Inspired by Obama, organizers spring to action


By N. Clark Judd

Community organizing seems to be taking hold in Riverdale these days.

At the Community Board 8 meeting on Feb. 10, Riverdale resident Maximo Hernandez announced the creation of the Riverdale-Kingsbridge Neighborhood Association. Intended to serve as a non-partisan group that would reflect the concerns of Riverdale and Kingsbridge residents, the organization will have its first formal meeting Feb. 24, at the David A. Stein Riverdale-Kingsbridge Academy, MS/HS 141, at 7 p.m.

After organizing around President Barack Obama’s successful election campaign last year, Mr. Hernandez, 51, and David Tracey, 22, both Riverdale residents, separately decided they wanted to stay involved in the community, and make use of the connections they had made on the campaign trail, Mr. Hernandez said.

At this point the group is not tying itself to a particular cause or concern, but, “we have the name and the desire to do something,” Mr. Hernandez said.

Mr. Tracey added that it was important to have a non-partisan umbrella group — not just organized around a specific issue, such as Van Cortlandt Park or services for youth — outside of the city political structure.

Board 8 comprises appointees of Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr., some of whom are nominated by the three City Council members who represent Board 8. City Councilman Oliver Koppell makes the majority of those nominations.

Mr. Hernandez said he personally is concerned about the possibility of cuts in transportation, especially night service on the Bx10 bus, which connects Riverdale to Norwood. Other concerns Mr. Hernandez mentioned include the possibility of changes to metered parking — the charge for parking meters is expected to rise — and the ongoing strike at the Stella D’oro factory in Kingsbridge, where workers have refused to accept a contract that would see their pay and benefits dramatically reduced.

“When I went to the meeting on Tuesday,” Mr. Hernandez said, referring to the Board 8 meeting, “[City Councilman Oliver Koppell’s] secretary came over to me and said, why are you doing this, we already have all these people doing this … and I said how many people are in this room?”

The meeting was sparsely attended. By the end of the meeting, only a small handful of people remained, and some Board 8 members themselves had left early.

“These people are not talking to the community,” said Mr. Hernandez, who works for the city public schools system. “They are talking to each other.”

Mr. Koppell said that wasn’t a fair assessment.

“The community boards are a focus of community concerns. There’s no doubt about it,” Mr. Koppell said.

Still, he was generally supportive of the idea of a new organization.

“I welcome public participation, certainly. There’s a certain degree of duplication, I think, in what he wants to do and what the community board does. And, after all, the community board does invite people to be on their committees even if they’re not on the community board. But I’m certainly not opposed in any way to groups getting together,” Mr. Koppell said.

The neighborhood association is the latest of several grassroots groups to form in the Riverdale-Kingsbridge neighborhood in recent months, including Northwest Bronx for Obama in 2008, and a far more informal group of Riverdale residents concerned about the state of the Riverdale Avenue commercial corridor. More recently, there was the inception of the Greater Riverdale Chamber of Commerce by engineer Joseph Gordon and Board 8 land use committee chairman Charles Moerdler, with the support of Andrew Wolf, Publisher of The Riverdale Review.