Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. set a tone in December when he demanded that mega-developer The Related Companies pay living wages at the Kingsbridge Armory. Two months later, Diaz is poised set a development agenda.
Rafael Salaberrios, head of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (BOEDC) since 2002, announced on Friday, January 8 that he would step down. Salaberrios, 54, plans to join the Empire State Development Corporation in Albany.
Appointed by Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Salaberrios helped plant a green roof on the Bronx County Courthouse and boosted Bronx tourism but witnessed Diaz Jr. probe the BOEDC for mismanagement in 2009. The two men planned November’s Bronx Economic Summit together. Salaberrios had Related transform a shabby Bronx Terminal Market into the enormous Gateway Center shopping mall, development unseen in the south Bronx for decades. He steered thousands of borough residents to job fairs at the mall.
But he also took flak from evicted Bronx Terminal Market tenants and labor groups. Some neighbors blasted his Gateway Center community benefits agreement as weak.
Partly funded by and often described as the economic arm of the borough president’s office, BOEDC promotes job development and manages several million dollars in federal Empowerment Zone funds.
Former BOEDC board member and Wildlife Conservation Society vice president John Calvelli praised Salaberrios’ BOEDC as accessible. Salaberrios expanded BOEDC from the South Bronx Empowerment Zone to the rest of the borough, Calvelli said.
“Salaberrios’ leadership has been a valuable asset,” Diaz Jr. said. “We will now have a friend at the [Empire State Development Corporation]…I thank [Salaberrios] for his great job as the leader of BOEDC and wish him luck.”
Whomever Diaz Jr. names as Salaberrios’ successor will inherit a borough reborn, thanks to the Gateway Center, the new Yankee Stadium and thousands of new apartments.
But he or she will also inherit what remains one of the nation’s poorest Congressional Districts and an economic recession. Bronx unemployment hit 13.9 percent in December. Diaz Jr. has started to interview potential successors, spokesman John DeSio said.
Meanwhile, the borough president has named six new BOEDC board members: real estate and political power broker and original BOEDC head Kathy Zamechansky, former Carrion campaigner MarySol Rodriguez, Bernel Arthur Richardson of the Black United Leadership of Bronx County, Robert Medlock of the Consortium for Worker Education, David Aviles of the Community Enrichment and Education Foundation and former Assemblyman attorney Stephen Kaufman.
Kaufman will ask Salaberrios’ successor to “change the investment climate in the Bronx.” He thinks BOEDC should help Diaz Jr. redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory.
“We need to make the borough more business-friendly,” Kaufman said. “We need to create jobs, jobs, jobs. Taxes and meter maids… enough of that nonsense! We need a gigantic welcome sign for business people to the north and south.”
Calvelli hopes the new BOEDC board will prepare for the next boom, he said. Former Business Initiative Corporation of New York (BIC) chairman and South Bronx Overall Economic Development co-founder Michael Gill thanked Salaberrios. BOEDC sponsors BIC; the latter made loans to more than 20 businesses while Salaberrios ran the former.
“He understands banks and the bank culture,” Gill said. “His presence in Albany should be good for the Bronx.”
Gill hopes Diaz Jr. and Salaberrios’ successor will refocus on jobs and housing. An economic recession is no time to pursue the ambitious developments that defined Salaberrios’ tenure, he said.
On Tuesday, January 26, Diaz Jr. announced a $4 million grant to the Consortium of Worker Education for “green collar” job training.
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at (718) 742-3383 or dbeekman@c
©2010 Community News Group