State of the Borough, tsuris at the Board of Elections, and County Boss in labor


This coming Tuesday’s State of the Borough might have been Ruben Diaz Jr.’s swan song as Bronx borough president if the political winds had blown a bit differently in his toe-in-the-water look at running for Public Advocate.

Barring a political earthquake, he’ll likely be ensconced in Borough Hall for the next eight years, with his fourth SOB (as it’s called) set for 11:30 a.m. at James Monroe High School on Boynton Avenue in Soundview.

It would be nice to hear the city has FINALLY chosen a developer for the Kingsbridge Armory, but don’t count on it.

With the city still weighing between a fancy ice skating complex and a retail/entertainment complex, Ruben’ll have to be satisfied with listing his accomplishments and outlining his goals for the coming year.

And we DO give him credit for working to move the Bronx forward, despite it’s overwhelming poverty, high unemployment and major health problems.


As if the city’s Board of Elections didn’t have enough tsuris with voting machines, etc., a takeover coup by the City Council’s Republican minority has everyone there shaking in their boots.

J.C. Polanco, the Bronx GOP commissioner to the board and its former president, has already submitted a pro forma resignation letter, if it should come to that.

It all stems from possibly up to eight Republican and Democratic county leaders allegedly failing to file on time with the City Council their nominations for commissioners to the equally-divided ten-member board (We’re told the Bronx Dems met the deadline).

That technically allows the four Republican councilmembers, headed by Council Minority Leader James Oddo of Staten Island, to step in and grab board control by naming their own set of commissioners – which they already did in Queens and Brooklyn.

We’re still trying to wrap our head around all the details and implications – as are a number of savvier political types and board workers – in what could become a BIG TIME shakeup at the patronage-laden board. Creds to Daily Newser Celeste Katz, by the way, for breaking the story.

The Queens GOP organization has already gone to court over the issue.

At the moment, Bronx Republican Dawn Sandow is holding down the fort at the board as deputy director while Manhattan Dem Boss Keith Wright wrangles with his board commissioner Gregory Soumas over clearing the way for Bronx Dem Commissioner Naomi Barrera to fill the long vacant executive director’s $172,753 job.

“Right now, they’re trying to get order restored at the board,” said a Democratic insider. “We just have to wait and see what happens with these Republicans.”


We forgot to include Assemblyman and Bronx Dem Party chief Carl Heastie’s name last week in all those new Albany chairmanships and leadership positions.

Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver made Carl chairman of the heavyweight labor committee. While we’re talking unions – and potential campaign contributions – Carl carries some legit bona fides for the job, with a Master of Business Administration degree in finance.


We get word Ritchie Torres, Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s young (24), energetic housing director is jumping into the crowded race for term-limited City Councilman Joel Rivera’s seat in the 15th C.D. in the central Bronx.

Ritchie got his start in Vacca’s campaign in 2005, and we’d bet he’s learned from Jimmy’s hands-on (“THAT’S NOT ACCEPTABLE!”) approach to constituent service.

Having lived in public housing most of his life, Ritchie has secured repairs for hundreds of tenants in both public and private developments, we’re told, including numerous buildings in the Van Nest and Pelham Parkway North nabes within the 15th.

He’ll be filing notice of an official campaign committee shortly, paving the way for a fundraiser in early March headlined by Vacca and Assemblymen Mike Benedetto and Mark Gjonaj.


Maybe we were just eager to see blood spill, so to speak, over some brawls between Boro Prez Ruben Diaz Jr. and some not-so-cooperative community board members, but we jumped the gun last week. Feb. 18 is the DEADLINE to submit applications for board membership, while members are appointed, re-appointed or NOT re-appointed sometime in late April -May-June. Stay tuned.


It wouldn’t be a State of the Union speech if north Bronx Congressman Eliot Engel wasn’t hogging an aisle seat to greet the Prez coming and going. He’s been grabbing aisle seats – as often as 12 hours before (using stand-in seat-sitters for bathroom breaks) since 1989. And this is a serious congressman?


Las Vegas food/restaurant blogger John Curtas reporting chef royalty Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich supposedly planning a restaurant for the Palazzo Hotel there “to be inspired by the red sauce joints along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.”

We figure the master chef and the restauranteur have plenty of experience sampling the culinary delights of the city’s REAL Little Italy.


Feb. 11: A double hit, with Parkchester/Castle Hill Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda and son Julian. And as Luis wrote on his Facebook, “Today my son Julian turns 21 years old. Today I also turn 21 years old 28 years ago. Happy Birthday son.”

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