Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kappstatter, Diaz Jr., Heastie, Lopez and American Idol

Kappstatter, B.P. Diaz Jr., Heastie, Lopez, and American Idol

This article is a somewhat of a response to Kappstatter’s latest article “Bronx Borough Pres. Slams ‘American Idol’ for dissing the area, while Jennifer Lopez stays quiet”. Firstly, I want to thank Kappsttater for his mention of the Boogiedowner and myself in his article. I see it as an invitation to “play in the sand box”; so let’s get started.

This article might get somewhat “heavy”, long and devoid of photos since it pertains to a serious issue that many Bronx residents deal with; the often negative depiction of the Bronx. Much of my conscious desire as a NYS Lic. Real Estate Broker to sell property in the Bronx, including what most call the “South Bronx”, is almost a crusade to bring back my beloved Bronx; back to the pristine neighborhood it once was and will be again. Rest assured I am not he only one out there.

I have had the pleasure of meeting all of the above listed in the header, even if they do not remember meeting me or care if they did. Each were mentioned in Kappstatter’s article. I meet Kappstater at the Bronx Ball and at a fundraiser for the Bronx News Network. I meet B.P. Diaz Jr. at various fundraisers, as well at the annual S.O.M.O.S. convention in Puerto Rico. Assemblyman Carl Heastie and I were Boy Scouts together in Troop 164, run out of Holy Rosary Church on Gun Hill Road. Jennifer Lopez and I were both members at Kip’s Bay Boys & Girls Club in Soundview. If you recall in one of Jennifer’s videos she includes footage of the Kip’s Bay Boys Club.

As per the B.P.’s Diaz Jr. outrage of the negative depiction of the Bronx, I applaud him and thank him for sticking up for the Bronx. The Bronx in the 70’s was a very different place. Yes, the Bronx was once a symbol of urban decay. I admit my even my family was part of the “white flight” from the neighborhood depicted in the video American Idol broadcasted. Yes, my family and I were victims of crime decades ago. Some I can look back on and laugh at, like the time someone stole the windshield of the family car and the million questions I asked my mother as a young child as to why we were driving around with no windshield; or the T.V’s / VCR’s that when brought home were just frames and a brick on the inside were wires, transformers and I assume chips should have been. I will even admit to some more serious not worth mentioning that were the eventual tipping point that forced my family to leave the West/South Bronx and migrate to the more residential East/North Bronx neighborhood of Pelham Parkway. But once again that was 30 years ago and the stigma has not left partly due to “cheap shots” like the latest one from American Idol.

The Bronx is presently an active market where real people from all over are moving to. To prove it here are real statistics and testimony from real people. Counting only my sales in the last 3 years or so 35 people choose to move to the area wrecked by American Idol. One closed this week to a Sara Maxwell, who just moved from D.C. to a beautiful art deco building located at 55 E 190th St. When I asked her how she was getting along she said; “I love it; I love the colors, the life, the people”. (I will have a separate post about her with photo and more detail in my next blog). The next closing in the area should be 563 Walton Ave between 149th and 150th Street. That whole block will be revitalization due to it’s architecture and proximity to the new Gateway mall, new Metro-North Station, new Yankee Stadium and one of the first subway stations into/from Manhattan. Presently it is a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) that will be converted back to a 3 family and made new via a major 203K loan renovation. It will be purchased by a long time Bronx residents who see the prudence in investing in the Bronx.

As per why I used the phrase “Cheap Shots” above when discussing American Idol’s depiction of the Bronx; here are just the top three .

#1) The interview was very vague about the contestants living in the Bronx beyond the 2 or 3 years he mentions living in the shelter. What was the residential neighborhood he lived in before that the father mentioned? Where do they live know? If the prior and present neighborhoods are Bronx neighborhoods why not discuss them as well? Is it because there is nothing negative to say about them and negative “sells”? How much of his life did he spend in the Bronx vs. other boroughs or counties? Can he be considered a Bronxite? If not why even mention the Bronx?

#2) The video showed an ambulance with lights flashing rushing somewhere in haste. Unfortunately, they forgot to show Bronx Lebanon Hospital ,which from the footage provided, should be a few blocks away. I should hope there are ambulances rushing to the Hospital with their lights on. They also forgot to show the new multi-million dollar wing under construction at the Hospital as well.

#2) The video also showed a police car pulling someone over. Yes, the Bronx has a VERY strong police presence, especially on the Grand Concourse. Some would say it’s a pre-cursor to gentrification. It is another sign of the revitalization, not decay. Most people want a strong police presence. Why sell it as a negative?

As per Jennifer Lopez, I must admit I feel obligated to defend her; if she needs defending? I have not reviewed, nor do I believe she will let me see her tax returns to review what she has or has not given to the Bronx. What I do know is that she has supported many international charities, mostly protecting woman’s right. I also know that when offered 2 million dollars to perform for one night at new casino resort in the illegal occupied territories of Northern Cypress she declined. As a Greek-American I will never forget this and am eternally grateful. There are Greek and Turkish Cypriots who lived together and played as youth together for centuries. It's their island. The Turkish invasion was and is nothing more than a human rights abomination. Thank you Jennifer Lopez for not putting you name as a co-signer of aggression, war and attrocities.

It’s obvious American Idol needed some “Bronx Flavor” to turn rice into paia. (Small pun for Baron Ambrosia) But like B.P. Diaz Jr. states, why not show the revitalization going on. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon. American Idol should have explored their content and come up with something original and more accurate instead of jumping on the back of the Bronx public with another reiteration of a negative stereotype from decades long past. As per Kappstatters inference between Heastie and Diaz I know they worked together in the past and I hope they work together in the future. Both are beacons for hope for the Bronx. As per the young man with the golden voice good luck but think about the borough that gave you shelter during your families difficult times.


Lis said...

This is a lovely post! Thank you! I look forward to reading more and actually loving the Bronx! I moved to Norwood from Pelham Parkway over two years ago. I have my good and bad days, but this post makes me proud and excited to be part of the Bronx!

Jonathan said...

I live in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. I have all of my life.

I remember when most of the buildings in the area were burned down or abandoned. In the 90's They were rebuilt and renovated. You would think that would be a positive thing for the area, but it really wasn't. See, the people they gave the new apartments to at least most of them, haven't brought many positive things to the neighborhood.

Still a lot of drug dealers, young baby mothers and probably 80% of the people who live here are on welfare.

The spring and summer are the worse times of year in the area. The blocks are full with people hanging out in front of their buildings drinking, smoking, fighting and doing bbq's. Cars blasting music.

You see the young mothers with their children out at all hours. There are just too many poor people here who have adopted the ghetto mindset. Just 2 examples of what you find in Hunts Point. A few days ago coming from work right at the Wild Bean cafe/gas station a young latin mother was walking with her son, maybe 3 or 4 yrs. A car was honking because it wanted to get onto the street. The mother starts curing at the driver out loud. The child repeats and then the mother encourges the child to keep cursing. She got more upset when people were looking at her with disgust.

One night at the "bodega" around the corner from my block some latin women were in the store with 3 young latin girls. When one of the women put a gallon of milk on the counter one of the girls truly asked "Do you work for your money?"
The woman replied "Hell no! I got welfare."

The only thing I like about Hunts Point is everything I need is around the corner, barber shop, supermarket, trains, buses etc...If only more decent people lived here it would be a good place to live.

The Grand Concourse used to be grand. But for what ever reason they let latinos and African Americans into the neighborhood and now look at it. Same with Van Nest, back in the 80's and early 90's it was so nice. It was mainly an Italian neighborhood. Quiet, smelled like fresh bread from the bakeries, clean. Now the area is dominated by blacks and latinos and its just terrible now.

Being Puerto Rican I am not shy to admit that my people and black people tend to ruin the areas they move into. A sad truth. And we are why the Bronx isn't respected.

Jack said...

"As per the young man with the golden voice good luck but think about the borough that gave you shelter during your families difficult times."

Thank you. This is exactly the note I wish BP Diaz had struck. (Maybe you should take John DeSio's job too?) Yes the TV crew played on negative stereotypes in order to tell the young man's inspiring story. I wish they hadn't. The BP was right to challenge them. But also lurking in this story is this great fact of which Bronxites should be most proud-- The Bronx gave shelter to this man's family in an hour of great need.

Guywithacause said...

I am glad you touched on this issue because I think the BP went about responding to it the wrong way, as usual. The blame game, deflection, and extortion/corruption by decades of the incompetent Democratic machine, fully supported by Ruben Diaz jr. most recently during the "We rather not work" Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment debacle and embarrassment, is what has been keeping the Bronx falling further and further behind.

While he may spin the latest Affordable Housing building as a sign of progress for the Bronx, the reality is the Bronx is dragging itself 1/2 step forward while everyone else is taking 3 steps forward. You may believe this is progress, but the reality is we are falling further and further behind. And it all goes back to incompetent and corrupt leadership, BP included.

As for the idol video/story specifically, it was a real story that represents unfortunately TOO MANY STORIES in the Bronx. To pretend it does not exist by talking about all the incremental change happening is a betrayal to the substantial number of our residents who continue to live his story. Blaming idol for talking about what we already know is not idol's fault; none of it was untrue, made-up, or representative of an insignificant part of our population.

And instead of the BP embracing the story and focusing on how the Bronx ultimately housed, helped, and put them on the right path, he chose to, as usual, blame and deflect. Instead of acknowledging the challenges we still face and that we need much more help, he chose to play the victim card (in this case an unfair portrayal), the same card that has been played by Bronx leadership for decades, and the same card that has been ingrained on the population. You will never get ahead, "whitey" or business, or whomever will keep you down, you don't want to work, and I will give you money that you deserve. (all the same rhetoric that ultimately sunk the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment).

Guywithacause said...


While I believe the idol story could have been nicer to the Bronx, at the end of the day that reality is still very applicable to the Bronx. I do not need to list off the stats, as we all know what they are. And the little census data that has been revealed thus far is showing further negative trends, with more poverty being concentrated in the borough, lower median incomes over the 10 year period, etc.

Instead of leadership that exists solely to keep themselves in power, and by that I mean maintain the bulk of Bronx constituents poor, focused on the blame game for solutions or lackthereof, and dependent (the Democratic Base in the Bronx), we need effective, intelligent, and accountable leadership who:

A-Instills the value of education and respect for authority into residents

B-Inspires residents to take an active role in their lives and their communities to impact change and improve the borough from the inside out

C-Provides an effective and efficient local government and the resources necessary for residents to educate themselves, cultivate local businesses, expand job opportunities, and ultimately develop an economic ladder that all Bronx residents can climb.

The idol story was not a "hatchet job" as the BP claims, but it was an accurate portrayal of a substantial portion of the Bronx's population. While the Bronx is no longer a burnt out, drugged out hell hole of the 70s and 80s, it is still suffering from a disproportionate amount of extreme poverty, as evidenced by the unfortunate honor of having the poorest congressional district in the US (and it wasn't anything new or a surprise to anyone).

Change is happening, no doubt, but the kind of incremental change occurring, and the consistent, decades old victimization mentality instilled by the Democratic machine to keep themselves in power is the real culprit here, not idol. And until we get real change at the top, real change will be slow in coming to the Bronx.

PS-It should be known that I am a big supporter of the Bronx, and will continue to be. There are alot of positives, great people, natural and manmade beauty, history, affordability, name it we have it. Maybe next time idol will show that side of the Bronx too.

Bronx Champion said...

To Jonathan of Hunts Point (author of 2nd post). People do not ruin neighborhoods because they are inherently "black", "latino", or of any race, culture, religion, etc. per se. Neighborhoods fall in disrepair because people are poor, lack education, social resources,or just do not understand how to organize themselves to fight back against slum landlords and crooked politicians. Can one say blacks have ruined Africa or Mexicans have ruined Mexico? Or that YOU yourself being a life long Hunts Point resident have destroyed your own neighborhood because you are Puerto Rican? C'mon. The Bronx suffers enough of a bad rap explicitly because of it's ethnic make up. Don't contribute to the hate by chanting the same racially charged rhetoric. Do something to change it. The Bronx is still grand and so are it's ALL it's people. Be part of the change you want to see.