19, No. 1
Jan. 12 - 25, 2006
The Stories of 2005
… and Where They Stand in 2006
Double Crime Down 9% in ‘05
Meals Makeover Tweaked
Spark School Protest
Mother of All Elevator Mishaps
Waiting on Armory
Board 7 Shake-Up
Crime Down 9% in ‘05
By JORDAN MOSS
Murders declined again in New York City in 2005 to a 40-year
low of 537. But locally, in the 52nd Precinct, the homicide rate more than
doubled, from eight in 2004 to 17 in 2005.
Shootings, however, only moderately increased from 23 in 2004 to 27 in 2005.
Back in 2003 there were 44 shooting incidents, leading to the largest
shooting reduction in the city the following year. Police officials are
reassured by that three-year comparison
“We’re a victim of our own success,” said Deputy Inspector Joseph Hoch, the
Five-Two’s commanding officer, referring to the big drop from ’03 to ‘04. “I
hate to use that cliché, but that’s where we’re at.”
Hoch said that the relatively small increase in shootings paired with the
nature of the murders makes him and police brass less worried than if
shootings and murder by gunfire dramatically increased. Seven of the 17
homicides were the result of gun violence, Hoch said, and only two were
narcotics related. Four were the result of domestic disputes, and two were
murder-suicides. “I’d be very concerned if there were 17 by gun,” Hoch said.
Overall, crime was down 9.4 percent in the precinct due to reductions in
rape, robbery, and felonious assault.
As for other statistics that give a picture of crime in our area, there were
1,693 drug-related arrests in 2005 in the Five-Two, compared with 1,622 in
2004. Those in high-crime areas like the area of North Fordham between the
Grand Concourse and Webster Avenue and south of East 198th Street say most
drug dealing they see goes unpunished. The area has been the target of
several manpower-intensive initiatives like Model Block and Impact, but many
residents say drug dealing returns when those initiatives fold up their
tents and move on.
The Five-Two also recorded a big jump in arrests, with cops collaring 4,342
suspects in 2005 vs. 3,828 the year before.
Hoch was particularly pleased with the number of search warrants his
officers were able to execute, an indication of improved intelligence
gathering on illegal activity. Thirty-seven search warrants were executed in
2005 vs. 16 the previous year.
Quality of life summonses, for offenses like noise and disorderly conduct,
were up 22 percent, Hoch said.
Meals Makeover Tweaked
Bronx homebound seniors endured late deliveries and
watery, unappetizing meals when the Meals on Wheels overhaul rolled out in
late 2004. The pilot still has many critics, but the food and service
improved some during the year.
Beginning in October 2004, meals cooked daily in local senior centers were
substituted with pre-packaged frozen meals delivered by two Bronx agencies.
Roughly 30 percent of homebound seniors in the northwest Bronx receive
frozen meals twice a week, and the rest get reheated meals on weekdays.
RAIN, a large service provider, delivers all the meals in the area. Their
performance led to numerous complaints in the beginning, but improved as
kinks were remedied, according to the city Department for the Aging (DFTA)
and some former providers.
RAIN partnered with ConAgra, a food-processing giant, to provide the
TV-style dinners for all but kosher clients. A taste test by the Norwood
News found the meals to be watery and unappetizing.
RAIN dumped ConAgra for Whitsons Culinary Services, a Long Island-based
institutional caterer, in September. Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, the
other Bronx provider, has used Whitsons since the pilot began. “People seem
to like them better,” said Brad Silver, head of the Bronx Jewish Community
Council, which provides case management for pilot clients. “[Mid-Bronx] was
getting a lot less complaints.”
Whitsons has Meals on Wheels contracts around the tri-state area. The
27-year-old firm runs a site on East Gun Hill Road.
Holly Von Seggern, a Whitsons spokesperson, said they follow strict
nutritional and taste guidelines, and welcome client feedback. “We take
great pains to work with our customers,” she said.
This month, RAIN started delivering hot or chilled meals on the weekends to
clients who receive them during the week. City Meals, a nonprofit assistance
group, funds Meals on Wheels providers to deliver hot meals to city seniors
on the weekends. RAIN failed to continue this service after it took over the
program, initially providing only frozen meals on the weekends. After City
Meals put its foot down, seniors now receive a hot meal for Saturdays and a
chilled one for Sundays.
“Eventually, they said, ‘We’ve given you enough time, it’s our money, we’re
not paying for frozen meals on the weekends,’” Silver said.
There’s been less progress in assessing the pilot’s first year. DFTA named
KPMG — one of the largest accounting firms in the country — to conduct a
performance evaluation, which was supposed to have begun already. It will
begin “in the near future,” according to a DFTA spokesperson.
During an event last week, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, who had supported the
pilot, told the Norwood News that he was unhappy with its results and that
promises of increased meal services to seniors were not fulfilled. “That
commissioner can never come back to me,” Rivera said, referring to DFTA
commissioner Edwin Mendez-Santiago. Rivera and his son, Council Member Joel
Rivera, said they would consider holding a hearing on the program this year.
— Heather Haddon
Policies Spark School Protest
Captive lunch, the intimidating term for mandatory
indoor meals at city schools, did not go down easy at DeWitt Clinton High
School last fall. Outrage over the new rules and metal detectors installed
at the school seems to have quieted, but the policy is still unpopular with
City administrators decided to beef up Clinton’s security at the start of
the school year, with metal detectors and surveillance cameras installed
over the summer. Anger climaxed during the first week of classes, resulting
in one of the largest student walkouts in recent city history. Over a
thousand students marched to One Fordham Plaza and, as a result, a committee
of staff and students was formed to improve the situation.
The long lines to enter school shrunk as more metal detectors were added.
Fights inside Clinton initially spiked and then subsided, though not
entirely, according to students. “There was a fight every day. Now it’s more
like once a week,” said Valentine, 15, a Clinton student from North Fordham.
Several teachers channeled student anger by exploring activism in the
classroom, and Clinton is hosting a conference on the topic this week.
Activists from around the city have been invited and Mickey Melendez, a
former Young Lord, is the keynote speaker. He is expected to address the
“His whole response to the metal detectors was one of outrage,” said Raymond
Pultinas, a Clinton English teacher who helped organize the conference and a
student publication addressing activism.
The lunch still seems to be a sticking point with students. Jennifer Rivera,
17, says she only has five minutes to eat after getting through the long
cafeteria line. “You have to rush it,” she said.
Some students, like Valentine, still find a way to eat outside. But several
area merchants reported that their business fell after the captive lunch
— Heather Haddon
The Mother of All Elevator
When Ming Kuang Chen, a Chinese food delivery man
disappeared last April 1, virtually everyone feared the worst. Two delivery
men had been murdered in recent years. But almost four days later, Chen was
discovered alive in one of Tracey Towers’ 12 elevators, where he had gone to
make a delivery, shaken and dehydrated but otherwise in good condition.
How Chen became virtually invisible in the elevator, despite a massive
police search and a bank of security cameras focused on each elevator car,
is a tale of a remarkable string of security lapses.
Though 80 police officers searched most of Tracey’s 871 apartment units,
they never brought each of the elevator cars down to the first floor, a
precaution security experts consider routine. The security cameras, provided
by R-Y Management, which oversees Tracey, proved useless as they were unable
to project a discernable image. Even the head of the company that provides
the building’s security conceded that fact. The elevator’s alarm apparently
only rang in the lobby and not in the security room or in the vestibule
where other security guards sit, according to a source familiar with the
details of the case.
The incident was reported in media all over the world and even provided the
material for a sub-plot in a recent episode of the TV show, “Law and Order:
Criminal Intent,” where a missing health inspector was eventually discovered
in the faulty elevator of a housing project.
The plight of Ming Kuang Chen, who has since moved outside the metropolitan
area and is reportedly a kitchen worker for another restaurant, spotlighted
Tracey’s notoriously malfunctioning elevators, which the Norwood News
reported on back in 2002. The 12 elevators are now slowly being replaced. At
least three are already finished, with the rest scheduled for completion
this year, but some residents say they are still getting stuck and skipping
— Jordan Moss
Still Waiting on Armory
A year ago, the Norwood News expressed a wish
that 2005 would be the Year of the Armory. Twelve months later, it would be
accurate to say that that wish went unfulfilled.
Governor Pataki visited the armory with local elected officials last July
but 190 days later, there is still no new site for the National Guard units
still stationed in the buildings to the rear of the facility. Their
relocation is required for the redevelopment of the landmarked structure. An
Economic Development Corporation (EDC) official who led community leaders on
a tour of the armory last month indicated that part of the problem in
identifying a new site was confusion over whether a new Guard facility was
needed for both of the units based at the armory, or just one.
An EDC spokesperson was not able to clarify the issue by press time.
Meanwhile, the Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition has been
recruiting local institutional partners for the newly formed Kingsbridge
Armory Redevelopment Alliance in an effort to generate more local support
for a redevelopment that is best suited to the community. The Coalition has
partnered with a developer to draft a detailed plan for the armory that
includes public schools, a movie theater, athletic space and retail stores.
If the city and state ever identify a new site for the Guard, the EDC will
probably then issue a request for proposals.
— Jordan Moss
Local construction projects continued to break ground
at a rapid rate last year, but moving them to completion, and full
occupancy, wasn’t so swift.
Ground was cleared in all corners of the district for new buildings, which
range from two-family houses to 10-story high-rises.
Projects in University Heights are generally further along. Rows of
identical three-story brick houses were erected by one company along the
intersection of Grand Avenue and West 192nd Street. The homes span 13 lots,
significantly altering a streetscape populated by homes built early in the
Over on Sedgwick Avenue, just below Fordham Road, four rows of three-story
homes were completed in a similar brick style with more upscale features.
Condominiums built by the Fordham Hill Owners Corporation are nearly
finished up the street. Two four-story complexes in Norwood, one on Hull
Avenue and another on St. George’s Crescent, are also moving along.
Other projects moved in fits and starts. The shell of a four-story office
tower went up on Bainbridge Avenue early last year, and has sat untouched
for months due to contractor issues. Similar issues hampered an eight-story
residential tower on East Gun Hill Road. The Fire Department was called out
to a development on Bedford Park Boulevard after the previous structure —
the old Grace Lutheran School — was partially demolished and improperly
Still other projects have yet to get off the ground. A 10-story high-rise
was slated to wrap up this year on Villa Avenue. The plot is still an empty
parking lot, changing hands for the second time in two years for a
multi-million dollar profit. A 140-unit condominium project for Landing
Road, located between West Fordham Road and the Major Deegan Expressway, is
bogged down in zoning changes. Jack Gutman, a realtor overseeing the
development, said that work should begin within a year. The building will
include luxuries, like river views, for a reasonable price, Gutman said.
“It will be the most affordable new condominium project in the Bronx,” he
Some residents are happy to see all the development. “We need more
buildings. There are more families who need more space,” said Carmen Pabon,
63, a Norwood resident.
Others are frustrated. The Department of Buildings has logged over a dozen
complaints for noise and hazardous conditions related to the Slingsby
building on Bainbridge Avenue. St. George’s Crescent residents have called
the city repeatedly to complain about trucks and dumpsters left in the
street near construction on that street.
It’s uncertain how much demand there is for the new developments, especially
the condos and higher-end complexes. The Grand and Sedgwick avenue homes
still had several vacancies as of last October.
Community Board 7 began to assess planning options for the area’s land use
during the fall, and is looking to focus on the Kingsbridge Armory and the
Harlem River waterfront.
— Heather Haddon
The city launched a massive revamping of its
after-school programming in 2005 that, like the Meals on Wheels pilot,
consolidated providers and streamlined services. Both initiatives terminated
contracts with longtime area providers. But Out of School Time (OST), as it
is called, also expanded programming for others.
New contracts were awarded in the summer. Local programs that served smaller
populations of young people, like Tolentine Zeizer Community Life Center,
Sistas and Brothas United, and EARS, all lost their funding. Other programs,
like the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center (MMCC), won additional
The transition was painful for Tolentine, which was forced to fold its teen
program. Sister Margaret McDermott, the Center’s director, worries about
where their kids now end up. “Some go to the public schools, but a lot of
them just go home,” she said.
Tolentine has maintained some teen services through a separate grant, and
they raised $17,000 in private contributions for a small program serving
Sistas and Brothas lost $50,000, but Council Member Joel Rivera softened the
blow with a $20,000 allocation. Both groups plan to reapply to OST.
Other programs grew. St. James Recreation Center added an educational
component to its pre-existing after-school program, which serves 75 kids.
An after-school initiative run at MS 254, a Crotona school serving North
Fordham kids, expanded from 150 to 330 children. “It serves almost all the
kids at the school,” said Johanna DeJesus, who directs the program.
MMCC was able to expand its teen services, serve more children, and hire
more staff. “I think our constituents are happy,” said Rita Santelia, an
Critics of OST say it shaved off too much funding from providers. The city
used to pay around $5,000 per child for after-school programming. OST
allocates a maximum of $2,800. The city has solicited private grants to
supplement the difference, but individual providers are expected to fill
most of the gap.
“It costs much more than $2,000 [per child], that’s for sure,” said DeJesus,
who taps other city and private funds, along with volunteers from Fordham
University, to run the initiative.
— Heather Haddon
Driving Tenants Out?
Perhaps the latest sign of the hot housing market was
the arrival of a controversial real estate company in the Bronx. As the
Norwood News reported in October, the Pinnacle Group snapped up hundreds of
buildings in low-income areas all over the city, including the Bronx, over
the past two years. Their aggressive practices don’t seem to bode well for
After they purchase the properties, Pinnacle makes improvements on the
buildings’ infrastructure, like hallway lighting and security cameras.
Additional Major Capital Improvements are then undertaken, which tenants
must pay a portion of. The company says it is renovating neglected
properties, but many residents dispute the necessity of the work and its
Further raising alarm bells, Bronx Housing Court records reveal that
Pinnacle has taken hundreds of residents to court for rent or to dispute
whether they are the proper leaseholder. Some residents have been taken to
court for using their married name, instead of their maiden name, on rent
checks. Critics fear that Pinnacle’s end game is to drive out tenants and
turn the buildings into co-ops.
Residents of Manhattan Pinnacle buildings have begun to organize, and are
seeking assistance from elected officials and city agencies. So far, the
officials have been slow to respond. The Norwood News, which is the only
city newspaper to write about Pinnacle’s practices in recent years, will
continue to follow this important story.
— Heather Haddon
Ed. note: A meeting of tenants living in Pinnacle buildings will take
place on Monday, Jan. 16 at 4:30 p.m. in the rehearsal room at Riverbank
State Park, located at 145th Street and Riverside Drive in Manhattan. For
more information, contact Kim Powell at
School Leader’s Unfinished
Irma Zardoya was thrust into the spotlight this year
for her successes as Region 1 superintendent. But with that feather freshly
in her cap, she announced her retirement.
Zardoya was widely credited for orchestrating the Region’s significant boost
in test scores last spring. Fourth graders registered the city’s largest
increase in state reading scores, with many local schools showing
double-digit improvements. Scores rose citywide, but the mayor chose to
trumpet the good news at PS 33 on Jerome Avenue, where over 80 percent of
the school’s students passed.
Zardoya attributed the results to her emphasis on professional development
and incorporating literacy in all subjects.
Middle school scores did not fare so well. Less than one-third of area
eighth graders passed, and most schools saw their numbers barely budge.
Zardoya said in an interview with the Norwood News last summer that she
would put extra emphasis on middle-schoolers. What exactly she would have
done will remain a mystery as she announced her retirement last month. The
news came as a shock to many principals and parents, though Zardoya said she
had planned the move for a year now.
Yvonne Torres will officially replace Zardoya next month. Torres has worked
in area schools for nearly three decades, and was a principal at PS 291 in
— Heather Haddon
Community Board 7 Shake-Up
2005 was a landmark year for Community Board 7, which
saw its longtime leader Nora Feury step down as chair after being fired from
her job at a Head Start program, along with an associate for allegedly
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York said that Feury and Ruth Ramos,
who also served on Board 7, pocketed funds from the agency’s operating
It is unclear where Feury, who has not commented on the specific
allegations, stands legally. Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the
Archdiocese, said the matter rested with federal investigators. But Laura
Bradbard, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Inspector General at the
Department of Health and Human Services, said her office had nothing new to
report. “There’s no new information that I can share, nothing new that I can
tell you about the status,” she said. In June, HHS would not even confirm
whether or not there was an ongoing investigation into the matter.
Gregory Faulkner, who had planned to run against Feury for chair even before
the news broke, succeeded her without an election, as there were no other
candidates for the position.
As chair, Faulkner has restructured Board committees; they now meet more
regularly although attendance is still a problem. He has said he wants to
create stronger connections with community residents by creating a Board 7
Web site and complaint intake forms.
Feury, who had served as chair for 17 years, is still a board member, but
her appointment is up this spring. It will then be Borough President Adolfo
Carrión’s decision whether or not to reappoint her.
— Jordan Moss
The seemingly intractable Fordham University radio
tower controversy came to a complete resolution in 2005. Montefiore Medical
Center brokered a deal last spring, allowing Fordham to build its WFUV
antenna on top of a Norwood apartment building owned by the hospital. This
paves the way for Fordham to dismantle the half-built tower on its campus,
which rises near the New York Botanical Garden and has been the source of a
decade of bitter relations between the two institutions.
After a swift review process, the slim antenna was raised onto the
high-rise’s roof in the fall. The switch will be officially flipped this
spring, and Fordham has promised to dismantle its campus tower shortly after
that. In addition to smoothing relations, the new antenna will allow WFUV to
almost double the number of listeners it can reach.
— Heather Haddon
Plant Construction Begins
The battle over the construction of the water
filtration plant, which stretches back more than a decade, came to a close
at the very end of 2004 with bulldozers clearing trees and earth in Van
Cortlandt Park as 2005 rang in. Blasting to unearth bedrock from the site to
make room for the facility began in May and will continue about another 18
months. Trucks leave the site every two minutes or so to remove the
Meanwhile, appellate courts dismissed all remaining lawsuits aimed at
stopping the city in its tracks.
Though most opponents of the plant consider their battle lost, it
nevertheless had an impact by getting the city to scrap an even more
unpopular plan to site it above ground at the Jerome Park Reservoir and make
And though it is a consolation prize few wanted, several area parks are
getting massive makeovers as part of the political deal that paved the way
for the facility. The installation of a $2.3 million playground is under way
in Van Cortlandt’s southeast corner and the beginning of a massive $15
million makeover of Williamsbridge Oval Park should begin in 2006. St. James
Park’s entrances are undergoing renovation and Aqueduct Park in University
Heights is also scheduled for an upgrade.
Meanwhile, community members and local officials keep tabs on construction
of the plant and its impact on the neighborhood at bi-monthly Facility
Monitoring Committee meetings.
— Jordan Moss
Back to News
News | Opinion | Schools
| Features | Continuing Stories | Home
About Us | Past Issues