With less than two years left in his final term and 1,000 people seated before him in Fordham’s Rose Hill Gymnasium, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr. delivered an upbeat and charismatic final State of the Borough address on Feb. 8.
Carrión, who is barred by term limits from serving again as borough president, has announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for city comptroller in 2009. He used his 45-minute address to local leaders and residents to highlight big issues—from lower crime and unemployment to 35,000 housing units built in the borough in the last six years. He also noted the achievements of local police, firefighters and school children in attendance, and gave a plug to a forthcoming Zagat guide focusing solely on the Bronx.
In welcoming Carrión to Fordham, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, rattled off a list of the borough president’s achievements, but said that Carrión’s biggest contribution since taking office in 2001 was reviving the spirit of the Bronx.
“Whenever I look at all that he has accomplished in the course of his service, I find myself marveling at all that he has done,” Father McShane said. “I also find myself saying over and over again, that we have been, continue to be and are to this day blessed to have him as our borough president.”
“Green” development and the resulting jobs it creates were overriding themes of Carrión’s address, from doubling the number of Greenway miles in the borough to redeveloping North Brother Island in the East River to attracting eco-tourism. Carrión also highlighted specific projects that were part of $1 billion in investment last year, a 400 percent increase from the $237 million in development in 2002.
“We will continue that with Boricua Village—a 680-unit mixed-use, mixed-income development on 163rd Street, and St. Ann’s Terrace, being developed by Jackson Development, a 600-unit mixed-use, mixed-income development between 156th and 159th streets along St. Ann’s Avenue,” he said. “Mixed use, mixed income, rental and ownership, off-street parking and green. This is the way it will be done in the Bronx.”
Carrión touted the largest profile development in the borough too: the new Yankee Stadium. He also addressed reports about the delayed start-up of the Yankee Community Foundation, which was set up to disburse $800,000 a year to local sports and wellness organizations inconvenienced by construction. It will begin disbursing benefits this spring, and not a cent will be lost due to delays. It’s all part of a pattern, he said, of the continued re-birth of a borough many had written off years ago.
“I have a special message for those who sit back and criticize what we’re doing in the Bronx,” he said, his voice rising. “I invite you to consider where we were 20 years ago, even six years ago, when our unemployment rate was pushing 12 percent and people were still trying to find a way to get out of the Bronx. Now families and business and developers are competing to come into the Bronx!”
Carrión, a City Island native, likewise had kind words for Fordham.
From the time I came to Fordham six years ago, our refrain has been in line with the philosophy and ethic of Vince Lombardi, who drew his ethic from the Jesuit tradition here—academic freedom; rigor; excellence; collaboration; and pragmatism,” he said. “So Father McShane and friends, we as leaders hope to live up to this great tradition in our pursuit of a better Bronx.”