Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr Unofficially Announces Mayoral Candidacy
Bronx Borough President Diaz Delivers Borough Address 2019
I stepped inside the auditorium, at Samuel Gompers Career and Technical Education High School in Mott Haven, just as the National Anthem began. Eden Augustine from the Bronx High School of Science sang the anthem last year and this year it was xyz from H.E.R.O High. The H.E.R.O. stands for Health, Education & Research Occupations.
The Principal of the school, Kristen Cahill Garcia, stepped out onto the stage to say a few words. She noted that Samuel Gompers CTE High School had closed in 2015 and re-opened that Fall as three schools: 1) H.E.R.O. High, 2) a New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities II, and 3) Mott Haven Community High School which is a transfer school for older students. She went on to say that while things have been progressing in a positive direction - there's still more work to be done.
Senate Minority Leader Schumer Gives Introductory Remarks
The next speaker, was a surprise guest, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Senator Schumer mentioned how he was trying to help with affordable housing and getting more train stations added for commuters in the Eastern neighborhoods of the Bronx. He talked about how we are stronger when we are united, and that the Bronx seems to be united, in spite of the fact that so many of its denizens come from somewhere else. He finished by complimenting Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on his leadership.
Bronx President's State of the Borough Address Well Attended
And the last of the 'warm up remarks' was given by a Bronx Borough President's Office staffer [Communications Director John DeSio?] who called off a very long list of people in attendance including: Bronx City Council members, NYS Senators, NYS Assembly members, NYC government officials, people representing federal and state government officials, a few Brooklynites, and high ranking Bronx Borough officials like the head of the NYPD in the Bronx and NYC Parks Department in the Bronx and others. He continued on, mentioning folks from non-profits including a number of people representing higher learning institutions in the Bronx such as Hostos, Monroe and Bronx Community Colleges, members of the leadership teams at Jacobi Hospital and Lincoln Medical Center, and Bronx cultural organizations like the NY Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Museum, the Bronx Council for the Arts, and lastly, but not least, the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and several Bronx union chapters like the Bronx Carpenters Union and Bronx Electrical Union. This is not a complete list but it's a pretty good summary without the full detail.
Not in Attendance - Ruben Diaz Sr?
Notably absent from the list, was NYC Councilmember Ruben Diaz Sr., who made his way into the news with a comment about gays last week - click here to read a short report. I reckon Ruben Diaz Sr.'s absence was probably best for both of them, as they seem to have a good relationship, even though they're different from one another.
We were treated to a short, entertaining video featuring the Bodega Boys, who reportedly just signed with Showtime for a program at 11 pm on Thursdays. The Bodega Boys started a podcast that put them into the big time. Kind of like how Cardi B started posting videos on YouTube, which went viral and made her into the top billing name she is today.
In the video there was an 'unofficial announcement' of Ruben Diaz Jr.'s plans to run for NYC Mayor in 2021 [see photo still from the video above].
- CLICK here to read the rest of our report, including video and photos, of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.'s State of the Bronx Borough Address 2019.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr Unofficially Announces Mayoral Candidacy
Bronx State of the Borough Address Delivered by Ruben Diaz Jr
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. & Bronx Demographics
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. came out onto the stage and the audience warmly welcomed him. In the couple of years that I've been covering the Bronx, I have found that Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. seems to be a popular personality among his constituents. Ruben Diaz Jr. has been working hard to raise his visibility city-wide, likely in preparation for his unoffically announced run for city-wide office.
Bronx Borough President Diaz started by talking about who, collectively, we are as a borough. He said that about 40% of the Bronx is comprised of immigrants, about 30% live below the poverty line, 56% speak a second language, and noted that there are 1.4 million people living here.
Ruben Diaz Jr. uses Anecdotes to Describe the State of the Bronx Borough & Seems Connected to some of the Current Cultural Icons
Diaz continued by putting some color on those statistics, relating anecdotal stories about how a woman was now working a $15 minimum wage job and what a difference that made to her life. In another story, he talked about how a man that grew up here was able to stay here, due to some of the new affordable housing that has been built.
Ruben showed a video of Fat Boy SSE, a currently famous social media star followed by 5 million people, visiting a Bronx school with Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr. Ruben told us that there weren't any mis-behavioral outbreaks during their visit. This visit was likely a follow up to what turned out to be a disruptive outbreak at a Mount Vernon school, when Fat Boy SSE paid an impromptu visit to it in late January, which resulted in a bit of chaos [not sure I have this totally correct]. It reminds me of the old adage, that fame is a fickle friend [from Harry Potter].
Bronx Schools are Improving but Still have a Long Way to Go
The Bronx Borough President used the video as an entry into a discussion about Bronx schools. He told us that he had allocated $70 million of the Bronx capital budgets (about 25% of the total budget) since he took office in 2009, to schools. He noted that part of the trend in public education is to prepare students for decent jobs, and used the H.E.R.O. High School as an example. As noted above, the large Samuel Gompers High School was split into three separate schools - each with a different orientation to serve the different interests / needs of the student community.
What Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. didn't tell us was what was being done to address the many Bronx schools that still have some very serious performance issues [Diaz didn't provide any schools performance data, possibly because it likely wasn't that good]. And he didn't provide any statistics / update on the technology capacity [smart boards / computers / wifi] at the Bronx public schools.
Ruben Diaz Jr. finished his talk about schools by talking about his vision for developing a 'schools to jobs' pipeline, whereby CUNY graduates - not sure I have this right - are given preferential treatment for certain jobs by certain organizations. [Editor's Note: This seems a mixed bag, because while I understand helping residents find work here is good, it's also important to hire the best people for a given job. Large organizations need to recruit people who come from different backgrounds, because they can see and approach things differently, which provides a multitude of options to choose from when solving issues. That's the strength of diversity. But I digress.
Diaz Announces the Opening of Camp Junior
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was also proud to announce that this summer they are opening a summer camp for Bronx kids named Camp Junior. In June of 2018, 15 year old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz was murdered via stabbing and beating, allegedly by up to 14 members of the Dominican Trinitario gang, in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx [five gang members seem to be of most interest]. The murder was captured on a video that went viral.
The murder is believed to have been a case of mistaken identity, whereby Lesandro was mistaken to have been a member of a rival crew [but he was not]. The Dominican Trinitarios gang it seems, has been experiencing internal fights as it has grown and spread to other parts of the city. The trial for the gang members was initially scheduled for early February 2019, but by request of the defendants, it has been delayed until March.
Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, whose nickname was Junior, was apparently just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hence, Ruben Diaz Jr. named the camp using Guzman-Feliz nickname and the intent is to give Bronx kids a positive outdoors summer experience at Harriman State Park. Boys and Girls ages 9 - 13 who live in specified Bronx zip codes can apply at www.freshair.org and I believe there's a website where folks can also make donations - but I couldn't find it on the web.
Bronx Borough President Diaz: Affordable Housing has Grown
Ruben then continued onward, talking about affordable housing in the Bronx. He noted that since 2009 the Bronx has been the recipient of $15.4 billion in real estate development investment, which has resulted in the building out of an additional 84 million square feet. While the Bronx Borough President was proud of these metrics, there was a sort of uneasiness emanating [groans] from the audience, as real estate development is met with mixed feelings [Editor's Note: while it's good to have new investment come into the borough, oftentimes the folks in the neighborhoods end up getting priced out of their own communities].
Ruben Diaz Jr. knows his audience, so he was quick to note that about 60% of the new housing built was 'affordable'. The Bronx Borough President also noted that it was equally important to preserve affordable housing units. [Editor's Note: The term 'affordable' was sabotaged during the Bloomberg era, by calibrating 'affordable' to the entire spectrum of incomes, so that a $48,000 per year rental in Long Island City in Queens was categorized as 'affordable' housing by the Bloomberg Administration. Mayor de Blasio - recognizing this deceptive mis-use of the affordable label, modified the rents on units called 'affordable' downward, but still kept the indexing to a wide range of incomes, so quite honestly it's hard to really know - when an NYC or NYS government official talks about 'affordable' housing - exactly what that really means.
He said only 20% of residents in the Bronx own their homes, which is the lowest percent of the five boroughs in the city - see chart.
Diaz went on to note that the NYCHA problems started and continued decades ago. He has allocated $15 million from the Bronx Borough President's office to help since coming to office in 2009.
He said NYCA is worst landlord in the city, failing on the provision of heat and water in some cases. He wants NYCHA residents to be able to withhold rent like other tenants [but regular tenants don't have that right, so not sure I heard correctly] when things aren't right.
But he added that social media shaming is also an effective way to get things done and noted garbage he had video recorded and posted that went viral at a NYCHA building that was removed not long after. Soto Mayor Bldgs.? #cleanupnycha
State of the Bronx - Ruben Diaz Jr. Talks Bronx Employment
Next up on Ruben Diaz Jr.s' docket was jobs. He told us that he's a Board member of the NYC Retirement Board, and as such, he has recommended that they double their investments in funds managed in Minority and Women owned Businesses and Enterprises [aka MWBE]. He told us that the New York City workforce is comprised of 60% women and 65% minorities.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said that climate change is real. He said he would not fund any project that didn't have a green component in it [Editor's Note: That's not very specific]. He went on to say something about a million dollar investment in solar in the Bronx, but I didn't catch it all. And then he referenced a few green projects in the Bronx, including something about Park Avenue green in Melrose, and raising fish on a roof top somewhere in the Bronx. And the Bronx Borough President told us that the Clemente Park along the Harlem River was repaired post hurricane Sandy so that now it has some climate change protections [again not sure of exactly what this means].
Mass Transit in the Bronx is Improving?
The Bronx President was enthusiastic that new ferry service was coming to Throgs Neck. He said that getting four new train stations from Metro North along the East Bronx would be a great enhancement for the people living in those transportation deserts. He noted that while he agrees with Governor Andrew Cuomo that the MTA needs to be re-thought, he also thought it was time for NYC to take control again. Ruben referenced that New York City lost control of the MTA in 1966 to the state when the NYC Mayor and NYS Governor wrangled for control [I think it was related to financing / managing the operation at a time when cars were becoming the dominant means of transit and crime was a big issue].
Sheridan Expressway to be Converted into Parkland?
Diaz talked about the Sheridan Expressway conversion, which will convert the Sheridan Parkway into parkland [check]. Something about the NYS Assembly President, Carl Heastie, doing something for a local YMCA. And he said that there's been $60 million promised for the renovation of the Pavilion [and park?] at Orchard Beach, and that some of the renovation work could begin as early as this summer.
Bronx Crime Rates are Better than they've been in Decades
Ruben Diaz Jr. noted that for the sixth year in a row, there were fewer than 100 murders in the Bronx. That the Bronx is safer than it has been in decades.
He's for elimination of cash bail and if pot is legalized, it should be done in tandem with expunging all criminal records related to possession of it.
The Bronx Borough President said that while he's in favor of closing Rikers, he's not in favor of opening the neighborhood jail in the South Bronx. Something about the Diego Beekman Houses. Instead he suggested that the new neighborhood prison be relocated near the Bronx Hall of Justice and the FALL ? Court Building.
He said there's an opiod crisis and that more needs to be done. It must be a multi-agency effort and the issue must be solved, not managed. Some of the approaches he referenced included responsible prescribing, diversion and a third major item. He went on to note that almost everyone is affected by drug abuse, directly or indirectly [crime, accidents, financial aid, dependency etc.].
He said he's for punishing irresponsible landlords, but not for ? / TPT PROGRAM / Seizing Landlord property? He said that siezure of property deprives minorities more than others. [Editor's Note: I don't yet have any context for these statements.]
Bronx President's State of the Borough Address Closing Statement
Diaz then began his closing statements, saying that unemployment was down 50% since he took office in 2009 [Editor's Note: As a point of reference both New York City and New York State fell by a comparable amount during the same time period.]. That there are more jobs and people employed in the Bronx today than ever [this is true generally]. And that the new NYS legislature has been passing quite a bit of progressive legislation since arriving in Albany in 2019 including the DREAM Act, a LGBTQ bill, gun control, sexual harassment [?], voting and abortion.
He mentioned President Trump and there was a near gasp by the audience. He said NYC is a sanctuary city. That NYC was doing fine as the center of the world [or something to that effect] and he gave another shout out to the guys at Boogie Down Bronx.
Mott Haven Neighborhood - Bronx News
Ruben Diaz Jr. State of the Borough Address - Bronx News & Related Info
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