‘The South Bronx needs a mayor and a borough president who will fight for our values and prioritize our needs without excuses or distractions. The South Bronx has power, but we have to use it if it’s to translate into change for families and our community’s future.’

Adi Talwar

Voters at the Mill Brook Houses polling site in the Bronx in 2013.

The South Bronx runs on hope and promise. Against all odds, our residents don’t give up even when the odds feel overwhelming. 

Our borough continues to have the state’s highest unemployment rate compared to other counties, as high as 15.3 percent in March 2021,and the South Bronx is consistently among the neighborhoods experiencing increased levels of violent crime

And yet, we aspire for better. But we also know hope isn’t enough—we have to take action. We’re a few short weeks away from a pivotal political primary that will paint a clearer picture of not just New York City’s path forward, but specifically the South Bronx’s as well.

Come Tuesday, June 22, we need to ensure that every community member is prepared to go out and make their voice heard at the ballot box. The South Bronx needs a mayor and a borough president who will fight for our values and prioritize our needs without excuses or distractions.

The South Bronx has power, but we have to use it if it’s to translate into change for families and our community’s future. The 2013 Democratic mayoral primary saw a 19.3 percent voter turnout across the borough, and that number dropped lower in 2017. We can only keep our elected officials accountable for their promises by showing up at the polls. 

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Both City and Borough Hall know that the South Bronx is a vital artery for the city’s economy. They also know our residents made up many of the essential workers who kept the city running during the pandemic and will play a vital role in its recovery. That’s why Diego Beekman Mutual Housing Association is committed to working with this new slate of political leadership to deliver long-awaited results for South Bronxites who have been hearing platitudes for so long. 

Real results for South Bronxites would begin to be felt as soon as our officials reverse course and truly prioritize the South Bronx during this recovery. Bronxites for years have suffered from a documented susceptibility to all kinds of pre-existing health conditions, including asthma and diabetes. If anything, the pandemic only reinforced how inadequate our medical and health resources were and continue to be. We need leaders to have the political will to urgently improve health care access, improve the education, invest in NYCHA and housing and stop siting programs and facilities that are making conditions in the community worse and burdening law enforcement within the area.

To support a community’s health and well-being means we have to ensure that there’s a community of people living and thriving in the South Bronx. A safe affordable community that has walkable streets, a good quality of life and the infrastructure that supports it is critical, but the thing that builds and strengthens community is leadership working with community. Our incoming leaders must ensure that the investments in economic development projects, schools, open spaces, and public transit that they often bring to better-resourced neighborhoods finally come to the South Bronx. We will only bolster safety and boost our vibrancy when we decisively address those issues that have gone neglected for so long. 

When our residents thrive, so does the Bronx and our economy. The local job creators and community organizations that come from within our neighborhoods are also the ones who best understand what the South Bronx needs. So many of them continue to rise to the occasion without much help—imagine what they can do when they’re not bogged down in bureaucracy and processes that drive our most ambitious residents either out of the borough or out of business altogether.

This coming election will be as unprecedented for New York City as the last year has been. It’s an opportunity that we can’t waste on candidates who say the right things but don’t follow through on their commitments to our community. 

But that opportunity only means as much if we turn out and vote for the people who won’t ignore the community and the challenges that have plagued us for far too long. The district needs candidates with the ideas and proven record to help bring about the bright future that South Bronx residents deserve. We must prove on election day that no matter who leads New York City, the next elected leadership cannot ignore us anymore.

Arline Parks is the vice chair and CEO of Diego Beekman. Andrew Reicher is the executive director of UHAB.

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