Tag Archive | "The Bronx"

Naloxone: A Life Saver in a Neglected World

Organizers passed out purple candles at St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction in the South Bronx Aug. 30 in memory of those who have died of heroin overdose.

Community members lit candles Aug. 30 in memory of those who have died of heroin overdose in the Bronx.

MOTT HAVEN–Walking through the streets of the South Bronx one afternoon in July, Tino Fuentes, 53, said he sensed trouble across the street.

“You get this little gut feeling like something’s not right,” Fuentes said.

He found a man on the ground, unresponsive, drawing faint, shallow breaths. Bystanders said the man had been unconscious for several minutes, and his breathing was getting weaker as time passed. Amidst the chaos, a woman leaned over and whispered, “He did a bag.”

Fuentes, who knew she meant the man was likely overdosing on heroin, said he sprung into well-rehearsed action. An ambulance had already been called, but in the case of an overdose, every second matters. An injection of the drug Naloxone can reverse the effect of opioid overdose, but the success rate depends on rapid response.

Fuentes had a Naloxone kit across the street. After retrieving it, he removed the orange top of the vile, filled the syringe with its contents, and plunged the two-inch needle into the sinewy part of the man’s shoulder. Fuentes said he was rolling the man over to begin rescue breathing when he came to — brought back by the medication Fuentes injected.

“It’s such a selfish feeling, but I feel great. I just saved someone’s life,” Fuentes recalled.

Fuentes claims to have saved more than 75 lives with Naloxone since 2006, though he said he has lost count. He is not an EMT or doctor. He just makes sure he always has a kit on him when he is walking around New York.

“I do this because I came from these streets,” Fuentes said. “I gotta find a way to give back, you know?”

Fuentes serves as the co-director of the Syringe Exchange Program at St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction in the South Bronx, where he also trains other people to administer Naloxone. Under New York State law, anyone can carry the medication after undergoing the twenty-minute training and earning a blanket-prescription.

“There is really no reason not to get trained,” Fuentes said. “We’re reaching out to try to train everybody.”

Between 2014 and 2015, Mott Haven and Hunts Point had the highest rate of heroin overdose in New York City by a significant margin. The death rates have steadily increased in recent years. Joyce Rivera, founder and executive director at St. Ann’s, said socioeconomic status and race cause people to ignore this public health crisis in the Bronx.

“The only people who really pay the price for using drugs are poor, working class people,” Rivera said to a crowd on National Overdose Awareness Day at the end of August. But she said harm reduction programs and Naloxone are saving lives in marginalized communities. “Every life matters. Who’s life is expendable?”

Across the country, heroin is becoming increasingly deadly. New reports confirm that heroin is now commonly cut with prescription Fentanyl, a drug 100 times stronger than morphine, causing users to underestimate the potency of what they inject.

“[Dealers] put whatever they put in heroin to stretch it out, to make more money,” Fuentes said. “Not too many people know what’s being put in there.”

According to Fuentes, the man he saved in July was a frequent user, injecting up to five bags a day. The day he nearly died, he was only on his first bag, which he had sniffed rather than injected. Since those are not the conditions that generally lead to overdose, Fuentes said he suspects Fentanyl was present in the mixture. Naloxone is still effective against Fentanyl-laced heroin though experts say in those cases it might take more than one dose to revive the person.

Since the Naloxone program began at St. Ann’s in 2006, awareness around heroin overdose has increased dramatically in New York. Now, all police officers in Mott Haven carry Naloxone. Overdose response trainings are being held in local prisons. Laws around prescription to carry have changed to give easier access to the life-saving medication.

Organizers at St. Ann’s say the shift in awareness and action was influenced by the changing demographics of heroin use and abuse throughout New York State. In 2013, more white New Yorkers than black or Hispanic New Yorkers died of overdose statewide.

“The progress we have made, the general tipping point we have passed, has to do with all of the white people who have overdosed,” said Bill Matthews, clinical director at St. Ann’s.

For Fuentes, it’s frustrating to believe nobody cares about the Bronx. But he said the most important thing is that progress is finally being made, and it’s helping people and saving lives.

“This is hurting everybody,” Fuentes said.

Posted in Health, Southern Bronx, The Bronx BeatComments (0)

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)

A view from the Bronx: The 2011 New York City marathon

2011 New York City Marathon

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With their running shoes ready and their energy in high gear, this year’s 47,000 plus New York City marathoners gathered last Sunday in Staten Island for the 41st time that the race has been held.

In South Bronx, home to a number of top African competitive runners, local residents lined up the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 138th Street, near the 20-mile marker, to cheer on the runners.

Students from the Bronx Preparatory Charter School had their chants and pink pompoms in place. Nearby volunteers from the Seventh Day Adventist congregation distributed energy drinks in their white and orange jumpsuits. On the other side of the street, Latin music fused with Katy Perry’s, “California Gurls” blasted next to St. Jerome’s Catholic Church. The Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center set up a makeshift stage and a banner that read, “Go, Buzunesh Deba, Go.” Deba was the marathon champion from Ethiopia who has been living in the Bronx for six years.

As the runners crossed the 20th-mile maker in the Bronx, Deba and her compatriot, Ferihiwot Dado, were both running behind Mary Keitany, the early race leader. That dampened some of the excitement in the crowd. But both runners eventually overtook Keitany. Dado won 2:23:15, four seconds ahead of the favorite, Deba.

On the men’s side, Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai ran alongside a pack of seven African runners trying to outpace each other.

Only a sliver of the 26.2 mile race cut through the Bronx, even though it is home to the race’s top runners. Still, Bronxites made sure the runners felt welcome.

To read the full story, please click here

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Occupy Bronx day two: Yankee Stadium just another bailout

The New York Yankees are now squarely in the sights of the Occupy Bronx protesters, who consider themselves the real “99 percent” of the non-wealthy Americans.

“It doesn’t make sense to have the poorest district in the financial capital of the world right next to one of the most successful sports franchises in history,” said Maribel Vasquez, 24, of Hunts Point.

Shouting slogans like, “They got bailed out, the Bronx got sold out,” Vasquez and around 50 other anti-corporate protesters gathered in Fordham Plaza on Saturday, October 22 to plan their future actions.

The new Yankee stadium was built in 2009 with a price tag of over $1 billion. Its underused parking garages have been the subject of controversy ever since. The borough president’s office is looking into proposals to demolish and replace the garages with a hotel.

Protesters are angry that the new stadium was partially financed by public funds, when most Bronx residents cannot afford the $70 average ticket price to attend the games. “We are tired of bailing out the rich,” said Vasquez.

Bronx Assemblyman Jose Rivera, 75, addressed the meeting, drawing on lessons from the civil rights era to inspire the protesters. He likened the young protesters to Rosa Parks, who stood up for her right more than 50 years ago to keep her seat in the Birmingham, Alabama bus. “It was people like you who made the civil rights movement possible,” he said.

Dr. Mark Naison, a history professor at the nearby Fordham University related the protests to his experiences from the Vietnam War era. “I teach history and also like to make history – that’s why I am here,” Naison said.

The group has also found local allies. Less than a mile west of Fordham Plaza, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition rallied about 400 more residents. Among that group’s concerns were a lack of quality education, a pending living-wage bill in City Council and laws that protect tenants from landlord abuse.

Last Saturday, New York police officers escorted about 30 Occupy Bronx protesters from their general assembly meeting down Fordham Road and University Avenue where they united with those gathered at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church.

Together, the group of 450 or so marched in front of Chase Bank and across from the Bank of America near Valentine Avenue. The group chanted “Bank of America, bad for America” and “Chase move, get out of the way.”

Another Bronx mother of four, who attended the first Occupy Bronx protest, focuses her protests around education reform. “I’m here representing Latinos, the women, my children, and the children of the Bronx,” said Eliada Helsado, 35, a poet. “The schools are disappointing because they are teaching only for the tests, not for creativity.”

Veronica Feliciano,29, of Throgs Neck was concerned about public health. “Diabetes is very rampant which is not taken care of, there is high obesity here,” said Feliciano, who is due to give birth next month. “We need initiatives for supermarkets and bodegas to carry fresh food, as opposed to sugar and high fructose injected foods.”

At the end of the march, a handful of protesters boarded the Number 4 Subway to join the epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement downtown in Zuccotti Park. Many believed the Wall Street protesters needed to hear from Bronx residents.

“The Bronx is a microcosm of what’s happening around the country, the poor stays poor while the rich keeps on getting richer,” said Frederick Fret, a union organizer with District Council 37. “That needs to change.”

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Bronx parents say new law won’t ease overcrowding issue in schools, NY Daily News

Bronx parents are skeptical that the City Council’s new legislation requiring the Department of Education to report annually on size, capacity and utilization of schools will help address rampant overcrowding, NY Daily News reported.

Parent Eddie Valley said he’s concerned about how much attention his third-grade daughter is receiving.

“You could only have so many students in one class,” said Valley, 43. “Thirteen hundred kids have to use the gym within three hours – that’s really difficult to do, and my daughter got hurt twice already this year because they could only keep an eye on so many kids.”

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Bronx family sues cop for smacking dog out a third-story window, NY Daily News

A Bronx family is suing police for pushing their tiny dog out of a third-story window – but cops say the officer was just trying to quiet the yapping menace during a chaotic raid, the NY Daily News reported.

Iris Ramos says in her suit that cops burst into her Castle Hill apartment last October and threatened her family with guns. When Chuwie, her miniature doberman-pomeranian mix, started barking at the cops, one of them smacked it out of the window, according to the suit, filed in Bronx Supreme Court.

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Feds to investigate housing projects in the Bronx, Brooklyn, NY Daily News

Tthe U.S. Labor Department and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development are probing underpayment and kickbacks at affordable housing projects in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the NY Daily News learned.

At the Bronx construction site site – 780 Prospect Ave. – workers are reportedly due $575,000.

The Bronx apartment building opened with fanfare on Oct. 7 to low-income seniors and the homeless. The project was subject to prevailing wage requirements because it received federal funds.

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Bronx volunteers join citywide effort to plant 20K trees in one day, NY1

As part of an initiative to plant a million trees in the five boroughs by 2017, about 500 volunteers from the Bronx planted trees at the Van Cortland Park on Saturday morning, NY1 reported.

Organizers hope to plant 20,000 trees during the one-day event.

“We have our crews out in all of our parks to help maintain the trees, but we also invite New Yorkers to volunteer with us,” said Morgan Monaco of the Million Trees program.

 

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