Tag Archive | "Environment"

Community Board Member Requests Stronger Communications from DOHMH

Community Board 2 member Roland Lopez in front of his home in Longwood Historic District. Tate Hewitt for The Bronx Ink.

At the Bronx Community Board 2 meeting last month, Roland Lopez stood up to complain about lack of notice for pesticide spraying by the Department of Health in his neighborhood, Longwood’s historic district. Lopez, who is the board’s environmental chair, claimed that the DOHMH is not doing an adequate job notifying the public.

They’re not doing their job, Lopez said of the DOHMH, “none at all, no emails, nothing.”

Now, he was experiencing eye irritation due to pesticide exposure. He had scheduled a doctor’s appointment the next day. 

While local law and internal DOHMH policy require several types of notice, it’s not clear how closely these rules are followed. Lopez said he believes the current notice is not effective, and would like the Department of Health to improve its methods of communication to residents.

“They don’t do a good job announcing this,”  Lopez said of DOHMH notification procedures, “They don’t give a damn.”

The city periodically sprays pesticides in neighborhoods as a measure to control and prevent the spread of West Nile virus, “the leading cause of mosquito borne-disease” in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. By keeping mosquito numbers down, the DOHMH can prevent transmission to the public. The department currently uses four pesticides to manage adult mosquito populations: Anvil 10+10, Duet, Deltaguard, and Merus 3.0. 

On September 21st in Longwood they were spraying Duet.

The department’s website states that the pesticides “pose no significant health risks to people or their pets,” but it also encourages people who are sensitive to pesticide to stay inside, seal off their air conditioners, and to wash skin, clothing, and produce that have been exposed.

The DOHMH policy is to notify residents when it is spraying. In this case, a department spokesperson said 4,000 fliers were posted in Lopez’s zip code (10455) and a neighboring area that was also sprayed (10459).

DOHMH public notice flier found at the corner of Southern Boulevard and Freeman Street in zip code 10459.

Lopez says he only saw one flier, and he didn’t notice it until after pesticide was applied in his neighborhood. He found out when it was announced on a truck loudspeaker minutes before his block was sprayed.  Lopez, who is 80, had to run inside to shut his windows.

“We have health problems, we are compromised with asthma. They wouldn’t do this in Riverdale,” said Lopez as he drove me around the neighboring community of Hunt’s Point, pointing out the heavy truck traffic that has been linked to high rates of asthma in the area, 

“There’s a tale of two cities.” He knows the neighborhood well, since he grew up in Longwood, and has lived there on and off for his entire life. For over 20 years, he worked in the neighborhood as a NYPD detective. 

According to their WNV plan for 2022, DOHMH procedure is to notify the public through the media, fliers posted in public places, and by notifying public-facing entities like hospitals, schools, and community boards. 

At the CB2 full board meeting, Chair Roberto Crespo acknowledged that the community board was also blindsided and that they’ve requested the DOHMH to attend the next health committee meeting to talk about improving communication.

In addition to fliers, the DOHMH posted a September 16th press release on their website, as well as a twitter post.

Local law 37 stipulates that any city agency applying these pesticides must notify the public at least 24 hours ahead of time. This notice must provide information about the pesticides being used, including EPA registration numbers, active ingredients, and numbers for the National Pesticides Telecommunications Network or the New York State Department of Health Center for Environmental Health Info line. This information was absent on both paper fliers and on notices posted online, but did appear in notices that ran in two newspapers – El Diario NY and the New York Daily News. 

The newspapers’ notices are for the entire city that cover a general timeframe of April 2022 to March 31st, 2023, and the large list of possible pesticides that might be used. 

The neighborhoods that are sprayed with pesticide are determined by the amount of mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus, a number tracked by the health department. Although there have been no infected mosquitoes detected in zip code 10455 recorded this year, they have been detected in 3 of 5 surrounding zip codes: 10456 (6 times), 10474 (8 times), and 10459 (7 times).

According to 311 data; for zip code 10455, there have only been two complaints of standing water in their neighborhood, the environment in which mosquitos breed. The same data shows that there have been no reported complaints of mosquito swarms in the neighborhood.

Transmission to humans has been low this year despite high numbers of infected mosquitos. There has only been a single Bronx case of West Nile in 2022. There have been forty cases citywide.

Lopez is less worried about West Nile virus than he is about the cumulative effects of all of the pollutants in his neighborhood, among them pesticides.

“This just exacerbates everything that’s negative here.” 

As Lopez drove me around his neighborhood, tears rolled out from under his sunglasses from the eye irritation. His doctor had prescribed eye-drops.

“Our complaints fall on deaf ears,” Lopez said.

“I don’t know what to do…maybe civil disobedience”

Posted in Health, Southern BronxComments (0)

Thousands of Young New Yorkers March for Climate Action

Thousands of Young New Yorkers March for Climate Action

Protesters made their way toward lower Manhattan’s Foley Square, chanting “The oceans are rising and so will we!”

An estimated 250,000 New York City students and activists took to the streets of lower Manhattan on Friday, Sept. 20 to demand worldwide climate justice. The march underscored with chants and song was just one of many demonstrations scheduled in 150 countries as part of the Global Climate Strike.

Strikers gathered at Foley Square then marched down Broadway to a rally in Battery Park where they heard from several speakers, including Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who began the movement to strike school on Fridays known as Fridays For Future.

Thunberg’s Fridays For Future approach echoed throughout the march, with signs reading “WE’D BE IN SCHOOL IF YOU DID YOUR JOB,” and “WE’RE DITCHING SCHOOL BECAUSE YOU’RE DITCHING OUR FUTURE.”

The students missed a day of school to join the strike. The absence was pre-approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who announced on Thursday, Sept. 12 that the city’s public school students participating in the strike would not be penalized, so long as they received parental consent. Teachers and other school educators, however, were not permitted to attend.

“It’s weird that we have to skip school to save our lives,” said a 13-year-old student from the Baccalaureate School for Global Education in Queens. “I hope politicians listen to us.”

The official Global Climate Strike demand calls for ending the use of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum. Protestors emphasized several other issues, including sea level rise, pollution, the agricultural industry, excessive meat consumption, and corporate corruption.

Carole Yancey, 78, pushed through the crowd of young people on a walker and waited hours for the march to begin. “I am overwhelmed,” she said about witnessing a youth-led climate movement. “I feel like crying.”

Around her, people chanted, “the oceans are rising and so will we.”

While other demonstrations are expected to occur between Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, the NYC strike was purposefully set three days before the Climate Action Summit at the U.N. headquarters so that global leaders could witness the mass mobilization.

Posted in Bronx NeighborhoodsComments (0)

A revitalized Bronx park shows off at “It’s My Park Day”

A park erected on an old landfill in the Soundview section of the Bronx attracted diverse volunteers to revitalize its garden during the event “It’s My Park Day” on Sunday.

Volunteers worked from late morning to early afternoon planting daffodils to attract butterflies and clearing out tall, dense shrubbery to reveal a view of the Bronx River from the Butterfly/Meditation Garden at Soundview Park. The Friends of Soundview Park, supported by Partnership for Parks, coordinated the event.

Volunteers help plant daffodils in the Butterfly Meditation Garden

Volunteers help plant daffodils in the Butterfly Meditation Garden (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

The lush, maintained green space that volunteers visited on Sunday was recently reborn after a neglected past.

“It was a dump” with a “dangerous reputation,” said Lucy Aponte, a longtime Bronx resident and current president of the Friends group. Aponte was speaking literally as well as figuratively. The park operated as a landfill from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Soundview Park’s trashy history is to be thanked for the far-reaching views it now offers; its landfill days raised the shoreline 30 feet above the marsh elevation. Its potential as a thriving waterfront park came to fruition in 2010 under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Parks Foundation’s Catalyst Program, which aims to renovate parks in underserved areas.

With the imminent departure of Catalyst workers at the end of the year, the park’s management will be turned over to Friends of Soundview Park, a local volunteer group. Although the park has come a long way during the four years of Catalyst attention, the Friends group inherits some tough challenges.

A vital task for the Friends group is to increase visitors to the park. From the beginning, Catalyst’s Park Coordinator for Waterfront Activity, Carlos Martinez, had difficulty building interest in the park among nearby residents.

Events, like “It’s My Park Day,” have the double advantage of revitalizing the park and drawing visitors.

Volunteers add mulch to a street tree right outside the garden (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

Volunteers add mulch to a street tree right outside the garden (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

Luz Quezada, 48, a former Bronx resident now residing in Manhattan, found out about Soundview Park’s event through the nonprofit Fiadasec Federacion Internacional, a community–minded organization based in the Dominican Republic with a branch in New York City.

A first–time visitor to Soundview Park, Quezada said she thought the event was an “awesome way to create conversation about environmental issues with children.” She brought her seventh grade daughter Raymi to help plant daffodil bulbs.

Quezeda said she “never knew this park existed” and was “very amazed” by the park’s beauty. She said she and her family would be back soon to revisit the waterfront greenway.

Four years ago, Community Board 9 expressed concernes about the Catalyst Program’s goal of activating the space and bringing more people to such a large park, skeptical that Soundview Park could change its reputation as a dangerous area, Martinez recalled.

Today, with a new chairman in charge, the community board still has not thoroughly embraced the project. Chairman William Rivera “hasn’t talked to the friends group” yet, he said, and he expressed concerns over noise levels caused by sports leagues and barbeque parties in the park. Rivera said he is open to addressing his qualms with the Friends and hopes to establish a connection soon.

The two newest members of the Friends group are working hard to engage the community in the park’s activities by shooting a video.

Brothers Mohamed Kaba, 18, and Mamadou Kaba, 16, hope their video, which includes interviews with park attendees and shots of the park’s views, will “get people to want to donate and help,” Mamadou said.

Mohamed took classes at his high school on videography and will post the finished version on the NYC Park’s website page and Facebook page. The brothers’ plan to include old photographs so that viewers can see how drastically the park has changed.

The Kaba brothers interviewed Wanda Diaz, 23, who found out about Soundview Park’s “It’s My Park Day,” from a flier during a class trip to Poe Park in the Bronx. She said she enjoyed the event and would take part in further activities.

The Kaba brothers interview Wanda Diaz about her experience at "It's My Park Day" (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

The Kaba brothers interview Wanda Diaz about her experience at “It’s My Park Day” (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

To help fund the activities the park hosts, the Friends will take a page out of the Catalyst program’s book and reach out to the Bronx River Alliance, which provides contacts with corporations.

Last month’s “International Coastal Clean-up” at the park was sponsored by the outdoor retailer R.E.I. and “It’s My Park Day” was sponsored by TD Bank. The corporations not only provide money for tools and supplies, but also give out T-shirts and reusable bags.

Jaime Feliberty, 59, the Friends member in charge of “It’s My Park Day,” said Carlos Martinez, the Catalyst worker, taught their group how to organize themselves to be efficient. He “feels terrible” about Martinez’s departure, and joked that he is “going to tie him up so he doesn’t leave.”

Even though Feliberty said there is still much to learn about taking charge of the park’s activities, he noted that the Friends group has a good team of people, including artists Laura Alvarez and Lucy Aponte.

Martinez said that the Friends group would continue to receive advisory support from a Partnership for Parks Borough Coordinator. He also said that he would be available for Friends members to contact for help, even as he heads to the next “Catalyst Park,” Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem.

The launch into Soundview Park’s future was secured by the Catalyst Program. The park is now poised to enter a new era. The park itself is thriving, with an improved “greenway,” a path that hugs the shoreline and connects waterfront towns, and with coming attractions like an amphitheater, which will provide a venue for local performers, an extensive wetlands area, which will allow the native ecology to flourish, and a dog park.

In addition to managing events and recruiting members, the Friends of Soundview Park must widen their outreach to promote their park’s new track, playgrounds, greenways, and gardens. Transforming from a desolate dump to a picturesque park, Soundview Park is poised for an influx of visitors.

A couple sits by the Bronx River, which runs adjacent to the park's "greenway" (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

A couple sits by the Bronx River, which runs adjacent to the park’s “greenway” (ELIZABETH GOLDBAUM/THE BRONX INK)

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Bronx Tales, Southern BronxComments (0)

After Sandy, Hunts Point’s Low Lying Areas Struggle with Flooding

A disaster relief organization in the low-lying Hunts Point area of the Bronx experienced heavy flooding and a challenge to distribute supplies. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

Early this morning, when Tim Reeve opened the storehouse of the disaster relief organization World Vision in Hunts Point, he saw devastation up close: water from Sandy had flooded the building.

A delivery truck was submerged in three-feet-deep water. Pink collared-shirts inside plastic bags floated beside cases of pencils and hygiene kits that awaited delivery from the Hunts Point warehouse to hard-hit areas in New York and the region.

As emergency response teams rush to rescue residents from flooding and fires, organizations that are gearing up to join the efforts are facing challenges in the storm’s aftermath. In Hunts Point, a flood-prone area in the Bronx, organizations like World Vision and major food distribution companies are struggling to resume operating.

“At this point, we’re trying to do emergency response, but right now, it appears that we’re in a disaster ourselves,” said Reeve, World Vision’s storehouse manager for New York. Reeve estimates that supplies will be ready for distribution by Thursday and that the warehouse may move to an alternative space.

The extent of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation on millions of residents from the shores of North Carolina to Maine is still being determined, as floods, power outages and snow continue to displace thousands of residents from their communities. Eight million people in 15 states remain without electricity.

The federal government estimates $20 billion in damages from the storm.

Sandy hits the industrial zone in Hunts Point, Bronx from Adam Perez on Vimeo.

Inside World Vision’s office, a fire alarm blared as a project coordinator pointed to a water line three feet above the soaked carpet. A kitchen refrigerator was flipped on its side. Relief supplies were strewn across the warehouse.

Reeve did not expect water from the East River to reach the storehouse, which is located near a boardwalk in Barretto Park. But the park’s benches were already underwater as the storm raged and the sea rose on Monday. There were no sandbags to buffer the area from the surge.

Chad Narine, an MTA track worker, witnessed an electrical transformer exploding underneath the sidewalk outside of the MTA compound on Tiffany Street around 11:30 p.m. on Monday. “I was standing in the transit yard inside,” said Narine, 34, “when I heard a loud boom and saw a white a flash.”

Steam continued to rise from a hole in the sidewalk on Tuesday while an emergency vehicle from ConEdison, which provides electricity, gas and steam, monitored the damaged transformer.

“New York needs to be more careful with powerful storms like these,” said Adama Makouyate, an employee at a food-distribution plant in a flood-prone area of Hunts Point. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

New York City’s Office of Emergency Management lists the low-lying area in Zone B, meaning it faces a moderate risk of flooding and likelihood of evacuation during storm surges and hurricanes. But the flooding in the area could have a major impact on the entire metropolitan area. Hunts Point is home to the region’s largest-food distribution center.

Everyday, more than 15,000 delivery trucks come in and out of the area’s produce, meat and seafood market, which supplies much of the city and surrounding region’s grocery markets and restaurants.

In the Co-Op Meat Market, warehouse manager Milton Pinto recalled being stranded with 31 fellow workers before the storm neared landfall. Most workers lived in Brooklyn and the Bronx. They didn’t arrive home until 5 p.m the next day.The meat market closed operations on Tuesday for the first time.

Raphael Candelario, a worker at New Fulton Fish Market, was one of two employees in the distribution plant while the waves pummeled the rocky shores. Candelario, 47, arrived to monitor the site at 5 a.m. Monday. “Water came up to the plant between 3 to 4 a.m.,” said Candelario. The river’s waters also reached the top of a staircase in a pier house next to the market.

In a nearby food distribution plant, Sultana Distribution Services Inc., a security guard surveyed damages from the storm. Adama Makouyate, 45, dressed in a red raincoat and black pants, expressed awe at the 22 stone barriers that were blown 10 to 20 feet away from the edge of a lot facing the East River. The barriers, which weigh more than a ton, lined the lot to protect the distribution plant from the surge. Metal fences lay flat on the pavement, indicating the hurricane’s wind power, which exceeded 70 miles per hour.

Hurricane Sandy exposed the city’s lack of storm barriers and infrastructural safeguards. During separate news conferences today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed plans to armor the city from storm surges and sea level rise. Cuomo proposed the possibility of building levees in Lower Manhattan.

“We have a 100-year flood every two years now,” said Cuomo. “The construction of this city did not anticipate these kinds of situations. We are only a few feet above sea level.”

Additional reporting by Adam Perez and Jan Hendrik Hinzel.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Featured, Food, TransportationComments (0)

Sandy Bears Down on the Battered Bronx

Parks and Recreation workers warned residents about the powerful storm before locking entrance gates in Barretto Park and other recreational spots in the Bronx. (COLEEN JOSE/The Bronx Ink)

The Bronx opened evacuation centers Sunday night, as Hurricane Sandy continued its path toward New York City.

About two thirds of the 4-square-mile peninsula is categorized as Zone B by the New York City Office of Emergency Management, meaning that residents can expect a moderate possibility of evacuation.

Click here to find out where the nearest evacuation center is near you.

In Hunts Point, wind gusts, cloudy skies and light rain covered an area where one of the world’s largest food-distribution centers operates in a low-lying location facing the East River.  Hunt Point’s produce, meat and seafood market supplies much of the city and surrounding region’s grocery markets and restaurants.

The National Hurricane Center estimates that the storm system will touch down in New York on Monday evening. The city opened 72 evacuation centers in public schools to accommodate more than 370,000 residents living in flood-prone communities.

City officials suspended service of the entire city’s transit system and issued mandatory evacuations on Sunday as Hurricane Sandy neared landfall. The tropical storm system gains speed and strength as it travels northward to densely populated areas along the East Coast.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, East Bronx, Featured, Front PageComments (0)

Hurricane Sandy Barrels Northeast, Raising Caution in Bronx Waterfront

Memories of damages from last year’s Hurricane Irene frame cautious preparation for a powerful storm system barreling towards the northeast. Hurricane Sandy, known in social networking sites as ‘Frankenstorm’, is expected to hit the Eastern Seaboard as early as Sunday evening.

Residents in waterfront areas of the East Bronx are preparing for the worst: protecting windows that may shatter from debris brought by strong winds and stocking up on basic needs, NY1 reports. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city officials urged residents in flood-prone areas to be alert and informed about evacuation zones. Severe weather is forecasted to last for several days.



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