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Australian Artist Designs ‘Creature Choir’ with Faces, Voices of Bronx Residents

An artist from Sydney, Mark Bolotin, 32, will present a 12-headed ‘creature’ at the Casita Maria youth center in Longwood on Saturday, designed from videos and sounds of Bronx residents, DNAinfo reports.

30 artists, senior citizens and children contributed to the artist’s new project with the help of Casita Maria. They were filmed and recorded while singing, sharing their thoughts on the Bronx or reciting texts.

The creature, which also includes faces and sounds of Australian people, is named “The Lumiphonic Creature Choir” and was transported from Australia to the United States in May. It is part of a program aimed at bringing artists to spaces like the youth center.

Bolotin and his band will play with these Bronx faces and voices at 3 p.m. Saturday at Casita Maria.

Posted in Newswire0 Comments

Incumbent Arroyo Pummels Both Primary Challengers

Panels and campaign volunteers promoted Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo throughout the South Bronx. (VALENTINE PASQUESOONE / The Bronx Ink)

Longtime incumbent New York State Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo captured 53 percent of the  Democratic primary vote by late Thursday night., despite two spirited bids to unseat her.  Challengers Maximino Rivera, a community activist, and Charles Serrano, a former police officer, split the remaining votes 25 percent to 22 percent.

Arroyo, whose campaign volunteers were not available for comment last night while votes were being tallied, will likely continue representing the 84thdistrict that includes Highbridge, Longwood, Melrose, Mott Haven, Port Morris and Hunts Point neighborhoods after election day Nov. 6. There has yet to be a Republican challenger for the seat.

Her opponents criticized her lengthy tenure that has not been free from scandal.

“She’s been there too long,” Rivera said of Arroyo. “It’s time for her to go.”

Both opponents faced challenges staying afloat in the race against Arroyo, whose ties to party politics are well established. The Rivera and Serrano camps said the Arroyo campaign unsuccessfully challenged the signatures on their petitions, which slowed down their campaign timetables.

“It’s a real battle just to get on the machine,” said Jose Velez, who was raised in the South Bronx and ran for male district leader of the Serrano campaign.

After getting past that hurdle, Rivera and Serrano focused on presenting alternatives to Arroyo. Rivera, a former Post Office employee and community organizer, ran a lively campaign. Rivera’s sister Maria Chompre said the campaign had a 30-person core comprised of family and friends. Rivera campaigned for Arroyo during a previous race, and said he did so only because he favored Arroyo over her opponent.

Maximino Rivera believed it was time for longtime pol Carmen Arroyo to step down. (VALENTINE PASQUESOONE / The Bronx Ink)

Serrano, who was part of the New York City Police Department for 25 years, campaigned on the promise to push for term limits for all state-level representatives. He also focused on housing, senior citizen issues and crime, with an emphasis on gun violence.

Both challengers are Vietnam veterans. Both complained that Arroyo has become complacent after almost two decades in office.

“Carmen was a very good activist, but for the last eight to ten years she’s been missing in action,” Rivera said.

Arroyo disclosed $4028 in campaign contributions. Rivera and Serrano did not file financial reports.

Candidate Charles Serrano and district leader candidate Jose Velez said getting on the ballot was not easy. (VALENTINE PASQUESOONE / The Bronx Ink)

Low voter turnout did not help the challengers to Arroyo’s seat. Serrano said people’s focus lay elsewhere, even though the primary campaign was important because the results decided who would win this seat in the general election. “People want to vote, they don’t really know when they have to vote,” Serrano said, “They’re only thinking about  November 6.”

For those who did make it to a polls, change was an important factor. Evelyn V. Figueroa, a nurse from the Melrose section of the Bronx, said she wanted to see crime decrease and access to housing and healthcare increase. She said she had not seen any improvements in these categories in the 10 years she has been living in the area.

“This is like a lottery game,” Figueroa said. “We’ll see what happens. I definitely hope there will be some change.




Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Politics, Southern Bronx0 Comments

State primary election campaign intensifies in South Bronx

Two days before New York state legislative primaries, the race in the Bronx’s 84th Assembly District is intensifying between incumbent Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo — favored to maintain her seat — and her Democratic opponent Maximino Rivera, the New York Daily News reports.

Arroyo, the first Hispanic woman ever elected to the New York State Assembly, is being challenged by Rivera’s campaign in District 84, 18 years after her first election.

A Vietnam War veteran and retired postal service worker, Maximino Rivera is a longtime community organizer and used to campaign for Arroyo several years ago. Now, Rivera builds his own campaign on voters’ disappointment over Arroyo’s actions, claiming they are asking “for change” in District 84.

Arroyo still remains popular, yet she is challenged by a corruption case involving her grandson and a nonprofit organization she founded.

Posted in Newswire0 Comments

New Settlement School Opens with Mayoral Fanfare


New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a press conference at the library of the New Settlement Community Campus on Thursday. Valentine Pasquesoone/ Bronx Ink


The scene outside the New Settlement Community Campus on Thursday morning looked more like the start of an awards show than the start of a school year.

Video cameras and reporters greeted students as they entered the brand new  building on Jerome Avenue in the Mount Eden section of the Bronx.  Some of the city’s top officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, made cameo appearances.

The building, which includes a school for special needs children, Public School 555, a pre-k through fifth grade school, and Comprehensive Model School Project 327, a sixth through 12th grade school, is a welcome addition to the neighborhood, said Manuel Ramirez, principal of the upper school.

“It gives a different feeling for the community,” Ramirez said. “It’s a feeling of hope, we’re making progress.”

P.S. 555, which is opening with pre-K through first grade students, and  Comprehensive Model school, which is currently comprised of sixth through ninth grade students, will both eventually expand one grade at a time up until New Settlement becomes a pre-K through 12th grade facility. Ramirez said almost all eighth graders at C.M.S.P 327 chose to stay there instead of moving to another high school. The school, a project of the Settlement Housing Fund, will eventually hold about 1,100 students, according to fund’s website.

Mayor Bloomberg told reporters gathered in the library that the onus was now on students and faculty. “ We can provide the building,” Bloomberg said, flanked by Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the president of the principals’union. “Now the teachers and the principals in our school system are the ones that have to take on the heavy lifting.”

The school features smartboards, high-tech whiteboards that can be used with computers, and special windows that block out the distracting noise of nearby subway trains. It also offers after-school recreation for students. A dance studio, indoor pool and rooftop garden are among the features children and the community can enjoy. P.S. 555 principal Jessica Torres-Maheia said other schools were invited to the campus as well.

“We are reaching out to the community to kind of work together, so that the kids can use the facilities and it’s not just our building,” Torres-Maheia said.

The 172,000-square foot facility will also hold a health center.

Coupled with the amenities, New Settlement’s bright tiled walls, which varied from shades of blue to green, and the welcoming atmosphere provided a sense of cheerfulness to the school.

Some teachers hope the advanced technology will provide some incentives for kids to come to school. “It’s going to make kids more engaged in the lessons with technology,” said Michael Morgan, a ninth grade math teacher.

Parents and students waiting to enter New Settlement Community Campus on the first day of school. Valentine Pasquesoone/Bronx Ink

After officials left and the cameras stopped clicking, faculty members were still talking excitedly about their once-in-a-lifetime morning.

Parent Coordinator Mercedelli Graciano received parents who were thrilled at the school their children get to attend.

“They were in love, they were like ‘can we walk around?’” Graciano said. “They were very, very excited.”

Like her students, Thursday was the first day of school for Torres-Maheia, a former assistant principal for Ramirez who is now in charge of P.S. 555. Torres-Maheia, a Bronx resident, enjoyed the fanfare, but was most pleased about her home borough getting such a unique school.

“It’s an amazing thing to see a facility like this here, where kids don’t expect to go to schools that look like this,” Torres-Maheia said.

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Neighborhoods, Education3 Comments

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