Bronx BP Diaz Jr’s ‘New Bronx’ Isn’t For All—Unless You Can Afford It 

Exterior Street in Mott Haven will soon be transformed as the Harlem River waterfront is developed with market rate towers.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr utter the words ‘New Bronx‘, something we’ve been vocally against along with legions of Bronxites. 

But he doesn’t have to, the damage is done and it’s already embedded in the psyche of people from billionaire developers of the oligarchy to the working poor who make our beautiful Bronx run. 

The Village Voice published an article titled, ‘Brooklynizing The Bronx: Will The Boogie Down’s Boom Leave Thousands of Workers in The Dust?‘  which examines, among many things, Ruben Diaz Jr’s ties to real estate interests and his lack of advocacy for the auto workers of Jerome Avenue who are facing displacement and loss of thousands of jobs as the area faces rezoning. 

The Voice writes:

No one is more poised to cash in on the boom than Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who partied with Melo and company last Halloween, and who seems to be emerging as Governor Andrew Cuomo’s preferred candidate in the 2017 mayoral race. (“I’m a fan of his,” Cuomo gushed at a recent event the two appeared at in the Bronx, calling Diaz a “rising star.”)

“I don’t want the Bronx to be the ‘new Brooklyn,’ ” Diaz tells the Voice. “I want the Boogie Down to be better.”

Yet some critics wonder whether he’s too cozy with the real estate sharks circling the borough. A massive rezoning along Jerome Avenue may put Diaz’s priorities to the test.

The signs are rising in numbers across the South Bronx as developers are driving  up property values with speculative purchases that are not in line with the actual market value of the area. 

Even real estate agents have become bolder as they list properties at unimaginable sales prices even a year or two ago. 

Rents are also rising for you see, not everyone has the luxury of living in rent stabilized or control apartments and two bedrooms renting for $2,500 in Mott Haven and Port Morris isn’t that uncommon of a sight any more. 

We need to continue to organize and be a part of this forced shaping of our future because as I’ve heard many times, “If you aren’t at the table, it’s because you’re on the menu.”

The Voice further adds:

Meanwhile, since Diaz took office, the Bronx, the fourth most populous borough, has continued to lead the city in the total number of evictions, which should highlight the need for the borough president to take bolder action.

Diaz also has a mixed record as an advocate for job creation. Since 2012, he has fought to convert the Kingsbridge Armory (located just north of the Jerome rezoning area) into an ice rink that would provide living-wage jobs. While that project remains in limbo, Diaz has fully supported FreshDirect coming to the South Bronx. Backed by over $130 million in city subsidies, the company has not adhered to the city’s living-wage law, because its deal was negotiated before the 2012 legislation took effect. Diaz has exerted no pressure on FreshDirect to voluntarily comply. Meanwhile, most of the new retail jobs coming to the borough are entry-level and nonunion.

The future of The Bronx is very bright and promising but it remains to be seen for whom. At least this moment in time, it isn’t for us but developers and our Borough President. 

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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.