District 18
Soundview, Parkchester, Castle Hill

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District 18 - Ruben Diaz
1163 Manor Avenue, Bronx 10472
City Hall: (212) 788-6853
District: (718) 892-7513
Fax: (718) 892-7513

Committee Assignments:
Aging, Chair
Cultural Affairs, Libraries & International Intergroup Relations, member
Fire & Criminal Justice Services, member
Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse & Disability Services, member
Parks & Recreation, member

Giving Seniors The Break They Deserve
Makeshift Community Center

By Carolyn Ennis

Located near nine local schools and ten housing projects, the Soundview Branch Library in the South Bronx is more than just a place where people check out books.

Local day care centers bring children to the library for story hour and to play with puzzles and educational toys. People use the computers for job searches and drafting resumes. Dozens of teenagers come everyday after-school to read, do homework, or just to hang out. The library also provides a chess club, films and cultural events, free video rentals, and adult literacy courses.

Eva Diaz, a mother of two, regularly brings her 7 and 9-year-old children to the library to get books, activities, and for a place out of the house.

"This is a good place for the kinds to be hanging out because it is safe and they are surrounded by educational resources," said Diaz.

However with the city facing a $5 billion deficit, library services may soon be cut back.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a 15 percent cut to libraries across the city. For the New York Public Library system, which includes libraries in Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx, this translates into a loss of $25 million. (Brooklyn and Queens each have their own public library systems and are facing similar cuts).

For the Soundview Branch, the cuts mean having to close its doors two days a week and only being open Monday through Thursday. Patrons argue that these closures, especially on Saturdays, will deprive this community of a vital resource.

On Saturdays, the library provides an internet workshop for adults, Sign Language instruction for the hearing impaired and a "Reading Readiness" program that helps parents in teaching their children how to read. Information sessions are held on topics ranging from health, diet and nutrition to becoming a foster parent.

Many of the programs, say librarians, will be discontinued.

In addition, the library will have less funds available to purchase new books and materials. The universal reserve system, which shares materials throughout the entire library system, will have few resources to offer and longer waiting lists for what it does have.

In opposition to the proposed cuts, patrons of the Soundview Branch have written 417 letters to the mayor and members of the City Council. Valerino Morrabal, Jr. wrote one of them. "The library is for the community. If the programs are cut, it's going to affect everybody -- children and adults."

Bronx City Councilmember Jose Serrano said that the budget cuts to libraries will be felt more severely in poor communities where residents do not have the disposable income or the means to find other educational activities.

"We can't ask poor communities to bear the brunt of this recent budget crisis," said Serrano. "Our commitment to libraries shows the level of commitment to public education, our commitment to our poor communities, and to the future of our cities."

The City Council has suggested reducing the cuts to only three percent, which would allow libraries to stay open six days a week.

Librarians argue that they should receive only a cut that is equivalent to what is being asked of the Board of Education, because libraries serve as part of the city's overall educational resources.

"The library is an educational institution and should be considered as one of the elements of the educational process in New York City," said Mary Elizabeth Wendt, associate director of the Bronx libraries.

By Ruben Diaz

Every day too many elderly New Yorkers have to decide between eating or buying the prescription drugs they need.

Some low-income seniors are fortunate enough to qualify for programs like Medicaid, Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (known as "EPIC") or an employee-sponsored retirement plans, but many depend solely on Medicare or their own insufficient savings.

About a third of New York's 1.1 million seniors do not qualify for Medicaid and half of those seniors spend $500 or more a month on prescription drugs.

That is why I have introduced a bill (Intro 75) to make prescription drugs more affordable for senior citizens and poor New Yorkers.

This bill would require public hospitals and health facilities to contract only with pharmaceutical companies that provide at least a 25 percent discount on prescription drugs to low-income people who have no other alternative drug coverage.

This legislation has already had a positive effect. After I introduced the bill in March, seven major pharmaceutical companies voluntarily agreed to offer the discount. If the bill becomes law, others will have to follow. Twenty-five other City Councilmembers have joined to support this bill.

I do not believe we are not asking for too much from these companies. In the last six years, the profits of major drug companies have increased by $90 billion. A third of this money comes from our seniors, many who can not afford the high cost of medicine they need to stay healthy and alive. The drug companies have money enough and should be willing to give senior citizens some relief.

Before I became a member of the City Council, I spent my life working to help the city's senior citizens, particularly those in the Bronx. I have operated three senior centers and a home attendant program that serves over 1,000 clients. I also founded the South Bronx Senior Transportation Network, which provides transportation for seniors.

As the chair of the City Council's aging committee, I have held a series of "Senior Speak-Outs" across the city to give the elderly a chance to talk directly to council members about the proposed budget cuts that would close seven senior citizen centers, eliminate weekend meals, and reduce essential activities and programs.

I have worked in the City Council and with the mayor's office to fight the cuts to these programs. I even suggested to my colleagues in the council that we pool some of the discretionary funds that go to programs in our individual districts to ensure that we do not let our elderly go hungry. If we have to make cuts, we should do it in other places. Our seniors have paid worked and paid their taxes and now it is time for us to take care of them.

I also believe there are ways that we can generate more money for the city and have introduced a piece of legislation that could generate as much as $100 million a year.

My legislation would require companies like Con Edison and Verizon to pay franchise fees for the equipment they put under the city streets. Other companies like the Brooklyn Union and the cable companies pay these types of franchise fees, but Con Ed and Verizon are currently exempt from them because they were already operating when the city was incorporated in 1898.

These are difficult times for the city and we are asking everyone to tighten their belt. If we are willing to ask the poor, children, and elderly to make sacrifices, we should also be willing to ask the corporations who use our city to do the same.

Posted June 17, 2002

Ruben Diaz is City Council Member from District 18.

Community Boards for District 18
Community Board No. 9
1967 Turnbull Ave., Rm. 7, Bronx, NY 10473
(718) 823-3034
Mr. Enrique Vega, Chair
Mr. Francisco Gonzalez, District Manager
Community Board No. 11
1741 Colden Ave., Bronx, NY 10462
(718) 892-6262
Mr. Dominic Castore, Chair
Mr. John Fratta, District Manager

Ethnic Makeup and Political Registration

Ethnic Makeup

Political Registration

Public Schools

Elementary Schools

Middle Schools

High Schools

To find out what school district you live in, call the Board of Education at 718-935-2000 or link to Public School Reports

Police Precincts

Although many precincts cover areas solely within one City Council district, there are many which overlap with other districts. In most cases the overlap of precincts among districts is no more than a few blocks. Wherever there is overlap, we have made sure to alert you.

City Parks
Click thumbnail for larger image of parks in this district

Learn more about the condition of the city parks in your district at the New Yorkers for Parks (PDF file).

Community Gardens

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Find out more about community gardens from
the Council on the Environment of New York City

Historic Districts and Landmarks
Learn more about the historic districts and landmarks in this area.

The Waterfront

map listing suggestions for use and improvement of the waterfront in this district from the Metropolitan Waterfront
Alliance. (pdf format only)