Tag Archive | "Bronx"

Mobile Car Washers in the Bronx Take Up Permanent Residence on Jerome Avenue

Tension exists between mobile car washers, community members, and official car washing businesses in the Bronx.

Along Jerome Avenue, dozens of Bronx residents have set up vans, offering car washing services. It is unclear whether they have attained the proper licensing to do so. 

During a community gathering held on Webster Avenue in April, community members raised concerns that the mobile car washing businesses were leading to an increase of trash, road safety issues, and draining fire hydrants of water. Official car washing businesses in the Bronx are also upset because they claim to be losing customers to the mobile sites.

“They’re stealing electricity from the city. They charge much less because they’re stealing,” said David Ruiz, owner of Fordham Car Spar.

The mobile car washers open fire hydrants in order to fill their tanks with water. They also buy portable generators which are mostly left in their vans overnight, posing possible danger. According to Mader electric, portable generators should not be stored inside vehicles because of potential leaking of gasoline fumes that if inhaled can lead to fainting and even death. Gasoline is also highly flammable according to the Independent Electrical Contractors Safety Data Sheet.

Ruiz of Fordham Car Spar claimed that the majority of mobile car washers do not have the paperwork to be registered as businesses. New York City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DWCP) requires car washing licenses for businesses that clean vehicles. However, licenses are not required if a business sells, leases, rents, or repairs motor vehicles, with car washing secondary to the primary business, or if car washing is available for customers to self-serve their vehicles.  

While a few of the businesses on Jerome Avenue offer limited repair services, their primary business is car washing. 

DWCP’s rules do not appear to be enforced on Jerome Avenue. “The police do nothing,” said Ruiz. This has been confirmed by several mobile car wash workers and managers who say the police do not bother them on a regular basis.

When asked about the official car washing businesses, mobile car washer Juan Juaroz Lopez said he “understand[s] why they’re angry.”

Cars are not allowed to park on Jerome Avenue Monday through Thursday between 8.30 and 10 a.m. But many of the vans used by mobile car washers are permanently parked on the street. At least two of the vehicles had flat tires and broken windshields which would make moving the vehicle impossible.

“We have been ticketed two or three times. We tried to move the car but we couldn’t. We asked for help but no one understood the problem,” said Yan Dieo who helps his stepdad run one of the businesses. 

The vans and equipment get passed between members of the community. Lopez inherited his  business from a friend who lived nearby. 

“Everyone knows everyone here,” said Brian Hornandos, who is a customer of one mobile car wash on Jerome Avenue. “You also pay much more for the other car washes, like $45. I paid $25 for the same thing here.”

Posted in Bronx Beats, Cars, MoneyComments (0)

New York City Says Bronx Pedestrian Pathway Lawsuit Should be Dismissed, Case is ‘Moot’

Car blocking crosswalk cut in the Mt. Eden Mall area. Churchill Ndonwie for the Bronx Ink.

New York City remains steadfast in its position that it did not violate Title II of the American Disabilities Act in the pedestrian pathway class action lawsuit filed by Disability Rights New York on behalf of Bronx residents Carlos and Stephanie Diaz. 

In its response to the lawsuit, the city stated the Diazes’ complaint of not being able to access their Mt. Eden Mall neighborhood because people parked illegally on their front street, did not include enough harm or injury to warrant getting relief from the court. It also argued that the Diazes neighborhood is generally accessible most of the time and asked the case be dismissed. 

“Nor does the Complaint plead how the alleged obstructions rise to the level of a violation of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. Instead, the Complaint merely generally alleges that a problem of accessibility to the pedestrian pathways in the Mt. Eden Mall area violates the ADA,” the city’s response stated.

The court filing comes after the federal government submitted a brief in the Diazes’ lawsuit that said the city’s interpretation of the American with Disabilities Rights was wrong and it must provide clear pedestrian pathways to all residents in the Mount Eden neighborhood of the Bronx.  

Carlos Diaz who has cerebral palsy and Stephanie Diaz who has loss of vision due to degenerative disease filed the lawsuit in June saying they were not able to access their Mount Eden neighborhood because of illegal parkers and placard abusers. 

This worsened after the department of transportation granted special Covid-19 placards for healthcare workers in 2020. 

The city now argues the Mt. Eden Mall neighborhood is a large area and the Diazes’ complaint did not document very specifically what type of obstruction they encountered, where they encountered it, how frequent it was and how long it lasted for it to be a violation of the ADA.

“Plaintiffs merely alleged general conditions and obstructions on the pedestrian pathways in the general Mt. Eden Mall area without specifying, at the very least, their locations within the area that includes many blocks, avenues and intersections,” their dismissal filing claims.

Stephanie Diaze shared with the court in June that she and her husband had submitted 25 311 incident reports regarding illegal parking and recorded at least 45 illegally parked vehicles in front of curb cuts January through March 2021 with specific locations on where the incidents took place. 

The city said that Diaze’s argument is not specific enough on pedestrian pathway obstructions and what harm they caused. They reiterated the Covid-19 healthcare parking permits mentioned in the case expired and the argument of it contributing to illegal parking is now “moot”. 

According to the city’s filing, under the New York Administrative Code, conditions of sidewalks are the adjacent properties owners responsibility. They stated not all the blocked pedestrian pathways mentioned in the complaint are specific enough to determine if the obstructions fall within the city’s pathway program. 

“Thus, viewing the City of New York’s pedestrian pathways in their entirety. The Complaint, which at best alleges a few random non specific grievances that even if true do not rise to the level of ADA violations, fails to state a claim under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act, and these claims should be dismissed.”  the filing stated.

Disability Rights New York et al v. City of New York et al is currently awaiting the judges ruling on dismissal.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Cars, Community Resources, TransportationComments (0)

Non-Profit Community Center in Kingsbridge Needs $2 million in Repairs

Front doors of Kingsbridge Community Center on Wednesday, October 12th.

On a Wednesday morning in October, the sound of children playing filled the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, a non-profit organization in the Bronx. Classrooms were filled with dozens of students while strollers lined the sides of the building. Staff members cooked in the kitchen getting the next meal ready for families that may be struggling to make ends meet. 

The building, on Kingsbridge Terrace is 100-years-old and it shows. The roof is falling apart, there are tarps lined across the tops of the building to keep water out and there’s patch work to keep debris from falling.

It needs over $4 million in repairs, but the community center is $2 million short. If it doesn’t find the money in the next six months, it will have to shut its doors and find a different location. 

“Moving would have a devastating effect on the community and the staff,” Chief Operating Officer Shania Rodriguez said. 

The 10,000-square-foot building houses childcare, after school programs, ESOL classes, case management services for housing and provides a food pantry that serves 400 meals every day. 

Chairperson for the parent council, Marlene Hungria, said her daughter has been going to KHCC since she was just three months old. 

“To be at that place was like a salvation,” Hungria said. They provided her with training for healthy eating, positive discipline and a blueprint on how to tell if a child is having signs of developmental growth. 

Prior to becoming a community center, the building was owned by the New York City Police Department’s 50th precinct. After the NYPD left it was assigned to the Parks and Recreation Department that now leases it to KHCC, according to property records.  

In 2014, KHCC got $2 million from the city discretionary awards to build a new facility, according to  Rodriguez. But at the time the non-profit was in a bad financial state – it had gone through layoffs and furloughs and a change in administration. Margaret Della, the current CEO was brought on in 2016. 

KHCC realized it wasn’t financially able to build a new facility and decided instead to put the funds they were awarded toward a remodel of their current building, according to several staff members. 

This started another process- according to a Guidelines sheet for Capital Funding Requests for Not-for-Profit Organizations, if an organization changes the project for another type of work they have to submit a new form for the following fiscal year and start the process over. A capital project can take years, according to NYC Parks.

But by the time the community center got the funds reallocated and approved, the pandemic hit. The project jumped from $2 million to $4.2 million.  

“We do not have the funds to meet that drastically increased amount,” Della said.  

The entire building’s facade and the upper roof has to be redone, according to Rodriguez, who went to a parks and recreation meeting last month to notify Community Board 8 that the organization needs help reaching out and notifying community leaders regarding the repairs. 

The community center wants to be able to focus on the services they provide and not worry about, “literally the roof over our heads,” Della said.

Even though the building is owned by the city of New York, it does not bear the responsibility of fixing it. According to the lease agreement between KHCC and the Parks Department, it states that “Neither Parks nor the Commissioner is obligated to fund any repairs or alterations to the site.”  

“I should have never even entertained the idea that KHCC could handle these repairs,” Della said.   

If the building can’t be fixed and the center is forced to move, it has to stay in the same zip code because it’s funded by federal dollars – which poses another challenge for the organization. 

KHCC has two adjacent properties, one is a little white house with a playground in front. This house hosts the program “changing futures,” which provides free long term therapy to survivors of child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and campus assault. The other building is the Early Childhood Administration building where KHCC works with families who are below the poverty line to be eligible for free childcare. 

The property is made up of three buildings all dedicated to KHCC, and if the main building moves community members might not be able to move with it. 

The Youth room in KHCC, where over 75 teens come to do homework and work on college applications after school.

Marisol Rios works in the Early Childhood Administration building and has been with KHCC for 13 years.

“If KHCC has to move it will fall,” Rios said. 

She said that many parents came to her after the pandemic and said that without the community center they wouldn’t have survived because of all the services they provide, including free meals.  

“It’s kind of central to the city so people don’t have to travel that far, and I think this building is perfect because we have the other buildings next to it,” Hungria said. 

The three buildings all work together to form one support system for the entire community.  

“Between the Early Childhood building, the little white house and the big building, they’re all connected pieces,” Della said. 

KHCC has had to patch walls and put up tarps throughout the building, to keep it safe, but that’s the extent of what they can afford to repair. So far they’ve paid for the damages out of their own operating budget that is supposed to be covering salaries and investing in programs. 

“The Kingsbridge Heights Community Center is a valued community space for free and low-cost youth and adult programming in the Bronx, and we are working with them to help facilitate needed repairs to the building and its façade,” the Parks Department said in an email. 

Rodriguez said that in order to get the money quickly the community center would have to fundraise the extra two million dollars it needs, but according to their financial statement from FY21 only three percent of their income comes from fundraising. 

“The cost to be safe is going to continue to go up,” Della said. 

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Community Resources, Housing, The Bronx BeatComments (0)

Remaining Quonset Hut Serves as a Reminder of Current New York City Housing Crisis

A Quonset hut located in Soundview. Mansi Vithlani for The Bronx Ink.

In the midst of New York City’s housing crisis, in which Mayor Eric Adams has initiated the construction of a tent city for over 10,000 migrants, a huge silver-colored dome-shaped hut made of rigid steel sits between Rosedale and Metcalf — in the middle of Seward Avenue — in Soundview. It’s a reminder that the problem of housing scarcity or affordability is not recent. It dates back almost 76 years, with innovative and arguably questionable emergency housing solutions being prevalent both post-war and today.

The hut is located next to a parking garage that at first glance appears to be abandoned, with a wire fence that is frequently locked surrounding both the garage and the hut.

Technically, it’s known as a Quonset hut and could be one of many that were built in the United States during World War II. They were mostly utilized by the military for a range of things, including barracks, storage, sheds, offices, and hospitals. After that, they were converted into affordable housing for returning veterans who had started families, due to the urgent housing shortage, post-war. The housing shortage however, dates back to the post-depression era between 1929 and 1939

WATCH: Bronx Ink reporter Mansi Vithlani takes us inside the hut.

Records indicate that there was an entire neighborhood of Quonset huts in Castle Hill, in the south Bronx, in the late 1940s and early 50s. They were used as temporary housing for returning WWII veterans, nearly 962 families.

The George Fuller construction company is accredited with being the first to produce Quonset huts for the US Navy in 1941. The Quonset hut design however, was influenced by the more intricate Nissen hut design, created by the British during World War I. The Quonset Point neighborhood, a Navy base in Rhode Island, is where the first production site of the huts was located, giving them their name

The hut at Soundview is not a remnant of World War II and is now used for storage, according to a New York City Housing Authority spokesperson. NYCHA owns the hut, according to property records. It’s part of Soundview Houses, a development built in 1954. But NYCHA does not know where the hut came from.

A NYCHA spokesperson said they were unaware whether the hut was relocated from another location, such as the Castle Hill hut development and placed in Soundview, or if it was built from scratch for storage. It does, however, serve as a poignant reminder of the housing crisis in the 1900s.

Utilizing NYC Then & Now, from 1951, 1996 and 2004, the Quonset hut in Soundview does not show up until after 1996. 

1951 – No development in Soundview

1996 – No hut

2004 – Hut clearly shown 

1951 – Quonset Hut neighborhood in Castle Hill, Bronx

There was a dire need for veteran housing in the 1940s, and so the Quonset huts were placed in subdivisions, which are divided plots of land for homes for families, as a way to control the ongoing crisis. “The housing emergency was to push public housing again, because it wasn’t there,” said Nicholas Dagen Bloom, a Professor of Urban Policy and Planning.

A 1946 quonset hut community built at Bruckner Blvd. & Boynton Ave. in Soundview for returning veterans. Courtesy of Lehman C​ollege, Leonard Lief Library.

“From the 30s definitely until the 50s, there was this dominant view that the city needed to be reconstructed and enormous money was available from mostly the state and federal governments to do this (construction) work until the 1960s,” he added. 

Sebastian Mudry, 77, lived in a Quonset hut in Castle Hill with his parents and two younger brothers from 1951. He was about to start kindergarten at the time. “I loved it because we had a place of our own… We had been living at my grandmother’s…And it was overcrowded,” Mudry said.

LISTEN: Sebastian Mudry recalls his move to the Quonsets.

Mudry wrote about his experience in “A Bronx Boys’ Christmas,” a book about a Christmas party for 50 or 60 of the Quonset hut kids, with one hut decorated with festive ornaments and a feast laid out for the children to celebrate the holiday.

Sebastian Mudry, 77, who lived in a Castle Hill Quonset when he was in kindergarten. Photo taken via Zoom.

He recalls the hut he once called home feeling luxurious at the time, as they had the kerosene stove. “That kept us warm,” Mudry said. There was also a small kitchen and a bathroom in the hut. “(It) had just a shower, I believe, not as I recall a bathtub, just room enough up for an upright shower,” he added.

LISTEN: Mudry explains the layout of the Quonset hut. 

Each hut was divided for two families by a wall, but sound was able to pass through, according to Roger McCormack, director of education at the Bronx County Historical Society. He explains that although the shelters featured kerosene stoves, they were not favored by the majority. “I know there were a number of complaints that they weren’t heated very well, there were leaks, so it was a short period of time for them to live in,” McCormack added. 

The Housing Act 1949 began new significant federal appropriations for public housing to help with the post-war housing shortfall, and according to Bloom, these projects in New York, were pushed by Robert Moses and his ambition in redeveloping the city. 

Research indicates that Robert Moses, known as the “master builder”,  was appointed to the City Planning Commission in 1941, and that he later served as chairman of the Emergency Committee on Housing. Moses decided to take advantage of the surplus huts that were available after the war which could serve as temporary housing by assembling them on vacant land.

“Robert Moses was not a fan of public housing, he didn’t really run it until the mid 1940s, but then when he did, he turned it into a machine for building. He was called the construction coordinator in the post-war year, so all of the money that came to New York had to come through him,” Bloom said.

Moses’ implicit authority over subsidized housing was fully established once he was chosen by Mayor William O’Dwyer to serve as the City Construction Coordinator in 1946. In 1946 huts in Soundview can be traced to Mayor William O’Dwyer. He requested that New York City receive 1,345 Quonset huts that would be constructed in Soundview Park, spanning 148 acres of land, and that the Board of Estimate and the Public Federal Housing Authority provide the temporary housing units.

“Soundview and Castle Hill was always farmland, it was marshy and particularly in the 1940s, it was fairly inhabited, so that’s why they chose that as a location,” McCormack said.

Living in a Quonset gave Mudry the opportunity to live a typical childhood, playing games such as tag, hide-and-seek, red light, green light, 123, and he never encountered bullying. “It was like a city of Quonset huts… it was a delightful experience, ” he added.

LISTEN:  Mudry recalls his experience living in the Castle Hill Quonset.

Within a few years, the families were rehoused into new NYCHA developments if they qualified, Bloom explained. Following a “$57 million city investment” that had started in 1961,  high rise apartment constructions would begin, removing the Quonset huts in the Bronx and replacing them with modern row homes and apartment complexes with multiple units. 

Almost 76 years later, affordable housing units remain a pressing concern for New York City residents. The city is currently experiencing a housing crisis with more than 52,000  homeless people in NYC. 

Number of people in NYC shelters. Chart courtesy of Brendan Cheney, Director of Policy and Communications at the New York Housing Conference.

“It’s such a huge crisis right now. We’ve been talking about the housing crisis for way too long, years, decades, but I didn’t really appreciate it until the other day looking at numbers about just how big the current crisis is and how overwhelming the need is,” said Brendan Cheney, Director of Policy and Communications at the New York Housing Conference.

“Quonset huts and tents, it’s a story right there, right? New York did this,” Bloom said.

In response to the thousands of asylum seekers being brought across the Texas border, Adams ordered the construction of relief centers, referred to as “tent city,” which were initially set up in the Bronx and eventually moved to Randall’s Island as a result of flooding.

“The Quonset huts were really a waystation for a very brief period, and they were erected at the same time the city was launching vast and enormous housing projects on a scale. So there’s that difference. There will be this temporary housing but there really isn’t permanent housing available for the migrants,” Bloom added.

The current housing supply cannot address the crisis as is, and that more federal assistance is required, Cheney explained. “It’s been going on for 70 years, and it’s not, ‘but now we’re finally approaching the end’. No, it could continue for another several years. I hope not, but it’s so frustrating,” he added.

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Housing, Southern BronxComments (0)

In the Face of Record Shop Closures, Moodies Records Persists

 Moodies Records hosts a celebration of life for the deceased owner, Earl Moodie. Liz Foster for the Bronx Ink.

Reggae music overpowers light chatter in a room where music legends cover the walls; Michael Jackson posters, Taylor Swift CDs and Lauryn Hill vinyl records flank a narrow aisle weaving between the rows of entertainment. Baskets filled with incense and hair conditioners sit near the cash register as Williamsbridge’s older residents chat on the shady sidewalk underneath a rumbling 2-train. Friends, neighbors and family joined together to celebrate the life of Earl Moodie, owner of Moodies Records, who died last September at the age of sixty-nine. 

“He opened the shop, the rest is history,” said his son, Earl Moodie Jr. 

Moodies Records, a small music store in Williamsbridge, has persisted despite the shift from vinyl to digital, and in the face of big brands like T-Mobile moving into the storefronts that line White Plains Rd. and Westchester Ave.  

The locally owned Records-N-Stuff and Tony Ryan Records & Electronics have both disappeared – just two of the Bronx vinyl shops that went out of business in the early 2010s. But Moodies is still selling records. 

Against a wave of closing independent shops, Moodies holds the line.

Entering an online search for “record shop in the Bronx” or “Bronx music store” yields two results: Moodies and Cholo’s Record Shop. Cholo’s sits at the very southern tip of the Bronx, a mere stone’s throw from Manhattan. Looking up other music shop names, like Cam DVD & Music World, lead to links and contact information for Moodies, not even showing the closed store. 

While streaming subscriptions continue to grow–$5 billion according to the Recording Industry Association of America’s mid-year report – the problem facing record shops isn’t a lack of interest in vinyl. In fact, record sales have increased over 4000% in the past decade, from one million units sold in 2009 to 41.7 million units sold in 2021, according to statistica.com.

Independent record stores scattered throughout the country comprised around 52% of the market share in 2022, most often selling rock and hip-hop albums. Major companies like Amazon, Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters, nonetheless, hold a tight grip on the vinyl market. 

But platforms like Amazon fail to highlight the sense of community that independent record stores provide. While algorithms can offer what you “may like,” the suggestion is a result of data and analytics, not a person who can “analyze the soulfulness of your music choices,” said Edward Bilous,  Founding Director of the Center for Innovation in the Arts at the Juilliard School.

Vinyl, as a medium, shows a “breakdown of the artistic choice – the tender loving care – that was put into the record making process,” Bilous said.

 The word album as we know it dates back to the 19th century, meaning a “collection of individual works with a certain structure in mind,” he said. This structure became less important in the new digital music marketplace, where someone can replay the one song that they’d like to hear without having to listen to the entire body of musical work. 

“I think that that’s missed in the digital world,” said Bilous, “I don’t think there will be a day where it will be impossible to find vinyl.”

Moodies Records opened over forty years ago in 1973, gaining popularity in the late 1980s. The shop instilled itself in the community, hosting meet and greets with artists, gatherings and performances. Stars like Bob Marley, Slick Rick and Ashanti found their way to the store, which sits among the crowds of businesses on White Plains Rd. Critic Anthony Bourdain featured the shop on an episode of his television show Parts Unknown, highlighting Moodies as a building block for hip-hop and reggae. Pierre Barclay, Moodie’s nephew, described the store as “the beating heart” of reggae.

“Music helps out. It deals with a lot,” Barclay said. He explained that Moodies aims to relieve people of their worries, even if only for the length of an album. This mission for consumers to practice self care is why the store expanded to selling a few skincare and haircare products. Moodies is for the mind and body. 

Earl Moodie began his career performing in a band, the Stepping Stones. His son said that his father “poured everything into” music which was “his life,” echoing the store’s motto, “music is life.” In Williamsbridge, Moodie was more than just an artist and tastemaker.

“It’s what he was meant to do,” reflected Moodie Jr., explaining that Moodie was “very smart” but chose not to “go corporate.” With help from fellow music enthusiast and New York City reggae icon Brad Osbourne, Moodie began his nearly fifty year career at the record store. That the store still remains speaks both to his skills as a businessman and his immersion in the neighborhood and music industry. 

Moodie was described by family and close friends as “a man of the people” and “a really good guy.” Some neighbors trusted him enough to hold onto their savings as though he were a bank. Moodie Jr. believes that his father has “good karma.” One comment on a Facebook post announcing Moodie’s death reads, “he was a true pillar of the community.” 

As for other record shops in the Bronx, “all of them are gone,” said Barclay. 

“As long as we got vinyl, we’ll be here.”

 Vinyls, CDs, DVDs and more cover nearly every inch of Moodies Records. Liz Foster for the Bronx Ink. 

Posted in ArtsComments (0)

AOC Town Hall Discusses Asylum Seekers, War in Ukraine and Post Office

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D – NY 14th District) explains President Biden’s marijuana pardons at her town hall meeting in the Bronx. Churchill Ndonwie for the Bronx Ink.

A town hall held by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D – NY 14th District) Wednesday night in Pelham Parkway, addressed several issues including the war in Ukraine, immigration, gun rights and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

But for Bronxite Daina Finch, 68, being able to utilize her local post office was her priority. 

“Locally, we’ve just had so much trouble with our post offices being understaffed and underfunded,” she said. Her question to Ocasio-Cortez was an update on Postmaster Louis DeJoy who was appointed by USPS Board of Governors under former President Trump to lead the agency.

On March 23, 2021, Dejoy announced the Delivering for America plan, a 10 year plan to help the agency out of its $160B projected debt and “achieve financial sustainability and service excellence.” Since implemented, the USPS has consolidated its districts from 67 to 50 and in July, Dejoy said he plans to cut the USPS workforce by 50,000. 

For Finch, this would impact her publishing business that relies heavily on mailing. 

“Fewer people at the post office, which means longer lines,” she said. 

“It all feeds on itself. if you’re understaffed, then people have to wait in lines, and it’s harder for them to do business” she continued. 

Ocasio-Cortez is part of a subcommittee within the congressional oversight committee whose scope includes the USPS. “I think it’s an issue that’s not getting enough attention,” Ocasio-Cortez  said.

 “And it’s, it’s really concerning, because we’ve seen both how much postal services are relied on, but how much they are under invested in our community, especially this neck of the woods, in this part of the Bronx,” she said.

The almost two-hour town hall was interrupted at times by protesters who did not agree with Ocasio-Cortez’s stands on the war in Ukraine and the migrants’ housing in New York City. 

“None of this matters unless there’s a nuclear war, which you voted to send arms and weapons to Ukraine…..You originally voted — ran as an outsider yet you have been voting to start this war in Ukraine. You are voting to start a third war with Russia and China, ” a protester shouted from the audience regarding the representative voting for military and financial aid to be sent to Ukraine. 

“I believed in you and you became the very thing you said you’ll fight against,” another protester erupted from the audience. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Town Hall interrupted by Anti War Protesters

Ocasio-Cortez also announced she is working with the office of Mayor Eric Adams to complete a federal Housing & Development grant program application that would help with the City’s housing crisis. “We need more housing and we need that housing to be for us. It shouldn’t be for Wall Street. It shouldn’t be for people who are trying to squeeze us every single time for rent. And we need to make sure that the city is affordable,” she said.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, PoliticsComments (0)

two rows of metal crates each have a dog peering out

How Much Longer is That Doggie in The Window Allowed? The “Puppy Mill Pipeline” Bill sits on Governor’s desk

A state bill banning the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in retail pet shops passed the Senate and Assembly in June but is yet to be signed by the governor. Several pet dealers in the Bronx, there are five licensed in total, now await the decision of whether the “Puppy Mill Pipeline Legislation” will become law. 

Marlene Jimenez, 31, owner of R&K Pet Shop in East Tremont, said she doesn’t know how she will change her business model if the law goes into effect. 

“The only hope I have is – I hope my store doesn’t go down. A lot of businesses are shutting down and that’s my scare,” Jimenez said.

“I’m already getting people used to it. We’re minimizing our orders of dogs because the breeders are already leaving, they’re going somewhere else,” she said, arguing that pet shops “don’t make money from selling merchandise.”

Eddie Diaz, General Manager at R&K noted, “The dogs always sell, regardless. They go really fast. It’s amazing, because this is a poor neighborhood, you’d be surprised by how many people come.” The dogs usually sell for somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000, depending on breed, and decreasing in price as they get older. 

Zoo-Rama, a Westchester Square pet shop, had more than 50 puppies for sale in its store on a day in September, making it one of the largest pet retailers in the Bronx. A Zoo-Rama employee said he believes the store will close if the bill goes into effect. 

Instead of banning the sale of these animals in stores, he would rather the government put more restrictions in place and close the pet shops that don’t abide.

Meanwhile, animal rights organizations including the New York State Animal Protection Federation, are championing the bill, pressuring Governor Kathy Hochul to sign.  

Looking for a dog with his partner on a Friday in September, Ivan Valerio, 30, explained that the reason that they chose to go to a pet shop was that “we got to interact with the pet.” 

Valerio and his partner petted and picked up the dog they were considering in a playpen in the center of the store. “Since we’re first time pet owners, I don’t know if we would consider shelter pets,” said Valerio, adding they would also consider buying a dog from a breeder.

When not being considered for purchase, the more than 50 dogs at Zoo-Rama are held in metal kennels  – sometimes two in one – with a blanket rolled up in the corner, leaving the kennels unlined so that the dogs’ excretions can fall through the gaps.

On the same afternoon, the dogs watched, slept, sipped their water or scratched at their cage. One black and white puppy ate the excrement off the bottom of his cage.

A young girl perused the kennels with her mother.

“No. No… you be quiet,” she said sternly to a barking dog.

Shelters and breeders, unlike pet shops, would not be affected by the ban on pet sales. The sale of animals from breeders to consumers would remain legal, as would adoption.

“The pet stores have the opportunity with this bill to rebrand as humane pet stores that care about the animals,” said Libby Post, Executive Director of the NYSAPF. They could work together with shelters, for example, placing animals up for adoption in the storefront windows instead of ordering puppies. 

The NYSAPF sent over 2,500 postcards to the governor’s office, urging her to sign the bill, Post said. Hochul is reviewing the legislation, according to her press office. 

While the bill failed to pass the assembly in 2019 and 2020 in its previous versions, in June, it passed the New York Senate 57 in favor to 5 against.  

If the bill is signed by the Governor the act will go into effect one year after becoming law. 

A dog in a pet shop in the Bronx. This video may be upsetting to watch. Marleen Kaesebier for The Bronx Ink.

Posted in Bronx Beats, Bronx Blog, Bronx Neighborhoods, East Bronx, Morrisania, Multimedia, North Central Bronx, Northwest Bronx, Politics, Southern Bronx, The Bronx BeatComments (0)

School Construction Authority a No-Show at Public Hearing

The Bronx Community Board 8 held a public hearing on the School Construction Authority’s proposed public school at 160 Van Cortlandt Park South, but no one from the SCA came to the meeting which was held via zoom last Thursday. 

The board invited SCA to attend, but SCA declined.

“It’s pretty ridiculous that they are not here,” said Dan Padernacht, a board member. “We should demand from them or even forward in the resolution that they appear in front of us.”

School overcrowding has been an issue across New York State where about 37 % of school enrollment exceeds capacity, according to a 2019 report by the Citizen’s Committee for Children of New York. District 10, including Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Fordham, has an overcrowded rate of 42 %.

The SCA has proposed a 736-seat primary school grades from pre-K through five that will open in 2027. It will occupy one-half-acre sharing the site with an affordable housing project by Tishman Speyer. Residents in the area and board members have raised concerns over safety for children, traffic, parking, environmental impact and other issues the new development will bring to the neighborhood.

“I agree that a new school should be put in our neighborhood due to overcrowding in nearby schools,” said Alexandria Fittipaldi, a New York City Department of Education teacher who lives in the Bronx. “But it is important that we keep class sizes low and give our students an opportunity to learn and grow successfully.”

She also questioned the rooftop playground on the proposed school’s five-story structure.

“Being successful is also having a large outside space to run and play in addition to a playground. Not one on top of a roof,” she said.

“Most of our students live in small apartments and then they go to overcrowded classrooms. They don’t need a cramped space to play in,” she said. “They need open space.”

Christina Carlson, a resident who lives next to the proposed site, echoed that children need to “have a safe outdoor ground level playground as opposed to a rooftop cage that nobody knows how tall it is supposed to be.”

SCA first notified CB 8 about the new school proposal on November 19, 2021, but the sizing and planning of the school have since changed. The most recent document was a Negative Declaration issued by SCA on June 22, 2022, pursuant to their 144-page Environmental Review published on May 26, 2022. 

In the document, SCA determined that the project “will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment including but not limited to traffic, parking, flooding, noise, air quality, shadows, and sewer system because their plans will mitigate those impacts.”

The site is located on Van Cortlandt Park South, at the entrance to the Major Deegan Expressway. Residents living near the site said that the area has already suffered from congestion because of the volume of traffic. The SCA will mitigate some of the traffic problems with the implementation of traffic signals and adjustments to signal timing, according to the document.

Traffic at the entrance to the Major Deegan Expressway. Mingxuan Zhu for The Bronx Ink.

“How will we be able to reassure our neighbors here that there will not be double parking of parents, guardians and caregivers picking up their children,” Fittipaldi said. “This is going to make the commute longer for everyone.”

However, without the presence of representatives from SCA, Tishman Speyer and the state senate in the public hearing, the board can only act as a mediator.

Since October 2021, the board has had people from SCA and Tishman Speyer coming to land use meetings and education meetings separately, but they never show up together.

“Both School Construction Authority and the developer (Tishman Speyer) should be here where they stand as two different projects but they stand on the same block and the impact of traffic and space etc. is a shared concern for this site,” said Rosemary Ginty, a board member.

“I think there needs to be another public hearing of this community with representatives from both agencies appearing,” she said. “You can’t figure out what the issues are or what the questions are until you get a full presentation. Otherwise, you’re just guessing what the issues and questions are. You have a feeling for your community but you need that presentation.”

Another board member, Camelia Tepelus, added that there is also a lack of authority in the meetings.

“I would beg the office to make a more concerted effort to have our elected representatives tell the community what they believe about these projects,” Tepelus said. 

“We are an advisory body but these people are people in executive positions. I do believe that the board could reach out a little bit more not to hear only from people but from the people they voted for,” she said.

Jeffrey Dinowtiz, the New York State District 81 Assemblyman, who has been supporting a new school at the site but voiced concern over the size of the school at the Sept. 13 full-board meeting did not come to the public hearing. In an email response, he said that his office does not have a formal role “other than being a voice for our community to bureaucrats.” However, he said that he is “absolutely aware of the issue,” and his office “will do what we can to help advocate for reasonable concerns to be rectified.”

The CB 8 Chair, Laura Spalter, said the SCA has stated it will respond to the comments and questions raised and will “come back later in the process to publicly discuss design and construction with representatives from the Department of Education.”

However, a joint meeting with both SCA and Tishman Speyer has yet to be scheduled.

“We’ve been told different things by different people,” said Martin Wolpoff, a board member. “There’s misinformation and there’s no information and there is counter information. And we’re not getting any of it as correct.”

Residents have reached out to both Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Senator Robert Jackson who oversee SCA about the issue.

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Education, EducationComments (0)

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