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May 28, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: Bronx cop pens novel inspired by 2014 killings of NYPD officers


Shocked as any other cop after the execution of two officers in Brooklyn, Sgt. Jordan Castro channeled his feelings into a novel that delves into the often tense relationship between police and the communities they serve.


“Those assassinations were heartbreaking,” Castro said of the deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, shot while sitting in their patrol car in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 2014.


“I said to myself, ‘This has just gone too far. I have to do something. I know that I’m a writer and that I just can’t stand by and go on Facebook and post.’


“I had to do this and I had to be a voice for the police side of the ongoing discourse,” Castro said.

Bed-Stuy residents shoot hoops in honor of NYPD’s Liu, Ramos


“Smoke and Mirrors: Police Dreams” won’t make Castro rich. It’s a self-published e-book that’s also available in print form and has sold about 1,000 copies so far.


But in addition to fulfilling his lifelong dream of writing a novel, Castro donated 0 in proceeds from the novel to the family of a friend, Sgt. Galileo Garcia, who committed suicide in February.


Castro hopes the book will also contribute to the public discourse on American policing.


“I did want to investigate and explore the relationship and the tension between the community and police, and I wanted to work it out as realistically as possible,” Castro said.

Ramos, Liu families deal with Brooklyn shootings a year on


“Writing the book helped me analyze that with more clarity — why these things happen, why the strife exists and how, if possible, we can fix this and make that relationship stronger, better (and) restore that trust.”


Castro, 37, who is married and has a 1-year-old daughter, joined the NYPD in July 2006 and is a training sergeant for Housing Bureau cops in the Bronx.


Raised in Washington Heights by Cuban-born parents, he said they instilled a love of reading in him.


Castro’s favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald, and he admires Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger, too.

Beatles book goes beyond music of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ after 50 years


Over the years, Castro has jotted down story ideas on dinner napkins or blank pages in his memo book. And while police reports filed after big crimes or unusual incidents are no place for fiction, Castro took pride when he wrote them, filling them with details that caught the eye of fellow cops and supervisors.


“They would actually enjoy reading my reports,” he said.


Castro is not the first cop to write a book, but he thinks that every time an officer is published, the stereotypes many people have about police takes a hit.


“There are a lot of misconceptions and preconceived notions about cops,” he said. “This shows that a police officer can be creative, he can think outside the box, he can be an artist.

‘Radiate’ brings sci-fi trilogy to a satisfying end: book review


“He can take real-life events and channel them artistically.”

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May 28, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: Man struck in hit and run on Cross Bronx Expressway


A man walking on a Bronx expressway died after he was struck by a tractor trailer early Sunday, police said.


The pedestrian was walking on the northbound Cross Bronx Expressway near Castle Hill Ave. in Castle Hill when he was hit by the semi-truck around 2:30 a.m., cops said.


The man, who died at the scene, was struck by an unknown number of vehicles following the initial collision, sources said.


The drivers of the tractor trailer and other vehicles fled the scene, cops said.


Police are investigating the accident as a hit and run.

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May 28, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: CARIBBEAT: Here comes “Caribbean Week in New York” 2017


Caribbean Week New York has something for everyone with a yearning for wonderful people and things from the region.


Coming to town from next Saturday through June 10 at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel in Midtown and other venues, there are days of private closed-door sessions for Caribbean government officials and tourism industry and business professionals. However, there are some great activities open to the public.


The free celebrity chef program opens in Midtown when Bloomingdale’s on E. 59th St. hosts Chef Andre Fowles of Jamaica on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and Bahamas chef Max Hardy next Sunday.


Chef Damain Leach and Turks and Caicos’ Chef Charles Joseph will be at Williams-Sonoma, Columbus Circle next week.


There will be a public service next Sunday at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, 331 Hawthorne St. in Brooklyn, from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration is required.



On June 5, the Diaspora Forum, “Optimizing the Economic Potential of Cultural and Heritage Tourism,” will be held at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College, 1650 Bedford Ave., from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.


Look to the Empire State-Building on June 6 when the skyscraper lights from sunset to 2 a.m. in special colors to honor Caribbean Week in New York.


And the Rum & Rhythm Benefit & Auction — aiding the nonprofit CTO foundation for Caribbean students pursuing studies in tourism, hospitality and language — comes to the chic Capitale, 130 Bowery in Manhattan on June 9. In addition, on June 10, Tempo will hold a Caribbean Rocks Concert for Caribbean Week.


To register for the church service, get details of celebrity chef demonstrations and buy Rum & Rhythm tickets, or get general information, visit the “public events” section at www.caribbeanweek.com.


SEVERAL TOMES TO INSPIRE


Inspiration is the theme and purpose of three books — “Intriguing Inspirational Poems,” by Claudia Coombs; “My Love for the Children of Haiti,” by Estelle Marcellus-Dubuisson, and “Poetry: Elixir of the Heart,” by Sharon Ghanny and R.H. Ali.


All the books are available from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.



“This the story of a struggling single mother of three with the vision and determination to improve the lives of the destitute children of Lascahobas, Haiti,” Marcellus-Dubuisson writes in “My Love for the Children of Haiti,” published by Dorrance, which details the many struggles and accomplishments of the nonprofit organization Marcellus-Dubuisson founded to help youngsters and families in her hometown.


Over her life, Marcellus-Dubuisson was moved by despair in her Haiti homeland — where she saw people living in poverty and dying for lack of proper medical care — and inspired to make a better life for people on the island nation, starting with her hometown of Lascahobas.



Coombs’ book — from Amazon’s CreateSpace — is a collection of poems designed to “lift” and “encourage” readers daily.


“Writing poetry is truly an inspiration to me. It enables me to expand my views on life in general and what it has to offer,” said the Trinidad-born Coombs, who also a caterer and hatmaker.



“It (poetry) allows me to examine thebeauty of life creations knowing we are all given the opportunity to partake of it all.”


The collaboration of Ghanny and Ali, published on Xlibris, unites poetry and photography to highlight the works of poets, models and photographers from the authors’ Trinidad home.


“Every author in this book brings a piece of their cultural heritage and language from as far as Trinidad to Guyana, London to India and New York City to Puerto Rico, Jamaica to Haiti, and Panama to the Philippines,” said Ghanny, adding that the book has contributions from youngsters in a children’s section.


A PRE-FESTIVAL “TASTE OF JERK”


“A Taste of Jerk,” the appropriately named kickoff for July’s Grace Foods’ Jamaican Jerk Festival, comes to the VP Records retail store, 170-21 Jamaica Ave. in Queens on Saturday, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.


There will be reggae and soca performances, Caribbean cuisine, an appearance by celebrity chef Wenford Patrick Simpson of B.B. King Blues Club & Grill.


For information, call VP Records at (718) 297-5802. Get details on the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival in Roy Wilkins Park on July 23 at www.jerkfestivalny.com or call (718) 718-425-1177.


EXTENSION, WARNING FOR HAITIANS


During May’s joyful Haitian Heritage Month, which includes Haitian Flag Day and today’s celebration of Haitian Mother’s Day, issued what sounded like an eviction notice to immigrants from the island nation in the getting Temporary Protected Status.


Last week, the Trump administration’s announced last week that Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in the U.S. will be extended six months to Jan. 22, 2018, but noted that there my not be another extension, reported the Associated Press.


Under the Temporary Protected Status, Haitians who came to the United States after the devastating 2010 earthquake, were allowed to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.



“During this 6-month extension, beneficiaries are encouraged to prepare for their return to Haiti in the event Haiti’s designation is not extended again, including requesting updated travel documents from the government of Haiti,” noted the State Department statement.


Meanwhile, Haiti is still recovering from the crippling 2010 earthquake, coping deforestation, dealing with the worst outbreak of cholera in recent history, started by U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal, and other ills.


The Associated Press also reported that Trump administration has begun seeking evidence of crimes committed by Haitian immigrants. The inquiries into any criminal histories of Haitian immigrants were made in internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services emails obtained by The Associated Press.


“Most of them have lived here upward of 15 years. They work hard. They pay taxes. They have U.S. citizen children. They contribute greatly to our economy,” said Cheryl Little, executive director of Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice, of Haitian immigrants.



FREE CITIZENSHIP CLINIC


A free citizenship clinic — sponsored by the Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees organization and Lutheran Social Services of New York — takes place Tuesday in Brooklyn at HWHR headquarters, 208 Parkside Ave., 2nd floor (between Ocean and Flatbush Aves.)


If possible, attendees should bring:


  • Two passport photographs

  • Green Card (Permanent Resident Card)

  • Passport (current or expired)

  • Money order in the amount of 5 or proof of financial hardship, income, recent paystubs or receipt of public benefits.


Call (718) 462-0791 for information.



AUTHORS’ NEW BOOKS MAKE STRIDES


Authors Herb Boyd and Anita Samuels are reporting progress in the promotion their respective books.


Boyd, the author of “Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination,” was recently touting a review of his book in respected “Publishers Weekly” publication. The book will be released on June 6 on HarperCollins’ Amistad Press.


“Boyd (Baldwin’s Harlem) breathes new life into the history of Detroit through stories of the city’s black residents from its earliest days to its bittersweet present,” read the review, which also noted that “Boyd aptly highlights the complexity of the city’s racial legacy from its earliest days.”


From automaker Henry Ford to Motown Company founder Berry Gordy and beyond, “He leaves no stone unturned, making his work an invaluable repository of all that is black Detroit,” said the Publisher’s Weekly review.


On June 10, Herb has a book signing and hold discussion with R. Kiki Ndozie, professor of International Relations and African Affairs of James Madison College of Public Affairs at Michigan State University.


Visit Boyd’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/herb.boyd.14



In the current explosive, atmosphere of abusive online rhetoric, Anita Samuels has been very busy with her book, “Rants and Retorts: How Bigots Got A Monopoly on Commenting About News Online” on Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing.


Samuels — who held a book launch in February at the Mist event space in Harlem — will appear on the WABC-TV show “Here & Now” with Sandra Bookman, on June 4 at noon. She conducted a Facebook Live interview with NewsOne’s senior editor, Lynette Holloway on May 25 that is available in the Videos section of the NewsOne Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NewsOneOfficial.


And Samuel’s has done recent interviews with Charles Hallman of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder newspaper and Marissa Wells of the L.A. Wave community newspaper’s “Book Corner.” Visit www.anitamsamuels.com.


LEGAL GROUP’S GALA TRIBUTES


The Metropolitan Black Bar Association used a portion of its 33rd annual awards gala to honor the late Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson and late New York State Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam


Under the theme, “Building the Legal Diversity Pipeline – From the Backpack to the Boardroom,” close to 600 lawyers, judges and MBBA supporters attended the May 19 affair, held in Manhattan at Pier Sixty. Sandra Bookman of WABC-TV New York served as mistress of ceremonies.



The body of Abdus-Salaam — the first African-American woman to serve on the state’s highest court — was found in the Hudson River in April. Police investigators determined her death was likely, but the city’s Medical Examiner will make the final determination.


District Thompson, the first black district attorney of Brooklyn, died Oct. 9 from cancer.


The gala included presentations to 2017 honorees. Awards and the awardees were:


  • Trailblazer of the Year: Nate Saint-Victor, executive director, Morgan Stanley

  • Corporate Counsel of the Year: Damien Atkins, general counsel and corporate secretary, Panasonic Corp. of North America

  • Jurist of the Year: William Kuntz, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York

  • Private Practitioner of the Year: Joseph Drayton, partner, Cooley LLP

  • Public Servant of the Year: Alphonso David, counsel to Gov. Cuomo


A unified, citywide association of African-American and other minority lawyers, the MBBA is one of the largest organizations of Black attorneys in the New York State area. The organization’s charitable arm will benefit from the more than ,000 raised from the gala.



At the event, MBBA President, Paula Edgar viewed her “Four P’s” — Professional Development, Pipeline, Partnership and Presence” first term initiative, which included the MBBA’s Backpack Giveaway, Bronx Community Law Day, I Am A Solution Town Hall Meetings and other activities. She also introduced her final term initiatives: “Innovation, Mentoring, Partnership, Advocacy, Community and Training.”


Kathlyn Beckles of JPMorgan Chase and Jeanine Conley of Littler Mendelson PC were co-chairs of the 2017 gala.


For information about the MBBA, visit www.mbbanyc.org.



MOTHER’S DAY CONCERT


The 2017 Mother’s Day show at Brooklyn College — a 37-year-old holiday tradition begun by promoter Isaac McLeod and continued by his son, Howard — was a big hit with mothers in attendance on May 14.


There were top calypso artists from Trinidad, Barbados, Dominica, America and other locales.


Among the scheduled performers were Denise Belfon, Orlando Octave, Karene Asche, Peter Ram, Farmer Nappy, Edwin Yearwood, Ricky Jai, All Rounder, Daddy Chess, KC —”The James Brown of Soca,” Dane Gulston, and Dr. Witty. The Sunshine Band backed the performers.



GRAFFITI TO GALLERY


The creativity, ingenuity and successes of a group of respected Bronx street artists is the focus of “The Art of TATS CRU: An Exhibition and Block Party Celebrating 37 Years of TATS CRU,” starting June 3 at BronxArtSpace.


Presented by BXNYCreative, the exhibition opens Saturday, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., with a reception and block party outside the gallery at 305 E. 140th St. (between Third Ave. and Alexander Ave.) in the Bronx. The exhibition runs through July 15.


On June 22, there will be an artist talk with Hector Nazario aka “NICER;” Sotero Ortiz aka “BG183;” and Wilfredo Feliciano aka “BIO,” moderated by Street Art NYC’s Lois Stavsky. There will aldo be a premiere screening of the short street art documentary, “The Jardin Orange Project.”



The Bronx Children Museum will host creative activities for children and families, and will have their museum on the Go Bus parked on the street outside the gallery. The event is free of charge.


“TATS CRU is best known for their work painting murals, so while we are presenting an exhibition inside the gallery, we also want to pay homage to the street art culture they represent,” Antigua-rooted artist Laura James, co-curator for the exhibit along with Eileen Walsh of BXNYCreative.


“We’re celebrating 37 years of friendship, creativity and mutual respect; it’s an inspirational story, and we want to bring the celebration into the street,” she said.



The creation of TATS CRU is miraculous. Staring out as popular and talented graffiti artists, the group members are now sought-after muralists, responsible for works such as the new mural memorial for FDNY EMY Yadira Arroyo, who was assigned to Station 26 in the Bronx and was killed in the line of duty in March. FDNY Paramedic Diana Cassa designed the artwork.


JCAL Development Group is a sponsors for the event. Neighborhood businesses participating in the block party include ID Studio Theatre, Zaro’s Bakery, La Grata Italian Restaurant, Filtered Coffee, and Bronx Native. Support as provided by Port Morris Distillery and The Bronx Brewery.


Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, from noon to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information email bxnycreative@gmail.com or call (917) 407-6678.

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May 27, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: SEE IT: Woman smashes broken bottle on victim’s head in the Bronx


Cops are looking for a woman who snuck up and smashed a broken bottle over the back of the head of a woman walking down a sidewalk in the Bronx, police said Saturday.


The 47-year-old victim was attacked walking on E. 242 St. near Barnes Ave. in Wakefield just before 9 a.m. April 3, cops said.


Shocking surveillance video released by police shows the assailant crack a bottle on the curb, pick up her weapon and give chase. She jogs about thirty paces before closing in and clobbering the woman from behind.


The blow gashed the woman’s head, police said. She was treated at a local hospital.

Knife-wielding teen stabs four in brawl outside Midtown school


The victim said she does not know her assailant, sources said.


The suspect is black with long, colorful braids. She was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans.


Anyone with information on the assault is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.

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May 27, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: Woman smashes broken bottle on back of woman’s head in the Bronx


Cops are looking for a woman who snuck up and smashed a broken bottle over the back of the head of a woman walking down a sidewalk in the Bronx, police said Saturday.


The 47-year-old victim was attacked walking on E. 242 St. near Barnes Ave. in Wakefield just before 9 a.m. April 3, cops said.


Shocking surveillance video released by police shows the assailant crack a bottle on the curb, pick up her weapon and give chase. She jogs about thirty paces before closing in and clobbering the woman from behind.


The blow gashed the woman’s head, police said. She was treated at a local hospital.


The victim said she does not know her assailant, sources said.


The suspect is black with long, colorful braids. She was wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans.


Anyone with information on the assault is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.

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May 27, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: De Blasio: $50M to repair Orchard Beach pavilion in the Bronx


The city’s beaches open for business this weekend — and in a few years, thanks to million, so will an aging pavilion on the shores of Orchard Beach, Mayor de Blasio said Friday.


“The opening day at Orchard Beach has been a very big deal for generations here in the Bronx,” said de Blasio, who entered the press conference to the strains of “Jammin’” by Bob Marley & the Wailers. “But we also know that this beach, for too many years, did not get the support it deserved, did not get the help it deserved.”


De Blasio was looking at a hulking and handsome beach pavilion, built in the late 1930s under the tenure of Robert Moses — when it housed an orchestra that played dance music in addition to concessions and other services for bathers.


But the pavilion closed in 2007 as it deteriorated, and de Blasio said a visit to the beach with Police Commissioner James O’Neill last year made him realize how missed it was.

De Blasio touts cannoli, low business fines in Bronx borough tour


“For a lot of families who don’t have a lot of money, this is the summer vacation right here,” de Blasio said. “And they deserve the finer things in life, too, don’t they?”


The pavilion will be patched up with million in city funds, million from Gov. Cuomo, million from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and million from Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who recalled learning to drive in the parking lots at Orchard Beach.


The visit marks the end of de Blasio’s “City Hall in Your Borough” jaunt to the Bronx, but it also marks the unofficial beginning summer. Starting on Saturday, lifeguards will be on duty at city beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This year, beachgoers who forgot sunscreen are in luck — a city pilot program will provide sunscreen dispensers stocked with free SPF 30 lotion.


City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver warned parents not to take their eyes off children near the water, and thanked the city’s orange-clad lifeguards for their work.

De Blasio’s ‘City Hall in Your Borough’ tour is headed to Bronx


“I want to call out our heroes and sheroes,” he said. “For the last three years we have not had one drowning when lifeguards are on duty.”

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orchard beach
taxes and spending

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May 26, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: De Blasio vows to stop housing homeless in beatup ‘cluster sites’


Mayor de Blasio has promised to stop using rundown private apartments called “cluster sites” to temporarily house homeless families.


City Hall announced on Friday, that in the last year, the city has been able to move 3,000 homeless people out of 842 cluster site units.


That leaves 9,000 still stuck in another 2,816 cluster site apartments all across the city as of last week. Most of the sites are in the Bronx.


Team de Blasio put the best spin on this progress, with Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Stephen Banks appearing outside a building in Soundview he said will no longer host cluster sites.

Handful of bad landlords endanger NYC homeless families


“As we transition the shelter system, we are completely ending the use of cluster sites, which have been an ineffective stop-gap for 17 years,” Banks said.


That goal of “completely ending the use of cluster sites,” however, won’t occur until 2021, Banks admitted.


De Blasio ran for mayor promising to end the use of these apartments, units where small numbers of homeless families are placed in buildings along with rent-paying tenants.


The problem is these buildings have often been notoriously decrepit and riddled with housing and health code violations.

Deaths of Bronx girls show city must end cluster site housing


But as the homeless population grew on his watch from 53,000 to a peak of 60,000 in December, de Blasio was forced to expand their use, plus resort to placing the homeless in expensive commercial hotels as well.


In February de Blasio announced his “Turning the Tide” plan, his latest attempt to confront this issue. He promised to systematically reduce the use of both cluster sites and hotels while building 90 new city-run shelters.


To date, he’s moved to open five shelters, but opening even those five has been a tough lift.


One of the five, a men’s shelter on Bergen St. in Crown Heights, was temporarily blocked by the courts but opened last week after the city reached a settlement with neighbors. A second on Rogers Ave., also in Crown Heights, is on hold while a second lawsuit is pending.


Homeless services department officials said Friday that 3,000 homeless people “transitioned” out of the cluster site apartments, but were less clear about where the families went.


An unknown number have simply been moved into another form of city-subsidized shelter called Tier 2 paid for with taxpayer-funded voucher programs such as Section 8.


Some of the families were moved into permanent housing, but officials couldn’t say how many.


None were moved into hotels, but the city also couldn’t say how many hotels are still in use three months after de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide” announcement.

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May 26, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: Bronx man cuffed after he hurls gay slurs, hits victim


A 27-year-old man spewed anti-gay epithets at a man in the Bronx before hitting him in the head with his cane — then admitted all this to cops, apparently thinking he did nothing wrong, officials said Friday.


“What you talking about? That gay n—-r?” Derik (Luchi) Harry said about the attack, according to cops. “Yeah, he got in my face so I took my cane and I whacked him.”


The conflict began when Harry tried to chat up a 23-year-old woman walking with the victim on Prospect Ave. near E. 168th St. in Foxhurst about 2:30 a.m. Thursday.


After being repeatedly rebuffed by the woman, the 24-year-old victim turned to Harry, telling him, “She doesn’t want to talk to you,” according to police sources.

Cops search for assailant who hurled biased insults at man in NYC


“Mind your business, f—-t!” Harry screamed before pushing the victim away, sources said.


Harry trailed the victim and young woman to a nearby bodega, where he used an anti-gay slur as he punched him in the face.


“I guess you feel like a big man hitting a gay man,” the victim said before calling the police, sources said.


Harry struck the man with his cane and ran off, according to police.


Cops tracked Harry down through his nickname Luchi, police sources said. His arraignment on assault charges was pending Friday evening.


The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident, officials said.

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May 26, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: Bronx’s Grand Concourse to see improvements for pedestrians


Grand Concourse in the Bronx will be even grander.


City officials Thursday said that the famed Bronx thoroughfare will see more pedestrian-friendly projects.


The city is already working on the second phase of a five-part improvement program for Grand Concourse, from 161st St. to 138th St., that’ll cost 4 million. That’ll mean bigger curbs and crosswalks, more on the crossing signal, and medians and trees.


The Vision Zero street safety fixes that have been made include a lower 25 mph speed limit and school-zone cameras that cut lead-foot driving down by 70%, according to the city Department of Transportation.


DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the safety fixes made as part of the city’s Vision Zero safe streets program caused a 40% drop in crashes and no fatalities along Grand Concourse in at least two years.


“We’re talking about numbers but it’s more than numbers. Those fatalities represent our fellow New Yorkers – our mothers, our fathers, our wives, our children, our neighbors,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “It’s really exciting to see Vision Zero work.”


For reckless and boozed up drivers, NYPD Transportation Chief Thomas Chan vowed a crackdown for the Memorial Day weekend.


“Vehicles operated by drunk drivers will be confiscated and subject to forfeiture,” Chan said. “So if you need your car to go to work, if you need your car to go on vacation, or you love your car – I, too, enjoy my car – then please, do not drink and drive.”

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May 26, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: A look back at how opioid addiction plagued the city 20 years ago


One look at the front page of Sunday’s Daily News — the arm, the needle, the headline, “Opioid Nation” — took me back to a summer afternoon 20 years ago. That was the day I met Gloria Colon.


Daily News reporter Linda Yglesias and I had gone to the Hunts Point section of the Bronx for a story about an outreach effort to supply clean needles and condoms to a notorious gathering place for heroin-addicted prostitutes. Gloria was one of them.


I can still see her as I saw her then — a frail, painfully thin woman stumbling down an industrial, pocked-marked sidewalk, barely alive. Her body — all five feet and 90 pounds of it — was an emaciated ruin, with fresh wounds overlapping old ones on scarred, scabbed flesh. She had no teeth, only ill-fitting, chipped-top dentures once given to her by a john who happened to be a dentist.


When I introduced myself, she answered in a shrill, rasping voice, but there was remarkable warmth and kindness in it too. I asked if we could hang out with her to document what her life was like, and she agreed.

A Desperate Life: One woman’s struggle with heroin addiction


She led us through a mangled chain-link fence to a “shooting gallery” that was littered with broken glass, dirty needles, garbage and human waste — a place just like the one I saw in the Daily News last Sunday.


She cooked her fix, tightened her purse strap around her arm and wiped away blood as she probed for a vein. Finally, she found one, and for a moment, as the heroin took hold, she steadied herself against a wall.


What followed, though, was not the slump into oblivion seen in other addicts. It was an explosion of rage — at her need to smoke crack just to jolt herself awake, at her need to prostitute herself to support her 10-bag a day habit. As Linda wrote in our story: “Every moment of her life is an act of desperation: Converging demons of drugs and johns and violence have turned her into predator and prey.” She wanted out.


Gloria’s story ran on the front page of Sunday, July 27, 1997. Headlined “A Desperate Life,” the eight-page chronicle of Gloria’s life on the streets hit New Yorkers hard. They could no longer look away. Gloria was not a nameless statistic— she was someone’s daughter, mother or sister.

One Day at a Time: A former heroin addict’s fight for recovery


In the days that followed, the paper was showered with calls and letters from sympathetic readers filled with compassion. Drug treatment programs, religious organizations and private citizens extended offers of help. Phoenix House was one of seven area rehab centers that put its staff on standby in case Gloria made it off the streets. “A Desperate Life” became part of the lesson plan for incarcerated women at Rikers Island. Parents used it as a cautionary tale for their children.


It’s the only story I’ve done that I know saved lives. One of them was Gloria’s.


I will never forget her horror when she saw the story herself for the first time. It was her mirror. “This will either be my way out or my obit,” she said.


Gloria entered rehab shortly after publication. She spent months in Phoenix House, the 50-year-old drug-treatment facility, battling her demons and fighting through her addiction. When we visited her there, the managing director, Loretta Hinton, told us, “I haven’t seen that kind of abuse of anyone’s body in 20 years.”

Here’s who to contact if you’re struggling with opioid addiction


“A hundred times I’ve thought about leaving,” Gloria told us then. “But I take ‘A Desperate Life’ out of my drawer to make myself remember.”


She and her fellow addicts called their group “chrysalis,” a hopeful image of butterflies in gestation.


And on Sunday, Nov. 30, 1997, the Daily News was able to celebrate her successful metamorphosis in “A New Life,” another eight-page special report, this one a story of recovery.


Gloria was luckier than some others at Phoenix House: She had the love and support of a devoted family behind her. They cheered her on, and the city cheered her on.

How NYC’s opioid epidemic plays out in the Bronx


And, of course, I cheered her on too. By then we had developed a deep and lasting bond of friendship.


Her delightfully squeaky voice on the other end of the telephone always sounded like music to me during our many late-night phone calls, and the family barbeques she invited me to were filled with love, laughter and dancing.


On the 4th of July 2009, Gloria messaged me: “Girl how are you? We have to talk and by the way I am still clean and sober. [I]am living and working in the bx. You would never believe what I do 4 a living…substance abuse counselor! Please call me.”


Gloria died on January 9, 2015, five days after her 51st birthday. She was 33 when I met her. During those eighteen additional years that her body allowed her to live, she gave others the courage to save themselves from addiction, and she got the chance to raise her beautiful daughter, who had been taken from her as a one-year-old.

NYC mother’s loss echoes national heroin addiction crisis


Gloria emerged from her chrysalis as one of the strongest and most inspirational people I have ever known. She had her setbacks, as all of us do, but she never gave up. And nobody ever gave up on her.


“Now I’m really doing the most desperate thing,” she said once. “Living.”


I feel privileged to have known her. I will miss her dearly.


Susan Watts has been an award-winning photojournalist in New York City for more than 20 years. Since 1995, she’s been a staff photographer at the Daily News covering local, national and international news stories.

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May 26, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: Homeless ex-con guilty in savage slaying of Bronx shelter manager


A homeless ex-con has been found guilty of brutally killing the manager of a Bronx homeless shelter.


A jury on Thursday found West Spruill, 41, guilty of murder and criminal possession of a weapon for the shooting of Ana Charle outside the Project Renewal shelter on Bronx Blvd. in Wakefield on April 27, 2015.


Spruill stalked Charle, a 35-year-old mother of two, and ambushed her outside her car.


He forced her at gunpoint to drive into a secluded spot nearby, made her strip and then sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said.


She escaped, and Spruill, who was also naked, chased her and shot her at least three times, killing her.


Spruill lived at the shelter for about six months and left three months before the killing, officials said.


He faces up to life in prison without parole when he is sentenced on June 9.


With News Wire Services

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May 25, 2017
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BRONX NEWS: Bronx man convicted in slaying of homeless shelter director


NEW YORK — A Bronx man has been convicted of killing a director of a homeless shelter where he once resided.


A jury on Thursday found 41-year-old West Spruill guilty of murder in the April 2015 shooting of Ana Charle.


Prosecutors say Spruill accosted the 35-year-old mother of two at gunpoint as she got into her car. He then forced her to drive to a nearby secluded area where he sexually abused her.


At some point the woman managed to flee the vehicle naked. Spruill, who was also naked, chased her down and shot her multiple times.


He faces up to life in prison without parole when he is sentenced on June 9.

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