HIGHER ED TODAY
BRONX TIMES REPORTER,16 JUNE 26-JULY 2, 2020 BTR
Nooses found in
Van Cortlandt Park
Pols. condemn alleged hate crime
Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Congressional Candidate Jamaal Bowman.
Photo by Jason Cohen
BY JASON COHEN
On Monday afternoon, grassroots
organization North Bronx Racial Justice
held a press conference in response
to nooses found in Van Cortlandt Park
and the lack of appropriate action and
investigation on the city’s part.
According to reports, Bronx residents
claimed to have seen three nooses
in Van Cortlandt Park on the eve of Juneteenth.
The reports indicated that instead
of investigating these discoveries,
the NYPD and Parks Department
offered alternative theories about what
the strings could be.
According to Gothamist, Rafael
Pena and Alexandra Haridopolos told
the 50th Precinct about the nooses
they witnessed on June 18. The NYPD
claimed it was a nylon string that is
often used to hang piñatas from a tree
branch. Upon further investigation, it
was determined that there was a party
at the location earlier and the incident
was not deemed a hate crime.
This comes on the heels of the discovery
of a noose in Marcus Garvey
Park in Manhattan, which the NYPD
also claimed was for construction.
Meanwhile, the Parks Department’s
investigation came to a different conclusion.
It found that the ropes were
part of an active construction site that
was breached in Van Cortlandt Park.
The ropes, which have been removed
at this time, were used to hold tree
branches together to protect them from
the construction-related work.
“There is no room for symbols of hatred
and racial bias in our parks, and
we take all reports of such seriously,”
said a Parks spokesman. “The recent
fi nding of ropes in Van Cortlandt Park
was concerning and we immediately
began an investigation after it was
brought to our attention.”
Jennifer Scarlott, coordinator North
Bronx Racial Justice, expressed anger
regarding police response and said that
they didn’t seem to be taking the matter
seriously. She questioned how they
determined the string was from a party
without properly investigating.
Jamaal Bowman and Senator Alessandra
Biaggi, who spoke at the Monday
press conference, were outraged
and said racism and anti-Semitism will
not be tolerated anywhere.
“We will not be intimidated,” Bowman
Bowman told the attendees that
hanging a noose often starts with a
lack of education. Children need to
know that doing that is wrong and racist.
“Racism and violent acts against
people of color in our community has
no place in the Bronx, New York, in
this nation or in the world, “Biaggi
added. “We will not stand for this.
Nooses in this community should not
be taken lightly.”
One person who was horrifi ed to
learn of the noose was Northwest
Bronx resident Keira Lapsley.
“I feel appalled. I’m a Black mom
with a Black son and a Black daughter,”
she said. “It’s very disturbing.”
Elected offi cials Assemblyman Jeffrey
Dinowitz, Councilman Andrew
Cohen and Congressman Eliot Engel
also released a statement on the incident.
“Regardless of whether the rope that
was left in the park was intended to be
a hateful symbol, we unequivocally denounce
hatred and intimidation in all
forms,” the statement said. “Our beloved
park has always been a home for
our community to promote love and acceptance,
most recently serving as the
site of peaceful protests against racial
violence. The location where the rope
was found is a common gathering site
for family parties, and we cannot allow
it to be taken over by fear and racism.
This incident must be thoroughly
investigated and treated with the seriousness
that it demands, and our community
should remain vigilant against
future incidents that sow fear in our
Elvira Mata was born with a physical disability
that causes swelling and pain in the
joints of her fingers. The second-year student
at Hostos Community College works as a senior
nurse attendant, and for months cared for
patients with COVID-19 in a Bronx hospital.
Despite her condition, she was able to lift and
bathe her patients.
“Before I go to work, I have pain,” says Elvira,
who was diagnosed as a young child with
boutonnière deformity. “But when I see that
the patients need me, I can move more freely.
I love seeing their smiles when I help them and
they feel better.”
Elvira is also dealing with tremendous
personal heartache after her father, a taxi
driver, died of COVID-19 in April. Her mother
was also infected and endured a lengthy period
I am proud to say that Elvira exemplifies
a standard of public service not uncommon
among students at the City University of New
York, an intense drive to help New Yorkers persevere
despite their own challenges and personal
losses. They are nurses and medics, National
Guard members and good Samaritans
who helped shoulder the pain of the pandemic
while they balanced demanding course loads
and caring for their own families.
They are why New York’s recovery goes
hand in hand with CUNY. With campuses
throughout the city that was the pandemic’s
one-time global epicenter, the nation’s largest
urban public university has the intellect
and applied expertise to help chart a course
forward; the capacity to retrain workers, and
equip them with the skills to participate in a
re-invented job market; and the wellspring of
creative capital to help our city and state move
forward in the months and years ahead.
When it comes to our students, Elvira
is not alone. Many others stepped up and did
what they could to help New Yorkers weather
the crisis. Here are just a few examples.
Anthony Almojera, a Brooklyn College
senior who is also an Emergency Medical Services
lieutenant paramedic in the FDNY and
vice president of the EMS officers’ union, has
always leaned on family and faith to get him
through difficult times. Almojera took off the
spring semester to have surgery on a torn biceps
tendon, an injury he sustained during a
call. When the pandemic surged in March, he
put off the surgery to pitch in, working 16-hour
shifts nearly seven days a week and fielding
some of the more than 7,000 calls that came in
each day requesting emergency medical service
in the city.
Shawna Townsend is pursuing her Ph.D.
in nursing at The Graduate Center while also
serving as a clinical nurse leader at the Hospital
for Special Surgery in Manhattan. When
the pandemic deepened, she helped convert a
hospital that specializes in orthopedic surgery
to one that could treat patients with COVID-19.
In the darkest days when up to four of the
hospital’s floors were filled with coronavirus
patients, she would find inspiration from the
patients who recovered and were showered
with applause from the staffers as they left the
Borough of Manhattan Community College
student Fenellah Kargbo is a member of
the New York Army National Guard. She managed
to keep up with her coursework in four
classes even after she was activated in March,
midway through the semester, to load personal
protective equipment at a distribution center
in Albany. For encouragement while separated
from her family, Kargbo, who plans to apply to
the BMCC nursing program, relied on frequent
video chats with her husband and 14-month-old
As their Chancellor, I am humbled by
the bravery and sacrifice of Elvira, Anthony,
Shawna, and Fenellah, all CUNY heroes. They
are exemplary ambassadors of the University,
embodying the University’s mission to help
one another so we all can move forward together.
They, and many more like them, are the
University’s guardian angels, and on behalf of
the whole CUNY system, I extend the gratitude
of the University community and all New Yorkers.