By Anna Gustafson
An $819 billion economic stimulus package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week would benefit Queens residents, especially in the areas of education, transportation and infrastructure, area lawmakers said.
“The bill will do more for New York City and the New York City economy than any single bill we’ve done in recent memory,” said U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (Dâˆ’Forest Hills). “There is an enormous amount of money for infrastructure.”
Numbers for Queens are not concrete because the U.S. Senate has yet to pass its version of the bill, which could increase spending to nearly $900 billion. Weiner said the House legislation would add about 440 policemen to city streets, include $3.4 billion for New York infrastructure projects and give $1.7 billion to the MTA — funds which state Assemblyman Rory Lancman (Dâˆ’Fresh Meadows) said could go toward Queens projects that he said have been needed for years.
“I would like to see a massive expansion of express bus service in Queens,” Lancman said. “I represent Richmond Hill, which has the J and Z trains on Jamaica Avenue, and I’d like to see service improved there.”
The New York City Housing Authority would receive an estimated $520 million to replace boilers and elevators and meet other capital needs — a move that could greatly benefit places like Pomonok Housing on Kissena Boulevard in Flushing, which Weiner said does not have safe elevators.
State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (Dâˆ’Little Neck) said the economic stimulus money could help the city close an approximate $4 billion budget gap. Weprin said he hopes the House bill’s $32 billion in state aid would help to ward off the cuts that Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed Friday, including the elimination of 14,000 teachers and classroom employees and 1,000 police officers.
“Hopefully, it will close a budget gap, which we desperately need so we can focus on helping to revitalize businesses in the state,” Weprin said.
The $1.6 billion in education aid the city could receive from the stimulus package would go a long way in addressing too densely populated classrooms, Lancman said.
“We have severe overcrowding problems in Queens, and money being sent to schools will be very important,” Lancman said. “If we can build new schools with the stimulus money, it will increase jobs and make it easier to lower the class size.”
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (Dâˆ’Jamaica) praised the bill, saying it would bring a “substantial amount of money into Queens to make sure we can stop flooding.”
“We could fix sewers with this money and prevent people from having their homes flooded out,” Meeks said.
Weiner said the package includes a measure that would cut taxes for 1.7 million city families. Workers making under $200,000 would receive a cut of approximately $500, with couples receiving $1,000.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by eâˆ’mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 174.