Queens Borough President Donovan Richards was at August Martin High School (AMHS) in South Jamaica Monday to announce that his office has allocated close to $30.5 million in capital funding for borough schools in fiscal year 2024.
Surrounded by AMHS leadership, students, representatives from the New York City School Construction Authority and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), Richards said that this year’s funding exceeds allocations Queens schools have received from his office in the past. Borough schools were allocated $11.5 million in fiscal year 2022 and $10.7 million in fiscal 2023.
AHMS, named after August Harvey Martin, a Tuskegee airman and the first black commercial airline pilot in the United States, received $4.25 million in FY24 capital funding to renovate its cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium. About $2 million will go to the cafeteria renovation, $1.5 million to upgrade the aging gymnasium and $750,000 to install a cooling system in the auditorium.
Richards pointed out that decades of disinvestment in communities like Jamaica kept students “grounded.”
“Our kids can’t take flight if they are not getting the highest quality education possible; if they are not in a facility that can meet their needs,” Richards said. “It’s time for our kids to take flight.”
Since becoming borough president in 2020, Richards’ office has invested $53 million in Queens schools.
“I firmly believe that we should be investing in education and not cutting,” Richards said, pointing out that an investment in education was an investment in the future, creating a productive society.
“At the end of the day, think about how much it costs to house one individual on Rikers Island; over $500,000,” Richards pointed out. “Imagine if we took that money and actually put it into educating our young people; perhaps we can have free college one day.”
AMHS principal Allison Tiberio thanked Richards for his advocacy.
“The funding provided by you will be used to renovate and update several of the shared spaces within our building,” Tiberio said. “I just want to share that access to modern, comfortable facilities where our children build relationships with their peers, cheer on our Falcons and gather as a community is an investment in the whole child.”
High School Superintendent Dr. Josephine Van-Ess praised Richards for not only listening but also acting on his promises to invest in education.
“We thank our [borough] president for his investment, and consistent advocacy and dedication to our students,” Dr. Van-Ess said.
Mary Vaccaro, vice president for education for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), said “great things” were coming out of Queens South high schools.
“We at the UFT are proud of the time that we’re investing in the dedication of our teachers who right now are doing all sorts of professional development across the city, particularly in Queens South,” Vaccaro said.
Shirley Aubin, the Borough President’s representative on the Panel for Educational Policy, said investing in schools was essential to ensure equitable, high-quality education.
“Aligning with [New York City School Chancellor Banks] four pillars, we want all Queens scholars to be college, career and civic ready,” Aubin said.
Bryan McGinn of the School Construction Authority thanked Richards for his commitment and dedication to public school students.
“The elected official in this city, who continues to show the most commitment and dedication to the students and children in the city, is by far Donovan Richards,” McGinn said.
Other allocations include a combined $8 million for auditorium upgrades at Jamaica High School in Jamaica, M.S. 72 in Rochdale, P.S. 132 in Laurelton, P.S. 171 in Astoria, and Queens High School for Information, Research & Technology in Far Rockaway; $1.65 million for athletic field renovations and locker room upgrades at Hillcrest High School in Jamaica Hills; $ 1.1 million for a cafeteria cooling system, video production room and computer lab upgrades at the Springfield Gardens Educational Campus in Springfield Gardens; and $1 million for playground renovations at P.S 118 in Hollis.
Meanwhile, John Adams High School in Ozone Park will receive $1 million to spruce up its locker rooms; $1 million is being allocated for library renovations at P.S. 136 in St. Albans; $750,000 for a new media and graphics center at Richmond Hill High School in Richmond Hill; as well as a total of $700,000 for the construction of new hydroponic labs at Maspeth High School, Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences, P.S. 52 in Springfield Gardens and P.S. 360 in St. Albans.