Tag Archive | "city council"

Bronx Political Trailblazer and Civil Rights Leader Rev. Wendell Foster Remembered

Rev. Wendell Foster, a civil rights activist who marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King and the first black city council representative from the Bronx, died on Tuesday, Sept. 3. He was 95 years old.

“He endured Jim Crow, marched for civil rights, fought to open doors of opportunity for his constituents in the Bronx, and blazed a trail for black lawmakers across our city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted on Wednesday. “Our hearts are with the Foster family tonight.”

Pastor of Morrisania’s Christ Church for 52 years, Foster was known for his deep connections to the neighborhoods he served both spiritually and politically.

“Rev. Wendell Foster was a pioneer, and someone who helped to make the Bronx and our nation a better place,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. in a statement. “As the first black elected representing the Bronx in the City Council, Rev. Foster was a historic figure in our borough and a dedicated public servant who inspired a whole generation of elected officials to serve their community.”

Foster told the New York Times in 2009 that he came to New York from Alabama when he was 13 years old after reading in a black newspaper about “what people were doing ‘up north.’” The bus station he left from was segregated.

He became an ordained minister and was then sent by a bishop to Bermuda, where he met his wife, Helen Foster. The two returned to New York, settling down on Woodycrest Avenue in the Bronx. Their 63rd anniversary would have been Monday, Sept. 9

Foster’s first run for city council in 1973 proved unsuccessful. One of his opponents, south Bronx political power-broker Ramon Velez, sent Foster one of his own sound trucks to advertise his campaign message throughout the neighborhood, according to Rev. Bruce Rivera, who took over for Foster as senior pastor at Christ Church last year.

“Could you imagine any opponent sending assistance to help?” said Rivera, who was 16 years old at the time.  “We didn’t know anything about how politics operated in the Bronx. We didn’t know anything about petitions.”

Rivera was introduced to Foster the same year he helped out on Foster’s first campaign. “If it wasn’t for him, I probably would have been another lost kid in the South Bronx,” Rivera said. “His influence deeply changed my life.”

Foster finally won the 16th council district seat on his third try in 1977. The district encompasses the Morrisania, Highbridge and Crotona neighborhoods. According to Rivera, many of Foster’s policies were developed by asking neighbors and community members what their needs were.

Foster was the primary sponsor of 74 city council resolutions, according to New York City data, targeting everything from police reform and better access to libraries and parks, to increased public housing and always for equity in black and Hispanic Bronx residents.

Foster served on the council until 2002 He was succeeded by his daughter, Helen Foster. She was the first black woman elected official in the Bronx, where she represented the 16th district for 11 years, stepping down in 2013.

 “He was a committed and dedicated public servant who gave his all to making a difference during a challenging time in the Bronx,” said Vanessa Gibson, current councilperson representing the 16th district. “His work paved the way for African American elected officials in the Bronx and I proudly stand upon his shoulders thankful for his service through the years.”

After his years on the council, Foster continued to serve his community through his church and as a community advocate.

 “The liberation movement has never ceased: It’s always been,” said Foster in his 2009 New York Times interview. “You’ll always find a few nuts like myself out there, trying to better things.”

Foster is survived by his wife, Helen, his two daughters, Helen and Rebekah, and two grandchildren.

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Cannoli and gorillas in the Bronx, Crain’s NY

Local merchants of the city’s largest Little Italy that rely on zoo crowds for business fight Bronx Zoo budget cuts.  Crain’s NY reports that the annual Boo at the Zoo Festival alone brings thousands of families to Arthur Avenue after the festival.  City Hall’s original budget proposal for fiscal 2012 called for a 53% funding cut for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo.  In protest, Bronx’s Cannoli King, Jerome Raguso, owner of Gino’s Pastry Shop, sent a few dozen empty pastry shells to City Council members. His message said, “This is what you get when you eliminate 53% of a cannoli.”

 

 

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[VIDEO] Bronx smokers fuming over ban

The City Council voted 36-12 to extend the smoking ban to parks and recreation areas.

By Ethan Frogget

Posted in Bronx Life, Multimedia, Politics, The Bronx Beat, VideoComments (0)