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[VIDEO] Defending Bronx history

[VIDEO] Defending Bronx history

By Ethan Frogget, April Warren and Shlomo Sprung

Posted in Multimedia, VideoComments (0)

“Cutting off the head of a snake:” Bronxites react to Bin Laden’s death with raw memories and skepticism

“Cutting off the head of a snake:” Bronxites react to Bin Laden’s death with raw memories and skepticism

Union Avenue mural of Bronx fireman Peter Bielfeld, who died on 9/11 (Photo by Camilo Hannibal Smith, Bronx Ink)

By Camilo Hannibal Smith

On the east side of Melrose, about 10 miles north of Ground Zero, a fading mural dedicated to a fallen firefighter still brightens an otherwise plain brick and concrete corner of Union Avenue and East 152nd Street. Passersby didn’t even glance at the memorial to Peter Bielfeld whose Ladder Company 42, known as La Casa del Elefante is located just a few blocks away. The news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of U.S. forces hadn’t shaken this pocket of New York City.

But for one resident, the image of a firefighter and an unharmed World Trade Center deserved a long glance. Elizabeth Alvarez, 48, smoked her morning cigarette as she stared at the mural from the curb. Her skepticism about whether or not Osama bin Laden was really dead didn’t keep her from feeling the emotion that thoughts of September 11, 2001 brought back.

“I didn’t have family in there, and I still can’t watch when they show the repeats,” of the planes hitting the World Trade Center, she said.

“I don’t understand war,” she continued, adding that she loves President Obama but didn’t agree with the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. She was relieved at the news, but didn’t expect terrorism against the U.S. to end. “For every Bin Laden you take out, there’s another one to take his place,” she said.

Mark Johnson, 53, sat outside the bodega next door to the mural. Although he said he believed the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, he said he felt there was a heightened possibility of another attack on New York. “You cut the head off a snake, the snake still move,” he said.

As the morning rush hour got underway, with young people and mothers making their way to school and to work, there wasn’t much talk about last night’s news. Police presence was minimal in the area, which was just a few feet from the Jackson Avenue subway station.

“All this does is help Obama with his popularity,” said Charles James, 61. He said he worked in the World Trade Center in the early 1980s, but later worked in Alaska during 9/11. He said he was more worried about things like the economy, than retaliation against the U.S. for killing Bin Laden.

Two women, Renee Z., 32, and Fawn B. 31, were walking past the mural this morning and hadn’t heard the news until speaking to a reporter. They are staying at a rehabilitation facility nearby.

“If it’s true, it would make me feel like a little bit of closure,” said Renee. “Friends of mine were firefighters and cops who died,” in the attacks. She said she lost 13 close friends in 9/11 and worked on a fundraiser at a tattoo parlor on Long Island where she’s from. She pulled up her pants leg to reveal a “Freedom” tattoo on her left ankle, which she says she received just after the 9/11 anniversary last year.

“If he’s really dead, good,” said Fawn. The two began to reminisce about where they were when the attack on the Twin Towers happened. These thoughts hadn’t entered their minds for years, they said, standing in front of Bielfeld’s mural.

Down the street, at Ladder Company 42 on Prospect Avenue, a firefighter attempted to let a reporter into the firehouse to see their own mural to their fallen hero, Peter Bielfeld. When asked about how he felt at the news of Bin Laden’s death, he quickly closed the door and turned around, saying, “No one here wants to talk to you about that,” and walked away.

While raw emotions surfaced at the thought of 9/11, along with some skepticism about the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, the pace of the city wouldn’t stop, especially for residents of the Bronx.

Gary Gone

Gary Gone joined the crowd that gathered at Ground Zero (photo by Ethan Frogget, Bronx Ink).

Gary Gone, 57, took a train from his home at City Island in the Bronx to Ground Zero Monday morning after he heard the announcement of Bin Laden’s death.

“I’m here for the victims of 9/11 and their families,” he said. He waved his flag and held up the front page of the New York Post on Church Street next to Tara Henwood-Butzbaugh from the Upper East Side, who was holding a picture of her brother John, a trader at the World Trade Center killed on September 11th. Her brother was only 35 and left behind a wife and two children.

Tara Henwood-Butzbaugh went to Ground Zero for her brother, John, who was killed there on 9/11 (photo by Ethan Frogget, Bronx Ink)

“I’d rather have my brother back,” Henwood-Butzbaugh said with tears in her eyes, “But I’m grateful Bin Laden is dead. It’s not going to bring my brother back but I do believe that justice has finally been served. It’s a victory for the world.”

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Gone. “We need to get them all. Wipe them off the face of the Earth. I don’t even think Hell wants them.”

Gone said he was on a bus on Fordham Road when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He immediately got off the bus and tracked down the nearest television in a store where he watched the events of September 11th with many other Bronxites. He said he wears his patriotic vest and waves flags at Ground Zero on every anniversary.

Tara Henwood-Butzbaugh shows a photo of her brother who died on 9/11. (photo by Ethan Frogget, Bronx ink)

“I’ll be here as long as it takes,” he said.

Bronx Ink Reporter Ethan Frogget contributed to this story.

Posted in Bronx NeighborhoodsComments (0)

A holy week in the Bronx

A holy week in the Bronx


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Fr. A. K. Cherian is the vicar of the St. Mary's Orthodox Church. Photo: Yiting Sun

Every four years, Passover, Orthodox Easter and Easter all happen together.  This past week, the reporters of the Bronx Ink fanned out across the borough to report on how the sacred week was celebrated.  We visited churches of all faiths, covered processions, services, and a seder supper at a senior center in Riverdale. Click here for highlights of our coverage.

Edited by Ethan Frogget

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Front PageComments (0)

[SLIDESHOW] Boat builders test their teamwork, on ice

[SLIDESHOW] Boat builders test their teamwork, on ice

By: Mehroz Baig

Posted in Bronx Life, Front Page, Multimedia, SlideshowsComments (0)

[VIDEO] Yemenis say enough is enough

[VIDEO] Yemenis say enough is enough

More than 50 people were killed in pro-democracy protests in Yemen last week. For some in Bronxdale, the conflict is personal.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, VideoComments (0)

The Bronx’s own Green Isle celebrates

The next generation of Irish kids growing up in Woodlawn. Photo Credit: Michelle Bialeck

Photo montage of Woodlawn’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

By Michelle Bialeck

When parade goers and bar hoppers, many in shamrock sunglasses and leprechaun hats, line the streets of Manhattan trying to get a glimpse of the parade, or win St. Patrick’s day T-shirts, a little pocket of down-home revelry takes place in the Northeast Bronx.

About a block away from Yonkers on Katonah Avenue, kids paint their faces green, the Irish musicians of Jameson’s Revenge play the violin and Irish flute, and neighbors and friends celebrate the country they left behind.

“Oh! And I wish I were with the gentle folk, Around a hearthened fire where the fairies dance unseen,” recited Martin Miller outside the Rambling House pub a few days before the St Patrick’s Day celebration. Taking not even a full moment to recall the verse by the Irish nationalist Bobby Sands, Miller, 32, began reciting the poem while successfully lighting his cigarette in the cool wind.  The sound of his own words had such a nostalgic quality, they almost brought him to tears.  He stopped short, but not from lack of memory.

For Miller, being away from home, a small town outside of Belfast, is difficult, but he wouldn’t want it any other way. Miller, like the many young Irish men and women who have come to New York for work, has found not only a job here, but a home away from home in Woodlawn, or the Bronx’s little Ireland. For Miller and his friends, Woodlawn is a community, a safety net, and a starting point, for a new life.

This St Patrick’s Day in Woodlawn, there is not only a celebration of history, but of the future of the vibrant Irish community that has withstood its own tremors of prejudice, immigration back and forth, and the ever-changing city around it.

The Irish neighborhood of Woodlawn, with Katonah Avenue as its backbone, is not slipping away, but teeming with Irish and Irish-Americans of all ages, new and old to the U.S. It is truly an Irish Diaspora, as alive as the green mountains of home.

The Economic and Social Research Institute estimates that amid an economic downturn in Ireland, a thousand people leave that country every week in search of opportunity abroad. The unemployment rate has peaked, almost reaching 14 percent, in the past few months, and it’s difficult to find a person on Katonah Avenue who will leave a conversation without speaking of his or her friends on welfare back in the homeland.

Watch this video to see what residents of Katonah Avenue have to say about recent immigration:

William Hurley, historian and librarian at the American Irish Historical Society, speaks of a tightening on American visas and the flow of many Irish immigrants to Canada and Australia where it’s easier for Irish to obtain legal status, but he acknowledges that there is still a pull to the U.S. for those who are willing to try and stay illegally, and especially among young Irish immigrants who are lucky enough to get legal sponsorship.

“If you want to work, you’ll get work here,” says Miller who has found work in construction.  There is a sense of looking after each other in the Irish community in New York.

Danny Maloney, owner of the moving company Liffey Van Lines & Storage, says that the number of people who go to him from Ireland asking for work has risen by 70 percent in the past couple of years. Maloney’s son, also Danny, was quick to chime in, “I’ve seen what’s happening over there, and it’s a disaster.” The elder Maloney says he is willing to do whatever he can to find work for his fellow countrymen and women in the many branches of his business, but it’s tough work finding something for everyone.

Maloney estimates that for every five people he knows who went to Ireland a decade ago, four of them are coming back. Many homeowners or business owners in Ireland are stuck with mortgages they can’t pay; many are simply stuck in Ireland because they own instead of rent.  This is why a good part of the wave of Irish immigrants to the U.S. remains young. They are looking to start a life here and haven’t yet bought a house in Ireland or started a family.

“If you think you are going to have a mortgage and a car payment there…” he laughs with slight disappointment in his squinting eyes and uneasy round face.

Hugh O’Lunney is another business owner who has seen the effects of Ireland’s high unemployment rate here in New York. “The Celtic Tiger is dead, or very sick,” says O’Lunney, referring to the economic boom that Ireland experienced starting in the mid 1990s. The owner of O’Lunney’s Times Square Pub, O’Lunney has been in New York for more than 30 years, longer than most of the new immigrants have been alive.

Hurley speculates that Woodlawn remains a pocket of Irish culture, not only because of the connections to loved ones in Ireland, but because of the zoning. Many people own their own homes in Woodlawn, as opposed to renting, said Hurley, this causes families to stay in the area instead of moving out like in other New York City neighborhoods such as Woodside, Queens.

While Irish neighborhoods have dwindled and populations moved away from areas like  Riverdale, Norwood or Woodside, many people come to Woodlawn to stay, start families and raise kids.

Woodlawn has one of the best schools in the Bronx. P.S. 19 Judith K. Weiss is located right in the heart of Katonah Avenue.

“The focus and discipline is significant…above and beyond,’’ said Donna Katz, a substitute teacher who works at schools all over the Bronx. “I don’t know if it’s the administration, the kids or the parents.  I think it’s the connection between the three.”

The neighborhood also has two popular churches and a well-known Irish bank, Country Bank, all within walking distance.

Mike Mullen, a native of Ireland who was employed by Danny Maloney at Liffey Van Lines & Storage after he finished college, says a big part of the success of Woodlawn as an Irish enclave is its outward distinctiveness.

“From a city planning perspective, you know when you arrive and you know when you leave,’’ he said.  “You can sit and read your Irish paper and have your Irish soda.”

And he’s right, on a normal day, you know you’ve arrived because Irish accents fill your ears and that quintessential Guinness sign tags most of the storefronts.  There are people old and young, buying Irish products, reading the Echo, ordering chicken burgers at Mary’s Celtic Kitchen, listening to either football or the faint swing of traditional Irish music in the background of any of the local bars — there are about two on each block.

“It’s warm here, that’s the word,” Miller said as he scoured his head for the perfect way to explain what keeps his friends and family in Woodlawn.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Multimedia, The Bronx Beat, VideoComments (0)

[VIDEO] Knitting with cat-like precision

[VIDEO] Knitting with cat-like precision

By: Mehroz Baig

Ruth Marshall, a Bronx-based fiber artist is working on her latest creation. Her work is also featured in the first fiber art exhibit at Lehman College Art Gallery.

The New York Fiber Art exhibit at Lehman was curated by Sandra Sider, and features thirty artists, three from the Bronx. The work includes large scale installations, embroidery, quilts and mixed media art. While traditionally fiber art was defined by embroidery and quiltmaking, that definition has changed to include many other types of art that utilize fiber. Susan Hoeltzel, director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, says that many fiber artists self-identify as fiber artists, but that their work can include a variety of elements in addition to fiber.

In the current show at Lehman, many artists do not self-identify as fiber artists but come from a range of backgrounds, such as installation artists, conceptual artists and collage artists. In curating the show, Sider chose pieces of any art form that predominantly utilized fiber or that manipulated materials the way fiber can be used, such as weaving.

Below are some of the featured works at the show, which runs until May 12. Lehman College Art Gallery will host a reception on Monday, March 21, 2011.


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"Mecklenburg, North Carolina Cotton Picking Time," By Michael Cummings, 2008. Quilt, 96" by 120".

Posted in Culture, Former Featured, Front Page, Multimedia, VideoComments (0)

[VIDEO] Bronx seniors go Wii

[VIDEO] Bronx seniors go Wii

By Ethan Frogget and Clara Martinez

Every Friday, a group of seniors gets together in the Bronx Library Center to bowl with the Nintendo Wii. The program is part of a citywide initiative launched by the New York Public Library system to bring new technologies to surrounding communities. Wii gaming is available in five other Bronx libraries and twelve centers in Manhattan and Staten Island.

Posted in Bronx Life, Former Featured, Multimedia, VideoComments (0)

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