Categorized | Bronx Neighborhoods

Borough President Makes Push for Major Hotel

The Bronx is ready for its first major hotel. So said Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. today while delivering the 2010 State of the Borough Address.

The address was Diaz’s first as borough president since he took office last April. His call for the construction of the first major hotel in the city’s northernmost borough was the high mark of an hourlong speech largely devoted to his economic growth plan for the Bronx.

Ruben Diaz Jr. delivers his first state of the borough address.

Ruben Diaz Jr. delivers his first state of the borough address. (Dan Fastenberg/The Bronx Ink)

Delayed for a week because of last week’s blizzard, the state of the borough address was delivered at the Evander Childs High School in the Norwood section of the northern Bronx. Diaz, the borough’s 13th president, made clear his view that economic growth through projects like the hotel is the vehicle for the Bronx’s further development.

“I am tired of visitors coming to the Bronx, and then spending their evenings in Westchester or New Jersey, taking with them the money that could be spent in our restaurants and shops,” Diaz said in reference to the hotel project.

He didn’t delve into any specifics on the plan. Diaz is not the first borough president to call for a major hotel in the Bronx. Fernando Ferrer, who was the 11th borough president from 1987 to 2001, looked into the construction of a hotel near Yankee Stadium.

“I think Diaz is right on target,” Ferrer said while sitting in the audience at Friday’s address. “He’s got the right energy, he’s forceful and he just gets it.”

Diaz has used the term “One Bronx” to describe his economic agenda, and he made use of the phrase again today while promoting plans to develop the waterfront along the Harlem River. And while also announcing plans for the creation of new retail retention zones for the borough, Diaz rolled out a strident defense of his version of development when discussing the move to kill the new mall at the Kingsbridge Armory, which remains empty.

After announcing an intention to create a task force to decide the next step for the Armory, he defended the stop order, which came under fire from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, among others. Diaz said that the retailers’ wages should be higher than the minimum wage, and that health benefits should be included.

“I welcome development, but we must raise the standard,” he said. “We must stand up and demand that major projects that receive heavy taxpayer benefits offer more than poverty-level jobs.”

Diaz came into office last year after his predecessor, Adolfo Carrion Jr., was tapped by the Obama administration to serve as the director of urban affairs.

The 36-year old borough president also dedicated much of his address to his plans aimed at stemming some of the borough’s lagging indicators. He announced a May Food Summit, which is intended to bring healthier eating options and supermarkets into the borough. Bronx County was labeled last month as the most unhealthy county in the state in a much-publicized study produced by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

The Bronx is also the home of the highest urban poverty rates in the country.  Diaz has spoken before about a need to remake the economic landscape of the borough, and today he put forward his plan to create growth through his sustainable development policy, which will place nearly 500 Bronxites in green manufacturing jobs. Diaz even referred to his economic plan as a “greenprint” for the Bronx, and he emphasized that the Bronx will withhold any project financing until a high level of environmental certification is met.

Diaz became borough president after a special election was held on April 21, 2009. He will be eligible to run for a second term in 2013.

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