‘Enough is enough’ – Bronx business leaders demand change in state bail laws

NY: Press Conference
Mario DeGiorgio speaks at a Tuesday rally in the Bronx demanding a change of the current bail reform laws.
Photo Gabriele Holtermann

Faced with a surge in shoplifting crimes and shootings in the South Bronx, local business leaders and small business owners gathered outside the Police Athletic League on Longwood Avenue Tuesday — ahead of Mayor Eric Adams’ community conversation on public safety — to call on the state Legislature to change the current bail reform laws. 

The press conference came four days after a group of delinquents robbed Rocco’s Jewelry in the Fordham Manor section of the Bronx, stealing more than $2 million worth of diamonds in a brazen smash and grab heist.  

Business leaders and owners made it clear that they support the mayor’s push for New York state to change its bail laws to address recent spikes in major crimes, which are up more than 35% citywide this year.

Clearly fed up with the rise in crime and the lax bail laws, Wilma Alonso, executive director of the Fordham Road Business Improvement District, said that it was “crazy to see how somebody can do something in 30 minutes.”

Alonso demanded that the state, governor and locally elected officials at the state level change the bail laws. 

“No more playing around,” Alonso said. “We can be compassionate. But when somebody has 20, 30 arrests, he doesn’t deserve to walk.” 

Business owners hold a press conference outside of a planned community conversation on public safety with Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday in the Bronx. Photo Gabriele Holtermann

Alonso also shared that one Marshalls department store in the Bronx reported a profit loss of $4.2 million due to theft. 

“It [Marshalls] was empty. They took even the hangers out of the racks,” Alonso said. “And that happened to Old Navy, Macy’s, Burlington.”

Mario DeGiorgio, born and raised in the Bronx and owner of Kid City Store and Youngland, returned to the store last September after five years of retirement. 

He said he was disgusted with what he saw and had to bring in private security because of the extent of shoplifting. 

“When I left the branch five years ago, the Bronx was cleaner, in better shape. The police had good control of the area. It’s not that way now,” said DeGiorgio, referring to quality of life issues like gaming, dirt bikes, and illegal vendors selling the same merchandise he offers. 

“I paid $50,000 a month in rent, and they’re out there paying zero,” he added. “It’s got to end. Mayor Adams, Albany, the governor, you gotta untie the police hands. They have to do their job.” 

Frank Bagatta, owner of North End Wine and Liquor, said the city was going backward instead of forward and appealed for “law and order.”

“It doesn’t take much to enforce the law,” Bagatta said. “Take this bail reform and get it out. They tried it, and it doesn’t work.”  

Bagatta shared that someone broke into his store last year, but the perpetrator was never caught. 

He said that he had more security personnel than customers. He shared that customers told him they were afraid to come into the store in the evening because it was too dangerous. 

“There is no night traffic. So our sales are down,” Bagatta said. 

Michael Brady, executive director of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District and a local bar owner, had stern words for repeat offenders. 

“Going to prison is not supposed to be nice,” Brady said. “You’re usually there because you’ve done something wrong.” 

Three years ago, the state Legislature passed bail reform ending the assessment of cash bail in most cases involving misde­mean­ors and nonvi­ol­ent felon­ies. The law was inspired after Bronx teenager Kalif Browder was jailed on Rikers Island for three years for allegedly stealing a backpack, and his family couldn’t post $3,000 in bail. The charges were dropped, but Browder, who had spent 700 days in solitary confinement,  killed himself two years after his release.

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