Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has a new mantra for the borough.
There’s a “New Bronx” a’coming, with much of it already here or close at hand.
That was the message as he delivered his annual State of the Borough speech on Thursday, Feb. 20, focusing on safety, education, expansion and a host of other issues in the coming year for the Bronx.
His speech, to a packed main theater at Hostos College on the Concourse, ranged from applauding the coming of the new Kingsbridge National Ice Center to announcing an effort to finally fix, once and for all, the dreaded Cross-Bronx Expresway and cracking down on illegal dirt bikes on the boroughs streets.
Looking to the future
With an eye to the future, the speech also focused on bringing four Metro-North commuter stations to the borough, ferry service to Soundview, to finding an intelligent re-purposing for the General Post Office on the Grand Concourse.
As he enters his second full term in office, Diaz’s fifth State of the Borough speech came as the borough has seen dramatic drops in crime, undergone a major shift in education with dozens of new charter schools, and a growing economy in both retail and commercial enterprise.
“The Bronx is transforming, all around us. We are writing a new chapter of the history of our borough,” Diaz told a capacity crowd of state, city and local electeds, civic, business and community leaders. “And we are doing so in strong partnership with our institutions, businesses, elected officials, non-profits and, most importantly, the 1.4 million citizens who call the Bronx their home.”
Citing his new theme, he said “We are modernizing the Bronx—creating the “New Bronx”—and ensuring its strength and vitality not just today, but for centuries to come.”
Focusing on safety, Diaz cited “huge gains in crime prevention…settng the pace for the entire city.”
With crime down to levels not seen since the early Sixties, he noted that the Bronx, by certain measure, is now a safer place to live than such cities at Philadelphia and Boston “and much safer than New Orleans or Washington, D.C.”
He noted that his office has pumped almost $24 million into 173 educational projects since he took office in 2009, and pledged to keep working with school and university leaders “at every level to discuss capital needs, curriculum and the shared issues that face our public schools.”
Jobs and housing
And while the borough still struggles with some of the highest unemployment numbers in the state, Diaz pointed to the creation of more than 14,000 local jobs.
On the booming housing front, he boasted investments of more than $600 million, with nearly 13,000 new units.
“We are a place of growth, a place where new business is moving and existing businesses are expanding,” he noted. We have seen hundreds of millions of dollars in new housing, and thousands of new jobs. We are seeing major new projects built here, and even bigger ideas on the horizon. We’re getting safer. We’re marketing ourselves as a destination, and we’re receiving national and international attention for our efforts.”