Rumble in the Bronx?

An article critical of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was retweeted five times by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, creating a stir in Bronx political circles. 

The article, titled "BP Diaz Disrespects Mott Haven / Port Morris," was posted on the blog Welcome 2 the Bronx—a site created to "challenge the overall negative perception of our wonderful borough"—and takes issue with Diaz's recent remarks about the vacant brownfields site where the grocer FreshDirect plans to build a facility. 

Diaz, in an interview with BronxTalk's Gary Axelbank on Monday, said of the site, "There's no businesses ... Right now, that area is dark, it's dormant. It's just a very morbid place."

A spokesman for Diaz later clarified that the borough president was specifically talking about the brownsfield site, not the surrounding neighborhoods, but that did not stop Ed Garcia Conde, who runs Welcome 2 the Bronx, from posting the article attacking Diaz's credibility, which includes quotes from numerous local civic leaders and activists condemning Diaz's comments in light of the "significant progress" the neighborhoods have made over the past two years.

"BP Diaz has cast aside decades of work revitalizing an area that over the past two years has seen an enormous jump in job growth, area median income, workforce training, business development, and resident empowerment," Conde wrote. "This signals that the BP is out of touch and needs to spend more time with the people and less in Executive Board Rooms discussing his political career."

Mark-Viverito, who represents both Mott Haven and Port Morris, re-tweeted Conde's article five times. Her actions raised some eyebrows, especially since the article's web page includes links to email Diaz's Chief of Staff Paul Del Duca with an automated message calling on Diaz to "leave office." Below the link to Del Duca's email is a link to Mark-Viverito's Council email asking her to "intervene on our behalf." Mark-Viverito followed her re-tweets with a tweet of her own, saying: "Proud to represent such a wonderful part of our great, diverse city."

Bronx political sources say that the perceived friction between Mark-Viverito and Diaz may stem from the Speaker's race earlier this year. Supposedly, Mark-Viverito was hoping for Diaz's support to boost her candidacy, but the borough president stayed out of the race, choosing not to publicly buck Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the leader of the Bronx Democratic Party, who supported Councilman Daniel Garodnick for the post. 

A spokesman for Diaz slammed the Speaker for appearing to encourage the attacks against Diaz.

"We were shocked and surprised that the speaker of the City Council would be so irresponsible and circulate an attack on the borough president," said John DeSio, Diaz's communications director.

Mark-Viverito's spokesman Eric Koch dismissed the suggestion that Mark-Viverito's re-tweets reflected any bad blood between her and Diaz. 

"The Speaker is proud to represent Mott Haven and any other insinuations are silly,” Koch said.