Inner City Press Bronx Reporter
Archive #3 2000: July 5 - September 25, 2000
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September 25, 2000
New economy, old disparities. This week we compare the September 21 fanfare around an Internet retailer's rental of a Hunts Point warehouse to the continuing mis- (or non-) education of our children.
The New York Times of September 22 ran a story announcing that WebVan, a company which takes grocery and other orders over the Internet, has rented a 10 acre building in Hunts Point, at 331 Tiffany Street. From the article, it appears that Bronx officials, notably the Borough President, decided to themselves announce the lease, jumping the gun to claim credit before the city's Economic Development Corporation scheduled a more formal announcement. Whenever jobs are "created," even on paper, politicians jockey to link the new business (the new lease, in this case) to their policies. Fine.
To save space here, we provide this link. A reporter from InternetNews.com called ICP, asking for background to put the politicians' announcement in perspective. Being proponents of the use of e-mail, over telephone, whenever, possible, we contributed the following:
The leaked announcement that WebVan has signed a lease for a 9 acre building in Hunts Point in the South Bronx, for use as a warehouse for its Internet retail business, bodes well for at least some South Bronx residents. If it is true that WebVan will be hiring 500 workers, and will focus on (and have incentives to) hiring local South Bronx residents, this will provide much-needed jobs and income in the community.
There have been other high-profile job creation attempts in the South Bronx that have not worked out so well. For example, more than a dozen square blocks in the Bathgate neighborhood were cleared for an industrial park (the Bathgate Industrial Park). Many of the jobs there, though, are at or near minimum wage, with frequent unpaid layoffs, etc.. The New York Times article of Sept. 22 quotes salaries of $30,000, or $41,000 a year, stock options, etc.. These type of jobs (and compensation) would be of much benefit in the South Bronx.
While the South Bronx, with nearly 500,000 people, has slowly been rebuilding from its nadir in the late 70s and early 80s, it is still a very low income community. It has been "redlined" by financial institutions: for example, in the South Bronx there are nearly 20,000 people per bank branch, while the figure in Manhattan is one bank branch for every 3,000 people. Our non-profit organization, Inner City Press/Community on the Move, has used the Community Reinvestment Act to get four banks to open new branches in the South Bronx, but disparities remain. The area is full of check cashers, pawn shops, and other second- (or third-) tier financial institutions (sometimes known as predatory lenders).
While the Bronx Borough President seems confident that no environmental issues will arise with this lease, there have been acrimonious fights in Hunts Point for the last decade, as more and more waste transfer stations have moved in, bringing trucks and pollution, and resulting in Hunts Point having one of the highest child asthma rates in the nation. ICP would assume that some sort of pollution mitigation plan may be requested or required: during the fight around the Harlem River Yards in the adjacent neighborhood of Port Morris, community environmental justice advocates strongly requests that all trucks be no diesel, but electric or some other more environmentally friendly technology.
Also, in light of the failure of a number of Internet and Internet retailing businesses, there is no certainty that the projected jobs (500, to increase to 900) will remain here for the next ten years. But you've got to try something.
A final irony: Urban Fetch and Kozmo, two other Internet retailers (well, delivery services) -- both refuse to COME to the South Bronx. So, in a sense, this peripheral low income community of color will be a sort of "back office" for the new economy...
The above analysis appeared, with some modification, in InternetNews.com's story -- all except the part about "redlining" by other Internet delivery companies, and possible environmental issues arising about WebVan's plans. A free marketeer might scoff, that it would be ridiculous for environmental concerns to problematize possible new jobs. But this same argument was made around the Harlem River Yards, and around many of the new waste transfer stations in Hunts Point. And we question this (second) gun jumping by the Borough President, in the 9/22 Times article: "Mr. Ferrer said he did not see that as a problem with Webvan's operation. He said that the company's site was a 'straight shot' from nearby highways and that 'the truck impact will be negligible in the residential area' of Hunts Point." We guess that's what you call a fast and loose (gun-jumping) environmental impact review...
Now, a Bronx vignette: a boy, six or seven years old, is sitting on the stoop of a building on 188th Street, at two p.m. on a weekday afternoon. He asks a passerby for the time; he, in turn, is asked why he is not in school. "They put me on a waiting list," he said. "At P.S. 205. They say they don't have space." It's important to go to school, there or somewhere else, in order to learn, he's told. "Yeah, I was already in summer school," he says. Off to a fine start -- and a possible "collar" for truancy. All thanks to the Board of Education -- whose Chancellor, until recently a corporate lawyer at Citigroup, most recently hired Rebecca Lieberman, the daughter of Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, to work on the Board of Education's attempts to "partner" with banks and other corporations in New York. Ms. Lierberman's supervisor will be a lawyer that Levy recently hired from the Wall Street trade group, the Securities Industry Association. The Chancellor also hired a lawyer from the corporate firm of Skadden, Arps (which represents Citigroup), but won't disclose his salary. You wanted New York City run like a corporation? You've got it: without even the slight accountability of Securities and Exchange Filings, and annual shareholders' meetings. Despite all the hoopla, the boy continues sitting on the stoop...
This Chancellor, of course, is portrayed as hard working, as sacrificing an even higher salary at Citigroup in order to perform "public service." A long time insider at a major bank hiring the daughter of the (possible) Vice President sure isn't bad for the bank, it should be noted. But we have some more bottom-up, positive news this week. The Bronx United Gardeners, who are opposing the City's plan to demolish dozens of community gardens to build low-rise, middle-income housing that few in the Bronx can afford, held a successful rally at City Hall on September 18, and learned later that day that a temporary restraining order will protect the gardens for the foreseeable future. (ICP's experience has been that the City often invokes its "automatic stay" powers in these cases, but we'll see). Anyway, the Bronx United Gardeners are having their "Harvest Party in Support of Community Gardens" on Saturday, October 14, from 1 to 5 p.m., at the Cauldwell Avenue Garden, between 165th and 166th Street...
[Some archival material cut to save server space - with questions, contact us]
September 5, 2000
The Democratic primary in the North Bronx's 17th Congressional District got even more surreal last week: the day before the Daily News ran a two-page article on discrepancies between State Senator Larry Seabrook's 1993 divorce, and subsequent continued filing of joint tax returns with his ex-wife, Seabrook called a press conference on the steps of City Hall, to accuse incumbent Eliot Engel of having leaked his "sealed" divorce records. At that time, Seabrook gave no further details. The Daily News' August 30 story, "Divorce Bronx-Style," quoted Seabrook's ex-wife extensively. But by week's end, Seabrook's political consultants released a statement on behalf of his ex-wife, LaVerne, apparently downplaying her earlier statements to the Daily News.
Various elected officials, and others, came to Seabrook's defense. Engel announced endorsements by Peter Vallone, Alan Hevesi, and the New York Times. Of more local substance, it's worth noting that Mayor Ernest Davis of Mount Vernon (which makes up 14% of the 17th District) has endorsed Engel. Again, a challenge to an incumbent in the Bronx is always welcome. But at what point does it become apparent that the wrong challenger was chosen?
While the mainstream media (including even NPR's All Things Considered, on September 3) lavished coverage on this circus-like North Bronx primary, another Bronx-relevant announcement last week (Schools Chancellor Levy's assignment of all 1,100 of NYC's schools to corporations) was either ignored, or mindlessly praised, by the media. On August 29, Chancellor Levy (whose last tour of duty was as a corporate lawyer at Citigroup) told reporters at a New York Press Club breakfast forum that "there is no reason why we can't find 1,100 corporations to match up with those schools.. We need to be more grounded in the community." Which community is that -- the corporate community? At the same press conference, Levy called for "evicting" community groups from spaces in school buildings, calling them "squatters." Mr. Levy said he'd gotten the idea (of the evictions) during a visit to a school in Upper Manhattan. When questioned, he said he couldn't remember which school, or which district.
Giving rise to this week's Inner City Press Bronx poem (click here to view).
August 28, 2000
In a hopeful sign, members of The Bronxs Southeast Asian community rallied on August 23 in Fordham. The focus was social services offices lack of needed translators. HRA spokeswoman Debra Sproles reminded reporters that Commissioner Jason Turner announced in April the expansion of interpretive services. This expansion, if its taken place anywhere, doesnt seem to have reached The Bronx. The Southeast Asian community in the Bronx is officially estimated at 15,000...
Less positive news (to say the least) from August 23: Arnold Williams, 19, was shot and killed in the lobby of the Butler Houses on Webster Avenue. Robert Lewis, 22, was shot in the left eye. He was taken to Lincoln Hospital, where he remains in critical condition. According to the Daily News, a Housing Authority worker who was scrubbing blood from the pavement there said Williams was well known to building residents because he often sat in the lobby listening to a radio. The sadness, on all levels, is unspeakable...
In news affecting The Bronx, as well as the four other boroughs of NYC, the citys Board of Elections ruled last week that the Green Party, and its presidential candidate Ralph Nader, will not be on the ballot in November. Its more than a little surprising (outrageous, is the word that comes to mind): the Green Party won enough votes in the last election to qualify for the ballot, and Nader will be listed on ballot machines in all NYS counties outside of NYC. The Board of Elections gives two reasons: (1) the citys ballot machines are old, and the space on them is limited (?!); (2) there are so few Green Party register voters, that tallying the Nader votes on that line would violate Green voters privacy. These excuses are laughable. Concretely, NYC votes can still vote for Nader in November (theyd have to ask for paper ballots). But the need for reform, of the Board of Elections and the machine politics of NYC, is ever-more clear...
More seriously: the global comes to New York City... Its here daily, we know, but check this out:
In Manhattan on September 6, more than 100 heads of state are meeting for the U.N.'s "Millennium Summit." In the streets outside, there will be opposition... Some may wonder why. Objectively, the United Nations is relatively more democratic and transparent than the WTO (at least, other than the veto power of the countries permanently on the Security Council). So why would activists be protesting the U.N.?
One reason is the emerging corporate take-over of the United Nations itself. On July 26, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced a so-called "Global Compact" with 50 transnational corporations, including Dupont and Nike, Deutsche Bank, UBS and Credit Suisse. The Compact, with its references to environmental and labor standards, is entirely voluntary. The U.N. has said that it can't, and won't, assess these companies' compliance with the principles. A new word has been coined: "bluewashing" (referring to the U.N.'s blue flag, and playing off the existing concept of "greenwashing," best exemplified by Dupont's current TV ads saying it's solving world hunger and AIDS).
Nike's subcontracting of work to sweatshops has been well-documented. But the financial institutions involved are not clean, either. Deutsche Bank, for example, continues to get paid as "trustee" for bonds backed by high-interest rate mortgages, including those issued by lenders like Delta Funding, which recently settled racial discrimination charges with New York State and Federal authorities. (Bankers Trust/Deutsche are listed in court records as foreclosing on numerous properties in The Bronx and Central Brooklyn). Deutsche Bank's position is that it has no responsibility to certify (or even inquire into) the fairness of the mortgages for which it acts as trustee - even as it forecloses on the homes of those who end up not being able to afford the 16 to 18 percent interest on the loans. Credit Suisse First Boston and UBS are involved in this business, as well.
Kofi Annan is certainly more aware of, and committed to, human rights than WTO director general Michael Moore. But human rights activists continue to question why he lent the imprimatur of the United Nations to these rapacious mega-corporations. And these questions will be out on the streets around the United Nations on September 6-8. The question is whether the growing corporate dominance of national and super-national governing bodies will allow any public participation, and any meaningful environmental, labor and human rights standards... Click here to see ICPs related poem, Global Compactor...
* * *
August 21, 2000
Two positive Bronx stories were in the (mainstream) news last week: the opening of a new firehouse in University Heights, on the corner of Walton Avenue and Cameron Place, and the rise of The Bronx Rolando Paulino All Stars to Little League baseballs Eastern Region title game in Bristol, Connecticut. We hail both, but note the continued litany of slumlording, miseducation and environmental degradation. To whit:
A teacher at The Bronx Public School 146 was arrested on August 17 and charged with possession and sale of heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, opium, ecstasy, marijuana and several other prescription drugs.
The water at the South Bronx Public School 45 contains lead, according to a City Council report. School officials deny the charge; a new round of testing is planned.
The 56-unit building at 216 East 203rd Street, which burned on July 7, has yet to be repaired. The displaced families are living in a hotel in Queens; some are in a shelter in Upper Manhattan. Landlord Antonio Nick is blaming his insurance company for the delays. But his insurer on July 29 said that payment would be forthcoming in a weeks time. It seems that Mr. Nick wants to raise rents, and the displacement caused by the fire may benefit him. North Bronx politicians are beginning to swirl around the empty building...
...In Los Angeles on August 17, Citigroup was presented with an award as The Worlds Most Destructive Bank, on environmental, human and civil rights grounds -- including branch closing, redlining and predatory lending in The Bronx. For more, see ICPs ongoing Citigroup page... Or, see this week's ICP poem, "L.A. Aug. 17: Drowned by the Hype."
Footnote: Sundays New York Times City Section has a point-counterpoint squib on the 1,075 megawatt electricity generating plant that ABB Energy Ventures is proposing for Hunts Point. The District Manager of Community Board Two comes out in support of the plant, saying that [i]f this plant were to lower electricity rates in the Bronx, like ABB says it will, then that would be a good thing." Theres only one problem: electricity, in this deregulated regime, is a commodity sold all over the country, without regard to where it is produced. Is ABB committing to a sort of reinvestment (by analogy): that the electricity is would produce would be directed toward, and provide benefit to, The Bronx? This remains to be seen...
August 14, 2000
The Bronx Borough President finalized his $18.2 million capital budget last week. The largest single item is $3.5 million to the New York City Partnerships middle-income private homes program. But these houses built through this program are unaffordable to most residents, even home-seeking residents, of the neighborhoods in which they are built. Throughout Morrisania, for example, block after block of two-story attached houses have been thrown up, costing up to and above $200,000. Very few Morrisania residents can afford these houses. But the mainstream press, which voters rely on for information, reports this type of capital budget item as reflecting a commitment to housing, even, to affordable housing.
Another recipient from the B.Ps capital budget is Take the Field, a program to repair sports fields at public schools. Its certainly a worth cause -- but it bears mention that the program is run by Richard Kahan, a sort of urban developer without portfolio. His previous vehicle, the Urban Assembly, jumped into Bronx development in the 90s, beating the drums for the (primarily middle-income housing) Melrose Commons plan, and for a community-friendly courthouse expansion plan. Soon thereafter, Kahan made noise about running for statewide office. Little traction was generated. Now, very little of Melrose Commons has been built, and the most recent news from the courthouse redevelopment area is the closure of the pre-existing LABOR Day Care Center. The City Council votes $21 million for the B.P. to spend; some goes to a program run by a previous ally / supporter, whos last Bronx work has yet to come to fruition. And the beat goes on...
* * *
August 7, 2000
This week well reverse our usual order, and begin with the positive.
Over 100 kids, from 8 to 18, joined together this summer to paint a mural on the playground wall at Community Elementary School 64 on Walton Avenue. The murals theme is Life on Mars; the artists conferred with NASA and were assisted by the muralist group Big Hands. The mural is 7,000 square feet, and is worth a trip to see...
In possibly good news for the Bronx, Senate candidate Hillary Clinton has expressed opposition to the water filtration plant slated for the North Bronx. Hillarys letter (which, in todays high-cost, low-content electoral campaign atmosphere, will have to substitute for a position paper) expresses concerns about the environmental justice issues raised by the plan. Republican candidate Rick Lazio quickly pointed out that the (Bill) Clinton Administrations EPA has done nothing to stop the project. A Clinton administration spokesperson then claimed that the plan began in the Bush administration. It would seem a little too late to be using that excuse...
The LABOR Day Care Center on Sherman Avenue by 162nd Street was closed last week, by the citys Administration for Childrens Services, allegedly for poor air quality. Local parents question why the problem wasnt fixed, before simply closing the Center down, and sending their children much further away. ACS says its only temporary. The Center is (was?) part of the Bronx Courts Development Project...
Also last week in Bronx-environmental news, NRDC's "senior scientist" Allen Hershkowitz confirmed that the Harlem River Yards paper mill project "deal [is] dead... There were a bevy of issues that resulted in the project not making it to financing It was extraordinarily close to financing. I would be dishonest to say I wasn't disappointed."
When local South Bronx residents raised questions about the plan, Hershkowitz was dismissive, spouting off that "environmentalists need to become more like investment bankers," and design projects rather than oppose them. His statements meant little to local opponents; his arrogance only increased their opposition to the project. Now that it has fallen apart, one could ask: if an investment banker worked on a single project, for almost a decade, and the project fell apart: what kind of investment banker would that be?
July 31, 2000
We must begin this week by considering the escape, with no repercussions, of the police officer who shot and killed Patrick Dorismond on 37th Street in March of this year. Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, after the grand jury in the case declined to indict Detective Anthony Vasquez, released a 33-page report presenting his offices view of the events that led to Mr. Dorismonds death. There is no dispute that Mr. Dorismond was unarmed. An undercover police buy and bust operation approached Mr. Dorismond, asking to buy crack. Dorismond was offended, and, allegedly, moved forward to push or punch the person whod approached him for drugs. And then he was dead, shot by Detective Vasquez.
What are the implications of the grand jurys failure to even indict the officer who shot and killed Mr. Dorismond? The police department could kill you at any time. Public service announcements on television present as heroes grandmothers who chased crack off their block. People are encouraged to say no to drugs, to get involved, to chase crack off their blocks. But apparently you must be aware that it could be the police themselves, offering to buy or sell crack. If you just say no too vehemently, you may wind up dead. Its confusing, tragic.. and unjust.
Shifting to a Bronx perspective, we must note that Manhattan D.A. Morgenthaus report was at least more than the Bronx District Attorney did in deciding to not even present the killing of Malcolm Ferguson, also in March 2000, to a grand jury... Last week, the Bronx D.A. was presented with a complaint by Joey Jackson, the on-again, off-again candidate for the State Assembly seat that Samuel Bea is vacating to run for Larry Seabrooks State Senate seat. Jackson claims that Councilman Larry Warden stalked his wife and son at the family residence (which, incongruously, is on Long Island, and not in the Bronx). It appears unlikely that the Bronx D.A. will pursue this complaint...
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is abruptly shutting down the University Nursing Home, in the Fordham section of The Bronx, after reportedly finding that employees are not properly trained and there is no security to monitor who enters or leaves the home. It would seem that training could be given, and security brought in, rather than displacing the residents of a nursing home so suddenly...
Now, a mixture of grassroots news and global analysis. With much fanfare, the retail chain The Gap on July 7 opened an outlet at 271 East Fordham Road. Politicians attended the opening, implicitly claiming credit for a development that is based entirely on the population density around Fordham Road. The director of the Bronx Council for Economic Development gushed that The Bronx leads all other boroughs in terms of retail employment. Theres something wrong with this statement. Perhaps the Bronx leads in the percentage of its employed workforce that works in the (relatively undercompensated) retail industry. But in terms of number of retail jobs? Its an absurd claim. He went on to say that The Gap is a community-oriented chain: They want to be a part of the [street] festival and sponsor youth and education programs.
Hmm... Well present the follow summary, from Global Exchanges Gap Campaign web page...
[Some archival material cut to save server space - with questions, contact us].
Well close with a poem, about the underside of current employment possibilities in NYC:
Ways of Dying in Manhattan
by Matthew Lee, c. 7/29/00
Method One: Box Crusher [New York Daily News, July 28, 2000, pg 2]
He came from Tlaxcala into Washington Heights
Working six days a week selling cheeses to yuppies
At days end, time to crush boxes to bundles
In a moment, the crusher had pulled in his torso--
Raymundo Juarez, husband of Araceli, is dead
The safety switch jammed so thered be no delays
He sent money by wire to his daughter Michelle
While his father is crying, the shopping goes on...
Method Two: Airless Vault [Fox 5 T.V. News, New York City, July 28, 2000]
She worked in the vault at Depository Trust
The markets back-office, in lower Manhattan
The door closed behind her, and then she smelled smoke
Pushed a button for help, but it only got worse:
Electronic trades still supported by paper
Theres no sprinkler with water in the vault at the bank
It shoots carbon dioxide to safeguard the stocks
But our lungs live on air -- in a moment she died.
Lack of Aftermath at the Stock Exchange
Theres no minute of silence, before trading begins
Neither super model nor cow, no moment on the stage
Generals? They can ring the opening bell
Killers bring good luck. Losers cause the Dow to slide
And fall it did, parallel to her death. A loss
Of confidence in tech-stocks, the Reuters round-up said.
No mention of Raymundo, martyred for convenience of gourmands
Traders head to the Hamptons, their picnic baskets sanitized
In Tlaxcala, and further South in Morazan
The spread is sorghum bread. Up North
We call it live stock food. Some vegans, too,
Shopping around the news of Raymonds death.
Everybody loves Raymond (well, the one who speaks English)
She shouldnt have been in the vault (lawsuits defense emerges)
Raymond himself blocked the safety switch (we can revise everyone
Into a piece worker). No ones to blame
Just isolated tragedies of the working poor
Those who crush the boxes of our luxuries
Those who file stock certs in the catacombs--
The proof of purchase rules
Over the cellars or the sold. Mold makes cheese
More valuable. It appreciates, managed by mysterious
Ethnics. Our schools should be run by a hedge fund--
Theyre already run by Citibank. And now that Coca Cola
Runs Mexico, Raymundos companions
Wont have to come, to be crushed
With the boxes. Progress is incremental,
Like the ripening of cheese, the appreciation
Of the tech-stock fund, the distinctive tang
Of sheeps milk from a little town, where looters
Scatter the condiments of Burger King
And pundits cream on the irony of it all
The simultaneity, their hearts-playing grandmothers
Learning Russian from cassettes--
Some get pace makers
And some a cardboard grave
Western Union rules Tlaxcala
United Fruit owns the Cincinnati Reds
No insurrection, where three rivers meet
Worshipping Andrew Mellon, growing seedless brains
The history of rancor confined to a theme park
Only the Luddites oppose vaccination
Come! Hollywoods the yeast of apocalypse
The strategists of control profitably note
That those in designer jeans rarely rebel
So ship them already, in metal tombs
Of immigrants, hungry for the risk
Of box-crushing portfolios, glad, they were, to know
The smooth technology protecting their future
The legal plumbing thatll ensure their legacy
Even if the crushing machine shall claim
Even if all air shall be sucked for the common good
We will continue, infinitely informed, a replaceable army
Short-selling cheese, ignored those harbingers
Of our own decline: humans reduced to cardboard
Killed for the primacy of paper proofs
The person may die, but the system remains - for this
We suck air, out of vaults, its too bad
She was resting there, that he worked
Beyond his tolerance, to meet Sanitations demands
To jam the landfills -- he himself will be recycled
Resurrected in the cyclical cries of the poor
The body and the head must re-join one day
We memorialize by forgetting, consuming death each day
In the face of oracular newsprint, hard wired to the false promises
Of the appearance of saviors on contested terrain
All pacified now, under a heavy syrup of Coca
Cola as the drug war proceeds: these deaths
Form the indictment, for the Last Supper
The last fetid locality will be sampled
Wrapped in a prospectus, endlessly
Scrutinized like genetic code, the minds own mark-
Up language linking itself to previous invasions
Of termites and arrogance -- let Raymundo
Ring with stiffened hands the last bell
Of the sessions subservient trade
You who believed, now see that lifes a disease
The disparate martyrs of Wall Street, baptized in C.O2
Investing in secrets while theyre unlocked
Fission leaves us blind...
* * *
July 24, 2000
This week, updates on the Harlem River Yards and political shenanigans, and then... something new: Bronxites reaching out to the growing anti-corporate globalization movement (!)
Harlem River Yards Update
In the early 1990s, Albany-based developer Francesco Galesi got a 99-lease on the South Bronx Harlem River Yards. Many residents of the community opposed it, particularly Galesis plans to put yet another waste transfer station in the Yards. In 1994, Galesi tried to greenwash his deal, announcing that the Natural Resources Defense Council and Banana Kelly would co-sponsor a newsprint recycling plant in the Yards. Grassroots group opposed this plan too, on air pollution (and asthma) grounds. Banana Kelly executives were promised $1 million if they could secure some community support, and the plant was built. A new manager of the plan was brought in: Morse Diesel. Laudatory articles were written in the New York Times and elsewhere.
On July 20, 2000, Morse Diesel announced that the plan is dead. Galesis spokesman blamed it on the bond market. Currently, the only facility operating in the Yards is the waste transfer station. The supposed community benefit has now been canceled. The Bronx Borough President tried to put a positive spin on the news: We'll find another use for it - believe me, that won't be a huge problem. The question, of course, is what KIND of use... Stay tuned...
Meanwhile, the political shenanigans in The Bronx continue. County boss Roberto Ramirez endorsed Larry Seabrook over incumbent Congressman Eliot Engel, and proposed that 83rd District Assemblyman Samuel Bea run for Seabrooks State Senate seat, and that Carl Heastie run for Beas Assembly seat. Seabrook told the Co-op City Times that he was going to show the broad-based support he enjoys by collecting thousands of nominating petition signatures. Well, Engels collected 10,500 signatures, Seabrook more than 4,000 fewer. The challenger to Heastie for Beas Assembly seat, Joey Jackson, recently signed a declaration withdrawing from the race, but now says he wants back in, and that his previous decision was influenced by threats made to him as he walked home from work one night. Never a dull moment...
Bronx media watch: late-night quipster David Letterman, on July 20, said that the number one way to make the Tour de France bicycle race more interesting would be to Make it the Tour De South Bronx. Thanks, Dave...
Do we have positive news? We do. A new low-power AM radio station will begin transmitting in September in Hunts Point, from a transmitter on the roof of 940 Garrison Avenue. Two hours a day will be set aside for discussion of environmental issues...
In the Bronx Zoo, a gorilla has been born. Parents Timmy and Triska are quite protective: zoo officials have yet to be able to approach and even determine baby Sukis gender. The growing family lives in the zoos Congo Forest Habitat. Check it out...
* * *
Special report, July 24, 2000: A convergence is beginning, between grassroots organizations in low-income neighborhoods in the United States (like the South Bronx) and the more middle-class environmental and anti-corporate globalization groups which organized the December 1999 protests of the WTO meeting in Seattle. The bases for the alliance are obvious. Many of the same multinational corporations which are funding and participating in the destruction of ecosystems in Africa, Latin America and Asia are also either excluding, or taking predatory advantage of, low-income communities of color in the United States. What has hampered collaboration to date is disparities in income and access to technology, incongruity of cultures, and a sort of divide-and-conquer on automatic pilot occasioned by the media, and either a lack of effort, or of efficiency, in bridging these gaps. But recently Inner City Press has seen, and someof ICP's member have begun participating in, new efforts to build alliances, the beginnings of a new and fruitful convergence. For example:
Last week, representatives of twenty five organizations gathered outside of San Francisco, for a two-and-a-half day strategy session on the largest U.S.- and NYC-based bank, Citigroup. Many environmental groups had begun to see the need to expand their advocacy from companies engaged in the extraction or sale of our planets dwindling natural resources to the companies which finance and plan such ecologically destructive projects as the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, or Chinas planned Three Gorges dam (which would displace two million people, creating a 400 mile reservoir on top of polluted former industrial sites). Inner City Press was invited, to speak and strategize on Citigroups destructive practices in the United States: the redlining of low-income communities of color followed by targeting with high-interest rate, predatory loans from Citifinancial; arranging financing for the private prisons of Wackenhut Corrections Corporation; the closing of bank branches, etc.. Also attending were a number of student environmental groups; advocates of boycotting the World Banks bonds; organizations involved in the Seattle WTO protests, and people whod just attended trainings for the Los Angeles Democratic convention of August 14-17, 2000.
The meeting was by no means secret (click here to view Bloombergs coverage). The strategies arrived at need not be described here, at least not yet: they will become known, in the near future. But it was the collaboration of such diverse organizations and constituencies, the convergence (a term much-used by the post-Seattle movement), that most struck and inspired the participants and observers. Something new is afoot in the United States, something barely if ever covered by the mainstream (read, corporate) media. Citigroup will be the first, but by no means the only, focus of this energy.
Building bridges takes time, for many of the reasons we have been covering on this ICP Bronx Report page. Inner city residents (ICPs members included) have perceived the environmental and college student movements as being disconnected from problems right here in the United States, particularly urban problems. Here in the South Bronx (see the example with which we began this week's Report), relatively well-funded, Manhattan-based environmental groups have promoted supposedly beneficial projects. When local residents asked questions, however, they were ignored or condescended to. Why here? South Bronx residents asked. No real answer was given. The sub-text answers were either (1) because theres land, or (2) because therell be less public process. This is only one example of the gaps that have developed. But inner city groups, for example organizations like ICP active in enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act, havent reached out to more progressive / activist environmental groups, made proposals for collaboration, a joining of resources, common endeavors. The time has now come. Corporations like Citigroup have been able to keep separate the activism and demands for accountability of community groups, on one side, and environmental groups, on another side. Seven months into the new millennium, new steps, new convergences, are taking place. It promises to be exciting, and will be covered on this site, including on our just-begun Citigroup Watch page) in the coming weeks and months. As they say, developing... stay tuned. Readers of this page are encouraged to contact us with their views and ideas on the above-described convergence...
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