Boro faces challenges: Beep

Boro faces challenges: Beep
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall (r.) congratulated firefighter Antonio Velez (c.) of Engine 220 for rescuing a 12-year-old child from a burning Bayside home last week. Velez attended the ceremony with his wife Myra. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta

Queens got its annual checkup from Borough President Helen Marshall Tuesday when she delivered her State of the Borough address at the Colden Auditorium at Queens College and the diagnosis was mixed with a rise in crime offset by new additions to crowded hospitals.

There were predictable assessments, but Marshall also offered some new revelations.

Crime has climbed in the borough, especially in southeast Queens, and not modestly. The murder rate has surged by 28 percent, which is more than twice the citywide increase, according to Marshall.

Felony assaults also rose by 7 percent even while that number held steady across the five boroughs, she said.

Burglaries were down everywhere else in New York but not in Queens, which had a 2 percent increase. And the same was true for auto thefts, which declined by 2 percent across the city but rose by 7 percent in Queens, Marshall said.

James Secreto, the Patrol Borough Queens South chief, said after the speech that many of the statistics had to do with pattern crimes, where a small number of people repeatedly committed the same offense and drove the numbers up.

“Once we get that one person, it will abate the problem,” he said, referring to a string of bank robberies and auto thefts.

There was better news for the Fire Department in Queens, where fire fatalities were at a historic low.

One of the city’s bravest received a standing ovation in the middle of the speech for recently rescuing a 12-year-old child from a deadly Bayside house fire.

“It was scary,” said Firefighter Antonio Velez from Engine 320 in Bayside-Auburndale. “I’m very happy that I was able to rescue him before anything else happened.”

The boy was treated for second-degree burns, but he was not the only Queens resident who required medical attention this month.

Marshall outlined numerous new projects designed to alleviate some of the overcrowding that plagues the borough’s hospitals.

St. Mary’s Hospital for Children broke ground on its new in-patient building. New York Hospital Queens unveiled a new 80-bed wing, a new 10-bed ambulatory surgery center and 33 recovery beds, which won an award from the Queens Chamber of Commerce last week. Queens Hospital Center acquired 40 new beds and Elmhurst Hospital opened its renovated HIV clinic.

And there is more to come, including the first stand-alone pediatric emergency department in the region and 76 maternity beds in the Katz Women’s Hospital on the LIJ campus.

Marshall also outlined several projects to inject new life into Queens libraries.

The children’s library in Jamaica will open in the spring, and a Glen Oaks library will open next year, according to Marshall. A waterfront branch is in the planning stages for Hunters Point, along with branches in Elmhurst and Far Rockaway.

But the libraries are only a fraction of the building projects planned for the future: the large mixed-use development Flushing Commons; a $43 million infrastructure improvement in Hunters Point South; and $335 million for sewer projects over the next four years in Springfield Gardens, Rosedale, the Rockaways and College Point. Numerous parks and sports facilities are also in the works, like a new cricket field in Idlewild Park and two heated tennis courts in Roy Wilkins Park.

Marshall also outlined several cultural renovations and construction, but vowed to fight for more funding, since Queens receives the smallest amount of cultural funding of any borough.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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