The newly proposed 15th congressional district, which is drawing heat from Community Board 1 and South Bronx residents.

Bronx Community Board 1, the local voice for Mott Haven, Melrose and Point Morris, is seeking active members, and the deadline to apply is March 4.  The need became apparent at the board’s meeting on Feb. 24, when action was stalled for lack of enough members present.

The board gathers residents’ input on important local issues and makes recommendations to the Bronx borough president and other local elected officials.  That night, the board hosted discussions on crime, policing, redistricting, and an upcoming major energy construction plan in the district. When the Feb. 24 virtual meeting kicked off, just over half of the borough-president-appointed members were present.

Chairperson Arline Parks warned that shortly, she had to update the Bronx borough president’s office with the number of board vacancies, which she said would include the seats of current members with chronic absences from committee and general meetings.

“We are only as effective as much as we have participants on the board,” Parks said, stressing the importance of the work board members do for their neighborhoods. “We are here to advocate on behalf of the residents in this community, and if we’re not showing up, we can’t fulfill that important obligation.”

New Yorkers who live or work in Mott Haven, Melrose or Port Morris and are interested in serving on the community board can fill out an application available on the Bronx borough president’s website.

Once the meeting got underway, several complaints were voiced about lack of notification about a significant energy construction project hitting South Bronx streets this year. ConEd is launching a multi-year construction project in anticipation of increased energy needs across Bronx Community District 1. Street construction has begun at East 133rd Street and Willow Avenue and move northwest through the Bronx in 2023.

For some, the board meeting was the first time they’d heard about the ConEd construction plans. If a customer is not signed up for email notifications from their ConEd account, they won’t receive a notification in the mail and notices are not posted physically.

“How does an everyday person know when they’re coming to your block?” Josephine Fernadez-Byrne asked. Fernandez-Byrne is chairperson of the board’s Municipal Services committee. “I don’t know about you guys, but I never received any notification from ConEd before they came to my block.”

Some blasted ConEd project in the virtual meeting’s online chat column, for what they said was the company’s inadequate public notification process.

“Majority of homes don’t have access to internet,” a Board 1 member wrote. “If they are only notifying people digitally, many are not informed. They should be sending flyers or displaying publications locally. Thats insufficient,” adding “Con Edison has also been actively and aggressively adjusting bills and overcharging residents related to the new smart meter instillation. It’s malicious. They need to address this.”

Fernandez-Byrne said her committee had limited ability to have any impact after learning of ConEd’s plans because only three board members had attended her committee meeting.

The city’s redistricting plan, which will merge Mott Haven with wealthy Riverdale in the 15th congressional district, was another contentious topic that arose. The board has asked Rep. Ritchie Torres to speak on the impact of recent congressional redistricting on the South Bronx at next month’s Board 1 meeting.  

One meeting attendee wrote that “to mix the district with Riverdale will skew the demographics out of our favor. If voting is the basis for it, then the issues that affect South Bx will be hollowed out.  The demographics in Riverdale have different interests, both economially and politically.”

Another agreed. “Easiest way to make the south bronx not the “poorest Congressional district” is to merge it with one of the highest income rate district…. Terrible.”

Other agenda items for the board’s March 24 meeting include an update from the 40th Precinct on the confiscation of illegal dirt bikes and motorcycles. But the precinct itself took heat from board members and residents who complained that officers take up parking spaces in front of the precinct station house, leading to dangerous conditions on the street. 

“There’s a serious public safety issue involving 40th Precinct officer’s personal vehicles. The vehicles are being parked in crosswalks at every intersection on Alexander avenue on 138th, 139th and east 140th Streets. Seniors, children and residents have to walk in the street to cross the street. Can you stop this harmful and potentially life threatening situation?”

Another attendee posted that “This includes their gate barricades which even blocks the block ramps needed for wheelchairs or carts.”

Another wrote that the parking situation “often causes blocks and obstructions to the walkways and croswalks,” “forcing pedestirans into traffic, very dangerous.”

Also on the agenda: the state of schools in the district, touched off by discussion of a new charter school. 

One poster wrote that “With (Mayor Eric) Adams and (Chancellor David C.) Banks at the helm the DOE is going to take a huge hit for the next 4 years. Banks and Adams are pro charter and are pushing to use public space for charter schools… who refuse to accept students with disabilities and provide limited SpEd services, leaving most students with learning disabilities and the 1s and 2s, in our public schools,” a problem they said will worsen, “now that we’re merged with riverdale.”

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