The Civic Scene: Marshall outlines plans in State of the Borough

By Bob Harris

Moving to Colden Auditorium in Queens College from the Queens Museum, Borough President Helen Marshall delivered her 2004 State of the Borough Address. Marshall called the list of improvements in Queens “the Marshall Plan.”

Marshall noted that Queens has three large centers of business, shopping and entertainment: Long Island City, Jamaica and Flushing. She spoke of cleanup programs, business improvement districts, park improvements and the building of more schools. She spoke about the AirTrain’s opening and of the JFK Corporate Park near the airport, which will house businesses related to the aviation industry and travel.

It is interesting that she spoke of the RKO Keith’s Theater in downtown Flushing, where there are plans to revitalize Main Street as well as construct a building that will house shops, apartments and a senior center. The theater had been purchased by developer Tommy Huang. The building was reduced to a hulking wreck with heating oil all over the basement, and the magnificent hallway of the theater was destroyed.

John Huang, another developer whose Audrey Realty Corp.’s address is the same as that of Tommy Huang’s development group, purchased the Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows. This was the last operating farm in Queens with a fine old manor house on 2.2 acres.

A couple of years ago Tommy Huang had wanted to buy the land to build 22 two-family homes there, but the Queens Department of City Planning said that this is a preservation district and permission is needed to build there. The civic associations of Fresh Meadows and other areas of Queens are wondering what is going to happen to the Klein Farm.

Marshall announced that there is progress in redeveloping the Rockaway Peninsula. About 50 years ago there was a misguided plan to rebuild Arverne so all the buildings there were torn down. Nothing was built so the area stayed vacant, and no taxes were collected for New York City. Plans never worked out.

Finally, former Borough President Claire Shulman started some development. Now 300 affordable homes are almost finished in Rockaway, and there are plans for another 2,300 residential units for the area. The sooner the better.

Marshall also announced there will be improvements to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. She spoke of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s agreeing to fund a world-class swimming pool and ice-skating rink in the park. The Olympic-sized pool could be used if the 2012 Olympics come to New York City.

Marshall also spoke of expanding the Queens Zoo, the New York Hall of Science and the Queens Theater. The budget crisis last year almost led to the closing of the zoo. I read a couple of weeks ago that there might not be money to keep the zoo open. I guess Marshall will fight to keep it afloat.

This is a big borough with many people and economic activities. Marshall seems to be working hard to improve the economic, educational and cultural life of Queens residents.

Good and bad news of the week

The Meat Inspection Act was created in 1904 after writers known as muckrakers exposed the diseases caused by bad medicines and rotten food packaged and sold to unsuspecting consumers. The Food and Drug Administration has done a good job of protecting the quality of the medicines we buy, but I don’t understand why it is starting to prohibit elderly people from purchasing medicines bought by Canadian firms from American pharmaceutical companies.

Is the FDA afraid of poor-quality medicines from Third World countries and disreputable manufacturers, or is it trying to protect the profits of American firms?

The mad cow disease discovered in one cow out west has brought to light the quality of food fed to our chickens, pigs and cows. Now there is talk that farm-raised salmon also ingest feed and chemicals that are not healthy.

What is the FDA doing about regulating what is fed to the animals we eat? Is it doing the right thing concerning imported medicines? Some people have to choose among food, shelter and medicines. This sounds bad to me.

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