The Bronx’s 2023 year in review | Part II

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Hundreds come out to the Bronx Night Market in May 2023.
Photo ET Rodriguez

May

This spring saw the last-ever (?) run of the Bronx Night Market, founded in 2017. The market brought an exciting and diverse array of foods to Fordham Plaza — but founders later announced that the market would close after this year, citing safety concerns and funding challenges. Despite the announcement, some locals remain hopeful that the market will find a way to return in some capacity. 

In addition to food, Bronx Times reporters also kept up with local musicians and entertainers, including Bronx natives Ice Spice and Cardi B (propelled to fame with help from HOT 97 radio personality TT Torres) and up-and-coming locals like July Quin.

A report by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development found that eight of the 12 community districts in the Bronx were flagged as having the city’s highest levels of threats to affordable housing. The Association found that in Bronx neighborhoods such as Belmont and East Tremont, people of color are more at risk of being priced out due to new development. 

Construction for a massive $92 million animal shelter broke ground at the Bay Plaza Mall in Co-Op City — but came with controversy going back several years over the location and whom it would eventually serve. Animal advocates argued for years for a shelter in the Bronx, but some residents wanted a community center instead, since many local apartment buildings don’t allow most pets. The project is expected to be completed in 2025. 

Another neighborhood controversy — this time in Allerton — was over the rezoning of part of Boston Road to allow for the construction of 333 affordable apartments. Community Board 11, which covers Allerton, had previously voted against it — but in May, the project and its rezoning passed through the City Council with unanimous votes

As more migrants came to the city following the expiration of COVID-era border restrictions in early May, Bronx and Westchester County officials said they received little notice and were ill-prepared for the arrivals. Meanwhile, Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul came together to call for drastically speeding up the process to get work permits for newly-arrived migrants. 

Governor Kathy Hochul (l.) calls on the White House to expedite work authorizations for tens of thousands of migrants in New York City at Union Square Events, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. Monday, May 22, 2023.Photo Dean Moses

The three campuses of Mercy College — one of which is located in the East Bronx — saw a significant increase in students who live in the Bronx, as well as an increase in freshman students overall. The Bronx campus of the four-year private nonprofit college is home to the Accelerated Second Degree Nursing Program, a popular transfer option. 

Meanwhile, the three CUNY colleges in the Bronx — Lehman College, Hostos Community College and Bronx Community College — reported declining class sizes and looming budget cuts as they struggled to recruit and retain students.

June

In the Bronx, the lead-up to the June 27 primary election saw more drama than usual. In the much-watched City Council District 13 race, incumbent Democrat Marjorie Velazquez easily beat out Bernadette Ferrara and Irene Estrada — but went on to a stunning defeat in the November general election. 

The District 13 GOP primary had more twists and turns as it went into two rounds of ranked-choice voting. In the end, Kristy Marmarato narrowly beat out George Havranek, whom the Bronx GOP — led by Marmarato’s brother — had staged a heated protest against. 

Throughout the primary and general elections, Marmarato faced accusations of nepotism because of her brother and husband’s prominent roles within the Bronx GOP and Board of Elections, respectively. 

In the race for District Attorney, incumbent Darcel Clark won the primary, defeating Tess Cohen in a first-ever Bronx DA race between two women candidates. The DA’s office has struggled with high turnover, but nonetheless, Clark easily took the primary and went on to keep her seat in the November election. 

The Hunts Point Market received $130M in state funding toward modernization efforts, expected to cost $650M total. The funds will help the market decrease its environmental impact on the community. The massive produce market supplies about 25 percent of the city’s produce, and the meat and fish markets supply an even greater share of the city’s food. 

Rep. Ritchie Torres announced legislation to expand gun-free zones around schools. The bill was created with support of the family of 16-year-old Angellyh Yambo, who was shot and killed in 2022 near University Prep Charter School. 

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres announces new ghost gun legislation at University Prep Charter School on June 20, 2023.Photo Emily Swanson

City Council passed the highest-ever budget of $107 billion for FY24. The budget passed by 39 to 12 votes, despite some progressive councilmembers’ objections to some of Adams’s proposed cuts to city agencies and services.

July

Around the Fourth of July, 16 Bronx shootings left 25 people injured. While the NYPD reported that citywide shootings were down 35 percent compared to July 2022, it was little comfort to residents, elected officials and advocates working to prevent violence in the borough.

Mayor Eric Adams appointed a new commissioner, Edward Caban, a Bronx native and the first Latino to fill the role. The appointment came after the sudden resignation of Keechant Sewell. Caban got his start as a rookie in the 40th Precinct. 

Edward Caban enters the NYPD’s 40th Precinct in the Bronx before his NYPD commissioner appointment on Monday, July 17, 2023.Photo Dean Moses

Another public safety concern — building fires caused by lithium-ion batteries — remained prominent throughout the summer. At least one Bronx fire in July was caused by explosions of the batteries, with no end in sight to these incidents.  

New development continued to spread throughout the borough, including the luxury apartment building called Estela in Mott Haven, which opened up its lottery for income-restricted units in July. 

Up in Van Cortlandt Park, Mayor Adams pushed for construction of a temporary 34,000-seat stadium to host the 2024 T20 Cricket World Cup  — and faced immediate skepticism from residents and elected officials, who worried that the project would require “alienation” of the park — meaning the land would be sold or otherwise relinquished for public use. 

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, whose congressional district covers the park, said the project lacked community input. State Assemblymember Eric Dinowitz and State Senator Gustavo Rivera were among other electeds who opposed the project — which was eventually scrapped. 

In a surprising move, a Supreme Court ruling declared affirmative action effectively illegal, overturning decades of precedent which allowed colleges and universities to mitigate historical inequities by considering applicants’ race in their admissions process. But despite the ruling, representatives from Fordham University told the Bronx Times that the school remains committed to diversity in its student body — and the Supreme Court decision may actually end up bolstering the school’s efforts. 

In early July, the Crotona neighborhood opened its first legal cannabis dispensary, Statis Cannabis Co., with several others in the works for the months to follow. These legal dispensaries, funded by both the state and private sector, are owned by people who have past marijuana convictions.

The first cannabis dispensary in the Bronx opened in Crotona on Thursday, July 6 at 4:20 p.m.The first cannabis dispensary in the Bronx opened in Crotona on Thursday, July 6 at 4:20 p.m. Photo ET Rodriguez

August

As the birthplace of hip-hop, the Bronx celebrated the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking genre with various celebrations across the borough and citywide. An art installation at Lou Gehrig Plaza near Yankee Stadium was one of many hip-hop tributes throughout the month.

The 161st Street Business Improvement District opened a new art installation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.Photo ET Rodriguez

In more cultural news, freelance reporter ET Rodriguez covered the installation of new pickleball courts in the borough and appeared on the WNYC program “All of It” to discuss the best (and often-overlooked) restaurants and attractions in the Bronx.

shocking investigation found that Yonkers resident Michael Rodriguez — who led the organization Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence (B.R.A.G.) — was leading a drug trafficking conspiracy and owned at least one illegal gun. B.R.A.G. was a prominent anti-violence group listed as a “community partner” in the Mayor’s Blueprint to End Gun Violence.

Adams announced a 2,000-person migrant shelter to be constructed on Randall’s Island — less than a year after another in the same location was decommissioned — with the state footing the bill. This move to erect a new Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center (HERCC) was opposed by the Randall’s Island Park Alliance, who voiced concern about maintaining availability of the park for youth sports leagues. 

The Kingsbridge Armory has been mostly dormant for nearly 30 years.
The Kingsbridge Armory has been mostly dormant for nearly 30 years.Photo Adrian Childress

Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul announced grants totaling $200M to develop the Kingsbridge Armory, opening the floodgates to proposals for utilizing the massive five-acre space.

Layoffs on the last day of the year at Soundview’s Icahn 7 Charter School sparked anger among those teachers who said their contracts were terminated without explanation and that they were forced to leave in the middle of their final day with students. Some staff also complained of high turnover and inequities within the Icahn network of seven schools located throughout the Bronx. Superintendent Edward Tom resigned following publication of the exclusive Bronx Times story.

— Aliya Schneider, Robbie Sequeria, Camille Botello, ET Rodriguez,  Emily Forgash, Dean Moses and Ethan Stark-Miller contributed to this report.


Reach Emily Swanson at [email protected] or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes