Voices in Focus: Unemployment in the Bronx Stays Stubbornly High

In our roundup from the community and ethnic media this morning, we have grim economic news from the Bronx, the indictment of two plastic surgeons who allegedly practiced without licenses and without general anesthesia, a delayed honor for a Marine who sacrificed his life in Vietnam, and a child-literacy safety net in Harlem.

* Although the national unemployment rate has dropped slightly in recent months, The Norwood News painted a grim picture of unemployment in the Bronx in the first article in a series on the topic:

Hitting its highest peak in nearly two decades, the Bronx’s unemployment rate reached a staggering 14.1 percent in February — the most recent month for which local data is available — with approximately 77,701 residents in the labor force here unable to find paying work.

Though the borough has been pegged in recent decades as a place of rebirth, having rebounded from the devastation and neglect of the 1970s and 1980s, the Bronx continues to carry the highest unemployment rate of all the counties in New York State, and by a significant margin. The jobless rate for New York City in February was 10.2 percent, and the state’s overall rate was 9.2 percent.

Some hope that with plans in the works for an electric truck manufacturing company and the online grocer FreshDirect to move to the borough, as well as a new mall in Bay Plaza, the unemployment rate will drop.

But some say the unemployment issue is more systemic, and can’t necessarily be fixed by a few new local businesses.

“It’s largely tied to labor force demographics,” [James Brown, an analyst with the New York State Department of Labor,] said. “The Bronx’s working age population has a much higher number of people, proportionately, who have not completed high school, and a fairly large number who indicated a difficulty speaking the English language. Unemployment is pretty closely coordinated with education.”

Queens Latino ran a Spanish translation of an announcement by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman that his office had filed charges against two fake “plastic surgeons” who had performed liposuction, fat transfers and other treatments without general anesthesia on women in Queens and in Connecticut, leaving some of their patients disfigured:

According to the felony complaint, the defendants recruited women from Bellisima Full Service Spa, located at 51-03 108th Street in Corona, Queens.  Arango and Ordonez pretended to be doctors, although neither is a licensed physician.  After recruiting patients from Bellisima Spa, defendants Arango and Ordonez arranged for the patients to have surgery in New York or to be transported to Connecticut for surgery.  It is further alleged that they unlawfully practiced medicine without a license by performing liposuction and fat transfers on women, while Castillo periodically entered and exited the room.  It is further alleged that the defendants performed these surgical procedures without general anesthesia.

Schneiderman advised anyone seeking cosmetic surgery to make sure the surgeon and medical staff are properly licensed, and he asked those who have had bad experiences with unlicensed plastic surgeons to contact the New York Attorney General’s office at (212) 416-8356, where Spanish-speaking staff are on hand.

Aida Mendez, the sister of Sergeant Angel Mendez, shows a photo of her brother, who was honored 45 years after he was killed in Vietnam. (Photo by Humberto Arellano / EDLP)

* A Puerto Rican Marine’s sacrifice was commemorated 45 years after his death with the naming of a Staten Island post office after him, El Diario La Prensa reported. Angel Mendez was honored for his valor in Vietnam, where he died saving his commanding officer’s life.

During a mission on March 16, 1967, Mendez and his company of Marines were engaged in a fierce firefight with members of the Viet Cong. When the commanding officer, Lt. Ronald D. Castille was seriously injured, Mendez took over the platoon. Then, while covering Castile with his own body, Mendez received a fatal shot. Lt. Castille’s life was saved by the sacrifice of this Marine, and he later was named Chief Justice of Pennsylvania.

* And lastly, the Amsterdam News offered a profile of The Reading Team, a Harlem non-profit that helps children with behavioral, literacy or language issues to become more adept at reading.

“The mission of the Reading Team is to help children at high risk of reading failure,” [David Marion, a spokesman for the program,] told AmNews. “Our mission is to help kids who might not otherwise have the access to improve literacy skills. They might not have books in the home so they didn’t get the kind of fundamentals they should get to be ready to learn. It’s a function of disadvantaged families not having either the time, resources or know-how to make sure their children are getting exposed to reading and writing at home.”

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