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BP Diaz Jr. touts “New Bronx” model

Bronx Times

Amid the national debate on gun control, the Bronx’s chief executive officer has an idea to win the war on gun violence

Orating at his fourth State of the Borough address, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. pitched a proposal for an online gun registry akin to those for sex offenders.

“The registry would require perpetrators of gun violence to keep updated records with the police regarding their living and employment arrangements,” said Diaz Jr., speaking before a packed crowd of lawmakers, dignitaries and civic groups at his Tuesday, Feb. 19 address inside James Monroe High School.

“We know that a lot of the people who commit these crimes have done it before,” said Diaz. He plans to hold meetings with the Bronx Democratic caucus on ironing out his idea.

The pitch was part of his 50-minute speech touting the Boogie Down’s accomplishments last year, which saw an increase in economic investments to a borough once blighted by poverty and high crime.

“Crime is down, investment is high, our neighborhoods are cleaner, and our economy is growing,” boasted Diaz.

Dubbing the borough’s feat as examples of “The New Bronx,” Diaz declared the borough is rebranding itself. Some of his tools appear to be the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, Borough Hall’s economic arm, and the Bronx Tourism Council.

A majority of his speech focused on business development. Companies such as Fresh Direct, Smith Electric, Macy’s, the Marriott have inked deals to do business in the borough. Investments in the mental health industry, breweries, and east Bronx malls are also settling into a borough that saw an overall crime rate bottom out to the lowest since the 1960s.

These days investments in The Bronx have jumped from $789 million in 2011 to $1.7 billion in 2012, a 116% bump, according to a report by the BP’s office.

“The New Bronx is... safer than Boston,” said Diaz Jr. “Safer than New Orleans, which had the Super Bowl.”

But while the New Bronx settles into one of its safer period in decades, it’s still combatting some old issues such as a double-digit jobless rate, the worst in state.

“When you look at the economic development, that’s how we’re going to address the unemployment rate,” said Diaz, urging big chains to fill thousands of estimated jobs set to come by 2014.

But while economic development was key in his speech, Diaz made only a brief mention of the Kingsbridge Armory, where negotiations between the city and a potential developer have dragged for months, with no end in sight. “I hope that the mayor not only announces quickly but picks the project that I support,” said Diaz, who supports the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, a massive concert hall and ice skating rink.

But education reform was also on the agenda, crafting a plan for college readiness at Truman High School and improving test preparation classes to poorer school districts.

To combat poor health in the Bronx, Diaz said he has summoned Bronx hospitals for a health summit set for April 6th.

With 2013 being billed as a big year for the borough, the borough president said he looks forward to 2014 when the Bronx celebrates its 100th anniversary as a county.

“The best is yet to come,” said the borough president.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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