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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Rubble of the 70's and 80's

Check out this amazing video montage of Melrose and the surrounding neighborhoods during the 1970's and 1980's.  It is a really powerful video especially for those of us who, like myself, lived through these times.  We lived in a war zone amongst rubble, rats, drug infested streets, garbage everywhere with no one caring for us except ourselves and our families. So many politicians forgot about us as did the landlords...the later who just cared about receiving their monthly rent and could care less that the residents lived in squalor and third world conditions.  Buildings that collapsed with the arsonist fires that were set by gang members paid by landlords to torch them just lay where they fell.  

Please take the time to see this video.  How could an entire geographic section of New York City be left to decay like that?  This almost 10 minute video is a rather personal and emotional journey for myself because having lived through this and the stigma that one felt for living there because the rest of the city and the world treated us like some sort of freaks of nature for living there but what they always forgot is that it was not that easy to leave there.  Some of us made it out and moved away, others died through the violence or old age and then there were those who chose to stay and try to make a difference. 

Next time you see someone who lived in Melrose and the South Bronx during the 70's, 80's and even early 90's you should congratulate them for making surviving such a horrific time which most certainly left an indelible mark on Melrose, The Bronx, New York City, state and country and most importantly on those of us who experienced it first hand.

Not sure who gets the credit for this video but it was posted by YouTube user TheBerlin09.

A big Melrose THANK YOU to all who endured it and survived as well as a moment of silence for all the lives lost.  

(All images are stills from the video)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Melrose Murals

Part of a larger mural in the parking lot behind Nos Quedamos/We Stay
depicting the Lady Justice statue of the Old Bronx Courthouse which is a landmark building.

Actual Lady Justice at the Old Courthouse

Melrose Neighborhood Featured in NY1

Check out this great segment on the construction going in in Melrose by Shazia Khan of NY1.  

Friday, January 22, 2010

Welcome2Melrose HEARTS the BoogieDowners!

Thanks to the our favorite BoogieDowners, a Welcome2Melrose article was featured in NewYorkBlips, "a one-stop access to all the breaking news, rumors, and commentary from expert sources around the Web." This is a great honor since they day that "If it's hot, if people are talking about it, searching for it or sounding off on it - you'll always find it at NewYorkBlips." But it doesn't end if that wasn't great enough the same article was worthy enough for a mention in the New York Times' City Room round up of the New York/Region Section on January 13, 2010.

A big Melrose THANK YOU is in order, yet again, to our great friends at BoogieDowner.  If you haven't visited them then it's about time to because they are the #1 blog for all things BRONX...and they preach what every savvy Bronxite knows:  that The Bronx is Burning...BURNING HOT!!!  And don't forget to check out Welcome2Melrose' Person of the Year for 2009!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Melrose Person of the Year

So a few weeks ago it was mentioned that the Melrose Person of 2009 would be revealed and although it is already 19 days into the new year, it is better late than ever.

When I first started this blog, its goal was to focus not only on Melrose but its surrounding neighborhoods as well and in that spirit of our mission I am happy as well as proud to announce that the Melrose Person of the Year for 2009 is none other than Dr. Richard Izquierdo, MD, founder of the San Juan Health Center in 1967, located in neighboring Hunts Point and was opened as a response to the lack of access to health care outside of the emergency rooms of local hospitals in this predominantly Latino community - and still to this day is the ONLY health care provider within its catchment.  Dr. Izquierdo, having recently celebrated his 80th birthday, is still quite active in the community and you would never guess his age with his tireless energy.

Dr. Richard Izquierdo was born in East Harlem in 1929 to a Puerto Rican couple who were one of New York City's first "bodegueros" or bodega owners.  A graduate of James Monroe High School in The Bronx and Long Island University.  After a brief stay at the University of Puerto Rico, he decided to go to Europe and attend the University of Madrid Medical School and while at the University of Madrid, Dr. Izquierdo also enrolled at University of Lausanne Medical School in Switzerland where he later graduated in 1957.  After graduation he came back home to The Bronx and completed his residency and internship at the old Fordham Hospital and shortly thereafter in 1967, the San Juan Health Center opened its doors in 1967.

Seven years after the founding of the San Juan Health Center, Dr Izquierdo (affectionately known by all as simply Doc) decided that the clinic was not enough to combat his community's declining health and Urban Health Plan, Inc was born.  This HMO-style practice offered an alternative to the thousands of residents of the South Bronx who never went to the doctor until it was too late - even for simple things that could have been prevented had routine visits to a medical provider been made.  36 years later, UHP now serves over 33,000 patients accounting for 180,000 visits through a network which has evolved over the last 3 1/2 decades into five school-based health centers known as SBHCs, which serve children, teens , two homeless shelters, and 3 satellite health centers.  In 2001 a new 37,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility was opened to further improve access to quality health care to residents of the South Bronx particularly in the Hunts Point area.

But Dr. Izquierdo's journey does not end there.  The last few years have been very active and in December of 2009 his efforts continued to pay off for the community which he so much loves as evident through his selfless pursuits.  Although a new 37,000 square foot facility was built back in 2001, almost 9 years after it opened there is even a greater need for more space as the community continues to grow and evolve.  On December 9, 2009, UHP's President and Chief Executive Officer Paloma Hernandez was at the White House when President Barack Obama announced that Urban Health Plan, Inc. was the recipient of a $12,000,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Grant.  This grant is part of President Obama's plan to support major construction and renovation projects at 85 community health centers nationwide and the fact that it went to UHP out of thousands of clinics across the nation shows that even at the highest levels of government, Dr. Richard Izquierdo's vision is recognized and respected.

According to Paloma Izquierdo-Hernandez, President and CEO of Urban Health Plan, Inc as well as daughter of Dr. Izquierdo, "We have been bursting at the seams for some time."  With this $12 million grant, UHP can now expand with an additional 53,000 square foot building and will increase the number exam rooms from 55 to 169, 20 dental operatories from just 4 and increase the number of patients treated by 29,663 - a remarkable feat unto itself. In addition to all these wonderful services it will also provide an economic boost the area with the creation jobs. UHP is the largest employer in it's zip code.

Also in December 2009, the NYS Board of Regents approved the Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School.  The concept of the charter school is revolutionary in scope - upon graduation, students will be graduating with advanced Regents diplomas, the highest High School diploma possible in the State of New York, and as certified EMTs.  The school is scheduled to open its doors on September 7, 2010 and will begin with 100 students starting in grade 6 and eventually will provide quality education to approximately 700 students when the school reaches its capacity.  Each year will add a grade and a 100 students to achieve that capacity.  

Along with the usual English, History and Mathematics courses, students will be challenged in such subjects such as multiple science courses, Latin, and dance or martial arts. Once at capacity, the school will offer an extensive after-school program featuring boys and girls baseball and basketball teams and an arts program including music, drama and film.  

Urban Health Plan, Inc is the institutional partner of the charter school and is providing support to create an enhanced health and science curriculum, "and create and effective career educational model" according to the press release for the charter school.  With UHP's support as well as the academic leadership, the Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School will give a major boost to the South Bronx's educational credentials and creating a bright, young future for tomorrow.

All of the things mentioned in this entry today is why I strongly feel that the Melrose Person of the Year for 2009 is Dr. Richard Izquierdo.  A son of the South Bronx who still lives in the community in which he has served throughout all these decades selflessly.  As he once told me while catching up on the phone one day, "Once I'm done with one project the wheels are already turning for the next one. In fact the first phase is already planned.  As long as I can, I will continue to do what I can for the community."

A big Melrose THANK YOU to Dr. Richard Izquierdo for all that he has done and continues to do for the health of Hunts Point, Mott Haven, Melrose and the rest of the South Bronx.'s no wonder he was Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor's doctor as well as Bronx Boro President, Ruben Diaz, Jr and Dr. Richard Carmona, former Surgeon General of the United States - everyone KNEW he was the family doc...the doc of the community...OUR DOC.

Dr. Richard Izquierdo receives the Surgeon General's Medallion by former United States Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS who as a child was a patient of Doc's
(image courtesy of

Doc enjoying a night of parranda at Coqui Mexicano with the community.
(Photo courtesy of Coqui Mexicano)

All other images are courtesy of 

Picture of the Day - Melrose Rising

Construction cranes working on St. Anns Terrace in the background.  Foreground: Another construction project rising.

Ed García Conde
The "Mayor" of Melrose

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Melrose Murals and the Arts

Over the next few months, Welcome2Melrose will be featuring photographs of local murals as well as works of art by graffiti artists.  While some may disagree that graffiti is not art and is vandalism, it is our goal to open your minds to see it as a form of expression.  Not all forms of graffiti are vandalism...just voices yearning to be heard.  Melrose, along with Mott Haven, Port Morris and Hunts Point, is the heart of the artistic side of the Bronx with such wonderful institutions as Bruckner Bar and Grill which hosts cultural events, BAAD (Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance) over in Hunts Point, Teatro Pregrones, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos.  Even Coqui Mexicano, a local Puerto Rican-Mexican fusion restaurant, supports the arts by displaying and selling artwork in addition to their fine cuisine.  Then there's PeaceLove Cafe which serves up organic and fair trade coffees and teas, home made desserts like all natural sweet potato pie, bread pudding and amazing ALL NATURAL soups, salads and freshly made sandwiches...with a side of LIVE JAZZ on Friday and Saturday evenings and Poetry on Thursdays from 4:30PM - 7:00PM.  

So you see, Melrose and our surrounding neighborhoods are bursting with the arts in all of its expressions and we just mentioned a fraction of what is available to all of us.

And now for our first picture in our series documenting Melrose Murals and the Arts.

"When it Hits...You Feel No Pain"
Located on E 162nd Street Between Melrose and Courtlandt Avenues
(Click photo for larger image)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Picture of the Day

Typical Sunday at BJ's in the Gateway Center Mall...after only 3 weeks from opening, this location became the third HIGHEST grossing store in the entire COUNTRY!

Ed García Conde
The "Mayor" of Melrose

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome2Melrose Continues to Get Around in Local Media

As most of you already know, has been featured in such local papers and TV like the Bronx Times, Mott Haven Herald and News 12 The Bronx (video is archived) to name a few.  Well the last few weeks have been pretty exciting for welcome2melrose! On December 26, 2009, I was quoted in The New York Times for their coverage of the old Ebling Brewery Beer Caves which were rediscovered during construction on St. Ann's Terrace as well as this week's edition of New York Magazine's "Approval Matrix" for the week of January 18th, 2010 which is in print as of this past Monday which placed the beer caves rediscovery as the most "brilliant" bit of news for the week. 

A big Melrose THANK YOU is in order for all of YOU the fans and readers who have made this blog such a highly visited site as well as all the residents, business owners and people of Melrose for without you, there would be NOTHING to talk about.  

Home Run at Yankee Stadium...In the Middle of Winter!

Last Wednesday on January 6th, 2010, history was made at Yankee Stadium:  Laughter brought down the house that Ruth Didn't Build with the Championship Comedy Series.  For the first time ever, a comedy show was held at Yankee Stadium at the ritzy NYY Steak, hosted by Davian Velez of mun2 and featuring such great talents as Cory Fernandez of Def Comedy Jam, A. G. White of The Comic View and special guest Talent of 98.7 Kiss FM.  

Fret not if you did not make it to the first show for there is more to come.  Rumor has it that NYY Steak and Yankee Stadium will be home to not only the greatest franchise in baseball history but will place The Bronx, The Concourse area and Melrose which is 2 blocks and a 5 minute walk from the area on the world comedy stage with the first, only and best comedy club in our great borough.  It has also been mentioned that shows will be held during baseball season immediately after a home game - to either continue celebrating if victory is had by the Yankees or drown their sorrows in laughter after a losing game.

NYY Steak is definitely the ritziest restaurant in the greater Yankee Stadium and Melrose area.  The ambiance is great with very tasteful decor.  Food is great, moderately priced and the staff is very friendly and welcoming and welcom2melrose approved place to go for lunch, dinner or cocktails. 

The next show is scheduled for February 10th at 8:00PM and will once again be hosted by Davian Velez and this time guest comics will be Rich Vos, Sara Contreras and Gerald Kelly.  Advanced purchases and reservations are HIGHLY recommended as last week's show was sold out and people were turned away at the door.  For tickets and reservations call Davian Velez at 646-271-1595 or Joe De Jesus, NYY Steak manager at 646-265-5447.

A big Melrose THANK YOU to Davian Velez for hosting such a great show and all at NYY Steak who made this show a success and possible as well as giving everyone yet another great reason to visit the South Bronx!

Davian Velez

Cory Fernandez

A. G. White

Pre-Show dinner

Friday, January 8, 2010

Melrose Rising: New Developments on the Horizon

A simple walk or drive through Melrose will leave you wondering - Is there really a recession going on? One would think that the economy is in full boom with the number of construction sites and cranes visible throughout this small village.  And now another development is set to begin on one of the larger remaining vacant lots in Melrose Commons section of the area.

The Briarwood Oganization, the developer behind the nearby Solara with 160 cooperative apartments, has been chosen to develop the $90 million dollar, 260 mixed-income/mixed use project in conjunction with CPC Resources and The Bridge.  Briarwood's proven track record in The Bronx with the success of The Solara where over 4,000 applicants applied for an opportunity to purchase one of 160 co-op apartments, is sure to construct another winner.  

The 260 unit project, which has yet to be named, will consist of middle income as well as low income units and continue to add to area's growing stock of QUALITY affordable housing.  The project has been designed for LEED Silver Certification and will add an additional 27,500 of retail space to Melrose.  According to James Riso, Briarwood principal, “Briarwood’s goal is to constantly have several projects under way regardless of how the economy is faring."

Stay tuned to more updates on this wonderful addition to the neighborhood as we will continue to provide you with exclusive info on the development of the project, ground-breaking ceremonies as well as architectural renderings as they become available.   

A big Melrose THANK YOU is in order for The Briarwood Organization, CPC Resources and The Bridge for this wonderful soon-soon-to-be new addition to our great neighborhood.  

The project, which will also will contain several green roofs,
will rise directly across from Boricua Village.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So Who is the Melrose Person of 2009???

Stay tuned as tonight we unveil the First Annual 2009 Welcome2Melrose Person of the Year!