Tag Archive | "Mott Haven"

Violent crime in Mott Haven, Melrose at five-year high

Weekend mornings in Melrose are usually about sounds that help people relax. There’s the bell from the Church of Immaculate Conception, and soft music from shops that have just opened up for business. So when Maximino Rivera heard shots early on a Saturday last November, he couldn’t believe his ears. Minutes later, he walked in on an armored truck that had just been looted on Third Avenue.

Members of the South Bronx Community Congress, a consortium of various community organizations, demand more jobs to control violence. (NASR UL HADI/The Bronx Ink)

The weekend after, Rivera and other members of the South Bronx Community Congress — a consortium of various community organizations — marched down Brook Avenue in Mott Haven, demanding measures to control the violence. “We haven’t seen such heists since the 70s,” said Rivera, who has been involved with welfare work since 1989. “The statistics may or may not show it, but we can see that violence is becoming a bigger problem.”

Rivera’s instincts are fairly accurate. The South Bronx’s 40th Precinct, an area of less than three square miles, has reported almost 500 incidents of violent crime this year. More than 90 percent of these are felonious assaults, mostly shootings. In October, six incidents of gun violence were reported on a single Sunday.

Violence has climbed steadily, almost straight up, since 2008. This year’s toll — both overall, and individually for murder, rape and assault — is the highest in at least five years. The count so far is at least 20 murders and 23 rapes; that’s about one of each every two weeks, in a population of less than 180,000.

Statistics

Murders in the community have gone up by more than 35 percent since last year. The last time this number was at par with the average across other precincts in the Bronx was in 2008. Since then, the borough’s average has remained below 12, while the 40th’s numbers have gone up by more than 50 percent.

The 2006 Community Health Profiles rank homicide among the top five causes of premature death in Mott Haven.

The rise in incidents of sexual violence is even more disturbing. Rapes are up by 75 percent since last year. Also, for the first time in five years, the 40th has registered more incidents than the borough’s average per precinct.

Assaults in the neighborhood remain at a much higher threshold than the rest of the Bronx, and the gap has been widening consistently. There were 445 incidents of felonious assault in the 40th Precinct this year, 20 percent more than the borough average of 367.

Analysis

Banners at the residents’ march against violence primarily demanded more jobs and less poverty, as a solution to the spike in violence. “It’s all about connecting the dots between our social problems and violence,” said Raymond Figueroa, who runs a development program for incarcerated youth at Brook Park.

“Poverty and unemployment statistics are like canaries in the mine,” he said. “The minute they start acting up, you know that the situation is becoming dangerous. It’s a circle. Violence happens when people are violated.”

Figueroa explained that there are several jobs in the neighborhood that are just not available to locals, mostly because they are not educated enough. “Our schools haven’t been able to help our children, because they don’t have enough human resources to address our needs,” he said.

New York University’s Furman Center found that more than 75 percent of students in Mott Haven and Hunts Point perform below grade level in reading. In math, that number is almost 65 percent. Eventually these students drop out; more than half the residents in this community do not have a high school diploma.

“These unemployed youth then turn to underground businesses,” said Figueroa. “Prostitution and drug/gun running provide something that is very tangible and immediate.”

This reasoning does seem to hold ground. At least two-thirds of those involved in this year’s murders — both victims and perpetrators — were 25 or younger. Also, all the data charts shared earlier in this text show the 2008-09 recession to be the start of the upward trend in violent crime. During the same period, unemployment in this community doubled, going from about 9 percent to more than 18 percent.

“Joblessness feeds poverty in our community,” reiterated Figueroa, “which in turn makes it difficult for our kids to stick to school.” The 2006 Community Health Profiles estimate the poverty level in Mott Haven at 45 percent, twice as much as New York City overall.

“Poor school-age kids eventually turn to friends on the street for support, and that’s how they become gangs. The Dominicans go to the Trinitarios, the African Americans stick with the Bloods, the Puerto Ricans with the Latin Kings, and so on.”

“We call them gangs, but they think of themselves as street families,” he said. “And these families run the underground economy, which is the source of most violence.”

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Images of the Libyan conflict find a South Bronx audience

Images of the Libyan conflict find a South Bronx audience

World Press Photo award winner Tim Hetherington was killed in Libya on April 20, not long after he took the image above. (TED REGENCIA/The Bronx Ink)

One image shows an elderly man and two boys posing with spent mortar shells. Another captures a family fleeing a wrecked building, terror etched on their faces. In still another, a young soldier brandishes a machine gun, bullets wrapped around his body.

These full-color photos from the recent civil war in Libya are on display in Mott Haven as part of “Visions: Tim Hetherington,” the inaugural exhibition of the Bronx Documentary Center that opened on October 22, to honor the slain photojournalist and award-winning director of the documentary, “Restrepo,” a feature-length film on a U.S. platoon in Afghanistan.

Some of the photos on display were taken on the fatal day, when Hetherington and his fellow photographer, Chris Hondros, were caught in a crossfire in the Libyan rebel stronghold of Misurata.

The grim images notwithstanding, the center buzzed with energy in anticipation of the opening.

The newly renovated Beaux-Arts building on the corner of Courtlandt Avenue and 151st Street is home to the new center, the first of its kind in the South Bronx, which seeks to educate students through photography and video, while serving as a venue for world-class photojournalists and filmmakers to engage an “underserved” local community.

“Despite his success, Tim never lost sight of the human dynamics behind the violence he documented,” reads the exhibition’s synopsis posted on the wall.

The gallery was the brainchild of Michael Kamber, 48,  a New York Times photographers and reporter, to honor his friend, the late Hetherington. “I came up here with Tim, and we thought this is a community that doesn’t see documentary photography,” said Kamber, 48, who renovated the historic four-story building with financing from Fractured Atlas, a non-profit organization for the arts.  “This is the place to build it.”

After the legendary photographer was killed in Libya, Kamber moved back to the Bronx after a 20 year absence, and rushed to finish the first-floor gallery space. The top floor of the building that Kamber bought for $614,000 serves as Kamber’s home.

Sebastian Junger, another award-winning photographer and friend of both Kamber and Hetherington, said the center is an important addition to the community. “The South Bronx obviously is a community that’s had some tough years in its past and I think it’s just amazing that the photo community has an outpost here,” said the author of the bestseller, The Perfect Storm. “Typically you think of that as being in Manhattan.”

For Kamber, a three-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize — twice for photography and once for reporting — it’s his way of enriching his own neighborhood.

“We want to get young people in here,” said Kamber. “We’re going to show them this work and explain them what documentary photography is.”

The Bronx's newly opened Documentary Center displays Hetherington's work (TED REGENCIA/The Bronx Ink)

Aside from welcoming students, Kamber also plans to organize talks about veterans and post-war trauma – two of Hetherington’s most cherished issues.

It took five months of hard work for Kamber and his team to renovate the gallery. Photography students and friends, as well as fellow veterans of the war in Afghanistan pitched in to help.

On opening night, many of New York’s photography aficionados trooped north from Brooklyn and Manhattan for the event. Attendees huddled around the photo installations, while an overflow crowd packed its backyard. Spotted among the hundred or so attendees were veteran South Bronx photojournalists Mel Rosenthal and Ricky Flores, as well as Bronx artist Carey Clark from the community group, The Point.

Lawrence Scott, a 64-year old television producer, said he “fell in love with the concept” of a documentary center and decided to volunteer his time.

“A lot of people that would not normally come to the Bronx would come and realize that it’s a neighborhood just like any place else,” said Scott, who lives nearby.

Fanny Placentia, an 18 year-old Bronx native studying visual arts, said she was excited to learn that a new gallery was opening in her neighborhood. The young brown-haired teenager came with a classmate and their teacher to have a look at the 36-by-30-inch war photographs.

“I don’t have to go to great lengths to get to the center,” said Placentia, who found the exhibition inspiring, even though she had never heard of Hetherington. “It’s right there near my home.”

The photo exhibit runs until Dec. 2, 2011.

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The cost of murder in Mott Haven

At 3 a.m. on October 15, Maria Rojas woke to the sound of her phone ringing. Police from the South Bronx’s 40th Precinct said that her eldest son had been stabbed. By the time she reached Lincoln Hospital, doctors had tried, and failed, to revive 24-year-old Joel.

Hours later, as she spoke to the local funeral director, Rojas, 42, felt her heart break for a second time that day. She was at least $1,800 short of what she needed to pay for the cheapest burial possible. That was more than she had ever made in a month.

By the end of the week, Joel was interred in Chietla, Mexico, 2,600 miles away from his family, only because they couldn’t afford to bury him in New York City.


View From New York to Chietla: Joel Rojas’ Journey in Death in a larger map

Death is an inevitable burden in any community. But in neighborhoods such as Mott Haven, epidemic levels of poverty, illegal immigration and violent crime provide the worst context to human loss. Rojas’ experience since her son’s death illustrates how this district, both as individual families and as a community, does not have the fiscal or social resources needed to deal with the consequences of murder.

Funeral expenses

Rojas washes employees’ uniforms at a restaurant in lower Manhattan. At the end of the month, she pays $1,300 in rent-cum-utilities and takes home about $200 to support a family of six — an unemployed ailing husband, three school-age children, and until recently, Joel. It took her five years, on a radically austere budget and a regular job, to rack up $700 in savings. She hoped, nervously, that it would be enough in case of an emergency.

It wasn’t enough. An average funeral in the United States costs at least $6,560.

Rojas’ options for a funeral were limited. A city burial, though free, would place Joel in the potter’s field on Hart Island, in an unmarked trench along with several other indigents. The most economical yet dignified option was a direct burial, which saved on costs like embalming, flowers, et cetera, because it didn’t involve a memorial service or visitation.

But Rojas’ budget still didn’t make the grade. “Our direct burials start at $2,547,” said Michael Ortiz, 73, owner of the R. G. Ortiz network of more than 20 funeral homes across Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. “Add any of the optional elements that are part of traditional burials, and the cost can go up to $8,000.”

Ortiz’s chain is headquartered at Hunts Point, and has a smaller branch on Willis Avenue in Mott Haven. Most families in these areas have a median household income of about $1,600 per month, and cannot afford to bury their dead. Latinos like the Rojases, who comprise about 70 percent of this population, often choose to ship their dead back home instead.

Joel's memorial at the Rojases' apartment in Mott Haven, on the last day of the traditional Mexican mourning period. (NASR UL HADI/Bronx Ink)

“Sending Joel’s body to Mexico was the logical choice for many reasons,” said Rojas. The shipping process, mediated by Ortiz’s enterprise, cost a total of just $1,700 — about 35 percent less than what she would have paid in New York. The fact that the Mexican consulate sponsors the transport of remains when immigrants cannot afford it, allowed Rojas to spend her $700 savings on a small wake instead.

“For the Puerto Ricans, Dominicans or Mexicans, shipping their dead home just doesn’t cost as much as a grave in this city,” said Ortiz. Buying a burial plot in the Bronx costs anywhere between $650 and $6,450. “And this cost will only rise as the number of grave lots at cemeteries like St Raymond’s and Woodlawn goes down over the next few years.”

That’s why more and more people are switching to cremation. The cost of interring then comes down to anything between $600 and $1,450. The management at Woodlawn too pointed out this trend. “Ten years ago, our annual burial and cremation count was 1,200 each,” said Susan Olsen, Woodlawn’s director of historical services. “This year so far, we have already had over 2,400 cremations with just about a 1,000 burials.” There is no denying that cost has been a major factor. “We also offer another low-cost option, which clients find more ‘engaging’ — glass entombment of memorabilia in our mausoleum,” said Olsen.

Cost-efficient or not, Rojas, a devout Catholic, just wouldn’t consider cremating her son. “He might not be near us, but I feel content that he is near our ancestors. With the money I had, that is more than I could have asked for,” she said.

Trauma and stress

Funeral expenses are the most obvious fallout of murder. But there is also an intangible component to the cost, which includes fear and psychological injury, among other consequences. The City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene estimates that 10 percent of adults suffer from serious psychological distress in Mott Haven and Hunts Point.

“Our neighborhoods are just not equipped with support systems to help families affected by murder,” said Lew Zuchman, director at the Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network (SCAN), an organization that works with youth to prevent violence. “The only city employees a victim’s family sees after the tragedy are cops. But their job is to investigate the case, not help the family deal with it.”

Rojas couldn’t agree more. Joel’s stabbing was caught on security cameras, and the police released a photograph of the suspect. Two months later, they are yet to make an arrest. In the video below, Rojas describes how she tried hard to improve her access to police information, but hit a dead end each time. ”I went back to the precinct several times, but they didn’t let me see the detective handling Joel’s case. I don’t know where else to go,” she said.

Rojas said she had no idea there were city agencies who could help her.  “If there are agencies to help these people, they don’t reach out to you,” said Zuchman. “You need to know how to find them.” The U.S. Department of Justice said between 2000 and 2009, less than 10 percent of Americans affected by serious violent crime received direct assistance from victim service agencies.

Access to victim services or other organizations is much more limited in newer migrants, said Howard Jordan, professor of criminal justice at Hostos College in Mott Haven. “There is a lack of information due to a lack of organization,” he said. “The Mexicans have a harder time because they are the most recent migrants.”

Jordan added that the Puerto Ricans, on the other hand, have representatives at various levels of governance to help them communicate their grievances. The Dominicans may not have been around as long, but they too have robust community organizations. In fact, they are organized enough to run Dominican presidential campaigns from the South Bronx.

“We Mexicans are still working to build social networks,” said Angelo Cabrera, president of the Mexican American Students’ Alliance (MASA). “Most of our organizations, like MASA or the Hands Community Center at St. Jerome’s Church, focus on education and employment training. We still don’t have the resources or political connections needed to help in situations like the Rojas case.” Cabrera also said that since most Mexicans are illegal residents, they are afraid to come forward with such issues, and try to deal with them on their own.

Loss of life

The cost of murders is felt not only by victims’ families, but also by the larger community. A study at Iowa State University in 2009 analyzed all tangible and intangible costs for murder (such as trauma, and work loss) in the United States, to calculate an average cost per murder victim. Their estimate exceeded $4.7 million. If costs to the system, such as those of investigation, incarceration, et cetera, were included, an average community in the country lost more than $17.2 million per murder.

One such intangible cost is years of potential life lost (YPLL), calculated by the City’s Department of Health as the difference between a person’s age at death and 75, the life expectancy in New York. Since the average age of homicide victims in the 40th Precinct this year was 25, the community lost 50 years of potential life per victim. With 20 homicides registered so far in 2011 — the highest toll in five years — Mott Haven-Melrose lost at least 1,000 years of potential life to murder in a single year.

Potential life is one loss that Maria Rojas understands immediately. Joel’s murder cost the Rojases 51 years of potential life.

“My son died much before his time,” she said on the last evening of the nine-day mourning period, a Mexican tradition. “He was a child who still had to live his life.”

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City locks out Morning Glory gardeners

Elliott Liu holds a rake outside the garden he helped create as city workers tear down the fence.

Volunteer gardeners in the South Bronx looked on helplessly Monday morning as city workers yanked up their kale by the roots and threw it into garbage bags.

In a few hours, the city had destroyed their carefully tended garden beds, hauled away tables and chairs, and mowed under foliage in Morning Glory Community Garden on Union Avenue and Southern Boulevard.

Two years of grassroots work was destroyed in a few hours. “What we are seeing,” said Rafael Mutis, adjunct professor at Hostos Community College, “is just another threatened community garden in a low-income community where fresh food is already so scarce.”

The city hopes to develop the area and needs the garden cleaned out to prepare the  land for sale. A Bronx housing official, Ted Weinstein, said developers have expressed interest in bidding on the site, but first need to test it to see if construction is feasible.

“We are on orders to clear out the lot today,” Carol Allen, a department of housing representative, said to the stunned gardeners, holding petitions they’d hoped would save the garden from destruction “If you attempt to stop us, we will call the police.”

Until recently, the Morning Glory community garden was nothing more than an empty lot, owned by the city, and neglected for 30 years. Two years ago, a group of community members decided to convert the space into something useful.

Residents have since used the soil to grow corn, tomatoes, carrots, collards, kale, garlic and squash. Students learned how to grow their own food. The space hosts community barbeques, open mic events and organic farming opportunities.

On November 7, community gardeners Elliott Liu and Rafael Mutis stood outside of the fence with plans to gather signatures to take to City Hall, hoping community support could stall their eviction. Their plans were scrapped when the Department of Housing representatives arrived to clear it out.

Liu and Mutis frantically made calls for urgent support as the contract workers from Innovative Construction tore down a section of the fence and backed a blue van into the lot, running over small potted plants stopping to unload garbage cans, lawn mowers, and pickaxes.

“I don’t know why the city needs to clear out this garden today,” said neighbor Elizabeth Lynch as she signed the petition to save the garden. “If they have a plan to build something here, they should let the community know.”

Meanwhile community reinforcements gradually began to arrive on the sidewalk outside the garden. Anistala Rugama, of the Harm Reduction Coalition was disappointed that the high school students, who have the most stake in the garden, could not be there to protect it.

“The city came to destroy their garden while they are in school,” she said. “They were planning to come after school, but it might be too late.”

According to James Edgar of the Department of Housing, it is too late. “We have put up No Trespassing signs,” he told gardeners. “This is city property and they will do what they want with it.”

Attorney Kafhani Nkrumah believes the garden might still have a fighting chance. “The next step is to contact Community Board District Manager, Cedric Loftin,” he said. “He should represent you.”

Gardeners planned to host a rally Monday afternoon outside of the garden, hoping to gather community support. But for now, all they could do was watch from behind the fence, as their hard work and hope for a greener South Bronx was demolished.

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Construction worker stabbed to death in Mott Haven

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Blood stains on the pavement across the street from Joel Rojas' house in Mott Haven, the morning after he was stabbed to death. In the background, passersby condole his sisters, who set up a small memorial under the mailbox where he was found. (NASR UL HADI/The Bronx Ink)

Joel Rojas must have fought hard for his life.

The trail of blood on East 138th Street in Mott Haven was nearly a block long. It began outside the storefront church at 467, reappeared on a red sports Pontiac parked all the way up at 481, and ended under a mailbox next to it.

When the emergency team arrived shortly after midnight on Saturday, the mailbox was dented, with scratches all around the impact. Rojas, who lived in an apartment just across the street, lay there bleeding from a stab wound to his abdomen. He had almost made it home.

The medics rushed him to Lincoln Hospital, but Rojas was declared dead on arrival at 1:35 am. Police had informed the 24-year-old’s family–his parents, two younger sisters, wife and 3-year-old daughter, Analia.

This stabbing is part of a recent surge in violence across the 40th Precinct. Last weekend, there were six shooting incidents, one of them fatal. The homicide count till October 2 this year is 15, up 15.4 percent from 2010.

Around noon on Saturday, Rojas’ sisters set up a small memorial with candles and bouquets under the mailbox where he was found. A cardboard carton sheltered the candles from the wind, with “R.I.P. Cholo” and “Shortiiee loves you” scribbled on it. Passersby paid their respects and asked how he died, but the family had no explanation.

“We don’t know who my brother was out with or why, because he lived alone in his apartment,” said Laura “Shortiiee” Rojas, a high school freshman, who lives with her parents in another building on the same block. She claimed that there were “a lot of people here who hated Cholo for no reason.”

But most of the gathered mourners weren’t sure they knew him at all. “There’s no photograph of him,” pointed out a woman who lived in the same building, “so I don’t know who it was. But it’s tragic that he was so young.”

People outside the House of Faith Ministries, the church where Rojas’ blood marked the site of the attack, said that two gangs, the Mexicanos and the Chicanos, shared this neighborhood. Brook Avenue, just a block away from Rojas’ home, serves as the dividing line for the gangs’ territories, they said.

But detectives who spent most of the afternoon interrogating people in the neighborhood said that the connection was still speculative. “We keep hearing about the gang rivalry here,” said one of the investigators, “but there’s nothing conclusive yet. We are still looking.”

Rojas’ sister too insisted that her brother, who worked in construction, didn’t hang out with any “bad people.”

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‘Outsider’ artist in the South Bronx

Augustine Cruz’s story is a reminder that it is possible for art to survive even in the country’s poorest neighborhoods. (NASR UL HADI/The Bronx Ink)

He won’t admit it, but Augustine Cruz has grown too old for this. His hand trembles as he rubs the figure he is carving. You can see the veins bulge on his balding head as he grimaces through the last few strokes. For just a moment, when he is done, his brown hands and the wooden body seem one.

As he wraps up his tools – a set of files, chisels and a mallet – the tremor in his short, thin, 61-year-old frame is less obvious. He looks satisfied with his sculpture, though it is far from finished. For more than 40 years, Cruz has carved wood into items that people could use, artifacts that shops would sell, or illustrations of problems that society should fix.

But while his work has made it to galleries, museums and libraries across the Bronx – particularly in the Mott Haven ‘art district’ – this Puerto Rican woodcarver has lived his entire adult life in the same rent-controlled apartment in Hunts Point, collecting welfare checks that place him halfway below the United States’ official poverty line of $22,350.

Cruz’s story is typical of self-taught or ‘outsider’ artists in the South Bronx. Their art, though widely appreciated, never sells for much. Many of them are disabled, forced to live off social security and food stamps. But they remain an important part of the population, a reminder that it is possible for art to survive even in the country’s poorest neighborhoods.

Life, as Cruz remembers it, started around his second birthday. He had his first epileptic fit, and landed in an orphanage in upstate New York. He didn’t see his parents for the next 10 years. “My father was an alcoholic,” he recalled. “He fought with my mother all the time. They couldn’t take care of me, so I ended up at St Agatha’s Home.”

He returned to his mother for a while when he was a teenager. An uncle who worked with oils was an early influence, and young Cruz found himself looking for landscapes to paint. But he was quick to realize that this wouldn’t work out. “I couldn’t afford the colors, the brushes or the canvas,” he said. “Then I found wood, and I found it everywhere, without having to pay for it.” His first carving tool was a butter knife.

Medication was the other thing Cruz needed regularly but couldn’t afford. He dropped out of high school after a seizure in class. “The kids were okay with it, but the teachers didn’t want to see me go all epileptic on them again,” he said. In the years that followed, he tried to salvage his life between the frequent trips to the hospital. “The up side was that it motivated me to work for myself,” he said. The woodcarving continued. He got better with practice, and cut himself less often.

During his 20s, the Bronx began to burn – and his life with it. It wasn’t just the fires. “Drug abuse destroyed my family,” he said. “We were nine brothers and sisters. Three of them eventually died of AIDS. One is in prison for life. Edwin, who lives nearby, managed to rehabilitate himself. But the rest, I don’t know where they are.”

That’s why he moved to Hunts Point, and began to explore the human situation with his woodwork. A friend brought him a two-foot square of hardwood from the Caribbean; Cruz carved it for two years, pouring his feelings about drugs into the sculpture. “I portrayed actual addictions,” he recalled, “in the gestures of three nudes – drinking with a reclining male, smoking with a female, and ‘spacing out’ with a seated male. They had cracks on their bodies, not only to allude to the drug, but also to express how addicts fall apart. They destroy much more than their lives. It affects their relationships, communities and society at large.”

He mentioned his addict mother as an afterthought: “The last time I heard from her was 10 years ago. I don’t know if she is still alive.”

It is all this love he never had – from parents, partners or children – that Cruz brings to his woodwork. His experiences haven’t hardened him. “He is very compassionate,” said Carey Clark, who runs The Point on Garrison Avenue, an organization that helps local artists become more independent. “There was a time when he let more than 40 birds share his one-bedroom apartment. Animals have been a recurring theme in his work.”

A top credit consultant and online radio host recently paid $500 for a bird sculpture, making it Cruz’s most expensive work till date. But this is a one-time success, and he remains limited by both his health and finances. “As a sculptor, he needs more materials to work with,” said Jose Rivera, another outsider artist with physical challenges, whose work is often showcased with Cruz’s. “But acquiring mahogany or redwood is expensive,” said Rivera. Cruz’s only option is to get all the wood he can when he finds a tree felled by man or nature.

Cruz remains the people’s artist he always was. When he started in the 60s, he made snake-headed walking canes that were the fad. When America’s war on drugs peaked, he depicted it as an eagle trying to fly a skull out of debris. “He is not an egoist,” said Clark. “Before starting to work on an idea, he asks people for their opinion. It’s his own little survey of the public demand.”

But his current piece, the still unfinished nude lovers, is different. For a change, Cruz is sharing a personal conversation, in wood. “I have never made love,” he said, with an indifference, that gave away nothing of the pain of 61 years spent trying to survive severe epilepsy, an orphaned childhood, a broken family, a fledgling career and a dangerous South Bronx – with just his art for company.

 

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Killer nabbed by ‘tix fix’ cop pleads out, NY Post

A Bronx murder suspect whose arresting officer was caught on a wiretap fixing a ticket took a plea deal yesterday before a jury was selected
, New York Post reports.

Careem Johnson, 25, copped to manslaughter and accepted 25 years in prison for killing José Arvelo, 18, in Mott Haven in 2008.

It was initially speculated that Johnson — charged with second-degree murder — might walk because the cop who arrested him, Detective Jason Allison, was caught on wiretap allegedly trying to void a summons for a cop’s relative.

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Bloody Sunday in Mott Haven

Sunday was an unusually bloody day on the streets of Mott Haven, raising fears among residents that violence is becoming out of control.

It began in the early  morning with three shootings in a span of two hours, and moved on to a mugging in broad daylight.  By the end of the evening, Taiwon Turner was shot dead. Three of the five incidents occurred on the same street, East 141st Street. The shootings are indicated on the map below.


View October 9 Violence in Mott Haven in a larger map

The first shot was heard slightly after 4 am, right next to P.S. 65 on Powers Avenue. A teenager walking away from St Mary’s Park was shot in the buttocks and taken to Lincoln Hospital, police sources said.

An hour later, another man was rushed to the same hospital with a bullet in his back. He was shot outside Paradise Houses on Third Avenue, about 15 blocks away from the first incident, but on the same street. By 6 a.m., officers of the 40th Precinct were investigating their third shooting incident of the day, this one on 137th Street.

Around four in the afternoon, more than a dozen police and fire personnel were back on 141st Street, assisting an assault victim outside the Methodist Church on Beekman Avenue–a block away from Turner’s house, and two blocks away from the site of the day’s first shooting.

Police help an assault victim at Beekman Avenue. (NASR UL HADI/The Bronx Ink)

This unidentified victim had blood all over his shirt, multiple bruises on his face, and according to medical emergency staff on site, possibly a concussion. The attack occurred under two NYPD surveillance cameras, on a weekend afternoon, in front of pedestrians.

Police had no information yet on the suspects in this or the first three incidents. “He says he doesn’t know what happened,” said an officer. The bystanders claimed they hadn’t seen anything either. The surveillance cameras were of no help, because both were facing away from the place where the attack happened.

Residents are more afraid than ever. Crime statistics for the 40th Precinct show 345 serious assaults so farthis year, a rise of 3.6 percent from last year.

“My wife is pregnant; she was terrified,” said Ibrahim, a Nigerian student who has lived for more than five years in Paradise Houses. “We are all here to make a living,” said Ibrahim, “But when I hear of such attacks, I begin to wonder whether I should stay.”

 

 

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