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Diaz gives third State of Borough speech

Bronx Times

Borough President Diaz gave his third State of the Borough address to a packed auditorium at Truman High School, highlighting a “master plan” that takes into account the needs of individual communities in ongoing redevelopment and job creation plans.

The speech, presented on Thursday, February 23, touched on his administration’s involvement growing “green” economy, the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory, a fight to pass a “living wage” bill in the City Council that would affect developers who receive city subsidies, and $6 million in capital funding for hundreds of units of housing.

In attendance were state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, city Comptroller John Liu, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Assemblyman and Bronx Democratic chairman Carl Heastie, District Attorney Robert Johnson, and many of the borough’s elected and appointed officials.

Building on a theme he mentioned in previous speeches of “One Bronx,” Diaz’s third message could be categorized partly as speaking about balancing the needs of communities with that of the larger borough, and of creating synergy between businesses, individuals and community organizations.

“We have executed a holistic vision for the current and future development of our borough, one focused on intelligent investments that make sense not only for individual neighborhoods, but for the entire borough,” Diaz said. “Through comprehensive planning and community collaboration, we are reshaping the Bronx and advancing a strong agenda for the future.”

Regarding the controversial fight over the proposed redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory and the decision in January for Mayor Bloomberg and Diaz to put aside their differences and issue a new Request for Proposals for the huge structure, Diaz said he is confident that a tenant would be found for the cavernous, empty space.

“The future development of the Kingsbridge Armory will serve as a foundation for the revitalization of the northwest Bronx, in ways a retail mall never could,” Diaz said. “I am confident that, working together with this administration, we can and will bring a new tenant, and living wage jobs, to this valuable and uniquely Bronx asset.”

An original RFP was sunk over a disagreement between Bloomberg and Diaz over “living wage jobs” at the facility, but in his speech Diaz took time to tout a 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, according to reports.

Two of the brightest spots in the economic climate of the borough were discussed at length, include Smith Electric’s decision to open a new electric truck plant in Port Morris and Fresh Direct’s move into the Bronx, with Diaz envisioning that someday Fresh Direct would own a fleet of zero emission vehicles based out of is Mott Haven facility that were built in the Bronx by Smith Electric, Diaz stated.

The borough president addressed a critical need when he spoke of lowering the borough’s unemployment rate and creating jobs for Bronxites, said Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who was in attendance.

“I think the borough president hit it on the head by recognizing the need for more jobs for the people of the Bronx,” Vacca said. “Through his leadership and BOEDC’s hard work, we were able to bring Smith Electric to the borough. This project is important because it allows us to address both environmental and quality-of-life issues through the production of electric trucks that will decrease pollution and traffic noise. Also, it will bring hundreds of quality jobs to the Bronx.”

Diaz also spoke of the expansion of the retail mall at Bay Plaza which he said would be the first construction of its kind in the city in 40 years, the historic rezoning of West Farms for new housing and retail space planned by Signature Urban Properties, and $33 million in direct investments to local businesses through the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation’s lending arm in three years since taking office.

The reconstruction of the what had been a Stella D’Ora cookie factory on Broadway into a retail hub, and the need to never tolerate police misconduct and to better train the police to work in communities, were also spoken of by Diaz.

The speech seemed to position BDiaz in a “quarterback” role, with Diaz taking credit for many of his accomplishments, but also giving credit where it is due to those who helped him, said Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, an attendee.

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