Tag Archive | "Hunts Point"

Healthcare startups still struggling while the industry booms

The historic Banknote building in Hunts Point houses as many as eight healthcare startups in South Bronx. (SAHELI ROY CHOUDHURY / The Bronx Ink)

The historic Banknote Building in Hunts Point houses as many as eight healthcare startups in the South Bronx. (SAHELI ROY CHOUDHURY / The Bronx Ink)

In a cubicle on the second floor of the historic Banknote Building in Hunts Point, Thelvis Alston worked the phones one September afternoon, canvassing potential clients for the new data services startup he helps to run. Sector-Wide Health, which opened in January last year, has faced stiff competition from larger companies ever since the Affordable Care Act contributed to this growing economic sector in the borough.

The company has had a “difficult” start, said Alston, a 41-year-old Bronx native and vice president of operations.  Building a client base of doctors who want help digitizing their medical records has been “slow but steady.” Bronx’s healthcare industry has been on the upswing over the last five years. One reason for the mini-boom is the Affordable Care Act, which offers more medical access to more people throughout the borough. Between 2009 and 2013, the sector added nearly 5,000 new jobs in private hospitals, clinics, and other agencies. But the growth has not affected all businesses equally. Small businesses such as Sector-Wide Health have trouble breaking into a market face with so many larger healthcare organizations and agencies that are significantly better funded, like the Urban Health Plan for example.

Alston believes there is still an untapped need by doctors need to digitize their medical records to comply with new regulations for Medicaid and Medicare incentives under the Affordable Care Act. Sector-Wide Health are best situated to fill that need. Alston regularly meets with neighborhood doctors to identify what type of digitization software would work best for their practice. He then guides them through the transition process. “It’s about talking to doctors just to get them comfortable with the thought of where their business is going to go in the next ten years,” Alston said. Sector-Wide Health’s growing number of clients mainly include private practitioners and small clinics in the Bronx.

Joe Carrano, another Bronx native, remains upbeat about the prospects for healthcare outfits, both big and small, in the borough. “The industry is huge and healthcare technology is really growing here right now,” said the 25-year-old Carrano, who is director at the Bronx Business Incubator in Hunts Point. The incubator houses 66 start-ups and eight of them, including Sector-Wide Health, are in the business of providing healthcare and healthcare-related service.

Carrano believes the Bronx has more room for growth, for the healthcare and healthcare-related industry, than any other borough. Its close location to Manhattan and its relatively cheap real estate makes it attractive for investors, he said. The incubator provides startups with consultations, networking opportunities, and affordable office space. It has approximately 180 workspaces, comprising virtual offices, physical workstations, conference rooms, and meeting areas. “It’s up to entrepreneurs in the Bronx to shape the development of the business community,” said Carrano.

For Sector-Wide Health, the road ahead is uphill. It is still relatively new, has a comparatively low budget, and comprises a small team of employees. The Affordable Care Act, Alston believes, provided an important point of entry into the market. In order to survive against bigger, better-endowed competitors, the startup has to quickly carve out a niche area of service.

Some entrepreneurs believe the Affordable Care Act works against small businesses in an already saturated healthcare industry. One of them is Michael Harris, a registered nurse and owner of a startup called Transparency in Registered Nursing. His startup, founded in 2009, brings “high-tech nurses into the homes of patients” for both emergency treatments and long-term outpatient care. Harris believes the Act “drove out small businesses” that have no interest in doing business with the insurance plans that are part of the marketplace. Unless businesses sign up to be part of the marketplace, he said, they cannot exist within the healthcare ecosystem created by the Act.

Harris’ gripe with the Act boils down to “nine insurance companies in downtown New York State” that control the marketplace, and the participating hospitals and practitioners that provide “substandard treatment.” He said those are the main reasons why he did not sign his company up to be part of it. Harris would not specify which of the nine insurance companies he talks about but there are at least 16 participating in the Affordable Care Act marketplace in New York State. As a result, he now markets his services mainly to people who can afford insurance plans that offer “unbiased, out-of-network benefits.”

Alston does not share Harris’ skepticism and remains optimistic about the future for healthcare startups. He thinks opportunities and benefits created by the Affordable Care Act will eventually benefit small business outfits. “People will catch up,” he said with a smile.

Posted in Featured, Health, Southern BronxComments (0)

Fight against the stigma of AIDS marches on in Hunts Point

 

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The AIDS Walk participants march down Southern Boulevard raising awareness for HIV/AIDS in the South Bronx (BENJAMIN BERGMANN/The Bronx Ink)

Against the backdrop of gray skies, the roughly 100 participants of the Third Annual Community Board 2 AIDS Walk replaced the usual truck racket in the area with the odd chants of “HIV! GET TESTED!” and “SAFE SEX! USE CONDOMS!” Marching between Westchester and Hunts Point Avenue, the group called attention to the community-wide stigma of the disease, something the organizers believe may be a key obstacle to eradicating the virus. “We need to break the silence once and for all,” said Millie Colon, a community board activist and chairperson of the AIDS Walk. “People are no longer dying for lack of medication, but rather due to a lack of communication and education.” Silence is literally killing some Bronx residents. Colon encountered AIDS over 20 years ago when her nephew passed away from the disease. Three years ago she lost her brother to AIDS, after he spent four years refusing to see a doctor for fear of community backlash. Though the fight is deeply personal for her, Colon recognizes the larger context. She urged the community to overcome the “fear barrier” of getting tested, and she encouraged those who are infected to “come out of the closet” and receive the proper medication.

Millie Colon, chairperson of the Community Board 2 AIDS WALK, rallying the marchers before the walk begins in Hunts Point (BENJAMIN BERGMANN/The Bronx Ink)

Millie Colon, chairperson of the Community Board 2 AIDS Walk, rallies the marchers before the walk begins in Hunts Point (BENJAMIN BERGMANN/The Bronx Ink)

From time to time the marchers, color coordinated in red and white, stopped along the 45-minute route to listen to community voices and pray for those that have lost their lives to a disease first recorded in the city 33 years ago. One of the marchers, Carmen Rodriguez, surprised many by revealing that her husband, who had been secretly living with HIV for 25 years, passed away last Monday. “He didn’t want nobody to know” she said, gently dabbing at her mascara-stained tears. “He was in denial for many years and when he started treatment eight years ago, it had already caused too much damage.”

Carmen Rodriguez stands outside the Hunts Point Recreational Center after revealing to the group of marchers that her husband passed away from AIDS just last week

Carmen Rodriguez stands outside the Hunts Point Recreational Center after revealing to the group of marchers that her husband passed away from AIDS just last week (BENJAMIN BERGMANN/The Bronx Ink)

Rev. Kahli Mootoo, a Hunts Point pastor and former AIDS activist, commanded the megaphone for large parts of the walk, educating sidewalk spectators on the importance of getting tested. “The issue of HIV is losing steam” he said. “People are no longer scared of it, but does that mean they are not getting infected? Of course not!” Even though HIV numbers are consistently falling across the city according to the New York City Department of Health, the percentage of people dying from the disease continues to skew heavily towards low income neighborhoods. The Bronx has the highest death rates among the five boroughs, while Manhattan has the clearest survival advantage in New York City. These numbers were much more even back in 2005. Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 4.25.25 PM Though the organizers did not focus on these issues, Rev. Mootoo himself believes the issue is deeply entangled with poverty and political will. His view is that as long as HIV-related issues are contained in the most disenfranchised neighborhoods, city officials will see no reason to take action. “We always say the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Our community doesn’t have the power to squeak loud enough,” Mootoo said with a smile. “And god knows we could use some more oil around here.”

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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)

LIMPIALO!

The Bronx Borough President tried for nearly a year to cajole dog owners to clean up after their pets.

He held a joint press conference last October with the city’s sanitation commissioner. He bumped up the number of enforcement agents, and warned “pooper traitors” that fines would be $250.

The Majora Carter Group offers Hunts Points residents free signs that they can post outside their homes. ADAM PEREZ/BronxInk

Still, the New York Daily News reported in March that summonses for failing to clean up were down by 28 percent, while the streets were as filthy as ever.

And Bronx residents have decided to try to take matters into their own hands. “Limpialo!” or “Pick it Up!” a grassroots initiative organized by residents and the Majora Carter Group was launched in February. It aims to use peer pressure where government enforcement has failed.

“Most of the folks around here have a difficult relationship with the police and government telling them what to do,” said James Chase, an advocate at the Majora Carter Group who helped spearhead Limpialo!

Chase’s solution was to take a neighborly approach. He designed a sign and posted it along Hunts Point Avenue and neighboring streets. The bright yellow sign has an image of a dog squatting with simple written message: Pick it up!

“These are your neighbors asking you to do something, obviously they are not going to fine you,” Chase added. “You depend on them and they depend on you.”

Some residents on Faile Street have resorted to make-shift signs warning dog walkers. ADAM PEREZ/BronxInk

 

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Hunts Point Residents March to Raise HIV Awareness

About a Hunts Point residents marched from Southern Boulevard to Riverside Park to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.

About 100 Hunts Point residents marched from Southern Boulevard to Riverside Park to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. (ADAM PEREZ/The Bronx Ink)

Orlando Torres III looks like the kind of guy who doesn’t back down from a challenge. At 49, he’s six feet tall with broad shoulders and long legs. But his tough appearance is deceptive. Every morning, Torres has to swallow three different medications: Norvir, Truvada and  Viramune to keep his body’s defense mechanism working. He has been HIV positive for more than two decades.

On Saturday morning, he joined a group of Hunts Point residents, activists and people living with HIV/AIDS. They gathered at Southern Boulevard for the first AIDS Walk in the history of the neighborhood. The goal of the march was to raise awareness about the disease. About 2.3 percent of all residents in the Hunts Point and Mott Haven section of the Bronx were living with HIV or AIDS in 2010, according to data from the New York City Health Department. Yet, many people still don’t know much about the virus.

Torres says that by the time he was 21 years old, he had been a sex worker and deeply involved in the drug lifestyle. He had been charged for 68 convictions and three felonies over the course of his criminal career, among them burglary. While in prison, Torres says he discovered he was HIV positive. That was in 1992, but his doctor estimated he probably became infected in 1984.

When Torres left prison after eight years, he went to a probation-mandated 90-day substance abuse program, where he began his HIV education. Now, he wants to tell others about the dangers of unprotected sex or drug abuse. But he also wants to fight the stigma faced by people living with HIV.

“HIV is not who I am,” Torres said.  “Just like HIV doesn’t define me. What defines me is me. If you don’t own yourself, how can you own anything else?”

HIV rates in the Bronx are about 1.7 percent of the overall population, according to 2007 data from the New York Department of Health. In New York City, the prevalence is 1.4 percent.

The 2.3 percent HIV infection rate in Hunts Point is similar to developing countries like Haiti or Ethiopia. In Hunts Point and Mott Haven, 3,131 people were living with HIV or AIDS in 2010. About 61 percent of them were Hispanic like Torres, whose family comes from Puerto Rico. Blacks make up 36 percent, while 2.4 percent of Bronx residents with HIV are white.

There is no updated data available, said Soraya Pares, program manager at the Community Healthcare Network, a group of non-profit community health centers.  But Pares says she doesn’t expect the numbers to change much this year.

Pares thinks the main reason for the high infection rate in the Bronx is a lack of education about how the virus is transmitted. She says many people with HIV in Hunts Point have drug problems and may have been infected with used syringes. The New York Health Department’s statistics show that most people get HIV/AIDS through sexual intercourse.“When people look healthy, their potential partners tend to think there is nothing wrong with them,” Pares said. “Then they don’t use protection. But you can’t see if someone has HIV or not until the AIDS virus breaks out.”

HIV is so common in Hunts Point that almost every member of Community Board 2 knows someone who has been affected. Milli Colon, 59, a board member who organized the AIDS Walk, has lost 17 friends or family members to AIDS. Her brother died from it and her niece is fighting “full blown-AIDS” at the moment, she said.

“I’ve reached my mission with this event,” Colon said.

But there’s still a lot of work to do, she said. People with HIV are stigmatized, even by their own families, she explained, and don’t want to get tested.

During the march, she sat in the truck at the head of the parade. Through loudspeakers, she addressed the crowd of about 180 people walking behind the truck.

“I’m proud of you for coming out today,” she said.  “I’m proud we are fighting the stigma together.”

Torres walked a few feet behind the truck.

“We can’t conserve life by keeping secrets,” he said.

The truck drove on, playing loud salsa music. A man danced in the street between the truck and the crowd. People stopped at the sidewalks and watched while other residents looked down from the windows of apartment buildings.  Some of them waived at the marchers, acknowledging their presence, but they didn’t join the walk or comment. Still, for one day at least, HIV was out in the open in Hunts Point.

Adam Perez contributed reporting.

Walkers were wearing red ribbons to show solidarity with residents infected by HIV.

Participants wore red ribbons to symbolize their solidarity with Hunts Point residents infected by HIV. (ADAM PEREZ/The Bronx Ink)

 

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Featured, Health, Multimedia, Slideshows, Southern BronxComments (0)

New Park Opens in Hunts Point

The Hunts Point Landing, a new park in the Hunts Point Peninsula opened today, reports NY1.

The new park offers kayaking, fishing and 1.5 acres of open space on the waterfront.

The park is part of The South Bronx Greenway, a plan that aims to improve waterfront access and provide recreational opportunities to the community.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, NewswireComments (0)

In Hunts Points, 52-year-old mother of four still working the streets

For 52-year-old Barbara Terry, working as a prostitute on the streets of Hunts Point in the Bronx is “a business, a regular job.”

“Most women don’t make it to my age out here,” Terry told the NY Times. “I call myself the last of the survivors.”

Terry said working the streets of the South Bronx neighborhood, which is home to the world’s second largest food market, made her tough.

Posted in NewswireComments (0)

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Newswire

  • Bronx man fatally crushed by security gate

    A 79-year-old man, known as an ice cream entrepreneur, was fatally crushed when a security gate fell on him at his Bronx store Friday. NBC New York reports.

  • Footage of Bronx shooting released

    Police released video footage of a shooting that took place in the Bronx on Monday. Three men attacked two teens and shot one of them in the leg at E. 174th Street and Eastburn Avenue. The New York Post reports.

  • Man stabbed three times over iPhone

    A 23-year-old man was stabbed three times at E. Tremont and Westchester early on Thursday. He is in stable condition. The attacker took off with his iPhone. The New York Daily News reports.

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