October 30, 2013

Missing from the mayoral debates about public safety-better reporting on crime data

Despite what some are labeling as a rather tame debate between mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio (D) and Joe Lhota (R), not much was said by either candidate that hasn't been already stated in previous debates or through the negative political ads. As a matter of opinion, both candidates leave listeners wondering what either have to offer to the residents of NYC other than the fact that they are not Bloomberg II.

One topic that has been fiercely debated has been public safety and crime, and the doomsday scenario of what will happen if the "wrong" candidate wins. Rather than trying to predict what will go wrong, I'd like to propose a modest suggestion of what can go right to combat crime-update the way crime stats are reported so that communities are better informed and make better decisions. 

By the time the next mayor will take office, it will have been nearly 20 years since CompStats was rolled out, the NYPD's major crimes reporting system initiated under then police commissioner Bill Bratton during the Guiliani administration. Seen as a way to provide communities with weekly updates on crimes happening in their precinct, CompStats is still a tightly-controlled database that has remained static over the years, presenting many more questions that deserve to be answered. Considering the technological leaps that have occurred over the last 20 years, today's method of reporting CompStats needs to be completely revamped if it is going to keep up with New Yorkers' demand for better information.

In the best scenario, CompStats should provide 'incident-based reporting' of crime in one large, publicly accessible database. Many police departments across the country such as the Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Utah state police to name a few, already report crime in this manner. This allows citizens, organizations, and other government agencies to access the data and make better decisions for allocating resources that can assist in reducing crime. Considering the long-standing resistance of  the NYPD in sharing this intimate a level of data with communities, I don't see this happening unless there is the political will and a major shake up at 1PP.

What can be almost as effective is the sharing of data in what precincts call 'sectors', or smaller chucks of the precincts, rather than reporting crime in a precinct as a whole. Immediately, one would be able to see where potential hotspots are for a particular crime. This would allow communities to work with their precincts, elected officials, businesses, schools, etc. in making informed decisions and to be a part of the solution, rather than being left in the dark and allowing precinct commanders to spin the information how ever they needed for a particular audience.

A plan is better than no plan, and we, particularly in the Bronx, need to demand more when it comes to dealing with our public safety. When big businesses can track and report one's shopping habits in an instant, its hard to believe that NYC can't do the same with something as important as crime. Let's make it a priority in the Bronx and in City Hall come January 2014.

October 26, 2013

Norwood's 1st Annual Halloween Festival Brings Kids Together in Neglected Park, Highlights the Importance of Community Involvement

It was a bright and brisk day when volunteers in the Norwood section of the Bronx hosted a Halloween festival for neighborhood children today at Whalen Park. The nearby Mosholu Library hosted a storytelling event inside the park, while other children rushed the arts and crafts table so they could design their own paper pumpkins. Local celebrity Mix Master Rob manned the DJ booth for a few games of musical chairs and kept the crowd of parents laughing.

What was most significant about today's event was how the community came out to support creating a safe space for their children in an oft-to-neglected park. Today saw more kids at Whalen Park then in the last four years combined. Whalen Park does not have a playground, it was designed as a passive space adjacent to the library to create a quiet zone. However, the park has had its share of problems over the years which have made it less than inviting.

But rather than allow these issues to continue to further stifle the use of the park and bring down the community, a handful of residents volunteered to do something about their situation and transform their neighborhood. Using social media as a way to get the word out and to solicit donations, these volunteers were able to put together this event in a short period of time and with little resources in order to bring nearly a hundred children to have a good time at Whalen Park.

Speaking with some of the organizers towards the end of the event, they expressed relief that their efforts were not in vain, but also hoped that more people will step up to help the next time around. And they're right. You can't sit back and expect change to happen in your neighborhood, waiting for others to do address the issues.

There are thousands of people who do give of their time throughout the Bronx, but countless more our needed to truly transform the Bronx. We hope you're up for the challenge. For more pics of today's event, check out our Facebook Page.

October 20, 2013

Spooky Fun Times at the New York Botanical Garden's Haunted Pumpkin Garden

After checking out the NYBG's Kiku exhibit earlier, I decided to make my way to the annual Haunted Pumpkin Garden in the children's garden. The NYBG does go all out when it comes to putting events for kids, and I am glad to see that they did so again for this year's program. Although I missed it, earlier in the day the Garden had master carver Ray Villafane of Food Network fame transform pumpkins into unearthly creatures.

It was good to see dozens of little kids in costume having fun running around mazes, playing at the puppet show, and taking part in the parade. If you have small children and are looking for an outdoor event to do this Halloween, I would definitely recommend checking out the Garden.Best of all, there is no mess to clean up and you get to have some fresh air! I particularly like the effort that was given to carve out designs on a dozens of pumpkins and situated on posts along the entire length of the children's garden.

There isn't much time left for this event, which ends on October 31st, so check out before the ghosts disappear for another year. Visit the Garden's website Haunted Pumpkin Garden for more information, and check out today's pics at our Facebook Page at Bronx On The Go.

Japan Meets the Bronx: Pics from the NY Botanical Garden's annual "Kiku, the Art of the Japanese Garden" exhibit.

On the NY Botanical Garden's website (NYBG - Kiku), they describe the chrysanthemum, or Kiku in Japanese, as the most celebrated of Japan's fall-flowering plant. This annual exhibit does not disappoint, and it demonstrates the meticulous and beautiful work by gardeners to capture this Japanese art form. It is impressive to see these displays, some of which include hundreds of individual flowers set in place such as the one on the bottom picture.

The actual practice is called hanami in Japanese, and as the Garden's website describes it, is a "traditional custom of enjoying the ephemeral beauty of flowers, spotlighting a centerpiece of unforgettable kiku trained to grow in a mesmerizing variety of shapes and styles".

While the display is only available during the month of October, it takes approximately 11 months to grow and shape the entire arrangement.That is separate from the amount of time it takes to plan and coordinate the display, which changes slightly every. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, you only have a few days left to do so, so head down there soon or you'll have to wait until next year. For more pics, check out our Facebook Page albums.

October 19, 2013

So why doesn't Twitter (and other sites) recognize the Bronx?

According to Twitter's search results, the Bronx is NOT found.
So I was minding my business (literally) and trying to post a simple picture about the leaves changing color in the Bronx, and I came across an error message as I was tagging the location for my pic. I thought I made some sort of mistake, as I just started using Twitter, but no, there it was again. I tried typing it in slowly, and "Bronxville, NY" came out in the auto fill box. I then tried backspacing "ville", but no, that didn't work either. 

Now I'm wondering, how many Bronxites are using Twitter? I know that I'm following a few dozen groups and personalities, but how many more residents from the Bronx are following them? I would easily say a few thousand at least. So is this a computer error, or an oversight?

I find it hard to believe that a company that is about to go public and make BILLIONS of dollars on its IPO doesn't have the capacity to recognize an error in its programming, but does it have the willingness to address it? Twitter has been around for a few years, and I find it nearly impossible to believe that I am the only one who has come across it. So is it a matter of people not speaking up and reporting it to Twitter? Or has it been reported and fallen on deaf ears? 

It is a problem not only with Twitter, but many other websites as well. While they are eager to gain customers, they often times prejudge their client base and overlook the borough in simple ways such as this. Do they really believe that do not have customers with interests in the Bronx? 

Now I'm not advocating for people to drop Twitter, but I'm asking Bronxites to join me in sending your feedback to the company and let them know to add the Bronx in its search engine (and other) functions. Remember that respect, like everything else, is earned not given. Tweet about that Bronxites!

Beso Lounge and Bronx Mama give back to neighborhood kids

Beso Lounge, a local nightclub and bar in the Norwood section of the Bronx, teamed up today with Nicole Perrino's "Bronx Mama" to host an early Halloween Dance Party, bringing dozens of kids (and parents) in their costumes to celebrate in a safe environment. Other local activists and small business owners, such as Windows of Hip Hop, Inc's Nilka Martell and Bronx-PR's Joyce Hernandez (and her son Caleb) came to show their support for kids having a safe space to get together.

Nicole Perrino, owner of Bronx Mama and host of the event,
with Joyce Hernandez of Bronx Public Relations
Bronx Mama (http://bronxmama.com/) coordinated the event with Beso Lounge's owners, Gino Pacheco and Eli Garcia, to host the event, the first of its kind in the neighborhood. Bronx Mama is a lifestyle website for Bronx parents who are looking to find events, resources, information on fashion, music and more to do with their children throughout the Bronx.

Giving children a safe space to have fun (and giving parents somewhat of a break) is important, especially when we here so many tragedies that happen in "supposed" safe spaces in the Bronx. The difference? Parents are a part of the solution to ensuring their kids' safety.
A big shout out to all those parents, groups and businesses that go the extra mile to making their communities safe and fun.Check out more pics on our Facebook Page at Bronx On The Go.

It's My Parks Day!

Residents all over the Bronx got their hands dirty today to clean up and beautify their parks. At the Williamsbridge Oval in Norwood, a local advocacy group called The Friends of the Oval organized a few dozen residents and teamed up with the Parks Department and the City Parks Foundation's Partnership for Parks initiative to clean up various sites and plant tulip bulbs for the spring. Neighborhood parks are an oasis for everyone to enjoy, but they require people to take care and give back to them so that future generations can also enjoy them.

Friends of the Oval, who organized the clean up at
Williamsbridge Oval Park in Norwood.
Groups like Friends of the Oval and others throughout the borough are completely volunteer driven and do much to protect and advocate for surrounding parks. When volunteers like these team up with organizations such as the City Parks Foundation, which raise thousands of dollars and coordinate thousands of volunteers citywide, together they help to bring much needed resources to local neighborhoods.

So if you got dirty in the Bronx today giving back to your local park, congrats! For everyone else, there are always more opportunities to get involved. To find out more about getting involved in your local park, visit http://www.cityparksfoundation.org.To check out more photos, visit our new Facebook Page at Bronx On The Go.

October 18, 2013

Following your dreams

Welcome everyone to Bronx On The Go! It has been a desire of mine to provide residents and visitors alike with news about the people, places, businesses and events that make the Bronx a happening place. We want to promote all that is good about the Bronx and combat the negative stereotypes pushed by much of the media, without sugarcoating the issues that matter.

The Bronx has a lot to offer, yet many people can't (and some won't) see all that the borough has to offer. So why the Bronx? First off, the Bronx is NOT what it use to be in the 80's and 90's. I remember what it was like, and the Bronx has come a long way baby! Much of that comeback is due to the residents', both long time and transplants, willingness to defend itself against stereotypes that are often repeated by those who profit off of promoting the negative imagery.

But enough about those wanting to keep us down! I want to talk about what is going to move us forward. There are young entrepreneurs with enough hustle to cut out their own niche that are making it here. We also have lots of great institutions that make their home here, both world renowned and hidden gems, that make the Bronx a great destination. And that's what this blog is about, calling attention to the positive. Whether it is a borough-wide event, or happening just around the corner, we want to support the people who push, struggle and sweat to help move themselves and the Bronx forward. Hope you're willing to join us for the ride.