Tag Archive | "Grand Concourse"

A habitat for travelers in the Grand Concourse

A Puerto Rico native who grew up in the South Bronx has transformed his house into a bed-and-breakfast placed called Mi Casa Tu Casa Guesthouse.

In a feature story published in the NY Times, guests to the spot have come from as far away as China, and some return year after year. In response to the inevitable question about crime, Mr. Pabón says that despite the South Bronx’s dismal image, the neighborhood is relatively safe. “The worst thing,” he said, “is the noise, the trucks and the people playing music at 2 in the morning.”

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Bloody week in the Bronx

Bloody week in the Bronx

Violence in the Bronx has escalated in this week with three shootings in a span of three days, leaving a 4-year-old boy in critical condition and Bronx residents feeling rattled. Click on each marker for more details.

View Bloody week in the Bronx in a larger map

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Cycling renaissance pedals slowly to the Bronx

Cycling renaissance pedals slowly to the Bronx

A cyclist rides on the Grand Concourse ahead of traffic

A cyclist shares the road with traffic on the Grand Concourse. (Nigel Chiwaya |THE BRONX INK)

Every morning Shardy Nieves rides his bicycle 11 miles from his home in Crotona to his job at Champion Courier on 37th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan.  The 31-year-old Nieves said that he makes the ride, which takes almost an hour by subway, in 35 minutes.

“Faster than a train, less congestion,” said Nieves, who works in customer service at Champion Courier. “You can’t beat it.”

Still, he noted, cycling in Manhattan is far easier than in the Bronx. “Manhattan is more bike friendly,” Nieves said. “In the Bronx you have to fend for yourself.”

The Bronx has been pushed to the slow lanes in New York City’s current cycling renaissance.  Not only does it have fewer miles of bike lanes than Brooklyn and Manhattan, and it is not yet included in the city’s ambitious bike sharing program.

The result is a cycling community that is smaller than the ones in Brooklyn and Manhattan, something that was on full display during the Oct. 23 Tour de Bronx.

The tour, an annual non-competitive bike ride through the borough, drew cyclists from all five boroughs. At the Yankee Stadium Number 4 station, riders from Manhattan and Brooklyn poured out of uptown trains in droves. Across the platform, a single cyclist came from the north Bronx, a symptom likely caused by the tip of the borough’s lack of bike lanes.

There are 88.5 miles of bike lanes in the Bronx, 56.5 of which have been added since 2006. Of the five boroughs, only Staten Island has fewer miles of bike lanes.

Lanes in the outer boroughs were placed in areas that provide easy access to midtown Manhattan. In Brooklyn and Queens, this means lanes in the waterfront communities of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Long Island City and Astoria, respectively.

A graphic showing the miles of bike lanes in each borough

The Bronx trails Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan in miles of bike lanes. (Click to Enlarge)

Similarly, most of the Bronx’s bike lanes have been placed in the South Bronx, in close proximity to the Harlem River bridges on streets like the Grand Concourse, Third, Walton and Jerome Avenues. The placement of the lanes on major streets has been a blessing and a curse for riders, who now have dedicated travel paths to Manhattan. But they have to be willing to weave through busy side streets in order to reach them.

Some cyclists choose not to deal with the threats of traffic, opting instead to take their bicycles on the subway. Jennie Heslin, who runs the New York City social bicycle club, had to get from her apartment in Morris Heights down to 161st Street for the Tour de Bronx. “I ended up taking my bike on the train,” Heslin said. “I wanted to avoid riding in the streets.”

It’s not uncommon to see cars parked in bike lanes, said Sebita Lekhraj, one of Heslin’s club members. “People don’t have any respect for bikers,” said Lekhraj, who also lives in Morris Park.

Dedicated bike lanes are not the only area where the Bronx rides behind Manhattan and Brooklyn. In September, the city debuted plans for an ambitious public bike-sharing program. The system, which calls for 600 stations and 10,000 bikes, will launch in September 2012 in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Alta Bicycle Share, the company that will run the program, excluded the Bronx from the trial after conducting feasibility studies, but has indicated the possibility of establishing a smaller, disconnected satellite system in the borough at a later date.

Cycling has been a contentious issue in New York. The city began a push to increase the number of riding paths in 1997 with the release of the bike master plan. However bike lane construction didn’t begin in earnest until Mayor Michael Bloomberg arrived in 2001 and began championing the issue. In fact, Bloomberg made so much progress that disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, a mayoral frontrunner before a lewd photo scandal forced his resignation, once told the mayor that if elected, he’d spend his first year in office “tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.”

In Brooklyn, Park Slope residents banded together to sue the city over a lane on Prospect Park West. The case was dismissed in August.

The Bronx hasn’t seen any similar uprisings, said Ben Fried, author of the alternative transportation website Streetsblog.org. “I’d be shocked if we heard a story like that,” Fried said.

While Brooklyn residents fume over bike lanes, Bronx residents seem to be rolling with the idea. A June 2011 poll showed that 63 percent of Bronx residents support bike lanes, a rate that tied with Manhattan for highest in the city. Some expect those numbers will grow.

“In terms of the number of people cycling, it’s not quite up there, but I think there’s a lot of people that don’t have cars, said Fried.”

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Tour de Bronx 2011

Some 6,000 cyclists biked the Bronx on Oct. 23. Bike enthusiasts young and old took over the streets from Bronx County Courthouse to the Sheridan Expressway and Pelham Bay Park.


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Thousands of cyclists eager to take annual “Tour De Bronx”, NY1

Organizers and elected officials are gearing up for the 17th annual event on Sunday, October 23, which known to be the largest free cycling event in New York State, NY1 reports.

Beginning at 161st Street and taking the Grand Concourse, riders either navigate a 25- or 40-mile route, passing through historic districts, neighborhoods, waterfront areas and greenways.

Tens of thousands of cyclists have taken part in the Tour De Bronx over the years.

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What Terror Threat?

What Terror Threat?

A woman speaks to a firefighter at Tercela Iglesia Bautista in the Bronx

Nonfe Garcia gives members of Ladder 17, Engine 60 crosses to thank them on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Photo: Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Bronx Ink.

Bronx residents attending nine September 11 memorial services across the borough on Sunday said they were unfazed by the “credible, but unconfirmed” Department of  Homeland Security reports that al-Qaeda members were planning to use car or truck bombs against targets in New York City and the nation’s capital.

“I’m  not scared at all,”  said Paul Reverson, 18, who was attending a service at the Bronx Museum of Art on the Grand Concourse. Since terrorists haven’t struck New York since 2001, “they won’t do it today.”

Philipe Gaston, 22, whose cousin escaped from the Twin Towers ten years ago, said he felt secure because the city had ramped up its security operations over the years. “There have been so many changes as far as security is concerned,” said Gaston, who works at the information point of museum. “The security in New York just skyrocketed.”

On Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg informed city residents of the possible threat and urged everyone to be vigilant. “Over the next few days,” Bloomberg said, “we should all keep our eyes wide open.”

In response, Gov. Andrew Cuomo added what he called “a significant increase” in state police officers to the city.  The effect was felt in Manhattan, as security checkpoints set up by the New York Police Department brought traffic around midtown to a virtual standstill.

No roads were closed in the Bronx, however.

Amidst the extra security, Suzanne Russell and her husband gathered in Melrose at Engine Company 71, Ladder 55 to honor the nearly 3,000 victims, including 143 Bronxites,  who died ten years ago in the World Trade Center attacks. When asked about the possible threat, Russell said that no matter what happened she’d be fine as long her firefighter husband was at her side.

“Terror alerts won’t bother me this morning,” Russell said. “This time I have my husband with me. Waiting for the phone call would’ve been the worst part. But for now, we’re all together.”

Julio Gonzalez, a pastor at Tercera Iglesia Bautista Espanola in Mott Haven, gave a more spiritual response.

“We all carry the fear of another attack like 9/11,” said Rev. Gonzalez.  “But we have faith in God.”

Additional reporting by Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Diane Jeantet, and Janet Upadhye contributed to this report. 

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Helping Love Gospel Assembly

By Amara Grautski and Connie Preti

Elected officials and more than 150 community members gathered at Lehman College Saturday afternoon to rally for Operation Restoration, a fundraiser to help rebuild the Love Gospel Assembly and restore the services it provided.

On July 25, the Grand Concourse church was gutted by a four-alarm fire, leaving thousands of the hungry people who were fed every month through its Love Kitchen to seek food elsewhere.  “It’s so important that we get back up and running, because there’s a whole community of people that depend on us,” said Love Gospel Assembly Bishop Ronald Bailey. “We’re feeding 300 to 400 people every day, somewhere between 8,000 to 10,000 people a month. Those people need these services that we provide, so we’re trying to move quickly.”

During the two-hour event, the college’s Center for the Performing Arts was filled with song, prayer and testimonials about the church’s importance in the Fordham community.

Brian Draper, 53, told audience members that he has been a born-again Christian for about 15 years since finding the church. “When I first was going, I was only going for the physical food,” Draper said. “It was a way of physically staying fed because of my addiction. But God has such a sense of humor, you know, I’m thinking I’m just physically getting fed, but every time you get fed physically, there always always a word said, a prayer said or someone encouraging you. So then eventually, it was like a seed being watered…and eventually that seed grew into what I am today.”

The largest contribution came from State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada  Jr. and Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, who presented a check of $100,000 from the state senate to a roaring crowd.  “An institution such as this provides so much to our communities, but more so plays a vital role in the economic crisis we are experiencing here,” Sampson said. “And the only way we are going to rise from that is through our faith, through institutions, churches like this, who extend beyond the four corners of those institutions.”

“We all know government and the faith have to work together,” Espada added. “God is everywhere.”

Bronx Borough President Rueben Diaz Jr. also spoke and contributed $1,000 to the cause.

Bailey said he believes the turnout from elected officials is evidence that the community cares about the work of the church.  “It’s good to get recognition, because it’s not about us, it’s about the work that we’re doing,” Bailey said. “So we thank them, we take the pat on the back and keep going.”

Love Gospel Assembly Deacon Tasha Andrews said the fire resulted in $150,000 worth of equipment damage alone. The church will continue to accept donations through its website: www.lgabronx.com.

Andrews said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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Bronx Walk in Search of Fame (hint: look up)

Bronx Walk of Fame signs on Grand Concourse

Bronx Walk of Fame signs on Grand Concourse (Photo by Ian Thomson/Bronx Ink)

While Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is known around the world, few people have heard of the Bronx counterpart, which stretches south along the Grand Concourse from 161st Street to 140th Street. Even many Bronxites, it seems, are unaware of the tourist attraction hovering from the street lights above their heads.

“I’ve never heard of it, and I pass here a lot,” said Louis Gonzalez, a resident of nearby High Bridge, as he waited for a bus outside the Bronx County Building — the very spot where the walk begins.

On May 23, the borough hosts its 14th annual induction ceremony where four Bronx-born public figures will see their names go up on signs as they join 82 existing inductees recognized for their lifetime achievements. Singer Jerry Vale, flautist Joanie Madden, former Congressman Herman Badillo and magazine founder Edward Lewis will be honored at the event, after which the quartet will serve as grand marshals for a parade along Mosholu Parkway to mark the end of Bronx Week 2010.

Doris Quinones, executive director of the Bronx Tourism Council, describes the ceremony as a “great Bronx Week tradition” that bestows the borough’s highest honor upon the inductees. Ruben Diaz Jr., the borough president, will unveil four signs to be placed on street lights at the intersection of Grand Concourse and 161st Street for one year before they are moved to a permanent place along the walk’s lengthening route.

This year’s additions will join a list including high-profile names like boxer Jake LaMotta, the subject of the Robert De Niro film “Raging Bull,” singer Luther Vandross, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

According to Quinones, of the Bronx Tourism Council, the president had pushed for changes to this year’s Bronx Week to increase the involvement of the local community. The May date, one month earlier than in previous years, allows children from more than 80 local schools to take part in the final day’s parade and help to raise awareness of an event that aims to celebrate the borough’s multicultural identity.

“The four inductees are such a beautiful reflection of the diversity of the Bronx,” Quinones said. “We place the signs high up for everyone to see and look up to.”

Still, it appears that many locals have yet to notice. Monique Clarke, a nurse at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, said she had never heard of the Bronx Walk of Fame despite living in the borough for her entire life. She laughed when the signs above her were brought to her attention.

“I didn’t even look up,” said Clarke, before offering her advice on how the walk could generate greater interest. “Al Pacino’s from the Bronx. They need to put him in there.” Pacino spent part of his childhood in the South Bronx.

The walk and other Bronx attractions are beginning to gather more attention, Quinones said.  “Writers are making reference to it,” she said. “They’re telling travelers to leave Manhattan otherwise you miss out on what the real New York is about. There are a growing number of people coming up to the Bronx.”

Out in the plaza on East 161st Street opposite Quinones’ office window, Dutch tourists Ilse Van Der Lei and Maike Kroese were reading their New York City guidebook and contemplating their next move. The two girls, visiting the city on vacation from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, said they wanted to escape from Manhattan to see New York’s other neighborhoods, but they too were unaware that the Walk of Fame started a few yards away from where they sat.

“It sounds like a good idea,” Van Der Lei said. “They should put it in Lonely Planet.”

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