Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ground finally broken on new Kingsbridge library

by Candice M. Giove
07/31/2008, Riverdale Review

When the new Kingsbridge Library opens across the street from its current graying white brick building on West 231st Street, it'll be twice the size, with up-to-date technology and a green roof, library and elected officials said at a ceremonial groundbreaking this week.

Though shovels aren't expected to actually touch the ground for another two months, the day signified the start of a project discussed for over a decade.

"It's been a long wait. There've been many disappointments and now it's really happening," said Steve Barker, Kingsbridge Branch librarian.

Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, who secured money piecemeal for the $14 million project, was pleased to be at the groundbreaking. "When I first became a member of the City Council in 2002 this project was already on the drawing board and a large amount of money had been allocated by the City Council through the efforts of my predecessor, June Eisland, and by the office of the mayor and by the office of the borough president," he said.

"As we all know, 2001 intervened and the capital budget for the city was smashed and the mayor's office actually cut out almost all of the funding for the new Kingsbridge library, so we had to start all over again in 2002 and each year over the past five years or six years I allocated part of the discretionary capital funding that we had available to this project," he recalled. "It was my number-one priority with capital projects that we funded. Unfortunately as the years went by not only did we have to allocate more and more funding, but each year the project got more expensive. We've had round after round where the library had to come to me and ask for additional funding."

Former Councilwoman June Eisland was elated that the project finally began. She said that she and her staff worked hard to help acquire the property—and that she and former Borough President Fernando Ferrer were even able to get then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani to commit to it. She was glad that other elected officials continued their work.

Earl Brown, Deputy Borough President, praised the "inspirational" design on the challenging parcel of landa site below street level. The design of the partially glass two-story structure, which will allows natural light to saturate the inside, won a New York City Art Commission Award for Excellence.

Brown also said that a new library was great for residents in Kingsbridge and Riverdale, and for democracy.

"As you know the hallmark of any successful democracy is the ability for people to think clearly and freely, to speak freely and to be educated. And one of the things that the library does is it provides an opportunity for all members of the community, from young kids to senior citizens, to really have access to information, and that access to information and the ability to use that information appropriately is what makes our democracy so successful," he said.

Once the new building opens it will have 32 public computers and WiFi, and lots of spaceeven an outdoor patio for summer reading. "If you go into the current library there aren't enough seats, there aren't enough computers," said NYPL director and local resident Ann Coriston. "So it's nice to have something fresh and bright in this community."

$75G homeland security $ for SAR schools

by John DeSio
07/31/2008, Riverdale Review

Salanter Akiba of Riverdale has been awarded a $75,000 federal grant through the Department of Homeland Security.

Details of the grant became clear following a Monday press conference by Brooklyn/Queens Congressman Anthony Weiner, a likely candidate for mayor in 2009, during which he pointed to the considerable largesse received by New York institutions through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Weiner, a member of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, noted that nonprofit organizations in New York City secured more than $4 million in Homeland Security grants, amounting to 27 percent of all grants delivered nationwide.

"It's high time DHS realized that our nonprofit institutions were at risk,” said Weiner. “Worshipers, museum goers, and hospital visitors expect and deserve a safe environment, and these grants will go a long way towards ensuring their safety."

Neither Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, principal of SAR Academy, nor Rabbi Tully Harcsztark, principal of SAR High School, could be reached for comment as of press time.

Though he was not present at the announcement, Congressman Eliot Engel was also pleased that DHS had done the right thing and moved much-needed homeland security funds to his district.

"These grants are long overdue because of the serious threat that certain religious organizations face in today’s troubled environment,” said Engel. “I have worked to bring these grant requests to the attention of the Department of Homeland Security. I have also fought to ensure that there be a risk-based funding formula which would increase homeland security funds for New York. Reasonable people have long recognized New York as the most highly targeted city, and therefore we must receive our fair share of homeland security dollars."

Weiner pointed out that this year, 59 nonprofits in New York City received funding, for a total of $4.08 million, representing roughly one and a half times the amount given to any other locality. The appropriation exceeds last years total when 40 nonprofits in New York City received a total of $3.2 million.

The grants, made available through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, will provide significant funding for security measures at the very institutions being singled out as potential targets, specifically yeshivas and synagogues throughout the five boroughs.

In the past, the program has funded security enhancements at New York City landmarks such as the Intrepid Museum and hospitals such as the Staten Island University Hospital.

Institutions that qualified for the current grant program were eligible to receive up to $75,000, and those funds can be used to train security personnel and install security measures such as surveillance cameras, barriers and controlled entry systems.

The average award for grant winners is approximately $70,000, and the funds are expected to be delivered within the next 60 days.

SAR qualified for the highest possible grant and was the only institution in The Bronx to receive such funding. It is unclear whether the money is intended for SAR’s academy, high school, or a combination of the two.

Weiner’s office indicated it could not release a full list of grant awardees, citing security concerns put forward by the DHS.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quinn comes to Bronx to celebrate Ed $$$

by John DeSio
Riverdale Review, 07/24/2008

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is happy to alert The Bronx that she fought back against Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s planned education cuts—and won.

Quinn discussed the budget battle Tuesday morning during a media breakfast, where she was joined by Council Members G. Oliver Koppell and Joel Rivera. Quinn noted that overall Bronx schools actually increased their funding in this budget, due to the Council’s efforts. A list provided by the speaker’s office made it clear that no school would see its budget decline next year.

“The goal of the budget was really to make sure no public school had less dollars in September than they did in June, when the schools closed,” said Quinn.

Locally, P.S. 7, P.S. 24, P.S. 81, the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy and the Bronx High School of Science will all see a net change in their budget of $0. One local school, M.S./H.S. 368/The In-Tech Academy, saw a small budget increase of $412.

Koppell said he was also happy to see that schools not only in his district but across the Borough were spared the budget axe. He noted that he had heard from numerous parents, principals and educators who were concerned about the cuts and the immediate and long-term impact schools would face because of them.

The principals seemed really genuinely concerned that they would have to cut back on various programs and services,” said Koppell, who added that he has been applauded by local principals since the funding was restored.

Though this year’s funding is safe, other problems do loom on the horizon for many schools, especially those in middle-class neighborhoods. For starters, the proposed “Fair Student Funding” program, which would shift school budget allocations based on poverty data, would drain funding from schools in neighborhoods like Riverdale.

Quinn said such potential problems would have to be dealt with as they happened. “I can’t tell you what’s going to happen next year until we get there,” said Quinn.

The speaker also discussed the future of mayoral control of city public schools, calling for a continuation of the current system with some modifications. Under Quinn’s plan mayoral control would be replaced with municipal control, and control of city schools would be removed from the hands of the state Legislature and given to the City Council.

Such a plan would make the Council and the mayor equal partners and would place the schools under more localized control.

“There’ll always be a legislature. That legislature should be the New York City Council,” said Quinn. “It should be the guy from Riverdale, not the guy from Pitcher Hill, deciding how money gets set up.”

In further discussion about the City’s funding formula for schools, which gives larger funding to schools based on poverty and the number of “English language learners” attending the school, Quinn said it was a difficult rope to walk because some students do need more help than others to succeed.

“Sometimes extra learning means you need extra resources to help that child,” said Quinn. That said, she did state the middle class schools should by no means be penalized in the budget for performing well and that she would join the City Council in fighting to hold those budgets harmless.

“Yes, some kids need more than others, but every child needs a fair amount of resources,” said Quinn. “Middle class schools shouldn’t be penalized for historically doing well.”

Quinn closed the meeting by noting that Bronx and city schools do face myriad challenges but that the City Council’s budget efforts will, at the very least, keep public schools “running in place.”

“We legitimately have a whole bunch of challenges,” said Quinn. “That said, this is a big deal. If the schools in The Bronx had $30 million less, things would be worse.”

No Trader Joe's for Riverdale

by Candice M. Giove
Riverdale Review, 07/24/2008

No Trader Joe's For Riverdale

By Candice M. Giove

The specialty grocery chain Trader Joe's has no plans for Riverdale, though many speculated that the unique shop would seek retail space at the site of the new Manhattan College parking facility at West 242nd Street and Broadway.

"At this time I do not have a location in the next two years in that area," said Trader Joe's spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki.

Initially, Manhattan College planned to partner with Pathmark, but chain's financial woes collapsed the deal.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Moerdler Considering Council Run

by John DeSio
Riverdale Review, 06/09/2008

One of Riverdale’s most well respected citizens could be throwing his hat into the ring for City Council.

Charles Moerdler, who currently serves as Community Board #8’s land use chairman, is giving serious consideration to his own run for the 11th District City Council seat, which includes Riverdale and Kingsbridge.

According to multiple sources Moerdler, who is also a partner at the prestigious white shoe law firm of Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, is set to change his enrollment from Republican to Democrat in order to run in that primary, which in all likelihood would decide the winner of the contest.
Moerdler would also reportedly self-finance his campaign, a move that would more than level the playing field given his potential opponents current fundraising advantage. Sources indicate that Moerdler also feels that spending his own money on the race would allow him the ability to speak freely on a variety of topics without offending donors.

Moerdler was in Europe at press time, and could not be reached for comment.

The seat is currently held by City Councilman G. Oliver Koppell, who cannot run for reelection in 2009 due to term limit laws. Other announced or presumptive candidates for the seat include Ari Hoffnung, co-president of the Riverdale Jewish Community Council; Helen Morik, vice president for government and community affairs at the Columbia University Medical Center; Anthony Perez Cassino, former chairman of Community Board #8; and Jamin Sewell, who serves as legislative counsel to Koppell.

Moerdler served as buildings commissioner under Mayor John Lindsay in the 1960’s. He currently serves as the governor’s representative to the New York City Housing Development Corporation, and has been appointed to that post by three Democratic governors and one Republican.

He is also a prominent labor attorney, and has helped to guide the career paths of many notable New Yorkers, including Governor David Paterson and United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

In addition that work Moerdler is a member of the New York City Board of Collective Bargaining. Since 1999, he also served as the vice chairman of the Committee on Character and Fitness of Applicants to the Bar of the State of New York, and has been a member of that board since 1977.

Other highlights in his illustrious public service background include a stint as New York City's Commissioner of Buildings from 1966 to 1967, member of New York City's Air Pollution Control Board from 1966 to 1967, and consultant to the Mayor of the City of New York on Housing, Urban Development and Real Estate from 1967 to 1973.

Moerdler has also served as the panel chairman of the Disciplinary Committee for Appellate Division, First Department from, 1998 to 2004; served as a member of the Mayor's Committee on Judiciary from 1994 to 2001; and also served as the Chairman of the New York State Insurance Fund from 1955 to 1997 and as its commissioner and vice chairman from 1978 to 1995.

Moerdler is also a trustee at St. Barnabas Hospital, a position that he's held since 1986. He's also worked on the Board of Overseers for the Jewish Seminary of America, as a trustee for Long Island University, as an advisory board member for Columbia University's School of International Affairs, and as an American Jewish Congress lecturer.

He has also been included in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in American Law, Who's Who in Finance and Industry and Who's Who in The World.