“Only in Queens” was the theme of the State of the Borough address given by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz Thursday, and she used that phrase to talk about the good, the bad, and how far we still need to go to achieve her vision for the “World’s Borough.”
During her speech at Queens College in Flushing, she invoked the unique character found in Queens due to the multicultural quilt of communities free to celebrate and share their heritage in festivals, parades, outdoor night markets, concerts and neighborhood art programs.
“Because only in Queens will you find the most diverse place on this planet,” Katz said.
She highlighted her success in fighting to restore the New York State Pavilion, a structure designed for the 1964 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“This iconic, architectural marvel had fallen into disrepair due to decades of neglect,” Katz said. “Some even dismissively referred to it as ‘The Ruins.'”
Katz has since worked with Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Regional Economic Development Council and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to secure more than $10 million to restore the structure. It has so far been repainted and is set to received permanent external lights, which will be illuminated by next year.
The borough president highlighted the need to eliminate the mobile trailers that were placed outside of increasingly overcrowded schools to be used as classrooms. The trailers were meant to be temporary, but many have been in use for decades.
Katz has worked with communities and local officials to remove 15 collective trailers from six different elementary schools, and she vows to continue the fight until all of them are gone.
“It’s not an easy process, but together we can do it,” Katz said, adding that 59 trailers are set to be removed this year from 20 schools across the borough.
Katz faced a few a unexpected moments in the middle of her presentation when confronted with an angry audience member who heckled her with screams demanding to hear about her intentions to improve the economic situation in Jamaica.
The borough president took this interruption in stride. She took back control of the situation by joking, “I work alone,” before launching into a description of the economic development initiative “Jamaica Now!” which includes a plan to install free public wireless Internet in the area by the end of July.
Katz concluded her oration with a surprise appearance from New York Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson, former player Edgardo Alfonzo and manager Terry Collins.
Movers and shakers from throughout the borough and beyond attended the event.
Public Advocate Letitia James and Borough Presidents Gale Brewer of Manhattan and the Bronx’s Ruben Diaz were in the audience, along with former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, for whom Katz served as director of community boards. Practically all of the 14 Queens City Council representatives and various commissioners from city agencies were in attendance as well.
Along with the borough president’s address, the audience was treated to an array of local entertainment which included an introduction from Mets In-Game host Branden Wellington, an appearance by the Francis Lewis High School JROTC and a dance performance by students of the Edge School of the Arts in Laurelton.