Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. delivered his sixth State of the Borough address at the Mall at Bay Plaza.
With remembrances of the late Governor Mario Cuomo and former Borough President Herman Badillo, the speech on Thursday, February 19 outlined a number of projects expected to bring economic development, as well as educational and employability proposals.
Diaz said that the borough is in the midst of transformative growth, noting that since he took office in 2009, it has seen more than 16,000 new units of housing, and 15,000 new jobs.
“The state of the Bronx is stronger than it has been in decades,” said Diaz. “We are maximizing our assets, while improving our quality of life.”
In the speech, the borough president cemented his role as an economic development advocate for the 1.4 million residents of the county, speaking of various projects spurring growth:
• the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory into the Kingsbridge National Ice Center
• York Studios’ plan to build a new film studio in Soundview
• Freshdirect’s relocation to Port Morris
• a call to build a new freezer facility in Hunts Point for the fish and meat industry
• future redevelopment of the Harlem River Waterfront
• further expansion of the Hutch Metro Center
• building four new east Bronx Metro North stations
• a plan for decked rail yards to take the place of three west Bronx yards and free large tracts of land for development
“The Bronx has never been more open for business,” he said. “If you are looking to invest, the time is now.”
The borough president said that more needs to be done to increase the employability of residents regardless of their past experience or educational attainment.
He called for the creation of new specialized gifted and talented high schools in each of the boroughs, with the one in the Bronx using portfolio assessment rather than only standardized tests to determine admission.
He also called for the top two students at each middle school graduating class to be guaranteed admittance at this school.
While focusing on school and employment, the 13th Bronx borough president also spoke of improving the quality-of-life for residents.
He spoke of his advocacy that he said led to the Bronx receiving more high speed Wi-Fi kiosks as part of LinkNYC, a citywide plan to transform public payphones into Internet hotspots.
And he put forth plans to create a Customer’s Bill of Rights for nail salons, a partnership with the city Department of Finance to enroll seniors in rental assistance programs and a social media campaign to improve the borough’s performance in health and wellness indicators.
Diaz was upbeat about what can be accomplished.
“If we put in the effort, if we advance a strategy and work assiduously to see it enacted, nothing is impossible,” he said.