with his message for people like us, but Romney is not.” He cited Mitt Romney’s response to Arizona gun control laws raised in the debate as an example.

Issu worried that a Republican victory might disturb his plans of enrolling in an American university after making enough money from his current job because he said, “Republicans have more foreign policies which do not favor immigrants.”

The owner of the barbershop, Kwame Agbo, 38, agreed. “We need somebody who can do the job and Romney does not favor immigrants in his statements,” Agbo said. Though a Ghanaian, he currently holds American citizenship after living here for the past 16 years. A registered Democrat, he said he is familiar with what many new immigrants go through. “It is not good to see people getting deported while trying to work on their immigration documents,” he said. He thinks Romney might do that.

“I currently get a single check, and I have five kids,” says Gibrin Mohammed, 42. “Obamacare is something that would also help me, but Romney does not like it. I will go for Obama.” Like Agbo, Mohammed is also a Ghanaian immigrant who has been living in the United States for 16 years. He currently works as an undercover security officer in a Polo Ralph Lauren store.

The barbershop punditry is a world away from what is happening in Ghana, where elections will be held in early December. The Ghanaians see a stark contrast with the electoral process in their homeland. In Ghana, a plan by a think tank to engage the presidential candidates in a debate has been postponed many times. The current series of debates is a chance to see American democracy in action. Kofi Addison, 29-year old assistant to Agbo said, “We are here, so this is home. When we go back to Ghana, we would be interested in that too.” Addison has been living in the Bronx for nine years and is now a registered Democrat.

As the second debate ends, the mood in the barbershop was one of excitement. Addison turned to the other viewers and communicated in Hausa, a major West African dialect. He later translated: “I like Obama, because he cares for the middle class. In America, that’s how people survive.”

Posted in Featured, Politics, Southern BronxComments (0)

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 ReportsComments (2)

Stop-and-Frisk Goes on Trial

Judge Shira Scheindlin of the Manhattan federal court today begins hearing allegations that the NYPD has been unlawfully stopping minorities under its stop-and-frisk program, reports The New York Post.

A Columbia professor who has analyzed stop-and-frisk data and a representative of the Bronx District Attorney’s office, which has refused to prosecute some trespassing cases without first interviewing the arresting officers, are expected to testify for the plaintiffs.

Click here for the BronxInk’s special report on residents views of stop-and-frisk procedures in the Bronx.



Posted in NewswireComments (0)

Bronx Science Graduate Wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Robert J. Lefkowitz , joint winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, CBS New York reports.

A statement issued by Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott indicates that Lefkowitz is the eighth Bronx Science graduate to win a Nobel Prize.

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Facebook Complaints About Valet Parking Spur Action

Residents of Community District 11 have complained about valet parking on a Community Board Facebook page. (ANDREW FREEDMAN/The Bronx Ink)

The Bronx’s Community Board 11 is used to taking complaints at Community Board meetings. In the digital age, social media sites make it easier to discuss issues without ever leaving your computer. With an official Community Board Facebook page, residents chose to air their grievances on a parking issue digitally.

The Community Board is reacting to one such complaint after finding comments on the Facebook page regarding concerns about valet parking at two restaurants and a catering hall on Bronxdale Avenue in the Morris Park and Van Nest neighborhoods.

The first mention of the issue appeared on the Facebook page on April 19. The comment thread has since grown to over 80 responses, though some of those are the result of repeat posters. The comments call out two restaurants, 900 Park and F&J Pine, and Maestro’s, a caterer and banquet hall, for taking up all of the parking along Bronxdale Avenue, double parking and blocking residents’ driveways.

Robert Giuffre, a teacher from Morris Park who posted comments on the Facebook thread and lives a few blocks away from Bronxdale Avenue, said that even driving along the street is difficult and dangerous. He claimed that the four-lane road often becomes a one-way street and that drivers have to be careful to avoid valets.

Not all of the business owners and managers, however, know about the complaints.

Mike DeFalco, general manager at F&J Pine, which specializes in family style Italian cuisine, said that he hasn’t heard any complaints personally. He explained that the restaurant has two parking lots exclusively for valet parking – one adjacent to the building and one about a block away – which lets them keep some cars off of the street. Otherwise, he said, the valet parkers only use space in front of the building. DeFalco estimated that on a busy evening, 150 cars might be valeted.

“Some folks still tend to self park,” he said. “That’s where the headaches come from. They’re not utilizing our parking lots.”

View Bronxdale Avenue Valet Traffic in a larger map

At 900 Park, restaurant managers have heard complaints. Zitta Ferriello, the wife of owner John Ferriello, helps manage the restaurant and has seen the issue brought up on District 11’s Facebook page.

“I feel like I’m being attacked,” she said. “We’re the little people.”

John Ferriello said he hadn’t seen or heard any complaints, but he isn’t on Facebook. The Ferriellos said that on a busy night, they tend to valet four or five cars, generally (but not always) elderly patrons, and sometimes park blocks away. They said that when the Rite Aid store across the street closes, 900 Park uses it, as the gates are left open. John Ferriello said that if he could find an affordable parking lot in the area, it would be better for their business and the community.

“I would love to have a parking lot,” he said. “More people would come.”

Following multiple visits and phone calls to Maestro’s Caterers and talking with employees – including the banquet manager, who said he would pass on questions, The Bronx Ink managed to get a hold of the owner. He refused to comment for this story. Maestros’ Caterers is considered by members of the Community Board, various Facebook users and other businesses to be the biggest problem.

In New York City, parking in a traffic lane or having a vehicle sticking out eight feet into a traffic lane can lead to a fine of $115 per incident. Double parking (parking on the side of a car parked at the curb) can also lead to a fine of $115 per incident.

The Community Board is taking the complaints seriously. According to district manager Jeremy Warneke and Joseph A. Thompson, the community board chair of the economic development committee, valet parking issues have come up in prior years.

They don’t refute the validity of people’s complaints, but do want the conversation to leave the virtual world and enter the real one.

“There’s less of a need to show up at actual meetings,” Warneke said. “Email has, technology has done a lot to take care of that. But face-to-face interaction is crucial.”

Thompson will be investigating the issue. He was forwarded the messages by community board chair of parks and recreation and Facebook page founder Joanne Rubino.

“The first thing we’re gonna do is we’ll call in the people who had the complaints,” Thompson said. “Facebook is something that is used by a lot of people… I like to speak to people in person.” He said the ability to ask questions and see how serious they are about the issue is important.

After that, the owners of the businesses will be called in to discuss the matter. If it is found that violations are being committed, then police action will be taken. Thompson said that he will be researching any violations or accidents in the previous year.

“The most important part of this is… safety,” he said. The second most important part, he said, is parking in people’s driveways, blocking them out of their homes.

The mediation process is in its infancy, but it has begun. Warneke visited 900 Park on Sept. 20 and discussed the issue. Both claimed that it was a composed meeting.

“She’s aware of the Facebook page, most importantly,” Warneke said. “They’re aware of the problems themselves, and that was good.”

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