September 20, 2016

Why it should be called the “better-than-ever Bronx"

Photo Credit: Arman Dzidzovic

The considerable progress the Bronx has made today – on economic development, housing and the overall revitalization of the borough – is no accident.

For decades, the Bronx stood out from its neighbors in the region for the notable lack of investment in the borough. Today, that is changing, thanks to the advocacy and activism of the elected officials, community leaders, nonprofits, businesses and everyday Bronxites who refused to take no for an answer. Together, we fought for these new amenities and improvements, and we deserve to take advantage of them.

Since I took office in 2009, the Bronx has seen over $9 billion in new investment. In 2015 alone there was over $2.1 billion of development in the borough, and 54 million square feet of new development since 2009. Unemployment has fallen while economic opportunity is on the rise.

When I speak to Bronxites, the majority of them are unequivocal in their support of such amenities. They like having new restaurants and farmers markets where they live. They like having vibrant cultural and nightlife opportunities in their communities. Warehouses that were once empty now host breweries and distilleries, and long-vacant storefronts are home to some of the finest eateries our city has to offer.

We are putting more money in our parks and have begun the process of redeveloping the long-dormant Orchard Beach Pavilion for public use. A master plan for this historic renovation will revitalize this city landmark for year-round use, and I am proud to have contributed $10 million of my own capital funding toward this project.

In partnership with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, we have finally gotten the East Bronx Metro North expansion approved. This project was first proposed in 1969, yet for the better part of five decades the project went nowhere. Now, we’re on the fast track toward a much-needed new mass transit hub.

We have our own restaurant week, and we will soon have a permanent home for our own children’s museum. The Bronx has new coffeehouses and mom-and-pop eateries, as well as new interest from national and international corporations.

Many of my fellow Bronxites used to ask, “Why is everything happening in other boroughs? Why don’t we get any love?” We don’t hear that anymore. Instead, we hear about how people who have lived here for decades are enjoying the positive changes they are seeing in their hometown. They enjoy staying in their neighborhoods and taking advantage of new recreation opportunities that were once unimaginable.

There are some who see any progress in our borough as a negative, but the overwhelming majority of Bronxites refuse to embrace that worldview. We have learned from the past, we have studied other boroughs and we are making our decisions in the best interests of the more than 1.4 million people who call the Bronx their home.

In the past, we were confined to teaching the next generation to work hard and to get a strong education, only to then watch them achieve and leave. But now many of us anticipate a future with these long-desired amenities that will retain talent and spur continued investment. This includes nurturing affordable spaces for our homegrown professional class of proud Bronxites, so that they can aspire to live, work and perhaps even raise a family in the very same communities where they grew up.

The ongoing revitalization of the Bronx is the product of decades of commitment and passion for this borough. Our progress is for us, be it the longtime resident who endured through the borough’s toughest times, or their children and grandchildren who might have chosen to leave but now want to be a part of its future. Our progress works for the Bronx, and it’s what we deserve.

Ruben Diaz Jr. is the Bronx borough president.