Monday, July 31, 2017

Friends of VCP's August Enewsletter

Bringing Youth, Community and Nature Together for 25 Years!

August 2017

This summer the Friends have had several projects going on in Van Cortlandt Park ranging from our summer interns maintaining the trails and removing water chestnut from the lake to a professional crew cleaning the Grand Central Stones.  For our Grand Central Stone project we have partnered with the Municipal Art Society thanks to funding 
from the Paul and Klara Porzelt Foundation.  Together we are making progress with the stones being cleaned so that you can now see the different types of stones that the railroad company was testing.   We are also developing a plan to combat any future graffiti that may appear, cleaning up the forest around the stones and working on historical signage.  We hope to have the project completed in time for our Hike-toberfest.

On Saturday September 23rd, join us for our second annual Hike-toberfest to hike, eat, drink & celebrate with Friends during a fun fundraiser for the hiking trails of Van Cortlandt Park. Come see why VCP is Where NYC Hikes.  Thank you to all our sponsors to date: Allstate Insurance, Bronx Beer Hall, Bronx Native, Food Dynasty, Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten, Loving the Bronx, and Van Cortlandt House Museum.  Click here to purchase tickets securely onlineor use this Registration Form to pay by check. 

Also, this year the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park are celebrating our 25th Anniversary in several ways including the new banners that have been put up along Broadway and Van Cortlandt Park South and our 25th Anniversary Benefit on Sunday October 15th.  This celebration will be honoring our founders and is being hosted by Meredith Vieira.  For details on these events and more please see below and visit the Events page of our website. 

Christina and all of your Friends at the Friends of VCP!

Friends of VCP's Upcoming Events

Rowboating on VC Lake
Fridays until September 1st from 4:30pm to 7:30pm
Village Community Boathouse will provide FREE rowing 
in their fleet of traditional wooden rowboats.  Children 
under 18 years old need a parent present to sign waiver. 
Enter the park at Van Cortlandt Park South & Bailey Ave. 
Meet near the Lake.

Garden Crew 
Tuesdays until August 22nd from 10am-1pm
Help care for our vegetable beds (where all of our produce 
will be donated to local food pantries) and compost bins. 
Bring water and sunscreen. Held at Friends’ Compost & 
Garden Site. Enter the Park at Broadway & Mosholu Ave.

Youth Run Farm Stands
Wednesdays from 2-7pmuntil October 25th– 
at the Train Park at Orloff Ave and Gale Place.
Thursdays from 12-7pmuntil November 16th– 
on the Corner of E. Gun Hill Road and DeKalb Ave. 
Wednesdays will include healthy cooking demonstrations 
and hands-on activities for the community.  Thursday’s 
market is being held in partnership with GrowNYC. Both 
markets will accept Cash, EBT/Credit/Debit, Healthbucks, 
FreshConnect Bucks, WIC and FMNP checks. Special 
Thank You to Our Supporters: New Yankee Stadium 
Benefits Fund, Clif Bar Family Foundation and Bon 
Secours Healthy 
ommunity Initiative.

Hike-toberfest 2017
Saturday September 23rd from 2pm-7pm
Hike, Eat, Drink & Celebrate with Friends during our 
new fun fundraiser for the hiking trails of Van Cortlandt 
Park. Come see why VCP is Where NYC Hikes. Hike starts 
at 2pm and attendees will participate in a 2 hour 4-5 mile 
hike or a 2 mile leisurely hike. Oktoberfest starts is from 
4pm-7pm where there will be German food by Loreley 
Restaurant & Biergarten, beer and fun yard games!  Meet 
at the Van Cortlandt House Museum. Tickets and 
Sponsorship information below and can be purchased 
here through Eventbrite or via mail using this form.

25th Anniversary Celebration: Honoring our 
Sunday October 15th from 6-9pm
Join us as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the 
Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and Honor our 
Founders:  Felicity Nitz, Frances Beinecke, Susan 
Morgenthau, Elizabeth Scheuer, Jane Sokolow and 
Sybil Wailand.  Event hosted by Meredith Vieira.  
Our guests will enjoy dinner, drinks and dessert out 
on the deck of the Van Cortlandt Golf House 
overlooking Van Cortlandt Lake.  Tickets and 
Sponsorship information below and can be 
purchased here through Eventbrite or via mail 
using this form.


Event Will Help New Yorkers Resolve Open Warrants for Quality of Life Offenses 

  Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark announced today that her office will host its second annual summons warrant forgiveness program in the Bronx, inviting residents from all five boroughs to clear their records and move on with their lives. 

  The “Another Chance” event, in partnership with the Office of Court Administration and The Bronx Defenders, will be held on Saturday, August 5, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Eastchester Presbyterian Church, 3154 Fish Avenue at the corner of East Gun Hill Road in the Baychester section of the Bronx. A resource fair also will be held. 

  District Attorney Clark said, “This is a way to give people “Another Chance” to remove a potential obstacle to employment, citizenship, housing or educational opportunities. If you have had a minor brush with the law such as drinking alcohol in public, littering or unlawful possession of marijuana and did not address it, you have a warrant. If you do not resolve these warrants, they can adversely affect aspects of your life but even more significantly, they can lead to arrest and jail time. I urge those who are eligible for this warrant forgiveness program to clear their records and look to a brighter future.”

  Supervising Judge for Citywide Arraignments George Grasso said, “On behalf of our Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, the Criminal Court of Bronx County is proud to participate once again in the Bronx District Attorney’s “Another Chance” Program. This is another fine example of the ability of the Criminal Court to work with our partners to effect justice and fairness in Bronx County.”

  Robyn Mar, Deputy Managing Director of Criminal Defense Practice at The Bronx Defenders, said, “Open warrants for low-level summonses affect people's ability to keep their jobs, homes, and even to remain in this country with their families. Events like this can go a long way toward undoing that harm. We applaud District Attorney Clark for hosting this amnesty program and giving Bronx residents a chance to resume their lives without the burden of an open warrant and the constant fear of arrest."

  Pastor Phil Tom, of the Eastchester Presbyterian Church, said, “Eastchester Presbyterian Church is honored to work with the Bronx District Attorney, the New York City Office of Court Administration and other agencies in hosting the Another Chance event. It seems appropriate that this event will be held in a church building where we believe that God provides every person with another chance to have a good and fruitful life.”

  There are 1.5 million open summons warrants citywide, 334,000 of them in the Bronx. A mobile courtroom will be created in the Eastchester Presbyterian Church with Honorable Bahaati Pitt, Criminal Court Judge, presiding, as well as attorneys and staff from the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and The Bronx Defenders. District Attorney Clark said 500 people attended last year’s event and some 355 warrants were cleared.

  Vendors will be on site providing information and resources on jobs, health care, and social services.


  Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has announced that his office is providing almost $10 million in capital funds to parks all over the borough through his FY 2018 capital funding allocations, as part of his “#Not62” Campaign for a Healthier Bronx.

This year, Borough President Diaz will allocate $9,916,000 to nine borough parks. This includes funding for upgrades, redesign and construction of basketball courts, staircase and site work at Seton Park in Riverdale; as well as two new pedestrian bridges, four new community access points and five new acres of waterfront parkland at Starlight Park in Soundview, in conjunction with the Bronx River Alliance. 

“Providing quality park spaces is paramount for our ‘#Not62’ health initiative, as we work to build a healthier Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “We must make sure that our shared recreational spaces are in good condition and inviting to the public, so that more and more Bronxites of all ages will take advantage of them. What starts off as kids being kids—playing sports, and running around, having fun in our park spaces—becomes the building blocks to developing a healthier lifestyle as our kids become adults. I am proud to have provided so much of my capital funding to worthy park projects all over The Bronx this year.”

Since taking office in 2009, Borough President Diaz has funded a total of $52,684,000 across 70 park projects.

Borough President Diaz is providing $4.7 million to improve access to existing open spaces on the Harlem River Greenway by building a promenade to connect and creating an accessible waterfront along the Harlem River and reconstructing an existing step street to improve access to Bridge Park. 

Other notable park projects Borough President Diaz is funding this year include $1 million towards the reconstruction of Kossuth Playground on Mosholu Parkway, $500,000 towards the spray showers at Woodlawn Playground and $650,000 towards renovation and upgrade of windows and roof at Owen Dolen Recreation Center in Westchester Square.  

This year, Borough President Diaz’s office has provided $58,718,000 in total capital dollars across 146 projects. Since coming to office in 2009, Borough President Diaz has provided $248,646,000 in total capital funding to 725 projects. 

A complete list of Borough President Diaz’s capital allocations towards parks in FY 2018 can be found at


  Bronx residents opposed to the opening of an apparent transitional housing for the homeless that was initially promoted as a “market rate” apartment building for middle-income working families rallied with NYC Council Member Andy King, outside the building at 3677 White Plains Road, Bronx, to demand that the City and the developer, the Stagg Group, return to the original plan as stated in 2015 by developer Mark Stagg. Councilman King wants to know how this building was turned into a homeless shelter rather than market rate housing much like the old 'bait and switch' unscrupulous business people do. Councilman King said that he grew up one block away from this site, and owes it to the people of his council district to find out how this happened and to try to get middle class working people into this building.
  Two candidates for the 12th council district were on hand to speak about a similar fear of a building Stagg Developers built on Pelham Parkway. Also on hand were some Kingsbridge residents living near another building in Community Board 8 where Stagg Developers Vice-President Adolfo Carrion has made a verbal deal with Praxis to house transitional homeless people. Praxis also runs a halfway house further up on White Plains Road for HIV-AIDS transition people. It would seem that Praxis would not be able to have two locations so close to each other, thus the reason for the Kingsbridge site.

Above and Below - Councilman Andy King talks about speaking with the developer of 3677 White Plains Road Mark Stagg, who said that this building would be market rate housing. Councilman King wants to know what happened to the working people who were suppose to occupy 3677 White Plains Road, and how Arcadia Corp (a South Bronx scatter site homeless provider) is using the building as a homeless shelter.

Above - Mr. Mohamet Mbaye of the Williamsbridge NAACP tells of what bad deeds the current residents of 3677 are doing to the community. 
Below - Candidates for the 12th council district, John Doyle (L), and Egidio Sementelli (R) talk about a similar building built by Stagg Developers on Pelham Parkway with the fears of that community that the Pelham Parkway building will also turn into a homeless shelter.

Engel, House Dems Continue Push to Improve the Affordable Care Act

  Congressman Eliot Engel, a top member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, cosigned a letter with close to 90 House Democrats calling on Speaker Ryan to take up key reforms to help improve the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual markets and expand options for consumers.

The four reforms, devised by Democrats, include reauthorizing and making permanent federal reinsurance programs; ensuring funding for the cost-sharing reduction payments – which President Trump has threatened to cut off – that help millions of American families purchase affordable health insurance; expanding premium assistance to bring down costs; and affording retirement-age Americans the option to buy into Medicare.

“Democrats have long said that, while the ACA has done a wealth of good for the American health care system, it is not perfect. But just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it needs to be scrapped entirely. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Congressman Engel said. “Every major piece of legislation, including Medicare and Social Security, has required tweaking after its initial passage to make the law work better. The ACA is no different. But, instead of working with Democrats to build on the ACA’s progress, Republicans have clung to their political crusade against the law. They have worked to sabotage the ACA at every turn, and made a mockery of the legislative process as they rushed to pass bills that would steal health care away from millions. It is time for the GOP to move on from the disaster that was Trumpcare and get down to the business of actually governing.

“Democrats have real ideas on how to restore certainty to insurance markets, bring down costs, and expand consumer choices. Now, we must come together in a bipartisan way to make those ideas a reality. I urge my Republican colleagues to carefully consider our proposals, so we can meaningfully improve the health and lives of our constituents.”


NYC Council Member Rodriguez, NYS Assemblyman Dinowitz, Riders Alliance, TWU & More Will Travel Subways to Hear About Riders' Concerns Prior to Aug. 8 City Council Hearing on Subways

   Elected officials are ready to ride the rails to hear directly from subway commuters in advance of a City Council hearing on August 8th. After months of delays, derailments, power outages, track fires and more, officials and advocates will take to the tunnels to get feedback, suggestions and concerns from riders, while getting a full picture of the system that sustains our city.
Standing outside the City Hall R Train Station, the coalition announced the 24-Hour "Riders Respond Transit Tour." The tour will take place from 7 AM to 7 PM on Thursday August 3rd and Friday August 4th, touching all five boroughs. It is organized by NYC Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, in conjunction with NYS Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz, who each chair committees with oversight over the city subway system. 
They will be joined by elected officials, advocates and volunteers, travelling from station to station to document feedback about riders' commutes, assess the state of the system's infrastructure and gain a feel for each line in the city. The results of the tour will be shared at the NYC Council Transportation Committee Hearing on the NYC Subway System, scheduled for August 8th. The full route can be found attached.
"Lost over the past few months of subway woes has been the point of view of riders," said NYC Council Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. "It is our duty as representatives of those who take the subway each day to learn about what they're going through and hear their suggestions for improving the system. As we prepare for our subways hearing at the Council on August 8th, this tour will help to gather information and data crucial to getting a more complete picture of the system. I'm glad so many of my colleagues and interested organizations have signed on to this effort and I'm expecting a very informative tour."
"New Yorkers are fed up with the burden shifting between New York City and New York State. Councilman Rodriguez and I, as leaders of two committees that have oversight of the MTA at both levels of government, are working together to identify problems and create solutions. There are many issues with our city's transit including ADA accessibility, platform overcrowding, fire-causing trash on the tracks, derailments, and other problems that have combined to create the crisis we are in today," said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair of the NYS Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.
This event is supported by a growing list of elected officials and advocates, including NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, U.S. Congressman Adriano Espaillat, Brooklyn and Manhattan Borough Presidents Gale Brewer and Eric Adams, NYS Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Riders Alliance, Straphangers Campaign and TWU Local 100 and many more.
**Route Below**

Thursday: Manhattan & The Bronx

TimeStation (Train line)
7:00-7:30am242nd St (1)
Travel time: 15 min
7:45am-9:00am168th St (1/A/C)
Travel time: 10 min
9:10am-9:40am125th St (A/B/C/D)
Travel time: 10 min
9:50am-10:20am59th St (A/B/C/D/1)
Travel time: 30 min
10:50am-11:35amCity Hall/Chambers St (4/5/6/J)
Travel time: 25 min
12:00pm-12:45pmEast Broadway (F)
Travel time: 45 min
1:30pm-2:00pm125th St (4/5/6)
Travel time: 25 min
2:25pm-2:55pmMosholu Pkwy (4)
Travel time: 30 min
3:25pm-3:55pm161st St-Yankee Stadium (4/B/D)
Break 3:55pm-4:25pm; Travel time: 20 min
4:45pm-5:15pm3rd Ave & 149th St (2/5)
Travel time: 25 min
5:40pm-6:10pmGrand Central (4/5/6/7/S)
Travel time: 10 min  
6:20pm-6:50pm   Times Squae (A/C/E/1/2/3/7/N/Q/R/S)

FRIDAY - Queens, Brooklyn & Staten Island
TimeStation (Train line)
7:00am-7:30amQueensboro Plaza (N/W/7)
Travel time: 15 min
7:45am-8:45amJackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave
Travel time: 20 min
9:05am-9:35amSutphin Blvd-Archer Ave (E/J)
Travel time: 25 min
10:00am-10:30amBroadway Junction (A/C/J/Z/L)
Travel time: 20 min
10:50am-11:20amJay St./Metro Tech (A/C/F/R)
Travel time: 60 min
12:20pm-12:50pm36th St (R/N/D)
Break 12:50pm-1:20pm
Travel time: 30 min
1:50pm-2:20pmConey Island (N/D)
Travel time: 1 hour
2:20pm-2:50pmMetropolitan Ave (G)/ Lorimer St. (L)
Travel time: 1h 20 min
4:10pm-4:40pmStapelton (SI Railroad)
Travel time: 1 hour
5:40pm-6:10pmUnion Square (4/5/L)


  1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in New York, has endorsed Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj to represent the New York City Council’s 13th District.

“1199SEIU is proud to support Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj for City Council,” said Helen Schaub, New York State Director of Policy and Legislation. “Time and time again, the Assemblyman has shown strong leadership and dedication to the lives of New Yorkers. He has been an outspoken advocate for working people, especially for those in the healthcare field. He has continually fought to increase the minimum wage and the scope of worker benefits, and has worked to develop a more comprehensive system of access to health insurance. We are confident Mark Gjonaj will bring a new level of accountability to our caregivers, seniors and people with disabilities. “We admire his authentic progressive platform, and his positions on the most important issues of our time.”

“I am honored to receive the heartfelt endorsement of 1199SEIU,” said Assembly Member Mark Gjonaj. “Since my election to the Assembly I have worked alongside them to ensure that fair pay and benefits are given to caregivers, and that those in need of their services are aware of the treatments available to them. Just as I did in Albany, I will continue to partner with 1199SEIU in the fight for quality healthcare and good jobs for all from City Hall.

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj is running for City Council to represent the 13th District. He currently represents the 80th Assembly District, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Allerton, Bedford Park, Morris Park, Mosholu Parkway, Norwood, Pelham Gardens, Pelham Parkway and Van Nest sections of The Bronx. He serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Micro Business and is a member of several committees: Banks; Local Governments; Real Property Taxation; Small Business; Tourism, Parks, and Sports Development; and Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force.

1199SEIU, representing over 400,00 members, including 200,000 in New York City’s five boroughs and its suburbs, is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in the nation.


 In 2012 the union 1199SEIU had endorsed the incumbent 80th Assembly candidate when then first time candidate Mark Gjonaj defeated the incumbent.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


  The New York City Department of Investigation (“DOI”) issued a Report today detailing its analysis of the Police Department’s (“NYPD”) U visa certification program. The U visa, also known as U nonimmigrant status, is a special visa granted to undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes and who help law enforcement investigate and prosecute those crimes. A U visa provides undocumented crime victims with a pathway to legal permanent resident status, employment authorization, and other benefits. Although the U visa is provided by the federal government, a law enforcement agency like NYPD must first certify that the applicant was helpful in the investigation of a qualifying crime. Law enforcement agencies, like DOI, regularly rely on victim cooperation to identify suspects, investigate illegal activity, and prosecute criminals. The U visa program encourages members of this vulnerable community to bring perpetrators to justice, while helping to build community trust with the police. In light of recent federal policy shifts in immigration enforcement that have amplified fear in this community, the public safety value of the U visa program has taken added importance. In the past several years, NYPD has taken steps to improve its handling of the U visa process, as well as other actions to protect this community. The Report found NYPD has made positive chan ges to the administrative management of the U visa program, but needs to strengthen certain aspects of the certification process. A copy of the Report with recommendations is attached to this release and can be found at the following link:

  DOI Commissioner Mark G. Peters said, “Victim cooperation is critical to all law enforcement work. In the current environment, where the immigrant community has been the target of fear mongering and attacks, all of us in local law enforcement have been working to ensure that immigrants – documented or undocumented – are protected and feel safe stepping forward to report crimes. Strengthening NYPD’s U visa program helps New York City achieve that goal.” 

  DOI’s Inspector General for the NYPD Philip K. Eure said, “For undocumented people who are victims of crimes, fear of deportation often stands in the way of cooperation with law enforcement – a fact their abusers readily exploit. This Report demonstrates that NYPD’s U visa program has taken steps to improve and needs to go further, specifically strengthening its internal standards when reviewing these certifications. By making the NYPD’s U visa program more consistent and transparent, the Department can help protect immigrant communities and make the City safer.” 

  The number of certification requests made to NYPD has increased more than seven -fold in the last six years – from 87 in 2011 to 713 in 2016 – and NYPD receives the highest number of requests of any certifying City agency. DOI reviewed a random sample of more than 80% of applications denied by NYPD in 2015. DOI determined NYPD has taken numerous steps to improve its U visa policies and protect the immigrant community. In 2016, for instance, NYPD made adjustments to its administrative processing of U visa certification requests, including fixed timeframes for handling requests and new protocols governing appeals. However, DOI also found that several issues require additional attention.

  The report makes 10 recommendations in the areas of discretionary standards for certification, transparency, public information, and training. Recommendations include: 

 NYPD should develop concrete, written standards on how to conduct an assessment of an applicant’s criminal background and on the types of criteria that warrant denial of the certification request. 

 NYPD can do more to assess applicants who have a reasonable basis for not cooperating with an investigation. Specifically, NYPD should take affirmative steps to contact both the NYPD personnel who investigated the underlying incident and the party requesting the certification, and such steps should be documented. 

  NYPD should create and publish its complete standards for certification eligibility. 

 NYPD should develop written materials regarding the U visa program for dissemination at precincts and other locations where victims may encounter police. 

 NYPD should develop informational training on U visas for specialized NYPD units that frequently encounter immigrant communities.  

The New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) is one of the oldest law-enforcement agencies in the country and is New York City’s corruption watchdog. DOI investigations may involve any agency, officer, elected official, or employee of the City, as well as those who do business with or receive benefits from the City. DOI’s strategy attacks corruption comprehensively, through systemic investigations that lead to high-impact arrests, preventive internal controls, and operational reforms that improve the way the City runs. Bribery and Corruption are a Trap. Don’t Get Caught Up. Report It at 212-3-NYC-DOI. Learn more at

  DOI’s Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD (OIG-NYPD) is an oversight office charged with investigating, reviewing, studying, auditing, and making recommendations relating to the operations, policies, programs, and practices of the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The goals of OIG-NYPD are to enhance the effectiveness of the police department, increase public safety, protect civil liberties and civil rights, and increase the public's confidence in the police force, thus building stronger police-community relations. OIG-NYPD is part of the New York City Department of Investigation and is independent of the NYPD. Inspector General Eure reports to DOI Commissioner Peters.  

Bronx Advisory Board
Celebrity Bartending Event

Upcoming Community Events-Join Us

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for all these Great Upcoming Events
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August Events 2017

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, Senator Jeff Klein 
& Assemblyman Michael Benedetto 
International Family Day 
August 26th,2017
12pm - 4pm
2551 Westchester Square 
Bronx, New York 10461

Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj & Senator Jeff Klein 
Invite you to attend the 
5th Annual Job Fair 

August 19th,2017
12:00PM - 3:00pm
990 Pelham Parkway S
Bronx, New York 10461

- Dress for Success, business attire

Explore your career choices, meet employers, gather information and apply for jobs on the spot.