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Bronx Residents Turn Out To Discuss Local Issues At Town Hall Meeting

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Residents of the Bronx gathered at Lehman College Tuesday evening, for the second in a series of town hall meetings to discuss local issues.

CBS 2's Maurice DuBois and Political Reporter Marcia Kramer, WCBS 880's Peter Haskell, 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa, El Diario/La Prensa's Marlene Peralta and Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York were on hand as Bronx residents talked about the issues at the top of their minds.

Click Here To Watch The Meeting

CBS 2 News, WCBS Radio 880, 1010 WINS, El Diario/La Prensa, CUNY and Common Cause NY have teamed up to hold one meeting in each borough (click here to attend an upcoming meeting).

Lenny Caro, president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, said businesses in the Bronx are losing business because of illegitimate parking tickets that motorists cannot fight.

If a Muni Meter machine is out of paper, motorists still get tickets because Department of Transportation employees are not trained to verify whether machines are really out of paper, Caro claimed.

"That chases businesses away," Caro said. "I know that I won't go back to that store because I get a $100 ticket. I know that it wasn't my fault. It was Transportation's fault."

When asked by DuBois if he fought the ticket, Caro said that was easier said than done.

"You have to take the number from the meter, say 'not guilty,' sometimes go in and appear, lose work time for it," Caro said.

A bill proposed last month in the City Council would make some changes to the Muni Meter system. It calls for the meters to be deactivated when parking rules are not in effect, or when receipt paper is not available.

Caro added that the manufacturing sector has been leaving the Bronx because of financial disincentives.

"The Empire Zone is almost being eliminated," he said, and businesses have a reason to leave. "You're not doing anything to bring me back to New York. On the other hand, you're actually chasing me away, because you're charging me more taxes. The landowners want more money."

Businesses are moving across the city limits to Westchester County, where they have cost incentives, Caro said.

When Haskell asked Caro if he believed Mayor Michael Bloomberg favored big business over small, Caro said whatever has happened in the past, it is time to look forward and focus on the new mayor's policies.

Adeline Walker, vice chair of Bronx Community Board 7, said her major concern was education.

"I'm still fighting and upset that the education levels of our children in the Bronx is not at the highest level to this day," Walker said, adding that she hopes the mayoral candidates will understand "our borough is really suffering."

Walker said a recent study had shown 1,000 minority students were advised not even to take the tests for getting into the city's specialized high schools, because they were told they wouldn't pass.

Furthermore, she said, some students have become sick after attending P.S. 51, the Bronx New School in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx. The now-shuttered school is contaminated with trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent that can cause a variety of health problems, including nerve, kidney and liver damage.

Walker said three of her children went to the school, and "20 years later, I find that it may be the reason that one of them is very ill."

Tym Moss, president of the LGBT Community Services Center of the Bronx, said more attention needs to be paid to the rights of gay and lesbian residents.

A rise in bias-motivated attacks on gay men has been documented around the city – most notably the shooting last month that killed Mark Carson, 32, in Greenwich Village. But Moss said such acts against LGBT people in the Bronx are routinely overlooked and do not make the headlines.

"Hate crimes do not happen only in Manhattan," Moss said. "They happen in the Bronx. Nobody hears about it."

Others at the meeting called for better extracurricular programs that "expose youngsters to community experiences," improved services for the disabled, better translation services, upgrades to services for the homeless, and the need for programs to promote responsible fatherhood.

Click here to attend an upcoming meeting as we continue our collective listening tour around the five boroughs of New York City. The next meeting takes on June 18 at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. Additional meetings will be held in Queens on June 25 at the N.Y. Hall Of Science and on Staten Island on June 27 at Wagner College.

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