Tag Archive | "Fordham"

Unofficial American: A Mexican Immigrant in the Bronx

“How can I help you?” asked Israel Sanchez, 20, at Ritchie Torres’ City Council office in the Bronx. He had a calm presence and professional tone, wore a button-down checkered shirt, and spoke with no accent. He was caught at the reception desk with no reference files in front of him but was still able to explain in detail the status of Latino immigrants in the neighborhood. He gave all reference contacts, including email addresses, accurately from memory. It’s a topic Sanchez knows well. His family is not only part of the immigrant community in Fordham but among the most vulnerable. “My parents and I live off the book. We pay taxes but the country doesn’t recognize us as legal residents,” he said. “On one hand, you love this country, but on the other, your life is really difficult.” Meanwhile, a Latino family of ten crowded into the city council office, taking over the reception area that only tightly fits five chairs. Three adults and a flock of children, whose ages varied from toddler to early teen, all spoke Spanish to each other. The woman with the youngest on her lap shook her head with an awkward smile when she was asked if she spoke English. They needed Sanchez to help them communicate. “People think things in elections won’t affect your lives. But it’s because of what Obama did, I was able to be here and do what I do,” he said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – a presidential executive action that President Trump would rescind and President Clinton would defend. The Sanchez family, who cannot vote in the elections, hope the voters will make the right choice for them. Protection against Deportation Sanchez was brought to the United States from Mexico when he was two years old. His parents took him to climb over thorny fences at the Mexico-California border, and flew to New York. He qualifies for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the executive action initiated by President Obama in June 2012. The action has temporarily protected more than 700,000 immigrants from deportation, 66.6 percent of whom are Mexicans. These immigrants, who are eligible for the executive action and are called the Dreamers, were brought to the United States as children and have made the country their home. Although the executive action does not offer a legal path to citizenship, the Dreamers approved are given temporary work permits. Immediately after the policy announcement by President Obama, Sanchez applied for the executive action, eager to be able to work legally. He researched the application process, gathered all the legal documents, and submitted the application himself. Sanchez is temporarily relieved that there is finally a policy that protects immigrants without legal permission like him. “I guess I would be more concerned to meet you if I’m not protected by DACA,” Sanchez said. “The concern is always at the back of our heads.” His concern does not come from nowhere. The Obama administration has deported more immigrants than any previous president, and the number has been steadily increasing year by year. Although New York City is not among the cities with the top number of deportations, Sanchez and his family are still at risk every day. He deliberately avoids any unlawful activity – things that would be destructive but less devastating for American citizens to be caught doing, such as possession marijuana or working at an illegal business. His uncle’s experience taught the family a lesson. Hoping to work and earn his living, Sanchez’s uncle landed a job at a company that manufactured counterfeit Nike shoes, where many of the workers were undocumented. Later, the company was reported to the police and had to shut down. Sanchez’s uncle was arrested, and his status was exposed, along with the other immigrant workers who did not have work permit. As a result, he was deported and sent back to Mexico in 2012, after living 20 years in the United States.   The Identity Although Sanchez’s parents have always told him to be extra careful, he was on TV once with Julissa Arce, an author and advocate for Mexican immigrants. In facing the topic, Sanchez never backs down, and his spine is always straight. After Sanchez received protection against deportation, he has become more active in speaking for immigrants like him. Margaret Calmer, Sanchez’s girlfriend since high school, recalled that their high school friends who used to joke about him being Mexican respected him more after knowing the hardships he has faced. Without a second of hesitation, Sanchez identifies himself as an American. He enjoys Mexican food and music, but since his first memory, he has never stepped out of the country. He’s had an American education and upholds American values like independence and protection for human rights. He wants a career in government to make better policies for immigrants like him. In order to achieve his goal, Sanchez interned at the city council office while he was a full-time college student and working at Staples for tuitions and expense. “He always works extra hard to prove that he deserves to be here,” Calmer said. But he becomes frustrated when his identity clashes with how other people see him. “I think I’m an American, but it’s difficult to claim, since I’m not a citizen,” said Sanchez. He finds many people address him first in Spanish. He was once stopped on his way to Boston because his truck had a headlight out, but the police officers asked if he spoke English and searched his truck for drugs for half an hour. After private middle school, he was accepted to a private boarding high school in Virginia, but this dream school revoked the admission decision after the family visited the campus. The school told him that the revocation was a result of his legal status, but he speculated the real reason being that other students’ parents did not like his Mexican origin. “I was the only Mexican kid. It was very difficult for people like me to go to a school with bunch of rich kids. You kinda feel you are out of the place” Sanchez said. “You kinda expected things like this to happen, but you didn’t think it would actually happen.” The school admission office, on the other hand, stated that the school would verify the legal status of any applicant. The director of admission did not recall any incident of revocation of admission offer since 2006. Sanchez’s road to the American Dream demands more efforts than his American peers. He says his Mexican parents hardly know how American society works, and, along with his two younger brothers, rely heavily on him to navigate their lives. Sanchez in many ways has become the third parent of the family. From credit cards to car insurance to college applications and internships, Sanchez has learned it all by himself. “I have to explain little things like internships to my parents. Sometimes it’s frustrating,” he said.   Unseen Future Because Sanchez’s temporary status comes from a presidential executive action, the next president, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, could revoke the policy. People like Sanchez would no longer be able to work legally and would not be protected from deportations. It’s his worst nightmare. He is afraid that the new president will drop the policy, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service will report him to law enforcement units for deportations. “They know me now. They know I’m here,” he said. Sanchez is graduating from Baruch College in two years. He has two scholarships that cover all his tuition, putting no financial burden on his family. But his political commitment to make immigrants’ lives better would be more promising if he were born in the country and had a U.S. passport. “He’s just normal, like the rest of us. He jokes around and he enjoys his life. But until something changes, there’s always going to be legal status hanging over his mind preventing him from living an entirely normal life,” Calmer said. “All he wants is a normal life.” “I can never be the President. That’s one thing,” half-joked Sanchez. But whoever does become president can determine whether he can become officially American.

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BID works to keep shoppers in Fordham amid mall opening

Shoppers pass by Claire's jewelry store on East Fordham Rd in the Bronx.

Shoppers pass by Claire's jewelry store, one of over 300 business located on Fordham Rd in the Bronx. (Lauren Foster/BRONX INK)

The mix of mom and pop shops and national retail chain stores along Fordham Road in the Bronx continue to thrive despite the new, enclosed Mall at Bay Plaza that opened nearby on August 14. The $300 million mall has 780,000 square feet of retail space and is about a 10-minute drive from the outdoor retail hub that is Fordham Road. The mall features hundreds of shops, a movie theater and restaurants and appeals to customers from both the Bronx and Westchester because of its location near the border between them. But well-braced for the impact, Fordham stores are holding on. Over the two years during which the mall was under construction, the Fordham business community prepared to stave off the threat of retail competition and is now seeing the results of its efforts. “The mall did not affect my business at all,” said Adam Tapia, manager of Modell’s Sporting Goods on East Fordham Road. “I am up by a million and a half dollars in revenue from last year.” The Fordham Road Business Improvement District (BID), a non-profit that bolsters Fordham businesses, has been working to retain shoppers in Fordham. The BID has been renovating local buildings and bringing in more diverse local offerings so that shoppers do not need to leave the area for any of the items on their shopping lists. Daniel Bernstein, the Deputy Director of the Fordham BID, said, The BID is always trying to make business better, but it’s also our goal to maintain what Fordham Road is known for -- a balance of mom and pop shops and large national retail chains that has existed for 10 years.” Fordham has boasted one of the lowest retail vacancy rates in the city at about 3 to 3.5 percent since 2005, according to the BID. In addition, some 80,000 people come through Fordham Road in a period of 12 hours on a typical weekday, the BID reports. There, they will find variety the mall does not provide, despite its dozens of stores, Bernstein said. “If people are looking for a unique, special item, they will find it here in Fordham.” At clothing and accessory store Embode Boutique on East Fordham Road, for example, one can purchase custom colored hats to match a pair of sneakers at prices ranging from $30 to $35. The clientele for the Bay Plaza Mall and Fordham Road overlap, but are not identical. With its proximity to Westchester, the mall is targeting customers with more disposable income than those who live in and commute to or through Fordham. The mall features stores like Michael Kors and Swarovski alongside stores with lower price-points like Old Navy and Perfumania. Fordham residents do not support sit-down restaurants, which are a big attraction at the mall for other shoppers, according to Bernstein. Thirty-three percent of Fordham residents live below the poverty level, according to 2006 findings by New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Additionally, 65 percent of Fordham residents are on some type of income support, a number that has continued to grow since 2005. But Bernstein said there is also a wider “built-in demographic” of shoppers in Fordham: “We have Fordham University, Monroe College, Lehman College, the 1199 building which is the largest union in New York City, and ridiculous amount of health care offices.” Bernstein also pointed to Fordham commuters. “There are thousands of people a day visiting the neighborhood, with so many people coming from so many different places. I see people commute with shopping bags.” The BID has sponsored massive renovation projects, most recently re-doing Fordham Place, a complex that now boasts a Best Buy, office centers, retail, and the charter school Jonas Bronck Academy. Fordham Plaza is another development that has just been renovated by the BID with a Starbucks and TJ Maxx occupying its ground floor since June. The BID has also announced the recent purchase of another block for new development and plans to re-do additional stores and bring bigger brand names to the area. According to Bernstein, Fordham is more attractive to higher end chain stores than it used to be. Bernstein said, “A lot of stores that 10 years ago wouldn’t have thought of coming here are now open to the idea. And different types of shops, like healthy juice shops.” Despite the BID’s efforts, one small store in Fordham has already felt the impact of the Bay Plaza mall. At Claire’s, an inexpensive girl’s fashion jewelry store on East Fordham Road, assistant manager Rebecca Edward said, “Our traffic has definitely cut down and our store is not making as much as before.” But this store is in the unusual position of facing competition from another branch of the same chain called Icing by Claire’s, whose fashion jewelry caters to a slightly older but overlapping clientele. The Icing by Claire’s location at the Bay Plaza mall had a surge in customers despite being only a fourth of the size of the retail location in Fordham. Edward said, “Business might bounce back at our Fordham location after the appeal of the mall wears down, but right now people want to check out the mall because it’s new and fresh.” “The Fordham Claire’s is still relatively new,” Bernstein said.“ It is common in New York that stores oversaturate areas and they are hurting themselves by doing that.” Eventually, he added, the mall itself could be a draw for Fordham’s businesses.

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From Weeds to a Healthy Harvest at Fordham

On most days, Dagger John’s restaurant at Fordham University earns its reputation as the most popular on-campus eating place. Students gather in the spacious dining area with music playing in the background.

But on Sept. 27, the music disappeared and half of the tables were taken over by baskets of vegetables and food scales. Half a dozen people gathered around each table, checking out and selecting vegetables and there was a line of customers extending out the door.

The interloper is officially called the St. Rose’s Garden Community Supported Agriculture Market. It is a cooperative vegetable buying club that invests in Norwich Meadows Farm in upstate Norwich, N.Y. The founder is Jason Aloisio, 27, an ecology Ph.D. student at Fordham, who is also the founder of an on-campus farm, St. Rose’s Garden.

Aloisio also works at the education center at Prospect Park Zoo, connecting teenagers with nature. (YI DU/The Bronx Ink)

“I love eating good food,” said Aloisio, “and I want people to connect to the nature through food. I want them to put their hands in soil, to see what food look like originally.”

Aloisio sees St. Rose’s Garden and the co-op farmer’s market as ways to help make diets healthier in the Fordham community and even the Bronx at large.

People can buy cheap organic vegetables, including tomato, parsley, radish, soybean, turnip, pepper, carrot and garlic grown in St. Rose’s Garden, or they can join the co-op and receive different fresh vegetables every Thursday from Norwich Meadows.

St. Rose’s Garden is believed to be the only on-campus garden in the Bronx; the only other on-campus farmers’ market is at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Growing up in Shoreham on Long Island, Aloisio learned to eat healthy food. As a child, his father, a dentist, kept no candy or desert at home. Fast or processed food was also rare in his home.

“We always had cooked food,” Aloisio said, “so I grew up with real good food.”

Throughout his four years at Fordham, Aloisio has brought that sensibility to the Bronx.  When he's not fulfilling his teaching responsibilities as a Ph.D. candidate, he spends his time on the rooftop of the university parking garage, which he considers his private lab. His dissertation is about “green roofs” in urban areas.

St. Rose’s Garden was originally a piece of unused land that university officials gave  to Aloisio to grow edible plants like tomatoes and pumpkins in order to demonstrate new uses for wasted spaces. But he decided instead to use the 1,500-square-foot area to build an on-campus community farm for the whole school.

Aloisio first had this idea of creating a garden on the grounds last year, but wasn't able to recruit enough volunteers.

This year, Aloisio prepared a formal proposal to change the abandoned land in the unused corner of the school near faculty parking garage into a community garden. He also went to different academic departments, trying to get at least $1,750 to buy essential materials for the garden.

The proposal earned Aloisio a little more than the minimum from three deans at Fordham University who also volunteered in the garden’s construction.

In April, Aloisio and Elizabeth Anderson, an undergraduate student studying environmental policy, started advertising for more volunteers through blogs and by sending emails to students.

On April 23, more than 50 volunteers, including students and faculty members, showed up to assist Aloisio and Anderson building the garden. They removed weeds, built eight raised beds covering 244 square feet and bought 20 cubic yards of soil to fill them. They also laid a water system and planted seeds that blossomed into rows of eggplants, green beans, green and red peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, pumpkins and basil.

St. Rose's Garden is now producing more than 10 kinds of vegetables.  (YI DU/The Bronx Ink)

St. Rose’s Garden offered up its first harvest in September. Green leafy vegetables poked out of their beds. Eggplants turned purple and hid under big leaves. Pumpkins were still in the yellow flower phase, quietly waiting their turn to ripen into fruit.

The garden has also helped grow other efforts at Fordham.

John van Buren, the director of Environmental Policy Program who serves as the faculty advisor for St. Rose’s Garden, is including eight hours of volunteer work at the garden as part of his class.

“Aside from providing fresh, organic vegetables, and an opportunity for playing in the dirt,” said Aloisio, “the underlying mission of St. Rose’s Garden is to be an educational catalyst, both in the classroom and in social settings, for discussion about the broken food system and coupled human-ecosystem interactions.”

He seems to be reaching that goal. “He (Aloisio) is very outgoing, a good person to get things going,” said Joe Hartnett, a junior biology student in the environmental policy class who was one of the volunteers. “He always makes things clear. He is a really good teacher.”

Aloisio was Hartnett’s assistant teacher when he was a freshman. Hartnett said Aloisio brought a lot of different ideas to their environmental classes, making their studies fun and easy to understand. “He is very vocal and energetic,” said Hartnett. “In his email to me, he would say something like ‘Yes, Joe. You CAN do this!’ ”

“He is so passionate,” said Samir Hafez, an economics and environmental policy graduate student. “I admire him for his energies. He never gets discouraged.”

Aloisio says the food co-op is another important component of his campaign to encourage healthy eating.

Consumers pay $16 per week to get a share of six to eight pounds of vegetables and fruit. They agree to buy produce from the farmers for 10 weeks. The vegetables are delivered to Dagger John’s every Thursday for less money than in the supermarket because there is no middleman.

Consumers don’t know what they will get for the week; it depends on what’s available. All the vegetables are picked less than two days before the market.

Katie Buckle, a sophomore at the Gabelli School of Business, did some math with her two roommates. They realized that it would only cost about $5 per person to receive more than enough healthy fruit and vegetables so the three of them decided to pool their money and buy a share together.

“The local farmers send whatever produce they have freshly harvested that week, so our weekly bounty will change and we will likely receive new fruit and vegetables we’ve never tried before,” said Buckle. “To me, this element of surprise is the best part.”

There are currently 137 shares of the co-op, more than Aloisio expected. “We were aiming for 50, and we got 137!” said Aloisio. “I was a little overwhelmed.”

Three resident assistants bought some shares to set up a little farmers’ market in their dorms.

“It helps me to keep a healthier diet,” said Jordan Higgins, a senior biology student. Higgins said she had to Google how to cook much of the produce, but it made her eat more vegetables.

Norwich Meadows Farm also provides vegetables to students at Fordham's  Lincoln Center campus.

Both the co-op and St. Rose's Garden share space at Dagger John’s. The student-run farmers market allows people who didn’t buy a share in the co-op the opportunity to enjoy fresh vegetables.

John Craven, a Fordham business professor, was one recent satisfied customer. “This is the best baby carrot I have ever had,” he said as he sampled a small fresh carrot grown in St. Rose’s Garden. He did not even scrub off the mud before he ate a second one.

Money earned by selling produce from St. Rose’s Garden goes to the daily maintenance of the garden.

“This is really not for profit,” said Aloisio. “We just want to get the food to people.”

The first day of the two markets was especially long for Aloisio. More than 200  people stopped by. Even though there were three volunteers helping him, Aloisio still had to answer all the questions about the food and the garden, organize containers and refill vegetables, and find bags for those who forgot to bring one.

St. Rose's Garden has donated a total of more than $1,000 worth of vegetables to Part of the Solution since the first day of the farmer's market. (YI DU/The Bronx Ink)

Four full containers of vegetables were left after the first day. Aloisio and his volunteers donated all the vegetables to a local non-profit group called Part of the Solution. These vegetables are repacked in Part of the Solution’s food pantry.

Aloisio would like to have more efforts in the Bronx beyond Fordham. Statistics from the Department of Health show that  only 6.3 percent of Bronx residents eat the recommended five daily servings of fruit or vegetables.“I hope to get more people involved,” he said, “Maybe refugees in the Bronx can come and work in the garden. Or maybe make it a refugee garden or a asylum garden.”

At the moment, however, it’s hard for people outside of the Fordham community to benefit from the garden. Visitors have to show a valid ID and pass a security guard to get on campus.

In the meantime, Aloisio is focused on keeping St. Rose’s Garden working smoothly.

All volunteers work on a weekly basis now. But as the mid-term approaches, a lot of students are too busy to help. Aloisio dedicates most of his time to the garden.

“I have free time, somewhere, not really,” said Aloisio, as he dropped off four containers of vegetables at Part of the Solution -- alone.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Culture, Education, Food, Health, Multimedia, North Central Bronx, Slideshows, The Bronx BeatComments (0)

Emergency Teams Respond to Suspicious Powder in a Fordham Office

Emergency teams responded to a 911 call regarding suspicious white powder found in an office near Fordham University Tuesday morning. DNAinfo reported that an FDNY Hazmat team and the NYPD rushed to One Fordham Plaza to investigate the substance, which was discovered under a desk in the fifth floor office. The building was not evacuated and there were no reported injuries.  

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Fordham prevails vs Harvard in Bronx encounter

The 22-ranked Harvard Crimson left the Bronx with their heads bowed following a defeat against the local boys of Fordham University. According to USA Today, the win was the first for Fordham (7-6) over a ranked team since a 68-67 win over then-No. 24 St. John's at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9, 2000. It was also the Rams' first win against a Top 25 team at Rose Hill Gym since beating No. 19 Georgetown 63-59 on Feb. 26, 1978. "Congratulate Fordham. They played inspired basketball," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "Give them credit. They did a tremendous job."

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Police release video of murder suspects, NY Daily News

Police yesterday released a video of two men wanted for beating a Fordham father to death, mugging him for $15, according to the New York Daily News.  The suspects attacked Bimal Chanda, 59, on the second-floor landing of his apartment Saturday.

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Poe’s Cottage, weak and weary no more, NY Times

Over 160 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe lived in a tiny, country poor man's house in what today is the Bronx.  The New York Times reports that the famous poet's cottage in the Fordham neighborhood is receiving finishing half-million dollar renovations and this month has opened to students.  October marks the month of the poet's mysterious death and ends with Halloween.  

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Poe’s Cottage reopens

Last Saturday, dozens of visitors were able once again to view the newly refurbished cottage that was home to celebrated American poet and author Edgar Allen Poe in the mid 19th century.  The city's parks department and Bronx Historical Society re-opened the cottage doors on October 15 in Poe Park, showcasing the historical home's year-long $500,000 face lift. Edgar Allen Poe moved into this white cottage in 1844 with his wife, Virginia. His original rocking chair is on display. The study upstairs and master bedroom, which contains his original bed, are still under renovation and are set to open later this year.

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