Week in Rewind: NYC Parks plants most trees since 2018, Mott Haven filmmaker proud to be making movies, Bronx Children’s Museum unveils ‘The Book Bodega’ and more

NYC Parks plants most trees since 2018, with emphasis on city’s hottest neighborhoods

As the summer heat begins, NYC Parks announced it has planted over 15,000 new trees during fiscal year 2024, with 3,000 more projected to be planted by July.

The city has increased its tree plantings three years in a row toward the city’s goal of 30% canopy coverage, according to the Parks Department. Currently, about 22% of the city has coverage — and some of the new plantings were strategically located in hot spots in the Bronx and across the city.

“Trees are a crucial investment in New York City’s climate resiliency infrastructure, and NYC Parks is proud to announce another record setting year in tree planting throughout the city,” said Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue in a press release announcing the plantings.

“New Yorkers rely on our trees to provide vital shade, and with climate change leading to more frequent, intense heat, the need is more prevalent than ever,” Donoghue added.

The Parks Department is on track to plant 18,000 new trees throughout the city by the end of the 2024 fiscal year. Photo courtesy NYC Parks/Malcolm Pinckney

Mott Haven filmmaker relishes opportunity to make movies

Mott Haven resident Priscilla Alvarez struggled growing up in the South Bronx. There were nights she only had rice for dinner, or her mother couldn’t afford to pay rent.

Alvarez, 37, used her love of films to escape poverty and the outside world. Her mom, Ninoska Bugos, raised Alvarez and her sister Ninoska, 41, in Mott Haven. She is close with both of them and credits Burgos for allowing her to explore her passion for the big screen.

She and her sister would listen to Selena as kids and use their mom’s video camera to pretend they were performing. Additionally, Alvarez would often frequent the now closed movie theaters on 161st Street in the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx and Multiplex Cinemas in Queens with her cousins Martha and Annie Navarette.

“It was because of my mom we were able to tap into the arts,” Alvarez said. “She was always encouraging us to sing and dance in front of each other.”

 <span class="image-credit">Mott Haven resident Priscilla Alvarez is set to direct her first full length film this summer. Photo courtesy Priscilla Alvarez.
Mott Haven resident Priscilla Alvarez is set to direct her first full length film this summer. Photo courtesy Priscilla Alvarez

AARP delivers 4,000 letters to Assembly Speaker Heastie’s Bronx office, urging passage of drug importation bill

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) on Wednesday, June 5, delivered over 4,000 letters from AARP New York members to State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s Bronx office on East Gun Hill Road. The organization is urging Heastie to put Rx Importation Bill A. 7954 to a vote in the Assembly before the end of the scheduled legislative session on Thursday.

The proposed bill would create a wholesale prescription drug importation program that complies with federal standards and regulations, allowing consumers to purchase their prescription medications at a reduced price from Canada.

The Bronx Times reached out to Heastie’s office for comment and is awaiting a response.

“People are making decisions every day, cutting their pills in half, or buying less food because they can’t afford the drugs,” AARP New York Director Beth Finkel said.

AARP members deliver 4000 letters to New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's office in the Bronx on Wednesday, June 5.
AARP members deliver 4000 letters to New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s office in the Bronx on Wednesday, June 5. Photo Maya Stahl

Rivera’s day care inspection bill passes Senate, moves to Assembly

Legislation that would require additional inspection for home day care centers passed in the state Senate this week, nearly nine months after a baby was killed from fentanyl exposure in a Bronx day care center.

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera — who represents the Bronx’s 33rd Senatorial District where the fatal overdose occurred — announced that his daycare inspection bill had passed unanimously 60-0 in the Senate on June 4 and will next move through the state Assembly before it can make its way to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk.

“I am incredibly proud that my bill (S7815) passed on the floor of the Senate yesterday,” Rivera told the Bronx Times in a statement.

On Sept. 15, 2023, the NYPD responded to a call of multiple unresponsive children inside Divino Niño Day Care in the Bronx’s Kingsbridge section, located at 2707 Morris Ave. First responders transported three unresponsive children between the ages of 8 months and 2 years old to Montefiore Medical Center, where later 1-year-old baby Nicholas Dominici was pronounced dead.

A fourth child, 2 years old, fell unconscious after being picked up from the day care center and was taken to Bronx Care Hospital. The three surviving babies were treated with naloxone — a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose that commonly goes by the brand name Narcan.

Bronx State Sen. Gustavo Rivera.
Bronx State Sen. Gustavo Rivera. Photo courtesy New York State Senate

Bronx Children’s Museum unveils ‘The Book Bodega,’ borough’s first dedicated bookshop for kids

The Bronx Children’s Museum on June 4 unveiled “The Book Bodega,” the first-ever dedicated children’s bookshop in the Bronx. The museum, which originally opened in December 2022, “aims to ignite curiosity, foster creativity and inspire a lifelong passion for learning through immersive STEAM experiences, preparing children for future success.”

John Boudreau, the museum’s director of marketing and communications, said that they are excited to offer this bookshop as a resource to promote literacy and hopefully fill the literacy gap in the Bronx. The bookshop will teach Bronx history and encourage children to develop pride in their roots through a diverse selection of authors and experiences.

“It’s one of the things that we’re very proud of that we have that diverse collection,” Boudreau said. “It’s really helping them to get that sense of their own culture and being prideful of their culture and that sense of belonging.”

The event also marked the launch of the highly anticipated children’s book, “Cesaria Feels the Beat,” written by the museum’s Executive Director Denise Rosario Adusei, and illustrated by Priscila Soares.

“Cesaria Feels the Beat” is about a 4-year-old Afro-Latina deaf girl who stands up for herself and takes off her shoes during her Carnival performance so that she can feel the music through her feet.

“We want our kids to be able to see themselves in the books and also the people who make the books,” said Adusei. “When children and families come here, they can connect with each other but also get a copy of a book that they just connect with.”

<span class="image-credit">The Bronx Children’s Museum on June 4 unveiled “The Book Bodega,” the first-ever children’s bookshop in the Bronx.
The Bronx Children’s Museum on June 4 unveiled “The Book Bodega,” the first-ever children’s bookshop in the Bronx. Photo Keke Grant-Floyd