State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli referred to Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s inaugural address as a love fest, and it was.
Diaz Jr., elected on April 21, received a standing ovation at Lehman College on Thursday, May 21. Governor David Patterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered praise, as did Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate leader Malcolm Smith. After the address, well wishers mobbed Diaz Jr.
Rather than bask in success, the 36-year old former Assemblyman spoke about economic hardship. The borough boasts NYC’s highest unemployment rate – 10.5%. Diaz Jr. paid homage to predecessors. In order to sustain the borough’s progress, Diaz Jr. will work to secure young Bronxites union and “green collar” jobs, he said.
Diaz Jr., elected to represent Soundview and Hunts Point at the age of 23, sponsored a handful of green bills in the Assembly, establishing an environmental advisory panel and a ban on vehicles idling near public schools. He hopes to develop green-minded think tanks all over the borough – think tanks like Sustainable South Bronx.
Diaz Jr. will fight for fair wages at the soon-to-be redeveloped Kingsbridge Armory and elsewhere, he said.
Diaz Jr. pledged to convene an economic summit of Bronx business associations, including the Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation, the Riverdale Chamber of Commerce and the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation. He hammered home a simple message: one Bronx.
“What affects Wakefield also affects Soundview,” Diaz Jr. said. “When terror is felt in Riverdale, it’s also felt in Morrisania.”
The borough president promised to oppose Bloomberg on key issues, like the mayor’s plan to close City Island’s firehouse.
“Find something else to cut,” Diaz Jr. said.
The father of two young men voted for mayoral control of schools in 2002; now he believes NYC’s five borough presidents should play a significant decision-making role. Diaz Jr. thanked his father, state Senator Ruben Diaz, an outspoken opponent of gay marriage and a senior advocate.
“How else could a father feel to see his youngest son become president of the most beautiful borough in NYC?” Diaz Sr. said. “Excited, happy, waiting to cry.”