By Kelsey Durham
Community Board 11 celebrated several new leaders at its monthly meeting this week as new board members were elected at the same meeting where new Borough President Melinda Katz spoke about saving the New York State Pavilion and keeping closer tabs on nonprofits.
Longtime chairman Jerry Iannece will be forced out by term limits March 31 and replaced by Christine Haider, who will now serve as chairwoman of the board after serving as first vice chairwoman for the last five years.
Haider, who represents Auburndale in CB 11, was the sole nominee for the position.
Laura James will move up from third vice chairwoman to first vice chairwoman, replacing Haider as she takes over Iannece’s spot. Ocelia Claro was named second vice chairwoman and Eileen Miller was voted in as third vice chairwoman. Claro and Miller represent Bayside.
Prior to board elections, Katz, now in her third month in office, spoke about her new position and outlined what she said are some of her key priorities for her current term, including the New York State Pavilion, pre-K funding and the Queens Library System.
The New York State Pavilion has drawn attention recently in a battle over whether to keep it or tear it down, and Katz has publicly supported keeping the pavilion open. She said it will be one of her main focuses and said her office would continue to do everything it can to help save it rather than spend what she said would be close to $14 million to knock it down.
“It’s the first thing people see on a plane when they pull into New York,” she said. “You see it when you’re stuck on the Van Wyck Expressway. You see Queens. We’re going to save it and I’m excited about that.”
Katz was elected borough president in a landslide after serving two terms in the City Council, where she chaired the powerful Land Use Committee, and holding a seat in the state Assembly. She was also the director of community boards at Borough Hall.
The new borough president also talked about funding for pre-school across the city as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio continue to talk about which agency will pay for the proposed schooling. De Blasio has proposed raising taxes on New York City’s wealthiest residents to fund the program, while Cuomo has touted his own plan to pay for pre-K with money from the state budget.
“It’s a great fight because we’re not fighting about whether or not to do it, but we’re fighting about who’s going to pay for it, and that’s a good thing,” Katz said. “I think it’s a good investment.”
The borough president also fielded a question from a community board member about transparency among nonprofit groups, mainly the Queens Library system, which has come under fire recently over reports that CEO Thomas Galante misused public funds and donations.
Katz said her office is planning to look more closely into how money is being spent by nonprofits such as libraries and will take steps to see that laws and regulations are being followed.
“We all should be able to look at a document and see exactly where money is going and right now we can’t always do that,” she said.
Katz mentioned concerns over increased airplane noise as another key priority she will work on and said she has already met with the Port Authority and the Federal Aviation Administration to address possible solutions.
She said she has started a project to work on creating a unique brand for the borough of Queens and hopes to show off everything the county has to offer to tourists and to New Yorkers thinking of making a home here.
“People used to say to me when I was running, ‘Are you going to make Queens the new Brooklyn?’” she said. “Well, we’re not Brooklyn, we’re the borough of Queens, and we’re going to make our own borough. We need to let people know that they haven’t seen the city of New York until they have seen the borough of Queens.”
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at email@example.com.