February 23, 2014

Gun Hill Brewery draws winter weary patrons to celebrate the next chapter in Bronx-based breweries

When the last brewery in the Bronx closed down over 70 years ago, it took with it a piece of Bronx industry and history. That story is about to be rewritten now that the Gun Hill Brewery, headed by Kieran Farrell and Dave Lopez, has opened up its new micro-brewery on Laconia Avenue near East Gun Hill Road. 

Hosting its soft opening on Saturday, February 22, with a grand opening scheduled for mid-March, the duo looks like it has a recipe for success when hundreds of patrons visited the establishment on a balmy winter day. "I think a brewery here is overdue," states Mr. Farrell, who originally hails from Woodlawn. "We felt that [a brewery] was needed, beer hasn't been brewed in over 60 years, so we thought the timing was perfect to bring craft beer to the Bronx. There's a [beer] revolution going on across the country, so we thought it was necessary here."

The owners go over their selection on tap with noticeable pride, with choices such as their own gold ale, IPA, and an amber ale made with our brewer Chris Sheehan's own hops grown in upstate New York, as are most of their other ingredients. The transformation of the space was an incredible undertaking as the location had previously been a run down storage facility and prior to that, a car garage. Farrell stated that a lot of work had to go into repairing the building, but that it was all worth it. When asked about who was in attendance, Farrell stated that, "the crowd is very diverse here, we have Bronxites, Brooklynites, and Manhattanites. We want to do tours so that everyone can enjoy the brewery, especially our tasting room. We are very happy to be open right now and really excited to be in the Bronx."

Check out the Gun Hill Brewery at 3227 Laconia Avenue, and visit their Facebook Page and website for more information about events and tours.

Visit the Bronx On The Go Official Facebook Page for additional photos of the brewery.

The Bronx Beer Hall draws hundreds to the Bronx Craft Beer Day as part of NYC Beer Week

On Saturday, February 22, the Bronx Beer Hall hosted the first ever Bronx Craft Beer Day as part of the city's Beer Week event. Drawing hundreds of people in this all day event, Bronxites took a break from the cold weather and swarmed this Arthur Avenue establishment to sample craft beers from three Bronx themed micro-breweries, Jonas Bronck's Beer Company, City Island Brewery, and the new Gun Hill Brewery. 

Steve Nallan, owner of the Jonas Bronc's Beer Company, commented that after a "drought" of having no breweries located locally in the borough, companies such as his are creating a revival of the art. "What does that for me, having competition? The more the merrier! Before prohibition, there were 13 fully functioning breweries in the Bronx. They disappeared with the change in the legislation. So it is nice again to see 70 years later there's a comeback and there is room for all of us, and maybe even some more."

Nallan, who hails from the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, proudly served up his latest brand, the NY Chocolate Egg Cream Stout, whose key ingredient is "Fox's 'You Bet' Chocolate Syrup" made in Brooklyn for over 105 years, among other locally produced, organic components. When asked why he wanted to open up a brewery, and specifically name it after a Bronx historical figure, Nallan states that the Bronx is in his blood and has a lot to do with his upbringing. Both his parents are Bronx natives and he is a 6th generation Bronxite on his mother's side of the family, a family that has lived here since the early 1800's. "My love for history, my love for the Bronx, just tied it all in, and made a lot of sense to me."

While these new breweries are making an impact throughout the Bronx, it is businesses such as the Bronx Beer Hall that helps to introduce them to beer aficionados locally. The co-owners of the Bronx Beer Hall, a subsidiary of Mainland Media, are Anthony Ramirez II and Paul Ramirez, have put in a great deal of sweat equity to make the Beer Hall successful. "It is NYC Beer Week, and today we hosted an authentic Bronx Craft Beer Day. Not only is it Beer Week, not only are we featuring Bronx breweries, we also wanted to serve something new that people haven't tried before," states Anthony Ramirez II, who spewed out a list of the newest beers on tap. 

What else goes on here? "What doesn't go on at the Bronx Beer Hall? It started out as a community space. Now it brings people together, current and former Bronxites, reintroducing them to what's going on in the Bronx, and also attracting people who would not normally come to the borough to come check us out. It is all Bronx pride, all the time!"

And that Bronx pride has been the recipe for success for these entrepreneurs!

To view pictures from the event, please visit the Bronx On The Go Official Facebook Page. Check out the newest events and promotions at the Bronx Beer Hall by going to http://thebronxbeerhall.com/.

Check out and support your local Bronx breweries:

Bronx Parks Speak Up Celebrates it's 20th Annual Conference, Looks to Create a 20/20 Vision for Local Parks

On Saturday February 22nd, the Bronx Parks Speak Up Conference celebrated its 20th anniversary, and once again set out a bold agenda for addressing issues within the borough's parks. The 20/20 Vision Plan, the theme of this year's conference, brought speakers from the borough's twelve community boards to present on local park issues. Additionally, there were speakers on hand to talk about regional issues impacting Bronx parks, parkland preservation, and to provide a brief history on the origins of some of the borough's more famous parks and architecture.
As with every Bronx Parks Speak Up Conference, various local, state, and private parks advocacy groups were also on hand at the exhibit tables providing Bronxites with information about how residents can get involved in local preservation efforts.

The conference was kicked off by welcoming remarks from Dart Westphal, member and past president of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality (BCEQ). Mr. Westphal pointed out that the conference originated 20 years ago with the creation of a committee for the Bronx Greenway Plan, led by former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. The two activities that came out of that planning session, in addition to the 85 miles of greenways, were the Tour de Bronx bicycle tour and the Bronx Parks Speak Up Conference. Many groups have started since then and have become members of this conference, groups such as the Bronx River Alliance and various "Friends of..." park groups.
Joyce Hogi, the current president of BCEQ, spoke next on the presenters for each of the community boards and their respective "20/20 vision" for their parks, gardens, or river, and what they would like to see happen in the future. Presenters included Clint Robinson of the Friends of Pelham Bay Park, who spoke about coordinating a wide range of volunteer groups and events over the years to preserve the borough's largest park. Others included Nilka Martell of Community Board 9,  the founder of G.I.V.E. or Getting Involved Virginia Avenue Efforts, whose organization's mission is to "create a new culture of environmentally conscious people through block beautification projects..." and other activities.

Karen Argenti, another former president of BCEQ, introduced the guest speaker for the conference  Angel Hernandez, the educational coordinator of the Bronx County Historical Society, to discuss "Greening the Borough" and the Bronx Parks system created by John Mullaly. "Since the Bronx parks system was created 125 years ago, almost one quarter of the Bronx today is made up of public parkland, giving it one of the highest amounts of green space of the city's five boroughs." Mr. Hernandez's presentation focused on how the parks were developed over the years and the importance of not only preserving the green space, but also its rich history.

A unique perspective from one of the presenters is the preservation of green space for community gardens and urban farming. Karen Washington, an urban farmer who heads the "La Familia Verde" Community Garden in Tremont and the Black Urban Growers organization, touched on the history of community gardens and their struggles, particularly in the Bronx over the last 10 years. She also introduced the panelists from community boards 1 through 5 to discuss their organizations' vision for local parks.

To view additional pictures from the event, please visit the Bronx On The Go Official Facebook Page. If you would like more information about the Bronx Parks Speak Up conference, please visit their site at http://bronxspeakup.org/. For more information about the Bronx Council fro Environmental Quality, visit their page at http://www.bceq.org/.

February 20, 2014

Pop's Boxing Gym attracts a full house as it hosts Golden Gloves Prelims

Pop's Boxing Gym drew huge crowds to Bedford Park on Wednesday night as it hosted the New York Daily News' Golden Gloves Preliminary bouts in Bronx County. Additionally, I had the opportunity to speak with Ray Farrait, eldest son of the late Pastor Ralph Farrait, about what he thought about tonight's event.

"We have a great turnout, with about 300 people coming in and out tonight. A lot of people come to cheer on their friends, or are waiting for them to start. Sometimes we get 20-30 people coming in at a time to watch a fight. It has been a very busy day for us so far."

So for those who want to take a glimpse at what tonight was about, check out the following link to a video of Round 2 of the fifth fight on the card (Michael Garcia, Gold, Kingsway Boxing Club vs. Joel Lugo, Blue, Morris Park Boxing Club).

February 19, 2014

Night Before the Fights, Pop's Boxing Gym in Bedford Park to Host Bronx Golden Gloves Prelims

Tucked away along Jerome Avenue adjacent to the 4 train, just north of Bedford Park Blvd., I thought I was heading to see the local Golden Gloves preliminary competition, hosted by the New York Daily News. As luck would have it, the event will be held tomorrow night, February 19th. But it did offer me a chance to meet the owners of the gym, whose story is just as remarkable as the young talent that will be coming to compete.

Owners Marc Farrait and Eddie "Mousie" Acevedo
Pop's Boxing Gym used to be the old World Wide Gym over a year ago before it was sold to its new owner, Marc Farrait, son of the late renowned boxing trainer, Pastor Ralph Farrait. The elder Farrait trained thousands of young men for over 40 years, some who went on to make a name for themselves, boxers such as Giovanni Lorenzo (two-time world title challenger), Darling Jimenez (4-time NY Golden Glove Champion), Nicky Acevedo (Former IBA Intercontinental Welterweight Champion), and Aaron Davis (WBA Welterweight Champion).

Marc Farrait and his partner, Eddie "Mousie" Acevedo, a long-time partner and friend to his father, wanted to find a way to preserve the legacy of Farrait and his contribution to the boxing community, especially for the NY Golden Gloves competition. On March 2nd of last year, they became owners of the gym that was the last place Farrait trained his fighters. 

Honoring the late Pastor Ralph Farrait, one of NYC's
renowned boxing trainers
But this is no simple boxing gym. It is a place of hope and a sanctuary to many young men and woman, a way to stay out of trouble and away from gang influences and other activities that all too often derail the lives of so many young kids before they even start. Marc and Eddie maintain an after-school program in a space in the back of the gym, offering parents discounts to train and supervise them until they can go home. Marc thanks God for all that he has been able to do to help keep kids off the streets and to use boxing as a way to reach them and feed them a positive message. Plugging spirituality into the sport comes as second nature to Marc, who parents were both pastors and his mother, Bishop Christine Farrait, heads the City of Hope Multicultural Center on Prospect Avenue and 152nd Street in the Bronx. "Anything God has his hands on is going to be a success," says Marc, "and I want to be able to instill a sense of strength, discipline and confidence to everyone that walks through these doors. Every kid needs discipline."

Up and coming pro boxer Louis Cruz, hailing from the
Fordham section of the Bronx, trains at Pop's Gym
Marc Farrait also took the time to introduce me to one of his prize fighters, a young man by the name of Louis Cruz, who Farrait gleefully states is going to rock the boxing world. Cruz, an astounding amateur boxer with over 100 fights who recently tuned pro, has a current record of 6-0 with 4 KO's. A Bronx native, Cruz started boxing at 10 years old at the Webster PAL and was the NY Golden Gloves Lightweight Champion in 2011, going on to compete in the National Finals. Cruz also went on to win the Junior Olympics twice, and is an inspiration to many in the Bronx.

Farrait and Acevedo seem to have developed a recipe for success, although they admit that they sometimes struggle because the operation is one hundred percent privately funded. If you should happen to have the opportunity, you should come down to Pop's to see the latest round of young up and coming boxers compete for the NY Golden Gloves Preliminary bouts on 2/19, starting at 7PM. Hopefully, we will see another Bronxite rise to the top and be crowned winner of this year's Golden Gloves. See you ringside!

To follow the Golden Gloves on Facebook, click here. Visit Pop's Boxing Gym's website for up to date information on fight, or to become a member and know the fighter in you.

February 9, 2014

Bronx Elected Officials Unite to Introduce New City Council Bill that will Promote Labor Harmony at Future Living Wage Retail Developments

Press release from the Office of the Bronx Borough President - 2/8/14

Stuart Appelbaum, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Annabel Palma and Ritchie Torres Jointly Announce New Living Wage Bill Today

Bronx, NY—The historic campaign for living wage jobs that grew out of the Bronx is re-emerging with a coalition of Bronx elected officials and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW announcing today the framework of a new City Council bill.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Councilwoman Annabel Palma and Councilman Ritchie Torres are jointly announcing legislation that would include a labor harmony requirement for all future living wage retail developments subsidized with $1 million or more in city taxpayer money.

Councilwoman Annabel Palma will be the lead sponsor of the new bill, with Councilman Ritchie Torres serving as co-sponsor. The legislation will be introduced with the full support of RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Labor harmony promotes respectful relationships between workers and employers, and protects taxpayers by removing conflict from development projects and the tenant businesses that anchor them. 

Under the framework of the new bill, labor harmony would apply to all retail tenants of development projects subsidized at $1 million or more.

Labor harmony agreements for economic development are well-established in New York and around the country. They benefit taxpayers, workers and businesses. Employers maintain neutrality when it comes to workers’ efforts to join unions. And in return, unions agree not to engage in picketing and other disruptions in the operation and flow of commerce at tenant businesses in development projects.

“The campaign for living wage jobs began in the Bronx at the Kingsbridge Armory, and I’m thrilled that several prominent Bronx leaders want to finish what was started there. The new bill will ensure that future taxpayer-subsidized living wage retail developments promote labor harmony. Greater unionization in retail, one of the fastest growing low-wage sectors of our economy, will help lift more New Yorkers out of poverty. A union contract is still the greatest anti-poverty program in our country’s history. We look forward to working with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio in this effort,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) UFCW, which led the campaign that passed the existing living wage legislation covering economic development in the City Council in 2012.

“Under my administration, the Bronx has come a long way toward improving the quality of life of the hard working people of my borough.  Unfortunately, we still have far too many people struggling to make ends meet in every corner of this great city.  By strengthening our current living wage with a labor harmony requirement, we can do more to provide good jobs to the people of this city. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Bronx, I am proud to be working with the RWDSU and my colleagues in the City Council to introduce this powerful and necessary bill.  It’s a top priority for everyone involved in this coalition, and I look forward to the day that this bill is signed into law,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a leader of the recent living wage campaign that grew out of the Bronx.

“When it comes to economic justice and workers’ rights, the Bronx is united.  We led the fight to pass the Living Wage Law and establish an essential linkage between public dollars, private development, and good-paying jobs. Now, through the use of labor harmony agreements, we intend to strengthen this link and more fully realize what we envisioned four years ago when we began this fight. There is a growing economic crisis in our communities, and this new living wage legislation will help us tackle it. I am committed to working with this coalition and my colleagues in government to get this done,” said Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who was a lead sponsor of the living wage legislation passed in 2012 and will now be the lead sponsor of this new living wage legislation.

“I grew up very poor in public housing in the Bronx, so the fight for living wage jobs has always been personal for me, my family, and my community. My brother has worked in many low-wage retail jobs. It's fitting that the fight for living wage jobs in our city is being driven by the Bronx, the borough with the lowest average wage for retail workers and where 1 in 3 residents lives in poverty. I am proud to stand with such a strong and unified coalition to support the very fundamental right of workers to earn a paycheck that can sustain a family. We are going to do everything in our power to ensure that this legislation is passed as soon as possible,” said Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Deputy Leader in the City Council, who will co-sponsor the new living wage legislation with Councilwoman Annabel Palma.

Oldest bar in the Bronx, Jolly Tinker in Bedford Park, celebrates its 45th anniversary

Mike Prendergast Sr. & Jr., owners of the Jolly Tinker
"Mike is the best person in the world, a genuine guy who's always been like family," is what Noel Leddy, a retired NYPD officer said about Mr. Mike Prendergast Sr., co-owner of the Jolly Tinker located on the corner of Webster Avenue and Bedford Park Blvd. The Jolly Tinker has been a family owned and operated fixture in the northwest Bronx, open everyday for 45 years with the exception of one day, where the bar was closed for 3 hours due to a fire (which reopened right after the smoke cleared). 

The building itself is approximately 100 years old, and many of the patrons and bartenders believe that it may have been a "speakeasy" during the days of prohibition, as there is a stairwell beneath a trap door behind the bar referred to as "The Catacombs". Talking to regulars and visitors yield a number of colorful stories about who came and who went, but almost everyone agreed that Mr. Prendergast and his son Mike Jr. have had an impact not just behind the bar, but in the surrounding communities of Bedford Park and Norwood. "The Tinker is a stellar bar where people from far come to have a drink with friends," said Chelsey Pendock, public relations for the bar and executive director at Innovision Advertising. The bar has drawn so much attention from throughout the borough that Congressman Charlie Rangel showed up to deliver a certificate of special congressional recognition to Mr. Prendergast for "Serving up pints in Bedford Park for an impressive 16,433 days."
Mike Sr., who hails from the town of Tallow in Waterford County, Ireland, came to the U.S. and became a firefighter in East Harlem in the 1960's. Soon after opening its doors in 1969, the Jolly Tinker not only began to draw huge crowds from nearby Fordham University, but also became a magnet and refuge for countless Irish immigrants trying to find work in NYC. It was stated by a patron who only identified himself as "Bill" that some immigrants would show up at the Jolly Tinker with only the clothes on their back and Mike's number, and he would help them find work and a place to stay. That is probably the reason why first, second, and third generation regular patrons continue to show up and showed up today to the Jolly Tinker. Mike Prendergast has helped so many of his fellow Irishmen that there is a road named after him in his hometown.

Ms. Pendock also mentioned that the secret to the Jolly Tinker's success has been to stay with the times. Last year, the Jolly Tinker joined forces with the newest bar in the Bronx, The Bronx Beer Hall, to found the Great Bronx Bar Tour. Starting at the Tinker, patrons were able to visit and sample drinks at the best 20 bars in the borough. Wildly successful, both bars are once again co-hosting the event this year on April 5th.

Mr. Prendergast is a true success story for small businesses and what they can do for their community and I wish him and his family continued success for many years to come. Cheers!

Please visit the official Bronx On The Go Facebook Page for more photos.

February 4, 2014

Bronx Young Dems Persevere Over Blizzard, First Networking Event in 2014 a Success

Despite over six inches of snow on Monday blanketing the Bronx, the Bronx Young Democrats (BYD) drew nearly three dozen hardy souls to brave the weather and network with one another about work, politics, and current events in the borough. BYD, which seeks to empower Bronx residents through outreach, educational activities and advocacy, hosted this event at the Bronx Ale House in the Northwest Bronx,  one of several favorite venues for this organization.

Local Councilman Andrew Cohen of the 11th District, where the Ale House is located, was present and supportive of the event and the organization. “It’s always great to have the event nearby in the district,” he stated, but he also acknowledged the hard work of the organization in “…getting young people to be engaged” in the political process and in what’s happening in their communities.

While Mr. Cohen was the only elected official at today’s event, the organization has drawn many other officials and candidates to their meetings in the past. In September, just before the democratic primary, a similar networking function attracted several mayoral candidates and a number of officials seeking reelection.

The event drew out more than just die-hard members. Present were individuals employed by citywide, borough-wide, state, or local officials, young professionals, and local entrepreneurs. Daniel Johnson, secretary for the BYD, commented that the event was designed to create a setting where individuals working in the political realm can network and have a good time. While many gathered into small groups and popped in and out of each other’s orbit, a good part of the conversations centered on the recent election of newly-minted (and snow-tested) Mayor DeBlasio and the rise of Councilwoman Mark-Viverito to Speaker of the Council. Others conversed about recent job changes, as their former employers have moved into new positions, while still others talked about local issues (after all, all politics is local).

BYD also presented two lucky winners with gift certificates to the Bronx Ale House, Charlie Samboy of the Urban Poets Society and member of Bronx Community Board 2, and Marcos “El Flanadero” Sierra, Norwood entrepreneur and soon-to-be candidate for district leader in the 80th Assembly District. As BYD’s success continues to climb, we look forward to the group expanding and doing more to engage young Bronxites in getting involved and making a difference.

For more photos from the event, visit the Bronx On The Go Official Facebook Page.

February 2, 2014

Rebuild by Design initiative gathers public input to envision a more resilient Hunts Point

On January 28th, nearly a hundred residents from Hunts Point and surrounding communities came together to discuss how to make Hunts Point resilient against future storms and disasters. Co-hosted by The Point CDC, Sustainable South Bronx, and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, representatives from Penn Design and OLIN Studios presented information about the importance of protecting Hunts Point and held  a focus group designed to solicit input from the community as part of the Rebuild By Design initiative. The initiative is part of the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, and is meant to address “…structural and environmental vulnerabilities that Hurricane Sandy exposed in communities throughout the region [while] developing fund-able solutions to better protect residents from future climate events.”

While the Bronx is the only county in the city not to be a recipient of funding through the NY Rising Communities Reconstruction Program, the President’s office did recognize that Hunts Point plays a significant role in the region as it is home to the Hunts Point Food Market, housing  over 25,000 jobs and creating $3 billion dollars in direct economic activity in the region. More importantly, food that comes into the Hunts Point distribution system feeds the entire region, and any disruption can have “catastrophic” consequences, particularly for city, as it operates on a two day food supply.

But Hunts Point is more than just the market. The peninsula is home to over 52,000 people as per the 2010 census, residents with limited access to public transportation and to their waterfront, a community partially cut off from the rest of the borough by highways and truck traffic, contributing to higher rates of asthma, and other quality of life issues. Rebuild By Design seeks to aid both the economy and the community to become more resilient to future storms by addressing the weaknesses exposed during Hurricane Sandy.

The focus groups lead by the Penn Design/OLIN Studios group allowed Bronxites to help plan new protections for the peninsula and beyond, with one group calling for creating a larger resiliency plan for to include the Mott Haven and Port Morris waterfront. As each table reported back to the larger group, feedback included everything from green roofs and gardens to new access ramps to the Bruckner Expressway for trucks to an independent micro-grid to power the peninsula. All of these ideas were meant to address the shortcomings in the design of the community that residents faced first-hand during and after the storm.

The planning process is far from over, as the development of proposals will be refined and proposals will be evaluated by an expert jury, with  winning design solutions capable of being implemented with disaster recovery grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as other sources of public and private-sector funding. To find out more information about the Rebuild By Design Initiative, visit their website at http://www.rebuildbydesign.org/what-is-rebuild-by-design/#challenge. To learn specifically about the initiative for Hunts Point, visit this link: http://www.rebuildbydesign.org/project/hunts-point-lifelines/#details.