Tag Archive | "The Bronx"

Bronx Community Leaders Reach Out to Communities of Color Disproportionately Affected by Monkeypox

Community members grab sanitary products from NYC Health during a Monkeypox outreach event. Churchill Ndonwie for the Bronx Inc.

Bronx community leaders gathered for a night of Monkeypox outreach Wednesday, to raise awareness about the spread of Monkeypox in the Bronx and address the disproportionate impact the disease has on Black and Latino communities.

Members of the community were given information about vaccination resources and educational pamphlets on how to protect themselves from Monkeypox. They were also given condoms, sanitary products and encouraged to seek care if they feel sick or identify a rash or sore.

“We know that inequities continue to exist. The numbers within our communities, particularly communities of color among African American and Latino men are still high when compared to other groups” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson, who’s office hosted the event in partnership with the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, Third Avenue Business Improvement District, NYC Health and Destination Tomorrow.

Though cases are beginning to decline citywide, latest data from New York Health as of September 18 shows 632 of the identified 3480 citywide cases are in the Bronx. And of those citywide cases, 60% are among Blacks and Hispanics, the majority demographic group of the Bronx. 

“Lot of people out there haven’t been able to get the education that they desperately need in order to understand and take the steps that are necessary to protect and prevent from being harmed by it” said Sage Rivera, Chief Development Program Officer for Destination Tomorrow, a grassroots agency and the LGBTQ+ center for the Bronx borough. The center also serves as a first dose Monkeypox vaccination site.

Rivera also talked about the importance of not falling prey to stigmatization against a certain community because they are the most affected. “It’s very, very easy to fall into the trap of what’s going on, because it’s been so prevalent amongst people of color, and affecting so much the LGBTQ community. This is a skin to skin contact disease, plain and simple,” he said.

On July 18, the five Borough Presidents sent a joint letter to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky demanding more Monkeypox vaccines be sent to New York City. Latest New York Health data shows 95,345 doses have been administered citywide with 5,639 doses administered in the Bronx. About a third of the citywide  doses were administered to those identifying as Black or Hispanic. 

“We do know that access is an issue. So we want to get more vaccination sites,” said Anita Reyes, Assistant Commissioner, Bronx Neighborhood Health, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

New York City Health recently opened a Tremont Monkeypox vaccination clinic in the Bronx. The clinic, located at 1826 Arthur Ave., is open to the public for first dose vaccination walk-ins. 

“I think that health is an issue that is still not spoken about enough in the Bronx….Monkeypox is just something that is making a lot of people question what makes them feel safe and healthy in a community, especially for the LGBTQ community,” said Cecil Brooks, a long time Mott Haven resident. 

“If we have enough people who are fighting misinformation, and know what resources are available, then we can do our small part to make the South Bronx an even better and more welcoming space,” Brooks said.

Posted in Bronx Life, Community Resources, HealthComments (0)

Grammy-Award Winner Eddie Palmieri Launches the Lehman Center’s 2022-23 Season

Eddie Palmieri, age 85. Photo courtesy of the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts

Grammy-Award winning artist Eddie Palmieri and his Salsa Orchestra launched the Lehman Center’s 2022-23 season on Saturday evening. 

Palmieri is a long-time performer at The Lehman Center and his popular presence is in-line with efforts to focus concert programming on reflecting the community’s diversity. Those efforts have been heralded by The Lehman Center’s Executive Director, Eva Bornstein, who took over in 2005 with a philosophy to “focus on Latinos, African Americans…and then all the other diverse communities in the Bronx.”

“I’ve been following him since 1962,” said audience member Harold Bridgewater. “He’s a legend, I wouldn’t miss this.” 

The 85-year-old matched the enthusiasm of his dynamic Salsa Orchestra— at one point, walking center stage to dance salsa himself. At another point, he had the audience clap along to the distinctive rhythm typical of salsa. 

The opening act included performances by Puerto Rican Tres player, Nelson Gonzalez, and the Del Caribe Latin Jazz All Stars. Spanish-Cuban singer, Lucrecia Pérez Sáez, then joined the group on stage to a “dancing” ovation from the audience. Eddie Palmieri kicked off the second half of the concert with an intimate piano-bass duo before performing favorite repertoire from his collection of over 36 albums. The crowd spoke a mixture of Spanish and English. 

Singer-songwriter Arlene Gonzales performed “Para Que Sepan Quien Soy Yo”, which Palmieri wrote for the singer back in 2021. Her vocals floated above the complex cross-rhythms and subtle dissonances in Palmieri’s choice of chords on the piano. The pair are currently recording a new album together. 

Palmieri’s parents emigrated from Puerto Rico to New York City in 1926. He was raised in the Bronx and learned to play the piano before starting his career as a timbales player in his uncle’s band. He is the recipient of ten Grammy awards, including the first-ever Grammy for the Best Latin Recording with The Sun of Latin Music in 1975. 

“I love the Bronx and I’m going to dedicate this performance to the Bronx”, said Palmieri. 

Assembly Member José Rivera recounted giving Palmieri his first gig in the Bronx. 

“A hundred dollars for four hours. Eddie would tell you that was a lot of money,” the 86-year-old said.

The Salsa Orchestra’s singers, percussionist, and guitarist in center stage at the Lehman Center’s season launch concert on Saturday, September 17 2022. Henrietta McFarlane for the Bronx Ink. 

The Lehman Center is located in Bronx Community District 7. According to the Community District Profile, Latinos account for nearly 70% of the population.

Robert Sancho, the show’s producer and former chairman of the Lehman Center’s board of directors, spoke on stage about resigning years ago because the music didn’t reflect the community in the Bronx. 

“You’ve got 600,000 Latinos in the Bronx. Let’s have some salsa,” said Sancho as the crowd cheered. 

Henrietta McFarlane, reporter for the Bronx Ink, has a background in performance and music criticism. She graduated from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Music in 2021. 

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Residents Pickup Hundreds of Pounds of Litter at Soundview Park on International Coastal Cleanup Day

Around 75 residents of Soundview and neighboring areas volunteered on International Coastal Cleanup Day to help preserve the Bronx River. Mansi Vithlani for The Bronx Ink.

Volunteers removed 47 bags of trash from the Bronx River on Saturday during International Coastal Cleanup Day. The event, which is held yearly on the third weekend of September, was hosted by The Bronx River Alliance.

This is the first time since the pandemic that the coastal cleanup returns to Soundview Park at such a large scale, according to Victoria Toro, a Bronxite and the Community Outreach Coordinator of The Bronx River Alliance

“People are giving up their Saturday to clean up garbage, that’s pretty damn cool,” said Christian Murphy, Ecology Coordinator at the Bronx River Alliance.

There are three main pollutants to the river of which floatable trash is one of them, according to the Bronx River Alliance’s research

The Bronx Community Board 9 district’s 2023 budget request, of which Soundview is part of, states there is a greater urgency to “maintain and supervise” the local parks and playgrounds. 

Christian Murphy, Ecology Coordinator at the Bronx River Alliance after finding a heavy picnic blanket thrown out as garbage,  in the Bronx River. Mansi Vithlani for The Bronx Ink.

“There’s not a lot of green spaces in the Bronx, and they don’t have as many trees compared to other boroughs in New York City, so whatever we can do to keep these parks healthy and happy is really important to the community,” said Murphy.

Groups of volunteers each concentrated on a specific section of the Bronx River, collecting trash while recording their findings via a tracking sheet, highlighting the type and amount of trash they had collected. 

Ocean Conservancy will use the information gathered from the Soundview event and other worldwide locations to learn more about the types of trash that are entering the environment, developing policies that could have an impact in both the United States and other countries.

Volunteers tracked the amount of items they had collected along the shoreline, with their findings later added to the Ocean Conservancy’s “Clean Swell App”. Mansi Vithlani for the Bronx Ink.

“Volunteers are helping collect important data that is going to inform advocacy, policy and action, not only for non-profit organizations, but also political agencies and governments,” said Toro

The 23-mile Bronx River serves as a gateway to the Atlantic Ocean, where litter that passes through New York Harbor and Long Island Sound could eventually end up.

 “There are so many people in the city, this [event] should be as crowded as a marathon,” said Yonkers resident Cadecia Forgnie.

Volunteers most often found wrappers, bottle caps, and plastic bottles along the shoreline. A car engine, half of a dishwasher unit, pacifiers, a fire extinguisher, a kids’ play mat, and a large pillow were among some of the more unusual objects. 

The Bronx River Alliance started the process of cleaning up and rehabilitating the river in 1974, advocating for the equitable restoration of the Bronx River. 

According to their annual report, in 2020 a total of 2500 bags of trash were removed from the river, 1000 native species were planted, and 335K square feet of invasive growth were eliminated. 

Volunteer, Oscar Asencio-Ramos, and his wife have been living in Soundview for 38 years and regularly attend events held by The Bronx River Alliance.

“We live in the neighborhood, we use the park and we want to walk through and see a clean park with no garbage all over the place and the waterfront clean.” 

Posted in Bronx Life, Bronx Neighborhoods, Community ResourcesComments (0)

A sign that says

Bronx Community College Hosts Kids Comic Con Sci-Fest

The Kids Comic Con Sci-Fest welcomes Bronx families to learn more about comics, science and technology. Lindsey Choo for The Bronx Ink.

Dozens of families attended the annual Kids Comic Con event held at Bronx Community College Saturday—the first one held in-person since 2019. This year’s convention, named Sci-Fest, was focused on the relationship between comics, science and technology.

The event was co-founded and organized by comic book writer Alex Simmons and Bronx Community College Director of Collaborative Programs, Eugene Adams, as a way of introducing Bronx kids, particularly those in Black and Latino communities, to careers in science and technology through comic books.

“We want young people to see that—of course, Iron Man is cool—but we also want you to know the technology for Iron Man,” Adams said. “They are areas that … you can actually learn from. So we combined the idea of comic books with robotics, computer science, coding and media production.”

A number of volunteer vendors had comic book displays and sketches, as well as tabletop science experiments and demonstrations. Many displays featured main characters who were people of color.

“The goal is just to see more kids of color enter STEM based careers,” said Delanda Coleman, founder of the publishing company behind More than a Princess, Sydney and Coleman. “A lot of kids, especially minority kids, children who are poor or in rural areas, don’t get the right level of exposure to STEM based concepts… so we integrate science concepts into the story.”

The convention also featured a tribute to the late actress Nichelle Nichols, who starred in the Star Trek franchise and led efforts in the 1970s to diversify recruits in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, including the hiring of the first Black American astronaut and the first female American astronaut.

Alex Simmons, comic book writer, speaks during a tribute to actress Nichelle Nichols. Lindsey Choo for The Bronx Ink

“[Other] comic cons are more expensive,” said Danira Roman, a student at Bronx Community College who works with children with special needs. She added that Saturday’s convention was inviting.

Other attendees were in agreement, making references to New York Comic Con, where a one-day ticket costs $67.75 according to its website.

“It’s kind of tight right now with a lot of parents, especially mine” said Aryanna Chiraunjilal, a Bronx Community College student. “So having this free Comic Con at the college, it provides a safe environment to bring the kids out here and give them an opportunity to be excited, to explore, to meet new people, especially to be creative.”

Posted in Arts, Bronx Life, Culture, Education, Education, Multimedia, Northwest BronxComments (0)

Residents Voice Concerns Over Planned School and Housing Development

Bronx residents voiced concerns Tuesday, over a proposed development that would include a new school and apartment complex at the site of the former Church of the Visitation at the first in-person Community Board  8 meeting since the pandemic.

Tishman Speyer, a real estate investment firm, purchased part of the former site of the Church of the Visitation, located at 171 West 239th Street in Kingsbridge, and plans to build a 336-unit residential building with approximately 70 parking spaces. The other part of the site was purchased by New York City School Construction Authority to build an approximately 736-seat school.

“We had advocated for a school on that site. They’re accommodating the school but the school that they’re accommodating is reduced to one-quarter of the property,” said Christina Carlson, a college professor at Iona University who lives close to the site.

Visitation School at 171 W. 239th St. was closed in 2017. Mingxuan Zhu for The Bronx Ink

“It doesn’t allow for a playground, it doesn’t allow for outdoor space. It’s terrible. It’s just not appropriate for the neighborhood,” Carlson said.

The Church of Visitation was closed in 2015, and its parochial school was closed in 2017. New York State 81st District Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said that since then, he has been proposing a new school. Building a new school at the site would be ideal since there are four school zones, each within a few blocks away, and the new school can alleviate the overcrowding at the other schools.

However, Tishman Speyer’s residential housing program is going to occupy 1.3 acres of the site, leaving the school with only half an acre.

“I want the school on the site, on the whole site,” said Dinowitz in the meeting. “It’s very important that we get that the school is going to be crammed into a little corner, a little part of that site. And it’s just not enough.”

There were also concerns about the housing complex.

Tishman Speyer is going to build an eight-story building with 25% studio, 45% one-bedroom, 20% two-bedroom, and 10% three-bedroom, resulting in more than 40 units per floor, according to Gary Rodney, the Managing Director and the Head of Affordable Housing at Tishman Speyer. The project is going to be built between Van Cortlandt Park South and 239th Street, and between Broadway and the entrance to the Major Deegan Expressway.

Residents are also worried that building a school and residential housing with just 70 parking spaces is going to add more pressure to the already congested corridor.

“Imagine what it would be like with at least an additional 1,000 vehicles including dozens of school buses, staff, teachers and private cars,” said Giovanni Puello, a retired consultant who also lives close to the site. “This is a recipe for a disaster.”

Carlson also voiced her concern about the traffic at the school.

“Where will they gather in the event of a fire drill, or god forbid, a fire when the fire trucks can’t get to them because of the traffic,” she said.

Robert Fanuzzi, a community board member, who was also at the land use committee meeting, voiced his concerns over the site’s geographical region, which is vulnerable to flooding.

The Bronx was heavily impacted when Hurricane Ida hit New York City last year. Kingsbridge and Van Cortlandt sections suffered most of the flooding, especially Major Deegan Expressway, right by the site.

The Major Deegan Expressway has been closed three times since Hurricane Ida.

“You (Tishman Speyer) are contributing a lot of wastewater now through additional units, residential space to already sewers that I need to tell you are at capacity and presenting a real public emergency on a regular basis now,” Fanuzzi said. “There is definitely an environmental impact of building in a flood zone.”

A spokesperson from Tishman Speyer declined an interview request, but sent a statement via email.

“We are pleased to be a part of the redevelopment of the former Visitation Church site, which will bring quality affordable housing and much-needed public school seats to the neighborhood,” it stated.  

“We are grateful for the opportunity to present our initial vision for an all-affordable apartment building to Community Board 8 and appreciate the feedback we have received from the community.”

Laura Spalter, chair of Community Board 8, said that she understands the concerns of the community regarding traffic, public safety, flood planning and education for the children, however, the Tishman Speyer affordable housing project is an as-of-right project, meaning the company can take action without obtaining permission from the community. 

“We can try to influence the design, and we have set up a committee with Tishman and members of our traffic and transportation committee, also members of our environment and sanitation committee,” Spalter said.

“But this is an as-of-right project, so we don’t have a vote.”

“It wouldn’t be as problematic if it wasn’t next to this affordable housing project. People support affordable housing. They support a school. But it’s the density,” she said. “That’s just a lot of cars, a lot of traffic, a lot of school buses… Just a lot.”

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Back-to-School Giveaway Helps Williamsbridge Families

Back-to-School Giveaway Helps Williamsbridge Families

Parents and students receive backpacks, writing utensils, snacks and more. Liz Foster for The Bronx Ink.

Approximately 400 students in New York’s 36th district will start this school year with new supplies after The Office of State Senator Jamaal T. Bailey hosted a back-to-school giveaway on Saturday. 

Children from preschool to high school received backpacks, drawstring bags, folders and writing utensils.

Katian Henderson, a Bronx resident for over ten years whose children attend a local public school, believes that events of this nature benefit parents who may have otherwise felt “shame” or “guilt” seeking financial assistance. Giveaways are “important to the community,” Henderson said.

Local organizations at the event also provided a range of products and services, like access to COVID-19 boosters and flu vaccines. 

Representatives from the New York Public Library signed parents and children up for library cards and the mayor’s office and New York’s sanitation department hosted a table handing out informative pamphlets about housing and insurance alongside supplies. 

Another Williamsbridge parent, Elizabeth Douglas, often attends community events. She said that Bailey is “always doing stuff for the children.” 

This back-to-school giveaway is a staple event of the senator’s office. At the event, Bailey emphasized the importance of adequate funding for schools, a “diverse” and “inclusive” curriculum and ensuring that students have the chance to “rise from adversity.” 

Bailey has prioritized education since he entered office in 2017. In 2018, as a member of the Senate Children and Families Committee, Bailey sponsored Senate Bill S7983 which is currently under review in the state senate’s Education Committee., The bill would “ensure that all students entering high school have an opportunity to participate in the discovery program to gain access to specialized high schools in the city of New York.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, East Bronx, EducationComments (0)

Bronx Borough President and members of the NYPD/FDNY take a photo

A Day Of Remembrance Commemorates The 144 Bronx Lives Lost On September 11

Members of the NYPD and FDNY gathered with Vanessa L. Gibson, Bronx Borough President at the annual Bronx 9/11 day of remembrance. Churchill Ndonwie for the Bronx Ink.

The Office of the Bronx Borough President and the Bronx Supreme Court co-hosted “A Day of Remembrance” on Tuesday, commemorating the lives of the 144 Bronx residents lost during the September 11 terrorist attacks. The event took place at Lou Gehrig Plaza where Vanessa L. Gibson, Bronx Borough President, was in attendance.

“Oftentimes, they say time heals all wounds but we know it does not. But guess what? We carry on in their honor, we carry on their legacy, because we are a living testament of what happens when we work together as a county and as a city and as a community,” said Gibson.

Members of the community who lost loved ones joined the ceremony.

Harry Powell, 76, a retired inspector for the New York Housing Authority lost his son, Brandon Powell, that day. Powell, 26, was a cook on the 122th floor of the North Tower. 

“At 4:30 in the morning, he left the house. And he was never late….he was always a pleasant kid. He gave me no trouble. I had texts from people as far as Japan, saying they liked his smile” Powell said. 

Powell was joined by his friend, Theresa Noel, 69, who also lost her son Curtis Terrance Noel. He was 22. His girlfriend Aisha Anne Harris died in the attacks as well. 

“That day when the plane hit the building, he told me that they were all okay but he lied to me. They were trapped, he didn’t tell me, so I didn’t know. 13 of them trapped in that office, perish,” Noel said as she grabbed a picture from his memorial service. “He kept us laughing,” she added. 

Also present were members of the NYPD, FDNY, community and religious leaders who all reinforced the importance of unity, community and togetherness. 

“This is as much a story of resilience as it is one of grief and loss,” said FDNY Commissioner Keechant. L. Sewell.

The names of the lives lost from the Bronx were read out loud, each followed by the ringing of a bell. 

“The deaths of our loved ones will never be in vain,” said Gibson.

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A poster board that reads

Civic Engagement Commission kicks-off community budgeting initiative in Mott Haven

The Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) opened submissions for its “People’s Money” initiative Wednesday, allowing New York residents to propose community-focused ideas that could be implemented by the city and funded by a $5-million portion of the mayoral budget.

Drashti Brahmnhatt, the director of the CEC’s participatory budgeting program, addresses the crowd at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven. Eli Tan, Bronx Ink

Members of the CEC plan to gather ideas until Nov. 9, which will then be voted on by New Yorkers through April to ultimately be implemented in June. Residents of all five boroughs above the age of 10 will be eligible to vote and submit ideas.

“Is this $5 million going to change the world? Probably not,” said Wendy Trull, a member of the CEC. “But it’s a start towards getting New Yorkers involved and engaged in their communities and exposed to what volunteerism can do. If someone proposes an idea and sees that idea become real, that’s inspiring.”

Proposals are meant to be local and grassroots in nature. Sarah Sayeed, another member of the CEC, said its intention is to fund projects that are “closer to food and clothing drives than building a new public park.” The initiative’s website specifies that no proposal requiring construction or renovation is eligible for funding.

The CEC kicked-off the initiative with a morning of festivities at Roberto Clemente Plaza in Mott Haven’s business district, which included speeches from Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and other elected officials.

One hour into the event, ten proposals had already been submitted in-person, ranging from broader concepts like “community building” to tackling specific causes like gun violence against Muslim women.

A poster board with the text "tell us what the most important issue is in your neighborhood" is covered in blue and pink sticky notes.
A poster board for the CEC’s new budgeting initiative welcomes community input. Eli Tan, The Bronx Ink

Some attendees were less optimistic about the initiative than its organizers, including Johnny Chavarria, the event’s DJ.

“It feels a bit performative if I’m being honest, like the city is trying to check off a box of their agenda,” Chavarria said. “I’m an activist myself but I believe less in the government funded programs.”

The People’s Money concept has been in the works since November 2018, when New Yorkers voted through a referendum proposed by the Charter Revision Commission mandating a new participatory budgeting process.

The specific plan to distribute the money geographically gets complicated – while proposals can be for any neighborhood around New York City, funding will be allocated based on poverty density, with preference given to TRIE neighborhoods, the 33 neighborhoods the city deemed most negatively impacted by the pandemic, nine of which are in the Bronx. 

The $5 million represents just a small fraction of the mayor’s $101 billion annual budget. Since participatory budgeting was added to the city council’s agenda in 2011, $200 million has been spent on projects voted on by residents, according to the city’s website.

For all his skepticism, Chavarria still plans to submit his own proposal to fund an event that focuses on bringing more music to the community, a cause he’s passionate about.

“For the music, it’s worth a shot,” Chavarria said.

Posted in Bronx NeighborhoodsComments (0)

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