Diaz speech to highlight impressive gains in boro’s economic picture

By MIAWLING LAM

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is expected to highlight The Bronx’s dramatic rejuvenation at his annual State of the Borough address later this week.

Right on the heels of the announcement that online grocer FreshDirect will relocate to the South Bronx by 2015, it can be revealed Diaz will tout his administration’s economic-development prowess and job-creation credentials.

“We have executed a holistic vision for the current and future development of our borough, one focused on intelligent investments that make sense not only for individual neighborhoods, but for the entire borough,” Diaz plans to say, according to a draft of the speech obtained by the Riverdale Review.

“Through comprehensive planning and community collaboration, we are reshaping The Bronx and advancing a strong agenda for its future.”

Within the past year, The Bronx has lured an array of multimillion-dollar companies to set up shop or relocate in its backyard.

Just this month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced FreshDirect would build a new 500,000- square-foot state-of-the-art building at the Harlem River Yards.

The decision was hailed as a major victory for the borough as New Jersey made a pitch to tempt the grocer with $100 million worth of tax breaks.

And in November, Smith Electric, an all-electric truck manufacturer, revealed it would move its facilities from Missouri to Port Morris, creating more than 100 green jobs for locals.

The current request for proposals for the Kingsbridge Armory, the $270 million expansion of Bay Plaza shopping center in Eastchester—the first such construction in the city in nearly 40 years—and the redevelopment of the former Stella D’oro cookie factory in the northwest Bronx are also expected to fuel the borough’s revitalization.

Those projects are real signs that The Bronx is moving forward, Diaz will suggest.

“We have changed the way business is done in The Bronx, and it shows,” he will say. “Major companies are making their way to our borders to take advantage of our able workers. In the past three years, we have seen unprecedented interest in The Bronx and a major influx of private development dollars into our borough.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg even acknowledged the dramatic transformation of the South Bronx from an impoverished, underserved area to a vibrant network of neighborhoods during his State of the City speech last month.

“This area was once so burned out and abandoned that it was compared to Dresden after World War II,” he said. “Today, the South Bronx is a poster child for urban revitalization.”

As part of his ambitious plans for The Bronx, Bloomberg said nearly $90 million would be funneled into the Hunts Point produce market and that key thoroughfares would be rezoned to allow for more private-sector investment and economic development possibilities.

Education is expected to form another central pillar of Diaz’s speech. Having hosted the borough’s inaugural education summit in October, Diaz will announce that the full report from the talkfest will be released next week.

The document will not only map out a strategy to raise student achievement and lift The Bronx’s educational standing, but it will also outline the changes necessary to better serve students across the five boroughs.

Diaz will deliver his third-ever State of the Borough speech at Harry S. Truman High School on Thursday, February 23. Official proceedings will kick off at 11:30 a.m.

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