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Amateur boxer in stable condition after surgery, ESPN

The Bronx boxer, who was in critical condition after he and his sister were struck by a car on the Cross Bronx Expressway following a snowstorm pileup,  is now in stable condition, according to ESPN. Golden Gloves champion Pedro Luis Sosa underwent  a five-hour surgery at Jacobi Medical Center, after being struck by a Toyota Corolla and falling 75 feet in an accident that killed his sister, Jennifer Sosa.  He is expected to regain consciousness in the next few days.

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Dads aim to shape up Cross Bronx Expressway, NY Daily News

To counter traffic, pollution and unsafe conditions on the Cross Bronx Expressway, two Bronx dads have begun the Cross Bronx Initiative, according to the NY Daily News. William Rivera and Luis Sepulveda have commissioned local colleges to find solutions to issues such as bottlenecks and asthma.

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Judge Judy’s husband takes the stage at Bronx Hall of Justice, NY Daily News

Retired Bronx Supreme Court Justice Gerald Sheindlin, the husband of courtroom star justice Judy Sheindlin, aka”Judge Judy,” begins a courtroom drama all his own, according to the NY Daily News.  The dramedy, “Erroneous Convictions,” co-written by former Bronx Assistant District Attorney Bruce Birns, follows the humorous elements of court life, with Gerald Sheindlin as the leading jurist.

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Bronx residents remain without power after weekend snowstorm, WSJ

Approximately 60,000 Con Edison customers remain without power in New York, following this weekend’s snowstorm, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Though the majority of those customers are in Westchester County, 1,800 are in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Officials say they should expect power to be restored by the end of the day.


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Woman dies while on phone with mother; brother remains in critical condition, NY Post

Following a pileup on the Cross Bronx Expressway, a Bronx sister and brother were hit by a car, leaving Jennifer Sosa, 20, dead and Golden Gloves champion Pedro Luis Sosa, 19, in critical condition, according to the New York Post. Jennifer Sosa was on the phone with her mother, telling her she was OK, when a Toyota Corolla struck her and her brother, and sent them plunging 75 feet over a concrete barrier.  Nine other vehicles were involved and a total of 14 others had to be treated for minor injuries, in a series of accidents authorities say were caused by slick roads from this weekend’s snowstorm. Pedro Luis Sosa remains in a coma at the Jacobi Medical Center.



A Bronx brother and sister were struck by a car, after emerging from their minivan, which had been involved in a pileup on the Cross Bronx Expressway.

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Halloween mischief could shut down bus lines, NY Daily News

The MTA says it may shut down bus lines in three neighborhoods, including Country Club and Edgewater in the Bronx, if Halloween mischief arises, according to the Daily News. Officials say these have been problem areas for vandalism in years past, but some locals aren’t convinced such drastic action—which would affect  Bx8 (Edgewater Park); Bx24 (Country Club)—is necessary.

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Bringing the farm to the Grand Concourse

Nearly 40 people gathered Tuesday, Oct. 3 in a church on the Grand Concourse over a bounty that included arroz con gandules, pico de gallo, green plantains with cheese and three types of tacos. The meal was notable not for its Latino roots, but for its use of fresh, pesticide-free vegetables in an area of the South Bronx where it’s often hard to find healthy food.

The diners were all members of the Farm Fresh Project, a group of  50 Bronx residents who have signed up to receive weekly supplies of produce from an upstate farm. But the project has reached its membership limit so now organizers are hoping to spread the healthy eating message in other ways, such as the potluck supper, which was  made by members using their recent supply of produce.

“It’s a way to build community,” said Jackie Goulet, an Americorps member who coordinates Bronx CSA, a farm project for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “It’s a way to learn about new ideas and good recipes.”

The project is the first of its kind in the South Bronx and is a small step toward addressing a perennial problem in the neighborhood, which faces both a lack of fresh food supply and an obesity problem. Nearby Highbridge has only two supermarkets to serve 34,000 people, causing many local residents to shop at bodegas, most of which have meager and expensive produce offerings, according to Healthy Highbridge Coordinator Juan Rios. According to a 2008 city study called “New York City Neighborhood Grocery Store and Supermarket Shortage,” most of the districts in the South Bronx have too few places to buy fresh food. At the same time, a 2006 New York City Department of Health and Hygiene report shows four in 10 children and two out of three adults in the South Bronx are overweight or obese.

Community supported agriculture projects bring together a group of people who pay in advance for a season’s worth of goods from a nearby farm. This particular program offers food from Fresh Radish Farm, located 60 miles away in Goshen, NY. Area residents pick up vegetables, such as zucchini, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and greens weekly or biweekly. Whatever is left over is donated to the food pantry at Seventh Day Adventist Church at which the market is located.

Unlike traditional farm shares, this one is subsidized by a one-time $30,000 Legacy Project Grant from the Bronx Health Reach, a community-based healthcare initiative. Residents must sign a contract ahead of time, but can pay each week with a sliding scale based on income. A family making over $50,000 would pay $485, but a family on food stamps pays only $120 for the whole season, which lasts from June to November.

A bag of assorted produce estimated to feed a family of four costs $5.45 a week for families who receive food stamps.

Americorps worker and food share organizer Jackie Goulet says most of the farm share members pay in food stamps.(Rani Molla/THE BRONX INK)

An overwhelming majority of Bronx farm share members gets food stamps, Goulet said. Food stamp eligibility involves a number of factors, such as family size and income, but generally a family cannot have more than $2,000 in resources, according to the government’s food stamp fact sheet.

Concourse resident Maria Hernandez, 28, heard about the market from a friend. She said that since the farm share began, she’s been able to afford to make her young daughter more vegetable dishes.

“If you have them, you see what you can do with them,” she said of the vegetables, which she pays for with her food stamp card. “If you have to buy them, you can think of something else to make”—something else quicker and without produce.

Most of the members are also Spanish speakers, so Goulet canvassed since winter distributing pamphlets in both English and Spanish.

“It took a really long time to get 50 people to sign up,” the 24-year-old said. “It’s a weird concept people haven’t heard of: asking people for money for something they haven’t even seen yet.”

Goulet writes a newsletter each week that includes nutrition facts, information about the farm, as well as “quick, easy and affordable” recipes geared at the produce—necessary as new products are introduced to the population.

One recipe, “Grilled Cheese with a Twist,” suggests adding red onion, garlic, spinach and tomato to the quick staple. “Chunky Vegetable Soup” addresses the changing offerings of a farm share by suggesting “soft vegetables like zucchini, green beans, summer squash, or leafy greens such as kale, spinach or collard greens.”

Grand Concourse residents load up on fresh produce. (Rani Molla/THE BRONX INK)

As a handful of people arrived before the 5 p.m. weekly market start time, Goulet told some perplexed produce shoppers they could use the strange and soft pumpkin greens for soup. The farm share also offers more recognizable produce, such as tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce.

Eva Sanchez, 33, a mother of three whose young son would occasionally help translate for her, enjoys the offerings.

“It’s economical and the vegetables are good,” she said. Sanchez, who lives on the Grand Concourse,  prefers vegetables to meat but said choosing produce was harder before the farm share came to her neighborhood.

“It’s not difficult; it’s expensive,” said Sanchez, who heard about the project from a friend.

Sanchez also volunteers at the farm share, helping other people with their groceries. This is a step in the right direction, according to Goulet, who said normally farm shares are run by their members.

“It’s starting to take off on its own,” said Goulet, who commutes from her family’s home in Long Island. “That’s something I hoped would happen.”

Goulet ends her Americorps work in December but says she believes the project will go forward, adding that next year the farm share could carry fruit in addition to vegetables. This year a scheduling conflict prohibited the small organization from receiving fruit deliveries.

According to New York City Coalition Against Hunger spokeswoman Theresa Hassler, “It’s the first year, so of course we plan on growing. We definitely plan on expanding and growing in coming years as participation and interest grow.”

With that, farm share employees hope the community will grow healthier too.

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Life, Culture, Food, Health1 Comment

Advocates stomping out South Bronx cigarette ads

"Power walls," where cigarettes products and ads dominate the area behind cash registers, are common in Highbridge. (RANI MOLLA/The Bronx Ink)

A day before Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced record lows for smoking in New York City on Sept. 15, Bronx anti-smoking advocates were on the ground in Highbridge, still trying to put out a habit that has persisted despite citywide measures to curb it.

Coordinators from the American Lung Association and Healthy Highbridge are part of a campaign to stop point-of-sale smoking advertisements—the cigarette ads that plaster the insides and outsides of stores, as well as the “power wall” of cigarettes and advertisements directly behind the cash registers.

“They can’t advertise anymore on TV, billboards, clothing—this is the last arena for them to advertise,” said Spitzner, as she walked from bodega to bodega with Rios on Ogden Avenue, photographing what they said are new tobacco advertisements. “That’s where they dump all their money.” Rios, who was part of the Bronx Smoke-Free coalition that advocated to make New York City parks smoke-free earlier this year, said that the concentration of point-of-sale tobacco advertising has gotten worse in recent years.

Although the percentage of smokers citywide has plummeted (from 17.5 percent in 2007 to 14 percent, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene), current smoking rates in the South Bronx are the same as 2007. In the South Bronx, 19 percent of the adult population and 5.2 percent of 14 to 18-year-olds smoke, compared to 17.8 percent for adults and 5 percent for children in 2007, according to the Department of Health spokeswoman Kari Auer. The South Bronx has the second highest percentage of smokers in the city, right after Staten Island. Spitzner and Rios believe that if they can curb point-of-sale advertisements, they can decrease smoking, particularly among young people.

The two were staking out Highbridge Wednesday for a “walking tour” for local politicians next month. Their hope is that after politicians see the saturation of tobacco advertisements in Highbridge, they will enact legislation to curb point-of-sale advertising.

Anti-smoking activists Juan Rios and Lisa Spitzner stake out Highbridge businesses that advertise cigarettes. (RANI MOLLA/ The Bronx Ink)

A majority of signs that blanket most bodegas in the area are for tobacco products. Many of those signs—particularly those for Newport—appear to be very new.

“Menthol advertisements target African Americans and young people,” said Rios, citing the large percentage of blacks who smoke menthol cigarettes. According to a 2005 Harvard study, advertisements for menthol cigarettes are more heavily marketed in areas with large minority populations.

According to the district profile for Community Board 4, of which Highbridge is a part, nearly half of the area’s residents are black and a third are under 18.

“We’re trying to educate kids, lawmakers, parents and teachers of tobacco’s practice of targeting youth,” said Sheelah Feinberg, director of the New York City Coalition For a Smoke-Free City.

Feinberg said that 90 percent of adult smokers started when they were teens, an age group that is particularly susceptible to advertisements.

“When you’re a young kid and you go to the store to buy gum or water, when you go to make that purchase, you’re bombarded by ads,” Feinberg said, pointing out that many of the power wall advertisements are located at kids’ eye-level.

“For us, the big concern is that the tobacco industry is always going after the next generation,” she said.

Rios believes that unless lawmakers halt point-of-sale advertisements, young people will continue to be vulnerable to ads because vendors will continue to put them up. Vendors receive discounts on their cigarettes depending on the prominence of their stores’ advertisements, according to Rios.

After multiple calls, voice mails and emails to local and national representatives at Lorillard Tobacco Company, which produces menthol Newport cigarettes, no one at the company would comment.

The effectiveness of smoking advertising is difficult to measure since it would require exposing a large number of people to long-term cigarette advertising.  Tobacco companies usually contend that advertisement is not to attract new smokers but to broaden market share for a certain brand.

The Bronx Ink interviewed several vendors whose buildings featured advertisements. All said they receive a discount on their cigarettes for placing the cigarette advertisements inside and outside their stores.

Jin Kim, manager of K.J.Y. Fruit on Gerard Avenue and 161st Street, said the decision to put up ads is about money.

“This is a business,” Kim said. “We sell cigarettes to make money. I don’t like that, but it’s a business.”

A cashier at the nearby Nadal 3 Deli said he’d be fine with giving up the advertisements. “It’s all good so New Yorkers stop smoking,” he said, adding that those who already smoke will continue to come in with or without the advertisement.


Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Life, Featured, Health Care Reform, Southern Bronx0 Comments

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