Week in Rewind: Rep. calls for increased funding after subway shooting, the Bronx’s connection with the Underground Railroad, Dais to fill District 77 seat, new affordable housing and more

Bronx Underground Railroad
Chelsey Macklin lights a candle at the inaugural Underground Railroad ceremony in the Bronx.
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Rep. Torres calls for increase in funding to help make New York City’s subways safer following fatal shooting at Bronx station

In response to Monday’s shooting at the Mount Eden Avenue subway station in the Bronx, U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres has written a letter asking for an increase in Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) funding to make New York City’s subway system safer and to help prevent weapons from entering into the city via the I-95 corridor.

The Torres-signed letter was sent out on Thursday, Feb. 15, to the Hon. Kay Granger, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, as well as the Hon. David Joyce, chair of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security within H-307 at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

“In the wake of the horrific shooting in my district in the Bronx that left one dead and five others wounded, more must be done to ensure our public transit systems access to strong levels of federal funding,” Torres wrote in the letter. “That is why I ask, as you continue to negotiate a spending deal for the remainder of FY24, I would implore you both to increase funding for the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP).”

The Feb. 12 shooting, which took place on a northbound 4 train, claimed the life of a 34-year old man and wounded five others. Following the incident, police identified the deceased male as Obed Beltran-Sanchez, who was homeless at the time of his death. The six victims ranged from 14 to 71 years of age.

NYPD surveys the tracks at Mount Eden Avenue station following the subway shooting on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024.
The NYPD surveys the tracks at Mount Eden Avenue station following the subway shooting on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. Photo Dean Moses

Mott Haven ceremony details the Bronx’s ties to the Underground Railroad

Perrin Lawton is on a mission. The 34-year-old blogger from the Bronx runs the Instagram account “da_bronx_is_beautiful,” which informs people about all the borough has to offer, ranging from history, art, music and the culinary scene to Bronx staycation sites like Hunters Island. His goal is to bring “the Bronx together as a whole,” reminding folks that New York City’s most northern borough should not be defined by its struggles.

On Feb. 9, Lawton held an inaugural Underground Railroad ceremony at 143rd Street and 3rd Avenue in Mott Haven to raise awareness of the historical and cultural significance of the Underground Railroad in the Bronx and pay tribute to the African Americans and abolitionists who helped freedom seekers escape slavery.

Lawton explained that he came up with the idea because many people are unaware that the Bronx played a vital part in the “freedom train.”

In the 1840s and 1850s, the Bronx, no longer a slave-holding area, became a hub of abolitionism. The Bronx Underground Railroad started at what was then the Harlem Bridge; today, it is the Third Avenue Bridge. Freedom seekers then trekked their way up what is now 3rd Avenue to the home of lawyer and abolitionist Charles van Doren at 143 Street and 3rd Avenue. Here, they hid in a secret room in the basement before continuing their path to freedom along 3rd Avenue to 163rd Street, passing the area that later became the Bronx Zoo and up Boston Road to abolitionist Daniel Mapes’ farm in West Farms. From here, many escaped enslaved people continued their journey to New Rochelle and New England.

Democrat Landon Dais on his way to Bronx Assembly District 77 seat

A snowy special election day has come and gone for Bronxites, who spent Tuesday heading to the polls to fill the vacant state Assembly District 77 seat in small numbers and, according to unofficial results from the city’s Board of Elections (BOE), Democrat Landon Dais is on his way to the state governing body.

As of about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dais, an attorney and legal consultant, led challenger Norman McGill with 74.03% of the vote, with 97.01% of scanners reported, according to the BOE’s unofficial results. Once the results are certified, Dais will fill the seat that was vacated following the resignation of Latoya Joyner, who announced on the first day of the 2024 legislative session that she was leaving the Assembly to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.

“Tonight marks a significant triumph, not solely for myself and my supporters, but for all of the 77th Assembly District,” Dais said in a statement Tuesday night. “Despite the challenges posed by the snow storm, the people made their voices heard. I extend my deepest gratitude to all volunteers, staff members, unions, organizations, and elected officials who have placed their trust in me. Rest assured, I am committed to tirelessly serving you and ensuring your pride in endorsing my candidacy.”

Bronx voting booths are empty on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024.
Bronx voting booths are empty on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Photo Emily Swanson

Dr. Yonette Davis brings culturally-responsive geriatric medicine to the Bronx

Dr. Yonette Davis, originally from Guyana, remembers her first visit to an American emergency room.

She was around 10 years old, and she had a cut on her hand from roughhousing with her brothers. When she arrived at the ER, all the doctors were white — no one working there looked like her. And though the doctors meant well, Davis recalled sensing they were a little too eager, almost excited, to see the injury and stitch her up.

“I remember feeling like I was being experimented on,” she said during an interview with the Bronx Times. From then on, Davis decided, “I’m gonna be part of the system to change the system.”

When Davis and her family came to the U.S. at age 9, they settled into Brooklyn’s Caribbean community along Flatbush Avenue. But in school, she was automatically demoted a grade because it was assumed she was coming from “a second-rate system.” And later, in a college class, a professor tried to teach students how to get rid of their accents.

But Davis stayed true to herself — and she uses that strength to help others who look and sound like her. She has been practicing medicine since 1999 and is now a physician at Oak Street Health in Soundview.

Dr. Yonette Davis pictured at her clinic, Oak Street Health in Soundview, on Feb. 15, 2024. Photo Emily Swanson

Doe Fund begins construction on $70.2 million affordable and supportive housing project in Norwood

The Doe Fund, a homeless services nonprofit, has begun construction on a 109-unit affordable and supportive housing residence in Norwood that is set to open in late 2025.

The 10-story, 98,400-square-foot building will be located at 3118 Webster Ave., just one block away from Webster Green — another residence operated by The Doe Fund; the new location was chosen because of this close proximity.

Christopher Luggiero, vice president of communications, says that the Doe Fund hopes it will begin to “build its own community,” as well as integrate residents with the existing community in Norwood.

“Given our existing presence in Norwood and our good standing within the community there, it seemed like a natural fit for us to leverage our experience and expertise there,” Luggiero said.

The new residence at 3118 Webster Ave. will contain 70 affordable units for renters earning between 40-80% area median income. These units will be available through the lottery at NYC Housing Connect.

The building will also contain 39 supportive units for those who have experienced chronic homelessness and are referred by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. There will be on-site resources for them, provided by the Doe Fund, including case management, substance abuse counseling, physical and mental health support.

The new residence building at 3118 Webster Avenue is under construction now, with an estimated timeline of 18-24 months until its opening.
The new residence building at 3118 Webster Ave. is under construction now, with an estimated timeline of 18-24 months until its opening. This image depicts the latest rendering of what the building should look like. Photo courtesy Christopher Luggiero

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