Joking, reminiscing and reciting poetry, Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. bid farewell to the Bronx – for now. During his final State of the Borough address on Friday, February 20, Carrion improvised.
“You can take the boy out of the Bronx, but can’t take the Bronx out of the boy,” Carrion shouted to thunderous applause.
A polarizing politician, Carrion assessed his seven years as borough president, outlined the challenges he and new boss Barack Obama face and pledged not to forget the Bronx. Obama appointed Carrion to White House Director of Urban Affairs on Wednesday, February 18.
“The best speech I’ve ever heard,” state Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. said. “He’s ready to go to Washington and bring money to the Bronx. Our next borough president will be lucky to have him.”
Diaz’s son, Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr., will run for borough president now that Carrion has moved on. Mayor Bloomberg has 45 days to call a special election, leaving Carrion deputy Earl Brown temporarily in charge.
Bronxites packed the Lehman Center to hear Carrion speak. Congressman Charles Schumer delivered an introduction, praising Carrion’s optimism and “can-do attitude.”
“It’s a great day for Adolfo,” Schumer said. “Congratulations on a job well done.”
Carrion offered a review of his two terms atop the Bronx. In 2002, the borough recovered from 9/11. In 2003, Carrion focused on economy, environment and education. In 2004, Carrion launched Bronx at Work, and insisted “that any developers doing business in the Bronx do business with the Bronx.”
In 2005, Carrion announced a Yankee Stadium neighborhood development plan. In 2006, he opened the Bronx Library Center. In 2007, Carrion’s office financed green roofs. Carrion campaigned for city comptroller in 2008.
Judging by the address, the new ballpark will be seen as Carrion’s greatest achievement and most contentious project.
“In about a month you will hear the national anthem, followed by the famous words “PLAY BALL” in a new state-of-the-art Yankee Stadium,” he said.
Carrion devoted the balance of the address to his new position. Citing Obama, Carrion promised aid for urban homeowners, teachers and green entrepreneurs.
“I agree with the President that we need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution,” he said.
Roughly $1 billion of the nation’s economic stimulus package will support infrastructure in the Bronx. Close to a third of Bronxites live below the federal poverty line; nearly ten percent are unemployed. The borough’s median household income has increased to $34,156 and murders are down 80 percent since 1990.
Pelham Bay resident Anne Jack appreciated Carrion’s help renovating bathrooms at the Northeast Bronx Senior Center. Barbara Dolensek felt lucky to have a fellow City Islander leading the borough. Dorothea Poggi of Ferry Point Park wished Carrion had curtailed overdevelopment.
Community Board 4 chair Lee Ezell will miss Carrion.
“He brought us up from the ashes,” Ezell said.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Lenny Caro shared her sentiment.
“If Adolfo does for the nation what he did for the Bronx, the White House will be very pleased,” Caro said.
Carrion concluded with poet Emma Lazarus’ famous verse for the Statue of Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…I lift my lamp beside the golden door.