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High number of marijuana arrests in the Bronx

9 of the 12 police precincts in the Bronx have some of the highest numbers of arrests for marijuana, according to WNYC. The report comes after an investigation into stop-and-frisk incidents all over New York City, which can lead to illegal searches by police. Reporter Alisa Chang explains that during a stop-and-frisk, if marijuana is found on a person, it would only be considered a violation, for which the offender would normally receive a ticket and a fine. In many cases, police search inside pockets during a stop-and-frisk, leading to higher charges. New York State says that possessing a small amount of marijuana becomes a misdemeanor if it is “open to public view,” while being smoked or displayed. Searching inside pockets is illegal, unless an officer suspects the person to be carrying a weapon.

Among stop-and-frisk incidents, precincts 41 and 42 ranked among the precincts with the highest numbers of incidents per 1,000 people. Precinct 41 in particular, had 132.8 stop-and-frisk stops in 2010 per 1,000 people.

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A senior Seder

A senior Seder

By: Mehroz Baig


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South Bronx activist faces deportation

Victor Toro has lived in the United States since 1984, illegally. Although a staunch activist for human rights, immigration and mobilizing his community in Mott Haven, he now faces “imminent deportation” to Chile, according to the NY Times. Toro has been battling for asylum for four years, after he was arrested in 2007. He had been traveling to various cities for immigration conferences when in Buffalo, immigration officers asked Toro for identification and all he could provide was an expired Chilean passport.

Toro, now 68, went into hiding after Chilean president Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup by General Augusto Pinochet. Toro was later captured and imprisoned. He was tortured during his imprisonment. Toro was freed in 1977 and fled Chile, staying in Cuba and Nicaragua, and eventually winning asylum for him, his wife and daughter, in Mexico. However, he felt vulnerable in Mexico and crossed the border illegally into Texas, and eventually settled in the South Bronx.

In March, an immigration judge denied Toro’s asylum request.

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New schools chancellor assures teachers

Dennis Walcott, the new schools chancellor spoke to the Harvest Fields Community Church yesterday, telling teachers, “You will never, ever hear me say a bad thing about you,” according to the NY Daily News. However, Walcott also said that he would follow through with the Mayor’s threat to lay off 4,000 teachers.

The Daily News also reported that support for Bloomberg’s school policies has come to an all-time low, with 77% of public school parents disapproving of how the Mayor has handled public school policies.

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3 teens injured in crash

A night out ended with a crash, leaving three Bronx teens injured, one critically. The NY Daily News reports that the teens, one 16 and the other two 17, got in a minivan and went to do some graffiti. The driver of the minivan, Alex Seeraj, was thought to be speeding along Bruckner Blvd. at approximately 3:00 am, when he lost control of the car and crashed. One of the van’s passengers, Shaadieq Hicks, was thrown from the backseat and through the windshield. He is currently in a coma and being treated at Jacobi Medical Center. It is unclear what injuries were sustained by the driver and the third passenger, Gerald Pagan.

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Cops under investigation for getting rid of tickets

Dozens of officers are under scrutiny through the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, which is investigating allegations of ticket fixing among 12 Bronx precincts. The Bronx District Attorney’s office is also holding a grand jury investigation, although it remains unclear whether that investigation will come to completion. The NY Post reported that as many as 400 officers are under investigation and those who are found guilty could lose their jobs, be reprimanded, or lose their benefits.

The NY Times also reported on the incident and said that a “law enforcement official and several lawyers involved in the matter called the wrongdoing relatively minor.” However, they also said that this investigation could have major implications for the police department due to the large number of officers thought to be involved in the investigation.

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DIGITAL BRONX: The Bronx of my past

By: Mehroz Baig

As a law librarian for 25 years and a history major in college, Frances Rodier, now 72, was no novice to digging into the past. When her daughter was born in 1968, a project to put together a baby book got her tracing her family’s genealogical history. Since then, her search has taken her on a virtual journey into the Bronx’s history, a trip she had to take from another state.

“I think a lot of the information I have on my family from New York, I wouldn’t have gotten if it wasn’t for the Internet,” Rodier said in a phone interview.

Rodier, who now lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, turned to the Internet to track down leads. Using websites such as, which provide access to birth, death and marriage certificates, as well as census records, Rodier traced her family’s history as far back as 1793. Her family lived in the Bronx from 1924 to 1970.

“The census [records] are the greatest thing,” she said.

Like Rodier, thousands of Americans are scouring the Internet through public records and private websites to find out about their family’s pasts., an Internet site that charges users between $13 to $30 a month, boasts a collection of 6 billion historical records and over 1 million subscribers worldwide. Researchers collect stories, connect through message boards, and join others online to create their own genealogical communities and investigate their roots.

“The amount of information now is staggering,” says Brian Andersson, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Records, who first got interested in genealogy over 30 years ago when microfilm was the only way to find information. With digitized records made available online, information is more accessible to many people, he says—and finding it is so much faster.  “You’re saving countless hours,” he said.

Dee Cunningham, 60, who began research into her family’s history back in the 1970’s, remembers a time when requesting records meant writing letters and waiting for a response.

“By the time you got the letter back, you had sort of lost interest,” she said. “It wasn’t as instantaneous as with a computer.”

Cunningham, a retired music teacher who now lives in Yorkshire, England, became more actively involved in searching her family’s background two years ago. She has traced her history back to the 1830’s. Cunningham used genealogical records offered through the Church of Latter Day Saints as well as resources from New York City’s Department of Records.

“I would say that what really clicked everything together was the birth, death or marriage records,” she said, adding that information on these records, such as parents’ names, addresses and occupations all provide leads to further information.

Kate Feighery, who completed her master’s from NYU in Irish-American history, also combed through census records, birth and death information and any other tools available for an extensive research project into the Irish-American community in Highbridge.

“You definitely need patience to do it,” Feighery said. She noted that the most recent set of specific census data only goes back to 1930. Former records commissioner Andersson explained that privacy laws keep census data, such as names and addresses, from being available until 72 years after the fact. For now, only censuses from 1790 to 1930 are available. The 1940 census will be released next year.

Irish researcher Feighery added that success in research comes from combining a multitude of resources: for example, the national census was done every ten years at the end of the decade while New York’s state census was completed every ten years on the 5-year mark. So combining the 1930 national census with the 1935 state census can yield a more intricate demographic picture.

Other sources that can provide new layers of information include databases such as ProQuest, which Feighery said are historical newspaper archives, many of smaller papers that have have records of births, deaths and marriages. Voter registration records and ship manifestos are other sources for lists of people immigrating to the United States.

That’s not to say that there aren’t complications. Spelling errors can lead to inaccuracies. Researchers also have to take into account borders within the city. It was only in 1898 that the five boroughs were officially created. Researchers hunting for information before then, have to look through New York county records, not borough records.

Former records commissioner Andersson, also notes that sometimes people are too trusting of what they find. “People are too quick to embrace it as pure fact,” he said. According to Andersson, people need to be analytical about what they find and the sources of their information.

The painstaking work, however, can often lead to surprising discoveries.

Dee Cunningham found an entire side of her family she knew nothing about. She knew that her grandfather, Jacob, moved to the Bronx in 1911. Her father was born in the Bronx and lived there until 1947. However, Cunningham had never heard anything about her great aunts or uncles.  Through her research on, she found the great granddaughter of her great aunt. Naturally, they set up a meeting.

“We were both delighted to meet in New York City one afternoon and compare notes,” Cunningham said in an email.

Further research and some speculation lead Cunningham to believe that her grandfather was estranged from the rest of his family.  He was born and raised Jewish. However, he married Cunningham’s grandmother, who was Irish Protestant.

The Bronx saw historic growth in its population in the early 1900’s because public transportation was extended into the borough. By 1930, approximately 49 percent of Bronx’s population was Jewish. Even earlier, starting in 1845, the Great Famine in Ireland pushed emigrants to the United States and New York became predominantly Irish.

“We can only assume that because he married an Irish Protestant, that he was disowned by the family,” Cunningham said.

Frances Rodier also found her share of unexpected information. Before her research, Rodier did not know that her great aunt had been married. Her research revealed that her great uncle had spent time in prison. “Finding a great uncle who was in Sing Sing was kind of a surprise,” Rodier said. She is now searching for information on why he was incarcerated.

Rodier also found a way to use new technology to share her childhood with her children. She lived in the Bronx until she was 23 and went to Walton High School, which has since closed. Using Google Maps, Rodier showed her children the way she used to walk to school from her apartment building on Nelson Avenue.

Other memories, however, are harder to recreate.

During high school, Rodier recalls a curious character who moved in across the hall in her apartment building: William Z. Foster, a three-time presidential candidate for the American Communist Party. Rodier recalls that she could see into Foster’s living room from her apartment.

“The only time the shades were up was when someone was cleaning the windows,” she said.

Rodier also ran into Foster in the elevator on Sundays, as she left for church and he went downstairs to pick up the Times. “I’d be scared to death,” she said, of riding from the sixth floor down, with Foster as her only companion on the elevator. “But he was a gentleman,” she said. “He’d hold the door for you.”

Despite the fun, of her research, Cunningham concedes that at times, looking for clues can be very frustrating. “You try to save anyone as much time as possible,” she said. But the excitement of finding answers is equally rewarding. “We just love sharing what we find,” she added.

Click here for more stories on the digital Bronx.


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The Friedman's car parked on Nelson Avenue. Courtesy: Dee Cunningham.

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As bus accident probe continues, riders are undeterred

As bus accident probe continues, riders are undeterred

By: Yiting Sun, Sana Gulzar and Mehroz Baig

On March 12, 2011, a bus carrying 32 passengers crashed on the Bronx/Westchester County Border, on I-95, killing 15 passengers and injuring 18 others. Since then, government agencies have launched an investigation into the accident.

Despite the accident in the Bronx, as well as others in New Jersey and New Hampshire, travelers are not deterred from taking these buses, and business is continuing as usual.  Watch what passengers lining up for a bus from Chinatown to Atlantic City had to say:

In a March 30 update, Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that it is too soon to determine a cause of the accident, but that NTSB has so far determined that the driver of the bus was traveling at up to 78 miles per hour. The driver had said that another truck was involved in the accident. Another truck driver came forward saying that he had witnessed the accident. NTSB inspected his truck and found that it had not come in contact with the bus. The bus also had a camera attached to its windshield but the camera did not record the accident.

The NTSB is also holding a public forum on safety on May 10-11 to review progress since the last time the agency held such hearings, 12 years ago. This forum had been scheduled prior to the bus accident in the Bronx.

The NTSB is an independent government agency that investigates accidents to determine their cause and then makes recommendations. It does not have any power to enforce those recommendations or any responsibility in oversight of buses.

Oversight of commercial bus traffic rests with the New York State Department of Transportation and on a national level, the United States Department of Transportation. Since the bus accident, the state department of transportation held a three-day inspection of buses from March 18 – 20.  The agency set up 13 checkpoints and inspected 164 buses. Within Manhattan alone, inspectors checked 26 buses and found that 16 of them, or 62 percent, had violations that were significant enough to put the buses out of service. Outside of Manhattan, another 138 buses were inspected and 25 of them, or 18 percent, had violations that put those vehicles out of service.

According to the state department of transportation’s website, this agency conducts about 154,000 inspections a year and requires all buses to be inspected at least every six months. However, 80 percent of the inspections are done on buses used for school transportation services. The other 20 percent are parceled out among other services such as charter buses, line-run commercial buses, ambulette, and airport buses.

World Wide Travel of Greater New York is the operating company of the bus involved in the crash. CNN reported that the company was involved in two crashes since 2009, and cited five times for fatigued driving from December 2009 to October 2010. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website also lists two crashes for World Wide Travel, but does not specify when they took place.

The chart below displays the number of inspections the company had each year, and the number it failed, according to the New York State Department of Transportation. During the most recent fiscal year, from April 2009 to May 2010, the company did not fail any inspections. The company could not be reached for a response.

Source: NY State Department of Transportation

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Former Featured, Video0 Comments

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