Week in Rewind | Podcast captures all sides of NYC subway, CB12 calls for fare-free Bx8, and Boston Road rezoning gets OK’d

A train approaches a subway station in the Bronx on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.
A train approaches a subway station in the Bronx on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023.
Photo Camille Botello

The Week in Rewind spotlights some of the editorial work of the Bronx Times for the week of May 31- June 1

‘The Subway Portraits’ podcast captures the good, bad and unique of NYC’s subways and its riders

The moment on March 8, 1997, learning that rap icon Biggie Smalls just died. A chance encounter between two book-lovers on a morning commute. The eerie, uncomfortable silence of Sept. 11, 2001.

All of these moments, experienced in New York City’s busy and bustling subway system, are being captured and chronicled by Bronxite Christina Baez in her podcast “The Subway Portraits” — a project that began to form in early 2019.

For Baez, special moments of her life have taken place on the city’s rumbling trains. Moments like the first “I love yous” she shared with a then-partner on the uptown D train that led to the couple sharing headphones and playing love songs until the train’s final stop at Norwood-205th Street.

The inspiration for “The Subway Portraits” — where subway riders anonymously submit testimonials that are then highlighted on the podcast and animated shorts on YouTube — was sparked on Baez’s favorite train line, the red 1, which begins and ends at her favorite train station, Van Cortlandt Park–242nd Street station.

Baez said she began using a sketching app in her phone to create finger-line portraits of nearby commuters. This would begin feeding a curiosity within her to compile a living, breathing digital archive of subway riders and their memorable experiences in the 118-year-old subway system, launching the podcast in September 2020.

“Sketching the faces of my fellow commuters ignited a deep curiosity within me. We all come from different backgrounds, and yet we share this common subway system as a means of transportation,” Baez told the Bronx Times. “These small, intimate spaces connect us, even if we don’t know each other on a personal level.”

Each episode of the podcast is roughly 15 minutes, features around five unique stories, with tales transcending different decades and providing an audio and visual time capsule of the city’s subway system. The podcast invites anyone who has experienced a subway ride, from the everyday commuters to first-time tourists.

As the MTA assesses which buses to make free as part of a state mandated pilot, Community Board 12 is hoping the Bx8 will be selected. Photo Paige Perez

CB12 calls for the Bx8 to be fare-free as the MTA plans free bus pilot

Community Board 12 unanimously voted on a resolution last Thursday night calling on the MTA to make the Bx8 free.

The 2024 state budget, which was enacted more than a month after its April 1 deadline, allocates $15 million for a pilot that requires the MTA to make one bus route free in each borough, a reduction from the two-per-borough plan advocates called for. The budget legislation requires the agency to present its choice bus routes to its board for approval no later than 60 days after the budget’s May 3 enaction, with implementation within 90 days.

On April 27, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the pilot would last two years, but the budget legislation that was actually passed contradicts this claim, saying the pilot will only last 6-12 months.

Hochul’s office told Gothamist that the program will likely be extended into 2025 and directed the Bronx Times to the MTA for questions about the pilot. MTA spokespersons did not know the timeline for the pilot when reached by the Bronx Times, but Alexander Marion, the communications director for state Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, told the Bronx Times that the MTA said it’s on track to launch in October. Marion confirmed the pilot is 6-12 months long.

The purpose of the pilot is to understand the effects fare-free routes have on MTA bus ridership and quality of life issues, as well as bus speeds and operations, according to the legislation.

The Bx8 runs from Williamsbridge to Locust Point in the East Bronx.

picture of the Fine Fare supermarket
A rezoning has been approved that will bring an affordable housing building to the site of the Fine Fare supermarket on Boston Road in Allerton. Photo Christian Falcone

Boston Road rezoning to move forward with 333 affordable units at Allerton Fine Fare

An affordable housing building planned for the site of the Fine Fare supermarket in Allerton has the go-ahead from the city now that a 2560 Boston Road rezoning has been granted to Slate Property Group.

The 10-story building will bring 333 units and a renovated supermarket, which will relocate nearby during construction.

The building is being financed by the city’s Mix and Match Program, so all the units are required to be capped at 80% and 120% of the area median income (AMI).

A City Council spokesperson told the Bronx Times that 50 units will be allocated for formerly homeless households, 67 units will be reserved for households making 40% AMI, 83 will be for 50% AMI and 133 will be for 90% AMI. There will be 84 studios, 149 one-bedroom units, 50 two-bedroom units and 50 three-bedroom units, according to the spokesperson.

While it’s not legally binding, the developer agreed to the AMI and bedroom breakdown in a written letter of commitment and didn’t make any indication that they would go back on their word, according to the City Council spokesperson.

But Wiley Norvell, Slate’s spokesperson, struck a different tone.

Norvell described the income limitations and bedroom breakdowns as separate from the City Council negotiations and emphasized that they haven’t been finalized and “are still being developed as the project moves forward.”

Norvell did say that none of the units will have an AMI limit of more than 90% and half of the units will be set aside for Community District 11 residents. The site will have 6,750 square feet of community facility space and 117 parking spaces, 67 of which will be reserved for residents, Norvell said.

Yankee Stadium is seen from the 161st Street subway station during opening weekend on Saturday, April 1, 2023.
The sun was high in the sky and the air was warm just before the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. The Bronx Bombers were coming off an opening day win against the San Francisco Giants, 5-0, on March 30. Photo Camille Botello

Bronx businesses, landmarks and neighborhoods getting screen time at Yankee Stadium

The Bronx’s businesses, landmarks and everything in between are getting screen time on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard thanks to an app launched by the Yankee Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network.

In five-minute episodes, the Bronx Beat aims to provide behind-the-scenes looks at some of the Bronx’s institutions, neighborhoods and businesses. The first episode featured the Arthur Avenue Market in Little Italy, and the second will focus on Wave Hill, a 28-acre garden estate in the Hudson Hill section of Riverdale.

In each episode, Rob Walsh, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC), acts as the viewers’ tour guide.

“Through this creative initiative, the Yankees and the YES Network are putting a great big spotlight on our vibrant neighborhoods, growing cultural attractions, and many of our mom-and-pop shops that re-energized The Bronx,” Walsh said. “It is a home run.”

The New York Yankees have long been an economic engine in the Bronx, and are expected to generate an impact of $579 million over the course of the 2023 regular season.

Economic analysis accounts for direct impacts from visitor spending — including tickets, concessions, merchandise, transportation and lodging for out of town visitors. Additionally, economic outcome also factors stadium employee payrolls and indirect impacts from additional spending by stadium companies and employees.   

The financial impact of Yankees home games is estimated to be higher than that of crosstown rivals, the New York Mets, due to higher ticket prices and higher expected attendance.

For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes