Tag Archive | "ruben diaz jr"

On Day of Census Snapshot, 37 Percent of Bronx Has Responded

What does the Bronx look like today? The answer could resonate for the next decade after the 2010 Census is complete.

If the Census is a decennial snapshot of the American populace, today would be the day the photo is taken. That’s because the Census forms ask respondents to answer questions about their household as of April 1. The information gleaned from the national headcount will be used to divvy up more than $400 billion in federal money for hospitals, schools, emergency services and roads, among other things. When money is allocated, it is based on the number of responses in a given area. People who are not counted can cause services to become overextended.

“The accuracy of the Census is crucial,” said Rafaela Santos, a specialist with the Census Bureau.

Watch a video on one group’s efforts to get the word out about the Census.

With two weeks remaining before the April 15 deadline, however, the Bronx has only 37 percent participation, according to figures published on the Census Bureau’s Web site. The borough lags behind the state total, 46 percent, and the national total, 52 percent. Currently, the Bronx ranks in the middle of the five boroughs in response rate, ahead of both Brooklyn and Queens.Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. challenged his constituents on Wednesday to finish first among the five boroughs, telling the New York Daily News, “We are going to be the first borough this year.”

Language was a key barrier to participation for many Bronx residents in the past, but the Census Bureau is working to bridge the gap this year, offering surveys in several different languages, including Spanish, Urdu and Mandarin. Santos said that participation has increased as non-English speakers have learned more about the process.

“People are much more receptive,” she said. “They are understanding. They are getting factual information about what the Census is all about and how it affects them.”

One measure of public opinion suggests that the Census Bureau’s efforts to sell the national count to non-native English speakers in the Hispanic community may be paying off. Roughly 80 percent of foreign-born Hispanics said that the Census is good for their community, as opposed to 57 percent of native-born Hispanics, according to the Pew Research Center. Overall, 70 percent of Hispanics said that the Census was good for their community.

The Bronx is 51 percent Hispanic according to 2008 data published by the Census Bureau. Santos said that roughly 56 percent of Bronx residents participated in the 2000 Census, a figure that officials hope to top this year. “A good number is anything beyond 2000,” she added.

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Bronx Church Fights to Keep Neighborhood Affordable

Bronx Church Fights to Keep Neighborhood Affordable

(L-R) Bobby Britt, Frederick Crawford and Ruben Diaz Jr. look on at a ceremony breaking ground at a new housing development. (Joshi/Bronx Ink)

(L-R) Bobby Britt, Frederick Crawford and Ruben Diaz Jr. look on at the ground-breaking ceremony. (Joshi/Bronx Ink)

East Morrisania was at its lowest point when Bobby Britt moved there 31 years ago. After a meeting with his pastor at the Union Grove Church in the mid-1980s, Britt set about rebuilding the community. Though his efforts were successful, he also saw many parishioners being priced out of the community.

On Friday, Britt saw the first step in stemming that tide, a housing development aimed at low-income neighborhood residents. Construction on the Fletcher C. Crawford Housing Development, which is expected to provide 84 units of low-income units, began with a ground-breaking ceremony.

East Morrisania’s population ballooned by more than 63 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to Census data. But much of the growth was in younger, more affluent residents, causing rents in the neighborhood to grow. Lester Souder, a deacon of the church, estimated that as much as 50 percent of the church’s membership is economically disadvantaged. Congregants are leaving the neighborhood in droves, unable to afford the rising costs of living there. Many are opting to live in more affordable boroughs or to leave New York completely.

“They lost their housing. They lost their apartment. They lost their sense of who they were when they moved out of the Bronx area,” said Frederick Crawford the current pastor of Union Grove and the son of Fletcher Crawford, the pastor who initially gave Britt the directive to rebuild the neighborhood.

To stem the parish’s exodus from East Morrisania, Britt turned his efforts to building affordable housing on a plot of land next to the church. After years of work, he succeeded in securing financing, and the church is now partnered with Macquesten Development to build the development, which will cost $27 million.

“This is a place where people are going to be able to afford and continue to invest in their futures in the Bronx,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who was on hand to celebrate the groundbreaking. Diaz presides over one of the nation’s poorest urban counties, where more than 25 percent of the population was below the poverty level in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Public housing in the Bronx is not meeting the needs of the economically depressed population.

“There’s always more of a demand for low- and middle-income housing in the Bronx,” said Joan Tally, a senior vice president for the New York City Housing Development Corp., which helped finance more than 81 low-income projects in the Bronx, including the Union Grove construction. Since 2004, the City of New York has invested $1.9 billion in the borough in the form of bonds and corporate subsidies through the Housing Development Corp. However, Tally said, “There’s never enough funding to go around.”

For now, money is not a problem for the construction of the Union Grove project, which is expected to be finished a year from now. Church leaders expect the new building to maintain and even grow the parish’s membership rolls.
“We’re trying to build our city back,” said the younger Crawford.

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Where Was Ruben Diaz Jr.?

by Jose Leyva

Ruben Diaz Jr. at William Thompson Jr.'s party last night. The borough president cancelled his plans to stump for Thompson at the last minute, appearing only to speak at the evening's event. Photo by Connor Boals

Ruben Diaz Jr. at William Thompson Jr.'s party last night. The borough president cancelled his plans to stump for Thompson at the last minute, appearing only to speak at the evening's event. Photo by Connor Boals

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. was nowhere to be seen on election day. He voted quietly before 6:30 a.m. at P.S. 93 in Soundview.

Election workers and school employees at the voting site said Diaz arrived early and left quickly, as if in a rush.

“He was one of the first voters,” said Diane Jones, a Republican poll worker at the P.S. 93 election site. “He said he came early because he had to take one of his children to Catholic school.”

Then, instead of stumping for William Thompson, the Democratic mayoral candidate he had endorsed early in the race, Diaz slipped from view.

One of his only campaign statements appeared on his Facebook page on the eve of the election: “Don’t forget to vote for me, Billy Thompson and the democratic ticket! On Tues. Nov. 3rd from 6am-9pm!!!!! Bring a friend!!!!!”

The former city comptroller, Thompson, had to wait until 10:30 that evening to hear from Diaz at his election party at the Hilton Hotel Towers in mid-town Manhattan. By that point, Diaz had himself won re-election as borough president by a 73 percent margin, and early results pointed to an expected defeat to incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg by an unexpectedly close margin for Thompson in his bid for mayor.

In his three-minute speech last night, an excited Diaz said change was needed in City Hall.

“The Bronx needs a friend,” said Diaz. “Millionaire corporations are getting all the money, they are getting all the profits, and they are not doing business for the people. They are not paying wages, they are not giving benefits to the workers.”

Once on the podium, Diaz triggered some of the most excited applause of the evening. He talked about the Yankees’ domination in the World Series, the economic inequity of the city’s residents, and Bloomberg’s indifference to the Bronx.

“There are thousands of Democrats who understood that to be a true Democrat, we had to reach out and help our brothers and sisters out. We together never ever sold out,” said Diaz, to a cheering crowd of about 300 people.

Several Bronx Democrats expressed support for Ruben Diaz, Jr.’s next bid for borough  president, but were skeptical about changes in quality of life under another Bloomberg term.

Inspite of the borough president’s absence on election day, Bronx voters went for Thompson on election day by a greater margin than any other borough (61 percent for Thompson, 37 percent for Bloomberg). Unofficial results pointed to a 51 percent Bloomberg win citywide, to 46 percent of the vote for Thompson.
“I think Rubencito is trying, and I have to give him credit for that. But he needs more help, and I think that with Bill Thompson in office, a change might occur,” said Beverly Dumpheys, a 34-year-old social worker living in Grand Concourse, earlier in the day.

When asked at the Hilton party about a continuing relationship with Mayor Bloomberg, Diaz said, “I don’ want to think about that.”

Diaz was set to fly to Puerto Rico the morning after the election to moderate a workshop on economic development at a five-day Hispanic legislative conference, called Somos el Futoro (We are the Future), according to his communications director, John Desio.

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