By Alex Davidson
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall announced Tuesday during her State of the Borough address that a much-anticipated, state-of-the-art pool and ice rink will be built at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, ending years of efforts to build such a facility.
Marshall, speaking to an audience of hundreds at Queens College’s Colden Center, said she had been able to bring to life plans originally spearheaded by previous Borough President Claire Shulman and members of the City Council.
“A spectacular building will serve the recreational needs of the entire borough in a state-of-the-art pool and rink complex,” Marshall said. “It will be a showpiece in the park and no doubt a center of international activities during the 2012 Olympics.”
The Democratic borough president thanked Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his efforts in helping to get the necessary funds to build the sports complex. Marshall continued to thank Bloomberg throughout her speech on at least six other occasions.
“We knew we had a good businessman in our mayor,” Marshall said.
Later Bloomberg replied diplomatically: “You are the best Queens borough president elected since I have become mayor.”
Bloomberg, who gave his State of the City address at Astoria’s Silvercup Studios earlier this month, looked on with other members of Queens’ city council delegation as Marshall discussed improvements to the borough’s health care, library, housing, parks and cultural institutions. The borough president focused much of her speech on efforts to revitalize and enhance economic development in Jamaica, Flushing and Long Island City.
Marshall, first elected three years ago, hailed the arrival of the AirTrain light rail system that ferries JFK-bound passengers between stations in Howard Beach and downtown Jamaica from Manhattan. She said the resulting JFK Corporate Square, along with the existing Jamaica Cinema Center and new performing arts center at the Dutch Reform Church, puts Jamaica at the forefront of development efforts in Queens.
“The Greater Jamaica Development Corp., in its efforts to revitalize Jamaica, has worked with all the elected officials and the borough presidents, past and present, for over 35 years,” Marshall said. “These combined efforts have forged major economic growth for Jamaica.”
For Flushing, Marshall highlighted the goal of incorporating old and new parts in the area to create a unified downtown, including the Flushing river waterfront and Willets Point. She discussed the development of the large Flushing municipal parking lot that will be converted for residential, commercial and retail purposes.
She also applauded efforts by Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) to initiate a business improvement district and convert the RKO Keith’s Theater into a new building housing offices, apartments, shops and a senior center.
In Long Island City, Marshall said she has earmarked $2 million to improve pedestrian and vehicular access near the Queens Plaza mall. She also highlighted the apartment building to be erected near Peninsula Park at Queens West, the potential site for the 2012 Olympics.
Marshall called for the expansion of two film studios, Silvercup and Kaufman Astoria, which would increase the borough’s revenues and job numbers in the city.
“The future of Queens is very bright,” Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said after the speech. “I am happy to be working with the borough president.”
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens), who is mulling a run to unseat Bloomberg in the 2005 election, said he supports Marshall and her efforts to improve the economic, cultural and social elements in Queens.
Her speech “touched a lot of bases,” Weiner said. “She showed she is working for every corner of the borough.”
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.