Installed By Mayor In Flushing
Before a crowd of admirers and colleagues in government, new Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was ceremonially sworn in by Mayor Bill de Blasio last Thursday night, Jan. 9, at Queens College’s LeFrak Concert Hall in Flushing.
Katz officially took office on Jan. 1, succeeding Helen Marshall and becoming the third consecutive woman to hold the highest elected office in the borough. She previously served terms in the Assembly and City Council, and as a deputy borough president under former Borough President Claire Shulman.
In her inaugural address, the Forest Hills native pledged to lead the borough with the inspiration of a quote from her late father, David Katz, who founded the Queens Symphony Orchestra.
“You should never have to go over a bridge or through a tunnel to get everything you need,” the new borough president said. “We will make it happen.”
Katz promised to create high-tech classrooms in every public school in Queens, ensuring a “fair and equitable” education for all students. She also promised to urge the Department of Education to advance policies that respect the cultural traditions and beliefs of every student.
Job creation was another focus of her speech, and Katz said she would work to find ways to boost economic development the entire borough and, especially, in the storm-battered Rockaway peninsula. To that end, she called for the Rockaway Ferry be made a permanent form of transportation between the peninsula and Manhattan and the creation of a Storm Relief Task Force to provide Rockaway residents with the tools and resources needed to rebuild.
The borough president also pledged to find ways to enhance emergency care in underserved communities and build new hospitals to replace those that have closed in recent years.
As a whole, Katz promised to move Queens forward by building on its strengths as the most diverse county in the United States.
“We are a borough that understands how to get along, and when we can’t, we work it out,” she added. “I’m looking forward to getting things done.”
Katz was accompanied to the ceremony by her companion, Guardian Angels founder and radio host Curtis Sliwa, and their two children, Carter and Hunter. She was sworn in by de Blasio while placing her left hand on a copy the Old Testament-held by Rep. Joseph Crowley-which had been given to her father by former Queens District Attorney Frank O’Connor in 1969.
De Blasio and Crowley-the latter of whom serves as chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party-led a cavalcade of elected officials who praised Katz as having the experience and qualifications necessary to help lead Queens for years to come.
“I’ve seen her at all the points of her career. She has all the good attributes of a lawyer-and none of the bad,” de Blasio said, adding that Katz brings “a real passion for the people” and public service.
“We are a city of five boroughs and all boroughs should be treated equally,” the mayor added. “Queens is a place that epitomizes the American dream. Melinda Katz gets to put all those beautiful strands together and gets to work for the people.”
“Melinda Katz is following in the footsteps of two giants,” Crowley added, referencing Shulman and Marshall. “I’ve seen her grow as a legislator. She knows every nook and cranny in this borough.” He then cited great biblical prophets in wishing that Katz have “the wisdom of Moses, the leadership of Joshua and the valor and strength of Esther for our county.”
“She possesses many of those qualities and more,” Crowley added.
Also offering public praise for Katz were other high-ranking members of state and city government who previously worked with her in theAssembly and/or City Council, including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
Joining an assortment of city, state and federal lawmakers for the ceremony were Sen. Charles Schumer, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, former Public Advocate Mark Green, former City Comptroller John Liu and former Borough Presidents Shulman and Marshall. Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry served as master of ceremonies.
Most of the 14 chairpersons of Queens’ community boards and various Democratic district leaders were also on hand.
The inaugural program included a benediction by Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, Katz’s place of worship; a scripture reading by Imam Ahmed Hamid, president of the Queens Council of Masjid; a benediction by Rev. Floyd Flake of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica; a singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Pastor Tracey Johnson of Holiness Center Cathedral in St. Albans; and a performance of “This is the Moment,” from the Broadway musical Jekyll and Hyde, performed by the Frank Sinatra High School Choral Society in Astoria.
Members of the Francis Lewis High School Junior ROTC served as the color guard.