Queens lawmakers highlight federal infrastructure bill and critical funding for the borough

Congresswoman Grace Meng holds a photo of a catch basin in her district to underscore the need for catch basin upgrades to be included in local infrastructure funding for Queens. (Photo via Zoom)

Congresswoman Grace Meng and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a virtual press conference on Monday, Dec. 20, hailing the recent enactment of the federal infrastructure bill, and called for funding from the measure to be directed toward improving local infrastructure in the borough.

Meng helped pass the historic and bipartisan legislation through the House of Representatives last month. The congresswoman joined President Biden at the White House when he signed the $1.2 trillion measure into law. 

The bill will provide billions for New York’s roads, bridges, highways, mass transit, airports, high-speed internet, clean drinking water, clean energy and more. 

But Meng — who represent the sixth congressional district which encompasses Bayside, Flushing, Forest Hills, Fresh Meadows, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Maspeth, Middle Village and Rego Park — urged the city and state to make sure that funding flows to Queens, particularly to her district, as they receive this federal money and decide where it will go.

“These funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be a boon for New York over the next several years,” Meng said. “They will enhance travel, improve safety, create union jobs and strengthen our economy. But a significant portion of this funding must make its way here to Queens, and today I call on the city and state to ensure that this happens.”

In Queens, and in her district, Meng noted that her constituents depend heavily on infrastructure, from residents’ need to get to work to ensuring health and safety.

“We have many pressing infrastructure needs and it is imperative that Queens receives its fair share to address our aging roads, failing catch basins, and the need to upgrade our mass transit, replace old lead pipes, increase broadband access and so much more,” Meng said. “These overhauls are long overdue, and the improvements would benefit our neighborhoods for decades to come.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic followed by severe flooding from Hurricane Ida in September that devastated parts of Queens, Meng added that many of her constituents’ lives have been turned upside down these past two years. 

“My congressional district was the heart of the epicenter when COVID-19 first struck our nation, and in September, areas I represent were hit hard by flooding from Hurricane Ida. Many families remain devastated and continue to struggle, and much of our local infrastructure failed them,” Meng said. “Queens stand to benefit from the infrastructure bill. The city and state need to hear our calls for funding, and must step up and deliver for our borough and my district.” 

Richards said the infrastructure deal is critical for Queens and a chance for a resilient future. 

“From housing our airports to recovering from Hurricane Ida’s devastation, Queens has a real need for infrastructure development and I am grateful for our partners in Congress, especially Congresswoman Grace Meng, for their advocacy,” Richards said. 

Some of the key projects for which Meng is advocating include rebuilding and reopening the shuttered Elmhurst Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station; funding for elevators and platform extensions at the LIRR stop in Forest Hills; electric vehicle charging stations in areas she represents; median replacements, road repairs and catch basin upgrades in her district; making local subway and train stops accessible to the elderly and disabled; replacing lead pipes; and connecting more constituents to the internet, among other initiatives.

Last week, Meng led a letter to the acting New York state health commissioner and the head of the state’s Center for Environmental Health to encourage the state to expeditiously create an inventory of all lead service lines. 

In terms of the Build Back Better bill, Meng described it as an important investment, and said she hopes the Senate will pass it. 

However, on Dec. 19, Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) stated that he cannot move forward on the “mammoth piece of legislation.” 

Manchin’s support for the bill is necessary for Democrats to pass the legislation using a process called budget reconciliation, meaning it would only need 51 votes to pass. 

“This will help the community and we hold Senator Manchin responsible, but also the Republicans who are not thinking of the children that will be affected in this borough and the country,” Meng said.