The first big showdown of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s tenure was over the Kingsbridge Armory, a brick behemoth that has been vacant since 1996. After his election as borough president in 2009, Diaz came out against a plan to convert the building into a shopping mall. Diaz insisted that the developer ensure that a “living wage” of $10 an hour be paid to any employee at the site. “When a company is set to make hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term profits while collecting significant government subsidies, those new jobs should provide a decent salary,” he argued. By the end of the year, the New York City Council had killed the project.
A decade later, Diaz has flipped the narrative. There’s a flurry of construction across the borough, and developers are filling his campaign coffers as he gears up for a run for mayor. Activists who cheered the demise of the Kingsbridge mall now grumble that he’s selling out the Bronx. Meanwhile, the Kingsbridge Armory remains vacant – though the current plan, to convert it into a world-class ice center, may get done by 2021, when voters pick the next mayor.
This week, City & State contributor David Cruz explores Diaz’s record – and another factor that could play an even bigger role in the race.
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