February 24, 2012
On Thursday February 23, 2012 at Harry S. Truman High School in Co-op City, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. delivered his third annual “State of the Borough” Address.
During his speech, the borough president highlighted his administration’s accomplishments during this past year and announced several initiatives his office will pursue in the upcoming year.
“While these projects are scattered across the borough, they work together to move the Bronx in a positive direction. We are enacting our conceptual ‘master plan,’” said Borough President Diaz. “We are balancing the needs of individual neighborhoods with the needs of the entire borough, and our development agenda is moving forward because we are attentive to those concerns.”
One of those initiatives is the development of the Kingsbridge Armory into a center for economic growth, which has been one of the projects on the top of the borough president’s list since he first took office in 2009. In January, Borough President Diaz and Mayor Bloomberg jointly announced a new RFP for this historic structure, one that allows developers to pursue a wide range of potential uses for the site.
“The future development of the Kingsbridge Armory will serve as the foundation for the revitalization of the Northwest Bronx, in ways that a retail mall never could,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “I am confident that, working together with this administration, we can and will bring a new tenant—and living wage jobs—to this highly valuable and unique Bronx asset.”
Borough President Diaz also spoke about one of his administration’s greatest accomplishments this past year, the deal struck on the “Fair Wages for New Yorkers” Act, which was introduced into the City Council at the behest of Borough President Diaz in 2010. The compromise creates the strongest “living wage” law in the United States.
“Soon, when major economic development projects solicit heavy taxpayer subsidies, they must pay their employees a ‘living wage,’” said Borough President Diaz.
The borough president then urged Mayor Bloomberg to join the majority of New Yorkers who support this bill, and sign it into law when it lands on his desk. Borough President Diaz also noted that the “living wage” legislation is just the start in the push to level the playing field on income inequality in the City.
“The same broad coalition that pushed for a living wage—of clergy, labor, community, elected officials and the general public—must remain united, and join the effort to raise our minimum wage,” said Borough President Diaz.
Borough President Diaz also emphasized his commitment for a greener, healthier Bronx, reiterating his administration’s policy not to fund any new projects unless they comply with “green” standards of industry. One of the main “green” projects Borough President Diaz focused on is the introduction of Smith Electric to the borough. This past year, the manufacturer chose the Bronx as its new home, relocating from Missouri.
Smith Electric has already found a purchaser in FreshDirect, one of the most recent major corporations to settle in the Bronx. Borough President Diaz noted that his office has signed a strong written agreement with FreshDirect, one that will secure jobs for Bronx residents, a greener environment, and other concessions.
“Not only will FreshDirect bring 3,000 total jobs to the Bronx, they will expand their business to neighborhoods across the borough. Over the next five years, FreshDirect plans to convert their entire delivery fleet to a cleaner, greener one,” said Borough President Diaz. “This is an unqualified victory for the Bronx.”
The borough president highlighted several other successful economic ventures the Bronx has experienced in the past year, including a plan that will complete the revitalization of the West Farms neighborhood as well as the genesis of a long-term deal that will maintain Hunts Point’s status as the premiere produce market in the world, right here in the Bronx. Borough President Diaz also mentioned his continued support of the borough’s small business community, noting that the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation offered assistance to more than 1,000 small businesses in the borough last year.
Improving education in the Bronx is also one of Borough President Diaz’s top priorities. The Borough President spoke about the Bronx’s first Education Summit, “From Cradle to Career,” which was held last fall. The borough president noted that the white paper from that summit will be issued next week, and will cover a wide variety of education topics that face the Bronx and the entire City.
In addition, Borough President Diaz made it clear that increasing the health of Bronx residents is also at the top of his agenda, and announced that a “Bronx Health Summit” will be taking place next year.
“Like our economic development and education summits before it, this event will bring together the best minds on health and wellness from across the nation to devise a comprehensive plan to put the Bronx on the right track,” Borough President Diaz said.
During his speech, Borough President Diaz discussed rising concerns regarding police/community relations across the City.
“We cannot and will not tolerate police misconduct. We must demand that our police department is better trained to work with our communities in a respectful fashion that honors the dignity of life. At the same time we must passionately support the hard work of the overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line to protect law-abiding citizens each and every day,” said Borough President Diaz.
The borough president closed his speech emphasizing the importance of harmony among all Bronx elected officials, businesses, community groups, non-profit organizations, and neighbors to make the borough a better place to live.
“We have a great Bronx team right here, our own version of the New York Yankees or the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Together, as a team, we will move the Bronx forward into a new age of success. And together, as a team, we will win.”