Katz kicks off run for borough office

Photo courtesy Marie Figueroa
By Steve Mosco

It was not an easy decision, but Queens lifer Melinda Katz said the time is right to get back into government.

And Katz made it official last week when she publicly kicked off her campaign in the race for borough president.

“I took several months thinking about where I wanted to be in my life,” said Katz. “I’ve spent the majority of my adulthood working in government and those were some of the greatest times in my life.”

Those times included stretches as Democratic state assemblywoman from 1993-98 and city councilwoman from 2001-09, representing areas, including Rego Park and Forest Hills.

Katz ran for Congress in 1998, finishing a close second to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, while also finishing behind City Comptroller John Liu when she ran for that position in 2009.

Her political career began with three years working at Borough Hall under longtime Borough President Claire Shulman. In the meantime, she has served as a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, a Manhattan law firm, where she specializes in government affairs and land use.

Katz, 47, said her experience working with lawmakers in the city’s most diverse borough gives her insight into the most pressing issues facing residents.

“Everyone has core wants for their children and their families,” she said in an interview. “People want their children to have a good education and they want to be able to walk safely through the streets.”

She cited education and affordable housing as primary issues she believes would be her priorities if she makes it to the borough president’s office, which Helen Marshall will vacate next year due to term limits.

“People are being priced out of the places they want to be,” said Katz, noting that she was the chairwoman of the powerful Land Use Committee during her time in the Council. “And schools are clearly a huge issue for parents — folks in my neighborhood alone tell me that picking the right school is always a challenge. Making sure we have quality schools in every single borough is an important aspect of the job.”

And it is a job that Katz believes she is qualified to do, given her years of experience working with legislators in Queens. Other possible challengers for the office include Councilmen Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).

“Each candidate brings their own expertise to the position, but I worked for Shulman and I know what the job is,” she said. “I spent three years going to community board meetings and civic associations representing the borough president. It brings me the perspective of knowing the office and knowing what can be done with the office.”

Katz still calls Forest Hills home and is raising her two children in the same house where she grew up. Leaving Queens never entered her mind — even as a student at the University of Massachusetts, she would routinely return home on weekends.

“It was like a commuter school for me,” she said. “People come from all over the world for the opportunities available in Queens. The cultures and backgrounds are what make the borough the place it is and bringing it all together is an honor that should be celebrated. If you live in Queens, you know the beauty of it.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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