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BPs Diaz & Adams call for Greater Equity for Gifted Students

In new report, borough president’s call for greater access to gifted and talented education, test prep programs, specialized high schools and more

Today, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. released a new report, titled “Fixing the Pipeline: Solutions to Disparities in Gifted Education in New York City,” outlining multiple recommendations for the future of gifted and talented education at all levels in New York City’s public schools.

The report, which is the work of the borough president’s joint “Gifted and Talented Education and Specialized High Schools Task Force,” was released in front of the Tweed Courthouse in lower Manhattan, home of the New York City Department of Education.

Top recommendations in the report included requiring that all communities have equal access to gifted and talented programs in kindergarten, that all students in public pre-K programs must be tested for gifted and talented programs, that Citywide and other middle school gifted classed must be expanded across the city, that test prep programs must be further expanded for the specialized high schools, and that a single test should not be the only source of admission to the city’s specialized high schools, among others.

The report can be viewed at http://on.nyc.gov/2sQkL84.

"Today, we are giving the Department of Education a little ‘summer reading’ of their own, a report outlining what we believe are necessary changes the city could make today to bring more equity to programs for gifted learners in the five boroughs," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “We cannot send our children to Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech if they are not prepared. And we cannot expect them to be prepared if they do not have the same advantages that are offered to other communities."

Read the complete press release.

BP Diaz Hosts Annual Ramadan Celebration

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosted his annual Ramadan Iftar Dinner ceremony on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, in honor of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The end of the month of Ramadan, observed by more than one billion Muslims around the world, is marked with the joyous festival of Eid al-Fitr, which literally means the “Festival of Breaking the Fast.”

“Ramadan is observed by more than one billion Muslims around the world and we are proud to recognize and celebrate this joyous occasion with Muslims throughout our great borough,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Considering the political climate, I wish people in the Oval Office could see this gathering, where we have Muslims—from Albania, from Pakistan, from Bangladesh, from all over the globe—come together to take a moment to reflect on their great accomplishments in The Bronx, throughout the state and around the country.”

Honorees included the Muslims Giving Back non-profit organization, Mohammed Mardah,  Civic Engagement Committee Chair of the African Advisory Council, Executive Secretary of Muslims and Immigrant Coalition For Justice (MIC4JUSTICE) and member of Community Board 4; Summer Nasser, writer and Chairperson of Yemen Aid; and Tair Azirov, New York City Department of Education Director of Human Resources for District 79.

BP Diaz Marches in National Puerto Rican Day Parade

On Sunday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. showed off his boricua pride, marching in the 60th Annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Borough President Diaz stated that he believed that the festivities should focus not only on the rich cultural heritage of La Isla Del Encanto but should also shed light on the island’s economic crisis and the need for immediate federal action.

“The National Puerto Rican Day Parade has never been about one person, it’s about celebrating our great culture, our heritage, and our contributions to this country, as citizens,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Puerto Rico has much greater issues than to worry about who is marching in a parade.”

Borough President Diaz expressed this sentiment through his banner at the parade, which declared “Unidos Por Puerto Rico…That’s Why We March!”

For several years Borough President Diaz has been advocating on behalf of debt relief for Puerto Rico. In 2015, his office issued a letter, in conjunction with over 100 elected officials from across the nation, demanding Congress enact legislation that would allow the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to enter bankruptcy.

“The fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico has not receded since last year’s parade,” said Borough President Diaz. “The island’s debt has risen to a massive $123 billion and more than 200 schools are closing on the island due to lack of funds. People are dying because Puerto Rico has lost its doctors. The parade will come and go but the problems still remain. We need immediate action to help the 3.5 million residents—American citizens themselves—of Puerto Rico deal with the crushing debt crisis that affects their island.”

BP Diaz Celebrates Global Hip-Hop Day

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined dozens of hip-hop celebrities and hundreds of music lovers to celebrate "Global Hip Hop Day" on Thursday, June 8, 2017, as part of a celebration honoring past and present artists who help put the musical genre on the map.

Borough President Diaz joined hip-hop trailblazers such as Funkmaster Flex, DJ Kid Capri, Remy Ma, Fat Joe, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, hip-hop producer Larry Smith, Fever Records founder Sal Abbatiello, Commissioner Julie Menin of The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, The Universal Hip Hop Museum, Generation Hip Hop, The BulLion Foundation, Windows of Hip Hop and HOT 97 to commemorate the genre’s immense impact on music and pop culture across the world.

As part of the celebration, a portion of Sedgwick Avenue was rechristened “Hip Hop Boulevard,” to honor the Bronx neighborhood that give birth to hip-hop.

"The Bronx is an iconic, internationally renowned hip-hop destination, the home of a rebellious and innovative musical art-form that has, over several generations, become a worldwide powerhouse,” said Borough President Diaz during his remarks at the event. “To see so many generations of artists, who not only have paved the way but made powerful contributions in the arts and society, coming together to celebrate and honor this music and culture, it’s like I died and I went hip hop heaven.”

BP Diaz, DA Clark and Safe Horizon Partner on Anti-Stalking Campaign

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark and Safe Horizon have launched an anti-stalking campaign, which aims to use relevant social media content to enhance stalking victim safety and awareness of available resources for domestic violence victims.

The social media campaign, supported by federal funds under the Grants to Encourage Arrest and Enforcement of Protection Orders, seeks to educate the public on the early warning signs of stalking and where to get help.  The campaign will take an innovative approach towards disseminating the information through the use of social media platforms.

"Stalking and cyber-stalking are very serious issues, and this campaign is designed to use popular internet culture to find those who need help distancing themselves from a stalker and potential abuser and to connect them to resources on domestic violence, stalking and related issues. I am proud to partner with Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark's office and Safe Horizon on this innovative initiative to fight abusive behavior," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. 

Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said, “Last year, we prosecuted cases with stalking-related charges. This crime makes people feel defenseless, and cyber-stalking magnifies victims’ fear and vulnerability. This is why we have extended our outreach through social media with this essential campaign that primarily targets the younger people in our borough. I’m thankful to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and to Safe Horizon for collaborating in our efforts to educate the public and eradicate this hi-tech form of domestic abuse.”

Ariel Zwang, Safe Horizon CEO said, “Stalking is a crime that can get more serious over time, and may leave a victim feeling paralyzed or afraid to perform their normal, everyday routine. With the rise of social media and GPS apps, abusers have learned to utilize these platforms to further intimidate their victim in the form of cyber-stalking. But social media can also be a powerful tool to connect victims to services. That's why we are proud to partner with the New York City Police Department, New York City Department of Probation and the offices of the Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark's and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on this anti-stalking social media campaign to connect victims to resources and services that can keep them safe online and in real life.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, stalking is a public health concern known to affect millions of people in the United States. Stalking not only creates immediate emotional and physical damage, and impairs mental health; it also results in long-term outcomes such as mental disability, social isolation, and sometimes death. Stalking has become a national epidemic. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) found that 81 percent of women who were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabitating partner were also physically assaulted by that partner, and that 31 percent of women were also sexually assaulted.

Additionally, an estimated 6.5 million men have experienced stalking victimization during their lifetimes. Nationally, 7.5 million people file stalking police reports every year (NADW). Furthermore, approximately one in four stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking such as e-mail (83 percent) or instant messaging (35 percent) (BJS). These statistics demonstrate the demand for enhanced public safety and policy reformation that address stalking.

This online campaign provides an opportunity to go beyond the confines of printed material and leverage social media. The campaign allows service providers to target specific groups while also reducing exposure to harm, as an abuser may become violent if they notice printed material about domestic violence in a victim’s possession. In addition, a data-driven, more personalized approach to communications can help work through stigma to better reach and serve populations at-risk.

JPEGs of the social media graphics used for this campaign can be downloaded at https://flic.kr/s/aHskYexQGA.

Comptroller Stringer and Trustees: New York City Pension Funds Complete First-In-The-Nation Divestment From Private Prison Companies

As President Trump embraces draconian criminal justice and immigration policies, Comptroller Stringer & the Pension Funds liquidate roughly $48 million in private prison company stocks and bonds

(New York, NY) — Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and the Trustees of the New York City Pension Funds announced that New York City has become the first major public pension system in the nation to fully divest from private prison companies. The move to liquidate the City’s investments in private prison companies follows reported incidents of alleged human rights abuses across the private prison industry, posing long-term reputational and financial harm.

As of 2015, there were 126,000 inmates housed in approximately 130 private prisons operating in 30 different states, and last year, federal investigators found in an audit that private prisons have far higher rates of security and safety incidents per capita than comparable public institutions. Federal authorities have found that some private prisons have sought to reduce overcrowding by improperly confining rule-abiding inmates in segregated units, which are similar to solitary confinement. Limited and poor-quality medical care is common in the industry — and recent lawsuits have indicated that individuals housed within private prisons are routinely denied medical care. One facility allegedly went without a single full-time doctor for over half a year, and in a separate 2012 incident, a corrections officer was killed after a riot over low-quality food and medical care.

In addition, private prison companies operate private immigration detention centers, at which as many as 65 percent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees are imprisoned. So far in Fiscal Year 2017, at least eight immigrant detainees have died while in those private facilities. The White House expects to expand the use of those prisons and private detention facilities to house immigrants it intends to hold and deport, as it embraces draconian immigration policies. At least two companies from which the Comptroller has divested — GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America — operate immigrant detention centers.

“With Donald Trump in the White House, we’re seeing more and more industries try to profit from backwards policies at the expense of immigrants and communities of color. But because of this major new step, we are demonstrating that we will not be complicit. We are standing up for what’s right,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “Our criminal justice system has failed a generation of Americans because, for decades, we built bigger prisons instead of greater schools, and we were ‘tough on crime’ instead of ‘smart on crime.’ Society used mass incarceration as an economic development strategy at the expense of communities of color. Today, we’re taking action. As President Trump ratchets up hateful rhetoric and steps up deportations, private prison companies are going to see enormous reputational harm — and that means they’ll become even riskier investments. Morally, the industry wants to turn back the clock on years of progress on criminal justice, and we can’t sit idly by and watch that happen. Divesting is simply the right thing to do — financially and morally.”

The Pension Funds’ Trustees voted to divest in mid-May, and since, the Comptroller’s Office and the Pension Funds have sold roughly $48 million of stock and bonds from three private prison companies — GEO Group, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), and G4S. These first-in-the-nation moves come after the Trustees of the New York City Pension Funds voted to study divesting from private prison companies in September 2016, citing concerns about widespread health and safety violations as well as human rights abuses across the industry.

Because Comptroller Stringer and his fellow Trustees are fiduciaries, they are only able to consider divestment when an analysis finds that the move would add minimal to no risk to the pension funds. That study — conducted by the Comptroller’s Office and outside consultants — found that divesting would add minimal or no risk to the Pension Funds’ portfolios. This finding was substantiated by the Pension Funds’ counsel, which concurred that divestment would not violate the Trustees’ fiduciary duty.

An analysis conducted by the Comptroller’s office and outside consultants also found that there are inherent investment risks in for-profit prison companies. Reports have exposed a pattern of human rights issues in private prisons, including the physical and sexual abuse of inmates, wrongful deaths, and increased violence due to improper staffing. These failings can lead to reputational, legal, and regulatory risks — which could seriously harm investors. Because these risks are implicit in the industry, the Comptroller’s Office is unable to engage with private prison companies and encourage policies that would reduce them.

Examples of additional risks include:

  • Reputational Risks — Exposing poor conditions, high rates of violence, improper staffing levels, inmate abuse, and other human rights concerns in private prisons can damage these companies’ reputations, leading to stock price declines and lower returns — or losses — for pensioners.
  • Legal Risks — Lawsuits stemming from human rights abuses can lead to high payouts, making private prison companies less profitable and riskier investments for long-term shareowners like the City Pension Funds.
  • Regulatory Risks — Because most, if not all, private prison contracts come from government entities, these companies’ profits are entirely controlled by political fortunes. In addition, their ability to profit can be constrained by additional regulatory burdens. This increases risk for long-term investors.

As a result of these analyses, the Comptroller and Trustees voted in mid-May to divest from private prisons. Immediately after the vote, Comptroller Stringer directed the Pension Funds’ investment managers to liquidate all investments in companies that derive at least 20% of their revenue from private prisons, including both direct investments and stock owned as part of an index fund. That process was completed in late May.

On an annual basis, the Comptroller’s Office will analyze the Pension Funds’ portfolios to ensure no additional private prison investments have been added. If any have been, the Comptroller’s Office will make recommendations to the Boards of Trustees on divestment.

“The City of New York should not incentivize the private prison business. For-profit prisons create a perverse incentive to lock away our citizens, especially from traditionally underserved minority communities, and today’s announcement that our city’s pension system will divest from this predatory industry is welcome. In the interest of justice, other municipalities and pension funds should consider our example on this issue and move to divest from the for-profit prison industry,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

Bronx Week Gets an Encore on BronxNet!

The dynamism of the Bronx was evident in Bronx Week 2017 activities and BronxNet is sharing it all on your BronxNet channels. Each year during Bronx Week, the Bronx Ball and the Bronx Parade, celebrates notable people born or raised in the borough and inducts them into the Bronx Walk of Fame.  Immerse yourself in the Bronx Ball and Bronx Parade festivities on BronxNet, with 2017 honorees singer/songwriter Prince Royce, hip-hop artist/producer Funkmaster Flex, Actress Selenis Leyna, and medical innovator Dr. Manny Villafana.

Other Bronx Week events of interest being broadcast on BronxNet include the Centenarian Celebration, the Business Day Luncheon, a Veteran’s Appreciation Breakfast, and Montefiore’s Healthy Store Initiative/Bodga Walk. Experience The Bronx Ball on BronxNet channel 67-Optimum and 33-Fios, and on the web at www.bronxnet.tv on Saturday, 6/10, and 6/17 at 9pm, Sunday, 6/11, and 6/18 at 4pm and Thursday, 6/15 and 6/22 at 6:30pm.  Watch Bronx Week Highlights on the same channels on Saturday, 6/10 and 6/17 at 7pm, Sunday, 6/11 and 6/18 at 2pm and Thursday, 6/15 and 6/22 at 7pm. Visit: www.bronxnet.tv for the full schedule.

Bronx Week, an annual event presented by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and co-produced by The Bronx Tourism Council and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, features an array of activities that showcase the borough’s vibrant life and growth.  

“I want to thank BronxNet for their extensive coverage of this year’s Bronx Week 2017 festivities,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “For countless years, BronxNet has provided vital information and programming that is pertinent to our communities in The Bronx. Whether it is their broadcast or digital platforms, Bronxnet does a spectacular job in keeping local constituents informed about the wonderful things happening throughout the borough. Check out BronxNets re-broadcasts, throughout the week, to take a peek at all our ‘Bronx Week’ events that took place; and witness the growth that our borough is experiencing.”  

Read the complete press release.

Queens-Based York Studios Bringing
State-of-the-Art Production Complex to the Bronx

Bronx, NY - On Tuesday, June 6th, NYS Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Deputy Mayor Alicia Glenn on behalf of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Commissioner Julie Menin of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, and additional officials joined executives of York Studios to break ground on the Bronx’s newest blockbuster – a state-of-the-art film and television production complex.
A currently vacant 10-acre lot located off the Bruckner Expressway in the Soundview section of the Bronx will be transformed into what has been dubbed York Studios’ Michaelangelo Campus. When complete, the nearly $100 million development will boast a private gated complex featuring approximately 350,000 square feet of production space. Michaelangelo Campus will house nine sound stages, production office space, and workshops for each stage, in addition to offering eight loading docks and secure on-site parking.

“York Studios’ Michaelangelo Campus is unique as it is the first ground-up construction project of a state-of-the-art television and film production facility in the Bronx,” said York Studios Chief Executive Officer John Kalafatis.

"The television and film industry is growing across the five boroughs, and The Bronx is no exception. York Studios’ new Michaelangelo Campus in Soundview not only expands our borough's ability to host major movie and TV productions, it reactivates a long-dormant site, creates new jobs and is another excellent example of the ongoing positive transformation that is taking place in communities all over The Bronx," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

BP Diaz Hosts Bronx LGBTQ Pride Celebration

On Thursday, June 1, 2017, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., hosted the borough’s seventh annual LGBTQ & Allies Pride Awards Ceremony.

“It was a true honor to kickoff LGBTQ Pride Month, right here in The Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “This wonderful event offered my borough an opportunity to recognize several incredible individuals for the work they have done to strengthen the LGBTQ community and to help that community build allies across the city.”

Dr. Marjorie J. Hill, CEO of the Joseph Addabbo Family Health Center, was awarded the 2017 John Wade Award, which honors LGBTQ individuals for excellence in government service.

This year’s honorees also included legendary performer Dominique (Tyra A. Ross) Jackson, Renee Reopell, Director of the Adolescent AIDS Program at Montefiore; and Raul Rivera, a community organizer with Spaceworks.

The event, which was co-hosted by City Council Members Ritchie Torres and James Vacca, was made possible by the generous sponsorship of an array of community organizations, with AIDS Healthcare Foundation serving as the Grand Sponsor, and Adolescent AIDS Program at Montefiore and Union Community Health Center as Gold Sponsors.

During the event, Borough president Diaz also noted that his office will conduct a LGBTQ needs assessment survey for The Bronx throughout June, as part of the office’s efforts to celebrate Pride Month.
The survey can be taken online at http://bit.ly/2so1TJB.

BP Diaz Announces LGBTQ Needs Assessment Survey

Survey to launch at tonight’s Bronx LGBTQ & Allies Pride Awards 

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced today that his office will conduct a LGBTQ needs assessment survey for The Bronx throughout June, as part of the office’s efforts to celebrate Pride Month.

“Our LGBTQ population is growing and becoming more and more vocal about their needs and what services and amenities they would like to see in The Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Through this survey, my office will acquire more detailed information about our borough’s LGBTQ residents and how we can provide this important community with better government, cultural, medical and other services.”

The survey can be taken online at http://bit.ly/2so1TJB. Hard copies of the survey are also available at the offices of the borough’s 12 community boards.

In addition, the report will be available at tonight’s seventh annual Bronx LGBTQ & Allies Pride Awards Ceremony. That event will take place at Billy’s, 856 River Avenue (at East 161st Street), Bronx, at 6:00 p.m. The event is co-hosted by City Council Members Ritchie Torres and James Vacca.

“The LGBTQ community’s diverse needs are always growing and changing, and it is crucial that government officials periodically survey the community to see what new resources and services are needed to help LGBTQ individuals. The LGBTQ Needs Assessment will help us all better understand the challenges of LGBTQ Bronx residents, so that we can tackle them head on,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.

“We have a vibrant and ever-expanding LGBTQ community in The Bronx,” said Council Member James Vacca.  “As our community develops and expands, it is a necessity to continuously assess the wants and needs of the Bronx LGBTQ community. We, as elected officials, need to know where to allocate resources. We need to know what’s working and what isn’t working in order to make informed funding decisions. We also need to be made aware of new needs as they arise. I applaud the Borough President for being proactive in his efforts to obtain this useful information.”

“The Bronx Borough President continues to show his dedication to LGBTQ Bronx residents with this much-needed LGBTQ Needs Assessment.  This survey will document the needs of the community along with gaps in service and service overlap.  With this information, we will be able to continue to develop programs that meet the needs of our residents,” said Sean Coleman, executive director of Destination Tomorrow.

“Assessing the housing needs of older LGBTQ Bronxites through this survey is crucial, given the housing crisis that our city is experiencing.  At SAGE, we are dedicated to increasing the affordable housing options available to our LGBTQ elders in The Bronx,” said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. “That is why we are launching one of New York City’s first affordable LGBT-welcoming senior housing development right on Crotona Park in The Bronx.”

Read all of Borough President Diaz's press releases and statements.