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Kingsbridge to get a new farmers’ market this summer

This summer, Bronxites near Kingsbridge will have access to more fresh farm produce, thanks to the July opening of a new market close to Barn Hill Square.

The market will be the area’s fourth fresh-produce market run by youth, part of an organized effort to bring jobs to neighborhood teenagers and nutritional alternatives to local residents.

“We see this as a real plus,” said Neill Bogan, development director for the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, where a handful of students will be selected to help run the stand one afternoon each week.  The teenagers will each receive $10 per hour as compensation. “Providing good job training and providing good produce is the benefit for the community,” Bogan said.

The Kingsbridge Heights Youthmarket will offer produce from New York farmers every Friday afternoon for 16 weeks, from July 7 through October 28.  The market will be a joint venture between GrowNYC, an independent non-profit in the Mayor’s office which is responsible for the program city-wide, the Kings

Come July, Kingsbridge Heights will have its own seasonal youthmarket like this one in Marble Hill. Photo credit: GrowNYC Youthmarket

bridge Heights Community Center and Bon Secours New York Health System/Schervier, which will provide funding and other resources.

“The goal is to provide food access to people who might not have it,” said Olivia Blanchflower, youthmarket program coordinator for GrowNYC.

The organization will also provide job training, including proper food handling and cash register operation to about six teenagers who will be selected to help operate the market. 

The jobs could help boost the borough’s joblessness, if even temporarily. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in Bronx County hit 12.5 percent in April 2010, the highest county in the state.  Last year the city-wide program employed 35 students across all five boroughs.

According to Giselle Melendez Susca, executive director of the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, the teenagers that will be selected to run the program will also learn about healthy eating, produce, managing funds and nutrition – skills that are hard to come by in impoverished areas of the city.  Students will be selected from the center’s leadership council through an interview process that is currently underway. (Applications are no longer being accepted.) Organizers hope the effort will also promote healthier eating in the overall community.

“We’re going to use [the market] to sort of jumpstart a whole other campaign around eating and wellness so it will transcend itself to parents as well,” said Giselle Melendez Susca, executive director of the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.

Youthmarkets began in 2006 in Bedford-Stuyvesant and have now grown to 11 across the city with at least one in every borough.  The Kingsbridge Heights Youthmarket will become number 12 and will be the only new Bronx addition to this summer’s list.

But it isn’t the first in the borough.  The Learn it, Grow it, Eat it Youthmarket in Morrisania opened in 2007 along with a second youthmarket in Riverdale. The Marble Hill Youthmarket, located on Broadway, opened in 2009.  All four markets will open in early July and run through October.

The latest youthmarket will fall under the jurisdiction of Bronx Community Board 8, which was also influential in establishing the Marble Hill market.  Community board members see it as a welcome weapon to help battle the area’s health problems.   “There are areas of the city that the citizens don’t get access to fresh foods,” said Robert Fanuzzi, vice chair of the community board. He described these areas as “food deserts” where a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables have led to increased health problems such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.  According to Fanuzzi, these markets are “fulfilling a broken link in the food chain.”

A 2008 report by the New York City Department of Planning found a shortage of supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores throughout the city, making farmer’s markets even more vital to a community’s nutritional needs.

To serve those needs, Youthmarkets as well as the city’s Greenmarkets accept various food stamps to facilitate the community’s access to fresh produce.

“It’s tremendously gratifying to be handing out seasonal vegetables to people,” Fanuzzi sai

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Northern Bronx hopes for flood relief

By April Warren and Clara Martinez Turco

For the last 14 years, Jason De Jesus, director of the East End Funeral Home on Gun Hill Road has witnessed the same scene every time Mother Nature pays a visit to the Bronx.

“The corner of Holland Avenue and 211th St. gets flooded as often as it rains or snows,” he said from behind his desk.  He often sees pedestrians jumping over puddles to cross the street, but phone calls to the city have been unresponsive.

Now the dispute has become more personal.  The basement of the funeral parlor started to flood eight weeks ago, putting his equipment in jeopardy.

Spring means the return of rain to New York City, as this downpour shot earlier this season in Kingsbridge shows.But in some other neighborhoods in the Northern Bronx, that can mean flooded streets and basements. Photo by Ethan Frogget

“They said it was going to take four to six weeks [to repair], it has been eight weeks,” De Jesus said.  City officials have not linked the water to flooding troubles.  In the interim, the staff of the funeral home has been pumping out the water themselves, not doing so would result in two feet of water.

His situation is echoed across town on Pitman Avenue at Grace International Ministries, Inc.  “It has been going on for a while,” said Pastor Leroy S. Carridice, who also says the city has been unresponsive. “Usually we solve the situation ourselves.”

But the city has been at work on the problem since 2006, working on a two-phase capital construction project that seeks to dispel excess floodwaters from Baychester to Wakefield.

Across the city, average rainfall has climbed 10 percent, or more than four inches per year, in the last century, according to New York City Department of Environmental Protection website.  The area also could see a future increase in the frequency of intense storms, according to climate projections.

But with the passing of President Obama’s stimulus package, which gives $7 billion to New York State – third only to California and Texas – the city is pumping money into catch basins, curbs and sewer pipelines to provide relief for submerged streets.  One of those streets is Pauling Avenue in the Bronx, a main thoroughfare where the community board members hope the work being doe will make flooding less fo a problem in areas such as Pittman, Bruner, Bronxwood and Steenwich Avenues.

“The project’s roadway and sidewalk upgrades will alleviate any flooding or ponding conditions within those streets, avenues and corners,” said Angel Roman, deputy press secretary for New York City Environmental Protection.

Phase one of the project took three years, and was completed in Fall 2009. The  $38.58 million project installed catch basins, water mains, curbs, sidewalks, hydrants and other roadwork to alleviate the problems.

Although the project is several blocks away from some of the continuously flooded areas, the construction should alleviate flooding in the entire area.

“It would alleviate some of the flooding going on in those areas because now you will have catch basins which will stop the flowing of excess storm water,” said Carmen Rosa, the district manager for the Bronx’s Community Board 12.

Rosa urged residents who haven’t seen any relief to be patient until the full project is completed.   “And there may be something that have to be added after that,” Rosa said, explaining it’s a working solution, but at least the city is on its way to providing some relief.

Phase two of the project is projected to end in 2012.

But Pastor Carridice does not keep his hopes high. He compares the flooding to a pothole that has been on his street for months. “I’ve called the city many times, but the pothole is still there,” he said.  He doesn’t expect the flooding to stop any time soon, either.

Below is an interactive map detailing some of the more troublesome areas of Community Board 12.  Each point on the map corresponds with a description of what is being done to alleviate flooding in the area.
View Community Board 12 – Where the Floods Happen in a larger map

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NY on high alert after Osama’s death

Following a late-night presidential address that confirmed reports that Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has killed in Pakistan, New York is on high alert with excess security out and about city.   But that hasn’t stopped crowd from gathering in Times Square and at Ground Zero.

The MTA has reported increased security on all its public transportation and Port Authority has also stepped up patrols.

At the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement stating; “Our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the next days and beyond.”

Through the night, New Yorkers have been convening, many still with somber tones but this time they have some version of closure in Midtown and Lower Manhattan

“New Yorkers have waited nearly ten years for this news,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement.  “It is my hope that it will bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.” (NY1)

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Trial underway in cop beating

The trial for two transit police officers accused of beating Marlon Smith in the Bronx three years ago is getting underway.

Prosecutors are alleging Koleen Robinson and Michelle Anglin physically abused Smith after a dispute regarding an open car door.

The jury has asked how many blows were delivered and the panel also asked to read testimony about another party who is allegedly stepped into the altercation and was also beaten.

After the incident, Smith received 25 staples in his head.  The officers claim Smith attacked them first.  (NY1)

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Welcome to the Digital Bronx

William Guinyard, 25, doesn't have Internet access at home, so he must use the computers at a local library to search for jobs and apartments. Photo by: April Warren

By April Warren and Michelle Bialeck

The Bronx may not win first place as the most wired borough in New York City, but its digital landscape tends to mirror its residents – diverse, tough and determined not to be ignored.

While official data quantifying Internet access and usage in the Bronx is limited, has created a patchwork of information for our readers to better understand how Bronxites use the Web.

In 2006, New York City set out to obtain a measurement of the digital topography of the region.  In 2009, the city presented that report to the federal government in the hope of obtaining stimulus money through the Recovery Act to expand broadband services.

But instead, the study conducted by the city painted a surprising picture.  Broadband, it turned out, is accessible in most areas of the city, but whether New Yorkers are actually using it was the bigger question.

The study concluded that every city neighborhood does have access to broadband, with 89 percent of households able to connect to at least two Internet providers.  It also found that in 2006, New York’s broadband adoption rate stood at 52 percent – five points higher than the national average.

But other findings showed a 28 percent gap between access and actual broadband use between low and moderate-income households and high-income households.  Upper West Side Councilwoman Gail Brewer argues that this is because low-income families can’t always afford computers or the cost of broadband service and don’t always possess computer literacy skills.  Some New Yorkers don’t fully understand the value of the Internet either, according to Brewer.

“You can pay the rent, or you could pay the cost of Internet,” said Brewer, who oversees the city’s Broadband Advisory Committee.

William Guinyard, 25, a Morris Park resident who can often be found typing away at the New York Public Library in Clason’s Point, is typical of many Bronx Internet users.  He doesn’t have access to the Internet or a computer at home.  “Half of my friends have computers at home, but they don’t have the WiFi coming in,” he said as he searched for music videos on YouTube.  He also uses the library’s computers to hunt for a job and an apartment.

To better understand how Bronxites and other city residents used the Internet, Brewer began holding Town Hall meetings in the five boroughs to start a dialogue about resident’s Internet needs.  The first meeting was held in the Bronx in 2005. The councilwoman referred to the Bronx as the “most challenging,” echoing some of the struggles cited in the Broadband study.  The committee will soon report its findings to the city, but the entity has found that cost and a lack of training are two factors that play a role in how Bronx residents access the Internet.

“One, it’s expensive,” said Brewer of installing and maintaining Internet in homes.  “Two is, even when sometimes you get the cost down…for low income families, there’s training – you have to have a reason to use it.  The third thing we learned for those who don’t have it at home, we need CTC’s, computer training centers.”

Recent data from the Federal Communications Commission underscores those conclusions.  The federal agency’s statistics depict each county’s broadband adoption rating on a scale of one through five; Bronx County ranks a three.

“The three is a broadband adoption rating, and means that 40 to 60 percent of households in the county have access to broadband speeds above 768 kilobits per second,” said Mark Wigfield, a spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission.  Brooklyn and Queens also ranked a three, while Manhattan ranked a four and Long Island a five, meaning than 80 percent of the population have access to broadband.

The study showed that paying for high-speed broadband access corresponds directly with household income.

“Broadband adoption tends to be lower in low-income communities,” Wigfield said.  Councilwoman Brewer echoes his point. “Unless you have support for how to use it, people don’t see it as needed,” she said.

One suggestion her committee will make to the City Council will be to increase the amount of training centers where residents can go to learn how to use their computer and troubleshoot hardware or software problems.

In other words, for many urban dwellers, the problem isn’t finding a potential access point to the Web, the problem is first finding the funds and making those who don’t know it learn about and want to access the Web.  According to the Broadband study, “Facts suggest across the United States, urban areas generally suffer more acutely from a demand-side problem of adoption, rather than a supply-side of deployment.”

But Internet access and reliability in the area has been improving in past years.  Cablevision is now in all parts of the borough with wireless Internet available in many areas.  While Verizon’s underground copper network is capable of providing high speed internet and is “virtually ubiquitous” in all parts of the Bronx, according to spokesman John Bonomo, Verizon FiOS is rapidly expanding and will bring fiber optics to all parts of the borough by 2014.  Currently, FiOS is not available in the North Bronx from Riverdale down through Highbridge.  Time Warner Cable does not provide Internet to the Bronx.  Smaller providers include Speakasy Business Broadband, J System and NetZero.

While some Bronx residents live in areas where they have trouble connecting their households to the Internet, it does not mean they don’t have access.  Smart phones do more than just make calls. “Remember that many people rely on wireless Internet through Verizon Wireless and other mobile companies,” Bonomo said.  “These wireless devices or other wireless products can also act to provide Internet access to the home.”

A 2004 report conducted by the Center For an Urban Future, a New York City-based think tank, looked at Broadband service throughout the city and, pointed to Hunts Point as an area where service was limited.  It isn’t any longer.

The area is home to the largest meat and produce markets on the East Coast and boasts more than 20,000 employees, many of whom need Internet access to run their businesses.  According to the 2004 Urban Future study, many of the businesses were then too far from Verizon’s central office to be connected to DSL and Cablevision had only wired a small number of businesses.

But seven years later, Hunts Point has seen some changes with the expansion of Cablevision.  “It’s improved quite a bit,” said local businessman Brian Kenny, of Internet service in the area.  Kenny is the operations manager for Hunts Point Cooperative Market that includes 50 meat wholesale companies.

According to Kenny, what used to be slow and unreliable Internet access in the area changed about three years ago. “I can’t say that we have that much of an issue any more,” Kenny said.

For those that don’t have access to a computer, the Bronx’s public libraries continue to fill in the gaps.

Almost every day, library web surfer William Guinyard seeks out his favorite spot on a circular table, away from the massive row of computers, in the well-lit Clason’s Point library.  “The Internet here is perfect,” he says. “It’s quick; it picks up more than other libraries.” Out of work, he comes to the Clason’s Point library to hunt for jobs and to listen to music because he doesn’t have access to the Internet at home and because, in his opinion, that particular branch is the least crowded and has the best service, which makes listening to music easier. For him, it’s a kind of jewel in the popular Bronx library system.

Librarians seem to agree that the Internet quality is adequate in most libraries, freezing at times, but still markedly quicker than the days of dial-up.  For those, like Guinyard, who need to use the Internet and don’t have it at home, “adequate” is better than nothing.  And some libraries are slightly quicker than others.

Olinda Martinez, 45,  lives on Stratford Avenue, just one block over from Clason’s Point Library. She uses the Library’s Internet frequently to gather information about different schools for her 7-year-old son and to e-mail her family abroad.  “My son is in PS 196 now, but I want to find a better school for him,” she says in Spanish.  “I don’t have a computer now, but when he is older, I will get one.”

Music lovers and concerned parents aren’t the only ones who take advantage of the library system. “We also get a lot of people who are out of work,” explained Grace Tellez-Cardona, senior librarian at Morris Park Branch. Since the recession hit, she has noticed a greater number of people looking for jobs or going to government sites like those with information about unemployment benefits, even using the computer’s printer to print out resumes for work interviews.

At the same time though, Tellez-Cardona maintained, “there is really a variety of people.”  She sees students researching papers, occasional Facebook surfers and even some people who seem to always be there.  She recalled one “regular” she sees almost every day. “We have one gentleman in his 50’s. He’s a writer,” she said. “The biggest Internet users are the adult population.”

Tellez-Cardona added that many librarygoers also bring their own laptops and log onto the library’s Internet service.

Tellez-Cardona and Jean Harripersaud, head of the Adult Center at Bronx Library Center, the hub of the Bronx library system, also mentioned the popularity of the system’s computer literacy programs.  At Bronx Library Center, for example, classes are offered in English and Spanish and there’s a waiting list of five people for a class of 14.  At Morris Point, Tellez-Cardona predominantly sees seniors at classes. “They come here, and they say, ‘I have a computer and I am tired of my grandson or nephew telling me how to use it,'” she said.

Where Bronx kids are concerned, access to the Internet hasn’t always come as easily. In Bronx public schools, Internet quality has increased over the past several years, but access is still limited. “It is better than it has been, it’s moderately good,” said Chris Dowlin, the librarian at Bronx Science. “It was getting backed up.”  He explained that students can only use the Internet for research, to comb through databases, to launch Google searches, and to stream videos that are specifically tailored to classes they are taking. “There would be more usage, if students had more access,” he said.  Inside the classroom, the Internet is limited to about five minutes per lesson; teachers use the outlet mainly to spur discussion.

The Internet may not be the most dependable or accessible resource in the borough, but when Bronxites find a good connection, they stick with it.   Just like William Guinyard. He spends many late mornings in the library computer lab navigating to and from his job- search websites.  His dream job: something in construction. “I look for jobs, look for apartments, I look for music, watch wrestling,” said Guinyard, his hands still on the keyboard.  He put his headphones on and got back to work.

Click on other stories in this package to learn more about how Bronxites are connecting to the world in the Digital Age.

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Arrest made in January stabbing

Tyrone Ragland, 50 has been arrested in possible connection with the fatal stabbing of an elderly Bronx woman who was found dead in her Bathgate apartment in January.

The suspect is said to have lived in the same Crotona Avenue building as the victim, Ethal Parish, 70. The woman was found with several stab wound in her back. If charged, Ragland faces murder and weapons possession counts. (NY1)

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Gunshot kills 16-year-old

Gunfire rang out in the Tremont section of the Bronx Monday evening when a teenager opened fire killing a 16-year-old boy and leaving another victim wounded.

Police raced to East Burnside Ave. at 6 p.m. Tuesday after hearing gunfire. Officials entered the building where they found teenager Dontae Murray, dead from a bullet wound to the head.

The second victim, a 22-year-old male was found outside with a gunshot wound in his hand. Shamal Coles, the 17-year-old alleged gunman, was seen fleeing the scene, but was caught by police. He has been charged with second-degree murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, according to police. (NYDailyNews)

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Arts Council plans move

The Bronx Council of the Arts will combine its three branches and open up a new space in the South Bronx.

The 50 year old organization will move into a former Washington Mutual Branch that was donated by the JP Morgan Foundation.  The Hone Ave. space will undergo renovations that will double the size of the 5,200 square-foot space by the summer of 2012.

The space will also include a gallery and boutique for local Bronx artists. (

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