Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. wants you to meet the new Bronx.
On Tuesday, five days after Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted his achievements during his final State of the City address, Mr. Diaz took the stage at Monroe High School in Soundview for his State of the Borough address. He took the opportunity to note the distance between the new Bronx and the stereotypes of old that he said the borough has gotten stuck with.
“I stand before you as the president of a borough which has taken tremendous steps towards a brighter future,” he said. “The Bronx has come a long way in the last few decades.”
Mr. Diaz said in his fourth State of the Borough address that the borough is safer, cleaner and has a more robust economy than it once did. He said the Bronx saw new investments of $1.5 billion last year and more than $4.5 billion since he took office in 2009. He said he has attracted new businesses to the borough and he heralded deals that will bring FreshDirect, Smith Electric and the Residence Inn hotel to the Bronx.
Mr. Diaz proposed the creation of a fund to promote green jobs and to retrofit Bronx buildings.
He praised the P-Tech School in Brooklyn, a six-year high school that prepares students for professional careers, just as President Barack Obama did in his State of the Union last week, and said he would like to bring a similar project to the Bronx that would prepare students for work in the real world.
Ever the cheerleader for the borough he has lived in his entire life, Mr. Diaz called on the audience of elected officials, Bronx leaders and journalists to “show the world how far we have come.”
“We are still fighting stereotypes of a previous generation. It is time to bury the idea that the Bronx is unsafe,” he said, boasting that last year’s murder rate was the lowest it’s been since 1963.
After praising the state legislature for passing new gun laws, Mr. Diaz proposed the creation of a gun crime registry modeled after the sex offender registry. It would allow residents to track those convicted of violent crimes in their neighborhoods.
“I don’t know about you, but I believe that law abiding citizens ought to know who among us are responsible for gun violence,” he said.
Mr. Diaz, who is running for re-election as borough president, said many dreams come to fruition during his next term. He vowed to work with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz to bring access to the Jerome Park Reservoir, reopen the Highbridge, bring Metro-North service to the East Bronx and host the PGA at the yet-to-be-built Ferry Point Park golf course.
One topic hardly touched upon by Mr. Bloomberg or Mr. Diaz was the Kingsbridge Armory. The city’s Economic Development Corporation was expected to decide on a developer for the vacant building by the end of 2012. The EDC is currently mulling two projects, an ice skating facility backed by Mr. Diaz and many other Bronx elected officials and a shopping center called Mercado Mirabo. Mr. Bloomberg said he would work with Mr. Diaz to bring new life and good jobs to the Armory while Mr. Diaz said he planned to work with the mayor to bring “responsible development” to the building.