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Characters of softball, the real Bronx pastime

The Yankees may get the attention, but softball fields like this one in Pelham Bay Park are where the real Bronx legends are made.  (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

The Yankees may get the attention, but softball fields like this one in Pelham Bay Park are where the real Bronx legends are made. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

As many older observers tell it, softball in the Bronx was most popular in the mid-1980s, when games could attract crowds of hundreds of people and wagers on various teams ranged up to $10,000 on a single contest.

One softball team had a particular penchant for taking that cash in those years: an aptly-named crew known as The Bandits. As their veteran players tell it, their team was so unstoppable that it had to travel to Brooklyn, Connecticut, or New Jersey to find a game. They once changed their team name to be admitted to a league that wouldn’t have accepted them otherwise, for fear they would trounce the competition.

Today most of the original Bandits are in their 50s. One is 65. But the guys can’t stay away from the diamond. The team reunited last year and is now in the midst of its second season this century, playing games every Saturday in the Bronx Stars league at Pelham Bay Park. The Bandits today are a combination of veterans from the squads of the 1980s and a handful of 20-something sluggers. While the younger guys man the outfield to do most of the legwork, the older players yell the loudest and seem to collectively hang on every pitch. For them, donning the grey-and-black jerseys on Saturdays is about a break from wives and girlfriends in favor of time with sons and old friends. It’s about taking pleasure in those non-stop insults and chuckling over a beer after the game ends on a sunny afternoon. And if they finish ahead of the 23 other teams in the league, so be it. They were division winners last year and lost in the playoffs to the eventual champions.

Yankee Stadium may get the most attention, but for many Bronxites the real baseball happens on fields like the ones where The Bandits play. Here are the characters that bring those fields alive.

The Survivor

Cheo Romero woke up with a hole in his throat, unable to breathe or talk, with surgical wounds on his neck and leg, scared, depressed, suicidal, a feeding tube poking out of his abdomen and an IV needle in his arm. That was February 2009, days after doctors had discovered a bulging tumor in Romero’s jaw. That was the beginning of the battle.

Cancer Survivor Cheo Romero has returned to the softball field, hoping to add another framed championship jersey to his collection.

Cancer Survivor Cheo Romero has returned to the softball field, hoping to add another framed championship jersey to his collection. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Next came several months of an experimental treatment that combined radiation and chemotherapy. The former bodyguard and Bandits centerfielder spent drugged-up day after drugged-up day in the hospital, unable to go home because he couldn’t bear the pain.

Romero’s people were fixtures in the hospital room during those hard months: his ex-fiance and mother-in-law – both still close to him when the cancer was diagnosed – his son Rolando, and his softball teammates. Manager Edgar Aviles came to see him several times a week.

“Sometimes I’d go to sleep and I’d wake up and he’d be in the chair,” Romero remembered. “He used to tell guys, ‘I don’t think Cheo’s going to make it.'”

Making it wasn’t a sure thing. Doctors had warned Romero that the even if the emergency surgery needed to remove the tumor was effective, it could leave him eating out of a straw or through a feeding tube for the rest of his life. Few imagined he would play softball again.

But Romero had other ideas. He would surprise his nurses by disconnecting his own IV and feeding tube to walk around the hospital for exercise. He did pull-ups on the chain above his bed, startling other patients.

Romero, who is 51, hasn’t returned to work, but he lives for Saturdays. Now he not only chews some of his meals, but wraps up that feeding tube so it doesn’t impede his ability to pitch. He stays away from playing the outfield or running the bases, but he can still swing the bat. Best of all Romero’s cancer is in remission.

“I used to look out my window and cry,” Romero said. “Now I’m playing every game.”

The Manager

The Bandits are a rowdy team, but there's no question manager Edgar Aviles is the man in charge.  (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

The Bandits's dugout is a rowdy place, but there's no question manager Edgar Aviles is the man in charge. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

When Edgar Aviles broke his ankle sliding into third base, his teammates thought of one thing: revenge.

The Bandits’ dugout was a dangerous place to be in the 1980s. The team, energized for softball games that, at that time, they played throughout the week, thrived on more than just verbal jibes. The guys were fans of the World Wrestling Federation and wouldn’t be shy to throw an elbow and catch a teammate off-guard.

As Bandits member Frankie Rodriguez remembers it, Edgar Aviles was among the most formidable wrestling opponents. But this time, as Aviles lay prone waiting for an ambulance, he couldn’t fight back. And with the rest of his body intact, it was open season for the rest of the Bandits.

“While he was laying on the floor, everybody was doing elbow drops on him, eye gouges, whatever it took just to get back at him,” Rodriguez recalled. As the ambulance pulled away, the team flagged it down. The paramedics stopped, “thinking they were going to give him something. The guy opens the door, and (a Bandits player) came and eye gouged him again. He left (for) the hospital in pain, but he was laughing, he was laughing the whole way.

“I mean it’s amazing, how you going to be there with a broken ankle and be able to laugh at things like that? That will tell you the kind of guy he is,” Rodriguez said.

It’s Aviles who keeps order amidst the trash-talking personalities in the dugout. After decades of strict managing (he once walked off with the player’s cash after it took a threat of forfeiting the game to get them to pay an umpire’s fee), he has earned their loyalty. The men on the team may call the shots at their day jobs, but everyone knows who sets the lineup on Saturday.

Edgar Aviles, manager of The Bandits, memorialized the team on his left arm.   (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Edgar Aviles memorialized The Bandits on his left arm. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

“Today I showed up late,” said Gilbert Rivera, 55, on a recent morning in Pelham Bay Park. “He’s not going to start me.”

Aviles, whose son Mike is an infielder for the Kansas City Royals, says he’s more relaxed than in the Bandits’ earlier days. At 50, he’s stopped working as a customer service representative at a bank due to a heart condition. He looks forward to the games at the park to keep him occupied.

Today, “we come out to enjoy ourselves, goof around, talk about the old times,” Aviles said. “It’s not big deal if we win or not.”

Yet when Aviles talks about how the Bandits finished second-place in their division last year against a field of younger teams, it’s hard to miss a sense of satisfaction.

The Mummy

During the week, Milton Pacheco is, in his own words, “The Broker” of real estate in the Bronx. On Saturdays, he’s something else.

“They call me ‘The Mummy’ because it takes me about 45 minutes to get wrapped up. I gotta wrap up my ankles, wrap up my knees, wrap up my back,” Pacheco said while preparing to pitch on a recent Sunday. “Bunch of assholes, anyways,” he added with a smile.

Milton Pacheco, 65, is the oldest Bandits player.  (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Milton Pacheco, 65, is the oldest Bandits player. Teammates call him 'The Mummy.' (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Pacheco, who is 65, is regarded as the senior member of the Bandits squad. He remembers how the team used to have to travel outside the Bronx to find opponents. Once, the Bandits changed their team name so that they could be admitted to a league that wouldn’t have accepted them for fear that they would trounce the competition.

“We had a reputation, nobody wanted to play us,” he said. “Now we’re old and everybody wants to play us, but we’re still pretty good.”

The team’s competitive fire hasn’t subsided with age. Pacheco was tossed from a game in April after arguing balls and strikes from the pitcher’s mound. His replacement, Joe Capello, got berated for giving up too many walks. Said teammate Gilbert Rivera after the game: “he led their team in RBIs.”

Indeed, after the game is when the real fun starts. The guys sit on benches in the shade, sipping beer and hurling insults. They dissect the most recent game, pointing out that as older guys, they can’t make unforced mistakes. They discuss a team trip to Florida. Everyone is home. What’s better than sitting in the park talking baseball?

“Sometimes we don’t see each other for six, seven months. You’ll meet up again in April, hang out, have a little brew after the game, you know what I mean?” Pacheco said. “We spend the whole day here. You look forward to it.”

Said Rodriguez: “I do anything I can to be part of the team. I keep score, I coach the bases, just to be here. And there’s a lot of guys like that … It’s in your blood.

“They’re gonna bury me in the mound when I die,” he added, laughing. “That’s the way it is.”

Posted in Bronx Blog, Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Bronx Tales, East Bronx, North Central Bronx, Sports1 Comment

Video-A Sunday in the life of a storefront church

Prophetess Barbara Henry started Shekinah Faith Ministries at a YMCA in Yonkers in 2007.  She moved to a storefront on White Plains Road the following year, joining at least 50 other places of worship that have earned the street the nickname “God’s Row.”

Bronx residents know these churches by the loud singing and yelling heard on the sidewalk on Sundays.  Watch this video to see what it’s like inside the three-hour-long service of Henry’s Pentecostal church.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, North Central Bronx, Rituals0 Comments

Graffiti, girls, and bragging rights

This article is by Jennifer Brookland and Ryan Tracy.

Ashley Cardero, second from right, and Angelica Nitura, second from left, stood with friends by a memorial on Cromwell Street, not far from where 18 year-old Juandy Paredes was stabbed to death Friday night.

Ashley Cardero, second from left, and Angelica Nitura, second from right, stood with friends by a memorial on Cromwell Ave., not far from where 17 year-old Juandy Paredes was stabbed to death Friday night. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Juandy Paredes’s crew hangs out at 1164 Cromwell Avenue at night, or at the nearby park just north of Yankee Stadium.  They smoke, drink, and make too much noise. The cops come arrest people all the time for trespassing and being loud. In fact, the kids from this neighborhood say they see the same cop and the same ambulance on the corner by the park every night, waiting for trouble.

Trouble breaks out a lot.

In this stretch of Mt. Eden, thumping a few blocks away from the 4 train, graffiti colors the exteriors, kids with Spanish nicknames and tattoos fight members of rival cliques, and questions are met with “I don’t know anything,” by people who do.

Next to guys in sweats with ear-buds tracing lines from their pockets to their ears, Angelica Nitura looks almost out of place in skinny jeans and a blue cardigan.  She talks about her favorite memory of Paredes, a 17 year-old kid they all called “Frko,” or fresh boy. It was on April Fool’s Day, and someone from another crew had taken a guy’s hat. Paredes stood up for the guy, fighting the kids who had taken the hat until they smashed a bottle over his head. Paredes walked angrily back to Nitura.

“His whole side of his head is bleeding, like busted up, leaking,” said Nitura. “I like that he came back, after washing off all that blood. I like that he stood up for his friend. That was my favorite time.”

Paredes’s crew calls itself the “F— Your Life” group, or “F.Y.L.” for short, but insists it’s not a gang. More like a family where everyone watches the others’ backs. There are maybe 50 or 60 of them, all from the neighborhood. Today, laminated badges that they designed on computers swing from their necks showing pictures of Paredes and “4/16/2010,” the date he was killed a few blocks away at 167th and Jerome Avenue. They cross themselves and kiss their fingers in front of the memorial they’ve built for Paredes, a wooden table with tall plastic flowers under his picture, a Dominican flag, and a collection of candles with pictures of saints on them.

Juandy Paredes, pictured here in a collage made by a family friend.  (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Juandy Paredes, pictured here in a collage made by a family friend. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Their expressions are hard. But only four days after Paredes was murdered, tears come suddenly.

Ashley Cordero is known by her friends as “Shine.” She has her brother’s name tattooed on her right hand, and swirls of color filling the gap between her shirt and her waistband on her left side. She breaks down thinking about the first time she met Paredes. It was July 14th, and she was eating Chinese food in the park. Paredes hung out there a lot because he loved inline skating, trying out tricks on rollerblades that were fitted with a panel on the bottom for sliding along curbs and rails. He told her she was beautiful and he was going to make her his. She offered to share her Chinese food.

Now Cordero is planning the tattoo she’ll get with Paredes’s name and a pair of wings on her back. She and Nitura both feel guilty that he was killed, because they encouraged him to leave the building where they were chilling and playing with knives. It was getting too loud, the cops were bound to come. So Paredes left with two other teen boys and according to Cordero, went to the convenience store on the corner.

Paredes was stabbed five times. Cordero said he flagged down a police van nearby and banged on its windows for help.  “I’m poked, I’m poked,” he told the cops.

Then he collapsed. Paramedics attended to him there on the street, but he died before he arrived at Lincoln Hospital.

The man charged with murdering him lives a nine-minute walk from where the mouthpiece used on Paredes lay full of blood in the street, up Jerome Avenue under the train tracks and past tables selling discount perfume and peeled oranges.

At his arraignment at the Bronx Supreme Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon, Hector Bautista looked much too young to be charged with second-degree murder. The pony-tailed 18 year-old stood silently when the judge denied his request for bail.

Juandy Paredes' friends scrawled graffiti on the wall across from his family's home  They had nicknamed Paredes "Frko," or fresh boy.  (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Juandy Paredes' friends scrawled graffiti on the wall across from his family's home. They had nicknamed him "Frko," or fresh boy. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Outside the courtroom, friends took turns defending Bautista, a basketball player who they said was a jokester with a good heart who had stopped attending high school. They insisted he was innocent of the stabbing.  But they admitted he was part of the conflicts that, fueled by graffiti, girls, and bragging rights, permeate the world of teenagers like him and Paredes.

“They lived in different places. That’s it,” said a girl who identified herself as Bautista’s girlfriend but would not give her name.

In the dimly-lit apartment on Irving Avenue where Paredes lived, cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends wore black, about to attend his funeral. They had heard about Bautista’s arrest, but wondered if police would be able to catch the other two teens police told the family were involved in the fight.

The family was calm and poised on Tuesday.  Two unsmiling men went about filling a cooler with ice and bottles of water for visitors. Until, contagious as a yawn, a long, slow wail broke out from one of the dark-clad women. She lowered her head and balled her hands into fists. The high-pitched sounds of her crying spread to other family members and escaped into the bright sunlight outside, where Paredes’s friends had spray-painted white graffiti over the entire brick surface of the opposing wall.

“If you stay for 20 minutes you can read it all. Then you’ll understand,” said Dualis, Paredes’s 10 year-old half-sister.

Paredes’s room was covered in graffiti, too, blue and black scrawls painted by him or his friends swarm across the walls. “F.Y.L” appeared in several places, and on the ceiling, emblazoned with a heart was the name Brenda. The room was a disaster. A bare strip of mattress poked out from under piles of clothing that spilled onto the floor and made walking impossible. Boxes of his favorite designer shoes were stacked head-high. A heads-up penny lay near the doorway.

“He would clean it every day but that same day he’d make the same mess,” said Dualis.

Graffiti and tags from his local crew cover the walls in Juandy Paredes' bedroom.  Paredes, 18, was stabbed to death on Friday, April 16.

Graffiti referring to Juandy Paredes' crew cover the walls in his bedroom. Paredes, 17, was stabbed to death on Friday, April 16. An 18 year-old member of a rival crew has been arrested but is denying the charges. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Paredes used to play “tickle monster” with her on the bed, where they would tickle each other’s feet. They played board games like Monopoly and “Guess Who?” even though Paredes got so mad when she beat him that he swore he wouldn’t play again. Dualis said she usually won.

A computer with a large silver-framed screen sat on a small desk in the corner, where light from the window illuminated the keyboard. Coralys Nunez, who was like an aunt to Paredes, and says he was creative, smart with computers and could “unblock” any website. He thought about being a game designer, if not a fashion designer. He got all A’s in school.

But Paredes had dropped out of school. He just got tired of going, says Dualis. Even Cordero, who says she and Paredes were always together for the past nine months, didn’t know if Paredes had any goals. They just didn’t talk about that, she says.

One of Paredes’s friends created a Facebook page in his memory. Brendalee Torres captioned a picture of her and Paredes kissing with expressions of grief and love, and also, a threat.

“Whoever did this to you gonna get his, trust me.”

Cordero says none of the crew has been killed before, despite all the neighborhood rivalries. But it’s almost as if she thinks Paredes won’t be the last friend for whom she will be forced to light candles.

“The one person you don’t want to lose,” she said,” is the first one to go.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Crime, Southern Bronx5 Comments

Child struck at ‘terrible’ intersection

By Ryan Tracy and Dan Lieberman

Word that four year-old Joshua Delarosa was still alive came as good news Tuesday to folks familiar with the intersection at 230th Street and Broadway, but news of another accident in the area was no surprise.

Yolanda Ellerbe, 43, stood near the site of the accident that left Delarosa in critical condition at New York Presbyterian Hospital Columbia Monday as a pair of crossing guards in reflective vests tried, often in vein, to hold off drivers cutting through the crosswalks. Ellerbe called the intersection “terrible.”

Near 230th Street and Broadway, where a car accident injured a four year-old Bronx resident Monday morning, caution tape marked the site of the crash.

Near 230th Street and Broadway, where a car accident injured a four year-old Bronx resident Monday morning, caution tape marked the site of the crash. (Ryan Tracy/Bronx Ink)

Between 1995 and 2005, 19 crashes occurred at the location, according to, a website run by pedestrian advocacy group Transportation Alternatives. There were two pedestrian injuries at the same intersection last year, according to the city Department of Transportation.  Another injury occurred there in 2007, but none were reported in 2008 and 2009.

In 2005, a man in a wheelchair was killed after an SUV hit him at the intersection and dragged him 50 yards.  Another pedestrian was killed at the same intersection in 1999, according to

“There’s too many schools around here, they need to do something about the (traffic) lights,” said Ellerbe, who worked with Delarosa’s family at a Head Start Program in the Marble Hill public housing buildings next to the intersection.  Delarosa’s mother, Romula Fernandez, was walking him to day care on Monday morning when a swerving livery cab knocked over a nearby traffic sign.  The sign fell and hit the child.

Other observers echoed Ellerbe’s concerns about safety.

“This street, the cars, they running fast,” said Jose Avelar, who can see the intersection from his nearby barber shop.  “There’s something every week.”

After the crash, a nearby crossing guard lifted a traffic sign off Delarosa’s body.  The driver of the cab, who turned to avoid a city Department of Environmental Protection truck “could have run over (Delarosa).  He could have crushed him,” said the crossing guard, who asked to remain anonymous because she was not supposed to speak with the media.

The crossing guard, who has been working with the New York Police Department for 11 years, said she was nearly hit by the sign.  Her navy raincoat still had yellow stains on the sleeve from the spot where a street sign had fallen against it.  She quickly grabbed the heavy sign and surprised even herself with her strength.

“I’m still amazed I did that,” she recalled.

As rain fell, cars, buses and trucks rolled through from five directions.  Schoolchildren, mothers with strollers, people in wheelchairs and dozens of pedestrians walked from side to side, hiding behind steel pillars as vehicles rushed by and a subway train rumbled overhead.

Delarosa’s mother was also injured in the accident, but was discharged from the St. Barnabus Medical Center emergency room Tuesday, said a hospital spokesman.

Ellerbe said she had spoken to Delarosa’ mother Tuesday afternoon and she had reported Delarosa was “doing a little better.”  Ellerbe’s colleagues at Little Angels Head Start expect Delarosa to attend pre-school there this fall.

Last year, the mother had regularly dropped off his older sister at the center, and it was clear young Joshua wanted to go to school too.  “He would come in in the morning and go right in the classroom and sit in the chair immediately,”  Ellerbe remembered.

Despite statistics showing accidents in the Bronx have decreased since 2001, “There are still too many accidents caused by driver inattention, speeding, and failing to yield to pedestrians and too many motorists speed away from crash scenes,” said DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Northwest Bronx0 Comments

Dozens Pitch In to Save a Life

Liver transplant recipient Maryann Steinbock told a throng of reporters she had a "second chance" at life, then held her nurses' hands as she walked back to her room at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.

Liver transplant recipient Maryann Steinbock told a throng of reporters she had a "second chance" at life, then held her nurses' hands as she walked back to her room at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Surrounded by a throng of reporters and cameras, Maryann Steinbock kept on smiling. It seemed every time she spoke, there was someone else to thank.

The donor of the liver that happened to be a match. The medical staff from Buffalo, N.Y., who shepherded her new organ to the airport Friday morning in the midst of a snowstorm. The police officers who mobilized on short notice to clear a path from her Long Island home to the Bronx’s Montefiore Medical Center. The doctors, nurses and anesthesiologists who spent six hours in the operating room during her life-saving transplant surgery later that day.

“It was just like watching a movie on TV,” Steinbock, 59, told a pack of media on Tuesday. “Everything fell into place. It was wild.”

Steinbock, a wedding coordinator and avid New York Mets fan who lives with her husband in Atlantic Beach, had been on the liver transplant waiting list for about a year after her hepatitis C was diagnosed. Doctors told her she had carried the disease unknowingly for decades. Tumors had grown on her liver, and she needed a new organ to survive.

While she waited, doctors twice had to operate. If the tumors had grown too large or spread too far, a liver transplant would not have saved her. Surgeons twice burned tumors off her liver’s surface to control the cancer’s expansion.

Then, after a year of waiting, it was a race through a blizzard and against time.

“The longer the liver is outside of the body, the less chance that it is going to function perfectly,” said Dr. Milan Kinkhabwala, chief of Montefiore’s liver transplant program.

After doctors determined the donated organ was a match and arranged for it to ride downstate on an emergency flight, Montefiore staff woke Steinbock, who friends call “Mak”, and gave her the news.

“I think she went into shock,” recalled Steinbock’s husband, Corey. Outside, the couple’s cars had been buried by the pre-dawn snow. By 6 a.m., Corey had dug out their vehicles and had both engines running in the driveway. Montefiore staff, however, insisted that she wait for a police escort to navigate the wet driving conditions.

Nassau County’s Fourth Precinct agreed to pick up Steinbock. The New York Police Department’s Highway Patrol scrambled to meet her at the city line.

“We usually know what’s coming ahead of time,” Highway Patrol Officer Stephen Brooks said, referring to cross-border police escorts. “This was a play-it-by-ear kind of thing, and usually it’s not in a snowstorm.”

Once her car neared Queens, Steinbock could not help but chat up Nassau County’s Officer Robert Prince about that borough’s hometown baseball team. But her mood became serious once she arrived at the hospital and doctors began to explain the details of the surgery.

Maryann Steinbock told her story to New York-area media Tuesday in a packed hallway in Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.  Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink

Maryann Steinbock told her story to New York-area media Tuesday in a packed hallway in Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)

Upon hearing the procedure required a neck incision to keep fluids flowing to her body, “she jumped off the table,” her husband said. Steinbock calmed after a phone call from her son, a doctor near Boston, who explained the surgery was a matter of life and death.

After six hours of work by three surgeons, two nurses and two anesthesiologists, Steinbock had a healthy liver and what she called “a second chance at life.”

Smiling and shaking her head, Steinbock repeated one explanation before the outstretched microphones: “If it wasn’t for God, none of this would have happened.”

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Health1 Comment

From the Bustle of Bronx Housing Court, Deals Emerge

The Bronx Housing Court handles roughly 80,000 cases per year. Photo credit: Flickr user Jules Antonio

The Bronx Housing Court handles roughly 80,000 cases per year. Photo credit: Flickr user Jules Antonio

In hallways packed like a stadium concourse during a break from the action, men in suits bob and weave amidst a sea of tenants facing eviction. A black-haired woman in a pants-suit yells out a name, listens for a response, then hurries up the stairs and screams it again. A young attorney listens to a middle-aged woman, leans on a ledge, and leafs through a stack of papers. Everywhere in the Bronx Housing Court, deals are being made.

Into the fray walks a woman who refers to herself as Ms. Whitley, and only Ms. Whitley because, “I don’t want to see my name on a computer.” Ms. Whitley arrives at 12:30, not long after a mother with a stroller had finished changing her baby boy’s diaper in the crowded hallway. A man approaches the diaper-changing mother and asks her to find proof that she had sent her rent check.

Other tenants may have come prepared to cut deals to reduce their back payments, but Ms. Whitley is armed with a bank statement proving she has more than enough cash to pay some $3400 in rent. That money will stay put, she swears, until the landlord sends somebody to fix her leaking ceiling.

“I have all the money!” she declares. “What I want is a certified plumber.”

An attorney for Seoul Realty, which owns Ms. Whitley’s apartment on Morris Avenue, had hoped to settle. But Ms. Whitley won’t budge. She demands a guarantee from the landlord to fix the leak, which she mentions might be caused by the woman living above her on the fourth floor.

“She’s a water buffalo, I think,” Ms. Whitley says of the neighbor.

She will wait. Meanwhile, the courtrooms are packed. “The Expediter,” a court assistant who normally moves unresolved cases to trial, says several judges are absent today. This will slow progress in a court that took on around 80,000 cases last year. By the city’s count, about 2,000 Bronx residents pass through these halls every day.

The mass in the hallway thins as the day wanes. A toddler in a white coat with fur trim pulls at the cord of a pay phone. Two girls in matching sweaters run in circles for a while, then sit and sigh. “I’m tired and I want to go home,” one says.

Meanwhile, Ms. Whitley is still fighting. Around 4 o’clock, the landlord’s attorney finally leads her before the judge. She won’t play ball, and walks out with a court date next month. If the problem is not resolved by then, her case may head to “The Expediter,” who will set up a face-off in open court.

Ms. Whitley walks into the elevator, smiling, while a woman in dreadlocks strides toward the exit and curses under her breath.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Bronx Tales, Southern Bronx0 Comments