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Bronx Week to Offer Glimpse of a Greener Future

Green roof atop the Bronx County Courthouse will be one of five gardens toured on May 17th during Bronx Week.

Last month’s  unusually high temperatures  had New Yorkers taking shade in parks and even taking an early trek to the beaches of the still- chilly Atlantic.  The preview of sizzling heat anticipated for this summer was a rude awakening to what some say is a stark reality:  There isn’t enough green space to keep the city’s residents cool.

The Bronx Initiative for Energy and Environment is hoping to change that. The group is a non-profit established by the  Bronx borough president and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. Borough President Ruben Diaz has been involved in efforts to reduce pollution in the Bronx, going so far as to require  designs that are certified as sustainable for any housing development receiving capital financing.  On May 17, as part of Bronx Week, New Yorkers can tour five of 13 grant-sponsored “green rooftops” in the Bronx.

“We’re open every day from April through October, and anyone who wants to come see a green rooftop can just call me up and I’d be happy to give them a tour,” said Kate Shackford, executive vice president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp.

Shackford says that when she was first shown the plans for the green rooftops, it was love at first sight. “Holistic environmental technology that addresses water and air pollution, doesn’t get any better than that,” Shackford said.  The earliest installations are from 2006 and are modeled after German guidelines and initial technology for rooftop gardens.  “Their guidelines, work and weather patterns are similar enough to the northeast that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel too much, though in Germany the cost is about one tenth of what it costs here,” Shackford said.

The U.S. Green Building Council  developed the “green” building certification system known as LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.   “Green buildings save energy, reduce CO2 emissions, conserve water, improve the health of their occupants, increase productivity, cost less to operate and maintain and increasingly cost no more to build than conventional structures,” said Ashkley Katz, communications manager at the council.

Since 2001, LEED has become a nationally accepted benchmark, providing building owners and operators with what Katz called an “objective, verifiable definition of green,” along with the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable  impact on their buildings’ performance.  LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability, which has become highly popular in the past decade for saving water, materials and energy.

Rooftop gardens reduce a ” heat island” effect by roofs that absorb heat and radiate it into the air.

“On a hot summer day the black membrane on a rooftop will be at 170 degrees,” Shackford said, “but with the garden, the roof is cooled down to almost 98 degrees lowering ambient temperature, while reducing pollution.”

By pollution, Shackford is referring to the thick black smoke dumped into the Bronx air from buildings all around.  Particularly important was the need to see a reduction in high rates of asthma in Bronx County, which also has the highest levels of air pollution.

In a January article in the Daily News, Kevin Cromar, a public health fellow at the New York University Law School’s Institute for Public Integrity, said that lowering the pollutants released into the air by heating fuels could lower health risks for everyone.  “Every time we cover an acre of land or vacant lot with a building we are destroying the ability for land to filter water and air; that is unless we put green resources around it that can restore natural ability to clean up pollutants,” Shackford said.

A city contract only adds to the sustainability of the entire project, Shackford said.  Sustainable South Bronx’s Smart Roof Project  has been training staff in the  hope of  launching a business that would employ local residents to install and maintain the smart roofing technologies.  For at least the first four years, some gardens must be constantly irrigated and weeded if not planted as early as April.

One of the green roofs to be toured is an intensive green roof complex for low-income grandparents raising grandchildren.  Located on 851 Prospect Ave., the 8,000-square-foot space serves as a getaway for the elderly residents, while the children in their charge are at school.  “It’s an oasis for them,” Shackford said.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Bronx Tales0 Comments

State Senator Wants Tougher Stance on Graffiti

Senator Klein's message resonated with his brightly-dressed supporters. (Photo: Astrid Baez/The Bronx Ink)

Senator Klein's message resonated with his brightly dressed supporters. (Photo: Astrid Baez/The Bronx Ink)

Clad in fire engine red T-shirts that evoked the spray paint they despise, residents joined a state senator on Friday afternoon in pledging to send a strong message to vandals who tag buildings.

Calling themselves Court Watchers, these residents are part of a new initiative backed by Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein to eliminate graffiti across the Bronx. Tired of unauthorized street art, the group is taking a more aggressive stance in advocating tougher penalties and jail sentences for offenders.  The plan is simple — watchers will sit in on graffiti cases wearing T-shirts and buttons that illustrate their message: Vandalism is not art.

“Graffiti to our homes, businesses and places of worship causes emotional and in many ways financial distress and is too serious a crime to allow vandals to get away with a slap on the wrist,” Klein said in an official statement.

Although talks for the program began early in October 2009 when Klein met with civic leaders from the Waterbury-LaSalle and Pelham Bay communities, the senator has made cleaning the streets of graffiti a “top priority” for the past 16 years. In 2005, he launched the Graffiti Cleaning Program, which created a hotline for constituents of the 34th Senate District to request the removal of graffiti from their neighborhoods.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson’s office estimates that since January, there have been 17 violations of the city’s anti-graffiti laws. People caught in the act of graffiti or in possession of aerosol spray cans, sketching tools and even a Sharpie, with “intent” to damage property were considered to be in violation. Defendants were charged as adults and 13 of those cases resulted in guilty pleas, with one defendant serving a jail sentence. In New York City, a maximum sentence for repeat offenders is 15 days incarceration, while first-time offenders are commonly sanctioned fines of up to $250 per incident or community service.

According to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the majority of vandals are tried as first-time offenders with as little as 5 percent actually serving jail time. “It’s probably not a first offense, but simply the first time they were caught,” said Mary Jane Musano, chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee of the Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association and a resident of the Bronx. “When they disrespect the community, they have to know they’ll be punished.”

Musano believes that graffiti vandalism is once again on the rise and that residents could use the court’s help in putting a stop to it and vice versa. A longtime supporter of the “Adopt-a-Mailbox” campaign, in which residents paint over tagged mailboxes, Musano looks forward to a more aggressive clean-up process. “Senator Klein’s backing is the missing puzzle-piece needed to make this happen,” she said.

Last week, Klein sent clean-up crews to nearly two dozen locations across the Bronx and Westchester County to remove tags from overpasses, railroad bridges and buildings in what was termed a “spring-cleaning effort.”

While Klein agrees that jail time for vandals would cost the city money, he also believes the damage done to the community is are far more costly. According to Klein, financing for clean-ups comes straight from taxpayer’s wallets and is hurtful to the economy and livelihood of the neighborhoods.

“No one will want to live or work in a neighborhood with such an eyesore,” said Joe Bombace, a Bronx resident for nearly 58 years. “Don’t come into our community and deface our homes,” he said.

Not everyone agrees with the senator’s backing of this project. Anthony Aharon, a former resident of the Bronx and freelance graphic artist, sees graffiti as a protest against a system that is already failing the community. “It’s a way to relieve stress, a form of self-expression,” he said. Though Aharon works on commissioned projects, he thinks that jailing people who are caught tagging walls should be considered a violation of First Amendment rights. “Graffiti is another way of talking and being heard,” he said.

Aharon still carries his graffiti tools in his bag.

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime0 Comments

Oh My Cod! Fishmongers Cringe at Salt Ban

Saltfish, also known as cod fish, served with rice and sweet plantains is a breakfast staple in Jamaica, said head-cook Beryl Barclay of Sa Lena West Indian Restaurant in the Bronx. (Astrid Baez/The Bronx Ink)

Saltfish, also known as cod fish, served with rice and sweet plantains is a breakfast staple in Jamaica, said head cook Beryl Barclay of Sa Lena West Indian Restaurant in the Bronx. (Astrid Baez/The Bronx Ink)

In Jamaica, salted cod is enjoyed at breakfast with fruit.  Dominicans and Puerto Ricans add adobo to the pungent fish for a twist on a traditional recipe that dates to colonial times.  Italians serve cod, often called baccalà, served in tomato paste with potatoes.  With so many dishes gracing menus across the Bronx, the one thing cooks agree on is that the fish tastes best when it preserves some of its saltiness.

“You soak the cod in water for as long as three days, changing the water everyday, but it’s still going to keep some of the salt used when it was cured,” said John Cosenza, a fourth-generation owner of Cosenza’s Fish Market on Arthur Avenue. It’s that briny quality that could get cod yanked from menus if a proposed salt-ban is passed in New York state.

Brooklyn Democrat Felix Ortiz introduced new legislation on March 5 prohibiting the use of salt in food preparation by restaurants and forcing authorities at the federal, state and municipal levels to brand the savory seasoning a health and economic threat.

The announcement comes on the heels of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt at encouraging New Yorkers to cut back on sodium consumption.  If passed, the bill would impose a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per incident on restaurants caught adding even a pinch of salt to their dishes.  The mayor’s more mild-mannered approach aims at reducing the amount of salt in pre-packaged and restaurant food by a quarter in the next five years.

Ortiz claims that banning the use of salt entirely in the preparation process will give consumers the option of whether to add it to their meals. Ortiz did not respond to calls for comment.

The potential ban on salt has many of the city’s chefs concerned.  In an interview for the Daily News, just days after the announcement was made, celebrity chef Tom Colicchio expressed his concern for the restaurant industry in New York City.  “If they banned salt, nobody would come here anymore,” Colicchio said.  And what of cod, the salted fish?

“It’s a popular fish to use in Italian recipes during the holidays,’’ Cosenza said. The market sells as many as 20 pounds a day during Lent and well over two tons a month in December alone to individual consumers and restaurants.

Any good cook in New York City will tell you that the staple ingredient in seasoning is salt.  Ethnic cuisine is specially known for a piquancy and zest that is not easily achieved without this controversial mineral.

“You just cannot fix a meal without it,” said Beryl Barclay, top chef at Sa Lena West Indian Restaurant in the Bronx.  Barclay has worked in the food industry for nearly 25 years in Manhattan and the Bronx.  Her best selling dish, cod, comes pre-salted.

Customers coming in for a morning meal at the eatery situated on a slope in Grand Concourse can be treated to the official dish of Jamaica.  Ackee and saltfish, otherwise known as codfish, is the most popular breakfast item on the menu, Barclay said.

She prepares the cod days in advance, soaking the fish in cold water for up to two days before actually cooking it to remove most of the salt.  The cod is then sautéed using a little oil, onion, tomatoes and black pepper.  If not with ackee, Barclay often serves the meal with a side of rice and peas adding fried sweet plantains for a taste that’s close to home for many Caribbeans in the Bronx.  The subtle spice of pepper and mellow tang of cooked onion are discernible, but there is no mistaking salt as the more superior flavor note.

“If we can’t use salt, what then?” Barclay asked.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene estimates that 1 in 4 adult New Yorkers have high-blood pressure, and the agency’s most recent Health Bulletin suggests limiting salt intake to decrease the risk of hypertension, and by extension, heart disease and stroke.  The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a team of expert medical and scientific researchers appointed by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, concluded in a 2005 report that the relationship between salt consumption and blood pressure is “direct and progressive without an apparent threshold.”

In November, the committee advocated an incremental reduction of the daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams for all Americans.  The current limit is set at 2,300 milligrams daily for the general adult population.

On a Friday night in March, salted dry cod or bacalao, as it’s known throughout Latin America is a particularly popular dish.   At El Valle Restaurant on Fordham Road, the Catholic tradition that originated in Spain of serving cod with the meal is still faithfully observed during the Lenten season.  “We offer bacalao a la criolla, for lunch or dinner every Friday during Lent,” said Angela Damascino, a waitress at El Valle Restaurant.  That’s cod with tomato sauce, for the uninitiated.

At El Valle, similar to other ethnic restaurants, bacalao is soaked in water, shredded, and finally cooked in garlic, tomato sauce, pepper and adobo.  With salt being one of the main ingredients in adobo, it’s practically inevitable in the Latin rendition of this seasonal favorite.

If you call any other day of the week, you’re not likely to find bacalao on the menu.  “It’s most popular during religious holidays and that’s mostly when we serve it,” Damascino said.

The 18-year-old restaurant serves the largely Hispanic community of Fordham with typical Dominican and Puerto Rican cuisine.  Here you’ll find bacalao is served alongside white rice.

At this place and others like it, the disappearance of cod, chefs say, would be met with no small amount of bitterness.

“Salt is an important dietary element in our culture,” Barclay said, “and we’ve come a long way from home to share that here in the U.S.”

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Food, Health, Money2 Comments

Centenarian Boulevard Merits Preservation, Commission Says

Restoring the grandeur that made the Grand Concourse famous is the aim of city preservationists who want to make it a historic landmark. On Thursday they reached out to residents of the concourse  to discuss their plans at a gathering at the Bronx Museum of Art.

Grand Concourse

The boulevard is celebrating this year its 100th anniversary. (Astrid Baez/Bronx Ink)

In a push to move preservation plans forward, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, together with the Bronx Borough President’s office, initiated talks with  residents along the concourse  in hopes of putting to rest concerns about the landmark status and what it will mean for residents along the concourse today.

The proposed district covers East 153rd to East 167th streets, but also encompasses stretches of Walton and Gerard Avenues on either side of the thoroughfare “in order to give the project a sense of place.”  The zone comprises approximately 73 properties, including a significant number of Art Deco and modern apartment buildings and institutional structures, two parks and two already  designated New York City landmarks: the Bronx County Building and the Renaissance-inspired Andrew Freedman Home for the elderly.

The plan would mean the commission could regulate any changes to a building’s façade and would promote projects that restore buildings to their prewar charm, said the commission’s executive director Kate Daly.  While property-owners will have to request permission from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission before initiating work on the exterior of a building, they are promised a short waiting period for approval, Daly said.  She said she guarantees that work can commence quickly, as 95 percent of permits are issued on a staff level.

Grand Concourse

1150 Grand Concourse, known to Bronxites as the 'Fish Building,' to be designated historic landmark by year's end. (A. Baez/Bronx Ink)

Cynthia Cox, a longtime resident of the Bronx and one of fewer than two dozen residents who attended the meeting, complained that little public notice was given about last night’s meeting.   She said the commission should do a better job of sharing information in ways that are accessible to all residents and in languages other than English.  Sam Goodman, an urban planner at the Bronx Borough President’s office who supports the landmark status, said that there would be further opportunities for the community to get involved in the decision.

Goodman, a resident of the concourse whose family saw the golden years of the neighborhood in the early 20th century, also expressed concerns over stores that have taken up space on ground-floor apartments and are an eyesore to the aesthetic elegance of a residential street.  The shops are in breach of zoning laws established in the 1980s, which prohibit opening stores in many areas of the boulevard and limit signs to 12 square feet, said Goodman.  Daly assured him that if the concourse became a historic district, these violations would be addressed.  She advised that residents call 311 to report current zoning violations.

Originally designed by French engineer Louis Reiss to be the main road connecting Manhattan to the Bronx, the concourse enjoyed a period of growth as an influx of working-class immigrants, mostly European and Jewish, arrived in search of affordable housing.  During the 1980s, economic hardships stripped away much of the luxury of the earlier part of the century.

Over the past 20 years the area around the concourse has seen renewed interest in its prewar architecture and renovations to its parks, streetlights and even its traffic patterns.  Such renovation projects have heightened fears of increased rent for the thousands of Bronxites living in the proposed designated areas.

Marjo Benavides, an agent at Ariela Heilman Real Estate, agrees that the designation of the boulevard as a historic landmark would make the neighborhood more attractive.  “People might become more interested,” she said.

Representatives of the N.Y.C. Landmarks Preservation Commission say that while they have no jurisdiction over the use or sale of buildings, they do not foresee an increase in taxes or rent.  “There will be no direct impact on the residents,” Daly said.

Grand Concourse

The Grand Concourse may become a historic landmark (A. Baez/Bronx Ink).

Morgan Powell, a Bronx resident and history buff, is not completely sold on the idea yet.  He said he feels that the neighborhood has seen an extensive evolution in the past 20 years alone with the development of co-ops and wealthier families moving in.  A historical designation could exacerbate anxieties for residents in the middle-lower to lower income brackets who don’t want to get priced out.

Ed Garcia Conde, lifetime resident and self-declared Mayor of Melrose, praised the efforts of the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission.  Garcia Conde, a blogger and real estate agent, believes that the grants could provide the financial incentive property owners need to fix buildings in a way that honors the history of the boulevard.  Grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, in addition to tax credits, will be made available to homeowners and landlords to make improvements, said commission representatives.

The Grand Concourse has already been recognized on a state and national level for its historical significance, and the N.Y.C. Landmarks Preservation Commission hopes to see it designated officially as a historic site by the end of the year, pending review by the City Council  in June.

“We’re at an interesting point in our history,” he said of the neighborhood he calls home,“We’re going fittingly to the grandeur we once had.”

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods1 Comment

School Lunches Should Be Free for All Kids, Groups Say

Because of a mistake in filling out a form, Lisbeth Nebron was denied lunch at 218 Rafael Hernandez Dual Language Magnet School. (Baez/Bronx Ink)

Schools in the underfed Bronx draw attention to the need for improvement in the National School Lunch Program. (Baez/Bronx Ink)

By Astrid Baez and Sunil Joshi

It was a single empty box on a form that Ivellisse Nebron had dutifully filled out for the past two years in applications for her 9-year-old daughter Lisbeth’s school lunch. Despite having taken the form to work to enlist the help of the more English-proficient hairdressers in filling out each individual box, Nebron forgot to include her Social Security number. The omission was enough to warrant a call to Nebron at work, warning that her daughter would go without lunch.

The counselor at 218 Rafael Hernandez Dual Language Magnet School in the Bronx informed Nebron that, as a result, Lisbeth would not be allowed to eat lunch that day. The tie-up illustrates a common complaint about the program that provides free lunches to children in the largest school district in the nation.

Under application guidelines, Nebron was required to submit her Social Security number because she provided income information. Her daughter was to be counted among the 82.1 percent of children living on or below the poverty line who eat lunch for free, according to the school’s most recent “Demographic and Accountability Snapshot” on the New York City Department of Education Web site. “My daughter’s been a student at that school since she was in kindergarten and for them to withhold a meal that would otherwise be free is senseless,” Nebron said.

The misstep in filling out the application was the last straw for Nebron who has joined several other parents and educators in a push to change the system. “There’s a lot of red tape involved and the application tends to cause confusion among some parents, not to mention the added stress of the stigma associated with free meals,” said Roxanne Henry, Community Outreach Manager at Food Bank for New York City. Of the 1.1 million students enrolled in the New York City public school system, more than 70 percent are eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunch, Henry said. “A significant number of these students don’t want to participate, because free food is associated with being poor.”

A report published by The New York Times on March 1, 2008, found that participation in the lunch program was as low as 40 percent in New York’s high schools.

“It’s not so much the case with the younger kids, but when you get to the high school level you’d be surprised by how many teens are not eating, because they don’t want other students to know that their parents can’t afford to pay,” said Agnes Molnar, co-director of Community Food Advocates in New York City.
Congress will soon debate renewal of the Child Nutrition Act, which determines school-food policy and resources. The legislation was originally passed in 1966 and must be renewed every five years. The law was up for renewal on Sept. 30, 2009, but it received a temporary extension through the Agriculture Appropriations Bill.

In advance of the coming debate, several food-advocacy groups are building support for an amendment to the legislation that would direct enough federal money to make free school lunches available to all students.

Food Bank of NYC, a member of the New York City Alliance for Child Nutrition Reauthorization, is championing the universal school meals provision claiming that “both the application process and the stigma associated with being identified as poor act as barriers to participation” in the school lunch program.

“This is not just an individual family issue anymore, it’s a community concern,” Henry said.

The coalition of food-advocacy groups is conducting a letter-writing campaign targeting city and state legislators, including Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gilibrand, to channel support for the universal school meals provision. Citing the current process as labor-intensive, inefficient and prone to inaccuracy, the organization is urging Congress to replace the application-based system with a data-driven one. As of January 2010, the Food Bank reported having received more than 1,500 petitions signed by parents from the Bronx alone.

Following federal guidelines, students are separated into three groups based on their family size and income relative to the poverty level, $18,310 for a family of three, and two earnings thresholds. Students are eligible for free lunches if their family income does not exceed the first threshold, set at 30 percent above the poverty line, or $28,803 for a family of three. Students pay full price for lunch if their family income exceeds the second threshold, 85 percent more than the poverty line, or $33,874 for a family of three. Students whose family income falls between the 30 percent benchmark and the 85 percent benchmark are eligible for discounted lunches.

Extending universal school lunches nationwide would cost roughly $12 billion, says Janet Poppendieck, a sociologist at Hunter College who wrote the book “Free for All: Fixing School Lunches in America,” though she cautions that this is a “back-of-the-envelope calculation.” The federal government currently spends $11 billion on lunch reimbursement, but Poppendieck said that the money could be procured through an increase in the graduated income tax. She also said that partial financing could come from the millions of dollars saved by eliminating tiered school-lunch programs. She pointed out a study of 29 schools by Community Food Advocates, which concluded that in 2006, New York City spent more than 1,000 person-hours per school to process and execute the three-tiered school-lunch program. That translated to a cost of $16,330 per school, or more than $24 million for the entire district.

“It’s so expensive, this process of determining each meal and where it fits in the categories,” she said. “It’s a massive undertaking.”

The plan to extend lunch benefits to all students also received support from the Department of Education. Eric Goldstein, who heads the food program for the Department of Education, said in a written statement that “the benefits of the Childhood Nutrition Reauthorization would be a win for NYC public school students because it would help defray the costs for improved menu items that call for healthier ingredients, and it would help us to expand our universal lunch program. We have worked very hard over the past six years developing more nutritious options for both breakfast and lunch.”

Dr. Susan Rubin, a dentist and certified nutritionist, agrees that the cost of administering the current application system is high and wasteful, and could be redirected to implementing new food standards.

“We need to come up with a new paradigm and one that connects this issue directly to health care,” said Rubin, founder of the Better School Food movement turned non-profit, a proponent of universal school meals and putting better food in lunch rooms. Rubin believes that there should be a greater emphasis on providing healthier food, removing the “à la carte” option from lunch rooms that divide kids into “haves” and “have nots.”

In an open letter to parents, Rubin makes the connection between tight budgets, the need for cafeterias to make a profit for survival serving poor quality food that is “quick, cheap and profitable” and the resulting deterioration of children’s health. “Our kids are getting food that is downright dangerous,” Rubin said, “we can pay now or pay later.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Education0 Comments

“Colors of Africa” on Display in New Exhibit

“Colors of Africa” on Display in New Exhibit

South African woodblock artist Ezequiel Mabote was the guest of honor Thursday at a reception honoring his work at the Hall of Fame Art Gallery in Bliss Hall at Bronx Community College.

Mabote’s showcased series, titled “Ubuhle Be Africa” or Beauty of Africa, reflects aspects of daily life in South African villages and his own childhood dreams in what the artist calls “the colors of Africa.”

College President Carolyn Williams said this is the first of what she hopes will be many international artist exchanges. The series will be on display until Feb. 18.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Bronx Tales, Northwest Bronx1 Comment

Proposed Law Would Criminalize Drunken Gun-Toting

Article by Astrid Baez, Video by Shreeya Sinha

In a press conference today in the Bronx, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein announced the introduction of a law that would forbid New Yorkers from carrying a gun while intoxicated.

“If you’re too intoxicated to drive a car, you are obviously too intoxicated to be carrying a gun,” Bloomberg said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein proposed ban on “Carrying While Intoxicated”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein proposed ban on “Carrying While Intoxicated”

Hailing the law as “life saving” and “common sense,” Bloomberg called on legislators and Gov. David Paterson to support the initiative, stating that New York is hardly the first state to enact this law. If passed, the law would make New York the 21st state to prohibit carrying a gun while intoxicated, citing it as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by one year in jail and a $10,000 fine. According to the mayor, the law would apply the same standards and tests that are currently in place to prevent and punish drunken driving.

Bloomberg and Klein denounced the mix of guns and alcohol as deadly. “The time is now for us to get serious about penalties for those who choose to carry a gun while intoxicated,” Klein said.

The announcement comes a little over a week after the mayor touted the success of the guns-for-cash program in the Bronx. Gloria Cruz, the Bronx chapter leader of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, praised the mayor’s announcement, calling it a step in the right direction. Cruz, whose 10-year-old niece was killed in 2005, left her job in corporate America and devoted her time to getting guns off the streets.

Some Bronx residents agree. Tony, a car-washer at Hand Wash in Bronxdale who refused to give his last name, shares Cruz’s sentiment, stating that anything that can be done to restrict the use of guns was good for the Bronx. “It’s logical,” he said of the mayor’s plan. “You can’t drive drunk, you shouldn’t be carrying a firearm when drunk either.”

Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, opposes the plan, saying that New York State has enough gun-control laws. “Legislators should worry about enforcing laws that are already in the books,” he said. King described the mayor’s crusade as cracking down on legal and lawful gun owners, rather than cracking down on gun violence. “This is just another move on the mayor’s part to get his name in the papers,” King said.

Officials assured New Yorkers that the bill would not be in violation of their Second Amendment rights. Instead, these rights would now come with greater responsibilities. “This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment and everything to do with public safety,” said John Feinblatt, the mayor’s criminal justice coordinator. “This is a way to prevent accidents from happening that can’t be taken back, or a death that should’ve never happened.”

When it comes to guns, Bloomberg’s message is simple, if you’re going to drink, don’t leave home with it.

Posted in East Bronx, Politics0 Comments