Inner City Press Bronx Reporter
Archive #1:  February - July, 1999

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July 26, 1999

     On July 22, with much fanfare, the Bronx Borough President announced two loans to a business that moved to the South Bronx in 1997, Princeton Laundry. The first was a $350,00 loan from the federal Empowerment Zone; the second was a $400,000 loan from Business Alliance Capital Corporation, a finance company with offices in New Jersey, Ohio, Minnesota, St. Louis and California. The “message” of the loans was hammered in: “Anyone can say they’re in favor of an environment that’s friendly to business,” the Borough President said. “But in order to create that environment, you have to pay attention to their needs and address them.” Daily News, July 23, 1999.

    What no one mentioned is that Business Alliance Capital Corporation, by its own description, “caters to small businesses that cannot access bank financing.” Asbury Park (NJ) Press, June 9, 1996, emphasis added.

     Princeton Laundry is described as serving the cleaning needs of Manhattan hotels since 1918, with 128 employees. A question arises: why is it that this sized business, in operation for over eighty years, “cannot access bank financing”? More than a dozen banks have duties under the Community Reinvestment Act to lend fairly in the South Bronx and areas like it. Many of these banks are also investors in, for example, Henry Kravis’ New York City Investment Fund, which was supposed to provide financing to small businesses in all five boroughs, to help expand employment opportunities for low and moderate income workers.  Simply as one example, Republic National Bank, applying to be acquired by HSBC / Marine Midland, lists its investment in the NYCIF in its Community Reinvestment annual report on its web site. And what of HSBC / Marine Midland itself, which earlier this year closed its last South Bronx consumer facility, and which while making only six mortgages a year in the entire South Bronx, claims to be primarily serving the area with small business loans?  And Chase?  And Citigroup?  Or are these the "businesses" that elected officials are tryng to be "friendly" to, regardless of their continued retail redlining of the South Bronx?  Why does an eighty year old business with over 100 employees have to go to a finance company that “caters to businesses that cannot access bank financing,” and that charges higher rates? And why does the press not ask any of these questions, but rather simply spout the oft-misleading party line?

     The same public relations spin-machine had been called into service earlier this month when EAB finally opened its Southern Boulevard branch, which EAB had promised since 1995. Even though the decision to open the branch was made four years ago, its opening is presented as reflecting enlightened political and community leadership in 1999. The New York Times of July 22 quotes the senior program director of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation as claiming that EAB’s branch opening reflects “a nascent commercial and economic revival, and it’s happening not just because the economy’s good but because we’ve rebuilt the market.” But Southern Boulevard between 174th Street and Westchester Avenue has remained mostly vacant of stores for a decade, because the housing built around it consists of low-rise, middle income homes. Five story apartment buildings were demolished, and replaced with much lower density housing. This mis-planning was the result of the city turning over its housing planning to the New York City Housing Partnership, which mechanically de-concentrated area after area in the South Bronx. The Partnership’s co-sponsor around Southern Boulevard, MBD, is quoted that “one you get the neighborhood settled... you’re able to go and attract businesses.” Id. But the low rise houses have been up on both sides of Southern Boulevard for more than six years -- and still most storefronts on the Boulevard are empty. EAB chose its location mostly because it was the lender for a group of homes on Minford Place, and the lender to the strip mall whose developer went bankrupt. These issues went uncovered. Inner city communities are ill-served by unquestioning, puff-ball journalism, and by regurgitation of un-analyzed political spin. A continuing theme of ICP’s Bronx Report.

     Meanwhile, opposition is growing to American Marine Rail’s proposal to build a 5-acre waste transfer station in Hunts Point, right next to the New York Fertilizer Co., which processes 750 tons of sludge daily. American Marine Rail’s facility would process 5,000 tons of garbage each day -- more than three times the volume created daily by all Bronx households. Hunts Point already has 25 waste transfer stations, which handle 12,000 tons of waste each day. Bronx residents create 1,850 tons of garbage daily, compared to Manhattan’s 2,400 tons. Meanwhile, a meeting is scheduled on environmental justice issues at EPA’s New York office on July 29.

July 19, 1999

South Bronx Surreal: EAB’s Branch Opening, July 13, 1999

     Last week, European American Bank finally opened its bank branch on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, which EAB has been announcing since 1995. EAB made dozens of reminder calls to the press, set up a tent in the strip mall’s parking lot, and ordered food from Salsa Caterers on Third Avenue. Just before noon, the “dignitaries” began to arrive: Borough President Ferrer, with Dave Dinkins’ old body guard; the head of the city’s Economic Development Corporation (who read a congratulatory letter from Mayor Giuliani, who was at baseball’s All Star game in Boston that day), and EAB / LaSalle brass from as far away as Chicago. The speeches were surreal: some repeatedly call this “a branch for the homeowners of Charlotte Street,” referring dozens of times to President Jimmy Carter’s visit to this street more than twenty years ago; laudatory credit was given to “community partners” who never criticized EAB when it explicitly excluded the South Bronx from its Community Reinvestment Act assessment area. There was, in fact, as EAB well knows, a history of advocacy behind this branch opening -- one that was scrupulously not mentioned from the dais on July 13. But no reason to rain on this happy, and too rare, parade.

    Bronx investigative note: immediately behind the bank branch, on the corner of Minford Place and Jennings Street, is a 72-unit apartment building that has been completed for months, but still stands vacant. It cost $8 million dollars, but sits empty every night, with a sign on the window: “NO APARMENTS” (sic). THIS is a parade that needs raining on, or perhaps the curative power of sunshine.

    One block north, on 172nd Street and Hoe Avenue, another city-owned apartment building is boarded up. The Southern Boulevard commercial strip, from 174th Street down to Westchester Avenue, has hardly rebounded. Despite the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in new low rise housing of all sides of the strip, few stores have moved in. Most planner would tell you that the density of the housing is just too low, and, paradoxically, its income limits are too high. Most residents of these Partnership homes shop by car. The stores of Freeman Street -- a cuchifritos, a discount jeans store -- are the same as they were ten years ago. This was not mentioned, either, under EAB’s tent on July 13. Again, no reason to rain on this happy, and too rare, parade...

[Some archival material cut to save server space - with questions, contact us]

June 28, 1999

     Below in this edition of Inner City Press’ Bronx Reporter is the first in a series, “The Untold History of the Bronx,” focusing on a loan office that Marine Midland / HSBC opened on Willis Avenue in the South Bronx in 1995, and unceremoniously closed in May 1999. While economics -- disparities in wealth, employment and income -- drive the Bronx, the mainstream press confines itself largely to crime and violence and resultant lawsuits. A wrap-up:

     In the past month, there have been four rapes committed in the neighborhood south of Fordham University, variously described as “Belmont,” “Fordham,” or just “the South Bronx.” The first attack took place on June 2 under a staircase on 183rd Street. Then, on June 14, a woman was raped after she heard noises in the hallway outside her apartment on Hughes Avenue, and opened her door. On June 24, a girl was choked and dragged under an apartment building’s staircase. And on June 25, a woman was dragged to the roof of a building on Arthur Avenue near Crescent, and raped.

      As we publish on June 27, the police state that they have apprehended a suspect for all four attacks. Police Department spokesman Detective Walter Burns acknowledges that as of June 20, there have been 247 rapes in the Bronx this year, compared to 350 rapes in the borough in full year 1998. Where is the much-touted decrease in crime, that our Mayor travels the land claiming credit for?

      On June 24, an Inner City Press correspondent attended a so-called “Quality of Life” meeting at the Enrico Fermi Public Library, on 186th Street and Hughes Avenue in Belmont. This was the latest in a series of meetings convened in the library, publicized each time by a flier which contains the name of no organization, just a reproduction of a Norman Rockwell painting called “Freedom of Speech.” Neighborhood residents opine that the undisclosed sponsor of these meetings is either the new small business advocacy group that has opened a storefront on Crescent Avenue, or the uniquely named Federation for European American Rights, “F.E.A.R.”. The acronym plays off racial tensions that existed during the integration of this neighborhood. While since 1990, well over half of the neighborhood’s residents have been Latino or African American families, many of the non-profit organizations in Belmont are still run by, and primarily advocate for, Italian-Americans remaining in the area (including absentee landlords and store owners). FEAR, indeed...

     Side note: another of the Belmont-based non-profit organizations is the Belmont-Arthur Local Development Corporation, which was recently awarded 14 apartment buildings by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The basis of the selection remains a mystery: most of the buildings are outside of this LDC’s “catchment area,” while closer to the LDC, on Lafontaine and 179th Street, for example, HPD has buildings more needing repair, with no front doors, smashed in mail boxes, and only a handful of tenants remaining. The LDC’s selection could involve the Republican connection -- or would that be, “quality of life”? Developing...

     Back at the Quality of Life meeting, a Captain Phipps spoke at length, giving tips about how young women can stay safe from the rapist or rapists. A “48th Precinct Complaint Form” was handed out, stating in small print that “your name and contact information makes this complaint more valuable to the police department,” and asking such questions as:

Have you seen any of the following: Drugs   Weapons    Lookout   Children   Attack Dogs

Please elaborate, if possible. For instance, if drugs are being sold, please be specific (type of drug, cap/bag color, packaging information, etc.)

    About the “individuals at the center of your complaint,” the form asks for “name or nickname if known,” and for “Distinguishing Characteristics (e.g., does this person have facial hair, a scar, dyed hair, tattoo, gold tooth;..”).

    One would have thought the Quality of Life meeting was sponsored by the Police Department, but they were not listed on the flier, and in any event the 48th Precinct runs its own Precinct Council meetings every last Tuesday of the month at the precinct under the Cross Bronx Expressway.

     Also at the meeting was a representative of Community Board 6. Various neighborhood residents, primarily homeowners, voiced complaints unrelated to the rapes. Fordham students are too loud, said one. Another complained about the 24-hour check cashier on Fordham Road, which, she said, attracts business by waiving fees. It was left unresolved if the Community Board could order this business to raise its fees. In fact, it was unclear how or when any of the complaints raised will be addressed...

     And now:

Untold History of the Bronx
Part of an Ongoing Series

      In May 1999, a second floor loft space facing the trapezoidal square where Willis meets Third Avenue, at 149th Street in the South Bronx, suddenly halted its business. Since 1995, Marine Midland Bank had run a consumer loan production office in the space, which had its own stairway up from Willis Avenue. Marine had said the business was good, that the Bronx was coming back. Then, with little public notice, white canvas sheet were unfurled to cover Marine Midland’s signs, and the loan office was gone.

     In the South Bronx, as in other low income urban neighborhoods, businesses come and businesses go, often with little notice. Banks, however, are different. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, many banks closed their branches in the South Bronx, as the population declined due to the abandonment of housing. Starting in 1994, due to local activism using the federal Community Reinvestment Act, six banks opened new office in the South Bronx.

     Marine was the second to open, and the second to close. One might surmise that Marine “gave the Bronx a chance,” and simply found there was not enough business in the community. That is contradicted, however, by government statistics on new housing and jobs that have been created in the area. Marine’s claim, once the issue was raised, was that it had opened or acquired other branches nearby, obviating the need for the Willis Avenue loan office. But Marine’s nearly consumer facility is on Fordham Road, some forty long blocks north of 149th Street. The history:

In September 1994, when a Bronx community group, Inner City Press / Community on the Move, “state[d] that Marine Midland’s pattern and practice of marketing, branching, and servicing upper Manhattan and the Bronx constitutes a clear violation of the Community Reinvestment Act... Marine Midland spokesman Robert Becton disputed the charges, noted that the bank earned ‘satisfactory’ CRA ratings from the Fed.” American Banker, September 27, 1994, Pg. 4, Community Group Targets Marine Midland. See also, Buffalo News of September 24, 1994, Marine Denies Loan Bias in New York City.

In October 1994, when HSBC reached an agreement to open the South Bronx loan production office, its executive vice president Peter Davidson claimed it was “part of the bank’s recent confirmation of ‘its commitment to serving the real needs of people throughout New York State.’” Buffalo News, October 19, 1994, Marine Bank To Increase Loans in New York City.

In September 1995, when Marine opened the South Bronx loan production office, HSBC tried the same spin. The “regional president of Marine Midland Bank said its new office demonstrated its commitment to a ‘slow but steady’ expansion throughout the New York City markets. The Bronx office will include four full-time employees -- two small business loan specialists, a home mortgage expert, and a consumer products person who will handle credit cards and home equity loans.” American Banker, September 21, 1995, Pg. 8.

In an April 1997 New York Times article about branches opened in the South Bronx in connection with Inner City Press’ advocacy, an official of another bank which opened a South Bronx branches stated that “it’s done exceptionally well. It’s absolutely a profitable branch. I treat it no differently than any branch in midtown Manhattan. In fact, I think the growth potential may be greater up there.” HSBC’s “president for metropolitan New York said that the South Bronx was unique because of a 2-year-old, multi-billion dollar effort by the city and Federal Government to build more than 30,000 housing units in a neighborhood that epitomized urban decay. The investment, he said, attracted middle-income residents and fueled a broad economic upswing that has helped the new branches.” New York Times, April 16, 1997, Pg. B1, Banks Discover the South Bronx; Forced to Open, Branches Profit and Refute Stereotypes.

In August 1997, “Marine’s regional vice president [said], ‘We have three people working in our loan production office in the Bronx. They all speak Spanish. They all belong to community groups.’ By day, these employees work for the bank, and by night they are making outside contacts, [he] said.” American Banker, August 20, 1997, Pg. 1, The South Bronx Cheering as Banks Comes Back.

     So what happened, between August 1997 and early 1999? Already in August 1997, Marine had made its two acquisitions, and already had “10 branches in the Bronx and 7.8% of the county’s banking market.” Id. As noted, none of Marine’s Bronx consumer facilities was in the South Bronx, except the loan production office, which HSBC was still touting in August 1997. Has the Bronx’ economy declined since 1997? No. Other banks which opened South Bronx facilities say they are profitable, and, even, that they present greater opportunities than elsewhere. See  above.

    But on June 14, 1999, the New York Daily News reported:

“Three and a half years ago, with much fanfare, HSBC opened a loan office in the South Bronx in response to protests from community activists concerned over subsidiary Marine Midland’s lending record in the area. Now that the 1995 agreement to make at least $15 million worth of loan to the area’s residents has expired, HSBC is calling it quits.

“In a recent filing with state bank regulators, HSBC said it would close the office at 509 Willis Ave. The decision comes as HSBC is shelling out $10.3 billion in cash for Edmond Safra’s Republic New York Bank, strongly increasing its presence in the city.

Demand for the lending center had dwindled since the bank opened three full-service branches in nearby Bronx locations, said HSBC spokeswoman Linda Stryker. As she explained, ‘We had not booked a loan there in months.’”

     Marine Midland in 1999 claims that demand at the loan production office dwindled, then quickly makes reference to three other Bronx facilities, calling them “nearly” when none is within less than forty blocks. If Marine’s business at the loan production office dwindled, it either demonstrates Marine’s lack of commitment to serving low- and moderate-income communities, or indicates that Marine intentionally decided to undermine its one South Bronx facility, by “referring” prospects to branches more than forty blocks away. What happened to the “community outreach,” including at night, that HSBC publicly touted as recently as August 1997? It was discontinued, to save money, by closing Marine’s lone consumer facility in the South Bronx.

     And the cycle begins to repeat itself... A review of mortgage lending data, required under the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, reveals that in 1998, Marine Midland Bank received 190 mortgage loan applications from The Bronx. Based on Marine’s marketing, however, only 44 (or 23%) of these applications came from the South Bronx, defined as Community Planning Districts 1-6 -- less than a quarter of applications from the lower-income, more predominantly minority half of the county. Marine Midland Bank’s denial rate in the South Bronx was (a high) 28.6%. The denials were disproportionately to consumers and homeowners, actual residents of the South Bronx. The approvals are disproportionately “multifamily” loans, which do not distinguish between simple refinances and loans that actually help to improve a rental property for tenants.

     Bronx-based Inner City Press, now having created an affiliated legal advocacy group, the Inner City Public Interest Law Center, on June 24, 1999 raised these issues to the Federal Reserve Board and to the New York State Banking Department. Inner City Press placed a copy of the protest on its web site, at <>.  The Independent newspaper of London, England, where Marine’s parent HSBC is based, covered the protest on June 27, 1999: “‘We are aware a statement has been published on the internet,’ an HSBC spokesman said. ‘We expect U.S. regulators will invite our comments. We shall respond and are confident the challenge won’t delay our application.’”

     The Bronx reaches out - but who reaches back?

June 14, 1999

           Click here for ICP's new Bronx Ferris Wheel surreal poem...

    The gap between hype and reality in the Bronx grows wider daily. By mail and fax, the press releases flow. Starbucks, they of the four dollar cups of coffee, announces with grand fanfare a $500 grant to the Bronx Writers Center, and a ceremonial “first pour” by the Borough President, acting as “Official Guest Barista” at Starbucks new Bronx location. “Barista” is not defined; one assumes it is a pourer of coffee. Starbucks hires a P.R. firm to announce: “Another New York favorite turns up in Yankee territory!” The storefront is a good fifty blocks from Yankee Stadium. The Bronx has 1.2 million residents -- only a company based 3,000 miles away (and a Borough President eager to move beyond the borough) would think that a here today, possibly gone tomorrow baseball stadium was the best and only image of this county.

    Marine Midland Bank, now calling itself HSBC, recently closed its South Bronx lending office, which is opened as part of a three-year Community Reinvestment Act agreement reached in late 1994. Marine was quoted in the New York Times in 1997 saying the office was profitable, and that the bank was committed to the Bronx. Once the CRA agreement expired, Marine closed the office. No press release, just a misleading notice to the New York State Banking Department: “Marine’s acquisitions have made this office redundant.” Marine has no other branches anywhere nearby, and Marine’s new target, Republic National Bank, has only a branch that is behind the fence of the Hunts Point Market.

    Meanwhile, the New York Post obtained and reported on the federal Health Care Financing Agency’s most recent critique of Lincoln Hospital on 149th Street. “HCFA said a March 22 surprise inspection revealed that a 38-year old man had come to the emergency room asking for a refill of his insulin prescription. He was labeled ‘urgent,’ but wasn’t seen for nearly three hours, when a nurse called his name and he didn’t answer... He was discovered hours later, lying unconscious in the waiting area. Efforts to revive him failed.”

    The Daily News of June 11 reports that three 10-year old kids, playing on a vacant lot in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, came upon a partly burned body poking out of a plastic bag. Continuing the theme, in Atlantic City two German tourists checked into the Burgundy Motor Inn, then complained about the smell in their room, before retiring and sleeping through the night. The next morning, maids found a corpses under the box spring. (A.P., reported in the Daily News of June 11). In terms of the production of corpses (and back to the Bronx), Comptroller Alan Hevesi has still refused to register the city’s contract with St. Barnabas Hospital, $342 million over three years, to provide medical care for inmates on at the Rikers Island prison, after questions about five inmates who died without treatment, and/or without being transported from Rikers Island to St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx. St. Barnabas also has a contract to -- manage Lincoln Hospital. Cappuccino, anyone?

   Or perhaps coco helado, tropical fruit-flavored ices. On June 9, hundreds of street vendors marches from 59th Street to City Hall, protesting the city administration’s proposal to ban vendors from 400 blocks in Manhattan. A sizable part of the march was made up of the employees of Delicioso Coco Company, of St. Ann’s Avenue in the Bronx. “We want jobs, not welfare,” said the company’s founder, Alfredo Thibaud. A hearing is scheduled for June 24, before the mayoral “Street Vendor Review Panel.” Coco, si! Starbuck, no!

June 7, 1999

                 Click here for Inner City Press’ Police/Brutality poem...

    Summer has arrived in the Bronx. Carnival wheels spin slowly in Crotona Park, where the city hall of the Bronx used to stand. On 187th Street, smaller merry-go-rounds are set up, and sausage sandwiches fry in trailers that line the sidewalks. According to the New York Times (6/6), in that paper’s main Sunday Bronx story, people coop up in the basement of Sears on Fordham Road, to sit in front of air conditioners. That might be smart: according to the New York Post (6/5), on Friday a 60-year old Bronx woman was killed after a speeding car plowed into her on the Grand Concourse. (Despite some hoopla about de-synchronizing the traffic lights, the Concourse is still a speedway). The Post reports that “the vehicle, either a dark blue Buick or Lincoln, sped northward on the Concourse and made a right turn on 107th Street... anyone with any information can call Crimestoppers at 800-577-TIPS.” Here’s ICP’s tip: there is no 107th Street in the Bronx. R.I.P..

    The Post’s Banana Kelly series has continued, this time (6/1) reporting that the non-profit owes over $450,000 to the city in back real estate taxes, and missed an opportunity to apply for tax breaks on its buildings. The group’s founder says “it’s a damn shame.” The current director Yolanda Rivera “did not return calls for this story or for other Post stories detailing the troubles at her agency.” These pot shots are somewhat besides the (main) point: how a Banana Kelly ally, Aureo Cardona, stands to receive $1 million for organizing community support for the NRDC co-sponsored paper mill in the Harlem River Yards. The time has come other media to get to the bottom of this story (see analysis of The Post’s / Murdoch’s conflict in this matter, below).

     And still the sausages fry, and still the carnival wheels spin...

May 22, 1999

    First, some potentially positive environmental enforcement news (to be followed by a rumination on the Harlem River Yards paper mill scandal, and the silence of other media, from the New York Times to the Cablevision-funded Bronx Today news show on Channel 67):

    Bronx Congresman Jose E. Serrano on May 17 asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand its environmental justice probe to include the NYC Department of Sanitation’s actions resulting in the clustering of waste transfer stations in the South Bronx. In March, the EPA agreed to investigate the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, but declined to include the Sanitation Department, allegedly because this department had not received federal funds. Rep. Serrano’s letter to Anne Goode, director of the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights, asserts that the Sanitation Department received $16 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in fiscal years 1997 and 1998, and from the EPA itself in October 1998. Developing...

    As reported below, a week ago it became known that the Bronx non-profit selected to do “community relations” for the proposal paper mill in Port Morris intends to pay million-dollar fees to its various consultants, leaving very little for the community projects that had been promised. From May 17 to May 22, the media refused to follow up on this story.

    In the case of the New York Times, this is part-and-parcel of the Times’ scanty coverage of the entire Bronx. In these five days, the Times mentioned the Bronx 37 times -- most frequently in paid dead notices. Along with the rest of the NYC media, the Times on May 20 reported that a mother whose baby died of starvation was found guilty of negligent manslaughter. An interesting article about English as a second language mentioned a student at Bronx Community College. Two articles about insurance legislation pending in Albany mentioned Bronx Assemblyman Stephen Kaufman -- who runs advertisements for his part time personal injury law practice on the local cable channels. Why the NYS legislature is not a full time job remains a mystery -- perhaps it’s that most of the votes are pure party-line, therefore not requiring much study or thought.

    From politics to geography: Bronx Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez’ personal injury / negligence law outreach center (for another law firm to which Ramirez has lent his name) remains beckoning on Fordham and Kingsbridge. The top floor windows are blocked by case files. Down the hill on Webster, a sign promises the opening of a Kinko’s photocopy store, in the same square where Federal Express recently closed its lone Bronx office. Over one million people live here. To the New York Times, the supposed paper of record, this primarily results in -- three paid death notices a day, and, periodically, a court report on a freak show trial. But we digress...

    The supposed local media hardly touched the paper mill scandal either. The Bronx’ public access cable system, Bronx Net (Channels 67 - 70) has reconfigured its nightly news show, and renamed it “The Bronx Today.” There’s even less news than before: the majority of the broadcast is an interview, conducted at a stark table against a pitch black background. This venue would have allowed for a question-and-answer session on the scandal: either with Banana Kelly defending itself, or paper mill opponents saying, “I told you so.” Neither was done. A Riverdale assemblyman talked about the school board election; the district manager of a North Bronx community board spoke at length about curb cuts at a shopping mall, and a projected 18-hole golf course in Throggs Neck. Perhaps with there being so little media coverage of The Bronx, editors for non-nefarious reasons want all the coverage to be “positive.” (Witness, for example, Channel 67’s over-promotion of the Borough President’s Office / Bronx Week). But Bronx residents are ill-served by corruption that media, even local media, refuses to report or follow up on.

    Sadly (or perhaps only strangely), the only print publication that moved the paper mill scandal story forward this week was the Columbia Journalism School’s student project, Bronx Beat. In the project’s final edition of the year (it runs only February to May), that paper reported that NYC Finance Department records show at least six Banana Kelly-owned buildings in tax arrears, for at least $200,000 each. Could it be that the paper mill’s (blood) money would go to retire this debt? “Banana Kelly would not provide a list of the properties it owns and its own estimate of tax arrears, despite several requests.” It’s called... reporting. It appears that other media are either conflicted, or uninterested. 1.2 million people, two moonlighting assemblymen, three paid death notices a day...

May 17, 1999

     Bronx grassroots news: Local officials say they are cracking down on the innovative school bus-turned-restaurants that serve heaping plates of rice and chicken, primarily to taxi drivers. Community Board 9’s district manager says, “They’re illegal and they all know it,” and promises “multiagency sweeps” on the bus-restaurants.

    Inner City Press’ Bronx Reporter asks: what the point? As people ICP has interviewed point out, the cooks who open restaurants in busses are trying to make an honorable living. They are not selling drugs -- they’re cooking and selling Latin food, to low income workers who, while driving cabs, can neither return to their apartments and cook for themselves, nor afford the prices at most nightclub-style restaurants that dot their routes.

     If the issue is busses that lack Department of Health licenses, then the Community Board and local non-profits, many of them funded by government, should help them apply for these licensed. To focus “multiagency crack-downs” on these operations, while leaving unaddressed the absentee landlords who refuse to repair leaks and broken boilers, makes little sense.

     In East Tremont, a number of cooks operate three-wheel police scooters they buy at auction as door-to-door delivery restaurants. Some have established time tables to arrive at the various auto body shops and flat fixes that line Park Avenue, and serve rice, chicken and salad for three dollars a plate. In some circles, this is called innovative “micro-enterprise;” many local officials, however, dreaming of a Bronx without many of its current residents, say “They’re illegal and they all know it.” Strange application of the law, in an area undermined by slumlords, redlined by banks and insurance companies, and mis-served by a one-party machine government.

  ...The New York Times of Sunday, May 16, 1999, contained 17 references to the Bronx, down from 30 the previous week. The “mix” of these references was even more dismissive of The Bronx, and its 1.2 million residents, than in previous weeks. Two of the references were in the Westchester Weekly Desk section, one of these simply mentioning a man who lives in the Pelham Bay section of the (north) Bronx. An article about New Jersey mentioned in passing a man who is a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. One wedding announcement reported a spouse who teaches in the Bronx. Two home sales: Riverdale and City Island, both in the North Bronx. An article about a restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn, mentioned a nurse at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. A detailed article about medicine and health quoted a cardiologist from Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. A “Playing in the City” article about a film screening in Chelsea, a benefit for Mercy Hospital (in the North Bronx). A detailed article about Internet stock traders quotes a professor of finance at Manhattan College, in the North Bronx. The only news article of any kind about the Bronx was about the school board election in District 12 -- a story already reported mid-week by the (daily) Bronx page of the Daily News.

    1.2 million people live in the Bronx, one of the five counties of the New York Times’ "home" city.  But, last year New York Times spokeswoman Nancy Neilson was quoted: “We don’t go for big numbers and mass circulation. We go for the top demographics.” All the news that’s fit to print, indeed...  

May 10, 1999

    The smokestack of Browning-Ferris Industry’s and Bronx Lebanon Hospital’s medical waste incinerator on 138th Street in the Bronx was finally removed on May 5, after seven years of mounting community opposition. Bronx Lebanon used the incinerator to burn not only its own medical waste, but that of twelve other hospitals. The incinerator, which will now be converted into a waste transfer station, is four short blocks from seven public housing developments. The South Bronx Clean Air Coalition, and students from a half dozen area schools, held a ceremony Wednesday morning as the smokestack was removed, and vowed to continue their campaign against the many waste transfer stations in the South Bronx. BFI will now use the Locust Avenue site to store medical waste, pending its shipment to an incinerator upstate, in Sheridan, Chautauqua County, near Buffalo. Developing...

Week Two of... All the Bronx News The Times Sees Fit to Print

     ICP’s second week of studying the Sunday New York Times for all references to The Bronx again reflects the “Paper of Record’s” disinterest in the 1.2 million people who live in the NYC borough. Last week there were 18 references to the Bronx, mostly about the anomalous Riverdale section; this week (May 9) there are 30 references, but less actual coverage. The Bronx is referred to off-handedly in articles about Al Gore’s money problems, about “vacations rated G,” and in an editorial about low income students. Two references are to real estate: home sales in Riverdale and Williamsbridge in the north Bronx, and a piece about how the Mount Vernon’s proximity to the Bronx keeps home values low there. There are two weddings covered: one involving a daughter of Riverdale, the second between prep school sweethearts from Michigan, that just happened to be held at the Bronx (oops -- the “New York”) Botanical Garden.

     The one article labeled “Bronx Up Close” -- turns out to be about retiring judge Gerald Sheindlin, who just happened to be assigned to the Bronx late in his career (and who’s the husband of TV’s Judge Judy, the apparent reason for this so-called “Bronx Up Close” piece). One piece of substantive news: an update on the inquiries into the shooting of Amadou Diallo. And that’s it folks, all the news that’s fit to print, about 1.2 million New Yorkers.

May 3, 1999

Bronx Media Watch: All the Bronx News The Times Sees Fit to Print

   As an experiment (that may become an ongoing feature), Inner City Press reviewed the New York Times of Sunday, May 3, and found in these many pounds of “all the news that’s fit to print” a total of 18 references to the Bronx. As demonstrated below, the majority of coverage goes to the North Bronx neighborhood of Riverdale.

   Four of these Bronx references occur in wedding announcements, between partners including a professor of art history at Fordham University, a Fordham graduate now working for Paine Webber, a doctor at Montefiore Hospital, and a special events coordinator at the Riverdale Country Day School.

   There’s a “Playing in the City” notice concerning the Bronx High School of Science, and a letter to the editor (about birds nesting in street lamp poles) from an observant reader in Riverdale.  

   There’s a blurb on a home sale in Riverdale (and one in another, quite different North Bronx neighborhood, Williamsbridge). There’s mention, under the heading “Wines Under $20,” of a liquor store in the Bronx.

   There’s a quote from an ex-Bronx resident about bridges in Connecticut, and mention of convicted ex-Bronx Congressman Biaggi, attending a book party at Elaine’s restaurant in Manhattan.

   There are passing references to the Bronx in articles about the city line(s), and about turkey hunting on the Bronx-Westchester border. In fairness, there are two substantive articles: one about a protest at Community School Board 9, the other about the Board of Education’s planned use of an office Con Ed closed on Kingsbridge Road. And that’s it -- “all the news that’s fit to print.”

   Some might say, the New York Times covers the topics its readers are interested in (which apparently include the Bronx only obliquely). But few newsstands or grocery stores in the Bronx, particularly in the South Bronx, carry the New York Times. Again, some might say that Bronx residents are not interested in buying the New York Times. But Bronx news vendors point out that they would have to order the New York Times through the Times’ own distributor, rather than from the consolidated distributor from which they order all the rest of the newspapers they carry.

   More tellingly, last year New York Times spokeswoman Nancy Neilson was quoted: “We don’t go for big numbers and mass circulation. We go for the top demographics.” All the news that’s fit to print, indeed...

 * * *

   Here's some grassroots news:  the Postal Services’ understaffing of its Bronx post offices has continued, leading neighborhood residents to speculate that some office may be closed. Earlier this year, the USPS closed its office on Melrose Avenue, citing the deteriorated condition of its building (which it had not sought to repair).

   In recent weeks, the post office on 187th Street and Belmont Avenue has been closed for an hour or more in the middle of the day, due to understaffing. When this office is open, lines frequently snake out the door, as neighborhood residents buy money orders to pay their bills, and buy stamps purportedly offered more conveniently by the self-service machine, which is often broken.

   An April 29th call to the office of Bronx Postmaster Tony Rosario gave rise to assurances that the months-old problem “will be fixed by Monday” -- that is, by May 3. The Postmaster’s office claimed to have never received prior complaints by neighborhood residents to Community Board 6 and other local government agencies. The Postmaster’s office blamed the problem on the USPS’ union agreement, with requires all new jobs to be “bid out” to current employees with the most seniority. “Temporary” placements will be made by May 3, the Postmaster’s office has stated. We will see.

   Updates to the stories below:   on April 28, a hospital official stated that there are no current plans to close and sell North Central Bronx Hospital, while admitting that the hospital is shifting its focus to outpatient care, and transferring other functions to Jacobi Medical Center. While Borough President Ferrer called this a victory (“That’s new, folks,” he gushed after hospital official Joseph Orlando’s above-reported statements), Millie Rios, chairwoman of NCB’s community advisory board, “said she had informed Ferrer earlier this year about what was going on, but he chose not to act on it until now.” Ralph R. Ortega, Daily News, April 29, 1999.

    Similarly (on this last issue), the Transportation Department, by its Bronx Borough Commissioner James Kilkenny, has rejected neighborhood residents’ request that traffic lights be staggered on Third Avenue between 140th and 149th Street, following Yahaira Rodriguez’ death in February 1999 after being hit by a speeding car. Note that the Transportation Department did move to stagger the lights on Webster Avenue by 170th Street after a recent traffic fatality. On this most recent Third Avenue outrage, Ferrer has vowed “a fight to the fullest.” We’ll see. Indicative of the incestuous (or “recycling”) nature of local Bronx politics, the current District Manager of Bronx Community Board 1, Cedric Loftin, was until CB 1’s 1997 scandal -- the director of Community Affairs and Education for Borough President Ferrer’s office. Mr. Loftin, too, has vowed to fight for staggered traffic lights on lower Third Avenue. Three months have passed...

    Henry Kravis’ New York City Investment Fund, begun two years ago to serve the outer boroughs and moderate income workers, has continued to shift its focus away. Most recently, the NYCIF has announced it will use its funds, collected from corporations, including banks that received Community Reinvestment Act credit for their investments, to “keep New York’s position in the TV industry,” according to NYCIF president Kathryn Wylde. Participating with the NYCIF is Bear Stearns Constellation Ventures, which will chose the companies for the NYCIF-supported new media business incubator. While this New York Telemedia Accelerator is doubtlessly interesting, it has little to do with the initially stated mission of the NYCIF, or with the CRA credit banks seek for participation in the NYSIF. See below for analysis of the NYCIF’s non-existent investment in, for example, Bronx County. Developing...

* * *

April 26, 1999

   Union employees last week held a rally in front of North Central Bronx Hospital, protesting the Giuliani administration’s reported plan to close the hospital, lay off its 1,200 employees, and sell its physical plant to Montefiore Medical Center. Last month, New York’s highest court ruled that the city cannot lease Coney Island Hospital to a for-profit company; closing a city hospital and selling its plant to a for-profit, however, might not be barred by the ruling, sources say. In March, NCB closed its children’s asthma center, and NCB employees report that ambulances are being diverted from NCB’s catchment area to other hospitals, all to make it appear that NCB is underutilized. ICP has submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation; this story will be updated in this space.

    No-show Councilwoman: Soundview Councilwoman Lucy Cruz was absent at over 50% of the full City Council meetings in the past fifteen months. This after earlier reports that Ms. Cruz lives not only outside of her district, but in suburbs distant from New York City as a whole. Predictably, other members of the Bronx City Council delegation provided defenses for Ms. Cruz. “Her back has been out,” said Highbridge Councilman (and pastor) Wendell Foster. The Bronx Beat telephoned Ms. Cruz ten times over eight days, seeking a response; none of the calls was returned. This situation in the Bronx, where machine backing virtual guarantees re-election, is an argument on the side of term limits.

    Browning-Ferris Industries has finalized its agreement with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, to start on May 5, 1999, to demolish the smoke stacks on its incinerator on Locust Avenue in the South Bronx. The South Bronx Clean Air Coalition notes the connection to Cinco de Mayo, the day in 1862 when Mexican soldiers defeated a French army at Puebla. Celebrations are planned. As noted below, however, BFI is being allowed to continue to use the site as a waste transfer station, and to increase the volume of medical waste it will process. Que sigue la lucha!

* * *

April 14, 1999

“NYC” Investment Fund Bypasses the Bronx:
Henry Kravis’ New York City Investment Fund

    Henry Kravis’ NYC Investment Fund, created two years ago with $1 million each from 50 companies with the purpose of investing “in all five boroughs” and to benefit low- and moderate-income people, has done virtually nothing in the lowest income sections of NYC, most notably in The Bronx. An analysis by Inner City Press of publicly-available documents concludes that of the $50 million raised, less than $500,000 (that is, less than one percent) has been invested in The Bronx, the poorest of NYC’s five counties.

    Kravis and the fund’s sponsor, the New York City Partnership, now plan to solicit more investment in the fund, including from banks who apply for and receive Community Reinvestment Act credit for their investments in the fund. But ICP’s analysis has found that the NYCIF has increasing focused its investments in upscale sections of Manhattan, and in high-tech field that do not employ low- and moderate-income job seekers.

   In its two years of existence, the NYCIF has invested $26.5 million in 16 companies, and claims that these companies have created 3,700 jobs. These investments have included:

$750,000 to Ericsson, the telecommunications giant, for a “CyberLab” in Manhattan;

$3 million in the New York Telemedia Accelerator, which is developing applications for high definition television

$2.5 million in a film production center in Manhattan called “Guns for Hire;”

$875,000 in c3i, Inc., which provides computer support services to mobile sales forces (source for the above: Daily News of 4/12/99, at 27); and

$250,000 in a company formed by ex-Giuliani aide Richard Schwartz, Opportunity America.

Crony Philanthropy

     The NYC Investment Funds two publicly-reported investments plausibly related to the outer boroughs were brought to the fund by its Chairman (Kravis) and President (Kathy Wylde). The NYCIF invested $2 million in Royal Health Care, in a deal related to hospitals in Queens and Brooklyn -- Henry Kravis controls a company that owns 50% of Royal Health Care. The fund’s director of business development, Janice Roberts, said, “As long as we stay focused on the goal, does it really matter if there is a conflict?” (Management Review, 11/99).

    The NYCIF has made much of its $2.5 million investment in the NYC Department of Housing, Preservation and Development’s ANCHOR Program, to build strip malls in the outer boroughs. ANCHOR stands for “Alliance for Neighborhood Commerce and Home Ownership Revitalization.” Since 1995, it has been claiming it would build six strip malls near housing built the HPD and the New York City Partnership. Ms. Wylde was President of the NYC Housing Partnership, and then HPD Commissioner under Mayor Giuliani. While at HPD in 1995, Ms. Wylde stated that the NYC Partnership was investing $2.5 million into ANCHOR. Two years later, at the NYCIF (with still no strip malls built), Ms. Wylde announced that NYCIF was investing $2.5 million into ANCHOR. Is this the same as the Partnership’s $2.5 million? Has any of it, in fact, been invested?

    One of the six planned strip malls has gotten most of the attention: Fulton Ralph Plaza in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. But the New York Times on November 28, 1997, reported that a bank “provided a $2.7 million construction loan for Fulton Ralph Plaza, which will cost $3.5 million; the rest will come from public sources.” Neither the NYC Partnership nor the NYCIF are “public sources.”

    It was announced that two of the six strip malls would be in the Bronx; but of the first four of the strip malls from which developers were selected, none was in the Bronx. This is confirmed on the NYC Partnership’s current web site, which lists four ANCHOR sites, none in the Bronx. There’s talk that there may be two malls, later, in the Bronx, on Southern Boulevard, and north of the 149th Street Hub. Bronx residents are still waiting (to see anything from the NYCIF)...

    In starting the Fund, Mr. Kravis referred to considering providing seed money for a waste disposal plant in the South Bronx.  See Institutional Investor of August, 1996, at 9, beginning with the quote, “‘Why does Henry Kravis want to help New York?’ asks Henry Kravis. ‘I’ve done this [sort of] stuff all my life.’”). Nothing more has been publicly-reported about this Bronx waste station since. Perhaps for good reason -- South Bronx residents have increasingly opposed the environmental risks they are exposed to from other counties garbage, and the U.S. Department of Justice has begun an inquiry. See ICP’s Environmental Justice Reporter.

    Numerous banks have requested and obtained Community Reinvestment Act credit for their participation in this New York City Investment Fund. The Fund’s Board of Directors include Walter Shipley of Chase Manhattan, Michael Carpenter of Citigroup, and the chairman of Dime and Independence Savings Banks. Other Board members include David Komansky of Merrill Lynch, Harry Kamen of Met Life, Henry Paulson of Goldman Sachs, and representatives of the real estate and other industries. Mr. Komansky of Merrill Lynch told Business Week in 1998: “Henry’s not in this to fail, and neither are we.”

    It appears from publicly-available documents -- NYCIF has no separate web site; it has one page on the NYC Partnership site, with no phone number -- that of the $50 million raised by the NYCIF, much of it from banks that apply for and receive CRA credit for their investment, less than $500,000 (or, less than one percent) has been invested in The Bronx, the poorest of NYC’s five counties.

April 12,1999

    ICP has just completed an analysis of bank branches and population, in the Bronx, South Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. Here is a summary table of the results:

Area          Population      Branches         Pop/Branch

Bronx         1,169,000          102                11,461

S. Bronx      450,000              23                19,565

Manhattan   1,428,000          481                  2,969

Brooklyn     2,301,000          244                   9,430

Staten Island  367,000           67                   5,925

Queens        1,952,000        328                   5,951

April 7, 1999

    Two current exhibitions about the Bronx: the Bronx Museum of the Arts is showing “Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented Since the 1960s,” a collection of photos, paintings, sculptures, architectural plans and graffiti (by Daze, Blade and Phase 2). Run until September 5, 1999 at 1040 Grand Concourse; Wednesdays free. With shorter shelf life (and more difficult to access) is the exhibition on “Bronx Art Deco and the Grand Concourse,” showing in the Fordham University library (no provisions for non-students to enter appear to have been made). There will be a slide show on April 29 at 5 p.m., also on Art Deco architecture. Finally, out in the real world, the first Melrose Project is going up: NYC Partnership homes along Elton Avenue, that will sell for fully $225,000. Who in the neighborhood will be able to afford them? Developing (as is an inquiry into the involvement of Bronx Lebanon Hospital, of incinerator fame, see below) in Melrose Commons...

Updated March 23, 1999 -- See text in bold, below

    The world, they say, is moving to the Internet. This is less true in the Bronx, where ownership of personal computers is more limited, and where the struggle for survival, it seems fair to say, is more difficult than elsewhere in the United States. But certainly no harm, and in all probability quite a bit a good, would come from increased access to the World Wide Web (and to the world), among Bronx residents.

    But what moneys have been allocated to “wiring up” the Bronx appear to be being spent unwisely, too slowly, or not at all. Inquiry is being made into the “Bronx Information Network Consortium,” funded with $2.2 million from Bell Atlantic more than two years ago.  Repeated visits in early and mid March, 1999, to the Web site of this “New York State not-for-profit corporation” found that the public was barred from accessing even this not-for-profit Consortium’s membership list, and list of Board of Directors.  

March 23 Update:  A week after the initial publication of this article, the BINC web site suddenly began to allow public access to both of these lists, which are top-heavy with representatives of Lehman College and the Office of the Borough President and its affiliates.

  Specifically, fully six of BINC's 11-member Board of Directors are directly affiliated with Lehman College.  Jose Ithier of BOEDC (a close affiliate of the Borough President's Office) is also on the Board.

   In fact, the now-accessible "Members" list reveals that there are only 11 members of BINC (an 11-member Board of Directors, for a "Consortium" with only 11 members, seems a little extreme -- or would the word be, "incestuous"?).  Among the members (in the order they appear on the members' list) are:   Lehman College, the Borough President's Office, BCA, SOBRO, CSB 10, Bronx Community College, the BP-affiliated BOEDC, Bronxnet, Lehman Performing Arts Center, etc..  This still-limited membership list, given the ambitious proposal that resulted in these $2.2 million to "wire the Bronx," is disconcerting.

    The lack of visibility (and, we opine, effectiveness) of this $2.2 million dollar project in the Bronx is troubling. The need is as great as ever, and yet, even after the allocation (the Consortium’s site refers to this as “Diffusion”) of funds, the need is not being met. On March 11, 1999, the Borough President’s State of the Borough speech was “diffused” over this million dollar network. Yet Bronx residents have seen little to no assistance with Internet access.  

* * * *

     On the evening of February 3, 1998, four plainclothes New York City police officers fired 41 bullets at unarmed street vendor Amadou Diallo as he stood in the vestibule of the building where he lived, 1157 Wheeler Avenue, in the Soundview section of the Bronx. Nineteen of these 41 bullets hit Diallo, killing him.

    Mr. Diallo was 22-years old. He immigrated to the United States in 1995, from Guinea in West Africa. He was born in Togo, and, while growing up, lived in Thailand as well. He spoke five languages: Fulani, English, French, Spanish and Thai, and could read Arabic. Once in New York, he worked 12-hour days six days a week, selling hats and gloves on 14th Street in Manhattan.

    The four police officers who fired their guns -- Edward McMellon, Sean Carroll, Kenneth Boss, Jr., and Richard Murphy -- are refusing to speak about the incident until they are summoned before a grand jury that, it is reported, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson is impaneling. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is said to be considering a federal civil rights prosecution...

Bronx Environmental News

    Meanwhile, in environmental news, the City administration is proceeding with a plan to build a $660 million water filtration plant under Van Cortlandt Park, despite nearly unanimous opposition in the community, including votes against the project by Bronx Community Planning Boards 7, 8 and 12. Under the New York City Charter, however, these Community Board votes are merely advisory. Expect litigation, on procedural grounds, once the Mayor’s Office gives its formal approval for the project.

     The South Bronx Coalition for Clean Air (of which, in full disclosure, Inner City Press/Community on the Move is a member) reports that the consent decree that the state Department of Environmental Conservation is close to finalizing with Browning Ferris Industries would allow BFI to re-open the notorious Locust Avenue medical waste incinerator in Port Morris, if BFI’s application for a steam sterilization facility on the site is not approved. More information about the history of this incinerator is including on Inner City Press’s Environmental Justice Page.

     A survey recently completed by the city’s Department of Health has found that the students of Public Schools 48, 60 and 75 in Hunts Point are three times more likely to have asthma than the national average -- fully 25% of the students at these schools have asthma. Meanwhile, the city and state are granting permits for more and more waste transfer stations in Hunts Point, Port Morris, Zerega, and other areas of the Bronx.

    One word of enforcement -- though by a jury in Albany, New York, rather than in the Bronx: Gurmeet Sinhg Dhinsa and others charges with racketeering with him have been ordered to pay over $10 million for cleanup costs for the pollution at a gas station Mr. Dhinsa ran, at 242 East 138th Street in the Bronx. By the time he was arrested in 1997, Mr. Dhinsa had amassed a 50-gas station empire, by, Federal prosecutors say, ordering contract killings (as well as the pollution for which he has been fined). Inner City Reporter will continue to follow this case.

Bronx Housing News

    In housing news, the long-delayed Melrose Commons development, of middle income homes, has begun construction, along Elton Avenue between 156th and 159th Street. The houses will sell for over $218,000 -- this in a community where the median family income is under $15,000 a year. This is how what little housing subsidy money the city and the Borough President have is being used. The builder, Procida Realty and Construction, has already been the subject of voluminous complaints about the prefab houses it built around Intervale Avenue earlier this decade.  While there has been some innovative community-based planning on parts of Melrose Commons by Nos Quedamos, a fundamental point has been lost or obscured:  these houses are entirely unaffordable to over 90% of current South Bronx (and Melrose) residents.

     Meanwhile, President Clinton’s recently announced HUD budget includes fully $50 million for local governments to demolish vacant apartment buildings. There is no question that it is cheaper to rehabilitate an abandoned building than to do new construction. And so, while the federal government uses its housing dollars to knock down vacant apartment buildings that could be fixed, New York City and the Bronx Borough President’s office use their already too limited housing budgets to build new construction housing that very few current residents of the South Bronx could ever buy.

    In “affordable housing” news, the picture is scarcely more pretty. SOBRO is finally developing the former Hygrade coffin factory at 454-64 East 148th Street, on the corner of Brook Avenue, along with Ronald Moelis of L&M Equity Participants Ltd. of suburban Larchmont, N.Y.. This gut rehabilitation will be funded by tax credits, which large corporations will buy in order to forego Federal taxes at a rate of four percent of the total project cost over ten years. That is, rather than simply using government tax money to pay for the rehab, corporations will pay for it and then deduct it from their taxes. This is called: making a program popular by including a good portion of corporate welfare in it. And -- Chevron, Chase, and other titans -- will own another piece of the South Bronx. As one developer told the Inner City Reporter recently, but only not for attribution, “No one cares how the housing is once it’s built -- it’s all just one big write-off.” And they call it -- “reinventing government.”

   [Note:  The non-profits who end up developing housing with convoluted, corporate welfare financing are not necessarily entirely to blame -- it is government, at the behest of corporate interests, which creates a situation in which this is the only, or almost the only, kind of funding available.  However, one does not help the Bronx or its residents -- or the taxpayers -- by obscuring the illogic and waste of this kind of funding, and the housing disrepair to which it often leads].

     Still on affordable housing swindles, recently the Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, which began so militantly twenty years ago, has taken to handing over to private management firms (read, in many cases, slumlords) the buildings the City has given to Banana Kelly over the years as tokens of community empowerment. Now, Banana Kelly just collects the profits at the end of the month, from the (also profiting) private management agent. Very pretty...

    [Qualification similar to above:  the large non-profit who got "bought in" by the city, by becoming owners of dozens of tenements, are not entirely to blame for now seeking to get out of this business, which makes community residents see the groups as nothing but landlords.  But let's not fool ourselves that simply because a massive non-profit collects the profit from the housing, the housing represents community empowerment in any way...].

     In further corrupt real estate news, the South Bronx Development Corporation recently sold the Concourse Plaza Mall to a partnership of Kimco Realty Corp. and the Feil Organization. This was a subsidized mall, whose first owner, the Rosenshein Organization of New Rochelle, went bankrupt -- and yet still, after that obtained from the City the vacant lot at 156th Street and Third Avenue, to build another mall that is, five years later, still only a dream...

     In positive news, for example, The Point Community Development Corp., on Garrison Avenue, continues to grow, offering photography classes, in conjunction with the International Center of Photography, a dance company, and the annual “Representing the Reel” film and video festival. And, funding has finally become available for a much-needed clean up of the Bronx River.

  Click here for ICP's current Bronx Reporter

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