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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Picture of the Day

Moon Over Melrose

Ed García Conde
The "Mayor" of Melrose

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Spelunking in Melrose - Old Ebling Brewery Beer Caves

When people think of The Bronx and Melrose in particular the last thing on their mind's are the words brewery and caves.  According to local histories it seems that Melrose had its share of both as was first mentioned this past week on NY1 as reported by Dean Meminger.

On Wednesday, I had the privelage of touring the caves that once were a part of the old Ebling Brewery Co. (one of New York City's oldest breweries of the time and opened in 1868) located on St. Anns Avenue and East 156th Street where a massive 600 unit low to middle income apartment project is currently rising.  The tour was led by Site Safety Manger, Steven Hanges of Joy Construction and along for the tour was New York Times journalist, Sam Dolnick and New York Times staff photographer Ruth Fremson who "was part of the AP team that won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography covering the Clinton impeachment."

Walking into the caves which were built by the Ebling Brewery Co was like walking back into time once you entered since they had been out of site for the most part of the last 70 or so years.  Few people in the neighborhood even recalled the caves since the brewery was closed for so many years.  They were used as storage for Ebling's beers where they claimed that they were aged and after the construction crew unearthed the caverns it was obvious that it was a factual claim and not just tall tale told to customers to entice them to purchase their brew.  Ebling's continued to brew their beer even during Prohibition which cost them and the 150 or so employees the ability to manufacture "near beer" for a period of 1 year costing the company $250,000 which was what it was making a year for the production of "near beer" back in 1925 when they were padlocked by the Court for "manufacturing, sale and possession of real beer."  Hupfel Brewery, another local Melrose company, chose not to enter the bootleg business like so many others and instead turned their brewery into a mushroom farm - the neighborhood is just full of surprises.

The day was quite chilly with bitter winds occasionally ripping by but upon entering the caves, the deeper we went in the warmer the air was which confirmed what Charlie Cofrancesco, assistant supervisor at Joy Construction said about the temperature being a constant 58 degrees throughout the year. One of the remaining 7 caves which had been rediscovered we could not enter through its main entrance since half of it was flooded so we had to go through the northernmost tunnel, down a hill towards the back to get to it.  At the end of this particlular section was a sealed off wall of cinder blocks which was erected to seal off the part of the tunnel which extended below Eagle Avenue and under P.S. 157 which was constructed in the 60's.

Steven Hanges jokingly said that whenever people asked if they found any artifacts he disappoints them by saying no, not a thing except a bottle of beer and an oar which was used to move the barges of kegs back and forth.  Mr. Hanges also went on to say that when they first found the caves they immediately stopped construction and called City officials in to investigate whether or not they had perhaps encountered a burial ground of sorts or remnants of local Native American tribes.  Once confirmed that that was not the case, they proceeded with construction.  The only unfortunate part of this is that for engineering purposed the caves must be filled in.  A few of them had already collapsed as construction continued along and with the exception of local media, the construction crew, city officials and myself, the caves will be gone from Melrose and a bit of old New York history will be gone.  

But it doesn't entirely end there for Steven Hanges said that a landscaper out in Long Island has purchased quite a large amount of the rocks found in and around the caves so a bit of Melrose and The Bronx will now be decorating someone's landscaping around the region - the irony that a part of the South Bronx will beautify a wealthy family's front lawn when so many people still frown upon the area and do not realize the rebirth that has happened in Melrose.

So with that, my fellow readers, I leave you with some more photographs of my journey.  A big Melrose THANK YOU is in order for Steven Hanges, Joy Construction and all who made it possible to allow for a tour of the caves and record a part of our local history before they are gone forever.

New York Times Staff Photographer Ruth Fremson looking down from the top of a hill within one of the caves.

Steven Hanges holding one of two artifacts discovered in the caves - an oar.

Notice the tag line above Ebling - "Aged in Natural Rock Caves"
There is still debate whether or not the caves are natural.  Popular consensus 
is that the caves were probably created by hammer and chisel as well as dynamite blasting.

Ruth Fremson

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Melrose Beer Caves

Welcome2Melrose just had the privilege of taking a tour of the former Ebling Brewery's beer caves along with The New York Times.  Here are just a few pics taken just moments ago.

Stay tuned for more pictures and more on the brewery!

Ed García Conde
The "Mayor" of Melrose

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two Local Buildings in The Hub Receive Landmark Status

The Heffen Building and the Dollar Savings Bank, both on Third Ave between 148th and 147th streets, have now been added to the local roster of landmark buildings.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Lights in Melrose

Entrance to Gateway Center Mall @ E 149th Street and River Avenue

Garden Apartment @ Maria Lopez Plaza On E 151st Street and Morris Avenue

Maria Lopez Plaza - Garden Apartments

Maria Lopez Plaza - Garden Apartments

Building on E 157th Street between Melrose Avenue and Elton Avenue

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Second Annual Prep School Fair - Thursday, December 17 - 3PM - 7PM

This coming Thursday, December 17th from 3:00PM - 7:00PM, talented junior high school and high school students from The Bronx as well as the rest of the city will have an opportunity to meet with representatives of some of the Northeast Region's top prep schools at the 2nd Annual Prep School Fair thanks to Teamwork Foundation, Inc, a non-profit organization which runs the New York Gauchos which is touted as America's most successful AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) after school basketball program.

Since 1967, this great institution has provided hundreds of kids in the South Bronx with opportunities that otherwise would not be available to them due to the dearth of programs offered to inner city children.  The Prep School fair which is being promoted by Rocky Burcano, Vice-President of the New York Gauchos and Andrea Kretchmer who is on the Board of the organization is a wonderful opportunity that should not be missed so bring your junior high and high school children and show these great prep schools what a talented bunch of students The Bronx has!

A big Melrose THANK YOU goes to Rocky Burcano, Andrea Kretchmer as well as everyone at Teamwork Foundation, Inc and the New York Gauchos for believing in our underserved youth and providing them with the necessary tools to forge a better future for themselves!
For more information, click the image below:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Picture of the Evening

Holiday lights @ Michaelangelo Apts
(E149th St & Park Avenue)

Domino Pizza on Third Ave and 153rd St Closed by Dept of Health

No information was provided, however the bright yellow sign was on the door and domino workers were taking the franchise apart but refused to answer any questions.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Picture of the Day

Melrose Metro North Station.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Waterfront Park Adds a Bit of Manhattan to the South Bronx

With the opening of Mill Pond Park, residents in Melrose and the Lower Concourse area finally get a taste of what Manhattanites have taken for granted for years - A waterfront park.  Mill Pond Park is the first in what will eventually (hopefully) be a series of parks along the banks of the Harlem River in the South Bronx.

The 10 acre park features 16 DecoTurf tennis courts, picnic and grass areas, beautifully landscaped paths which meander along the shoreline and even a sandy play area.  This month, the Parks Department will also unveil the newly restored historic Power House which will be LEED certified and will have a green roof as well as house a future café.  The 25,800 square foot building will also house Parks Department operations and tennis court locker rooms.

Mill Pond Park is part of the Yankee Stadium Redevelopment Program and is the first park to be unveiled since the construction of the New Yankee Stadium gobbled up local parkland.  The park is a small step in giving back to the community...a tiny one in fact but a step nonetheless.  Maybe we can convince them to more than double the size of Mill Pond Park by developing the Harlem River Parking Lots and Major Deegan Parking lot to the North of the park...after all, wasn't the purpose of building the $92 million Yankee Stadium Metro North Station to have less cars in the areas and more people using mass transit?

So what are you waiting for?  Go visit Mill Pond Park located at East 149th Street and the Harlem River, just north of the 145th Street bridge and across from the Gateway Mall.

Seagulls and Canadian Geese enjoying the grassy area which is fenced off for now.

Gateway Mall on the other side of the Major Deegan Expressway (I87)

Sit down and relax a bit

Yes, Virginia, that IS a "beach"!

One of the many inlets

The Old Historic Power House still undergoing restoration.

Up close shot of the historic Power House

Great before shot of the Power House 
(January 2009 - Courtesy of

Thursday, December 3, 2009

ANTHEM: an all-american dystopia - An Evening of Art, Artists, Wine and Coquito

Last night at Hostos Community College, the Longwood Arts Gallery was abuzz with activity for the launch of a new exhibit, ANTHEM: an all-american dystopia.  The exhibit is a 20th anniversary celebration of the Bronx Council on the Arts' BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) award and according to the Longwood Arts Project, this exhibit, "explores an America within the crux of reforming a national identity; family, health, politics, urban crisis and decay, environmental issues, consumerism and globalization."  The exhibition is curated by Melissa A. Calderón, a local Bronx Latina artist who received her BA in Art History from CUNY Lehman College and works in various forms of media such as sculpture, installations and photography.

Every artists in this program are BRIO award winners from 2008 or 2009 and all have created works that are multidimensional in their scope of message and what you see may not necessarily be what it means.  The show is broad in its scope and definitely worth a trip to the Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos Community College whether you are from the Bronx or not so take the 2,4 or 5 express train to 149th/Grand Concourse and check out just a small sample of what The Bronx has to offer.

Also of notable importance, last night during the opening of the exhibit right in the gallery space was also host to The International Coquito Federation - Coquito Masters Qualifier Series for 2009.  For those of you who do not know what coquito is, it is Puerto Rico's answer to Christmas Eggnog made of rum, coconut cream, cinnamon to name just a few of its ingredients.  The ICF is the project of Debbie Quiñones who says its mission is to promote coquito around the world as a gourmet drink as well as cultural awareness.  Oh and did I mention that Coqui Mexicano's entry now qualifies for the great coquito showdown on December 19th at El Museo del Barrio?  Yes...You heard it here!  If their coquito is good enough to qualify for such a prestigious event, can you imagine what their food is like?

So here's a big Melrose THANK YOU to Longwood Gallery, Bronx Council on the Arts, all participating artists and supporters for bringing the arts to the Bronx and in particularly to the South Bronx and Melrose.
Also would like to give out or first big WEPA! to Coqui Mexicano for qualifying to compete at the big coquito showdown on December 19th at El Museo del Barrio...Coquito Mexicano truly are what comunidad (community) is all about! (Wepa is a Puerto Rican exclamation of joy and happiness, similar to the Greek OPA!)

Birds with syringes for beaks

Debbie Quiñones, President of the International Coquito Federation explains the federation's mission to the gallery attendees.

Melissa A. Calderón addressing the crowd.

The Coqui half of Coqui Mexicano takes in one of the exhibits which caught her eye.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day, The South Bronx and Latino Sons of the Red Ribbon

Today is World AIDS Day and since 1981, over
25 million people worldwide have died of AIDS and an estimated 33.4 million are currently living with HIV/AIDS.  At one point the South Bronx was quoted in a 1989 New York Times article as having, "one of the highest AIDS infection rates ''in the country, if not the world...".  HIV infection rates are still higher in the Bronx and even higher is the rate of people who find out only when they have full blown AIDS.  Numerous campaigns have been enacted by the government to spread awareness and get people tested.  In fact, the Bronx is now leading an ambitious effort to have every resident between the ages of 18 and 64 to get tested and is showing the world how to do it.  

Although there are many types of services for individual who are HIV positive up until March of 2009 there was no official support group for people who are affected by HIV whether through infection, family and friends who are positive or are just affected overall by this affliction.  Latino Sons of the Red Ribbon fills this need in The Bronx.  

Back in January of this year, Maxxavier Santiago, a good friend of mine who is openly HIV+, approached me with the idea of starting such a group because he realized that it seems that in order to get good service or support one always had to travel to Manhattan.  The discussion went on for a few weeks and then in March, Latino Sons was born through the generosity of Bronx Community Pride Center and director Lisa Winters who provided the group with a meeting space.  Every Friday from 7:00PM - 9:00PM Bronx residents (and anyone for that matter) now have a safe place to go to and meet other like-minded individuals.  

Every week there is a different topic for members to explore and discuss such things as as dating as an HIV+ individual, disclosure, family life...the list goes on.  Everyone has the option to either participate in the discussion or not.  There is never any pressure for anyone to do something that they do not want to do.  Latino Sons is not only about weekly meetings but also doing things together as a brotherhood.  Throughout the year the group has volunteered at various events including a testing drive during the Puerto Rican Day Parade, pot luck dinners, and Bronx Pride.

Members have provided a lot of positive feedback and many are glad to have a place they feel comfortable sharing their concerns.  Friendships have been forged in the midst of it all where members have even said they no longer feel so alone in the battle against HIV/AIDS.  No one should ever feel alone in this battle...especially now that they have a place to call home.

If you would like more information on Latino Sons of the Red Ribbon, please feel free to contact the group at  All information is held confidentially as anonymity is of highest importance.

Let us not forget those who perished from this scourge who left a huge void in the South Bronx communities.