By Theresa Schliep
Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr., visited the College Democrats of Fordham University the same day republican presidential hopeful John Kasich sampled different Italian cuisines on Arthur Avenue. He discussed and answered questions about the current election, his support for leading democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, gentrification in the Bronx and how to get into politics.
Earlier in the day, Diaz rode the 4 train with leading presidential candidate Clinton and appeared on CNN. Diaz supported Clinton at a press conference of Latino lawmakers from the Bronx and wore a Clinton campaign button to the College Democrats event.
His support for Clinton ruffled some College Democrats members who support Bernie Sanders.
“I know that people are ‘feeling the Bern,’” said Diaz, quoting the campaign slogan used by Sanders and his supports. “When people ask if I am, I say ‘The Bronx has not been burning for decades.’”
Despite his support for Clinton, Diaz said that if Sanders were to be the democratic nominee, he would vote for him.
This sentiment of party unification behind whoever gains the Democratic nomination resonated with some students.
“I think his message of unification for democrats is important on the local, state and national levels, especially in this election,” said Neil Joyce, FCRH ‘19.
Other students expressed their reluctance to vote for Clinton if she secures the nomination.
“Many of us feel ostracized by Hillary Clinton’s record, and we don’t feel her message resonates with our generation,” said Matthew Santucci, FCRH ‘17.
He followed up and said that he and other college democrats in the New York City area might vote for Jill Stein, an Environmental Party candidate for president, because she better represents Sander’s democratic socialist values.
Diaz said that while he appreciated the dialogue in the Democratic Party regarding a potential Sanders candidacy, he felt it necessary to unite behind Clinton to prevent a republican nominee from winning the election. He also warned against empty promises.
Diaz also said that Clinton is qualified to be president, contradicting Sanders’ recent claim that the former Secretary of State is unqualified.
Additionally, Diaz discussed Bronx progress, such as increases in tourism and real estate values and decreases in unemployment rates and murder rates.
“People have begun to realize that we’re much more than the Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo or Yankee Stadium”, said Diaz.
He attributed this progress to the Democratic Party.
“We’ve done that not by vilifying the community, not by divisive rhetoric or hate mongering, but we’ve done that as democrats,” said Diaz.
The Bronx Borough president said that he is excited about many projects in the Bronx, such as the redevelopment of the waterfront between 149th Street and 138th Street and the Harlem River as well as a partnership with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to fully fund the four Metro-North stations in the Bronx.
He also said he is concerned about gentrification, and he said that it is something he thinks about everyday.
“We’ve learned from parts of Brooklyn, the Lower East Side,” he said. “Sometimes, it is not always bad to be last.”
He discussed plans to reconcile borough development and accessibility to these developments, such as increasing the Area Median Income of the professional class to rent in the Bronx to encourage successful Bronx residents to stay in the borough.
President of the College Democrats of Fordham University, Thomas Palumbo, saw the event as a good opportunity to encourage Fordham students to engage in local politics.
“I was glad to help spread the message that Fordham students should be involved in their home borough,” said Palumbo, FCRH ‘17. “The Borough president did a great job of telling people how they can get involved.”
Diaz also touched upon the relationship Fordham University has with the Bronx Community. He said that the relationship will improve once people stop perpetuating the stereotype of the Bronx as a dangerous New York City borough. He said that it is not “what your parents think or remember it to be.”
“Only then will there be a genuine affinity from the students towards the Bronx, and vice versa,” said Diaz.