CDC called in as 10 die in Bronx Legionnaires’ disease outbreak

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, speaks about the outbreak of Legionnaire's Disease in the South Bronx, which has claimed 10 lives so far.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to request help from the CDC, as Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak  spreads in the South Bronx, killing 10 and infecting 100 residents.

By Carmen Glover

As the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease widened in the South Bronx, New York, claiming ten lives and sickening 100 residents, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr appealed to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to call in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, August 6, to investigate and provide specialized assistance.

Stating that the level of anxiety “is very high,” Diaz solicited intervention from the governor, as Mayor Bill de Blasio downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, while City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett insisted that the city was taking the issue “very seriously.”

“During the course of our actions fighting the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the Bronx, it has been revealed that there is no inspection mechanism for coolant systems, rooftop water tanks and other standing water infrastructure that could be a breeding ground for this disease and others,” Diaz said in a statement, “The city must create a new inspection system for these systems just as we inspect other critical systems such as elevators.”

legionnaires outbreak

Legionnaires’ disease has infected and killed more people in the Bronx than the three people who died from Ebola disease in the entire United States in 2014 when a national effort was coordinated to keep the nation safe.

The disease was traced to cooling towers in five area buildings, including Lincoln Hospital, which treats hundreds of patients daily for ailments ranging from mental health disease, drug addiction to respiratory disease. The South Bronx is considered an epicenter for asthma in the city. Governor Cuomo has indicated that business owners in the city and state can request for their cooling towers to be tested for contamination, at no cost to them.

Lincoln Hospital was the site of confirmed cases of Legionnaire's Disease and the hospital's cooling towers were subsequently disinfected and cleaned.

Lincoln Hospital was the site of confirmed cases of Legionnaire’s Disease and the hospital’s cooling towers were subsequently disinfected and cleaned.

On Monday, August 3, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, hosted members from the New York City Health Department in an informational session at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on the Grand Concourse, where worried residents sought answers and reassurance that they would be safe.

In the meantime, de Blasio has instructed a response team to make emergency calls to building owners and property managers in the Bronx to make sure that wherever cooling towers are located, they are cleaned within 14 days.

Residents of the South Bronx, New York City, line up to ask questions about Legionnaire's Disease at a public forum this week.

Residents of the South Bronx, New York City, line up to ask questions about Legionnaire’s Disease at a public forum this week.

This new outbreak comes on the heels of a similar Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in Co-op City in the North East Bronx, last year, which left residents violently ill. So far, the residents who have died from the disease in the South Bronx have been elderly and had pre-existing health conditions which weakened their immune systems.

However, because the disease is spread from mists in the air, every person who walks in the South Bronx can potentially inhale the deadly mist and contract the disease, which made the mayor’s refusal to seek assistance from the CDC a head-scratcher for nervous residents.


29-year-old Co-op city resident Ron Hines, is embraced by his father. Hines was sickened with Legionnaires’ disease in November 2014 and has still not fully recovered. He filed a lawsuit early this year. Residents sickened in the latest outbreak in the South Bronx have also begun the process of filing lawsuits.

Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease travels in the air and is often concentrated in cooling towers from which the infected mist sprays into the atmosphere. The disease triggers a severe form of pneumonia that is especially brutal for residents who have pre-existing health conditions such as respiratory disease, those who are very young or elderly.

As the new round of the outbreak spreads in the South Bronx, the first lawsuit was filed against the city. Residents who were sickened in Co-op City filed lawsuits early this year.–


Medical school set to open at Harlem’s CUNY campus in 2016

City University of New York (CUNY) will open a medical school on it's Harlem-based City College campus

City University of New York (CUNY) will open a medical school on the Harlem-based City College campus

By Carmen Glover

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday, July 14, that the City University of New York (CUNY), the nation’s largest public university system, which offers affordable tuition to middle and working class families, the poor and immigrants, will open a medical school in 2016, accepting its first batch of medical students that September.

“This new school is another step toward making medical care more accessible for all,” said Cuomo, who also stated that the medical school “increases employment, research and learning opportunities for students and faculty.”

CUNY's City College is located on Convent Avenue in Harlem, New York City.

CUNY’s City College is located on Convent Avenue in Harlem, New York City.

The CUNY School of Medicine will be housed at the City College campus, located at Convent Avenue in Harlem. City College boasts top-tier graduates including retired Secretary of State and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell. CUNY has a reputation for churning out Pulitzer Prize winners, Noble Prize winners and other exceptional graduates, including Lehman College graduate and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, who have made significant contributions in various fields across the world.

CUNY has run the Sophie Davis School, which offers pre-medical classes, as of 1973, and many students at the school got the foundation which allowed them to pursue medical careers upon graduation. With the CUNY School of Medicine becoming a part of the university’s brand, those students, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, will find attending medical school to be more affordable.

James Milliken, CUNY Chancellor.

James Milliken, CUNY Chancellor.

CUNY Chancellor James Milliken said the medical school, which is being created in collaboration with Saint Barnabas Health System in the Bronx, is a “logical and necessary expansion,” while touting the expected scope of the medical school in training doctors to serve in underserved communities through the provision of increased medical access.

Although CUNY initially offered tuition-free education, that changed decades ago and the yearly tuition increases have marginalized many potential students who are too poor to afford the rising costs. Nevertheless, with CUNY revamping itself during the past decade and introducing an Honors Program, many competitive high school seniors have declined admission to Ivy League universities and chosen to accept full scholarships to CUNY instead, boosting the institution’s reputation as a cheaper alternative which provides quality education.


CUNY was established in New York city 170 years ago and has a rich tradition of educational variety and excellence. President Barack Obama launched his signature initiative for minority boys, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, at CUNY’s majestic Lehman College campus in the Bronx, earlier this spring.–’s Editorial Director earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in counselor education at Lehman College, CUNY.


Bronx Borough President saves Co-op City bookstore

borough pres

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz is surrounded by executives and supporters of Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Co-op City on Thursday, October 23, after the borough president negotiated a lease extension of two years.

By Carmen Glover

On Thursday, October 23, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. negotiated a deal to keep the sole bookstore in the Bronx open for another two years, with no rent increase.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers, which operates a bookstore in Bay Plaza Shopping Center, was on the verge of closing because Prestige Properties and Development, which operates the Bay Plaza Shopping Center and newly- built Bay Plaza Mall, had raised the rent for the bookstore and refused to extend the lease for the store, causing the store’s proprietors to decide to close.

Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Co-op City's bay Plaza Shopping Center.

Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Co-op City’s bay Plaza Shopping Center, was saved by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

The punitive action caused outrage among the residents of the borough, which for years has struggled with the perception of being the borough that has been left behind while other boroughs thrive with a variety of stores and diverse options. But in keeping with his pledge to help bring the Bronx to the forefront of development and relevance, Borough President Diaz acted swiftly to reverse the pending closure. In a press conference held on Thursday, he announced the deal’s impact on Bronx residents:

A father reads with his son, planting the seed of knowledge at a tender age.

A father reads with his son, planting the seed of knowledge at a tender age.

“We are a borough that loves to shop, yes. We like sneakers and handbags but there is also an intellectual capacity, an intellectual population in this borough. We love our books as well,” he said.

Store owners at the Bay Plaza’s outdoor shopping center have been complaining that ever since the indoor mall opened in Bay Plaza in mid-August, they are being squeezed out. Longstanding tenants have been priced out with exorbitant rent hikes, while others are contemplating leaving due to diminished patrons. Prestige Properties’ owners, in the meantime, say things are rosy and there is no cause for complaint.

Diaz’s intervention has saved more than 50 jobs at the bookstore, which brings a sigh of relief to the borough’s residents and visitors to the shopping center and mall.–

Bronx BP, BFTA, Shawn Dove headline fatherhood conference

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.  spoke at the BFTA Conference.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. , spoke at the BFTA Conference.

By Carmen Glover

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. joined members of his brainchild committee, Bronx Fathers Taking Action (BFTA), keynote speaker Shawn Dove and supporters in braving the non-stop rain on Saturday, March 29, for the second annual Bronx Fathers Taking Action conference.

The event was held at 2500 Halsey Street in the Bronx headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Fathers from diverse backgrounds filled the room, some accompanied by their sons and daughters. The air was electric with anticipation and conversations buzzed as the event geared up to start. The theme of the event was “Sons of Today, Fathers of Tomorrow.”

Rev Wyatt gave the opening prayer

The Rev  Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, a former educator,  gave the opening prayer and also participated as a panelist by sharing his views and providing context and insight.

Andre Peterson, the event’s chairman, started the event and then introduced the Reverend Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, who delivered the opening prayer. Ronald Hartridge and Felix Leo Campos, co-chars of the BFTA, provided an overview of the committee by sharing its mission statement, eliciting applause and murmurs of agreement when they spoke.

“The Bronx Borough President formed this group two years ago and made this men the co-chairs,” said Peterson as he introduced the men.

“This is a movement, it’s not just something to do. I grew up in the Bronx and raised my family in Co-op City,” said Hartridge. “This committee of Bronx fathers will focus proactively on engaging, empowering, educating and encouraging fathers. Our objective is to enlighten and advocate for fathers in our borough and facilitate a path towards productive parenthood. Our goal is to provide resources and new relationships to reinforce fathers as positive role models.” Campos agreed, echoing details about the origin of the committee.

Ronald Hartridge

Ronald Hartridge, co-chair of BFTA, spoke passionately about the importance of fathers being involved in the lives of their children and the importance of the BFTA expanding and growing.

The men indicated that they have identified several areas where their efforts will be targeted: mentoring, fathers’ rights advocacy, financial literacy and education. Each conference will launch the focus on one key area. The focus identified at Saturday’s conference was mentoring.

“I was born here in the Bronx and was a teenager in the late ’80s,” the borough president said when he addressed the gathering. “I am a father myself and you all know my father, Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr. I grew up on Watson Avenue, saw many bad things. My father wasn’t too comfortable talking to my brother and I about certain things so we both became teenaged parents.”


Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz met with attendees after delivering his speech.

Diaz explained how he transferred from one high school to another because “I was in love with a young lady so I transferred, chasing after her. Well, Hilda and I are still in love. At the age of 21 I was a father of two.” Several men in the room nodded in recognition as Diaz talked about his past, especially when he stated:

“My family was one of the few where both mother and father were in the household.”

Diaz explained that with the borough celebrating 100 years and seeing over “$600 billions in investment,” it is important that “we prepare young men so that they are not forced out due to gentrification,” which he described as “other people will be coming in and we will be forced out.” Issuing a challenge to the men gathered, Diaz said:” When you speak of violence and crime the one denominator is usually young men who didn’t have support so shame on us, shame on me if we don’t start to lay down that foundation so the Bronx develops these young men.”

shawn dove

Keynote Speaker Shawn Dove listens attentively as the Borough President speaks.

Keynote speaker Shawn Dove, who has worked in youth development for decades, thanked the borough president for his “honesty and transparency,” as he began his speech, saying as he looked at the men: “The iconic leadership that we are waiting for are right here in this room.” Dove then spoke about his upbringing and the role of women in his life:

“I want to acknowledge our women. I am a product of a single parent home with a Jamaican mother. I grew up in the Bronx and we are standing here fighting for our sons, our brothers, our wives and our fathers. Some people build monuments but the Bronx is building a movement,” he said as the men applauded.

He spoke about the importance of having mentors, acknowledging Wyatt as one of his. Dove disclosed how the Wyatt influenced him with words, and he shared one of the lessons that he learned from him years agi. Reflecting on that impact he said: “The right word from the right person at the right time can change your life.”


Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz awards citation to Shawn Dove after his speech.

Dove explained that it is important for men to realize that it is acceptable to cry and he recalled being brought to tears in the past as he considered the plight of young men. “I cried and wondered who is crying for our sons,” he said, explaining that “We have to instill into our young men that they can reach out to us and say: ‘I need help’ because every young man needs help.”

He described the BFTA as being instrumental in providing that help. “The BFTA is a fight. We have to sound the alarm in the Bronx. If the Bronx is going to lead we have to raise the awareness, train fathers because 23 million children wake up each morning without their biological fathers.”

After delivering his speech, Dove was awarded a citation by the borough president. Also, all the members of BFTA who were in attendance were awarded citations as well.

“To the Bronx Fathers Taking Action, none of them is getting paid a dime. They all have their children and grandchildren at home. With that attitude we will be the model, the paradigm by which other boroughs are judged,” Diaz said in presenting the citations to the BFTA members.

After the citations were presented, the attendees broke for a lunch break which featured singing by a female duo and a spoken word performance, by Glen Jenkins that was gripping from beginning to the end.



Glen Jenkins, spoken work performer from the Church of God of Prophecy on East 165th Street, delivered a searing poem that riveted the audience and brought them to their feet in appreciation.

Jenkins recited his original poem, “The Truth,” which called for action and activism. His delivery was riveting and his words were strong and powerful. His performance was warmly received and from his manner and tone it was evident that he was driven by a desire to share his message as widely and often as he can.

After the lunch break, the event resumed with a panel discussion during which panelists shared their experiences as mentors to children and the impact such interactions have in the lives of the mentees. Audience members asked various questions and respectful dialogue ensued.

The conference also featured display tables where a modest group showcased their organizations. Among the entities who had representatives distributing literature and keepsakes were: Bright Futures Tutoring  Services and The Akira Center.


Panelists Rafael Fornes, III, fathers’ advocate (l) and Melvin Alston (r), Responsible Fathers Coalition, Administration for Childrens’ Services (ACS) provided insight as panelists.

The members of the BFTA who attended the event were: Hartridge, Campos, Vincent Adams, who was the master of ceremonies; Kenneth Alexander from the Real Dads Network, Jamal Bowman, John Fielder, Fornes, Dr. Patrick Gannon, Jose Gonzalez, Theodore James, Peterson, Jose Manuel Pichardo and Robert Powell from the Bronx BP’s Panel for Educational Policy. Charles H. Oruam and the Rev. Dr. Robert Smith, Jr. did not attend.

Dove left the gathering with three steps to changing the circumstances for young men: “Teach them how to transform pain into power, build strategic partnerships and develop the gold in our young people,’ he said. Diaz endorsed the sentiment and added: “When we approach young men we have to redefine how a man is and should be. We’ve been stuck in this mental box about how we should comport ourselves.”

Fornes emphasized “the importance of pairing fathers with children who need mentors,” while Alston talked about Bronx Visions, a group formed by men from ACS who go to specific schools during the men’s lunch break, to mentor children. “We talk to them about their behavior and achievement,” he explained. But the tone of warning was issued by Wyatt.

“We are in deep trouble as a community,” he said. “There are so many children in need of direction and guidance. Mentoring takes time.”

From all indications, the men who comprise the BFTA are up to the challenge and determined to fill the need as well as expand their reach, one child at a time.

For more information about the Bronx Fathers Taking Action (BFTA), contact Monica Major, director of education and youth services at Tel: 718-590-3515 or email–

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