Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. today delivered his annual “State of the Borough” address, his sixth since becoming borough president in 2009. In his speech, which he delivered at The Mall at Bay Plaza, Borough President Diaz discussed the progress The Bronx has made since he took office, while also outlining new programs and initiatives his office will pursue in the coming year.
Borough President Diaz noted that, since 2009, more than 16,000 new units of housing and more than 15,000 new jobs have been created in The Bronx. He also noted that unemployment has dropped, and that The Bronx has seen record investment, including over $1 billion in new investment last year alone.
“We’ve seen unprecedented, transformative growth since I became the borough president,” said Borough President Diaz. The state of The Bronx is stronger than it has been in decades. We are maximizing our assets, while improving our quality of life.”
Borough President Diaz announced several new initiatives during the speech, including the study of the potential decking of three borough train yards—149th Street, the Grand Concourse yards near Lehman College, and the 1 train yards connecting Riverdale and Kingsbridge.
“We will examine possible costs and potential density, and will take the first step towards creating new space as a key component of our city’s housing and economic development future,” said Borough President Diaz.
The borough president also called for the expansion of “impact investing” in New York City. Impact investments are ventures made with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental benefit, alongside a financial return. Borough President Diaz’s proposal would leverage a revolving fund with private sector investment to accelerate the greening of large residential buildings.
“We believe this proposal will clean our environment, create new jobs, reduce energy cost, and in the long run, keep our city affordable,” said Borough President Diaz. “We are looking not only to do well, but to do good.”
On education, Borough President Diaz noted the racial disparities in admissions at the city’s three specialized high schools—the Bronx High School of Science, Stuyvesant High School and Brooklyn Technical High School. The borough president proposed the creation of new specialized high schools, one in each borough that would use a portfolio system to select its freshman class. These new schools would also guarantee admissions to the top two performers in each city middle school.
“We must ensure that the best and brightest from every community have a chance to excel,” said Borough President Diaz.
During the speech, Borough President Diaz highlighted a number of new projects coming to the borough, including the redevelopment of the former Bronx General Post Office by Youngwoo & Associates, Freshdirect’s relocation to Port Morris, York Studios’ plan to build a new film and television studio in Soundview and the future Kingsbridge National Ice Center, among others.
Borough President Diaz also highlighted the future redevelopment of the Harlem River waterfront, urged the State to move on the reconstruction of the Sheridan Expressway, and called on the City to create a new freezer facility for the fish and produce markets at Hunts Point.
“It is time for the city to develop a plan to build a new freezer facility in Hunts Point. This will allow our markets to expand, lower costs for consumers, reduce truck traffic and pollution, create hundreds of new jobs and keep more revenue in The Bronx,” said Borough President Diaz.
Borough President Diaz also discussed his office’s efforts to employ Bronxites, highlighting the success of “NY Works” in his speech. Launched in August in partnership with the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Department of Labor, “NY Works” puts Bronxites into direct contact with borough employers, and has so far led to more than 4,000 job placements.
“Without a doubt, these are tremendous numbers,” said Borough President Diaz. “We are bringing together development and job placement like never before.”
The borough president also highlighted his office’s legislative agenda, including his continuing push for a citywide and statewide public gun offender registry. Borough President Diaz also discussed his proposal for a letter grading system for cosmetology businesses, which he announced in September.
“When I speak to people about this issue, every one—every single person—has their own horror story about a friend, a family member, or even themselves, who visited a salon to look good, and ended up with a major health issue,” said Borough President Diaz. “We have seen numerous cases of staph infections, hepatitis and other illnesses. Doesn’t the evidence demand more oversight?”
Borough President Diaz noted several other future initiatives in his speech, and closed with a remembrance of former Bronx Borough President Herman Badillo and former Governor Mario Cuomo, both of whom passed away in 2014. Borough President Diaz noted the success of The Mall at Bay Plaza, citing it as a transformative development that is setting the tone for the future of the borough.
“We move forward, in the spirit of Herman Badillo and Mario Cuomo. We move forward, understanding that we can design and enact a transformative agenda for our future while also respecting the hardships and the glories of our past,” said Borough President Diaz. “Look at where we are today. Look at the hundreds of Bronxites working here this morning. Look around you at this tremendous structure, and the new opportunities it has brought to our borough.
Borough President Diaz added, “We can. And we will. Because we deserve it.”
The full speech can be read at http://on.nyc.gov/1zOPJF9.