Queens’ Katz era begins

Photo by Ken Maldonado
By Rich Bockmann

Borough President Melinda Katz was inaugurated during a ceremony last week that repeated the tenets of her campaign: her Queens heritage and capacity to lead the borough through her experience with land use.

Katz, a Forest Hills native who has served in the state Assembly and City Council, punched her ticket to Borough Hall last year with a campaign that played heavily upon her family’s roots in the borough.

Her mother Jeanne founded the Queens Council on the Arts and her father David founded the Queens Symphony Orchestra.

At her ceremonial swearing-in at Queens College last week, Katz repeated her father’s refrain that “you should never have to go over a bridge or under a tunnel to get anything you need — you should be able to get it right here in this borough.”

“And we will make it happen today,” she added.

When it came to the specifics for the next four years, however, the newly minted borough president laid out an agenda that focused on addressing health care, building more schools and creating jobs.

“You can have culture and arts here. You can raise your children here and have great education, but if you can’t get a job here and you can’t get a place to live here, you might not want to stay here,” she said.

She said she was going to focus on economic development in Long Island City, Jamaica and the Rockaways, where transit infrastructure would play a large role.

“You can’t build if you can’t move,” said Katz, who chaired the powerful Land Use Committee while on the Council.

The borough president said she was also going to create a storm relief task force to coordinate rebuilding so those affected by Superstorm Sandy can “trade stories and figure out how we can make things happen faster, better, more efficiently and get people the money they’re owed in this borough.”

Katz was sworn in by Mayor Bill de Blasio with a Bible held by U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who chairs the county’s Democratic Party.

De Blasio said he had known Katz since they both served on the Council together and that she had the qualities necessary to lead.

“She came by it naturally. Her late parents, David and Jeanne, were pillars of the arts and culture community of this borough and they taught her well,” he said.

“When she was the chair of the Land Use Committee, I saw her do the near impossible on a regular basis: take every conceivable interest — all fighting for each other — and bring them together and make sense of it, because she had the brains and the talent to do that. She stood up for neighborhoods in the process, she made sure the land use process focused on the characters and the needs of our neighborhoods.”

Katz was officially sworn in by City Clerk Michael McSweeney Dec. 18, her office said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

More from Around New York