Ice Rink Brings Bronx of Skating Freeze

January 11, 2013 7:06am | By Patrick Wall, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

KINGSBRIDGE — Cary Goodman leaned against the waist-high wall around the new Van Cortlandt Park ice rink and watched as dozens of tiny South Bronx skaters struggled to find their balance.

Goodman, 62, couldn’t stop smiling.

“It’s magical,” said Goodman, the executive director of the 161st Street Business Improvement District, which helped sponsor the preschoolers’ skating trip.

“Today is one of the happiest days I’ve spent in my working career.”

But the moment was also bittersweet.

One of Goodman’s first projects after taking the helm of the BID three years ago was to lobby for a South Bronx ice rink, which he felt would draw attention to the area’s revitalization and correct a decades-old disparity — The Bronx was the only borough without a public rink.

Since November, when the Van Cortlandt Park rink opened, The Bronx now has an outdoor ice destination of its own, but it’s near the northern tip of the borough, far away from Goodman’s perch by the Bronx County Building and Yankee Stadium.

“The ultimate greatest thing would have been to have the rink across from Yankee Stadium,” Goodman said during his visit to the rink Tuesday.

“But this is the next best thing.”

Goodman’s ice quest began in 2009 when he noticed links on the Parks Department website to public rinks in every borough but The Bronx. He soon learned that the last outdoor Bronx rink, in Mullaly Park north of Yankee Stadium, closed in the 1980s.

So Goodman contacted the agency and began a back-and-forth over possible rink sites along 161st Street. Snagged by costs and building rights, the two sides couldn’t find a suitable spot.

Finally, the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, a local nonprofit housed in the former Concourse Plaza Hotel at 161st Street and the Grand Concourse, allowed the BID to install a mini-rink in its courtyard.

Using about $6,000 in BID funds, Goodman laid a 20-by-40-foot oval of artificial ice beside the building, ringed by bales of hay from an upstate farm. Some 2,000 local children skated on the tiny rink that winter, Goodman said.

But it lasted just one season, and was closed down in spring of 2010.

“Our kids and parents were so excited to go skating,” said Kenneth Golden Sr., director of administration at the Highbridge Advisory Council’s Head Start program, whose students frequented Goodman’s rink when it was open and traveled to the Van Cortlandt rink Tuesday.

“It’s an experience that our children wouldn’t otherwise get,” Golden added, noting that many families who send children to the program, which is based across from Yankee Stadium, couldn’t afford or wouldn’t think to visit rinks in other parts of the city.

While Goodman was laboring over a South Bronx skate spot, movers and shakers up north were planning a rink of their own.

Members of the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy thought that four unused tennis courts in a corner of the park near the end of the No. 1 subway line would make an ideal surface for a seasonal rink, along the lines of the one in Bryant Park.

Daniel Biederman, who sits on the Conservancy’s board of directors, heads the Bryant Park Corporation, the nonprofit management company that runs the Midtown park.

The Conservancy formed a partnership with two private developers and a concessionaire, Ice Rink Events, which also runs the winter rink at Bryant Park, and submitted a proposal to the Parks Department, said Ron Kraut, project manager for that partnership, called Van Cortlandt Park Ice Rink LLC.

“It really was a team effort, from the Conservancy to the Parks Department to the private investors to the community board to ConEd,” which installed a high-powered generator for the chillers, Kraut said.

The Bryant Park Corporation also donated $120,000 to upgrade the electrical infrastructure, according to the Parks Department.

One lesson that the Van Cortlandt Park rink may offer Goodman and other Bronx boosters is the need to attract well-connected backers and form private-public partnerships in order to advance public projects in a time of tight budgets.

“It is a new model for Upper Manhattan and The Bronx,” said Robert Fanuzzi, chairman of Community Board 8, home to the Van Cortlandt rink. “It came right out of the Bryant Park playbook.”

For its part, the Parks Department said it would consider proposals for other Bronx ice rinks and Kraut at Ice Rink Events said his team “would be interested in broadening this effort.”

On Tuesday, 77 students from the Highbridge Advisory Council’s Head Start program glided and slid around the Van Cortlandt Park rink, happy to be on the ice, even if it is about five-and-a-half miles north of their South Bronx neighborhood.

One of the children, Genesis Suastegui, 4, issued some skating advice, which might apply just as well to rink-building.

“Baby steps,” Genesis said, clutching the barrier around the ice, “and slowly.”

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  • The Pinstripe Bowl was a huge success for most of the small businesses in the Stadium district. Tens of thousands of fans from West Virginia and upstate were treated to souvenirs, discounts and a welcoming spirit by merchants all along River Avenue and across 161st Street. The Bronx Colts Youth Football program participated in some pre-Bowl events with the Syracuse team. They were game guests of the Yankees.
  • A group of eighty pre-K students from the Highbridge Head Start program are taking skating lessons at the Van Cortlandt Ice Rink. By the time the rink closes in March, most of them will be able to ice skate! Imagine kids from Gerard Avenue and Ghana gliding across ice, twirling and playing hockey in The Bronx.
  • Now that the Concourse Plaza food court is down to two stores, Taco Bell and Saki, the crowds at lunch time in the court and the community are huge. F.K Hero is always busy. Fun City Diner and Nadal Deli 3 are packed. Sheridan Market has lines that snake out the door.
  • At the BID-Community Board 4 holiday party last month, Mike Rendino of Stan’s was named merchant of the year for his charitable work on behalf  of police officers and fire fighters. The Good Neighbor Award went to The Bronx Museum. Community Board 4 was given a Partnership Award. And long-time resident, Barry Nissen was given the Resident of the Year Award for his service to the community board and his photography.
  • The district’s first fitness center is holding its Grand Opening this Saturday, January 12. Go over to the Blink gym on Sheridan Avenue and say hello to Lakeisha, the club manager.  Expect friendly staff, special discounts and a clean, positive environment. We wish this Equinox subsidiary all the best and thank them for their investment in the neighborhood. Two yoga studios (Sweetwater and South Bronx), a great outdoor exercise park at Macombs Dam and now Blink. Who would have guessed?
  • The walkways at the Concourse and 161st Street and Walton and 161st Street are being fitted with the frames for the installation of new art work. The finished works will bracket the entrances to the underpass. Once this artwork goes up, can we look forward to some sculpture? Maybe a statue of Lou Gehrig for the plaza named in his honor?
  • Finally, congratulations to former Bronx Borough President, Fernando Ferrer, on being named acting chairman of the MTA Board. We can use a strong advocate for our district in that position. Ours is the number one public transit hub in the borough.

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  • Santa is in the house! Every Saturday and Sunday for the weekends leading up to Christmas, the 161st Street BID will be joining. Feil Organization in sponsoring Jolly Old St. Nick. Families can take a photo with Santa and children will receive a free candy cane, if they’re not naughty, but nice. Look for the long white bard and red suit in the Concourse Plaza Shopping Mall and on 161st Street. Just down River Avenue, our neighbors at Bronx Terminal Market will offer free hot chocolate and holiday crafts.
  • There are only three food stores and one cell phone left in the mall’s food court. Taco Bell, Saki Yagi and La Caridad are doing a brisk business. The others like McDonalds and Subways have packed up and moved elsewhere, or gone out of business. In addition, some of the retail stores outside have shut down. The BID is in touch with the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau to address any safety issues that may arise from diminished lighting and foot traffic in the area.
  • A dozen local businesses will be featured in a special advertising section of the Daily News in the week before The Pinstripe Bowl, December 29. All have agreed to extend some Bronx hospitality to Bowl fans either by offering a discount, a souvenir or something for free. Newcomers to this Pinstripe Promotion include Flavas and our two pizzerias. Other sites include Yankee Tavern, Yankee Bar & Grill, Stan’s, the Dugout, Billy’s, McDonalds and Molino Rojo.  Te contest pits te West Viriinia Mountaineers against te Syracuse Orangemen. BTW, if you haven’t tried Flavas’ island corn bread yet, you are missing a real treat. At a dollar a round, it can’t be beat.
  • The 161st Street BID and Community Board 4 will be hosting another Holiday Party December 19, 5 – 7 PM. Register with the Board or the BID by December 12t to insure your place at Billy’s.
  • The first public ice rink in the Bronx opened in Van Cortlandt Park under the auspices of the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy and the Parks Department. It costs $5 to skate ($8 on weekends) and $5 to rent skates. The rink is open seven days a week starting at noon, and there is a skating school for children four and older. Needless to say, we are delighted to finally have a Bronx rink. Congratulations to Bronx Parks Commissioner, Hector Aponte, and much thanks to Mayor Bloomberg for keeping his promise to open a rink.
  • Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a peaceful New Year.

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Lets Go Yankees

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Babe Ruth sculpture created by Bel Borba for the Bronx.

The team wishes to thank dr. Cary Goodman, Joe Bastone, U.S. congressman José E. Serrano and community members of Bronx to make our work possible. GO YANKEES!!!!’

The community in Bronx may not be the the richest area in the city, but we received the warmest welcome here. as Bel usually says: the poorest people are richest in humanity. Don’t every forget about that…. it is the truth! hahahaha ( slaughters )  the team have learned a great deal about the rich history of this area. we will return, because we love this place!!!

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Madonna look a like party

Yankee Bar & Grill
Stan’s Sports Bar
Billys Sports Bar and Restaurant
Yankee Tavern
The Dugout

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161st Street BID wins bronx war of rosebushes

This gallery contains 25 photos.

August 17, 2012 7:21am | By Patrick Wall, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer GRAND CONCOURSE — The city Department of Transportation has agreed to turn over maintenance of a popular yet bedraggled Bronx garden whose forlorn state sparked local outrage. The DOT, which is responsible … Continue reading

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June 2012

  • The New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks are the recipients of the 2012 Bobby Murcer Award, which is given to the team in both the American League (Yankees) and National League (D-backs) whose players commit the most amount of money to BAT, Major League Baseball’s charity. This is the fourth consecutive year that the Yankees have won the award.
  • Congressman Jose E. Serrano was in line to buy some fruit at the season’s opening of the GrowNYC greenmarket, June 5. Once again, there are some beautiful fruits, juices, vegetables and baked goods for sale. The merchants often provide free samples and there are cooking classes for those interested in the healthy cooking approach to food.
  • Despite rumors to the contrary, The Crown Diner is not closing — even temporarily. The Diner, which is at the heart of our commercial strip, is not turning into a branch of Citibank or TD Bank anytime soon, if at all. No permits have been issued and no agreements struck, at least for the time being.
  • Ornamental Paths are open inside Joyce Kilmer Park, and they are stunning. Katherine Daniels has created a site-specific installation of 12 weavings whose designs were taken from some of the Art Deco buildings in the Grand Concourse Historic District. The BID joined with the Parks Department and The Bronx Museum to sponsor a reception for the grand opening on June 7. The weavings will remain in place until next June. No excuses for missing out on this fabulous enhancement of the neighborhood.
  • Ray Muniz, of the 161st Street BID,  acting at the suggestion of the Borough President’s office, has uncovered dozens of gorgeous pink rose bushes which line the inside of the tunnel walkway between Gerard and Walton Avenues (see photos). Thanks to his hard work and the efforts of his co-worker, you can actually smell the flowers as you cross 161st Street. Thanks guys!
  • The South Bronx is losing in the fight against homelessness. Nearly half (46.9%) of Bronx residents are worried about becoming homeless, twice the percentage who report this concern citywide.  In the South Bronx, where the median income ($23,073) falls severely short meeting of the estimated costs of housing, food, child care, and transportation ($43,977), residential stability is in jeopardy. The Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness is urging a homeless policy shift that would become a, “gateway to the middle-class,” through apprenticeships, subsidized employment and targeted residential services.
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In Bronx War of the Rosebushes, Volunteers Left to Care for Public Plants

June 19, 2012 12:53pm | By Patrick Wall, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

GRAND CONCOURSE — Cary Goodman was just steps away from the Yankee Stadium subway station earlier this month when he noticed a glimmer of pink out of the corner of one eye.

There, in raised beds along the 161st Street underpass that runs beneath the Grand Concourse, stood dozens of flowering rosebushes almost entirely concealed by fearsome rows of weeds.

As the head of the 161st Street Business Improvement District, Goodman decided to take action. He recruited two local city sanitation workers, one a former gardener from Puerto Rico, who agreed to weed the unruly strips.

After the beds were freshly cleared, Goodman asked the Parks Department simply to maintain them. Instead, they referred him to the Department of Transportation, Goodman said.

Without the help of either agency, Goodman has begun asking local merchants to underwrite the cost of caring for the rosebushes.

161st Street Underpass

The north side of the 161st Street underpass. (DNAinfo/Patrick Wall)

As Goodman learned, Parks and the DOT often divvy up maintenance duties for landscaped sections of the streetscape. But with reduced agency budgets, roadside greenery sometimes gets neglected, advocates said, leaving concerned citizens to handle the watering, mulching and weeding themselves.

“Even after this beautiful set of plants has been uncovered,” Goodman said, “we still can’t seem to find a way to get the collaboration between the agencies we need for it to be maintained.”

DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said the department is responsible for the 161st Street underpass, which includes the rows of rosebushes that Goodman said he cleared without the department’s assistance.

“We are currently working with the 161st Street BID and other local stakeholders to redesign the foliage in these areas,” he said.

Beginning six years ago, the DOT oversaw a $52 million renovation of the area around 161st Street and the Grand Concourse, part of a recently designated historic district often called the Champs-Élysées of the Bronx.

During construction, improvements were made to the 161st Street underpass with the rosebushes, Lou Gehrig Plaza outside the Bronx County Building, and the Grand Concourse from 161st to 166th streets, where planted medians were installed.

After the work was completed in late 2008, the DOT and Parks Department signed a maintenance agreement, according to the two agencies. DOT would tend to the plant beds along the 161st Street underpass and the Grand Concourse malls north of 165th Street, while Parks would cover Lou Gehrig Plaza and the Grand Concourse malls from 161st to 165th streets.

But, according to community members, both departments have struggled to maintain their shares of the planted streetscape, forcing volunteers to fill the caretaking gaps.

“It’s horrible,” said Jose Rodriguez, district manager of Bronx Community Board 4.

“Every month I mention this, especially during the summer, but it’s always the same old, same old,” he said, noting that the agencies are strapped for resources.

A Parks Department spokesman said maintenance crews clean Lou Gehrig Plaza four to five times a week, as well as the Grand Concourse malls on weekend mornings.

Rodriguez said he sometimes must recruit participants from a courthouse alternative-sentencing program, as well as Department of Sanitation workers, to do maintenance work on the area’s traffic islands and medians.

William Casari, a member of Community Board 4’s parks committee, often waters roadside trees along the Grand Concourse and organizes annual volunteer days in two nearby parks.

“I think there should certainly be more help from Parks,” said Casari. “I do feel like we’re picking up the slack.”

Private workers throughout the city assist the Parks Department in caring for its 29,000 acres of land, often with funding from nonprofit groups or merchants who have a financial stake in their neighborhoods’ appearance.

But this arrangement benefits some communities more than others, said Sam Goodman, an urban planner in the Bronx borough president’s office.

“Typically, the privatization of these resources tends to favor wealthy communities,” said Goodman, mentioning Manhattan’s West Side, where the private group that oversees the public High Line park commands a $13 million annual budget.

The 161st Street BID, meanwhile, makes do with $190,000 each year.

“We don’t have enough money in our budget to just say, ‘We’ll send our guys up here,’” said Cary Goodman, referring to the planted stretches along 161st Street.

William Ford, who lives in Concourse Village and strolls along the 161st Street underpass most days, said he had never noticed the rosebushes there until Goodman cleared the beds a couple weeks ago.

“It wasn’t taken care of,” said Ford, 61, who recalled thick weeds, tall grass and piles of trash in the beds before the roses were revealed. “It certainly didn’t look like this.”

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Jeter Meter

June 5, 2012 / News / Grand Concourse
‘Jeter Meter’ brings fans and community together
By Patrick Rocchio
Bronx Times

The Jeter Meter is back!
The 161st Business Improvement District turned their hit Derek Jeter meter back on during the Yankee’s west Coast road trip to show local support for the team.

The LED digital counter, posted on a streetlamp pole near the Derek Jeter banner on the side of Yankee Stadium along River Avenue between E. 161st and E. 162nd streets, counts the Yankee star’s historic number of hits.

It was put there by the BID before Jeter reached his 3,000th hit, and continues to count up as Jeter approaches career hit totals of some of baseball’s immortals like George Brett, Cal Ripken Jr., and Willie Mays – who stand at 3,154, 3,184 and 3,283 career hits, respectively.

The “Jeter Meter,” programed by the BID, also allows fans to send messages of good luck and best wishes to the Yankee captain. It was turned back on for the season on Friday, May 25.

“We turned it on now because the Yankees are about as far away from the Bronx as you can get – in Oakland,” said 161st Street BID executive director Cary Goodman. “They will be on the west coast for about nine days, and we want them to know that people back home are rooting for them and are in touch with them – at least electronically.”

When the meter was turned back on, Jeter’s hit total stood at 3152 hits, Goodman said. It shows the commitment to the team in its home borough, and allows all Yankee fans and the local businesses to connect with their favorite sports franchise.

“The meter showcases that the neighborhood is a friendly place that enjoys sports and celebrating great achievements in sports,” Goodman said. “It has been doing that since the Yankee Stadium first opened in the 1920s – for eighty or ninety years.”

The meter scrolls to offer electronic congratulatory and ‘best wishes’ messages from businesses in the area, and elected officials, including Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., whose office is nearby in the Bronx County Building.

“I think for the BID’s businesses, it reinforces the idea that this is a neighborhood where people can come to relax and enjoy the game both in the ballpark and in the sports bars in the community,” Goodman said.

“Yankee Tavern is a New York City landmark and is one of the greatest places to eat and drink. Stan’s was voted by a trade publication as the greatest sports bars in the nation. These are places that have been in business for decades and they know how to serve baseball and football fans.” There is also a Mariano Meter near Mariano Rivera’s portrait on the side of Yankee Stadium, which normally has a listing of his career saves total. Currently, it is offering best wishes in both English and Spanish for getting baseball’s all-time save leader recovered from his injuries.

©2012 Community Newspaper Group


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