By Bill Parry
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz offered a preview of her State of the Borough address she will deliver Friday in Astoria during a press briefing at Borough Hall Tuesday.
Katz explained each annual speech has a theme such as improving neighborhoods and creating projects in the borough.
“This time we’re going to take a very close look at what’s happened in the past year, the seeds that have been planted for our next generations,” Katz said. “As you know it’s not just about us, it’s for future generations to come and it’s important to plan for their future. We’ll take a look at what the future will look like in 2030.”
And that future depends on smart investment like the $300 million in capital over the last few years to build parks, libraries and extend schools, as well as new police facilities such as the new 116th Precinct station house that will be built in Rosedale and a satellite substation in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“We planted a lot of seeds and we’re beginning to see them come to fruition,” Katz said.
She spoke of the Jamaica NOW Neighborhood Action Plan to revitalize downtown Jamaica as well as the borough-wide Vietnam Veteran’s memorial in Elmhurst Park with its year-long construction set to get underway in the fall.
Katz spoke of the growth of Universal pre-K in the borough, as 77 temporary trailers have been removed from Queens’ public schools.
“A lot has happened that we’re excited about,” she said.
To improve federal funding, Katz will announce the creation of the Queens Complete Count Committee during her State of the Borough Address.
“One of the problems New York City has is that we’re vastly under counted when it comes to the census,” Katz said. “The census is what the federal government relies on to disseminate funds into different cities.” Under counted cities receive less money and she will work with civic associations to ensure the 2020 Census includes a more accurate count of the borough’s residents.
Katz said NYC Ferry was a success in it’s inaugural year in offering new transit options and she referred to the borough’s transit desert with one-third of the borough covered by subways and two-thirds by buses.
“Transportation is clearly a problem here,” she said. “The MTA, there are so many issues with the MTA. Part of the problem is we also drive a lot and that’s why we’re hoping the bike lanes pay off. I have consistently requested from DOT that they prepare a borough-wide plan so that the bike lanes actually go somewhere and lead to the different communities in this borough.”
Katz is worried about the rise, and is working closely with “new communities” on domestic violence and spoke of the importance of the Family Justice Center next door the Queens District Attorney’s office “where you can just walk in for advice.” She is also on guard against the rise in hate crimes.
“We’re active and vocal when it comes to hate crimes and one of the ideas we’ve given to communities — we can provide cameras to guard against hate crimes,” Katz said. “That’s one of the ways we can provide a semblance of safety for the people.”
She is also concerned about the Trump administration crackdown on immigration and ICE agents at 7-Eleven stores, courthouses and schools. Katz also provided an update on one of her signature projects, the upgrade of the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“I have been told that, within a year and a half, it will be lit up,” she said. “The tower stairs have to be done first before we can put in the electricity in order to light up the towers.”
She said her dream was to leave office with the Tent of Tomorrow being utilized as an outdoor theater but that would probably have to wait for the next borough president.
“Hopefully it won’t be one of my sons because they’re six years old right now,” she said to laughter.
Katz said she would probably have to sit through most of her address Friday morning at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School in Astoria because she is still recuperating from knee surgery last month. She deftly side-stepped a question about eyeing the mayor’s office for a run during the 2021 citywide election after her second term is up.
“I’m just trying to get through 2018,” she said with a sly smile and a wink.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr