On Tuesday, April 21, Soundview Democrat Ruben Diaz Jr., 36, became the Bronx’s 13th borough president. Days before the election, Diaz visited the Spencer Estate Civic Association. The seven-term Assemblyman delivered a short speech and took questions. A handful of personal details emerged.
Diaz attended Lehman High School and Stevenson High School. He transferred from Lehman to Stevenson to chase a girl. Later, he made the girl his wife. Hilda Diaz is a chronic asthmatic; Diaz told the Civic Association that he cares about bettering the borough’s environment. Too many Bronxites suffer from pollution-induced asthma, Diaz said.
Diaz and his wife have two sons, Ruben III and Ryan. Ryan attends Villa Maria Academy and rides the Bx14 bus to school, Diaz said. He assured Spencer Estate residents that he considers the Bx14 bus essential. Last year, the Metropolitan Transit Authority drafted a “doomsday” budget and vowed to eliminate the Bx14 bus, which links Parkchester to Country Club and Spencer Estate. A bailout plan that would restore the Bx14 bus has stalled in Albany. Diaz’s father, Ruben Sr., is one of a handful of senate Democrats who oppose the plan because it calls for Harlem River tolls. According to Diaz Jr., the legislature will eventually pass a modified version of the plan. It will reject the tolls, but will save the Bx14 and approve a four to eight percent subway fare increase, he said.
Diaz ran for the borough presidency on the strength of a strong legislative record, he said. Since 2006, he has voted for cigarette taxation, foreclosure assistance and rent control, against same-sex marriage. At the Spencer Estate engagement, Diaz touted his consistent support for public education, senior services and environmental progress. Diaz outlined his vision for the borough. He aims to continue the work begun by Fernando Ferrer and Carrion, “green” jobs, for instance. Diaz compared the 1970s and 1980s in the Bronx to Good Friday and the borough’s resurrection to Easter Sunday. He promised to represent the entire borough. Vacca and others endorsed Diaz because, “they know that what happens in Riverdale affects Soundview, what happens in Country Club affects Norwood,” he said. Diaz told the Civic Association that he’d return.
“You’ve invested in this borough,” Diaz told the Civic Association. “You could’ve left but didn’t. I have a lot to learn and I hope you’ll help me.”
Those present were impressed.
“I think he’ll serve the Bronx well,” said Civic Association president Al Carena. “He’s energetic.”
Gloria Giannalone of Library Avenue was more guarded.
“He’s been in office a long time,” Giannalone said. “He must know the ropes. I just hope he’s honest.”
Rose Jesselli echoed Carena.
“He loves the Bronx,” Jesselli said. “He’ll work hard for us.”