Almost every elected official in the Bronx has signed a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, urging him to consider the Bronx for a new Apple store. For a community that has been through so much, leaders say the store would send the world a message that the Bronx has risen from the ashes.
"For years, the Bronx has been labeled as an up-and-coming borough and we deserve quality brand stores such as Apple," said Rafael Salamanca, a New York City councilman born and raised in the borough. "When you look at the demographics, we're the seventh largest city in America, if we were to be our own city. ... We are three times bigger than Staten Island. I don't understand why the Bronx doesn't have its own store, other than to think that it's discrimination. It may be because of our demographic makeup, I don't know how else to explain it."
For many Americans, their last brush with the Bronx was an iconic 1977 newscast, as buildings burned to the ground around Yankee Stadium, symbols of crime and economic dilapidation. Statistics on the Bronx in 2016 tell a very different story — and the borough needs a new symbol, politicians said.
In the second week of November, there were 374 serious crimes in the Bronx (including murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny), according to the city. In Manhattan, there were 442 (251 in the south and 191 in the north).
The borough was one of the few areas in the nation where the number of jobs continued to grow steadily through the 2008 recession.
"A lot of people just don't appreciate the market," said city Councilman Andrew Cohen. "It's a little bit undiscovered. There are some good things about that, too ... but I think that there's a certain desire for recognition of the economic revival. That would be another feather in our cap. Someone else appreciating what's going here."
Still, with its rapid population growth, there are still too many Bronxites without jobs — the unemployment rate there is higher than the other boroughs, Census data show. With a median household income of $34,284 as of 2014, Bronx residents are much poorer, on average, than the median $71,656 earned in Manhattan.
That's something that its leaders hope to change.
Clergy from across the city tell stories of how Diaz — who has met with them regularly for 30 years — has blessed their congregation with jobs. Later, at a Puerto Rican Heritage Month celebration on City Island, Bronx borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. — the senator's son — gets a standing ovation at the mention of the 15,000 new jobs he's been credited with bringing to the borough.