Vol. 20,  No. 8 April 19 - May 2, 2007



German View of the Bronx
Thanks to YouTube, the Bronx and the world were made aware this weekend of a German military training exercise where soldiers were told to imagine African-Americans in the Bronx exiting a van before firing off their machine guns.

But anyone who has a Google News Alert set for Bronx will learn relatively quickly that our borough is frequently used for target practice by clueless people trying to make a point in violent contexts. In fact, the Norwood News ran an editorial about exactly this last July. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Michael Hart, the Liberal Party candidate for state parliament in Burleigh, Australia, “has rejected suggestions that Burleigh is becoming the ‘Bronx’ of the city,” according to a local paper there.

“We are certainly having some trouble with out-of-control youth gatherings, but I don’t think we have reached that stage yet,” he told the paper…

A year ago, a Swiss paper ran an article about training sessions for people concerned about rising crime in Swiss cities. The headline was, “Safety lessons in a virtual Bronx.”

By the way, we posted an entry about this on our blog — — and it has sparked an interesting exchange. Said one reader: “The image of the Bronx in non-US countries is indeed one of decay, lawlessness, violence, and…gangs. And you know why? Because it was portrayed exactly like this by American pop culture for decades. And since ordinary Europeans derive alot of their ‘knowledge’ about America from American TV series, movies, etc., which are flooding European households, this picture is ingrained into the population. So, if you want to assign blame, start at home and chide Hollywood for the horrible PR job it is giving the Bronx.”

And in response: “I’m from Germany living in New Jersey for a couple of years and even though I spend almost every weekend in New York City, I never went to the Bronx. I don’t know this area and I’m too afraid ending up in a dangerous situation. That might sound funny to some people, but as Tobias [prior writer] said, that’s the image the media made out of it.”

Feel free to add to the conversation. Just go to this particular blog entry (it was posted on April 15) and click on the comment button at the end.

What Political Clubs Mean
Next year, if there’s any particular political or community issue that’s been nagging at you and you want to buttonhole some of the city’s most powerful Democratic officials all in one place, you might consider plunking down $75 to attend the annual dinner of the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democratic Club.

If you went last week, you wouldn’t have even entered the ground floor ballroom before you tripped over State Senators Jeffrey Klein, Eric Schneiderman and Efrain Gonzalez, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, and Councilmembers Eric Gioia and Oliver Koppell, all in full handshaking mode. Inside the ballroom were over 200 more local movers and shakers.

It’s the kind of local political show of force that Norwood’s Decatur Democratic Club probably last exhibited in the 1980s.

It may seem like inside baseball to many, but this type of healthy political activity means a lot to a community. Citywide candidates campaign in Riverdale, where they seek the club’s endorsement and make promises on issues important to them. Active community residents see their officials on a regular basis. The more of them that are involved, the more the officials feel like they need to produce.

Norwood is still part of the Ben Franklin Club’s constituency (it considers its boundaries the 81st Assembly District). Maybe the Ben Franklin Club might consider expanding its membership meeting by having a few meetings in Norwood, or maybe even its annual dinner! Certainly, other leaders would become aware of the club and maybe even participate at a greater level.

The same goes for the rival North Bronx Democratic Alliance, which launched as an alternative to Ben Franklin. When it started, NBDA talked about reaching out to less politically involved parts of the district. We’re still waiting.

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