Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. delivered his annual “State of the Borough” address, his eighth since becoming borough president in 2009, today at the John F. Kennedy High School Campus in Marble Hill.
In his speech, which can be read in full at http://on.nyc.gov/2mhDhUK, Borough President Diaz discussed past successes as well as new initiatives to bring positive change to The Bronx that could serve as a model for all five boroughs.
“For nearly eight years, my office and our partners have developed and executed policies of equity and smart services, making The Bronx an even better place for all its residents,” said Borough President Diaz. “We said we would provide lawyers for tenants in court. We did. We said we’d raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We did. We said we’d bring EBT usage online. We did. We said we’d stop the regressive bag tax. We did. We said we would obtain the funding to rebuild Orchard Beach. We did.”
In outlining numerous successes The Bronx has seen in recent years, Borough President Diaz noted considerable job growth and new attention from national and international media, as well as billions of dollars in new investment that has been leveraged to create jobs, improve infrastructure and build thousands of units of affordable housing. Nearly 100,000 more Bronxites have jobs today than when the borough president took office in May 2009, according to statistics from the New York State Department of Labor.
The borough president also noted the recent infusion of $108 million in state financing by Governor Andrew Cuomo for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory, and called on the developer and City Hall to move the project forward.
“This project now has the funding it needs, thanks to the governor’s continued commitment to our borough,” said Borough President Diaz. “Let’s get it done!”
Despite the borough’s victories Borough President Diaz noted that there is still considerable work that needs to be done, not only in The Bronx but across the five boroughs, to make city services and resources more equitable.
“We have seen considerable improvement. But life is certainly not perfect in our borough and our city. Homelessness is at a record high, and our public housing is in crisis. Our criminal justice system needs a major overhaul and mental health care in this city is failing our citizens. Our children sit in overcrowded classrooms and large communities of this city are grossly underrepresented in our best high schools,” said Borough President Diaz. “Services and amenities abundant in other boroughs are lacking here and despite having world-class hospitals our borough’s health indicators have been slow to improve.”
On housing, Borough President Diaz discussed the future of the Jerome Avenue corridor, and the need to ensure that the City’s proposed rezoning works for local residents and workers at area businesses. The borough president also discussed the need to build more affordable and permanent supportive housing as a means to prevent homelessness, and threw his support behind Queens Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support plan, which would give rent subsidies to those in danger of losing their homes.
“Isn’t it cheaper to help someone with their rent, to provide them with the stability of their home, rather than put them up in a fancy Times Square hotel for $600 a night?” asked Borough President Diaz. “Isn’t that just common sense?”
During his speech, Borough President Diaz also focused on the need to bring new transportation projects to light, such as connecting Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx with the Regional Plan Association’s “Triboro Line” subway proposal and expanding CitiBike to all five boroughs.
Borough President Diaz also called for an end to major disparities in the City’s criminal justice, mental health and education systems. In particular, Borough President Diaz highlighted his forthcoming task force on gifted education and specialized high schools with Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, and called on the city to launch a comprehensive examination of school overcrowding in the five boroughs.
“We cannot continue to see talent wasted,” said Borough President Diaz. “The time to give our children the education they deserve is now.”
The borough president also called for the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to conduct a joint assessment of an assessment of how mental health services in our schools can be improved to better reach students in need.
“It is a matter of citywide urgency and importance,” said Borough President Diaz. “A holistic approach requires us to meet these challenges with compassion, not force.”
Borough President Diaz also spoke about President Donald Trump and the threat his administration presents to our continued success. Specifically, he noted that 40 percent of all Bronx residents were born in another country, and that The Bronx would never turn its back on its immigrant population, regardless of the actions and rhetoric of the Trump administration.
“I will continue to tirelessly advocate for Bronxites and for true equity and prosperity for all New Yorkers. We must stop Washington’s anti-immigrant agenda because most of us are the descendants of immigrants who arrived in this great country for a new start and opportunity,” said Borough President Diaz. “We will make our voices heard.”
Borough President Diaz closed his speech by urging greater civility and cooperation in political discourse, especially during this difficult time, when more and more New Yorkers must be willing to come together to support one another.
“We are at our best when we work together. We can disagree, but we must be civil in our disagreement. Our best way forward is to thrive through collaboration, good-spirited competition, and cooperation. We will flourish together. And our success is that of The Bronx and the City,” said Borough President Diaz.