Browsing articles in "Bronx News"
Sep 7, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Here’s your guide to Bronx Council District 16

A crowded field of seven candidates are vying to represent some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. The race to replace term-limited Councilwoman Helen Foster in the 16th District. which includes West Bronx, Morrisania, Highbridge, and Melrose, has become a referendum on race and immigration with an eclectic mix of candidates.

Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson has the support of the Bronx Democratic establishment, but faces stiff competition from candidates representing the growing Hispanic and West African communities.

Candidate Carlos Sierra has significant name recognition in the district after earning 40% of the vote when he challenged Foster in his 2009.

Other candidates are Pedro Alvarez, Carlton Berkley, Daryl Johnson, Naaimat Muhammed, and Bola Omotosho.


	Pedro Alvarez, an accountant by trade, is the president of Community District 4 Neighborhood Advisory Board, president of the Bronx Merchants Association and treasurer of Family Life Academy Charter School in the Bronx.</p>



Pedro Alvarez, an accountant by trade, is the president of Community District 4 Neighborhood Advisory Board, president of the Bronx Merchants Association and treasurer of Family Life Academy Charter School in the Bronx.

Pedro Alvarez



Citizens Union

Carlton Berkley

Co-Founder of Brothers and Sisters Who Care

Vanessa Gibson



32 BJ/SEIU; United Federation of Teachers; Council of School Administrators; District Council 37; Communication Workers of America Local; Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union; Jobs for New York

Daryl Johnson

President, Morris Ave Tenants Coalition

Naaimat Muhammed

Community Outreach Liaison for Councilwoman Helen Foster

Bola Omotosho

Clinical Researcher

United African Coalition


	<span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); line-height: 12px;">Carlos Sierra works for the City University of New York Citizenship NOW! as a community liaison.</span></p>



Carlos Sierra works for the City University of New York Citizenship NOW! as a community liaison.

Carlos Sierra

Community Liaison for the City University of New York Citizenship NOW!


Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo(D-Mott Haven)

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Sep 7, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Summer shootings reignites Bronx anti-gun activist

The alarming summer-long shooting spree that left 16 children injured or dead has a Bronx anti-gun activist renewing her call for action.

Gloria Cruz has been a tireless crusader against guns ever since she lost her niece to a stray bullet eight years ago.

Naiesha Pearson was killed while playing at a Mott Haven barbecue on Labor Day, 2005.

The 10-year-old was riding her bike near Brook Ave. and 137th St. when a fight broke out and an errant bullet pierced her chest.

Cruz was brought right back to that tragic day last weekend after a pair of shootings left a Bronx child in the hospital and a Brooklyn toddler dead.


This year’s tragic Labor Day weekend gunplay capped a summer where two children under the age of 16 were killed by gunfire and another 14 were wounded.

Cruz believes there is one way to prevent tragedies like the death of 1-year-old Antiq Harris in Brooklyn last Sunday: change the culture of violence that plagues so many city neighborhoods.

“Bullets have no destiny, no discrimination, they just go,” Cruz said. “People need to take accountability for what’s going on in their neighborhoods.”

A veteran of countless gun buyback events, rallies, walks, and vigils, Cruz hopes last weekend’s events will be a turning point for the city.

“It’s up to us to make the changes,” she said. “We have lost some good, innocent kids and it’s up to us to put a stop to this.”


Cruz gave up her position with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence last year after the group ran out of funding.

She now works fulltime at a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

“We can’t stop,” Cruz urged. “We have to keep fighting to change the culture and educate the young people.”

Two men were arrested Friday in Pennsylvania in connection with little Antiq’s death, hours before the 16-month-old was laid to rest. The alleged gunman is 19 years old.

“The city is trying different ways to fight the violence, but it takes a number of years,” Cruz said of the NYPD.


The South Bronx neighborhood where Cruz’s niece Naiesha was killed has seen a steady drop in the number of shootings over the past decade, but it is still an area struggling with violence.

As of August 25th, shootings are down 49% in the 40th Precinct since last year, according to city data.

And earlier last month, the NYPD made one of the largest illegal gun siezures in recent history.

But Cruz believes more can be done on the local level.

“I just tell people not to close your window and shut the shades. We need to be part of the solution and stop ignoring the problem,” she said.

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Sep 7, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Heel held in foot-fetish crimes

Police have arrested the foot fetish freak they say stopped to sniff a woman’s feet during a Bronx sex attack.

Calvin Presinal, 28, was arrested Friday for the Aug. 30 assault on Sedgwick and Bailey Aves. in University Heights, police said.


Presinal crept up behind his 18-year-old victim at 1:10 a.m. and choked her until she passed out on the ground, police said.

He then took off her shoes, smelled her feet, and ran off as the woman regained consciousness, officials said.


About 20 minutes later, Presinal grabbed another woman on Park View Pl. at Willow Ln. in Pelham Bay, officials said.

He tried to unzip her pants before she resisted and he took off, cops said.


Investigators also connected Presinal to an Aug. 5 attack, where he choked a woman until she lost consciousness on Jerome Ave. and West Kingsbridge Rd. in Fordam Manor.

Presinal was charged with attempted rape, three counts of assault and three counts of strangulation.

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Sep 6, 2013

BRONX NEWS: BronxWorks celebration will have ripple effect

One of the borough’s most highly regarded nonprofits is about to begin a series of major renovations at its Grand Concourse community center.

BronxWorks is celebrating its 40th anniversary with upgrades to its rooftop play area and gymnasium.

But wait — the beloved organization is planning an even bigger splash: buying a brand new liner to keep the water in one of the Bronx’s most popular indoor pools.

“We’ve been in the building for about 20 years and we’ve been steadily making improvements,” said Tim Serraille, BronxWorks’ director of operations. “But nothing on this scale.”


This summer the group launched a massive fundraising drive to renovate the 87-year-old building, which has become a center of neighborhood activity on the Concourse.

The group got a huge boost earlier this year when it received a 0,000 grant, authorized by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and a 0,000 grant from term-limited Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster.

BronxWorks is one of the largest nonprofits operating in the borough. More than 35,000 Bronx residents utilize the group’s 27 locations annually.

The organization, called the Citizens Advice Bureau when it was founded in 1972, expanded under the stewardship of recently retired executive director Carolyn McLaughlin, adding programs for immigrants, the homeless and people with HIV/AIDS.


That is why the Concourse headquarters will be renamed in McLaughlin’s honor this fall.

“She is a beloved figure at BronxWorks, so I think it’s fitting,” said Serraille.

The hulking, four-story Classical Revival structure was built in 1926 by the Bronx Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; later, it was operated by the Young Men’s Hebrew Association for more than 20 years.

Last year, BronxWorks expanded its pool services, adding classes and after-school sessions for children.


“Almost all of the children’s programs in the building utilize the pool to some degree,” Serraille said.

The 60-by-20-foot tile pool became a neighborhood hotspot, averaging 400 swimmers a week, but leaks threatened to close the beloved basement swimming hole.

“I’m happy that people are going to help with pool,” said 8-year-old Amanda Crespo. “It’s where I learned how to swim.”

The feisty third grader has attended classes at the pool almost daily for the past year.

“One day I want to be a lifeguard,” Amanda added, listing the different strokes she learned while attending BronxWorks classes at the community center. “I wish I could swim everyday.”

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Sep 6, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Robert Fleming sentenced in 1988 sodomy, murder of girl, 9

It took 25 years, but a cold-hearted monster who raped and strangled a 9-year-old Bronx girl and her mother was finally sentenced for the gruesome crime.

A judge handed down the maximum penalty — a pair of consecutive 25-to-life terms Wednesday — meaning Robert Fleming, 47, will likely die behind bars.

Fleming, a convicted drug dealer, killed Selena Cooper, 26, and her daughter, Joi Little, in their Morris Heights apartment Feb. 29, 1988, officials said.

“He got what he deserved and it’s finally over,” said Wanda Cooper, 47, Selena’s younger sister.

Phyllis Little, Joi Little’s grandmother, raged against the man who killed her granddaughter.

“He’s absolutely crazy. He needs to stay in a psychiatric hospital for the rest of his life,” she said.

The little girl had been placed in the custody of her grandmother because Selena Cooper was addicted to crack, a law enforcement source said.

Little said her granddaughter had permission to spend one night at her mother’s E. 174th St. apartment and that’s why she was there that fateful night.


“She spent Friday night with my son in Queens, she had a recital on Saturday, and then after she went to Selena’s to spend Saturday night with her mom,” Little said.

Little said she went to pick up her granddaughter, and will never forget the grisly scene inside the fifth-floor apartment. The mother and daughter were naked and tied up face-to-face in a blood-soaked bed, the law enforcement source said.

“I found them,” she said. “You know you take that memory with you wherever you go, but sometimes you have to put it in a drawer and close it,” Little said.

“You never forget . . . all of it takes a toll on you,” Little said,

Fleming, who was dating Cooper at the time of the murders, won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 97.

“There’s finally closure to this crime. You never get over it, you deal with it on a daily basis, but today it was like we got to close a chapter and move on,” said Joi’s father Tyrone Little, 52, breaking down in tears.

Detective Wendell Stradford, of the NYPD Cold Case Squad, was at the sentencing Wednesday and said he was relieved Fleming was finally going to pay for the crime. He worked on the case for a decade.

“Over the years, I’ve gotten closer with the family because they were just believing they weren’t going to be getting any justice,” Stradford said. “But we kept promising them we would not stop.”


The case moved forward as the science of DNA technology advanced.

A sample of Fleming’s DNA was first taken in 1998 while he was in state prison on drug and burglary convictions. In 2001, semen samples from the bloody sheets were tested and found to be a match, officials said.

But that wasn’t enough because Fleming could say the evidence came from consensual sex, the law enforcement source said.

Prosecutors only had one chance to get the killer.

Fleming was arrested in 2009 based on the DNA, his own statements and other circumstantial evidence from witnesses, the source said. But the case still moved at a snail’s pace, as Fleming fired five lawyers and was at one point ruled mentally incompetent, frustrating the victims’ families.

The stalling continued at his sentencing, as he went on a 20-minute, often incoherent, rant.

Fleming, who was dressed in a charcoal gray suit and purple dress shirt, proclaimed that statements he made to police were unlawfully obtained, that evidence was tampered with and that his prior drug arrests had been used to convict him.

“Yes, I smoked crack, but that doesn’t resolve me from my innocence,” Fleming said toward the end of his lengthy statement.


Much of his bizarre monologue left observers scratching their heads.

“I went through the evidence in my case with a fine-combed tooth,” Fleming said at one point.

Judge Margaret Clancy said the crime was unthinkable.

“This is one of the most horrific and brutal acts of any kind that I’ve seen in over 30 years in the criminal justice system,” said Clancy. “He demonstrated no mercy to his victims and no one — no parent, no grandparent — should have to live through this.”

The law enforcement source said everyone who witnessed the horrific scene was struck by the brutality.

“He posed them,” the source said. “He had their legs tied open akimbo so you had no choice but to look. It was disgusting.”

The family said they were thankful to the investigators — and the science.

“It was the miracle of DNA,” said Tyrone Little, the father of the slain girl. “Thankfully we have these advances in science and medicine. There was great police work by the NYPD and they got him.”

Phyllis Little has stayed close to the apartment where her granddaughter was killed — just a few buildings away — because she wanted to make sure the killer was caught. Now, she says, it’s time to move on.

“I’m gonna find another apartment someplace else,” she said. “I’m going to move now, I just don’t know exactly where.”

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Sep 6, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Dem Joel R. Rivera’s Republican problem

A Democratic candidate for a Bronx Council seat admitted this week that he’ll also run on the Republican line because the GOP promised him control over dozens of poll site jobs – a quid-pro-quo that might be illegal.

Joel R. Rivera, who is in a six-candidate race to replace term-limited Councilman Joel Rivera, no relation, in the Belmont, Bathgate, and Van Nest district, told a stunned crowd at a candidate forum Wednesday, “The Republicans offered me the line and I did accept it because it came with 70 jobs.”

After the forum, Rivera’s main rival for the seat, Ritchie Torres, called on the candidate to drop out.

“This guy isn’t fit for public office,” charged opponent Ritchie Torres. “Accepting the Republican line in exchange for jobs is illegal.”

Later, Rivera, a community liaison for Controller John Liu, backtracked, saying he misspoke.

“It wasn’t a quid pro quo thing,” he told the Daily News. “It wasn’t like that. There was no deal that was cut with these people.”


It’s unclear what “jobs” Rivera was initially touting. Traditionally, poll sites are staffed with equal numbers of workers from the two major parties. But chairman of the Bronx Republican Party, a fringe group in the heavily Democratic Bronx, denied he conspired to give Rivera, 35, control of the hiring.

“We whole-heartedly back Mr. Rivera. He is a bright, energetic young candidate,” said John Greaney, whose party comprises just 9% of the borough’s registered voters. “Nobody has offered jobs. We don’t have jobs to offer.”

In any event, the deal ensures that Rivera will remain on the ballot on Election Day in November, even if he loses the all-important Sept. 10 Democratic primary.

But being the standardbearer for two opposing parties only invites inspection of Rivera’s positions. He claims to be a Democrat “at heart,” but admitted he sides with conservatives on issues such as gay marriage. He’s opposed to it.

Torres jumped on that, too.

“We need to elect real Democrats who will build a better Bronx, not Republicans who will enrich themselves and their friends,” said Torres.


But Torres has been accused of having his own questionable friends.

Jobs for New York PAC, a real-estate industry group, has spent a staggering 5,487 to support the 24-year-old’s campaign.

The young candidate, who served as housing director for Council member James Vacca (D-Throgs Neck) for five years, has been knocked for not disavowing the special interest money.

“Ritchie Torres is taking the script from the Tea Party and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from real estate tycoons who want to make sure the housing status quo stays in place,” said candidate Cynthia Thompkins.

Torres, who has campaigned on his record as a tenant advocate, did not responded to questions about the real estate PAC.

Albert Alvarez, Raquel Batista, and Joel Bauza round out the field in Tuesday’s District 15 primary.

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Sep 6, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Bank bans hoodies, hats; customers cry racial profiling

Forget dye packs and silent alarms: One city bank hopes to thwart would-be bandits with a dress code.

Lobby signs posted in Cross County Federal Savings Bank branches instruct visitors to remove their hats, hoodies and sunglasses before making their withdrawals — legal or not.

Some customers suggested the depository dress code discriminated against minorities or promoted racial profiling.


“There’s got to be something wrong with the person who thought of that,” said Quest Andino, 51, a black man walking past a bank branch in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

“That’s biased. Some people look scary, some don’t.”

Andino dismissed the idea of a couture crackdown as a deterrent: “If somebody’s going to rob a bank, they’re going to rob a bank regardless.”


Longtime customer Charles Lamatto, 88, insisted there was nothing sinister about the “New York” cap on his head.

“I don’t want to show I’m bald!” Lamatto said after completing a transaction in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I’ve been in this neighborhood 66 years doing business with them. Nobody ever said anything!”

A bank official quickly responded that the critics weren’t giving Cross County enough credit. The no-hats, no-shades, no-hoodies rule was fairly commonplace outside New York. And the signs first went up in its banks — there are seven in the city — without much fanfare two years ago.


“It’s basically just a security measure for our customers and employees,” said George Makowski, executive vice president for security at Cross County.

“It’s like people putting a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign in front of their house,” he said, adding that the rule is rarely enforced.

Cross County branches were robbed seven times in the last five years, all in Queens, according to the NYPD.


Cuban immigrant Sarah Baez, 38, wore a Nike cap Thursday inside the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, branch. She understood the bank’s policy, and defended the way its customers were treated.

“I’ve never seen anyone discriminated against,” she said. “Everyone from different cultures, different colors goes there.”

Provident and PNC banks have a similar policy prohibiting the garments of choice for bank robbers seeking to keep their faces off security footage.


Florida officials credited the policy for cutting robberies in their state. Cops in San Antonio even asked locals to doff their trusty cowboy hats.

The Cross County sign is simple and to the point: “For the safety and security of all customers and employees, we kindly ask that you remove hats, hoods, headgear and sunglasses prior to entering our facility. Thank you for your cooperation.”

An NYPD detective getting money from the ATM at the bank’s Belle Harbor branch was 100% behind the policy.


“That’s a good thing,” he said. “There’s a lot of banks getting robbed … It’s difficult for us to investigate when someone is covering their face.”

While infamous bank robber Willie Sutton generally eschewed a hat, subsequent generations wouldn’t be caught dead (or alive) without their headgear.

The infamous “Yankee Bandit” sported a Bronx Bombers baseball cap while hitting 72 banks in southern California during the ’80s and ’90s.


Closer to home, New Jersey’s own “Hat Bandit” pulled off 19 bank heists before his 2007 arrest. James Madison donned everything from an Air Force cap to a fisherman’s hat during his run.

Norman Pannicciolo, 63, wore her sunglasses inside the Belle Harbor branch with no problems Thursday morning. No one enforced the policy.

“That doesn’t bother me,” the white woman said of the dress code. “It’s a business, and a business has rules.”

The local resident paused when asked if she thought the reception would have been different if she were a black male.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m not a black male.”

With Rocco Parascandola

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Sep 5, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Bronx Councilman slams Parks Department

The Parks Department is failing to repair several decrepit Bronx parks — despite millions in funds allocated for that very purpose, a city Councilman charged Thursday.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-University Heights) said he’s allocated nearly million to the Parks Department in the last three years to spruce up green spaces in his district, which includes Fordham and the West Bronx, but hasn’t seen results.

“This is an embarrassment to our community,” Cabrera said. “If this was in Manhattan, I guarantee you it wouldn’t be in this condition for five years. Here in the Bronx, we deserve better. Here in the Bronx, we expect better.”

The most blatant example, Cabrera said, was at Mount Hope Garden in University Heights, which has been closed for five years and now resembles a junkyard. Cabrera said he earmarked million for a playground update and cameras, but the Parks Department claims it found far more extensive damage, and now needs to bring in a consultant to design the restoration.

Cabrera said he’s also earmarked .7 million for a new garden, fence, playground and benches at the Grand Avenue Playground; 0,000 for security cameras, and repaving the basketball court and redoing the soccer field at St. James Park; and .6 million to create Regatta Park along the Harlem River. But none of the projects, he said, has gotten off the ground.

“All I’m getting is excuses after excuses,” Cabrera said.

A Parks Department spokesman said the borough has received nearly three quarters of a billion dollars for park improvements under Mayor Bloomberg, but the fix ups take time because of “a participatory design process (and) the city’s procurement rules.”


For example, the restoration at Grand Avenue Playground wasn’t fully funded until last year, and is now being designed, the spokesman said. And St. James Park only got its funding this year. The Parks Department held a scoping meeting Thursday to hash out plans.

The slow going frustrates residents.

“On the weekends, my daughter wants to go outside, and I can’t do that, and I have a park next door to me,” said Sandra Perez, 40, who lives next door to Mount Hope Garden. She says the fetid conditions have led to vermin and mosquitoes in the neighborhood.

Aisha Powell, 24, who lives nearby, said she remembers barbecuing at the once beautiful park.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “It’s disgusting. I remember it looking like a park.”

Park boosters said the problem is a disconnect between allocation of funds and actual repairs.

“Unfortunately, this administration is more interested in groundbreakings than seeing these project through to completion,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates.

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Aug 25, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Sound of silence found on City Island

Can’t hear yourself think in the Bronx? Then head to City Island, says one of New York’s top sound experts.

Benjamin Sachwald, an acoustical consultant, or “noise expert,” has registered his lowest decibel reading in New York City in 10 years on the sleepy seaside enclave off the eastern shores of the borough.

“Even rural areas affected by insect noise and wind blowing through trees don’t get that quiet,” said Sachwald after measuring only 38 A-weighted decibels, on a City Island side street. “It’s extremely quiet.”

A-weighted decibels mark the loudness of sound in the air, taking into account frequencies heard by the human ear.

The average city block rings in at around 60 decibels and avenues in midtown Manhattan consistently reach at least 70 decibels, according to Sachwald.

And he knows his noise. The 31-year-old, who doubles as a heavy metal drummer, grew up with a talent for both music and math. He made use of his skills by becoming one of the city’s go-to sound guys.

The audio-phile works for the environmental and engineering consulting group AKRF Inc., the company that assisted in overhauling the city noise code almost ten years ago.

Consultants such as AKRF are often enlisted to help with city projects even before a shovel hits the ground, or the jackhammers start pounding, by assessing sound levels for environmental impact statements.

The oh-so-quiet City Island reading was taken on a residential street, around midday. Sachwald said the reading was comparable to a library reading room.

But just how noisy can the rest of the city get?

According to Sachwald, the loudest offenders in the Big Apple are the elevated trains that rumble through the outer boroughs. The trains reach between 90-95 decibels when screeching through a turn.

“That’s painful,” the sound man said. “Anything between 90-100 can be quite significant.”

With its out of the way locale, Sachwald said City Island is a respite from the day to day barrage of noises that burden most Bronx nabes.

Community Board 10, which encompasses City Island, as well as Throgs Neck and Pelham Bay, has had only 1,292 noise complaints this year with 145 on the isle, according to the city’s 311 system.

That’s the second lowest in the borough — and a far cry from the 4,310 complaints in the Kingsbridge area.

But not all residents of the Bronx hamlet feel their small slice of waterside life is as quiet as Sachwald’s readings would suggest.

“He should come back on a weekend,” said Barbara Dolensek, the head of the City Island Civic Association.

The 40-year island resident said a summertime influx of joyriding motorcyclists has plagued the community with offensive levels of noise.

“Not all of them, but there are a lot that are just loud.”

Dolensek also pointed out a unique noise that island residents have to contend with on an almost daily basis: the blast of gunfire from the NYPD firing range on Rodman’s Neck, just across Eastchester Bay from the island.

“It is blissfully quiet much of the time, but when the firing range is going full force it really disrupts the peaceful quality of life,” Dolensek said.

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Aug 24, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Bronx vol brings 17 years’ Experience

Sleepy-eyed schoolkids won’t be the only ones boarding city buses to return to their classrooms this fall; once again, 83-year-old Marion Chambers will be joining them.

The youthful senior citizen has been tutoring South Bronx students since 1996 with a program known as Experience Corps.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been that long,” Chambers said as she began organizing paperwork for the upcoming school year.

The former disability claims adjuster worked 35 years for MetLife Insurance before taking an early severance package in the late 1980s.

She and her husband, Donald Chambers, planned to spend their autumn years traveling.

But her husband succumbed to complications related to Parkinson’s Disease in March of 1996.

That’s when she found her new role — and found that it suited her perfectly.


“Volunteering changed my whole outlook on life,” Chambers said. “It just came at a good time.”

The young widow, then 66, had no prior teaching experience and was skeptical about how she would fit in with the new program.

“I didn’t know if I could do it,” the spry grandmother said with a laugh. “But it just falls in place, and the kids begin to learn. It was a learning experience for me as well.”

The program is situated in 10 schools across the city, including four in the Bronx.

The group’s 102 volunteers are all 50 years old or older, they all have a high school diploma or GED and each is screened and required to pass a background check.

For her first 10 years with Experience Corps, Chambers tutored students at Public School 156, just steps from her Concourse Village apartment.

She would walk the half a block to the school and work with kids in first through third grade on a one-on-one basis for an hour at a time, four days a week.


Each school day the past two years, she has taken two buses to reach P.S.92 on 179th St.

Experience Corps., run by the Community Service Society, focuses on literacy — reading, phonics, writing and penmanship.

“Volunteers are empowered to give children the gift of reading, and (they) play an essential role in helping them meet reading performance standards,” said Kemba Tamar, the organization’s project director.

The seniors receive a small allowance to cover transportation costs, but Chambers — who was eagerly awaiting her assignment letter for the fall — she said the real reward is helping the kids.

And she shows no signs of slowing down.

“Each year I say I’m too old to keep doing this,” the octogenarian said. “But I come back each time.”

For more information about the Experience Corps, visit

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Aug 21, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Green fix for fetid waterway

It’s the Bronx’s version of the Gowanus Canal, and city officials are eying a natural fix to improve its fetid water quality.

The city Economic Development Corp. is seeking a designer to devise a biofiltration system, called a bioswale, that would catch overflow from combined stormwater sewers before it flows into Westchester Creek.

The East River tributary, which runs from Ferry Point Park in the southeast Bronx to Westchester Village, is contaminated with untreated sewage — good old human waste — during heavy rains, and the problem has gone unchecked for more than 60 years.

The city put out the call for plans last week and will evaluate submissions based on the quality of the proposal, the applicant’s experience and the cost. The deadline to submit a proposal is Sept. 16.


The request is part of the city’s plan to comply with the federal Clean Water Act, and the progress will be monitored by state Department of Environmental Conservation, city officials said.

There are already about 100 of the natural filtration systems — which cost about ,000 each — in place across the city. The city did not specify the number of bioswales being sought for Westchester Creek.

The move will potentially save the city hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been needed to pay for large holding tanks and other traditional “grey infrastructure” components.

“Bioswales absorb stormwater and will improve the health and cleanliness of Westchester Creek,” said Ted Timbers, a spokesman for the city Department of Environmental Protection. “Bioswales also green the neighborhood, provide shade in the summertime, clean the air and make the streets a more enjoyable place for residents.”


During heavy rains, stormwater runoff mixes with raw sewage in the area’s stormwater sewage network. The sewage systems are so antiquated that stormwater mixes with wastewater, and the extra flow has to be diverted into the waterways so it doesn’t overwhelm the sewage treatment plants.

In this case, excess flow is diverted through six pipes from the Hunts Point Wastewater Treatment Plant, directly into Westchester Creek.

Bioswales — which look like plants — are natural filtration systems that purify stormwater runoff before it reaches a waterway. The bioswales are a few feet deep, and filled in with soil and stone to catch the runoff.

Community activist Lothar Krause said the bioswales would be a “positive” step and called it “low-hanging fruit.”


He said the city’s plan amounted to a step in the right direction, but noted that the city still has to address other pollution problems along Westchester Creek — like a city-owned salt mound near the creek banks that inundates the waterway with salt when it rains.

Others said the green infrastructure plan was long overdue.

“I’m sure that everyone who resides near that area is relieved that finally someone is addressing the issue on a permanent basis,” said Francisco Gonzalez, the district manager for Bronx Community Board 9.

“We stand behind the city of New York when they make plans of this type.”

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Aug 20, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Bronx Bangladeshis seek justice for recent attack

A Bronx cabbie returned to the Parkchester block where he was recently stabbed after leaving his mosque, to denounce what he and others described as escalating violence against members of the borough’s Bangladeshi community.

“I was an innocent man, coming for prayers,” said Nur Nabi, visibly distraught and fighting back tears during a rally Monday near the corner of Virginia and Ellis Aves., where he was chillingly attacked from behind on Aug. 11.

“I need justice,” he said. “I don’t want to see this happen to anybody else.”

More than 100 Bangladeshi-Americans waved signs and chanted during the demonstration, joined by several elected officials to demand an end to the recent violence.


Nabi, a 55-year-old father of four who is disabled and walks with a cane, said he was leaving the Parkchester Jame Masjid when a man silently approached him from behind and stabbed him twice, leaving him critically wounded.

Police nabbed Hector Cuevas, 41, who lives nearby.

Cuevas — who made no statement to police — has prior arrests, but all are sealed. Cuevas is free on bail and due in Bronx Criminal Court on Sept. 30, though the charges were not known on Monday.

Police haven’t labeled the attack a hate crime, but Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. noted that the attacker didn’t rob Nabi.


“All he was doing was coming out of the mosque, worshiping Allah,” said Diaz Jr., who noted that although crime is generally down, Bangladeshis appear to have been targeted in a number of incidents over the last year.

“That is a tragedy,” he added. “That is something that cannot, and should not and will not, be accepted.”

Abdus Shahid, a community activist, said there has been an uptick in crimes targeting the borough’s Bangladeshi community. Shahid — who said the growing community now numbers more than 5,000 residents — asked for an increased police presence when the mosques let out.

“We want peace when we go home after prayer,” Shahid said.


Giash Uddin, the president of the Bangla Bazar Business Association, said he knew of two incidents in which people were beaten after leaving another mosque that’s near his discount and variety store on Starling Ave.

Nabi, who said he’s never been assaulted during his nine years as a cabbie, said he had to get stitches for the wounds, and is on antibiotics and painkillers.

Politicians — including state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., City Councilwoman Annabel Palma and city Controller and mayoral candidate John Liu — denounced the violence and vowed to support the community.

“This is, unfortunately, not the only attack, recently, against a man like Mr. Nabi,” Liu said. “To get viciously attacked like this, it’s something that calls for denunciation by elected officials, by community leaders, by all the people here.”

Nabi’s son Asif, 10, said he’s afraid to return to his place of worship.

“I’m scared to go back to the mosque,” the boy said. “What if they stab me?”

with Barry Paddock

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