On Thursday, February 23, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. delivered the annual State of the Borough address at John F. Kennedy High School, his eighth since taking office in 2009. Diaz discussed the borough’s successes involving economic development, housing, mental health and education.
He also highlighted the instances where his office provided lawyers for tenants in housing court, supported the minimum wage to $15 an hour, helped stop the regressive plastic bag tax and obtained funding to rebuild Orchard Beach, among other victories for the Bronx during his tenure.
The borough president also spoke about the recent allocation of $108 million in state funding by Governor Andrew Cuomo to transform the long-vacant Kingsbridge Armory into the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, along with the planning of the four Metro North stations in the Bronx and the ferry service connecting Soundview to Manhattan.
He added that he would continue to stay focused on funding for NYCHA communities as well as the Sheridan Expressway.
Despite progress in these areas, Diaz expressed concern with homelessness, public housing, the criminal justice system, mental health care and overcrowded schools/classrooms, all categories that need considerable improvements.
One alarming statistic shows that only 63 percent of Bronx students graduate from high school, and even less of a percentage are prepared for a CUNY college.
Diaz also discussed the future of the Jerome Avenue corridor, which is in the middle of a major rezoning process and will affect local residents and businesses, as well as the need to build more affordable and permanent supportive housing to prevent homelessness.
Diaz’s transportation expansion goals included creating a ‘Triboro Line’ subway proposal with the Regional Plan Association, which would connect Brooklyn and Queens to the Bronx, as well as expanding CitiBike to all five boroughs.
“I was particularly pleased to hear than Diaz will continue to focus on capital investments in our borough,” said Councilman Rafael Salamanca, one of many elected officials in attendance. “His continued commitment to healthcare, homelessness and schools are three issues I know we are both passionate about and will continue to work together on.
“Last week’s State of the Borough reflected his steadfast leadership for the Bronx - and that’s why I am pledging to work with him to push for these investments, which I know we both believe will lead to greater opportunities for the borough’s next generation.”
“For nearly eight years, my office and our partners have development and executed policies of equality and smart services, making the Bronx an even better place for all its residents,” Diaz said. “We have seen considerable improvement, but life is certainly not perfect in our borough - services and amenities abundant in other boroughs are lacking here and, despite having world-class hospitals, our borough’s health indicators have been slow to improve.”
Nearly 100,000 more Bronxites are currently employed than when Diaz took office in May 2009.
The State of the Borough address was attended by Salamanca, NYC comptroller Scott Stringer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, District Attorney Darcel Clark, Councilwoman Annabel Palma, Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Congressman Jose Serrano, senators Ruben Diaz, Jeff Klein, Gustavo Rivera and Jamaal Bailey, assemblymen Jeffrey Dinowitz, Mark Gjonaj, Marcos Crespo and Victor Pichardo, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation Marlene Cintron as well as Adolfo Carrion, Jr., a former Bronx borough president. Aurelia Greene, Bronx deputy borough president, acted as the mistress of ceremonies for the event.
The address was broadcasted live on BronxNet, Channel 67 for Optimum customers and Channel 33 for Verizon FiOs customers, and also streamed on bronx