Autumn in the Bronx started with all eyes on Puerto Rico once again, as Hurricane Fiona ravaged the island with “historic” rainfalls and devastating tropical storms. A second home to many of New York City’s first-, second- and third-generation Carribeans, the South Bronx’s Puerto Rican and Dominican enclaves were somber and mournful that week of Sept. 18.
Back in Pelham Bay, work started on a new migrant humanitarian shelter in Orchard Beach following an executive announcement from Mayor Eric Adams — but many details remained unclear locally among community members and political leaders. In the end, the mayor pulled the shelter from that location in early October — citing concerns with flooding and accessibility — and started work on a new structure on Randall’s Island.
New York Yankees fans watched as slugger Aaron Judge broke the MLB American League’s home run record in the first week of October — slamming his 62nd dinger out of the park in Arlington, Texas, in a doubleheader series against the Rangers. Although the Yankees fizzled out in the playoffs, Judge went on to claim the American League MVP title for his historic season with the Bronx Bombers, and later signed a $360 million contract — passing Mike Trout for the highest paid position player in the history of the MLB — to stay in New York for the next nine years.
Another story of note in October was City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez’s unexpected backing of the Bruckner Boulevard redevelopment project, paving the way for rezoning in Throggs Neck. A longtime opponent of the project, the Bronx pol hasn’t made herself available for subsequent interviews about her change of heart — although in a statement following the vote, her office cited a citywide housing crisis as a motive for her switch. The New York City Council went on to unanimously pass the Bruckner rezoning project at its Oct. 12 meeting.
Throughout the whole month New Yorkers were also recognizing breast cancer awareness, sharing stories of the bravery and resilience of survivors. One Manhattan-based medical tattoo artist aimed to create symbols of power and strength by turning the scars into compositions to cover up the trauma of cancer and bring the beauty of survival to the surface.
November began with the midterm elections, and Bronx Democrats swept their respective races. One of the races the Associated Press waited to call until later was the New York gubernatorial race — incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul coming out just ahead of Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin at 12:52 a.m. on Nov. 9.
A few crimes also made major headlines in the Bronx in November, the first when owners of popular Caribbean chocolate restaurant Chocobar Cortés admitted they were considering closing after their fourth burglary on Halloween — the numerous break-ins including $10,000 worth of damages and stolen property, they said.
Just a few weeks later, antisemitic and racist hate mail cartoons received by multiple City Island businesses were attributed to the wrong artist and actually originated from an infamous white supremacist group, the Bronx Times learned. While the cartoon sent to the businesses had Montana-based cartoonist Ben Garrison’s signature on it, the drawing is actually the years-old work of another artist called A. Wyatt Mann (“a white man”) who drew bigoted cartoons for a newspaper published by the White Aryan Resistance group.
The month concluded by shedding light on the dangers the city’s delivery workers face on their shifts — which includes not just low pay and adverse conditions, but sometimes death. Ricardo Solano, a 31-year-old food delivery worker from Mexico’s Huehuetepec community who went missing on Aug. 13 and was found dead days later from an alleged robbery in Washington Heights. Solano was just one worker the city memorialized this fall — in fact, 18 NYC-based delivery drivers, all younger immigrant men, had died in 2022 by the end of November.
December saw the progression of a few different development projects in the Bronx, involving both transit and parks.
The Orchard Beach pavilion renovation promised an $87 million makeover to the structure, which was once considered the star attraction of “The Riviera of the Bronx.” The initiative, aimed to restore the historic architecture of the landmark, is a joint effort between NYC Parks and the NYC Economic Development Corporation.
Bronx pols also attended a groundbreaking for Metro-North’s $3.18 billion Penn Station Access Project in December, which includes the construction of four new stations in Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City. Both Amtrak and the MTA are committing $500 million and $432 million to the project, respectively, and stations are expected to open in 2027. Work on these projects, and others, will continue in the new year.
The Cross Bronx Expressway was also on the year-end-development front following Mayor Adams’ announcement that his administration will begin reassessing the negative impacts posed by the roadway with a $2 million federal grant. The mayor, along with U.S. Reps. Ritchie Torres and Adriano Espaillat, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Bronx activists, criticized the expressway as a project rooted in environmental racism — the way it divides the borough in half and displaced many Black, brown and immigrant communities.
Torres, one of the politicians who secured the federal grant, said studying the environmental impacts of the expressway with the grant will also provide a look into different health outcomes in the borough. Communities near the Cross Bronx, he said, experience higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses than in other parts of the borough — largely due to the pollution of the highway.
The first round of community meetings are scheduled to begin in February 2023, and a multiyear plan of the near- and long-term project proposals to improve the expressway and the surrounding neighborhoods is set to be presented in 2024.
Reach Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes