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Dec 13, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Death of asthmatic Bronx boy, 10, ruled a homicide

The death of a 10-year-old asthmatic Bronx boy has been ruled a homicide, with authorities saying neglect played a role in his death, the Daily News has learned.

Sijismond Morris died at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital the morning of Sept. 23.

He was rushed there a short time earlier after walking his dog, climbing five flights of stairs to his family’s Claremont apartment, and collapsing, cops said.

The medical examiner’s office found there was “neglect of administration of medication and medical care.”

His mother, Tiesheia Young, 30, was not aware of the coroner’s ruling and said her son regularly used a nebulizer.

Her boyfriend said the child was regularly given his medication and that “he’s in the hospital on average eight, nine times a month” for treatment.

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Dec 12, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Bronx bus driver faces teen attacker at sentencing

The bus driver who was brutally assualted for telling a teenager she couldn’t bring her dog on board faced her assailant in court Thursday and said she was still scarred, two years after the attack.

Steangeli Medina, now 19, was hauled off to Rikers Island after Judge Robert Torres ordered a psychiatric evaluation on the teen, who admitted she beat bus driver Marlene Bien-Aime two years ago when Bien-Aime prohibited her from boarding the Bx9 bus in Belmont with her pet Chihuahua.

“I’m really nervous emotionally,” said Bien-Aime, noting that her life has been forever changed by Medina’s actions. “I remember what she did to me. I don’t know why she did it. That question is still on my mind.”

Medina, clad in a gray sweatsuit and flanked by about a dozen relatives on Thursday, said nothing during the five minute hearing.

The bus driver said she was satisfied by the outcome.

RELATED: RIDER ATTACKS MTA BUS DRIVER

“Justice was served,” Bien-Aime said after the hearing. “They showed people can’t just be hitting on the operators. I was just doing my job.”

Medina who pleaded guilty to a second-degree assault charge earlier this month, will serve six months in jail and receive five years’ probation. She’s required to stay away from her victim for eight years.

Bien-Aime, 50, suffered eye, shoulder, head and arm injuries in the beatdown, and she was unable to return to work for more than a year.

The veteran bus operator recounted the brutal incident, and said it was unprovoked.

“I wasn’t screaming at her,” she said at Bronx Supreme Court. “I didn’t give her a look. I just told her her what my job requires me to do.”

RELATED: BRONX BUS DRIVER SAVES TEEN IN GANG ATTACK

Bien-Aime said Medina punched her, then dragged her by her hair out of her driver’s seat and off the bus. Bien-Aime said she fell and Medina then fell on top of her.

“She pulled me by my hair and swung me around,” Bien-Aime recalled.

Onlookers put a stop to the assault and dragged Medina away.

Before Medina left the courtroom, a family member stroked her face, saying “I love you,” and “Be strong.”. Others blew kisses at the teen terror as officers led her from the courtroom. Medina’s relatives declined to comment.

Sitting on the opposite side of the courtroom were Bien-Aime, her son and members of the Transport Workers Union Local 100.

Bien-Aime’s son, Selvin Fuller, 24, said his mother was scared to leave home alone after the vicious attack and needs help with basic tasks.

“Basically, everyday tasks that my mom used to do, she can’t really do that much,” Fuller said. “She can’t go anywhere by herself. She needs to be reminded that it’s it’s OK to be out in public.”

jcunningham@nydailynews.com

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Dec 10, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Brooklyn Tech program aims to draw students to science

One morning last month, students at elite Brooklyn Tech High School were trying to solve an engineering riddle.

From some assembled materials — including paper clips, Styrofoam packing peanuts, screws, sponges, tiny rubber and metal rings — the project required them to create an object that has neutral buoyancy; neither sinking nor floating, but hanging in the balance in water.

It looked like an ordinary day at the school — except it was a Saturday and the students were in seventh grade.

RELATED: NYC SCHOOLS STEM TIDE OF UNEMPLOYMENT WITH SCIENCE, MATH

The new program, which started last summer, aims to recruit youngsters to engineering and science, and maybe the school.

“I like it. It’s hands-on,” said Alyssa Spencer, 12, who attends Lenox Academy in East Flatbush. “It’s not really like in school, where we just learn about it.”

It has already had an impact, said the kids, including giving them an edge in school as they get a head start on what they’ll eventually learn in science, even helping at least one student raise her grade-point average.

RELATED: BROOKLYN TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL OFFERS A RIGOROUS TECH-BASED EDUCATION

“I’m seeing a big improvement,” said Ikiria Gadsden, 12, who attends Brownsville’s Public School 323, and noted she got 80 averages last year. “This year I’m seeing a lot of 90s.”

The program started with 37 students — about two-thirds of them girls — selected from nine Brooklyn middle schools.

They represent the three key feeder schools to Brooklyn Tech — Middle School 51, in Park Slope; Mark Twain School, in Coney Island; and Christa McAuliffe School, in Borough Park — but also schools chosen to tap an interest in the school where there might not have been one already.

RELATED: STEM TO ADD ACCESS FOR 2,500 STUDENTS: CITY EDUCATION OFFICIALS

STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — has become the latest trendy program in the world of education.

But the high-tech subjects have long been the focus of the city’s elite specialized high schools — and the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Association along with National Grid are working with the school in a new way.

“Our workforce is driven by those disciplines,” said Brooklyn Tech alum Ken Daly, president of National Grid New York, which has pitched in 0,000 for the new middle-school program as well as help mentoring the students. “We want to ensure there’s a wave of students coming at us who are interested in those disciplines, who can come work here, who can become responsible stewards of energy.”

RELATED: AT&T GIVES .6M TO NYC KIDS’ COMPUTING CLASSES

Beginning last summer, the rising seventh-graders spent five weeks on engineering projects. They’ll be invited back next summer, too.

Every other Saturday during this school year, the students are meeting for more engineering instruction as well as test preparation of the Specialized High School Admissions Exam.

Ultimately, when they arrive at Tech, the hope is for them to stay together for their first introductory course in engineering.

RELATED: CARNEGIE MELLON TO OFFER TECHNOLOGY MASTER’S DEGREES IN BROOKLYN

During the summer, the students went through the pain¬staking process of building toothpick bridges and testing their structural soundness until the bridges ultimately collapsed. It was a highlight of their experience thus far with engineering, the students said.

“It was really frustrating because the toothpicks are really small and kept coming off. The glue was really sticky and it kept sticking to your hands,” said Sarafina Lin, 12, who attends Christa McAuliffe School and ultimately enjoyed the project despite her complaints. “It’s cool to see it fall apart.”

rmonahan@nydailynews.com

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Dec 9, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Alleged rape victim in Bronx hits city with lawsuit


The family of a Bronx teenager who allegedly was raped by her music teacher slapped the city with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, the Daily News has learned.


Herbert H. Lehman High School instructor Brian Kearins, 34, was arrested and charged with statutory rape in June after the victim’s sister found a string of incriminating emails between him and the 15-year-old student.


Kearins, who’s married with two young sons, ruined the girl’s life with their illicit sexual relationship, said attorney Robert Vilensky, who filed the suit this month on behalf of the girl and her family.

RELATED: COURT TO BRONX TEACHER: STAY AWAY FROM 16-YEAR-OLD SEX VICTIM


“It’s had a terrible impact on the girl,” said Vilensky, who spoke on behalf of the girl and her family. “She’s lost confidence in herself and has low self-esteem from the events. It’s damaged her relationships.”


Vilensky said the lawsuit would be seeking “in the millions.”


Kearins, an aspiring rocker who wails on his guitar in YouTube videos and wore a Bon Jovi t-shirt to court, pleaded not guilty to the charges and is free on bond.

RELATED: BAN SEX PREDATOR TEACHERS FROM SCHOOL PROPERTY: SEN. DIAZ


Education officials yanked the 10-year teacher away from the classroom while they seek his termination, but he continues to draw his ,720 salary.


Sources said that many of Kearins’s trysts with his victim occurred within the East Tremont Ave. school, where students were shocked at the accusations against him.


But Kearins apparently felt the heat from investigators before his arrest, and sent the girl, now 16, a note telling her to dump any racy messages she had saved on her phone and email account, sources said.

RELATED: BX. HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER BUSTED IN SEX CASE: COPS


Kearins was arrested just a week after cops collared another Bronx teacher, Anthony Criscuolo, of Public School 386, for raping a 10-year-old girl in his fifth-grade class multiple times in his car.


Criscuolo has been charged with rape for his sex attack on his student and faces 25 years to life in prison if he’s convicted. He is being held on million bail.


Education officials are trying to fire PS 386 principal Angelyn Donald because she failed to act when kids told her Criscuolo had kissed his victim in class – before he ultimately went on to rape the girl.


Kearins didn’t return calls for comment. Law Department officials said the city would fight the suit by the alleged victim’s family.


“We will defend the City’s position in litigation,” said a Law Department spokeswoman.


bchapman@nydailynews.com

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Dec 8, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Mott Haven’s P.S. 31 slated for demolition

The Castle on the Concourse is coming down.

The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development deemed a landmarked Grand Concourse school building unsalvageable, putting the kibosh on a dream scheme for its redevelopment.

Public School 31, the 114-year-old gothic-style building in Mott Haven that graduated thousands of Bronxites, is so structurally unsound that it’s slated to be torn down, the Daily News has learned.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Phillip Morrow, the head of the nonprofit group SoBro. “As soon as we gave them a proposal, they moved to tear it down.”

SoBro and other community groups rallied to save the crumbling school last summer, pushing a plan to convert the site into lofts and a gallery for local artists. The plan was buoyed by the interest of Goldman Sach’s Urban Investment Group.

But the Department of Buildings has ordered the city-owned site’s demolition, and all that stands in the way of leveling P.S. 31 is a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing later this month.

Built between 1897 and 1899, the once grand Victorian structure has become an eyesore in the neighborhood.

The building was landmarked in 1986, but the city discovered it had major structural problems and closed it in 1997.

The space has been vacant — and decaying — ever since; the last time it was even shored up was in the 1990s, city officials said.

Hurricane Sandy compounded the problems at the site, dislodging part of the facade.

The building occasionally rains debris onto the street below and is considered a public safety hazard, said Department of Buildings engineer Timothy Lynch.

But the historic structure wasn’t always so decrepit. It once boasted magnificent stained glass windows, 18-foot ceilings, arches and an auditorium with pressed wood finishes. It was heated by steam engine, was originally built for gas lighting and didn’t initially have indoor plumbing.

One teacher, who worked at the school for more than 20 years but asked not to be named, said the building was a relic of the Bronx’s academic heritage.

“As soon as you walked in, you had respect for the building — and for education itself,” the teacher said. “This was like a church.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will allow the public to weigh in on the school one last time at a hearing to be held Dec. 17.

“That will give all interested parties an opportunity to testify about the proposed demolition of the building,” said Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

jcunningham@nydailynews.com

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Dec 8, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: An ‘Ole Market’ comeback

The longstanding holiday tradition of the Grand Market — a festival of food, music and vendors around Christmas — will be getting a boost from Braata Productions, which will be presenting its Ole Time Grand Market event on Dec. 14 in Queens at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.

And although it’s a Jamaican institution, Braata’s inaugural Grand Market event will be a multinational affair featuring entertainment from other Caribbean nations.

“We’re trying to broaden our reach,” said Executive Director Andrew Clarke of Braata, which is presenting the event through its Education and Outreach Program.

The event’s Grand Concert, which begins at 5 p.m., stars the Braata Folk Singers and violinist Nadje Leslie from Jamaica, Susan Kennedy and the Something Positive performance group, both from Trinidad and Tobago, in addition to the Quake USA ensemble from Grenada.

Starting at 1 p.m., there will competitions for children and adults, health screenings, face-painting, martial arts demonstrations, storytelling and adults games such as dominoes and other activities.

Clarke, who said Christmas tradition is waning among some, hopes the traditional festival will undergo a resurgence because of the Braata Grand Market.

Tickets are . The Jamaica Performing Arts Center, 153-10 Jamaica Ave., in the Jamaica section.

Tickets are . For information, call Braata Productions at (917) 668-2209, send email to braataproductions @gmail.com and visit www.braataproductions.com.

BIKES FOR ST LUCIA’S KIDS

St. Lucian musician Taj Weekes, who is hooked on the holiday spirit of giving, is helping to collect toys for children in his Caribbean homeland, but he’s also got a pet peeve for this holiday season — bicycles.

As part of the They Often Cry Outreach’s Annual Holiday Toy Drive, Weekes is trying to get patrons to donate 200 bicycles for St. Lucian youngsters. And there’s a deadline. The organization is trying to reach its 200-bike goal by Dec. 13. Last year, TOCO, cofounded by Weekes, donated 100 scooters to St. Lucian children.

“In the spirit of giving this holiday season, I encourage you to think of those who may not be as fortunate as we are,” said Weekes, who was recently named Champion of Children in St. Lucia by UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund). I’m working hard to pull together 200 bicycles for children in need for our annual toy drive. I need your help to make it happen, please join me and let’s make a child smile.”

For more information, visit www.theyoftencryoutreach.org.

POET TACKLES HER CHILDHOOD

Trinidad-born author Cherrie Amour, who examines and confronts her childhood issues in her “Free to Be Me” book of poetry, was in New York recently sharing her thoughts and observations on childhood concerns and love relationships.

Amour visited Sisters Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center, 1942 Amsterdam Ave. (at W. 156th St.) on Nov. 29 for the launch of “Free to Be Me,” which included a reading and book-signing.

Through prose, the author explores her emotional journey from childhood to adulthood and her geographic transitions from the Caribbean to Canada, to Detroit and to Baltimore, her current hometown.

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	Author Cherrie Amour held the book launch for of  Sisters Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center.

 

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Author Cherrie Amour held the book launch for of  “Free to Be Me” on Nov. 29  in Manhattan at Sisters Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center.

“I was inspired to begin writing this poetic memoir shortly after my mother’s passing. Particularly because we had worked through many of our mother/daughter issues caused by my feelings of abandonment,” said Amour in a statement about “Free to Be Me” — her first book of poetry.

“It took years for me to fully accept my parents’ reasons for making difficult life choices and many more years for me to forgive and heal,” she said.

“Free to Be Me” is available in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com.

For information on Cherrie Amour and “Free to Be Me,” visit www.cherrieamour. com.

FUND-RAISING JAZZ BRUNCH

A holiday benefit by the New Jersey-based Leadership Development & Innovation Foundation will be using a Christmas Jazz Brunch on Dec. 15 to raise funds for a great cause — the Granville Health Center in Jamaica’s St. James parish.

The event — which will be held at Hibiscus American and Caribbean Restaurant, 270 South St. (in the Best Western Plus) in Morristown, N.J. — will feature live jazz performances from talented area artists and Jamaican cuisine. The affair will be held from noon to 3 p.m.

The Granville Health Center is one of the many improvement opportunities identified during the recent Jamaican Diaspora Conference. Proceeds from this event will go toward purchasing needed supplies for the health center, which was among nation’s sites flagged for improvements during a recent Jamaican Diaspora Conference.

To purchase tickets to the Christmas Jazz Brunch, visit http://bit.ly/christmasjazzbrunch. For information on the affair, send email to bveron5@msn.com.

jmccallister@nydailynews.com

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Dec 8, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly eulogizes traffic agent Kalyanarat Ranasinghe at funeral

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly eulogized a traffic enforcement agent Saturday killed on the job as a calm presence amid the tumult of the city’s endless gridlock.

Friends, family and dozens of traffic agents mourned the death of Kalyanarat Ranasinghe, 71, who was run over by an industrial vacuum truck on Nov. 30 as it pulled out of a parking space in MIdtown Manhattan. The driver was not charged.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio attended the two-hour funeral service at Ortiz Funeral Home in the Parkchester section of the Bronx. Mayor Bloomberg was scheduled to appear at the services but was a no-show.

“He was very well respected and people said he had sort of an inner calm, which is at the core of the Buddhist religion,” Kelly said after the ceremony.

“He came to this country to help his daughter with her education.”

RELATED: NYPD TRAFFIC AGENT STRUCK AND KILLED IN MIDTOWN

Ranasinghe, a Sri Lankan immigrant, was a telecommunications engineer in his native country before moving to the United States with his wife and daughter in August, 2001.

As his casket draped with an NYPD flag was loaded into a hearse NYPD trumpeters played “Taps” and a police helicopter flew low over the mourners lined up in the bitter cold.

NYPD Inspector Thomas Byrnes folded the flag and presented it to Ranasinghe’s wife Dammika, 67, who, along with her 40-year-old daughter, Dimuthu, broke down in tears.

Kelly said Ranasinghe, a six-year traffic enforcement agent, had a calming effect on everyone he encountered.

“His peaceful temperament helped him to succeed in a challenging job that can be difficult, demanding and dangerous,” Kelly said.

RELATED: SERVICES TO BE HELD FOR CRUSHED TRAFFIC AGENT

“I’m told he was very proud of the fact that the people he issued summonses to never yelled or cursed at him. Some even thanked him for the ticket!”

Kelly added that Ranasinghe “had the stamina of traffic enforcement agents half his age,” and that after only 18 months on the job he was promoted.

“The public doesn’t always hear about the fine work of our traffic enforcement agents, but they feel the effect of that work every day,” Kelly said. “It’s what enables 8.4 million people to travel through the city safely and peacefully. “

A Bloomberg spokesman did not respond to an inquiry regarding the reason for his absence.

With Annie Karni

ebadia@nydailynews.com

The following is the full text of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s eulogy for traffic enforcement agent Kalyanarat Ranasinghe, delivered at Ortiz Funeral Home at 2121 Westchester Ave. in the Bronx.

To Kalyana’s wife, Damika; to his daughter, Dimuthu; to the many friends and family members gathered here today and to his fellow traffic enforcement agents, on behalf of the New York City Police Department, I extend my deepest condolences to you.

The Buddhist master Atisha observed that “The greatest achievement is selflessness; the greatest patience is humility; and the greatest quality is seeking to serve others.” These are the tenants by which Kalyana lived his life. Talk to anyone who worked with him, and they will tell you, he was helpful, kind, and compassionate. Above all, he was completely devoted to his family.

He came to this country with his wife in 2001 to be with their daughter and to support her education. The three of them did everything together. Whether it was worshiping at the temple, attending Damika’s art exhibitions, or traveling the globe, they were inseparable.

To better provide for them, Kalyana joined the Police Department as a traffic enforcement agent in 2006. Right away, he impressed his supervisors with his energy, drive and work ethic. Every morning, he commuted by subway to his base in Manhattan. He never arrived late and rarely called in sick. Within 18 months of his appointment, he was promoted to Traffic Enforcement Agent Level II. And, a few weeks ago, he took the test to become a supervisor and did extremely well.

At 71 years old, Kalyana had the stamina of traffic enforcement agents half his age, even volunteering to work overtime on his days off. His peaceful temperament helped him to succeed in a challenging job that can be difficult, demanding and dangerous. On the hottest days of summer and the coldest days of winter, he patrolled midtown Manhattan, issuing summonses for the kind of dangerous infractions that impede the flow of traffic: double-parked cars, blocked traffic lanes, and bus stops. When called upon, he also helped to direct vehicles through busy intersections.

Like, all traffic agents, he often had to deal with individuals who were angry and reluctant to cooperate. But Kalyana had a knack for dealing with people. He treated them with respect and he was repaid in kind. I’m told he was very proud of the fact that the people he issued summonses to never yelled or cursed at him. Some even thanked him for the ticket!

The public doesn’t always hear about the fine work of our traffic enforcement agents, but they feel the effect of that work every day. It’s what enables 8.4 million people to travel through the city safely and peacefully.

The fact is Kalyana was part of an outstanding team that has driven traffic fatalities to their lowest levels since 1910, an astounding, historic achievement. New York City would not be all the things we celebrate: safe, prosperous, and dynamic twenty-four hours a day, without the contributions of our traffic enforcement agents. Kalyana will always be remembered as a tremendously valued member of this team. But most of all, I believe, he will be remembered for his kindness and humility.

Let us give thanks for the numerous acts by which Kalyana made our world a better, safer place. Our hearts go out today to his family. On behalf of the New York City Police Department, we express our deepest sympathy to you and our gratitude for sharing Kalyana with us. May he live on in the hearts and good deeds of all who knew him.

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Dec 7, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Lenient sentence irks animal advocates

A Bronx grandfather will spend only six months behind bars for keeping and training dogs to fight, and animal rights activists are unhappy.

Bronx Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Iacovetta sentenced Troy Wilson to two concurrent six-month jail terms and five years of probation Friday, a week after the 54-year-old was acquitted of animal abuse charges.

The sentence was far tamer than the 18-to-36-month maximum that prosecutors requested.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Jennifer Panton, the president of advocacy group United Action for Animals. “I’m relieved that he’s getting some jail time, but three dogs are dead.”

Wilson defiantly maintained his innocence, despite the fact that three canines under his care had to be euthanized due to malnutrition and behavioral problems.

“The things that were said were not me,” Wilson told the courtroom before learning his fate.

None of Wilson’s three children and six grandchildren showed up to support the unemployed metal worker at the sentencing.

But the courtroom wasn’t empty; a dozen animal rights activists sat attentively in the gallery.

They walked away disappointed.

“It’s simple. It should be more,” Esther Koslow, founder of the Shelter Reform Action Committee, said after the decision.

RELATED: AUTHORITIES FACE FURY OVER SERVICE-DOG TASCHA DEATH DECREE

“It should be really hard time for anyone convicted of dogfighting.”

Wilson’s conviction follows the breakup of a barbaric dogfighting ring that operated on Sherman Ave. near the Grand Concourse.

After Wilson was evicted from his apartment near the Grand Concourse in 2012, pit bulls named Lady, Mark and Bow were found with signs of scarring and fighting, police said.

Wilson shook his head repeatedly as the judge and Assistant District Attorney Maureen Grosdidier recounted the gruesome details of the dogs’ living situation, including cages and a treadmill hooked up with leashes.

Dogfighting literature was also found in the apartment, the prosecutor said.

Grosdidier requested the maximum sentence, saying that the time would “allow the defendant to grow a conscience.”

Before reading his decision, Iacovetta noted that Wilson was charged with fewer felony offenses than his neighbor, Raul Sanchez, the admitted organizer of the fights.

Sanchez, who pleaded guilty to a host of animal fighting and cruelty charges, was sentenced to 1-to-4 years in prison in January, but has already been released and animal rights advocates say it’s an outrage.

“There has been a rash of this activity in the Bronx lately,” said Panton.

“We want people to know that this is not an acceptable way to treat animals.”

dslattery@nydailynews.com

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Dec 6, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Small-business hiring up slightly

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Dec 5, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Man stabs brother to death in Bronx

A young man stabbed his own brother to death in their Bronx home, cops said Thursday.

The victim, Andrew Lawson, 23, suffered wound to the head in an apartment in the Morris Houses on Third Ave. about 3:55 p.m. Wednesday, cops said. He was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he died.

RELATED: FOUR SHOT TO DEATH IN SEPARATE INCIDENTS ACROSS THE FIVE BOROUGHS

His brother, 21-year-old Dayshawn Lawson, was arrested at the scene and charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and weapons possession.

A police source said the suspect has numerous sealed arrests as well busts for robbery, marijuana, assault, theft of service and criminal impersonation.

RELATED: SON QUESTIONED IN BRONX MAN’S MURDER

The victim had a few sealed arrests in his past, plus arrests for criminal trespass and criminal impersonation.

It wasn’t immediately clear what sparked the stabbing.

rparascandola@nydailynews.com

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Dec 4, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Metro-North engineer: ‘I was in a daze’ before crash



He was nodding at the controls before his train skidded off the rails.


William Rockefeller, the Metro-North engineer at the controls in Sunday’s crash, “basically nodded” just before the train barreling down the tracks at 82 mph derailed in the Bronx, killing four passengers, a union official said Tuesday.


He made “a mistake,” but didn’t commit a crime, Anthony Bottalico, director of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, insisted.

RELATED: CRASH-CONTROL TECH COULD HAVE STOPPED DERAILMENT


“The best analogy I could give you is the equivalent of sometimes, when you’re driving a car the sun hits you too much, you nod out and you catch yourself,” he said.


Rockefeller’s lawyer, Jeffrey Chartier, described the engineer’s state as “a daze” and compared it to the phenomenon of highway hypnosis.


By the time Rockefeller, 46, hit the brakes and let go of the throttle, his Grand Central Terminal-bound train was already tumbling off a treacherous curve north of the Spuyten Duyvil station, investigators said.


Bottalico’s comments led the National Transportation Safety Board to ban his union from participating in its investigation of the tragedy. The NTSB said in a statement that Bottalico violated confidentiality rules.

RELATED: MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPOTTED GOLFING IN BERMUDA DURING METRO-NORTH DERAILMENT


He spoke after the Daily News reported that Rockefeller told cops after the crash, “I was in a daze.”


“I don’t know what I was thinking about, and the next thing I know I was hitting the brakes,” Rockefeller said, according to a law enforcement source.


Rockefeller, who was hurtling into a 30-mph curve at nearly three times the speed limit, said he had no recollection of the events leading up to the derailment that left 75 people injured.


The engineer, now on unpaid leave, also told investigators he wasn’t sure how the locomotive built up so much speed before it crashed at 7:20 a.m. Sunday.

PHOTOS: METRO-NORTH TRAIN DERAILS IN NEW YORK: 4 DEAD AND 75 INJURED


Bottalico, however, insisted the ,000-a-year engineer was not sleep-deprived. “The conductor said when he came to work, he had his coffee with him and he was his jovial self,” he said.


Rockefeller was not on his cell phone before the train crashed, Bottalico said.


Passengers injured in the derailment expressed shock that the driver had nodded off.


“Wow. Holy cow,” said Dennis O’Neill, 56, from Haverstraw, Rockland County, who escaped with cuts and bruises. “He made a big mistake.”

RELATED: DERAILED METRO-NORTH TRAIN WAS GOING 82 MPH ON 30-MPH CURVE: OFFICIALS


“I’m not surprised,” added O’Neill. “When we came around the turn, we were really flying.”


“I’m pretty shocked that someone would put the lives of so many people at risk like that,” said a college student from Westchester who was injured.


In other developments:


Rockefeller submitted to a two-hour grilling about the wreck with NTSB investigators.

RELATED: METRO-NORTH VICTIM CHANGED COUNTLESS INNER-CITY GIRLS’ LIVES


A source said Rockefeller, a trained EMT and volunteer firefighter, tried to help injured passengers and a conductor. “He only left because the officers told him he had to leave the scene,” the source said. “He feels terrible.”


Gov. Cuomo said “more than 98%” of the Hudson Line service would be restored for Wednesday’s morning commute.


The Bronx district attorney’s office launched its own probe to determine if there is evidence enough to file criminal charges.


Denise Williams, a 55-year-old dentist from Orange County, filed the first of what’s expected to be an avalanche of lawsuits against Metro-North.

RELATED: METRO-NORTH VICTIM GAVE WIFE SECOND KISS


A top NTSB official said both Rockefeller and his train appeared to be in good shape the morning of the crash.


“There was every indication he had time to get rest, to get focused,” said Earl Weener of the NTSB. “There is no indication the brake systems were not functioning properly.”


Rockefeller was in the second day of a five-day shift and he had been running trains on this route since Nov. 17, so this was not new territory for him, said Weener.


Rockefeller’s alcohol breath tests came back negative, he said. Toxicology tests have not been completed.

RELATED: BEING ‘CONSCIOUSLY ASLEEP’ COMMON: EXPERTS


Investigators are looking into Rockefeller’s work schedule to see if he was logging too many hours on the job — and checking whether he might have a sleeping disorder, a source said.


Rockefeller had worked the afternoon shift for many years and just two weeks ago switched to the 5 a.m. shift, officials said.


In Rockefeller’s neighborhood in upstate Germantown, family friend Kerrie Abela said she texted his wife, Cathy, after the crash to see if he was okay.


“She did say that he is in a state of shock and is overwhelmed by what happened,” Abela said.


Killed in the crash were James Lovell, 58; James Ferrari, 59; Donna Smith, 54, and Kisook Ahn, 35.


Lovell’s wake is Thursday at Clinton Inc. Funeral Homes in Cold Spring. His funeral Mass is 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Loretto Church in Cold Spring.


Ferrari’s wake is Wednesday at the Cortlandt Funeral Home in Verplanck, Westchester County. His funeral Mass is 10 a.m. Thursday at Church of the Divine Love in nearby Montrose.


Smith’s wake is 3 p.m. Thursday at the Brooks Funeral Home in Newburgh. The funeral service will be held at the same location at 10 a.m. Friday.


Ahn’s family was believed to be en route to the U.S. from South Korea to claim her body.


With Barry Paddock, Glenn Blain, Kerry Burke, Vera Chinese and Barbara Ross


pdonohue@nydailynews.com


ON A MOBILE DEVICE? CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO.

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Dec 3, 2013
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BRONX NEWS: Metro-North crash site has history of deadly train accidents


Sunday was far from the first time tragedy has struck on the tracks around Spuyten Duyvil.


A gory train crash on Jan. 13, 1882 left 10 to 12 dead near the same site in the Bronx where a Metro-North train derailed Sunday, killing four passengers.

RELATED: MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPOTTED GOLFING IN BERMUDA DURING METRO-NORTH DERAILMENT


The nightmarish collision happened near where the Harlem River meets the Hudson River, on a dangerous stretch dubbed the Spuyten Duyvil curve. A train from Tarrytown rear-ended a stalled locomotive from Albany as it come around the bend.


The tragic turn of events began that evening when the Atlantic Express departed Albany 35 minutes late, according to a Jan. 21, 1882 article from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

RELATED: DERAILED METRO-NORTH TRAIN WAS GOING 82 MPH ON 30-MPH CURVE: OFFICIALS


Among the passengers were State. Sen. Webster Wagner, a budding railroad magnate and early promoter of sleeping cars.


Many of his colleagues went along for the ride, too. The State Legislature had let out for the weekend and they crammed aboard the luxury “palace cars” of Wagner’s own design, according to a 1935 edition of “Railroad Stories” reprinted on the blog My Inwood.

RELATED: METRO-NORTH VICTIM CHANGED COUNTLESS INNER-CITY GIRLS’ LIVES


It a boozy, raucous ride. Passengers drank themselves silly, and after the crash rumors ran wild that even some of the porters were inebriated.


As the train pulled around the curve someone, perhaps a drunken reveler, pulled the emergency air break.

RELATED: METRO-NORTH VICTIM GAVE WIFE SECOND KISS


The rear brakeman walked down the tracks to alert oncoming trains, but it was too late. The train from Tarrytown was only three and half car-lengths away from the stalled train when it came into view around the bend.


The collision smashed the rear two cars like an accordion.

RELATED: METRO-NORTH ENGINEER ‘CONSCIOUSLY ASLEEP’ BEFORE CRASH


The oil lamps erupted in flames. A boiler used to heat the cars fed the inferno.


Onlookers from the nearby Kilcullen’s Hotel rushed to the scene, piling snow on the flames and extract passengers caught in the deathtrap. Later, bodies would be piled up at the hotels saloon, some atop pool tables.


Among the dead was the state senator.


“The body of Senator Wagner was a spectacle never to be forgotten. The head was burnt and charred beyond the possibility of recognition, the legs were burnt off and the trunk bruised and disfigured,” The New York Truth wrote on Jan. 15, 1882, according to My Inwood.


A newlywed couple also perished — the bride wouldn’t release her husband hopelessly stuck in the burning car, and she died by his side.


The “Railroad Stories” article noted the many signs of impending doom for the train.


The number ‘thirteen’ seems to run like a theme song through the history of this occurrence. It was Friday the 13th, there were thirteen cars on the express, and the local was running thirteen minutes behind the express,” the article read.

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