Borough President Receives Over $150k From Real Estate Interests As He Defends Tasteless Gentrification Party in The South Bronx


The Bronx waited a week for our borough president to speak up on the tasteless gentrification party held last week in Port Morris by developers The Chetrit Group and Somerset Partners where burnt out, bullet ridden cars, garbage cans set ablaze and other reminders of our painful past were put on display as  mockery of what we went through—all for the sake to bring attention to our borough by these developers who intend to bring thousands of luxury housing units to the area.

Ruben Diaz Jr attended the star-studded event and his constituents demanded an answer but instead of denouncing the tastelessness of the party and how hurtful it was to the residents of The Bronx and those who hail from here and suffered through the burning years and the thousands of lives lost, he chose to defend the event.

In an article in The New York Times, his office released the following statement:

“Mr. Diaz offered a brief comment through a spokesman about his attendance at the show. “The borough president was invited to attend an event whose purpose ostensibly was to showcase and highlight the Bronx,” the spokesman, John DeSio, said. “While certainly Lucien Smith’s art exhibit was provocative, the overall purpose of the event was well intended.”

Meanwhile, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has been the only vocal elected official standing with the community. Besides the tweets she sent out last week, the New York Times writes:

“But some critics, including Melissa Mark-Viverito, a Democrat who is the City Council speaker, have countered that it exploited the South Bronx’s troubled history for entertainment and represented a jarring display of privilege and excess in one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods where residents struggle with high rates of unemployment, crime and asthma.

Ms. Mark-Viverito, who represents the area, said that her constituents deserved “nothing less than an apology from those woefully out-of-touch developers at once.‘‘

“The South Bronx deserves respect — not a tasteless party that reduces Mott Haven and Port Morris to a sad caricature of urban blight,” she added, referring to the neighborhoods in that part of the borough.”

We the people of The Bronx expected better from Ruben Diaz Jr for he went through what many of us did through the burning years. He had a front row seat to the devastation we experienced and saw how real estate interests, including landlords, torched their properties for profit which led to a massive exodus of over 400,000 people from our borough.

Ruben Diaz Jr was a witness to the thousands who lost their lives in those fires both directly and indirectly as violence, drugs, and poverty increased to epidemic levels.

But is it any surprise that Diaz is sticking up not just for this gentrification party but the developers themselves? We already reported (thanks to journalist Ed Morales) that Keith Rubenstein, principal of Somerset Partners and the man behind the attempt at rebranding Port Morris as the Piano District, donated $2,800 to Diaz’s 2017 campaign cycle.

The Bronx Borough President has been on strong rebranding campaign himself for the past several years calling our borough “The New Bronx” much to the chagrin of its residents who decry this attempt at whitewashing our borough and paving the way for developers such as those behind last week’s events.

As of all the latest campaign filings to date, Ruben Diaz Jr has received a total of $434,775.07 towards his 2017 campaign cycle of which over $160,000 came from various real estate entities from agents, property managers, construction firms, and even real estate attorneys not to mention their family members and spouses.

These figures amounts to roughly 38% of his total in campaign contributions so it’s quite easy to see who the puppet masters are tugging at our borough president’s strings.

It’s quite simple to see why we are being sold out to developers as his office brings them up by the bus loads and puts them on trolleys to travel through our borough as if we’re some sort of safari hunting expedition so that the developers can see what the people of The Bronx have accomplished only to have their greed take it away from under our feet.

Meanwhile, where are all the other Bronx politicians and where is our mayor Bill de Blasio? Didn’t he run on a campaign to end a tale of two cities yet has nothing to say on this issue that’s only getting bigger? A neighborhood where the real estate interests are to create a tale of two cities within a community—one that is one of the poorest in the city?

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.