By Madina Toure
At her annual State of the Borough Address last week, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz cited a plan to remove classroom trailers from borough schools, the reorganization of the Queens Library following a corruption scandal and the renovation of the New York State Pavilion as signs of the progress the borough has made.
Katz spoke before a crowd of more than 1,000 elected officials, city agency commissioners, community leaders and Queens residents in the Kupferberg Center for the Arts’ Colden Auditorium at Queens College Jan. 21.
Actor and model Branden Wellington, who is also an in-game host for the Mets, served as master of ceremonies.
The borough president remarked that while Queens has many high-performing schools, it also has the most overcrowded schools in the city.
Six classroom trailers at PS 19 in Corona, the largest elementary school in New York City, were supposed to be temporary but have been in use for decades, housing up to 600 schoolkids at a time, she said. Those trailers are now scheduled for removal by the end of this year.
Katz also noted that 15 trailers have been removed from six different elementary schools during her first two years in office, and that 59 more trailers are on the docket for removal across 20 different schools in the borough.
“It is not an easy process but together, everyone in this room can do it,” she said.
She also said the Queens Library has come a long way since “its dark saga of 2014,” referring to former CEO Thomas Galante, who was placed on indefinite leave for alleged misuse of funds.
She credited state Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) for pushing forward legislation aimed at reforming the library system.
“Since then and especially in the past year, the library has refocused full energy back to where it matters most: to our families, especially children and seniors, who rely on its services and deserve nothing less than a world-class library system,” Katz said.
She also said the library’s board of trustees took into account recommendations issued in the audit by City Comptroller Scott Stringer and that she allocated more than $13 million last year in capital investments across a dozen branches.
Katz also touted her work in helping to save the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which she made a priority when she came into office.
She said that she and others have secured $10 million to date toward electrical and structural improvements for the towers.
“For years, even when no one else wanted anything to do with it, volunteers of the New York State Pavilion Painting Project did their best to upkeep at least the base of the Pavilion,” she said.
She also cited other accomplishments such as the Jamaica Now Action Plan to revitalize Jamaica, criticized the Common Core curriculum, shared some of her reservations about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rezoning proposals and recognized the late NYPD Officers Brian Moore, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were murdered while on patrol.
At the end of her address, she brought out New York Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson, former player Edgardo Alfonzo and Mets Manager Terry Collins, who led the team into the World Series.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour