Vol. 17, No. 26 Dec. 30, 2004 - Jan. 12, 2005


In the Public Interest


Funds for Green Projects

 The borough president’s office infused some additional green into several Bronx conservation projects earlier this month. Through the Bronx Initiative for Energy and the Environment, 14 groups received over $2.1 million to plant 15,000 trees, install solar panels on buildings, and embark on other environmental endeavors in the borough.

“We can make enormous strides in cleaning up the environment, creating jobs in new green industries, and providing a better future for our children,” said Bronx Borough President Aldofo Carrión in a statement.

One local recipient, Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation, is constructing a nine-unit apartment building with innovative, and unusual, materials. A vacant building on Webster Avenue and 182nd Street, now gutted, will include a covering of plants on top of its roof.

By absorbing rainfall, the green roof will help insulate the building and curb street flooding, much like a lawn.

“It could have a real positive effect on sewage overflow into the streets and the Bronx River,” said Pat Logan, Fordham Bedford’s director of policy and planning.

Eight other grant recipients plan to build green roofs. Fordham Bedford’s project is the furthest along, and stands to be one of the first completed in the northeast, according to Logan.

The units of affordable two-bedroom apartments also will feature energy efficient windows and flooring made of bamboo, a renewable wood.

The Bronx River Alliance also received funds for its work preserving the river. In addition to the grants, Carrión’s office is also making a $2 million revolving loan fund available for groups to borrow money at zero percent interest for green projects.

BP Details Investment

As Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión sees it, 2004 was the year of the building boom. The borough was bustling with an unusual number of construction projects, mostly for new housing. 

“The borough is exploding in terms of growth and development,” said Carrión during a year-in-review press breakfast. “We can’t build housing fast enough.”

The rate that his office’s Bureau of Topography issued addresses for new projects nearly doubled between 2003 and 2004. In the first half of 2004, they gave out 650 addresses as compared to 774 for all of 2003. Roughly 685 addresses were issued in 2001 and 2002.

Construction projects in the Bronx over the last few years tended to be institutional in nature, but 95 percent of this year’s developments were housing. Over 600 housing projects were under way in the beginning of 2004, 32 of which were in Community District 7.

Carrión co-sponsored a handful of the developments, which include apartment buildings, houses, and senior complexes, but the bulk came from private companies. “Developers have discovered a pent-up demand for housing,” he said.

Zoning changes, mostly in industrial areas, paved the way for some projects. Others, especially locally, came from squeezing small developments between two existing buildings.

With housing construction at full tilt, Carrión hopes that commercial development will keep up. He was pleased to see the city’s plans for development of the Bronx Terminal Market and the new fish market. Carrión himself is pushing multi-use complexes, such as a renovated Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Olympic Velodrome — a bowl-shaped facility for high-speed biking.

“It’s usable beyond the Olympics … as an indoor sporting and special events space,” said Carrión, who hopes city colleges will hold their graduation exercises there.

But the construction picture is not entirely rosy. Carrión appeared particularly frustrated by the snail’s pace of local redevelopment along the Harlem River waterfront.

“They need a push,” said Carrión about the developers of an unrealized housing project south of the Major Deegan Expressway on-ramp, near Fordham Road. “I wish we were more directly responsible for working with them.”

Serrano Honored

Congressman José Serrano celebrated his three decades in politics on Dec. 16 with a tribute event at Hostos Community College. City college presidents and elected officials joined Serrano in unveiling a permanent exhibit at Hostos’ library with memorabilia documenting his 16 years in the state Assembly and 14 years in Congress.

 “Congressman Serrano has been a tireless advocate for the people of the Bronx and New York City,” said Ricardo R. Fernández, Lehman College’s president.

In Helping Speaker, Koppell Seeks Clout

Oliver Koppell is coming in from the cold, in more ways than one.

On a frigid Thursday morning two weeks ago, the local Council member spent the day shuttling City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Gifford Miller to schools and community centers in his district.

On the Norwood leg of the trip (they spent the morning in Norwood and the afternoon in Riverdale), they read to children at PS 280, visited a computer lab at adjacent MS 80 made possible with Council funding, and kibbitzed with seniors at the Mosholu Montefiore Senior Center.

This all would make for a rather routine photo-op were it not for the fact that Koppell has sat on the far back bench during two two-year terms in the Council, thanks to his unwillingness to play ball with the Bronx Democratic organization. Miller owes his position, at least in part, to regular Bronx Democrats who supported his ascension to speaker. In return, Miller made party chair Jose Rivera’s son, Councilman Joel Rivera, majority leader at age 23.

But Koppell, a former state attorney general and assemblyman, is working hard to mend fences. Hungry for the opportunity to bring home more pork for his district than the occasional funding for a park or arts group, Koppell has started making overtures to the elder Rivera and his allies. He endorsed machine-supported Jeff Klein in his successful bid to replace Guy Velella in the state Senate. And, going even further, he endorsed Naomi Rivera, Rivera’s daughter, in her campaign to replace Klein in the Assembly. 

Koppell is quite popular in the district, particularly in Riverdale, so he may have something to offer Miller by introducing him to likely voters. Whether Koppell’s efforts are successful in netting him more of a role in the Council will be determined in January, when Miller doles out committee leadership posts.

As for the mayoral race, Miller may have some fence-mending of his own to do in the area. Though some seniors at MMCC were charmed by Miller’s rendition of “Young at Heart,” at least one angrily buttonholed him on the filtration plant.

“Why do they take a poor neighborhood like this and build a filtration plant?” Adele Cohen, a member of MMCC’s senior center, pointedly asked Miller as he walked around the room distributing his business card.

Miller said building a plant is a federal mandate, but local opponents of the project insist that an industrial site in Westchester is more suitable than a residential neighborhood like Norwood.

Jordan Moss

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