Courtesy of wikimedia Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz discussed job gains and increased tourism in his most recent Borough Address.
Food cart vendors are not a particularly powerful group of people. Neither are human billboards, nor pedicab drivers.
So it was quite an insult when Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. ranked below all of them in the Village Voice’s list of “The 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers.” Diaz was even more powerless than “the graphic logo of the man on the bike in bike lanes,” according to the Voice.
Borough presidents in New York City do not hold much political power by most accounts, but they play important roles as top advocates for their boroughs. Diaz loves the Bronx more than anyone, and was in full “cheerleader-in-chief” mode for the State of the Borough Address on Feb. 19.
This was Diaz’s fourth State of the Borough, a yearly address highlighting the Bronx’s successes, pointing out its flaws and describing the next steps.
The address is similar to a hyper-localized version of the President’s annual State of the Union with slightly less clapping.
Diaz spoke at James Monroe High School in the Soundview section of the Bronx, one block off the 6 train.
Diaz spoke of the Bronx “seeing significant progress” as the borough moves forward in every way. Diaz cited job gains as a part of this progress, pointing towards increased tourism as a way to swing jobs to the borough.
The Bronx has launched a new tourism publication aimed at bringing in visitors from across the region.
Diaz also proudly mentioned the construction of the Bronx’s first-ever name brand hotel: a Marriott Residence Inn opening at the Hutchinson Metro Center, located less than four miles from Rose Hill in the Morris Park neighborhood.
It is all part of Diaz’s dream of a “New Bronx.”
“At every turn, the ‘New Bronx’ has seen dramatic improvement,” Diaz said. “Yet we are still fighting the stereotypes of a previous generation. It is time we bury the idea that the Bronx is unsafe.”
Diaz said the Bronx has seen a dramatic reduction in violent crime. In 2012 the borough saw its lowest murder rate since 1963.
He continued with a call to all Bronxites: “When individuals or groups seek to invoke the past to describe our hometown, let them know it is not the truth.”
Stephanie Colombini, FCRH ‘14, attended the State of the Borough address as a reporter for WFUV News, Fordham’s on-campus radio station. She said while Diaz never mentioned Fordham, he did focus heavily on education, and “really bringing the Bronx up to par with the other boroughs and the rest of the country… [by] getting test scores up, getting a higher graduation rate amongst high school students.”
“Fordham essentially is the success story of the Bronx; that is the perfect example of where there are people who are getting higher education, who are getting jobs, who are jumping into the technology world,” Colombini said.
Borough President Diaz, who plans to run for another four-year term this November, closed his speech with a pledge: “We must push forward. During the next four years we will — together as “One Bronx” — as a ‘New Bronx’, bring about meaningful change to our borough.”
Colombini agrees. Growing up in Yonkers, she said she has always been able to appreciate the Bronx in a positive light. Still, revamping the Bronx’s image is very much a “necessity.”