The month of May started on a somber note, as the Bronx lost a titan of local politics on May 8.
Since 1982, Aurelia Greene had served as a longtime representative of District 77 — which comprises the Kingsbridge and Morrisania sections — in the state houses’ lower chamber, before serving as deputy borough president from 2009-2017 until she retired. Greene used her urban planning skills to negotiate for affordable housing and effective tenant groups, quality education, employment opportunities, affordable healthcare and housing, senior services, youth services, economic development and worked diligently for a fortified business community. She was cited as a major political mentor and influence for incoming Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson. She was 86.
Later in the month, Morris Park residents sounded off on the NYC Parks Department for its stalled construction of Loreto Playground. The Parks Department began work in the park on September 2020 to repave the multi-purpose play area at Loreto Playground with asphalt. Yet, construction stopped in October and residents calling the unfinished park an “eyesore.”
The planned park renovations still haven’t been completed.
By the end of May, a frontrunner had yet to emerge for the Democratic nomination for New York City mayor. A late-month poll had shown that ex-cop and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams had secured 18% voter confidence a month before the June primaries, with former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and City Comptroller Scott Stringer with 15% apiece. Yang would fizzle to a fourth-place finish and Stringer’s candidacy would dry up over the next few months following two allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Bronx also broke ground on the borough’s latest cultural monument, The Universal Hip Hop Museum located in the Concourse Village’s Bronx Terminal Market. The museum honors the Boogie Down Bronx as the cultural birthplace of hip-hop, but is still temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
With the June primaries setting the stage for a new era in New York City politics, voters not only needed to acclimate themselves to the host of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, but also the city’s new ranked-choice voting process.
Despite widespread confusion with ranked-choice voting that would be addressed by community organizers and lawmakers next month, Eric Adams, considered the moderate Democrat in the field of candidates, would emerge as the Democratic nominee to face Republican Curtis Sliwa for New York City mayor. Adams surged ahead of the field, despite impressive challenges from sanitation head Kathryn Garcia and progressive lawyer-activist Maya Wiley.
In the primary for Bronx Borough President, City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson emerged victorious, while Bronx progressive Marjorie Velázquez had a standout primary performance — handily defeating her four primary opponents — en route to securing the Dems nod to represent the 13th Council District.
Additionally, the Bronx received a harrowing news on its COVID-19 recovery in a report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. DiNapoli’s report showed the Bronx had been economically ravaged by the pandemic losing 9,600 jobs and seeing its unemployment spike from 5% in February 2020 to 24.6% by May 2021.
In the borough’s post-recovery, Bronxites sounded off on the need for eviction moratoriums to be extended and city lawmakers fought back against third-party delivery apps levying onerous 20% or more fees on local mom and pop resturants.
As the dust from the June primaries settled and New York City officials looked to take advantage of increasing vaccination progress in efforts to reopen the city’s stalling economy, the Bronx was ignited by a whirlwind of rallies and demonstrations and a rise in COVID-19 cases due to the emerging delta variant.
Protests took center stage in the northernmost borough throughout the summer months of 2021. Whether it was CUNY employees chiding CUNY administrators for its lack of transparency in it’s reopening plans or Fordham Avenue street vendors sparring with local business leaders in efforts to have street vending decriminalized, July was an explosive month, following the ceremonial Fourth of July fireworks show at Orchard Beach.
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to play a crucial role in the Bronx’s stop-start recovery. Throughout the month of July, COVID-19’s most transmissible and contagious strain to date, the delta variant, led to a spike in nationwide coronavirus infection rates, particularly among the unvaccinated. At the time, 41.9% of New York City’s general population were unvaccinated, with the Bronx among the city’s least inoculated regions.
Locally, the Bronx Times broke allegations of sexual abuse against South Bronx builder Louis Gigante, a former priest and NYC councilman.
The month of August saw a seismic shift in the New York City political landscape.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo — a career politician once-thought to be unassailable despite growing concerns of his conduct and grim reports of his mismanagement of COVID-related data from state nursing homes during the pandemic — ends his decade-long run as governor on Aug. 24 after a state attorney general’s report found that the second-generation politico sexually harassed 11 women.
Cuomo’s ugly exit from the Governor’s office would lead the way for New York’s first female governor, Kathy Hochul, also a Democrat, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2014, replacing former Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy on the ticket with Cuomo for his third re-election. Hochul would be tasked with addressing rising COVID-19 cases in the state — New York has seen positive COVID-19 cases skyrocket by nearly 200% since Aug. 1.
Nonetheless, Bronxites flocked to Orchard Beach for a star-studded concert to celebrate the hopeful reopening of New York City, despite COVID cases climbing by the 200s daily. However, resistance against vaccines mandates for private and public sector employees began to surface.
Quality-of-life concerns also mounted for Bronx residents.
Incoming environmental concerns loom. The officer-involved fatal shooting of a 24-year-old Michael Rosado in the West Bronx divides a community with some demanding justice and accountability for his death. A Zerega Avenue porch collapse tragically claimed the life of an 8-year-old and renters in the Bronx rallied for eviction moratoriums shining a light on increasing tensions between Bronx tenants and landlords.
To read the first installment of our Year in Review for 2021, click here.