On Thursday, February 22, Bronxites filled the auditorium of the Bronx High School of Science in Bedford Park to hear borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr. give his annual State of the Borough Address.
The event started with a brief welcoming and invocation from Deputy Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden and Imam Ali Kamel.
Diaz, opened his speech with a light-hearted joke that referenced Bronx High School of Science alumnus and astronomer, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and then recapped the year’s positive results.
To start, he acknowledged the progress made in affordable housing, education, lowering homicide rates, urban redevelopment, and the borough’s improved economy.
He also listed the changes Bronxites should expect to see in 2018 and the areas that still need improvement.
Spending a considerable amount of time on education, Diaz noted public high school students in the borough had the lowest math and reading scores in the city and were not fully prepared for higher levels of education.
Addressing this situation, he stated his office has already funded over $20 million for technology and auditorium upgrades to schools around the borough and was creating a tech hub in Mott Haven.
“This is the road to developing essential modes of thinking for life, learning, and the new economy,” Diaz explained. “Yes, we are encouraging lifelong study while also preparing students for the new workforce.”
He also addressed NYC Department of Education’s systemic problems.
He pointed out overcrowded classrooms and racial and socioeconomic disparities in educational opportunities, to name a few, while suggesting that the DOE cap class size.
Diaz also discussed his affordable housing plan and the NYC Housing Authority crisis.
“We are doing away with the unfair imbalance of the scales of justice,” said Diaz while explaining his ‘Right to Counsel’ legislation, a new law that gives all tenants access to attorneys in cases of eviction.
The borough president also told the audience he called for state oversight of NYCHA after almost 60 elected officials in the city have pressured the department to declare an emergency.
“The new Mario Cuomo Bridge was constructed in a shorter time than it has taken NYCHA to replace the faulty boilers at the Patterson Houses,” Diaz explained.
The Patterson Houses, located in Mott Haven, have been undergoing boiler repairs since 2011.
Towards the end of his speech, the borough president also gave a shout out to the first responders who helped with the Belmont fire and acknowledged PFC. Emmanuel Mensah, the soldier who lost his life while trying to rescue fellow neighbors from the burning building.
“In times of crisis, the Bronx stands united,” said Diaz.
He also touched on many other Bronx-related topics: the Sheridan Expressway conversion into a boulevard, The need for “fair fares” in public transportation, mentioned his #NOT62 health focused initiative and called for an end to cash bail.
While his speech received rounds of applause, and verbal support from the audience, his closing remarks were not just intended at Bronxites, but all New York City residents.
“Together, we will ensure our continued success and preserve all the freedoms that make New York City a beacon for the world,” he said. “The State of the Bronx is strong, and we will continue to lead the way for our great City.”