Bronx Residents Disagree on Amazon HQ Bid

By Zoe Fanzo

An entrance at Amazon’s 185-acre Seattle headquarters. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

“An Amazon headquarters in the Bronx will drive out native Bronxites,” Bronx resident and Hunter College freshman Andrew Shkreli told the Meridian. Shkreli opposes the call from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and several other elected officials for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to select the Bronx as the location of the company’s next headquarters. 

“If you look back at pictures of the Bronx in the 70s, it’s like war-torn Europe.” 

- Bronx resident Mary F. Smith

In an open letter published on Oct. 15, officials advocating for a Bronx headquarters boasted of the borough’s central location, noting, “We are six miles from LaGuardia Airport, [and] 20 minutes from Kennedy Airport…The Bronx is the only borough attached to the mainland United States, and we offer easy connections to Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey by car. In addition, we are in the midst of constructing a new Metro North commuter rail spur in the East Bronx.” The letter also documents the borough’s recent economic growth, citing $3.27 billion in total development in 2016. Diaz asserts that since 2009, unemployment in the Bronx has been reduced by more than half, making it a prime location for corporate investment.  

Some Bronxites, though, dread the consequences of corporate influence, and fear that Diaz is accelerating gentrification in their communities. “I think the main issue is that Diaz cares more about people coming into the Bronx and improving the Bronx’s image rather than those who already reside here,” Shkreli said. “There is a blatant attempt to facilitate gentrification because the main people who will benefit from this are college-educated professionals, which the majority of the Bronx is not. Consequently, Diaz isn’t looking out for the Bronx now, as it is, he is looking out for what it could be. An Amazon headquarters in the Bronx will drive out native Bronxites.” 

However, Diaz’ plea has some Bronxites celebrating urban renewal and economic stimulation. “I think it would be a cool idea. It would bring more jobs to the Bronx, and also more publicity to the borough,” said Lehman sophomore Ngozi Fisher. 

Bronx resident Mary F. Smith, 63, who grew up during the era of burning buildings and urban decay, praised the potential headquarters. “I looked into it, and I found that at Amazon, even the entry-level jobs pay $12 an hour, which is more than the minimum wage. You can work your way up, and we don’t have those kinds of jobs here; they’re full-time and they’re benefit jobs. I do think the Bronx economy is transforming, there are more and more positive things happening. If you look back at pictures of the Bronx in the 70s, it’s like war-torn Europe,” said Smith. 

While Bronxites are divided about the placement of the headquarters, plans for its location remain undetermined. Some New Yorkers believe that, regardless of economic consequence, the city is not equipped for an Amazon headquarters. Veronica Vanterpool, board member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, rejected the plea to make New York the home of the next headquarters in her recent Daily News opinion piece, “Mayor, get behind progressive congestion pricing,” citing Amazon’s preference for “proximity to major highways and arterial roads,” and “access to mass transits.” The city, according to Vanterpool, “has traffic-choked streets and an imploding transit network--both of which will remain that way until we make a long-overdue fix.” 

“It will definitely inject a lot of growth into the Bronx, but it will also bring a lot of traffic,” agreed Lehman graduate student Jeldin Colberg. 

Ultimately, as many cities attempt to make a case for Amazon’s next headquarters, it remains unclear as to whether or not the Bronx will be chosen by the corporate giant, or if the borough is even in the right condition for such development. Regardless of the outcome, Ruben Diaz Jr. insists, “Amazon belongs in New York.”

New Yorkers Re-elect Mayor, Reject Constitutional Convention

By Thomas Behnke

New Yorkers voted to reject a proposal for a constitutional convention. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

“I knew de Blasio was going to win, but I think the convention vote was a missed opportunity. Lehman freshman Jasmin Delgado said when asked about the recent mayoral election results. The vote on the Constitutional Convention, known as Proposition 1 on the ballot, asked New Yorkers if they wanted the opportunity to amend New York’s constitution. While Delgado saw it as “a chance to change things” and voted for it, her mother voted against. 

“My mom thinks that any changes politicians would make would be better for them and worse for us,” Delgado said. “We went to vote together, [and] we fought up until we entered the school.” Delgado laughed. “We are a very political family.” 

Most New Yorkers voted with Delgado’s mother on the constitutional convention. The proposal, which appears on the ballot every 20 years, was rejected by a margin of 86 percent to 16 percent,  according to the New York Times. The last time New Yorkers voted for a constitutional convention was in 1938. According to nyconstitution.org, delegates debated issues such as social security, expanding the rapid transit system, and education. The next time a convention proposal will be on the ballot is 2037. 

A yes vote would have resulted in a convention in which delegates could voice concerns and propose changes to the state constitution.  Any changes coming out of the convention would then need to be voted on by the public before being implemented. Nysaysyes.org, a website advocating a convention, listed important issues that might be addressed, such as election reform, the environment, and court and criminal justice reform. 

Delgado saw it as a way to protect something closer to home--her own education.  “You see the signs that Trump’s education secretary doesn’t like public schools,” she said.  “A convention could have helped our focus on free public education even stronger.” Critics of the proposition point to the special interests, and the money they would pour into lobbying the delegates for changes.  “My father is in the ironworker’s union.  They were against it, because they’re scared the bosses could weaken the unions.  I guess it is complicated, but we can’t change if we don’t try something.  The system is broken.” 

However, the substantial showing for de Blasio, who was re-elected by nearly 40 points, shows that some New Yorkers still have faith in his abilities--or else less in all the other candidates. Many Lehman students affirmed this preference to the Meridian. “I like de Blasio,” Hector Mucheca, a sophomore, said.  “He has his own mind, I think.  He doesn’t get pushed around, and we need that with the way things are in the rest of the country.”

President Cruz Starts Campus Renovation

By Leonel Henriquez

Artist’s rendering of the proposed construction of new Nursing Building. 

When Lehman President José Luis Cruz cut the ribbon at the Lehman Performing Arts Center renovation last week, it marked the start of a host of capital improvements slated for 2018.  Next year will see the campus bookstore moved to the old gym building to make way for a new 50,000 square foot building to house the nursing program. A 350-bed residence hall/dorm and phase II of the Science Hall will further change the campus skyline, at an estimated cost of $ 282.8 million dollars. 

Cruz laid out these plans to students at a lunch with the student government association (SGA) and the general student body in the Student Life Building on Oct. 25. At this event, the president also noted that Gillet Hall auditorium and the Lovinger Theatre would be renovated, with the latter to have its seats re-upholstered and reconfigured to provide greater wheelchair access. 

Senior, biology major, and SGA member Kimberly Pereyra was excited about the announcement, telling the Meridian, “I think it’s really great that they will fixing some of the auditoriums that are run down like the one in Gillet.” 

President José Luis Cruz speaks with students during lunch. Photo by Leonel Henriquez.

Chris Higgins, technical director for Lehman Stages, is impressed with Cruz’ efforts so far. “I think it’s great that the new president has been able to raise so much money in such a short time that he’s been on the job,” he said. But Higgins added that rather than prioritizing new construction, “I would really prefer to see more money going into repairs and renovation, particularly here in the theatre building, where there are so many leaky pipes in the basement.”