Author Archives | cvl2103

Pepper-spray attack at Bronx high school sends 17 students to hospital, NYPost

More than a dozen students at a Bronx school were hospitalized Monday morning after a student unleashed pepper spray at the start of the school day.

The incident occurred in the first-floor hallway of Leadership Academy High School on Webster Avenue at about 10:15 a.m., Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg told The New York Post.

All 17 students incurred minor injuries. No one was killed.

Posted in Newswire0 Comments

The bullet-dodging priest

Rev. John Jenik, 67, peers out across the neighborhood surrounding Our Lady of Refuge Church and School in the north Bronx, where he's taken to the streets in recent years to bring local drug dealers to justice. (CARL V. LEWIS/The Bronx Ink)

The Rev. John Jenik stepped out of the front door of his office on East 196th Street around mid-afternoon. Kids in red and gray school uniforms played in the street. Young mothers pushed strollers along the sidewalk. Vendors were selling shaved ices to passersby.

Turning the corner onto Briggs Avenue, Jenik walked past a row of old Victorian-style houses.

“This is where the drug dealers have been selling heroin lately, and they probably are doing it right now,” the silver-haired Jenik said as he peered out from under a baseball cap. “Right here, all within feet of these kids.”

Jenik, 67, is the pastor at Our Lady of Refuge Church and School in the north Bronx. Over the past three decades, he’s watched his parish slip into the throes of drug and substance abuse at an alarming rate.

“When I first got here in 1978, drugs weren’t much of a problem, but ever since the early ’80s when the crack epidemic hit, it’s been awful,” said Jenik. “It’s ruining our community, one life at a time.”

What bothers Jenik most about the open-air drug dealing near Our Lady of Refuge Church is how close the criminal activity is to the nearly 1,500 school children who attend both the parochial school onsite and P.S. 46 across East 196th Street.

Jenik said drug trafficking in the neighborhood has become so prevalent that dealers have taken to peddling their goods in the lobbies of residential buildings, schoolyards and – on one occasion four years ago – even in the sanctuary of his church.

“I called it the abomination of abominations,” Jenik said. “Breaking into a church during Mass to sell drugs. It was despicable,” Jenik said.

Jenik said it’s taken more than prayer to combat the drug problem. He has organized marches, vigils and public outreach campaigns to protest illegal drug use. He has even worked with the 52nd Precinct to try and bring the local drug dealers to justice by helping conduct regular patrols of the neighborhood.

But Jenik admitted that his efforts to curb illegal drug use have fallen short so far.

“People just haven’t really responded to our message,” Jenik said. “Drugs are still all over the place in this neighborhood. You can see it in people’s eyes, in their noses.”

Jenik said he is skeptical of NYPD statistics that claim overall crime rates have dropped in the neighborhood  by 30 percent in the last decade.

“Those numbers are for the whole precinct, and don’t necessarily reflect what’s happening in our community specifically,” Jenik said. “Plus the police don’t even try to prosecute drug dealers anymore because they lack the resources.”

Other community leaders believe his crusades may have prevented the drug epidemic from becoming even worse than it might have otherwise.

At the nearby Fordham-Bedford Housing Association, executive director John Reilly said that without leaders like Jenik, the neighborhoods of Norwood and Fordham may have ended up experiencing poverty problems more like those in the south Bronx.

“You would have likely seen a lot more people moving out of this neighborhood to other places if not for the work of Father Jenik,” Reilly said.

Around the area of 196th Street and Bainbridge Avenue, Jenik’s crusade against illegal drug use has propelled him to an almost legendary status – often for better, sometimes for worse.

Gunshots were fired into the window of Jenik’s apartment one evening two years ago after he led an anti-drug march across the community. The gunman was never caught.

“The shooting was a real wake-up call for me that I needed to be more careful. I now make sure to keep my blinds down at night,” Jenik said.

Jenik said he also owns two bulletproof vests that he wears whenever he feels unsafe.

But for the most part, the church’s more than 1,500 members have offered Jenik a lifeline of support, and a gang of his own for protection.

Back on Briggs Avenue, an elderly Hispanic woman greeted Jenik with a smile and a friendly gesture. On 197th Street, a teenage boy pulled Jenik aside on the street to say, “Hi Father, how are you?”

Lillian Roig, the church’s secretary, said Jenik’s commitment to improving the community has inspired her and others in the congregation to pitch in and help fight local drug addiction as well.

“Father Jenik has always looked out for me and for all of the people in the community, especially the poor,” Roig said. “He doesn’t advertise what he does, but he’s one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met.”

On a recent Sunday evening, a Spanish-language chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous gathered for its weekly support meeting in the church social hall, which Jenik lets the group use whenever it wants. Jenik said it’s one of the many ways he’s trying to clean up his community, even if he can’t completely stamp out the illegal drug trade by himself.

“This isn’t to convert or proselytize people in my eyes,” Jenik said. “It’s  just self-interest. Nobody wants to live and attend church in a community filled with addicts, much less send their kids to school there.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, North Central Bronx0 Comments

Bronx father gunned down for gold chain

Christian de la Santos was described by neighbors as "an honorable man".

A Bronx father of two was gunned down a block from his house at 11 p.m. last night, in what police said was an attempted robbery.

Christian de la Santos, 34, who worked in a downtown hotel, was leaving Penelope Grocery at 1803 Mansion Street, when he was shot four times in the back, leg and head. Residents said they heard multiple gunshots ring out in the deserted streets.

By the time police arrived, de la Santos, who lived on Commonwealth Avenue with his wife and two daughters, was dead.

De la Santos’ brother in law said he was robbed of his expensive gold chain. They have no suspects yet. “It all comes back to the chain,” said Andre Roig, de la Santos’ brother in law.

Penelope Grocery owner Rensy Talvis, 40, said de la Santos had been watching television and drinking beer with four other friends at the store for much of the night.

After kicking the group out just before closing at 11 p.m., Talvis said he heard multiple gunshots outside.

“For the first few seconds I tried to hide,” Talvis said. “Then I walked outside and saw him laying there on the sidewalk.”

Talvis said de la Santos was a regular at the store and would come in to buy beer a few times a week.

“I was shocked, because that was our guy,” said Talvis. “He was always in here.”

The shooting shocked residents in what many feel to be a safe neighborhood. But store owner Talvis said he’s not going to let the incident scare him.

“I’m going to take all the precautions I normally do,” he said.

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Southern Bronx0 Comments

Muggings in the Oval

Norwood residents marched through Williamsbridge Oval Park with homemade signs Tuesday evening to speak out agains the recent spate of muggings thats taken place there. (CARL V. LEWIS/The Bronx Ink)

A rowdy band of about two dozen Bronx residents marched through Williamsbridge Oval Park Tuesday evening, chanting and waving signs with hand-drawn messages saying “Hey Thugs, Stay Out!” and “Keep Our Park Safe!”

The demonstration came in response to a recent spate of muggings in the park during the last few weeks. Within the past month alone, at least five people have been assaulted at the park in broad daylight, police said.

The rash of assaults has caused longtime residents such as Dilleta Pina, 61, to become concerned about their safety. Pina lives just two blocks away on Hull Avenue, and came out to the demonstration Tuesday to voice her frustration.

“I’ve never seen anything like this here,” Pina said. “The park’s always been the place in the neighborhood that parents can send their kids without having to worry, so it’s really unsettling to have this happening.”

Columbia University graduate student Nathaniel Hertz, 24, said he was walking near the basketball courts one afternoon in early September when two men punched him, stole his phone and took $10 from his wallet.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Herz, who was unable to yell for help quickly enough to stop the thieves from getting away. “It was the middle of the day.”

Lt. Mike Donnelly with the NYPD’s 52nd Precinct said he believes the muggings are somehow related, since each of the attacks has followed a similar pattern.

“Right now we think it’s the same group of guys who are just coming up to parkgoers, knocking them over, taking their money and running,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said that while an investigation into the assaults remains ongoing, police have assigned additional officers to patrol the park. The victims have all been adults, Donnelly said.

For Annette Melindez, a mother of three who lives nearby on Bainbridge Avenue, the ramping up of police presence in the park comes as a welcome development.

“We desperately need more police here,” said Melindez, who often allows her kids to travel in groups to the park after school. “Just the other day one of my friends was taking her daughter to a girl scouts meeting when a man mugged her in the middle of the park, and there were no police around to stop it.”

But frequent parkgoer Eileen Markey said she believes there’s a better solution to the Oval’s mugging problem than bringing in more police officers.

“What we need to do is let these thugs know that we won’t tolerate this behavior by continuing to come out to the park and not letting them scare us away,” said Markey, a local resident and reporter for CityLimits Magazine. “Having lots of people in the park at all times is the only way to stop what’s been going on”

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, North Central Bronx, Northwest Bronx0 Comments

Woman gets slap on the wrist for animal cruelty

Cherika Alvarez leaves the Bronx Supreme Court Wednesday after receiving 20 days of community service for animal cruelty. (RICHARD HARBUS/Daily News)

A Bronx mother who left her pitbull puppy to die a “horrible death” in a vacant apartment received a light sentence yesterday from the Bronx Supreme Court judge after making a tearful plea for forgiveness.

Cherika Alvarez, 30, was sentenced on Sept. 28 to 20 days of community service and banned from owning or handling animals for the next three years.

Alvarez was found guilty last month of abandoning her year-old pitbull Alizé after she was evicted from her Belmont apartment. The dog was found dead six weeks later, surrounded by a pool of its own blood, its stomach filled with nothing but razor blades, ketchup packets, splintered wood and garbage.

Alvarez faced up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for leaving the dog to suffer. Judge Robert A. Sackett denied the prosecution’s request that the defendant receive at least 30 days in jail for the misdemeanor offense, saying he believed the single mom had learned her lesson.

“She failed to nurture and care for the dog,” said the judge. “But she has never been arrested before in her life, and she is not a danger to the community.”

The defense argued that Alvarez had suffered enough for her actions, and that sending her to jail would have negative effects for her eight-year-old son.

“She’s afraid to leave the house,” defense attorney Scott Levy said. “She wears sunglasses so people on the street won’t recognize her.”

The prosecution emphasized the dog’s suffering, calling Alvarez’s behavior a “case of utter negligence.”

During earlier testimony, Alvarez claimed she had arranged for a man she met on the street— and whom she did not know — to pick up the puppy and care for it after she vacated her apartment. The man she called only “Jose,” was never called to the witness stand.

“Alizé obviously can’t be here today to speak for herself, but she felt hunger, pain, agony,” Assistant District Attorney Megan Mellum said. “And the worst part is that Ms. Alvarez still maintains her innocence.”

Dressed in a gray cardigan with her hair pulled back tightly, Alvarez had trouble finding her voice as she begged the judge for leniency.

“I’m really, really sorry this happened,” Alvarez said, choking back tears. “I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t hurt another animal again, not even a cockroach.”

A day earlier, the managers of a Facebook page dedicated to seeking justice for Alizé mobilized activists to fax Sackett’s chambers, asking him to hand down the maximum sentence.

Judge Sackett rejected the slippery slope argument offered by the prosecution that a person who abuses an animal might abuse a child.

Roxanne Delgado, a visitor to the Facebook page and Bronx resident who said she volunteers for animal rights groups, said after the sentencing that Alvarez posed a danger to society and her own son.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which reported the 2009 incident to the police, said it would have preferred a stiffer sentence, but applauded the conviction.

“We are at least gratified,” said Stacy Wolf, vice president of the ASPCA, “to know that Ms. Alvarez now has a criminal record.”

Additional reporting by staff

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, North Central Bronx2 Comments

Bronxites reflect on 9/11

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods0 Comments

Page 3 of 3123