Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting Since 1987

From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

- In Other Media   For further information, click here to contact us         .

Home -For the Media

How to Contact Us

Inner City Press recommends buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"

How to Contact Us


Bank Beat/ RSS Feed
Freedom of Information
Human Rights
Current Campaigns
How to Contact Us

Inner City Press Bronx Report - February 17, 2006

In a Bronx Basement, Complaints Linger Long After DMV Lease Is Signed

BRONX, NY, Feb. 16 – Bronx residents berated a local State Senator and police precinct commander in a church basement on February 16, about the Department of Motor Vehicles office that opened in 1998 in the old Dick Gidron Cadillac building on Fordham Road and Crotona Avenue.  Descriptions were given of triple-parked cars blocking ambulances and snow plows, of garbage strewn and public urination, of a neighborhood in decline now besieged with prostitution.

          NYPD Deputy Inspector Barry Buzzetti promised a blizzard of parking tickets, and even to “bust the chops of that fat Albanian, Simon” regarding the service of liquor to under-aged patrons in bars on 189th Street.  The perpetually-tanned Jeffrey Klein, now the neighborhood’s state senator, shushed the crowd and spoke of the broken-windows theory of penology, borrowed from Berkeley by Mayor Giuliani.

          “We told Giuliani about the DMV problems,” one resident of Cambrelleng Avenue cut in. “And he didn’t do nothing.”

          In fact the history of the siting of the DMV office in Belmont carried all the hallmarks of Bronx politics. The deal-broker, Kathy Zamechansky, was involved in the Wedtech military contracting scandal and was closely aligned with previous borough president Fernando Ferrer, and other still-active elected officials. She lobbied for the previous and failed developer of the 155th Street and Third Avenue site on which RiteAid and Forman Mills have just signed leases. (Her name, as Kathy Z., currently appears on a For Rent sign on Webster Avenue, as well). As reflected in the tapes that put him in jail, ex-State Senator Guy Velella was in on the siting, telling reporters in 1998 that the impact of the extra traffic would hardly be felt because Fordham Road, Crotona Ave. and nearby Southern Blvd. are already high-traffic areas. "This is not going to make it any worse," he said.

          Those in attendance at the “Quality of Life” meeting on Feb. 16 in the basement of Mount Carmel church, however, told stories and showed photograph evidence, taken with a cell phone, of the situation growing worse and worse.

          “You should have told me told years ago,” said Deputy Inspector Buzzetti, the commanding officer of the local police precinct.

          “I did,” a woman answered. “At the feragosto, don’t you remember, I told you about the riot, they told me it was a bias crime and they would call me back.”

          “And did they?”

          “No,” the woman answered.

          In fact, the demographics in the church basement were different that those of today’s wider Belmont, and the Bronxite users of the DMV office. The fliers announcing the meeting, for example, were on Italian bakeries but not their Latino counterparts. To some degree this reflects (or play off) the long ownership patterns of the two-story homes on Cambrelleng Avenue. State Senator Klein made it a wider issue, naming four neighborhoods in The Bronx particular deserving of protection, including Belmont, Throggs Neck an City Island. No community south of (or more predominantly minority than) Belmont was mentioned. In response to allusions to the deal-making that led to the Fordham Road site, Jeff Klein said he was tired of hearing about unclean hands.

          The history of The Bronx was alive, in this drafty church basement. A man spoke of seeing prostitutes now on 187th Street at nine or ten p.m.. (In response, Deputy Inspector Buzzetti said, “I know, I know, the blonde one.”) The man continued that when he moved to Belmont in 1969, he would walk from the Grand Concourse at midnight without fear. “What’s changed?” he asked, and the question wasn’t answered.

          Jeff Klein promised to speak to DMV in Albany. Presumably, the gubernatorial race will have room for this local Bronx issue. The lease, according to Quality of Lifer Luana Malavolta Rodriguez, expires in four years. The Parkchester area which previously had the office is said to want it back. Long term suggestions for the Fordham Road site include a possible children’s museum. Short term, the idea of parking permits only for local resident was floated. “They have that in Westchester,” Jeff Klein said. “It requires state legislation.” Other suggestions were made about staggering the expiration dates for livery cab drivers, and providing parking for police officers who come about the tickets they’ve written (or to drink coffee in the  Mobil station, as one attendee pointed out).  The meeting ended with Jeff Klein repeatedly shushing the audience. “You’re acting like I’m a moron,” he said.  We’ll continue to follow this story.

A previous report from last week:

Live from Gracie Mansion: Mayor Bloomberg’s Media Fest Sounds Far Away From The Bronx

 NEW YORK, Feb. 7 -- There were jokes but little self-deprecation at New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s annual fete for the press corps. To the television press, Bloomberg mock-presented a long boomed-mike, saying that the next time Bill Clinton comes to speak with Freddy Ferrer, “you won’t have to miss the action” (a reference to the lack of sound or planning at a Bronx event in Ferrer’s fated campaign). As for having skipped the debate held at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Bloomberg sniped, “you see how much difference that made.”  Nor, he pointed out, had he ended up needing an endorsement from “Babies for Bloomberg” (for which he’d had a t-shirt made).  He said that the gifts that he gave could be returned to Wal-Mart… in Hamilton, Bermuda.

   The press corps, mostly in suits, mostly clapped when Bloomberg introduced, as “the Banking Superintendent,” Diana Taylor. The night previous, Bloomberg eschewed an invitation to the White House and instead spoke to homeowners in Throggs Neck in The  Bronx. The tabloid press – a widening category – related this to the Bush administration’s withdrawal of Ms. Taylor’s name from consideration to chair the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (which, coincidentally or not, is consideration an application for insurance and a bank charter by Wal-Mart).

   Lest the choice of Throggs Neck be seen as genuine outer borough affirmation, to a reporter Bloomberg joked, “How’d you like it last night in Throggs Neck?” contrasting it with well-dressed “Williamsburgh hip.” While this gentrified hot-spot is in Brooklyn, one left the mayor’s press event as if from the hearty hearth of a manor house surrounded by wastelands. Five minutes north on the M15 bus, 125th Street and First Avenue was desolate.  The jokes about Bermuda and the National Rifle Association seemed far, far away.

   Across the Willis Avenue Bridge, recently put on sale for one dollar, the housing project canyons glittered with the lights of pizza and liquor stores. They say that The Bronx will be saved by new shopping malls, and by converting park land to a replacement Yankee Stadium.  But the jobs created at the most recent uptown mall, the Target by 225th Street and Broadway, have turned out to be barely minimum wage, and mostly part time (two days a week, following Christmas). How can rents of even six to eight hundred dollars be paid with such wages? The question hung in the seasonably cold air on 149th Street, a mile and a universe away from Gracie Mansion.

A previous report from last week, further downtown and afield:

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

NEW YORK, Feb. 1 -- In the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, human rights are being violated, including in at least one instance with funding from the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

            In a report released February 1 at the United Nations in New York, three non-governmental organizations identify land-grabs, loss of livelihood and forced relocations. While Sri Lanka’s shifting proposals for “buffer zones” prohibiting rebuilding on the short are the subject of some controversy (and reporting), less known is the UNDP-funded “safe islands” initiative in the Maldives. At the Feb. 1 report-launch briefing, a video was shown of the Hulhumale refugee came for people displaced from the islands of Villifushi, Madifushi and Kadholhudhoo. The camp consists of tin long houses with faulty plumbing that become so hot it is impossible to sleep, according to residents.

            Both during and after the briefing, Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to the UN Commission on Human Rights, was asked by Inner City Press whether this UNDP-funded program in the Maldives runs afoul of application human right standards, including the Commission’s 1988 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which state that “Every human being shall have the right to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home or place of habitual residence… Displacement shall last no longer than required by the circumstances.”  During the brief, Mr. Kothari replied that “human rights standards apply to everyone, including UN agencies.” He said that the report has been sent to “Bill Clinton’s office” (the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery).  After the briefing, Mr. Kothari added that the issue will be raised directly to UNDP.


            On the other side of Manhattan island – after a 4 p.m. fire drill cleared the UN Secretariat – the Outreach Officer for the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, Annie Maxwell, gave a lecture about the Office’s work, noting that while all are in favor of coordination, no one wants to be coordinated. When asked about the report, and the UNDP-funded displacement project in the Maldives, Ms. Maxwell replied that the report is “in her inbox,” and that she will look into it. She spoke movingly about accountability to the beneficiaries of aid. Outside, the lights of the condos of the Upper West Side twinkles. It’s a long way, from Manhattan to the Maldives…

Some previous reports:

Kosovo: Of Collective Punishment and Electricity; Lights Out on Privatization of Ferronikeli Mines

Predatory Super Bowl: Ameriquest and the Big Banks in Detroit

Abkhazia: Cleansing and (Money) Laundering, Says Georgia, Even Terror’s Haven

Halliburton Repays $9 Million, While Iraq’s Oil Remains Unmetered

Darfur on the Margins: Slovenia’s President Drnovsek’s Quixotic Call for Action Ignored

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN

Royal Bank of Scotland Has Repeatedly Been Linked to Terrorist Finance and Money Laundering, Not Only in the Current Brooklyn Case

From Appalachia to Wall Street: Behind the Mining Tragedy, UBS and Lehman Brothers

Iraqis Absent from Oil Oversight Meeting on Development Fund for Iraq, Purportedly Due to Visa Problems

Watching the Detectives: Oversight of the Development Fund for Iraq Will be Discussed at the UN on December 28, 2005

From the UN Budget, Transit Strike, to the USA Patriot Act, 2005 Ends with Extensions

Some previous highlights and special reports:

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

The United Nations' Year of Microcredit: Questions & No Answers

Older Inner City Press reports are archived on

For reporting about banks, predatory lending, consumer protection, money laundering, mergers or the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), click here for Inner City Press's weekly CRA Report. Inner City Press also reports weekly concerning the Federal Reserve, environmental justice, global inner cities, and more recently on the United Nations, where Inner City Press is accredited media. Follow those links for more of Inner City Press's reporting, or, click here for five ways to contact us, with or for more information.


©opyright 2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editors [at] - phone: (718) 716-3540