Chris Hayes is probably still delighted by the image of Bronx youth storming the NHL if the ice center championed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for a repurposed Kingsbridge Armory comes into existence.
The thing about being from the Bronx, Darlene Rodriguez said, is that when you say the name, everyone has an opinion. Chris Hayes agreed but ventured that he likes to play off that image people have of his home borough.
Darlene, co-anchor of News 4 New York's Today in New York, and Chris, well-known to DWT readers as host of MSNBC's Up w/Chris Hayes and editor-at-large of The Nation, were cohosting an event Wednesday night called A Salute to the Bronx at the Bronx Public LIbrary Center, the other event I mentioned last night that I attended among this week's Education Nation festivities cosponsored by NBC News and the New York Public LIbrary. Obviously Darlene and Chris were the NBC News contingent.
There was live music from an exuberant Latin jazz ensemble at the start and finish of the program, which was kicked off by NYPL President Anthony Marx. Marx was clearly pleased by his on-site view of the heavy community use he had found being made of the Bronx Library Center (the NYPL serves the Bronx and Staten Island as well as Manhattan; Queens and Brooklyn have their own well-regarded public library systems), and was ready with an impassioned case for free public libraries as a bulwark of democracy.
You'd think this is one case that didn't need to be made, but I expect Dr. Marx knows as well as anyone in the country what an easy target libraries are in these times of massive buget-cutting. (The importance of libraries is something you'd think only a nation of ignoramuses would fail to understand. I guess that's why the case needs to be made even more urgently now.) Of course a library has to serve its community, and that means Bronx libraries have to be aware of the wide cultural and ethnic diversity of theirs -- a point later made as well by the Bronx Museum of the Arts's Brazilian-born education director, Sergio Bessa
The diversity issue popped up while Darlene and Chris talked early on about their experiences growing up in the Bronx. Chris made the serious point that living among such a diverse population and being educated in the Bronx public elementary-school system gave him an experience of human diversity that had a lot to do with the person he became.
Chris's trademark preparation and wit were on display in a conversation with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. (sometimes known as "the good Ruben Diaz," to distniguish him from his highly problematic father). He asked Diaz about plans for the massive and long-abandoned Kingsbridge Armory (not far from where we were, Diaz pointed out), which holds the potential to be part of a major economic surge for its area. Chris asked about his recently announced suuport for what he called a hockey rink, which the borough president corrected to an "ice center," with facilities for instruction and use for everything that can be done on the ice, which he believes will provide an attraction and destination, not just for Bronx residents but for non-Bronxites as well, while not competing with any of the businesses already in the area. (The obvious contrast: any kind of development project that includes the generally inevitable mall.) Diaz imagined Bronx youths storming into the NHL, an image that was burned into Chris's imagination.
There was an enjoyable appearance by Bronx Borough Historian (since 1996) Lloyd Ultan, who responded successfully to Darlene's challenge to name all seven Bronx High School of Science Nobel Prize winners -- all in physics. There was a segment with a contingent from the DreamYard Project (including co-executive director Jason Duchin), which works to fill the gap left by the near abandonment of arts education in the public schools.
And David Greco, a familiar figure to Food Network viewers as a mainstay of the city's food-service industry, was on hand to talk about the Bronx's "flourishing" Little Italy on Arthur Avenue, where his family has been doing business since his maternal grandfather opened shop in 1922. (I gather that Chris's family is still in the Bronx, since I think I heard him mention that in the not too distant past he had been shopping on Arthur Avenue for Thansgiving dinner. The centerpiece of David's Arthur Avenue-based empire is Mike's Deli, which bears the name of his father, who came to this country from Calabria and at 83 remains active in the business. The happiest surprise of the evening was the discovery at the end of the program that Davd and his team had also brought eats for the already-happy crowd. (The tiny mozzarella balls on the antipasta skewers were out of this world.)
Clearly the evening was designed for Bronx residents, but this interloper had a fine time. Actually, in way-Northern Manhattan I'm closer to the Bronx than to most of Manhattan, and
David Greco (of the well-known Mike's Deli) was on hand to talk about -- and provided some eats at the end. David's family has been doing business on Arthur Avenue since his maternal grandmother opened shop in 1922. (Mike is David's dad, still involved in the business at 83. )
David Greco (of the well-known Mike's Deli) was on hand to talk about the Bronx's flourishing Little Italy on Arthur Avenue. Here Mike beats Bobby Flay in a Food Network eggplant parmigiana throwdown.
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