By Bill Parry
Borough President Melinda Katz proclaimed that visitors to New York who don’t venture into Queens haven’t seen the real New York City last week in a speech to more than a hundred Long Island City movers and shakers.
Katz was the featured speaker at the LIC Partnership’s annual breakfast forum at the CUNY Law School and she laid out a comprehensive plan for the area that is known for its real estate boom.
Now in her third month in office, she introduced her expanded economic development unit and addressed the importance of tourism and enhanced branding of the borough.,
Calling Long Island City a thriving, wonderful and passionate area, Katz said it was the gateway to Queens.
“The interesting thing is people come up to me all the time and say we know you’re going to be the one to make Queens the next Brooklyn, but we stand on our own and we have a lot to do here,” she said.
Katz spoke of the influx of new tech industry in the area that will increase when the Cornell NYC Tech campus opens on Roosevelt Island in the future.
“These companies will draw Cornell graduates, but we have to make it easier for them to start up and stay here in Queens,” she said.
Tech industries are just a part of Queens’ recovery from the recession with stronger job growth than the other boroughs in the last two years.
“We have growth in every sector, so now we need a plan for better transportation and we have to make sure that when the MTA shuts down the No. 7 subway line, we need a shuttle bus direct to Grand Central Sfor those 22 weekends,” Katz said, adding that she would like to see the East River Ferry available at all hours.
The borough president spoke of the cultural institutions and organizations in western Queens as a driving force for tourism. Katz reeled off institutions like the Museum of the Moving Image, the Sculpture Center and MoMA PS1 as places visitors needed to experience if they want to say they saw the real New York. She talked about her father, the founder of the Queens Symphony Orchestra and her mother, the founder of the Queens Council on the Arts.
“They believed in the borough’s cultural institutions and believed that it would brand the borough,” Katz said“We want a list of every cultural event in every hotel room so every visitor knows what’s going on.”
Turning her attention to the US Open and the 700,000 visitors the tournament draws every summer, Katz said a way has to be found to keep those fans in the borough.. “Those people should not spend every day watching the tennis and then returning to the Marriott in midtown. They spend a lot of money in the city and they should be spending it here,” Katz said.
Among the political leaders in attendance was state Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), who drove down from Albany in time for the breakfast forum.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) was on hand to make the introduction, saying, “It’s an exciting time in the borough and in the next eight years it will transform under her leadership. Just look at what she’s accomplished in her first seven weeks.”
Elizabeth Lusskin, the new president of the LIC Partnership and host of the event, was impressed by what she heard.
“We have terrific leadership and now it’s even better with the addition of Melinda Katz,” she said. “Everyone is dedicated and informed, energized at all levels. It just seems that all our elected officials work with a common goal and that’s what it takes to get the services and investment that we need.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.