NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Mayor Bill de Blasio and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. praised a group of teens and young adults who cleaned up their neighborhood after vandals struck Monday night.
Many small business owners in the Bronx returned to their stores Tuesday morning to see a path of destruction after a fifth day of peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd descended into chaos as night fell.
Seeing the damage, a group of teenagers and young adults from the Bronx stepped up to clean up the mess on their own time.
Mayor de Blasio said he spoke with Diaz, who said it was “good to see young people care about their community and doing something positive.”
When the borough president asked the teens what organization they were working with, they responded that they were not with a group – they just lived in the community and hated seeing the destruction.
“These young people, this is their neighborhood and they are the future of the Bronx and they are the future of New York City. There are so many good young people in this city who I want to tell – all of them, all the youth of New York City who care about your neighborhoods, care about the city, care about creating a better world, care about creating a more just world – thank you,” de Blasio said.
He called them an “example to us all.”
In an interview with WCBS 880’s Lynda Lopez, Diaz says he was “heartbroken” seeing the damage along Fordham Road – where the worst of the looting occurred.
“I couldn’t believe that with all the things that we went through over the last three months with the pandemic, shutting everything down, obviously the pain and suffering that we’ve seen with the protests, police harassment and police brutality, things we’ve been marching against for many decades. Now to see that the very communities and stores that we helped bring up the Bronx were destroyed, I have to tell you that I was at my highest point of despair,” he said.
However, seeing young people out cleaning up and helping out struck a chord with him.
“It was like the cavalry, right? Just when you’re at your lowest point, when you’re like, oh my goodness what is happening. I went out there with my shovel and my own broom and I’m over here helping the Dunkin’ Donuts to see hundreds of kids. Not dozens, I’m not exaggerating, not dozens, hundreds of kids with their brooms, with their garbage bags, and how they were helping all the businesses. It’s a long strip, anybody who’s familiar with Fordham, from Webster Avenue to Jerome, long strip, that for me instilled hope, it inspired me,” he said.
Diaz says that the people who showed up to help were the true representation of the Bronx, not those who looted or destroyed property.
“I really want the Mayor to comment to the world who we really are as the Bronx, not what happened the night before. Who we really are is the spirit, the resiliency that was exhibited by these young folks. The young folk, who by the way, march and are angry and are in pain because of systemic racism, because of the way policing is done in certain communities,” he told Lopez.
Diaz said he is equally as frustrated as the protesters that are demanding justice for Floyd, but he said violence and vandalism is not the solution.
He says that he has been protesting police brutality since the mid-1990s and he wanted to make sure legislative change comes about to finally fix issues that are deep-set into black and minority communities.
“It’s not just about reforming policing, but it’s about reforming systemic racism, and what does that mean? That means that we have to have more resources in our educational system. We have to have better resources in our healthcare system. Look how the pandemic hit our community, and black and brown communities, stronger and harder than other communities. It means that we need pay equity, it means that we need to get rid of systemic racism in lending institutions, where a woman or man of color finds it much harder to get the financing when they want to open up a business, when they want to buy a home,” the Bronx borough president said.