Saturday, May 16, 2015

BJCC Celebrates 6th Annual Breakfast for Champions

The Bronx Jewish Community Council (BJCC) is celebrating its 6th Annual Breakfast for Champions on Friday, June 5, 2015 at the Riverdale Jewish Center, located at 3700 Independence Avenue, Bronx, NY 10463.

The Mission of BJCC is to provide enhanced quality of life to the residents of the Bronx, particularly older adults, by offering services, support and coordination of community resources. 

This year's honorees are Lenny Caro, President & CEO of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce (and Bronx Goodwill Ambassador), who will be receiving the Bronx Business Leader Award; Eliezer Rodriguez, Esq., Executive Officer of the Bronx-Manhattan North Association of Realtors, who will be receiving the Bronx Realty Leader Award; Andrew Golub, CPA of Livrieri & Golub, who will be receiving the Guardian of Chesed Award; Judy Uman, BJCC's Director of Social Services, who will be receiving the Lorance Hockert Labor of Love Award; and  Marlene Cintron, President of the Bronx Overall Economic Development, who will be receiving the Public Service Award.

Also being honored is the Riverdale Jewish Center with the Congregational Honor Roll, and Project HOPE Youth Volunteers with the Leaders ofTomorrow Award.

The Breakfast for Champions event is BJCC's largest annual fundraising campaign and vital in allowing the agency to continue providing uninterrupted service to its thousands of clients annually. BJCC provides life-sustaining services including emergency cash assistance, connections to benefits and entitlements, care management, mental health outreach and other essential support services.

For reservations, please visit For more information and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jon Henkin at 718-652-5500 x. 206 or at

Audit of ESDC Finds Few Measurable Results for $211 Million State Advertising Contract

  The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) spent $211 million on an advertising contract to promote economic development and tourism in New York state with no tangible results, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“When government spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to send a message that New York is a place to visit and open for business, it should have clear objectives and show the public actual results,” DiNapoli said. “ESDC’s attempts to measure the results of this advertising campaign were weak at best, leaving real questions about whether the results justify the cost.”
In December 2011, ESDC awarded a contract to BBDO USA LLC, an advertising and marketing agency, for up to $50 million. ESDC amended and increased the contract four times, bringing the total of the contract to $211.5 million. Of this, $36.5 million was targeted to promote tourism and business in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The remaining $175 million could be spent at the authority’s discretion, which ESDC allocated to promoting Start-Up NY, tourism, Taste NY and Masterbrand.
As required by law, the State Attorney General’s office and the State Comptroller’s office reviewed the contract and amendments and found the state’s procurement and legal process was followed.
The purpose of DiNapoli’s audit, which covered December 2011 to November 2014, was to determine if ESDC received the services it paid for and whether its advertising effort achieved sufficient outcomes. Although auditors found that ESDC got the advertising services it paid for, at a fair price, they found ESDC was not able to effectively quantify and assess tangible outcomes from the initiatives.
ESDC officials told auditors they do not believe that the advertising program should be formally measured against outcome targets established for the various programs, and that the advertising was not intended to directly produce positive economic benefits. Instead officials stressed that the primary expectation for the contract was to improve perception of the state as a good place to visit and to do business.
Auditors repeatedly met with ESDC officials about the objectives of the specific programs supported by the advertising contract. ESDC only provided details about Start-Up NY, a tax free incentive program for businesses affiliated with college campuses that began in October 2013. Between October 2013 and October 2014, auditors found that ESDC spent $45.1 million to advertise the Start-Up NY program to encourage businesses to apply for the program, or 40 percent of the $111.6 million available for advertising during that period.
During this time, ESDC received 18,203 applications, but only about 10 percent of the businesses that applied were eligible for the program and only 41 enrolled in the program during the time period examined by auditors. The 41 businesses plan to create 1,750 jobs over the next five years. Auditors calculated that ESDC spent more than $25,000 on advertising for each of the promised jobs.
Auditors also questioned why ESDC continued to allocate more and more money to advertise Start-Up NY – even as applications fell from a peak of 5,300 in January 2014 to about 500 in June 2014 – without any analysis of specific goals or modification of outreach efforts. Auditors also noted that spending on advertising did not produce the outcome of increasing the number of applications (see charts on page 10 and 11).

Even though ESDC did not set specific quantitative targets or benchmarks, auditors found it did make some effort to evaluate the effectiveness of the actual ads created. The efforts, however, only looked at whether a few focus groups had their perceptions changed after viewing the ads about doing business or visiting New York. When auditors pressed again for goals and results, ESDC noted that attendance increased at the five tourist destinations featured in its marketing campaign, including a 17 percent increase in attendance at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. Auditors noted that the inductees for 2013 had all died prior to 1940 in contrast to the attention generated by well-known induction class of 2014, which included former New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre.
DiNapoli’s office recommended:
  • Future strategic and marketing plans include performance measures for monitoring outcomes to determine if the cost generated a return for the investment;
  • Set specific targets, goals and benchmarks for evaluating performance outcomes and use these measure to monitor performance; and
  • Regularly evaluate the program outcomes associated with the marketing efforts and use this information to periodically review, and if needed, adjust program goals, strategies and resource allocations.
In ESDC’s response to the audit, the authority generally maintained that it does monitor performance and reasserted that the advertising campaign was intended to build a brand and change perceptions, not create jobs or generate economic development. The authority agreed to have its marketing agency report on performance measurements and metrics in future contracts. The authority’s response, along with documents not previously provided to auditors, are included in the audit.
DiNapoli’s office is also currently auditing the Excelsior Jobs program, which replaced the Empire Zone program in 2010.

Friday, May 15, 2015


  On Sunday, May 17, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will celebrate the grand finale of Bronx Week 2015.

The day will include a volunteer breakfast and induction ceremony at the Bronx County Building on the Grand Concourse, followed by a parade down Mosholu Parkway with hundreds of students from Bronx schools and youth organizations. 

The four new members of the Bronx Walk of Fame—actor and activist Malik Yoba; NBA Legend and Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes; actress, author and television commentator Stacey Dash; and the family of the late businessman and philanthropist, Alfredo Thiebaud—will participate in both the induction ceremony and the parade.

Following the parade, residents will enjoy the Bronx Week Food, Art & Music Festival, which features popular restaurants, arts & crafts, games and activities for kids, as well as special performances by legendary hip-hop group Brand Nubian, freestyle singers The Cover Girls and salsero Jose Alberto, “El Canario.”

Bronx Week 2015 Volunteers Breakfast   
WHEN:                      Sunday, May 17
WHERE:                   Bronx County Building
851 Grand Concourse
TIME:                        9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Bronx Week 2015 Walk of Fame Induction   
WHEN:                      Sunday, May 17
WHERE:                   Bronx County Building
East 161 Street & Grand Concourse
TIME:                        11:00 a.m.

44th Annual Bronx Week Parade  
WHEN:                      Sunday, May 17
WHERE:                    Reviewing stand: Mosholu Parkway East at Van Cortlandt Avenue
TIME:                        12:00 p.m.

Bronx Week 2015 Food & Arts Festival
WHEN:                      Sunday, May 17
WHERE:                   Mosholu Parkway @ Bainbridge Avenue
TIME                         12:00 p.m.

Bronx Week 2015 Concert
WHEN:                      Sunday, May 17
WHERE:                   Mosholu Parkway @ Bainbridge Avenue
TIME:                        12:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Fresh Look At The Bronx

  Last Night at Billy’s Sports Bar located across from the old Yankee Stadium on River Avenue City and State Magazine held their first ever "Bronx Special Issue Launch". This was a hard copy issue of City and State (48 pages in all)  titled "The Bronx" - Special Issue.  

  The Special Bronx Issue had a beaming photo of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., with an explanation of how the Bronx has improved not only economically, but also in image since BP Diaz was elected in a special election in 2009.  Then there were pages with articles such as the Top Political Hangouts in the Bronx, Former Bronx BP's, The rise of Bronx Power, The Bronx Bouncing Back, The Mall Boom, Kids From the Bronx, and even a page on Bronxtalk Host Gary Axelbank to name a few. 

  Below are a few photos from the event at Billy's  Sports Bar.

 Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., State Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein, Bronx Democratic County leader Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, City Council members Vanessa Gibson, Andy King, Andrew Cohen, and Jimmy Vacca, State Senator Marcos Serrano, Andd Assembly members Jeffrey Dinowitz, Luis Sepulveda, and Michael Blake were some of the current Bronx elected officials in attendance. 

Above - City and State writer and former Assemblyman Michael Benjamin chats with former Bronx Democratic County Leader (and now very successful political consultant) Roberto Ramirez 
Right - Others wanted to get a word in with Ramirez.

Above - BP Diaz with State Senator Marcos Serrano and Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson.
Right - BP Diaz chats with Bronxtalk host Gary Axelbank, while a busy Bronx Democratic County Leader Marcos Crespo tries to get some food in.

Above - City and State Publisher Andrew Holt tells the audience why City and State published the special issue highlighting The Bronx.
Right - Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is being introduced by City and State Publisher Holt.

Above - Bronx BP Diaz Jr. tells of the new jobs that have been created in the Bronx, and is proud that under his administration the Bronx is no longer the county with the highest unemployment.  
Right - State Senator Jeff Klein tells of his great success stories in the State Senate that have benefited not only the Bronx, and New York City, but the entire New York State. BP Diaz is giving Klein the "High 5" in the background. 
Below - New Bronx Democratic County Leader Marcos Crespo is right out of the Ruben Diaz Jr. mold having taken over the job as the assemblyman from the 85th Assembly District after Ruben Diaz Jr. was elected BP. Crespo has showed his ability, and was recently elected SOMOS Chair in Albany,and then Bronx Democratic County Leader. 

47th Precinct Community Council - May 13, 2015 Meeting - Nominations Results

  At the 47th Precinct Community Council meeting on May 13, 2015 the following names were nominated for their respective positions:
President - Elizabeth Gill
Vice President - Carl Lanzano
Treasurer - Constance Greene-Winston
Recording Secretary - I.M. Vacant (*)
Corresponding Secretary - Gracie Watson
Assistant Corresponding Secretary - Cheryl McNear
Sergeant-at-Arms - Norbert Bryant
(*) – There were no names nominated for Recording Secretary. In accordance with Robert's Rules of Order (failure to elect), a special election will be held in the future to fill this position.
Note: Since all the candidates are running unopposed, the Chairperson of the Election Committee will request the Secretary of the Council to cast one vote at the June 11th meeting (Nativity of Our Blessed Lady School, 3893 Dyre Avenue at East 233rd Street) for the election of all the officers. Their 2 year term of office will be from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017.

Link to photos from the meeting:
47th Precinct Community Council Meeting - May 13, 2015
47th Precinct Community Council Meeting - May 13, 2015 Photos from the 47th Precinct Community Council meeting on May 13, 2015 held at P.S. 19, 4318 Katonah ...
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  New Funding Boosts Local School’s Enrichment Opportunities for Students K-5

State Senator Jeff Klein, joined by more than 150 local parents, school administrators and students, announced $18,000 in Project BOOST (Building Options and Opportunities for Students) funding for P.S. 14 in the Bronx. The announcement came at P.S. 14’s annual parent teacher conference night on Wednesday evening.  
“Whether it’s making sure our students are ready for high school or simply helping them ace that test, Project BOOST provides today’s students with the tools they need to be successful tomorrow. I’m proud to have secured $18,000 in BOOST funding for P.S. 14, and more than $700,000 for schools across the Bronx. Project BOOST offers our students innovative cultural and academic enrichment opportunities that will greatly influence their educational paths as they move forward. I want to thank the parents and administrators for their ongoing support and commitment to this program,” said Senator Klein.
“Today, making sure our students have a first-rate education means providing them with innovative learning and enrichment activities that help improve their performance both in and out of the classroom,” said Ira Schulman, Principal of P.S. 14. “This funding has given us the opportunity to offer new music and arts programs that boost student engagement and further encourage hands-on learning. We are are very grateful to Senator Klein for his work with Project BOOST and his efforts on behalf of all students across the Bronx and New York State.”
This year, P.S. 14 has used BOOST funds to benefit students in a variety of ways, including music and arts enrichment programs like ballroom dancing, after-school clarinet, saxophone, and flute lessons, percussion classes and the Learning through Expanded Arts Program (LeAp) for the school’s youngest students.
Project BOOST is an enrichment program targeted at elementary and middle school students who have demonstrated a commitment to academic success but come from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Currently, Project BOOST operates in 60 elementary and middle schools, serving more than 700 students in grades four through eight across New York City.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bronx Week Business Day Breakfast

 The Bronx Business Breakfast was held at the Anheuser Bush headquarters located at 550 Food Center Drive in the Hunts Point Market area. Ms. Marlene Cintron of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation opened the meeting giving a brief history of Bronx business expansion since Ruben Diaz Jr. was elected Bronx Borough President. She finished by saying that the Bronx was no longer number 1 in unemployment, a position the borough has had for to many years, and it was the hard efforts of BP Diaz and that of BOEDC that changed that statistic. 

  The keynote speaker was Mr. Andy Unanue (a name many mispronounced) who gave his life story including the business his grandfather began that became the largest Hispanic food company, and the reason it was not called Unanue Foods, but Goya Foods, Andy is the managing partner of AUA Private Equity Partners, former CEO of Goys Foods, and Chairman of the Board of the Associated Supermarket Group that owns the Associated, Compare, Met, Met Fresh, Metropolitan City Market, Pioneer, and Victory Market banners. 

  Ed Fitzsimmons and Joe Viscowitch were on hand from Anheuser Busch to tell of the 350 employees in its 6th years of operation in the Bronx to which Manhattan and Queens are also serviced from. The warehouse was the first green building in the Bronx, and solar panels were just recently installed on the roof. Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. it was said helped bring Anheuser Busch to its current site, and BP Diaz Jr. mentioned the 1,300 jobs at the Bay Plaza Mall, and the new Trump Golf Course as only a few examples of where the Bronx has grown. 

   Keynote Speaker Andy Unanue after speaking of his family business that his grandfather had started, and when it came to pick a name for the growing company bought the name Goya for $1.00 and the rest is history. Andy said that he ran the business for a while, but he wanted to do more to help others like those in his family be able to have their own dreams seen, and that was why he left the family business to start his own company. He added that while he remains on the board of Goya Foods, that he loves his family, but working with family is very tough on you. He now can continue to love his extended family that is still involved in Goya Foods. 

  In 2008 Andy bought the Associated Coop group, and when I asked about the Associated  Coop Group having been in the supermarket business, I learned about how they are growing under Mr. Unanue's guidance where as before the stores were just numbers. I also met a former owner of a Pioneer Supermarket from Riverdale who now owns two stores, one in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn. Andy's investments include the recent acquisition of the 100 store Tex/Mex Restaurant which he wants to bring to the Metro New York area. He also wants to expand the Associated Food Stores to 350 by the end of this year. 

   Ms. Marlene Cintron of BOEDC mentioned that the BIC division of BOEDC lends money from Twelve -hundred dollars all the up to the limit of $5.5 million dollars. The photos below will tell the rest of the story.

Left - BP Diaz with Joe Wiscowitch, and Keynote Speaker Andy Unanue.
Right - BP Diaz with Anheuser Busch VP Ed Fitzsimmons.

Left - BP Diaz with the Bronx Week 2015 banner behind him.
Right - Keynote Speaker Andy Unanue.

Andy Unanue holds citation from BP Diaz.

 That was not all Mr. Unanue received, as he was also given the Bronx Quilt.

 Lastly - a photo of the new Bud Light Lemon - ade - Rita as seen on last seasons Celebrity Apprentice.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Skelos Out - Flanagan in as New Republican Senate Leader

Now Former Republican State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos joins his Assembly Counterpart Former Speaker Sheldon Silver under indictment from U.S. Attorney Pheet Bharara. All this quickly happened when this blogger posted on April 17th that Senator Skelos and his son were under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office. 

Senator Flanagan Announces Passage Of Legislation To Assist Family Caregivers

Newly elected State Senate Republican Majority Leader John J. Flanagan (of Long Island, as was Skelos) said that the Republican State Senate Conference is now unified and is now ready to deal with the business at hand. That work includes such items gs as Mayoral control of NYC Schools, NYC Rent Regulations, and the 421A tax abatement program to name only a few.  


"It has been a difficult week of distraction in the State Senate and I, and the entire Independent Democratic Conference, look forward to turning the page and getting back to the business of the people. I offer my sincerest congratulations to Senator John Flanagan in his new role as Majority Leader. I look forward to a positive and productive six weeks ahead as we focus on the remaining legislative session and working together to improve the lives of all New Yorkers."

There has been no word as of yet from the State Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.  


  Council Member Andrew Cohen announced the results of the Participatory Budgeting voting process at Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy (RKA) in front of members of the community, Participatory Budgeting volunteers and RKA students.

This announcement concluded a year-long process that gave residents decision-making power of $1 million towards community improvement projects in their neighborhoods. During the voting week, residents in the community were able to see all the proposals on the ballot, as well as place their votes on which projects they thought deserved funding the most. Anyone who lives in the district, 16 years and older were welcome to cast a vote. A total of twenty-four council members participated this year, giving communities all over the city decision-making power of more than $25 million.

“Participatory Budgeting was a huge success for District 11 and I am proud to say that I was able to bring this project into our communities for the first time. This innovative process gave my neighbors a direct voice in how their tax dollars were spent. It was an inviting system that promoted civic engagement, as well as gave the opportunity for members of the community to help develop ideas that eventually became project proposals. The thing I’m most proud of was the quality of the ballot. The ideas were truly created from community members, people who know the district and the needs of their block. This enabled us to have a ballot that included 11 projects that would make a difference to our neighborhoods,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen.

Thousands of residents throughout District 11 came out to cast their vote. Out of 11 projects residents of the community were permitted to vote for five projects from four different categories: education, parks & recreation, transportation and libraries.

Of those 11 projects, the top five that were voted to receive funding are:

·         M.S/H.S. 141 Auditorium renovation
o   $200,000 will be used to upgrade the 55 year old auditorium used by 1,400 students and several other community organizations. Installation of new stage drapes and replacements of wooden seats that are in disrepair
·         Bus Countdown Clocks
o   $120,000 will be used to install bus countdown clocks at Bx1, Bx10, Bx16 and Bx34 bus stops throughout Wakefield, Bedford Park, Woodlawn, Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Norwood to alert commuters as to how many stops away their next bus is.
·         P.S. 24 Technology Expansion
o   $70,000 will be used to purchase two computer carts consisting of 36 laptop units each to help students in their current curriculum and prepare them for future subject matter, as well as college readiness.
·         Spuyten Duyvil Playground Renovation
o   $400,000 will be used to reconstruct the existing wading pool as an accessible spray shower and install new pavement, fencing, seating, planting and utilizes.
·         Van Cortlandt Library
o   $300,000 will be used to replace the outdated a leaky roof to prevent water damage to the facility.

With the Mosholu Library and P.S. 8 projects coming in as close runner-ups, Council Member Cohen decided to also allocate capital funding to them as well:
·         P.S. 8 Auditorium Renovation
o   $450,000 will be used to replace the outdated seating in the 60-year-old auditorium, a common area use for community meetings and performances throughout the year.
·         Mosholu Library Window Replacement
o   $350,000 will be used to install new windows and frame to help insulate the facility during the summer and winter months.

Left - Councilman Cohen is introduced by RKA Principal Laura O'Mara, who at first called him Councilman Koppell catching herself to say that Councilman Cohen was recently elected to the City Council. 
Right - Cohen Chief of Staff Dan Johnson guards the winning PB  Project announcements.

Left - 5th Place winner Van Cortlandt Library Roof replacement.
Right - 4th Place winner Spuyten Duyvil Playground renovations.

Left - 3rd Place winner P.S. 24 Technology Expansion.
Right - 2nd Place winner Bus Countdown Clocks Districtwide.

Left - 1st Place winner RKA Auditorium Renovations.
Left - Even though they were not winners, the P.S. Auditorium and Mosholu Library projects will be funded by Councilman Cohen.

A group photo with RKA Principal Omara (left) and Councilman Cohen among the Student Council members  of RKA.