Browsing articles in "Bronx News"
Sep 13, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Girl steals iPod from baby in stroller in Bronx: police

A heartless girl snatched an iPod from a 2-year-old boy in the Bronx as his mom pushed him in a stroller, police said Friday.

Cops were able to obtain a smiling picture of the suspect and released it to the media. The girl, who appears to be as young as 12 or 13, is being sought.

The child was in a stroller with his 18-year-old mother when a thief walked up to them Saturday in the 48th Police Precinct, which covers the Tremont area, snatched the device and ran off. The child was not hurt.

Police ask anyone with information about the suspect to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. All tips will be kept confidential.

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Sep 13, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Machine politics in fraud-filled Bronx race

The special election for a Bronx Assembly seat — where just 72 votes separate the two top finishers — was mired with fraud that included the winning candidate’s mom working at a poll site where at least one machine wouldn’t even allow people to vote for the challengers, residents said.

As a result, Hector Ramirez, who lost narrowly to Victor Pichardo in Tuesday’s primary, is urging the governor’s Office and federal authorities to look into why there were no levers next to his name — and several other vanquished candidates — on several other machines at other locations when voters went to the polls.

“That’s shameful,” Ramirez said. “We want to say to everybody — the people, New York City, the government — that the election was a fraud. That’s incredible that in New York City, this happened.”

Ramirez was one of seven candidates vying for disgraced Assemblyman Nelson Castro’s seat. Pichardo was the candidate backed by the Bronx county machine (and, apparently, some county machines).

Another candidate, Haile Rivera, who lost by 310 votes, said his poll watchers caught Pichardo’s mother, Luisa Duran, working a table at Public School 33 on Jerome Ave. — a polling place known for having one of the highest voter turnouts.

Rivera, who posted the picture of the defective voting machine on his Facebook page, said his election observers complained about Duran’s presence. She moved to a different table, but moved back later.

“This is not by any means fair,” Rivera said Thursday. “It’s sad. At the end of the day, the people lose. The voters are disenfranchised.”


Pichardo, the former director of community affairs for state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, admitted Thursday that his mother was a poll worker — a violation of New York State law — but insisted everything was on the up and up.

“Let me be clear: neither myself, my campaign staff or anyone associated with my campaign has engaged in any wrongdoing or inappropriate actions during the entirety of my campaign or on Election Day,” Pichardo said. “Yes, my mother was a poll worker, and she has done this on previous campaigns. She went through the process like anyone else.”

Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said voters who couldn’t select the candidate they wanted were given paper ballots, but there’s no way to confirm that. And there’s no way of knowing how many voters simply assumed they couldn’t vote for certain candidates, perhaps wrongly thinking they were not on the ballot.

And Vazquez would not discuss whether the board would launch its own investigation or reprimand Duran.

Experts were appalled.

“Election irregularities are more common than we’d like to believe, but this is a very legitimate case,” said Costas Panagopoulos, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. “It may or may not have been deliberate, but it doesn’t change the fact that in close elections, the outcome could potentially be influenced by these irregularities.”

Panagopoulos said the candidates were doing the right thing by calling for an investigation.

“That type of pressure may eventually cause election officials to be more careful and more diligent in how they administer elections,” he said.

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Sep 13, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Bronx day care raid turns up cocaine, pills, cash

This Bronx day care center is tons of fun — if you get your kicks from cash and cocaine.

Cops raided a three-story residential building housing Fun World Childcare on Wednesday and found cabinets stuffed with cash, at least a kilo of coke and more than 1,000 Oxycodone pills, officials said Thursday.

About 300 grams of the cocaine was found packed in an insulated blue lunch bag “that could be carried by a child,” a law enforcement source said.


A married couple — Gregorio Hanley, 41, and Johanna Vasquez, 31 — who run the Rosedale Ave. day care center and live below it with their two sons, ages 6 and 3, was arrested on drugs and weapons possession charges, officials said.

Sources say investigators raided the Parkchester building at 11:30 p.m. after they spotted Hanley conduct a drug deal outside the address three hours earlier.

Investigators followed the vehicle and arrested one of the guys inside, finding 150 grams of coke.


Then cops searched the day care, finding ,000 in a kitchen cabinet in the couple’s apartment, and, in an empty basement apartment, ,000 worth of pills, ,000 worth of white powder, 150 grams of crack-cocaine, and drug packaging supplies.

The lunch bag with the coke was found in the empty apartment’s fridge, which the 15 children that attend day care can access from outside, officials said.

Investigators also raided an apartment across the street that Hanley had keys to, finding 0,000, a money counter and a loaded 9-mm. handgun hidden inside a television stand, cops said.


Parents taking their children to Fun World Thursday morning were greeted by a letter explaining that the day care was closed.

“A family emergency occurred very late last night and I was unable to message you,” read a note taped to the front door. “Fun World will be closed today. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience.”

Neighbor Spencer Jones, 19, said the couple’s flashy cars and renovation projects seemed to good to be true.

“I was like, something is going on,” said Jones. “There is no way a day care is making this much money.”

With Jennifer Cunningham

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Sep 12, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Algae choking a lake in the Bronx

Park workers have walked off the job rather than clean up thick pond scum in Crotona Park fearing for their safety amid the funky filth.

Workers say the algae in the tiny lake is smelly and gross — and they don’t have proper training or equipment to remove it. To make matters even worse they worry the green gunk is potentially poisonous.

“We don’t know if the algae is toxic,” said Marlena Giga, a rep with Local 983, who organized the work stoppage that began at noon Thursday.

“The employees were terrified.”

The Parks Department insists the algae is harmless and that the cleaning methods workers use are common and safe. Generally, workers wearing life preservers and rubber gloves use boom to pull the algae close to the shore, then throw the gunk in the trash using a rake or other type of scooper.

“Crotona Lake has long faced the problem of non-toxic algae growth, and for just as long algae has been safely removed several times each year,” a parks spokesman said.

But the staffers charged with cleaning the malodorous shallows say something smells fishy about the algae — and they ain’t cleaning it.

In one harrowing ordeal three weeks ago, a worker trying to skim the algae off the top of the water got his boat stuck in a mini-whirlpool caused by an aerating fountain in the lake.

“The employees were terrified because they couldn’t get away from the spout,” Giga said.


On another occasion several months ago a supervisor’s boat capsized while trying to remove some of the algae, leaving him worried for his health.

Parks officials had a different version of events, saying no boat ever capsized, rather a worker accidentally drove over an aerating fountain that sprayed them with nontoxic, filtered water.

Nevertheless, the staffers want the Department of Environmental Conservation to test the algae before they resume cleaning the lake.

The Parks Department says the algae does not resemble the toxic variety — called blue-green algae — or have its telltale clingy characteristic.

The algae has gradually overwhelmed the lake over the last two years, according to a source in the Parks Department.

Recently, the source said, supervisors began pressuring workers to clean up the unsightly green filth once and for all — leading to Thursday’s stoppage.

Parkgoers just wanted to see a lake unsullied by the floating green filth.

“This is really depressing to me. It needs to be clean,” said Lydia Quinones, 54, who works near the park. “It’s not a good sight.”

Giga believed lives were at risk.

“The majority of (workers) don’t know how to swim. None of the employees, including the supervisor know CPR, and no emergency plan was in place,” she said.

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Sep 12, 2013

BRONX NEWS: That’s n-ice! Armory a $2B engine

The planned Kingsbridge National Ice Center will generate nearly billion in economic benefits for the city, its developer claimed this week.

KNIC, the group that is set to turn the vacant Kingsbridge Armory into a 750,000-square-foot ice palace, released its economic snapshot and Community Benefits Agreement less than a week before members of Community Board 7 will consider the project.

“We’re on the cusp of creating a new economy for the Northwest Bronx,” said Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance.

“For lack of a better word, it’s a game changer.”


KNIC says the 0-million center will generate more than .7 billion in economic benefits to the community across the 99 years of the lease.

The community benefits agreement requires that at least 51% of employees be Bronx residents and be paid at least per hour with benefits or .50 without.

The community will receive 1.5% of the ice center’s annual revenues, or 6 million over the 99-year lease. And the community will enjoy free ice time, worth nearly 9 million.

“It’s enormous,” Jonathan Richter, president of KNIC Partners, said of the economic impact. “We were surprised when we started looking at the numbers.”


The planned 50,000-square-foot community center inside the ice rink would have cost 4 million over the life of the lease. The community will get to use the space for free.

“It’s a combination of a performance venue and a community facility,” Richter said. “Coupling those two together made it a robust economic engine for the city.”

Richter stressed that the ice castle will have priceless side benefits, too, such as better health for the community, and an increased likelihood that today’s Bronx youth could end up playing professional hockey.

“The immeasurable community benefits … were somethings we couldn’t put a price tag on,” he said.


Mayor Bloomberg selected the developer for the center in April, but CB7, the Bronx Borough President and the City Council have to all sign off on the lease.

The ice center will boast nine indoor ice rinks, and once completed, the facility will be the largest of its kind in the world. It’s expected to open in 2017.

Controversy has been limited.

“This project means our next generation will not have to suffer from the same vicious cycle of poverty this community has known for years,” said Rev. Que English, senior pastor of Bronx Christian Fellowship Church and a member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. “This project is a beacon of light that will be part of the revitalization of our borough.”

The borough’s main hockey organization, the Bronx/Harlem FD Hockey League currently has to go all the way to Mount Vernon in the Westchester suburbs to find ice time.

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Sep 12, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Cops seek armored car thief in Bronx

Cops are trying to get some traction on a crook who looted nearly a half-million dollars from an unlocked armored car in the Bronx — and then took the truck, too.

The thief was caught on a surveillance camera jumping into the back of the truck, which was left with its motor running at East Fordham and East Kingsbridge roads on July 30, police said.


The hooded crook tossed 9,000 into a bag, and then hopped into the driver’s seat and took off.

A short time later, the thief ditched the truck at Valentine Ave. and waited for his getaway ride — a silver Nissan Rogue — to pick him up.


Police said they are considering all possibilities, including whether the theft was an inside job.

Cops did not provide any other details and they said they did not have descriptions of the thief and his accomplice.


Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477).

On a mobile device? Click here to watch the video.

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Sep 12, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Bronx nursing homes must repay Medicaid

Three New York nursing homes — including two in the north Bronx — were ordered to repay more than million to the state for overbilling Medicaid.

The Eastchester Rehabilitation and Health Care Center will have to cough up 8,068 for miscalculating Medicaid reimbursement rates, following an audit by the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General.

State auditors determined that the nursing home also improperly charged Medicaid for lab and medical services, and staff billed Medicaid for auto insurance payments and depreciation of vehicles but couldn’t provide proof the cars were used for patient care, the auditors said.


The Morris Park Nursing Home owes 0,913 to the federally-funded healthcare system for the poor, after auditors found it miscalculated its tax reimbursements. The facility also reported vehicle expenses, but failed to show how the payments helped patients.

Morris Berkowitz, administrator for the Morris Park Nursing Home, said the state’s findings were “lies.”

“That’s a lie,” Berkowitz said. “It’s not true. This is definitely not true.”


The facilities have 60 days to request an administrative hearing and challenge the findings, a spokeswoman for the auditors said.

The third home ordered to repay funds is the Sands Point Center for Health and Rehabilition in Port Washington, Long Island, which owes 0,367 after an audit uncovered irregularities between mortgage payments and determined that the facility’s management billed Medicaid for luxury cars that were for their personal use, according to the state.

“One of the Medicaid program’s goals is to provide excellent health care at a cost that taxpayers can afford,” Medicaid Inspector General James Cox said. “Our work helps to contain costs while improving health care access and quality for Medicaid customers.”


Sands Point spokesman Timothy Brown said the state’s audit covered 2005 to 2008, a period in which the facility billed Medicaid million. Brown says the majority of the disputed expenses had to do with mortgage payments. He said Sands Point would pay ,000 to the state for vehicle leases.

“The majority, or nearly 90%, of the disallowed expenses relate to mortgage payments,” Brown said. “This discrepancy is due to a re-financing of the center’s mortgage.”

Representatives from the Eastchester Rehabilitation and Health Care Center did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

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Sep 11, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Hacks and PACs triumph in the Bronx

It was nothing but easy victories for incumbents and party- or interest group-backed candidates across the Bronx on primary day.

Across the board, front-runners remained ahead of the pack in the Democratic primaries Tuesday, with only a handful of fresh faces emerging this election season.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. crushed challenger Mark Escoffery-Bey by 4 7,192 votes or 84% to 16%.

The beep remained humble after his win.

“I thank the people of this great borough for the confidence they have placed in me,” an exultant Diaz said.

In the Council races, three open seats in the Bronx went to candidates who benefitted from the backing of the Bronx County Democrats.


In the 11th Council District, covering Norwood, Riverdale, and Woodlawn, attorney Andrew Cohen bested businessman Cliff Stanton to replace the term-limited Oliver Koppell.

Cohen, who won with 68% of the vote, had the support of the Bronx establishment including the outgoing Koppell and a number of unions. Stanton received only 32%.

Along with party support, political action committees played a large roll in Council races this year.

The most money came from Jobs for New York, a group backed by major real estate and development firms.

The well-funded PAC spent more than 7,000 in support of Ritchie Torres and 0,000 against his rival Joel R. Rivera in the race to replace Councilman Joel Rivera, no relation.

The money paid off: Torres won with a double-digit margin over his closest challenger Rivera, 36% to 21%.


The two will face-off once again in the general election with Rivera on the Republican ticket.

The 25-year-old Torres, who could become the first openly gay councilmember from the Bronx, has refused to address the money spent by Jobs for New York.

In the west Bronx, Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson, also backed by Jobs for New York, beat out five rivals in the race to replace term-limited Helen Foster.

The elected official benefitted from major name recognition in the race as parts of the Concourse, Highbridge and Morrisania neighborhoods fall into both her current district and the council district.

Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo held onto her seat despite nearly being booted from the ballot last month for forging signatures on her petitions. She blamed the phony rolls on staffers, remaining on the ballot with only 600 signatures.

“The fact that we had her on the ropes on the petitions means that politics will never be the same,” her challenger, Julio Pabon, said. “We lost, but we gained a lot from this.”

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Sep 10, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Bronx campaigners didn’t go ’round hungry

These candidates are darn hungry. And not just for votes.

After digesting the expense logs that were filed by Bronx City Council candidates in the runup to Tuesday’s primaries, there can be little doubt that campaigning is an endeavor best conducted on a full stomach.

Two hopefuls who ran in Tuesday’s primary — Joel R. Rivera and Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo — seemingly turned their favorite diners into de-facto offices, eating virtually the same meal, day in and day out, over the course of the campaign season.

So, what fuels a Bronx run for office?

Chicharron de pollo, according to Rivera.

“That’s the winning meal,” he said with a toothy grin, referring to the boneless chicken dish.

Rivera, the Deomcratic candidate who’s seeking to replace the term-limited Council Majority Leader of the same name, led the pack coming down the stretch — and the buffet line, as well.


The community relations associate, no relation to the Councilman he hopes to succeed, dined at El Nuevo Valle on Jerome Ave. a whopping 44 times over a five-month stint. That’s an average of 3 .4 visits per week.

Rivera, who will also run on the Republican line in November, often ate both lunch and dinner at the Dominican chicken joint.

“Some of my staff would get tired of it,” the candidate said , noting that his second favorite spot to grab a snack was Little Caesar’s Pizza.

A somewhat curious choice, considering that the district Rivera hopes to represent includes Belmont and Arthur Ave., the borough’s empire for Italian eats.

Rivera guessed that he shelled out nearly a quarter of his campaign funds on food for his volunteers.

Those are some rich provisions, considering that rival Ritchie Torres spent nary a dime on grub over the course of his run (The 24-year-old candidate paid all of his workers a salary, a source close to the campaign told The News).

Donors may not realize that when they write a check to support their candidate of choice, their dollars may be going right down the proverbial hatch.


Arroyo, for example, reported that she’s spent nearly ,000 on “meetings” at the low-key Clock Bar since she launched her bid for re-election in the South Bronx late last year.

The incumbent even dined at the Mott Haven meetingplace on three consecutive days in August, records showed. It’s rumored that she favors the cheese board and a glass of malbec.

“She’s a great woman,” said bartender Barbara Fleury. “She is here a couple nights a week.”

Fleury, a Boston transplant, moved to the Bronx a few months ago and hasn’t yet registered to vote in the city, but said she would support Arroyo.

The Councilwoman’s meetings at the Clock Bar — which was redisticted out of Arroyo’s territory — added up to 1.25 in expenses, according to the Campaign Finance Board.

Arroyo’s challenger, businessman Julio Pabon, spent far less on food during his run. The upstart candidate listed pizza as his go-to grub when hitting the campaign trail.

“I have a crew that must be the most health-conscious — or the cheapest — group of workers and volunteers in all of the races,” Pabon said.

“We either go to a local store, or we grab a slice of pizza,” the candidate added. “We’re simple.”

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Sep 10, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Daughter of Bronx woman, 66, with throat slashed “went completely crazy” after making the gruesome discovery

The woman who found her 66-year-old mother — naked, badly beaten and throat cut — in her Bronx apartment couldn’t contain her anguish after making the grim discovery, neighbors said Tuesday.

The victim’s daughter — who came from her home in Yonkers — was beside herself Monday when she found her bloodied mother at her home on Arthur Ave. in Belmont, neighbor Lillian Melendez, 48, said.

“She just went completely crazy when she came home and found her mother on the floor,” Melendez said.

“She was hysterical, that’s when she called 911 and the police and everybody came.”

The daughter found her on her bedroom floor around 4 p.m., police said.

The victim had her face severely beaten and had her throat slashed, police sources said.

Investigators found no signs of a break-in and believe she tried to fend off her attacker, the sources said.

She was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital and is listed in critical condition Tuesday.

Melendez said she last saw her petite neighbor on Sunday morning, and that the daughter came by to check on her mom after she didn’t answer her phone.

“When she came upstairs and opened the door, she said she found her mother on the floor, bleeding and naked,” said Melendez.


“She said there was blood all over the floor, she was bleeding from her head and her chin was split open.”

Melendez said the daughter had trouble reaching her mom Sunday evening and Monday and she finally came over to check on her around 4 p.m.

Melendez said police told her that none of her belongings appeared to be missing.

“Nothing was stolen, that’s the thing, all her money was there, computers, jewelry, everything was there,” said Melendez, who was interviewed by police for several hours.

Melendez, who has lived in the building for more than a decade, said she was close with the victim — who has been living alone in her fifth floor apartment for more than fifteen years.

“I’m so sick, it really upset me, my little old lady next door is in the hospital, I’m very upset,” she said. “Who would want to hurt this little lady?”

A man who owns a corner grocery store said he has known the victim for years as she would come with her daughter and shop in his market.

“She is a very nice lady, I know her for a long, long time,” said the man, who didn’t want to be identified. “She would always sit outside the building and she would talk to me, she talked to everybody.”

A woman who lives in the building and asked not to be identified said she was friendly with the victim and said she would keep tabs on her because of her age.

She said she talked to the victim’s daughter about her mother’s condition.

“The doctors wouldn’t give her an answer as to whether she would pull through or not, they said it could go either way,” the neighbor said. “We’re all praying for her right now.”

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Sep 10, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Woman slashed across neck in Bronx apartment

A Bronx woman returned home Monday and found her 66-year-old mother near death — she had been beaten severely about the head and had her throat slashed, police sources said.

Investigators found no signs of a break-in at the victim’s apartment on Arthur Ave. in Belmont, the sources said.


The victim, found in her bedroom about 4 p.m., had multiple skull fractures, as well as the massive cut to her neck, the sources said. Investigators believe she fought back against her attacker. She was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital in critical condition. There were no arrests.

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Sep 9, 2013

BRONX NEWS: Big crime drop in the Bronx

It was a bloody weekend in the Bronx — with seven people shot, one fatally — but violent crime is actually down dramatically so far this year in the borough.

There have been 55 homicides so far this year, compared with 77 this time last year. And reports of gunfire are down from 293 in the first eight months of 2013 to 201 during the same period this year.

“The Bronx is having a historic year,” said Deputy Inspector Russell Green, commanding officer of the 43rd Precinct. “Multiple commands are seeing big drops like this.”

Green’s precinct, which encompasses Parkchester, Soundview and Castle Hill, murders have dropped by half — from 16 in the first eight months of 2012 to eight so far this year — compared to the same period last year, according to recently released NYPD data.

And shooting incidents fell to 18, down from 36 in 2012, according to NYPD statistics ending the week of Sept. 1.

Green also told the 43rd Precinct Community Council last week that the drop in crime was mostly a result of better community involvement and increased patrolling in known areas with a history of violent incidents.

In other major crime developments:

n Murders in the 40th Precinct, which includes Mott Haven and Port Morris, fell from nine in 2012 to seven so far this year. Shootings dropped 47% during the same period.

n In the 41st Precinct, which includes Hunts Point and Longwood, murders dropped from six in the first eight months of 2012 to just two in 2013.

The decline in crime is part of a decades-long trend, of course. The 201 shootings boroughwide, for example, is down 76% from 20 years ago, NYPD data shows.

Residents of the 43rd Precinct said they certainly feel safer.

“There’s been a big deterrent with officers out on the street, walking the beat, and talking to the community,” said the Rev. Sidney Hargrave, of Soundview.

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