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Ruben Diaz Jr. Ditches Public Advocate Race to Seek Re-Election

By Patrick Wall | November 20, 2012 4:27pm | Updated on November 20, 2012 5:42pm

THE BRONX — Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is ditching the race for public advocate to seek re-election in The Bronx, where he hopes to finalize major ongoing projects, such as the Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment, he announced Tuesday.

“The needs of the people of The Bronx are foremost on my mind and in my heart,” Diaz said in a statement.

Diaz faced a potentially tight public advocate contest, where several well-known officials are rumored to be eyeing the seat currently held by Bill de Blasio.

Among the possible contenders are Brooklyn City Council members Letitia James and Charles Barron, as well as State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Reshma Saujani, a former deputy in de Blasio’s office.

Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf said it made good sense for Diaz to remain in an office where he does not face term limits next year and is generally perceived to be performing well, rather than dive into an unpredictable citywide fray.

“Why go into a position where you might lose?” Sheinkopf said, noting that the public advocate candidates would also need to raise significant funds to be competitive. “He made the right decision for him."

De Blasio is expected to run for mayor next year, along with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Comptroller John Liu and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, all Democrats.

Last week, former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión Jr., who recently left the Democratic Party, said he plans to enter the mayoral race as a Republican.

Meanwhile, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer on Sunday dropped out of that contest, where he had lagged in polls, and declared a bid for comptroller.

Diaz, a Democrat, served seven terms as a Bronx representative in the State Assembly, before winning a special borough president election in 2009. His father is conservative Democratic State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.

As borough president, Diaz has overseen two major, closely followed Bronx economic initiatives this year — a new round of proposals for the armory and a deal to bring FreshDirect to the Harlem River waterfront.

In 2009, Diaz helped sink a plan to turn the long-vacant armory into a shopping mall because the developer would not guarantee all workers a so-called living wage.

In August, he backed a new proposal to convert the site into an ice sports center over a plan for a shopping and entertainment complex, again citing wages as a major consideration.

Earlier this year, he pushed for a bill that requires companies receiving substantial public perks to pay workers a so-called living wage — at least $10 an hour with benefits, or $11.50 an hour without. The City Council passed the bill in April.

He also helped orchestrate FreshDirect’s planned move from Long Island City to Port Morris, which the state, city and borough have all promised to subsidize.

The online grocer’s relocation and the nearly $130 million in proposed subsidies have provoked loud protests — and a lawsuit — from some residents since they were announced in February.

In his statement Tuesday, Diaz said he had many “substantive, thought-provoking discussions” this year about running for citywide office, but decided he would rather guide the Bronx projects he started to completion.

“We have seen tremendous success in The Bronx in recent years,” he said. “But there is still more work to be done.”