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important updates

Barnes & Noble to Remain in Bay Plaza

BP Diaz Brokers Compromise Between Bookseller & Prestige Properties

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. signed up for a savings club membership and purchased several books following Thursday’s announcement that the Barnes & Noble in Co-op City would remain open. The bookseller and its landlord, Prestige Properties, reached a compromise extending the store’s lease for two years following the intervention of Borough President Diaz and his staff.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. today joined representatives of Barnes & Noble and Prestige Properties to announce that the bookseller’s location at the Bay Plaza Shopping Center will remain open.

Following the intervention of Borough President Diaz, Barnes & Noble and Prestige Properties have agreed to a two-year extension of their current lease, averting the expected closure of the store in January, saving 50 jobs and allowing both companies more time to develop a long-term agreement.

“For several days my staff and I went back and forth with both Barnes & Noble and Prestige Properties, and we were able to help these two entities work towards a compromise that keeps this bookstore in The Bronx. I hope that, during this two year extension, both companies are able to reach a long-term agreement that ensures their mutual success in our borough while keeping Bronxites employed. This is a major victory for The Bronx, and I am grateful that both companies have come to an agreement for the betterment of our borough,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“Barnes & Noble is extremely excited to announce that we have reached an agreement with Prestige Properties to extend our lease.  We deeply appreciate the help of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., in helping to coordinate our discussions with Prestige.  We look forward to continuing to serve the Bronx community,” said David Deason, Vice President, Real Estate, Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

“As a courtesy to the community and upon the request of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., we made every effort to ensure that Barnes & Noble remains at their current location. Keeping Barnes & Noble in our borough is beneficial for all and we are thankful for the Borough President’s assistance in helping make this happen,” said Sam Shalem, Chairman and CEO of Prestige Properties and Development Co., Inc.

Read the complete press release.

BP Diaz Addresses Urban Land Institute Tour

On Monday, October 20, 2014, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. addressed a tour of developers, planners, architects and other urbanists from around the world attending the Urban Land Institute’s convention. Participants were first walked through the 161st Business Improvement District near Yankee Stadium, and later ate lunch at the Yankee Tavern.

During his remarks, Borough President Diaz discussed the tremendous renaissance of the “New Bronx,” highlighting for attendees the remarkable strides the borough has made over the past three decades.

“We are the American dream in The Bronx,” said Borough President Diaz. “If we are where we are today, anything is possible in the United States. All you need is the will. All you need is the intellectual capital. All you need is a little bit of faith, prioritizing, and planning with purpose.”

BP Diaz Hosts Italian-American Heritage Celebration, Honors Sen. Al D'Amato

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosted his annual Italian-American heritage Celebration on Thursday, October 16, 2014, at the Schiff Family Great Hall on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo. Honorees and other attendees at the event included (l to r) Joseph Sciame, former United States Senator Alphonse “Al” D’Amato, FDNY EMS Paramedic Erica Golino, Department of Sanitation Supervisor Paul Visconti and Armand Paganelli, owner of Mt. Carmel Pharmacy in Belmont.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosted his annual Italian-American heritage Celebration on Thursday, October 16, 2014, at the Schiff Family Great Hall on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo. During the event, Borough President Diaz honored former United States Senator Alphonse “Al” D’Amato, who served new York State in that capacity from 1981 to 1999.

During his remarks, Senator D’Amato said that he decided to accept the borough president’s invitation to be honored because he admires him for his commitment to public service and the people of The Bronx.

“There’s not a Republican way or a Democratic way, there’s the right way and the wrong way,” said Senator D’Amato in his remarks. “And Ruben Diaz stands for rebuilding The Bronx and giving opportunity to make it stronger, and that’s why I’m here today.”

Register Now for the 20th Annual ‘Tour de Bronx!’

On Wednesday, October 15, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined representatives from Transportation Alternatives, Montefiore, The Bronx Tourism Council, Coca-Cola, Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center, St. Barnabas Hospital and the Bronx YMCA at a press conference to encourage riders to register for the 20th annual Tour de Bronx. Those interested in registering for the ride can visit ilovethebronx.com.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., The Bronx Tourism Council and Transportation Alternatives today announced the 20th Annual “Tour de Bronx,” the largest free bicycling event in New York State which will take place on Sunday, October 26, 2014.

Sponsored by the Montefiore Medical Center, St. Barnabas Hospital and the Bronx Lebanon Medical Center, the “Tour de Bronx” traditionally brings together nearly 6,000 bicyclists from around the world. This year’s launch event was held at the Bronx YMCA, one of the stops on the Tour de Bronx.

During the event, Borough President Diaz encouraged potential riders to register to participate at www.ilovethebronx.com.

"Riding in the Tour de Bronx is a healthy way to explore our borough, especially with 6,000 fellow travelers. Once again, I am proud to welcome cyclists from all over the region to this fantastic event, which gives them an opportunity to explore our amazing parks and neighborhoods and discover all the things that make our borough a great place to live, work and raise a family," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

BP Diaz Dedicates the Oliver Koppell Learning Center
at the Kennedy High School Campus

G. Oliver Koppell and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. join students from the eight schools located on the John F. Kennedy High School Campus at the dedication of the building’s newly-renovated library, named the “G. Oliver Koppell Learning Center,” on Thursday, October 9, 2014. The $700,000 library renovation was jointly funded by Borough President Diaz and then-Council Member Koppell in FY2013.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined Council Member Andrew Cohen, educators and students today to dedicate the newly-renovated library at the John F. Kennedy High School Campus the “G. Oliver Koppell Learning Center,” in honor of the former Attorney General, City Council Member, State Assemblyman and longtime figure in the political and civic life of The Bronx.

The renovation was funded by Borough President Diaz and Mr. Koppell in FY2013, while Mr. Koppell served in the City Council. The two officials jointly provided $700,000 in capital funding for the project.

“We all stand on the shoulders of someone who prepared, who fertilized the ground, so that in the future someone like me could be where I am today,” said Borough President Diaz while discussing the need to fund major education projects at the dedication and the importance of the new library. “We’re paying it forward. Shame on us if we don’t take the opportunity to invest tax dollars to make sure we get a good rate of return on our best investment: our students.”

“I don’t care that we now have computers and all the rest, I don’t think that there’s any substitute for a real book,” said Mr. Koppell at the event. “Today is a very proud day for me, and I’m glad to be a part of making this a reality.”

“Oliver Koppell’s dedication to this library is endemic of his dedication to the issue of education throughout his career,” said Council Member Cohen at the event. “Education is near and dear to his heart, and he deserves a round of applause for that.”

Mr. Koppell first served in the New York State Assembly from 1970 to 1994, when he became New York State Attorney General. Mr. Koppell also served as president of Bronx Community School Board #10 and as a member of the New York City Council from 2002 through 2013.

The Journey of Two Peoples, Brought Together in Celebration

Congressman Eliot Engel, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, share a laugh at a joint Sukkot and Hispanic Heritage Month celebration--co-sponsored by Borough President Diaz, Consul General Aharoni and the Jewish Community Relations Council--at Salanter Akiba of Riverdale's lower school on Monday, October 6.

The Consulate General of Israel in New York joined with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., JCRC-NY and other local officials to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month and the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot

At what first seemed a coincidence of the calendar, two communities met at the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy Monday night October 6, to jointly celebrate the arrival of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and National Hispanic Heritage Month. The timeliness of the shared celebration highlighted the important contributions made by both the Hispanic American and Jewish Communities here in New York City, and honored the personal journeys that both communities have endured as they share their unique culture and heritage with the New York area.

Said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. (D), "This was an amazing event, one that brought together the Latino and Jewish communities of not just The Bronx but the entire City, both of which have played important roles in reshaping their communities. This evening not only helped ring in the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot and celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, it also offered our Latino and Jewish communities a chance to bond through stories, music and even Kosher Mexican food. Both groups left realizing that they share a lot more in common than a date on the calendar, and it is my sincere hope we can replicate this event in the future."

Read the complete press release.

State Senator Jeff Klein, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce launch Bronx H.I.R.E.
Survivors Program to pair Domestic Violence Victims with Jobs

Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Bronx Chamber of Commerce executives announced the Bronx H.I.R.E. Domestic Violence Survivors Job Readiness and Internship Program Wednesday, a new job training initiative that will lead victims of domestic violence on a path to financial independence.

“Helping domestic violence survivors reach financial independence is an important step toward avoiding the common occurrence of returning to the abusive relationship because of their financial need. Through the Bronx  H.I.R.E. Domestic Violence Survivor Program these  women will  gain confidence to fine tune their skills and enter the workforce  to move towards  safe and enriching lives. I thank Senator Klein for launching this crucial program that will  help survivors overcome economic barriers and secure long-term financial independence,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

This spin-off of the already successful Bronx H.I.R.E program, will launch as a pilot on October 16th with ten women selected from the non-profit Violence Intervention Program, Inc., in partnership with the Bronx Borough President’s office. The women will embark on a six-week job training program to hone skills including resume writing, interviewing, Microsoft Office, typing, writing and Quickbooks.

Read the complete press release.

Statement from Borough President Diaz
RE: Mayor de Blasio Signs Executive Order to Expand
Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act

“I am thrilled with Mayor de Blasio’s executive order to expand the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act. Today’s announcement is a victory for the hard working people of the Bronx and the City of New York.  The mayor's executive order will benefit thousands of workers, covering employees of commercial tenants in development projects that take in more than $1 million in city subsidies.  

“We first introduced the ‘Fair Wages for New Yorkers’ Act in 2011 to fight for the rights of those underserved and often ignored residents of this City.  The expansion of this bill will ensure that tax payer subsidized developments work for even more New Yorkers and we applaud Mayor de Blasio for it.   

“As I have said in the past, when developers voluntarily use taxpayer subsidies to make their projects work, they must do better by their employees. New York City is open for business, but at a better rate of return for the taxpayer.  The Mayor’s executive order marks another important step forward for economic development policy in our City and will have an incredible impact on the lives of thousands of hardworking residents,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Statement from Borough President Diaz
RE: MTA Vote to Approve Proposed Capital Plan

“The MTA’s inclusion of the East Side Metro-North expansion in its capital plan is another major step forward for our borough, and I am thrilled that the MTA board has voted to support this expansion and send it to the State Legislature for final approval. I like to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo for his strong support of this project, as well as State Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein for his tremendous advocacy on this issue. I would also like to thank our two MTA board members from The Bronx—Fernando Ferrer and Charles Moerdler—for their unwavering support of this proposal.

“As we make our final case to the State Legislature to approve the funding for this expansion, Albany will see an entire borough united in support of this revolutionary project. These four new Metro North stations—Co-op City, Parkchester/Van Nest, Morris Park and Hunts Point—will not only be amazing new amenities to the communities they serve, but will help transform the entire region.

“This is my highest priority, and I look forward to discussing this proposal’s merits with my friends in the State Legislature. No project is more important to the future of The Bronx than the East Side Metro-North expansion,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Happy Rosh Hashanah from Borough President Diaz

"I want to wish all the Jewish residents of the Bronx and the City of New York a Happy and Healthy New Year. As we reflect on the past year and we get ready to bring in year 5775, please remember to keep those in our community who are hungry or in need in your thoughts and prayers. I also ask that we make a commitment to help our neighbors. No good deed is too small, and something as simple as holding the door open for someone or helping a neighbor up a flight of stairs goes a long way.

"L’Shana  Tova!" said Borough President Diaz.

Bronx Unemployment Drops to Single Digits

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. praised the news, announced today by the New York State Department of Labor that the Bronx County unemployment rate has dropped to single digits, down to 9.8 percent.

“When I first became borough president, I made it clear that job creation would be a top priority of my administration. Over the past five years my office, in partnership with the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, city and state officials, our business community, no-profits and everyday Bronxites, we have worked hard to create thousands of new jobs in The Bronx. What we are doing is working,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

The borough has had a double-digit unemployment rate since January 2009, when it stood at 10.2 percent, peaking at 13.9 in January 2010. One year ago, in August 2013, the borough’s unemployment rate stood at 12.1 percent.

Since Borough President Diaz took office in 2009, The Bronx has seen $5.768 billion in total development, the creation of more than 13,000 in new units of housing and more than 14,000 new jobs created. Much of this progress is outlined in the office’s annual development report, which can be read at http://on.nyc.gov/1pkMnYS.

Read the complete press release.

Borough President Diaz Calls for New Letter Grade System
for Salons & Spas

Nail Salons, Spas, Barber Shops and Similar Businesses Would be Covered by New System,
Similar to Current System Covering NYC’s Restaurants

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is introducing legislation in the City Council that would create a new system of letter grades for cosmetology businesses, including nail salons, spas, barber shops, beauty parlors and other similar businesses throughout the five boroughs. The legislation will be introduced at the behest of Borough President Diaz by Council Member Rafael Espinal, chairperson of the City Council’s Consumer Affairs committee.

The new system will be modeled after the current letter grading system used by the Department of Health to monitor restaurants and food service establishments.

“While most salon and spa owners operate clean, reputable establishments, some do not, and they are putting the health and safety of their customers at great risk,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “The proposals we put forward today will go a long way towards ensuring that the people of this city have a clean and safe atmosphere to get their hair done, to get a manicure or pedicure, or any of the other practices typically found in spas and beauty establishments.”

In addition to creating a new letter grade and inspection system Borough President Diaz’s proposal also calls for the creation of a “Customer’s Bill of Rights,” which would be hung conspicuously in each establishment.

Read the complete press release.

Borough President Diaz Spoke at 'Yes! The Bronx' Film Festival

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. speaks about the borough's presentation on film during the inaugural "Yes! The Bronx" film festival on Saturday, September 20, 2014. Borough President Diaz is joined by (l to r) author Avery Corman (Kramer v. Kramer, Oh God!), film producer Jordan Kinley (The We and The I), director Raymond De Felitta (City Island) and Cynthia Lopez, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

Statement from Borough President Diaz
RE: The Passing of Alfredo Thiebaud

“I am incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend, Alfredo Thiebaud, founder and president of Delicioso Coco Helado.

“Through his company, Mr. Thiebaud was able to provide an opportunity for employment to thousands of individuals, many of them new immigrants to this country, by joining his workforce. These carts, which sold Mr. Thiebaud’s signature flavors of helado—such as coconut, cherry and mango—have become synonymous with summer fun, and were born right here in The Bronx.

“Mr. Thiebaud always gave back to the community, and was among our borough’s greatest humanitarians. He was always quick to help a community group or a school with their event, donating money, time or product to numerous worthy causes across the city. He was a frequent supporter of Bronx Week, as well as other events produced by my office, and he was always willing to go the extra mile for the people of The Bronx.

“Alfredo Thiebaud was a great man and a great friend, and this tragic accident has deprived us of one of the best. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends, his employees and the thousands of people who have lost a true friend today with the passing of Alfredo Thiebaud,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

BP Diaz Issues Letter on Shelter Sites

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has issued a letter to Lilliam Barrio-Paoli, Deputy Mayor for Health & Human Services, concerning the lack of community notification and community input regarding the siting of homeless shelters in The Bronx.

The letter specifically mentions the recent decision by the Department of Homeless Services to bring a family shelter to the former Capri Whitestone Motel, located at 555 Hutchinson River Parkway, despite both the area’s lack of amenities and numerous economic development projects that have taken a foothold in the surrounding communities.

“Again, I am not opposed to sheltering our homeless families, but I am opposed to sheltering them at this site,” states Borough President Diaz in the letter.

The complete letter can be read here: http://on.nyc.gov/1ww5lkv.

Borough President Diaz Hosts Annual 9/11 Memorial Event

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. addresses the crowd at his office’s annual 9/11 memorial event, The Bronx Will Always Remember.” The event was co-hosted by the Bronx County Supreme Court and took place in Lou Gehrig Plaza on East 161st Street and the Grand Concourse. During the event, the names of all 144 Bronx residents who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were read aloud.

Getting Guns off the Street

Bronx D.A., NYPD to Hold Gun Buyback September 20th

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson announces a “Cash for Guns” day – Saturday, September 20th -- done in partnership with NYPD Commissioner William Bratton and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., along with the pastors of three Bronx churches where the buybacks will take place.

“It is in the best interest of every citizen in the Bronx to get illegal handguns and other firearms off the streets to make our borough even safer than it already is,” notes District Attorney Johnson.

Operable handguns and assault rifles will be accepted on September 20th between 10AM and 4PM at the following three locations:

Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church
2430 Walton Avenue

New Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ
1554 Minford Place

Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church
3985 Bronxwood Avenue

“Taking illegal guns off of our streets has been a priority of mine since the day I became an elected official, and my commitment to ending gun violence remains as strong today as it was then,” says Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

WellCare Celebrates Bronx Seniors Throughout September

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Assembly Members Marcos Crespo and Marc Gjonaj Support Annual Celebration

WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG), a leading provider of managed care services for government-sponsored health care programs, is partnering with local elected officials to host Bronx Senior Month, a series of senior-focused events taking place throughout September to celebrate and support the health and well-being of Bronx-area seniors.

This is the third year that WellCare has co-sponsored the month-long senior celebration, which includes health and wellness resource fairs, and events to foster physical activity, social engagement and fun.

“Bronx Senior Month is a great way to honor seniors for their contributions to our rich history. Our senior citizens are the backbone of this community and I couldn’t be prouder to partner with WellCare to salute them throughout the month of September,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

Statement from Borough President Diaz
RE: US Department of Education Awards Hostos
Community College Title V Grant

“I would like to congratulate Hostos Community College for receiving a $2.6 Million Title V Grant award from the United States Department of Education.

“Receiving an award of this magnitude recognizes Hostos’ leadership in providing quality education to students from diverse backgrounds. This grant will help Hostos Community College further its commitment in providing an array of innovative programs to help train and empower the next generation of leaders. I look forward to seeing the tremendous impact this grant will have on students and the entire institution,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Borough President Diaz Salutes Health Care Labor Unions'
Contributions to The Bronx

On Friday, September 5, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., saluted the ongoing contributions of the health care labor unions to the Bronx in celebration of Labor Week and ahead of the 2014 NYC Labor Day Parade, which took place on Saturday, September 6h.

Since 2011, the Bronx Borough President’s Office has coordinated Bronx CAN Health initiatives to improve the public health of Bronxites.  CAN (Change Attitudes Now) works to help people eat healthier, engage in more physical activity and take charge of their own health, whenever possible through small, sustainable lifestyle changes.  

“Labor is an integral part of the New Bronx we are building, and they are key allies.  With health care being the largest sector of employment for the Bronx, the health care unions are our work.  We salute them for their great work and celebrate our ongoing partnership,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

Statement by Borough President Diaz
RE: Council Member Cabrera’s Remarks on LGBT Rights

“I am appalled and concerned by video that has surfaced of Councilmember Fernando Cabrera, recorded in Uganda, in which he celebrates that country’s government and its laws both prohibiting marriage equality and opposing equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

“I am proud to represent 1.4 million Bronxites, many of whom are members of the LGBT community, including members of my own family. That number also includes a large African population, including many individuals and families who have fled the oppression of countries like Uganda for the freedom and opportunity of the United States. The Ugandan government’s recent anti-gay legislation, known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” would have criminalized same-sex relationships in their country, and punished anyone who associates with LGBT people or speaks up for their equality and their humanity. This legislation was enacted, then struck down by the Ugandan judiciary.

“These laws were widely condemned throughout the world for cruelty, inhumanity and being offensive and discriminatory, and the Ugandan government has been regularly cited as one of the world’s worst human rights violators by organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others. Councilmember Cabrera should not be stoking the flames of oppression abroad, nor should he be praising the Ugandan government action’s as a model that should be replicated here.

“His comments are offensive and I condemn them,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

The complete video of Council Member Cabrera’s remarks can be found at http://youtu.be/Ob6uU-QxhMY.

NYC Elected Officials to NRA: Support Our Fight Against Illegal Guns

A coalition of elected officials from across New York City—including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and City Council Members Costa Constantinides, Ritchie Torres, Paul A. Vallone, Andrew Cohen, Helen Rosenthal, and Vanessa Gibson—have issued a letter to Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association, urging the organization to support legislation calling for a public registry of felony gun offenders in New York City.

“Since this legislation deals only with criminals, and since our focus is solely on illegal guns and their illegal use, we would hope that you would join us in this effort. Given your organization’s stated position as both ‘America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights’ and the ‘premier firearms education organization in the world,’ we feel certain that support of a public registry highlighting felony gun offenders fits well within your mission,” states the letter.

The complete letter can be found at http://on.nyc.gov/W6SXb1.

Introduced last month by Council Members Constantinides, Torres and Vallone at the behest of Borough President Diaz, the bill mandates that registered gun offenders will be listed in a publicly available online sub-directory, which will provide a searchable database.  Individuals can sign up for free automatic email notifications when an offender moves into a geographic area they specified.

The registry will be updated on a monthly basis and will include: the offender’s name, block on which they live, a physical description, the crime the offender was convicted of, and sentence imposed.  Gun offenders are required to be registered for only four years from the date of release or after conviction, after which their names are expunged.

More information about the legislation can be found at http://on.nyc.gov/1rfIgPp.

Statement from Borough President Diaz
RE: Sen. Ted Cruz’s Bronx Bashing

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has issued the following statement in response to Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s attack on The Bronx, made during a speech before the conservative group Americans for Prosperity on Saturday:

“Ted Cruz's willingness to traffic in the outdated stereotypes of past decades is disgusting, and is totally devoid of truth. The Bronx has seen unprecedented positive growth in recent years, and Senator Cruz's infantile attempt to score cheap political points by slandering our borough is revolting, and unworthy of the title of United States Senator. Grow up, Senator Cruz," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Coverage of Sen. Cruz’s remarks can be found here: http://read.bi/1Cg0PaV.

Borough President Diaz Co-hosted Tony Orlando Concert at Seton Park

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. addresses the crowd of over 600 in attendance to see Bronx Walk of Famer Tony Orlando at Seton Park on Thursday, August 28. The concert was presented jointly by State Senator Jeff Klein and Borough President Diaz as part of the senator’s annual summer concert series.

NYC DOT and DDC Announce Fordham Plaza Phase 2
Groundbreaking in The Bronx

On Wednesday, August 27, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined NYC Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora and NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to break ground for phase two of the ongoing renovation of Fordham Plaza. Here, Borough President Diaz and the commissioners review renderings depicting the plaza’s future.

Premier transportation hub in the Bronx will be enhanced after collaborative reconstruction process with the Department of Design and Construction. Project completion expected in fall 2015.

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora today announced the groundbreaking of Phase 2 of the Fordham Plaza reconstruction project in the Bronx. The new Fordham Plaza will play an important role in Vision Zero’s goal to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries with shortened pedestrian crossings, new direct crossings established to deter jaywalking, and a 25 percent expansion in pedestrian space.

A major transit and commercial hub, Fordham Plaza sits at the crossroads of 12 local and regional bus lines including Bx12 and Bx41 SBS lines, the fourth busiest Metro North train station, Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus, home to some 6,700 students, Roosevelt Educational Campus with some 6,800 elementary and high school students, and Fordham Road, which is traveled by 80,000 pedestrians daily.

“The groundbreaking of Fordham Plaza is good news for The Bronx. This project will significantly improve transit riders’ access to the area’s 12 bus lines and rail transportation while also taking advantage of the more than 80,000 pedestrians and potential customers that walk through the area daily. This project will transform Fordham Plaza into the vibrant, pedestrian- friendly transit hub we know it can be and I look forward to seeing Fordham Plaza becoming an even greater hub of our borough’s retail activity and culture,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

Borough President Diaz, New York Yankees & AT&T
Host Fourth Annual ‘Borough President’s Cup’ Little League Championship

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President, AT&T, join the Bronx Bombers on the field following the 2014 Borough President’s Cup Championship at Yankee Stadium on August 26, 2014.

On Tuesday, August 26, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the New York Yankees and AT&T co-hosted the fourth annual “Borough President’s Cup” Little League Championship. The game featured a match-up between the 2013 champions Grand Slam Little League and the Bronx Bombers, who competed for this year’s title in a game at Yankee Stadium.

The Bronx Bombers took the championship with a 14-2 victory over Grand Slam Little League.

To compete for the “Borough President’s Cup,” players for each Little League had to meet a set of requirements unrelated to their performance on the field. Those included a B-average in school, 90 percent or greater school attendance and a demonstrated commitment to community service. This year, some of the teams participated in a cleanup of Claremont Park as part of their community service, in partnership with a borough non-profit organization, The Bronx is Blooming.

“For the fourth straight year, we’ve given Bronx Little Leaguers a chance to walk in the footprints of legends like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and in the shadows of the all-time greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. I would like to thank AT&T and the New York Yankees for once again helping my office make this a wonderful event, and for giving these young men a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“AT&T is proud to once again support the Borough President's Cup, which encourages a winning combination of strong academic performance and team building skills," said Marissa Shorenstein, New York State President, AT&T.  "I'd like to acknowledge Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a tireless advocate for kids all across the borough he loves.   Last but not least, I want to congratulate the two teams that have worked so hard, both on and off the field, to play here to Yankee Stadium tonight: the 2014 champions, Bronx Bombers and the runner-up, Grand Slam Little League.

"On behalf of the Bronx Bombers, I would like to thank Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the New York Yankees and AT&T for the wonderful opportunity to play in Yankee Stadium in the Borough President's Cup," said Dan Stroud, head coach of the 14U Bronx Bombers. "It is such a great privilege that our players, coaches and families will cherish for the rest of their lives."

Borough President Diaz Hosted Back to School Literacy & Health Fair

Over 800 free backpacks were distributed at Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s annual Back to School Literacy & Health Fair, which took place on Saturday, August 23, at M.S. 127 in Castle Hill. The event was co-sponsored by Montefiore, Healthfirst and the New York Urban League.

NYC Parks Unveils Self-Closing Gates, Life Rings and Additional Water Safety Measures at City Boat Launches

Following the tragic deaths this summer of two 13-year-old boys in the Bronx River, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, today announced that NYC Parks has implemented a series of changes at boat launch areas to enhance water safety.  The announcement was held at Hunts Point Riverside Park along the Bronx River, with many of the changes on display.  Also in attendance at the announcement were Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., State Assembly Member Marcos A. Crespo, Reverand Joel Bauza, representatives from Community Board 2, Community Board 9, and community-based organizations including the Bronx River Alliance, the Point Community Development Corp., Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, and Rocking the Boat.

“When our borough faced an unspeakable tragedy in June—the drowning deaths of two young men in the Bronx River—the community called out for safety improvements,"  said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.  "Commissioner Silver and the Parks Department listened, and the improvements we announce here today show just how attentive this agency has been to the safety concerns of this community and the entire city. As the summer comes to a close, I urge everyone who uses our recreational waterways to be safe.”

Read the complete press release.

Constantinides, Diaz, Torres, Vallone Intro Gun Registry Legislation

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr speaks at a press conference announcing the reintroduction of legislation creating a publicly available gun crime offender database in New York City on the steps of City Hall on Thursday, August 21, 2014.

Borough President Diaz was joined by (l to r) Council Member Andrew Cohen, Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Council Member Ritchie Torres, Council Member Costa Constantinides, Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz and Council Member Andy King.

City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) announced today’s introduction of legislation guaranteeing community access and mandating a community notification requirement within the City’s gun offender registry. Constantinides was joined by bill co-sponsors Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and Council Members Ritchie Torres (D-the Bronx) and Paul Vallone (D-Bayside).

Diaz said, “A safer New York State, and a safer nation, demands that we shine a light on those individuals who would commit gun crimes in our neighborhoods. An easily-accessible gun crime registry will serve as an excellent tool not only to keep neighborhoods informed about crime, but to serve as a deterrent from such acts. I am proud to stand with my colleagues today to reintroduce this legislation, which I first proposed in my 2013 ‘State of the Borough’ address, and I look forward to seeing it become law.”

Read the complete press release.

Governor Cuomo Announces Launch of the New NY Works Office in The Bronx

(l to r) Council Member Vanessa Gibson, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC) President Marlene Cintron, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., State Senator Gustavo Rivera and State Department of Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera participated in a ceremonial ribbon cutting for NY Works on Tuesday, August 19, 2014.

State Department of Labor Will Bring No-Cost Services Direct To Bronx Businesses

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the new NY Works Office, which as part of the Unemployment Strikeforce, will bring no-cost business services directly to Bronx companies looking to hire. In partnership with the State Department of Labor, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, the office was officially opened this morning.

"Connecting job-seekers with employment opportunities in their communities is one of our administration's top priorities, and opening this new office in the Bronx is a great way to match even more of the area's residents with companies that are looking to hire," Governor Cuomo said. "I encourage all businesses in the region to check out this new resource in their community to find out more about how New York State can help them find the workforce they need to grow."

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “We are creating thousands of jobs in The Bronx. This NY Works Office will make sure that Bronxites benefit from those jobs, thanks to its focus on local organizations working hand in hand with local businesses. I’d like to thank the State Department of Labor and its commissioner, Peter Rivera, for launching this program in conjunction with the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation and my office. Through NY Works, Governor Cuomo is putting employment resources where they are most needed, and I look forward to helping put even more Bronxites to work through this program.”

Read the complete press release.

The Mall at Bay Plaza Officially Opens to the Public Today

NYC’S First Enclosed Mall in 40 Years Brings 1,700 Permanent Jobs to the Bronx; Over 100 Stores, Restaurants, 24-Hour Fitness Center and Movie Theater

The Mall at Bay Plaza, New York City’s largest and first enclosed fashion mall in over 40 years, officially opened to the public today.

To celebrate the occasion, elected officials, community leaders, mall representatives and retailers gathered at the ribbon cutting ceremony where Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy, Congress Member Eliot Engel, Public Advocate Letitia James, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Assembly Member Michael Benedetto, Council Member Andy King and Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor Peter M. Rivera were in attendance.

Following two years since the groundbreaking, crews have worked diligently to complete the 780,000-square-foot three-level mall, making it the largest mall in the city.

The mall includes a new, ground-up 160,000-square-foot Macy’s Inc., which is be the first time the retailer is opening a new location within the city in 15 years, and an existing JC Penney as the anchor tenants. Over 100 retail shops have been constructed, many of which will operate in the Bronx for the first time. H&M, Ulta, Victoria Secret, Kay Jewelers, the Gap, Aeropostale and many others will open their first locations in the borough.

Over the course of two years, Sam Shalem, Chairman and CEO of Prestige Properties & Development Co. Inc., the mall’s owner and developer, created more than 2,000 construction jobs and will now open its doors to allow for more than 1,700 permanent jobs in a county that holds the highest unemployment rate in the state. Prestige Properties invested over $300 million in the mall’s construction and development.

The state and city of New York are expected to receive more than $25 million annually in non-property tax revenue, split nearly evenly between the two, according to an economic benefits study conducted by AKRF, Inc.

“I am thrilled with the grand opening of the Mall at Bay Plaza, and I am so happy that The Bronx now has its first enclosed fashion mall ever, and the first built in the New York City area in almost 40 years. This mall will bring new jobs and new business to The Bronx and I welcome with open arms a new Macy's to our borough. I thank the developer, Prestige Properties, for making this major project a reality for The Bronx. Macy’s decision to build a new store in our borough shows just how much opportunity our borough has to offer. The Mall at Bay Plaza will be a place that Bronx families as well as visitors from all over the region will enjoy for years to come,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

Governor Cuomo Announces Opening of Mall at Bay Plaza

On Thursday, August 14, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was the very first customer at the new Macy's near Co-op City, which officially opened as part of the new Mall at Bay Plaza—a facility which has 780,000 square feet of retail space and is the first enclosed fashion mall in the New York City area in almost 40 years. To fill 1,800 new job spots, Governor Andrew Cuomo's Unemployment Strikeforce partnered with Borough President Diaz and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation to help match candidates with the positions.

1,800 new jobs generated at indoor 100+ store mall

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the grand opening of the new Mall at Bay Plaza in the Bronx—a facility which has 780,000 square feet of retail space and is the first enclosed fashion mall in the New York City area in almost 40 years. To fill 1,800 new job spots, the Governor's Unemployment Strikeforce partnered with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation to help match candidates with the positions.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “I am glad that the Bronx is officially cutting the ribbon on the first indoor mall in our borough’s history, and most importantly I am happy that Bronxites will fill so many of the jobs created by this project. Thanks to our partnership with Governor Cuomo, the State Department of Labor, and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation we are putting our people back to work. We are working to bring new jobs and new economic development to The Bronx, as we rebuild and rebrand the ‘New Bronx.”

Read the complete press release.

Borough President Diaz Attended Borough Cup Championship

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. gives a pep talk to the USC Kingsbridge Knights 12U baseball team prior to their victory at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, August 14. With the victory the Knights sealed a citywide championship in the Borough Cup, a five borough tournament that featured more than 150 teams from all over the city. For more information on the tournament, visit www.boroughcup.com.

Engelbert Humperdinck Serenades Hundreds of Bronx Fans
Under the Summer Stars

Music Legend makes history performing at Loreto Park

State Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) hosted Music Icon Engelbert Humperdinck for a lively summer concert in front of an enthusiastic crowd of more than a thousand fans Thursday night. Bronx residents of all ages enjoyed the spectacular evening free of charge at Loreto Park. Humperdinck performed as part of Senator Klein’s 2014 Summertime Symphonies Series, an annual event that provides free concerts throughout the month of August to Bronx residents.

“I am honored to have brought such a living musical legend like Engelbert Humperdinck to the Bronx. I have no doubt that after such a fantastic evening of song and stellar performance, many Bronxites will be singing his tunes for days to come and have beautiful memories of this great summer night,” said Senator Jeff Klein..

"It was great to see so many Bronxites enjoying nice weather and classic pop songs at Thursday night's concert. Events like these help bring communities together, and I was proud to be a part of this wonderful evening," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

Gillibrand, Serrano, Mark-Viverito, Crespo, Diaz Jr., Bronx Entrepreneurs to Push for Federal Legislation Expanding Access and Opportunities for Women-Owned Small Businesses

NYC Women-Owned Businesses Would Have Received An Estimated $56 Million More in Economic Revenue in 2013 if Federal Government Met Existing Goal of Awarding 5 Percent of Federal Contracts to Women-Owned Small Biz

Gillibrand Bill Aims to Give Bronx Women Entrepreneurs Opportunities to Grow Businesses, Help Level Playing Field for Hundreds of NYC Women-Owned Biz Trying to Access Federal Contracts

Lawmakers: ‘We Must Provide the Tools that Women Small Businesses Need to Thrive’

Bronx, NY – Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman José E. Serrano, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assemblyman Marcus Crespo, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO) President and CEO Phillip Morrow, and Bronx women small business owners, urged the U.S. Senate to pass federal legislation that would expand access and opportunities for women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) seeking federal contracts. This legislation would help level the playing field for hundreds of City WOSBs who want to access the sizeable market of federal contracts.

Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy – over 40 percent of all Bronx firms are owned by women, according to the latest Census data – but they are systemically shortchanged in terms of being able to access the market of government contracting. More than two decades ago, Congress set a goal of awarding 5 percent of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses. Last year, nationwide, women-owned small businesses once again fell short of that goal with only 4.3 percent of contracts awarded. Across New York City, it was even lower according to data from Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), at an anemic 1.48 percent of all federal contract dollars. If women-owned businesses had received the existing 5 percent goal, City women-owned small businesses would have grown their revenue by approximately $56 million dollars.

“We need to continue to help our hard working female entrepreneurs, not just in The Bronx but across the nation, be successful by giving them all the resources they need to run a fruitful business and achieve their goals to the best of their ability,” said Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr. “Women-owned businesses give our economy a shot in the arm and this proposed legislation will assure that our women small business owners are given equal opportunity to thrive. I am proud to work with Senator Gillibrand, as well as great organizations like SoBRO and the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, among others, to expand opportunities for women-owned businesses.”

Read the complete press release.

Statement from Borough President Diaz
RE: The Passing of Bronx Native Lauren Bacall

"The people of The Bronx are saddened by the passing of Lauren Bacall, a Bronx native and a true legend of stage and screen. Ms. Bacall did not just wow us on the screen, however, as her philanthropic work with numerous charities--particularly her work with groups fighting HIV/AIDS--is just as worthy of recognition as any of her dramatic works. I am sorry to learn of her passing, and I and my staff will keep Ms. Bacall and her family in our thoughts during their time of loss," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Rozic, Lanza Announce Law to Expand Civic Participation for Young Adults

Measure Would Give Teens a Voice in Important Community Issues

Bill Lowers Age of Appointment to a New York City Community Board from Eighteen to Sixteen

Queens, NY – Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D,WF-Fresh Meadows) and Senator Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) announced a new law they authored to lower the minimum age of appointment to a New York City Community Board from eighteen-years-old to sixteen-years-old. Governor Cuomo signed the legislation into law and it is effective immediately.

“Not only will this new law expand the opportunities for young people, it will also allow for each board’s youth committee to hear from the community they serve. I was involved in civic activity in my teenage years, and I know how important it is for our young people to have a voice within the official process. This new law will allow us to create such opportunities, and I am proud to support this incredible expansion of our community boards’ membership,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

Testimony of Borough President Diaz
Before the Assembly Committee on Corporations,
Authorities and Commissions
RE: MTA 2015-2019 Capital Plan

There is no doubt that establishing Metro North Commuter Railroad services through The Bronx into Penn Station is the most cost effective, and perhaps the most important capital project that the MTA has yet to embark upon.  

Indeed, we know that subway lines reaching into The Bronx during the decade of the 1920’s, transported 530,000 people uptown for the first time. Now, as we enter the 21st century, Metro North’s proposal to enter Penn Station has the potential of creating a similar wave of prosperity and growth, not only for the East Bronx, but for our entire borough and, in fact, the entire metropolitan region.

My office joins Metro North Railroad in supporting the use of existing track infrastructure to provide rail transportation to approximately 160,000 Bronx residents living within one mile of four key locations:

  1. Co-op City-a community of roughly 60,000 people
  2. Morris Park-a community of 14,600 residents, plus approximately 4,000 people working at Hutchinson Metro-Tech and the Einstein Medical School campuses.  Soon to be open as well will be a major hotel serving tourists and professionals.
  3. Parkchester/Van Nest-a community of 40,000 residents, many of whom are condominium owners
  4. Hunts Point-a community of approximately 46,000 people plus home to the city’s largest food distribution market, doing approximately $2 billion in business annually.

In addition to the obvious benefits Bronx residents would realize by having access to Manhattan in less than 40 minutes; so too for the first time Bronxites could reach suburban employment centers without reliance on a car.  This fact will not only mean fewer vehicles on our roads, but for those unable to drive, an entirely new employment market is made accessible.  Similarly, commuters from Westchester and Fairfield Counties will have one-seat rail service to Manhattan’s west side, thereby saving the time and cost now made necessary when having to transfer to subway services at Grand Central Terminal. 

Read Borough President Diaz's complete testimony.

NYC DOT Announces Second Phase of Arterial Slow Zones with Fourteen New Locations

The second phase of Arterial Slow Zones will start with Jerome Avenue, with speed limits reduced by 5 mph and new signs indicating this change will be put up.

Additional roadways include Coney Island Avenue, Metropolitan Avenue, Utica Avenue, Flatbush Avenue & Flatbush Avenue Extension, Roosevelt Avenue, Victory Boulevard, 7th Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue, Bowery, Houston Street, Park Avenue, Avenue of the Americas, 3rd Avenue.

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg today announced fourteen additional Arterial Slow Zones to be implemented in the coming months. Beginning Monday, August 4, the first of this second round of Slow Zones will be implemented at Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, between East 161 Street to Bainbridge Avenue, a five-mile stretch. The speed limit will be lowered by 5 mph and new signs indicating this change will be put up.

Jerome Avenue will be joined by thirteen additional new Arterial Slow Zones in the program’s second phase: Coney Island Avenue, Utica Avenue, and Flatbush Avenue & Flatbush Avenue Extension in Brooklyn; Roosevelt Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue in Queens; Victory Boulevard in Staten Island; Seventh Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue, Bowery, Houston Street, Park Avenue, and Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan; and Third Avenue in the Bronx. In total, dangerous speeding will be reduced on more than 65 miles of major corridors that have seen 83 fatalities.

"To protect our residents, we must take the necessary measures to calm traffic on city streets. I am very grateful that our City is implementing the second phase of the Arterial Slow Zones program. Too many Bronxites and New Yorkers lose their lives every year because of traffic accidents that can be prevented. The Vision Zero plan will make our streets safer for our families by reducing the number of traffic related fatalities in our neighborhoods,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Read the complete press release.

Statement from Borough President Diaz
Re: City Medical Examiner’s Office Announcement on Death of Eric Garner

Today’s news, confirming that it was indeed a chokehold that caused the death of Eric Garner, is incredibly sad. This tragedy has shaken an entire city, and my thoughts and prayers remain with Mr. Garner’s family during this troubling time. The people of this city demand justice, and it is incumbent upon the Staten Island district attorney to conduct an open and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Garner’s death and proceed accordingly. As our city works to heal from this awful incident, we can demand no less. As I have said in the past, no one should be a victim of police brutality," said Borough President Diaz.

Summer Sizzles in The Bronx with the 4th Annual SalsaFest!

Festival will include free community events

Summer Music Series will feature all-star performances

The summer is heating up in The Bronx in more ways than one as the 4th Annual Bronx SalsaFest gets underway beginning this weekend!

El Condado de la Salsa (the borough of Salsa) will, once again, celebrate the music, the dance, and the artists in a month-long festival bringing together a collaborative of institutions and community-based organizations presenting a variety of Salsa-related activities.

Presented jointly by the Office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and The Bronx Tourism Council, SalsaFest begins with the Orchard Beach Sizzling Salsa Summer Concert Series on Sunday. “We’ll be dancing under the sun, in the streets, and barefoot in the grass this summer” says Olga Luz Tirado, executive director of The Bronx Tourism Council.

“The Bronx is El Condado de la Salsa, and SalsaFest offers great concerts and activities for visitors and locals alike. This is the centennial of Bronx County, and we invite everyone to come and dance with us, explore the culture and the vibrancy of The Bronx, and join the thousands of people who will take advantage of SalsaFest this August,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

Events include concerts, dance lessons, street fairs, book readings and panel discussions throughout the borough.

SalsaFest partners include NYC & Company, Bronx Lebanon Hospital, Bronx Music Heritage Center, Casita Maria for Arts & Education, Latino Sports, New York Parks Department, The National Jazz Museum, The Woodlawn Conservancy, Wave Hill and Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy.

NOTE: Download a full list of SalsaFest events here. Visit ilovethebronx.com for the latest calendar and more information about this and other great Bronx events.

Borough President Diaz Served as Grand Marshal of
25th Annual La Gran Parada Dominicana

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. greets constituents during the 25th annual La Gran Parada Dominicana on July 27, 2014. The annual parade down the Grand Concourse, for which Borough President Diaz served as this year’s grand marshal, caps off a full week of events celebrating the culture and heritage of the Dominican Republic and its people.