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What’s Going On?

December 3, 2010

EVENTS & ANNOUNCEMENTS

Community Board 5 Meeting

Community Board 5’s next general board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at South Bronx Jobs Corps, 1771 Andrews Ave. All are welcome. For more information, call CB5 at (718) 364-2030 or e-mail brxcb5@optonline.net.

Police Meeting

The 46th Precinct’s next Community Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at the precinct station house, 2120 Ryer Ave., at 7 p.m. Community Council meetings fall on the third Tuesday of every month. They give residents the chance to meet local police officers and air their concerns. For more information, call (718) 220-5234.

If you would like your event or announcement listed on the Mount Hope Monitor’s Web site, please e-mail mounthopenews@gmail.com.

Medical Facility Opens on Burnside

December 3, 2010

PhotobucketVERONA GREENLAND (IN RED), MHHC’S PRESIDENT AND CEO, CUTS THE RIBBON ON THE NEW BUILDING (PHOTO COURTESY OF MHHC)

On Dec. 1, Morris Heights Health Center held a grand opening ceremony for its new 31,000-square-foot medical facility on West Burnside Avenue. The building, called Harrison Circle, will offer primary care services, behavioral health services, cardiology, mammography, digital x-ray, podiatry, and other types of care.

“We knew we had to expand our services in order to accommodate the increasing need for health care services within our community,” said Verona Greenland, Morris Heights’ president and CEO.

Harrison Circle is also home to 70 affordable apartments for seniors.

Attendees included Adolfo Carrion, the former Bronx borough president who currently works for the Department of Housing Preservation and Urban Development (HUD), which helped fund the project. Also present was Fritz Jean, Mount Hope Housing Company’s president and CEO. Mount Hope partnered with Morris Heights on the senior housing.

Photobucket THE FACILITY IS ON WEST BURNSIDE AVENUE AT THE CORNER OF HARRISON AVENUE (PHOTO: J FERGUSSON)

Related articles:
Q & A with Verona Greenland
Health Center and Housing for Seniors to be Built on Burnside

Pastor Breathes New Life into Holy Spirit Church

December 3, 2010

Photobucket REV. RICARDO FAJARDO PRESIDES OVER MASS ONE RECENT AFTERNOON (PHOTOS: J. EVELLY)

By JEANMARIE EVELLY

It’s a blustery December day, and the cozy chapel at the Church of the Holy Spirit has about 16 parishioners there for the early morning mass, scattered throughout the parish’s wooden pews. From the pulpit, Rev. Ricardo Fajardo delivers the Eucharist in a heavy Dominican accent; this is the first of two masses he’ll perform today.

Fajardo became the pastor at Holy Spirit, on University Avenue, just five months ago, and he has ushered in a wave of changes at the century-old Catholic church. This includes nearly doubling the number of weekly mass services the church offers—services he delivers himself, as the only pastor—a change he says will help make the parish a more spiritual place.

“I want a community full of love and faith,” he said. “The Holy Spirit is a special community. They’ve been very generous and open to me and the changes I’ve wanted to make.”

The church now offers two masses every weekday—one in English and one in Spanish (Holy Spirit’s members, of which the church estimates to be somewhere around 70 people, are predominantly Hispanic, and Fajardo himself is much more comfortable speaking in Spanish than in English).

THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

In addition to the extra masses, Fajardo has converted a space on the building’s fourth floor into a new “Spiritual Center,” where the church begun to host weekend prayer retreats. The center is in what used to be a nuns’ long-vacant nun’s quarter that Fajardo renovated with fresh coats of white paint, and furniture his parishioners donated themselves.

“He’s been really working with the community, and everyone seems to welcome that,” said Justa Iboy, who directs Holy Spirit’s religious education classes and has     been attending the church for nearly 20 years.

“Father just added altar girls,” she said, of the position traditionally reserved for adolescent boys. “Since I’ve been here, [through] like eight other priests, he’s the first     to allow that.”

Fajardo is originally from the Dominican Republic but has worked for the past several decades at churches in Manhattan, most recently at The Church of Saint Catherine of Genoa in Washington Heights.

Now, he spends part of his days at Holy Spirit bouncing back and forth between the parish and its elementary school next door, which has nearly 300 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

One of his other goals, Fajardo said, is to bridge the gap between the school and the church, which remain somewhat divided–many of the students and their families are not parishioners at the church, and the regular mass-goers know little about the classes that take place just next door.

So the Reverend has invited the school’s principal, Grace Lucie, to speak during services. And he’s added updates on his students’ accomplishments—like a list of children who made the Social Studies honor roll—to the church’s weekly bulletin newsletter.

“He’s been good at [putting] the two together, because it’s really been separate, in a way,” said Lucie, who has been principal at the school for 15 years. “It depends on the pastor—some take no part in running the school. He leaves all the major decisions to me, but he’s there with the children in the morning, and in the afternoon.”

For longtime parishioner Carmen Reyes, who now works in the rectory, Fajardo’s attitude embodies what attracted her to the church when she first joined years ago.

“I used to go to St. Nicholas of Tolentine, which is a beautiful building,” she said. “This is a smaller parish, and it has a real sense of family. You get to really make contact and get to know the other parishioners.”

Fajardo says his goal is to make sure the parish is as warm and inviting others as it’s been to him. 

“We want everyone to know that the doors are always open,” he said. “All who want to come, are welcomed.”

Editor’s Notes: This article is part 1 of new series called “Where We Worship.” The Church of the Holy Spirit, at 1940 University Ave., holds mass every and Saturdays at 9 a.m. in English and at 7 p.m. in Spanish, and four masses every Sunday. For more information, call 718-583-0120 or visit www.hscbx.org

Black is the New Schools Chancellor, Bronx Pols Divided

December 3, 2010

PhotobucketNEW SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR, CATHIE BLACK, READS TO CHILDREN AT PS 109 IN MORRIS HEIGHTS ON NOV. 30 (PHOTO: COURTESY THE DOE)

By JAMES FERGUSSON

After much debate and political maneuvering, Cathleen Black, the veteran publishing executive, is the city’s new schools chancellor. She replaces Joel Klein.

Black was put forward for the job by Mayor Bloomberg in early November, but her candidacy had been in jeopardy after the State Education Commissioner David Steiner questioned her lack of related work experience.

Schools Chancellors need a professional certificate in educational leadership and other qualifications. Black’s had a successful career in business and publishing — she’s been called the “First Lady of glamorous glossies” — but she’s never been a teacher, and her resume boasts just a single day as a guest principal in the Bronx.

To get around this, Black needed Steiner to grant her a waiver, and on Nov. 29 he did just that, having been convinced that her lack of experience would be mitigated by the appointment of a chief academic officer to serve as her deputy.

That night, Bronx Assembly members Vanessa Gibson and Marco Crespo released a joint statement slamming Steiner’s decision.

“This is not the time to compromise on who will lead New York’s schools or to adopt a ‘Let’s Make A Deal’ approach regarding the person who will be leading public education in our City,” Gibson, who represents Morris Heights parts of the South Bronx, said.

She added: “It is particularly insulting that Commissioner Steiner is claiming that Ms. Black has ‘extraordinary experience’ when everyone knows that her credentials don’t provide the excellence in education needed for this important post.”

Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz echoed Crespo and Gibson: “I can’t think of another example where the head of a key city agency was appointed only on the condition that someone with actual qualifications was appointed to serve as a top deputy,” he said in a statement.

Other Black critics, including civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel, are now threatening to take the matter to court.

Bronx politicians as a whole are split on Black. Councilman Joel Rivera, for one, is a staunch supporter. In a letter sent to Steiner, Rivera said Black was “committed to keeping the focus on ending inequality in education and closing the achievement gap.”

In a phone interview Rivera said Black had called him and convinced him that she would work closely with local elected officials — something Klein’s opponents said he failed to do.

Not that Rivera is critical of Klein. “[He's] done a pretty remarkable job with the Department of Education,” he said.

Rivera said there are two schools of thought: one, that you need an educator to run a school system, and two, that when you have a 135,000-employee agency, with a multi-billion dollar budget, you need, first and foremost, a strong manager. Rivera is firmly in the second camp.

“It’s not as if she’ll be in the classroom,” he said. “Give her an opportunity to show what she can do . . . instead of ridiculing.”

Black’s chief academic officer will be Shael Polakow-Suransky, a former teacher and principal who founded the Bronx International High School, a small school located in the Morris High School Campus.

PS 204 Celebrates Move to New Home

December 3, 2010

PhotobucketSTUDENTS HELP CUT THE RIBBON AT THE NOV. 16 CEREMONY (PHOTOS: J. FERGUSSON)

By JAMES FERGUSSON

In September, PS 204 moved into the Morris Heights Educational Complex, a brand new building on University Avenue, much to the joy of students, parents, and teachers.

The elementary school’s old home, a converted synagogue a few blocks away on West 174th Street, was in a terrible shape. And it lacked a gym, an auditorium, a library, and other amenities that typically make a school a school.

The new building, a state-of-the-art facility which PS 204 shares with P723, a small special needs school, boasts all of these amenities – and then some.

On Nov. 16, the schools held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening.

“Our story is how we went from rags to riches,” said Marcy Glattstein, PS 204′s principal, speaking in the auditorium afterwards.

Photobucket PS 204 SHARES THE NEW BUILDING WITH P723, A SMALL SPECIAL NEEDS SCHOOL

Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson and State Senator Jose Serrano, both of whom supported the school’s relocation, were among those in attendance. And so were dozens of parents, many of whom attended a public meeting with DOE officials last year, during which they made a compelling case for PS 204′s relocation.

“The parents came out, the community came out, they changed history and they got it done,” Serrano said.

Two PS 204 fifth graders, Tyler Montilla and Janicebell Ulerio, won an essay contest about the differences between the old and the new buildings, and both read their essays in the auditorium.

“My school now has a beautiful library… with many more books that before,” Janicebell said.

“In science we [now] have a fake skeleton to help us with the human body,” said Tyler, who also noted that the new building has “water fountains that actually work.”

“We deserve what we got and what we fought for,” Tyler said.

PS 204 is considered one of the better elementary schools in the Bronx. When the DOE releases its annual progress reports, the school routinely receives an A grade. Parents and teachers said they hoped the new building, and all it offers, would enable them to build on past successes.

The school’s old building, the former synagogue, is now occupied by the Carl C. Icahn South Bronx Charter School, which moved to Morris Heights from Morrisania this fall. A DOE spokesman previously said that the city would address some of the concerns PS 204 parents had raised about building.