Queens Borough President Donovan Richards delivers ‘State of the Borough’ address, focuses on green energy projects, hydroponics labs and affordable housing

state of the borough
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards addresses Queens residents during his annual State of the Borough Address
Photo courtesy of Kristen Blush Photography

Hundreds of people packed the Claire Shulman Theater in Corona on Apr. 12, as they waited in anticipation for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards’ “State of the Borough” address.

The large crowd, who filled the 472-seat theater that is part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park’s iconic Queens Theatre, consisted of local government officials, business owners and Queens residents. Notable officials in attendance included Mayor Eric Adams and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (second from the right) was among the notable attendees for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards’ 2024 State of the Borough Address. Photo courtesy of Kristen Blush Photography

Richards focused on ongoing projects and new plans for the entire borough of Queens. Some of Richards’ most notable announcements included a call for funding of hydroponics labs in Queens and NYC schools, a new tech and innovation center in Long Island City and a new police precinct in Rosedale

The program started with remarks from Deputy Queens Borough President Ebony Young, who served as the emcee of the event. Young then brought onto the stage the Claire Shulman Theater Executive Director Taryn Sacramone, who thanked the borough president for his support in redeveloping the theater space.

Deputy Queens Borough President Ebony Young addresses the audience. Photo courtesy of Kristen Blush Photography

“This space will transform once more. With his support we will be renovating the Claire Schulman Theater, improving everything from the seating to the stage and the lighting, creating an even more accessible experience for audiences and artists for decades to come,” she said.

Additional speakers included Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (D-28) who took the stage to praise Richards for his work. “He has been laser focused on advancing efforts in creating a stronger, safer and healthier borough for all of us who call this place home,” Adams.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams addresses the attendees of the 2024 State of the Borough. Photo courtesy of Kristen Blush Photography

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also complimented Richards for his work. Dr. Ellen Baker, daughter of revered former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, spoke briefly about her mother’s close relationship with Richards before her passing. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards with Dr. Ellen Baker. Photo courtesy of Kristen Blush Photography

The event featured multiple performances from local artists, including a performance by the NYPD Guardians Gospel Choir and FDNY Firefighter Michael Green. Following those early performances, a group of Filipino dancers from the Queensboro Dance Festival performed a traditional dance generating a large wave of applause from the crowd.

Filipino dancers from Queensboro Dance Festival grace the stage to perform a traditional dance. Photo courtesy of Kristen Blush Photography

Richards took the stage and focused on many ongoing and new projects in Queens. One project he announced included a plan to develop a diversity tech and innovation center in Long Island City. Richards said the goal of the center is to connect marginalized BIPOC entrepreneurs to Queens’ growing tech scene. Richards pointed to his trip to Lagos, Nigeria, which is known as the “Silicon Valley of Africa,” as an inspiration for the creation of the center. 

“Created in partnership with our friends at Pursuit and built within One Court Square in Long Island City, the center should open up next year and serve as a hub of programming and growth for 50 startups,” he said. Richards is allocating $5 million in funding for the center and will be working with Tech:NYC and the Economic Development Corporation to identify the first 50 companies. 

Photo courtesy of Kristen Blush Photography

Richards also called on the city government to fund the construction of hydroponics labs in every NYC public school. So far, his office has funded 13 labs and has gathered $2.3 million in funding for nine more labs across the borough, including schools in Forest Hills, Woodside and South Ozone Park. Richards called on NYC Public Schools Chancellor David Banks to fully fund hydroponics labs in public schools across the city. 

Photo courtesy of Kristen Blush Photography

According to New York Sun Works, putting a hydroponic lab in every New York City public school would cost around $238 million, less than 1% of the Department of Education’s $37.5 billion budget, Richards said.

NYPD Guardians Gospel Choir perform on stage for the crowd. Photo Athena Dawson

Another of Richards’ announcements included the development of the NYPD 116th Precinct in Rosedale. Richards said he partnered with Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-31) to secure $104 million for the new project. The precinct will also feature a community center. Richards noted that the new development was significant, as the project has been four decades in the making. “That’s how long local leaders like Bess DeBetham have been pushing for a new precinct. This project is literally older than me,” he said.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards took the stage during his State of the Borough Address on Friday Apr. 12. Photo Athena Dawson

Richards also discussed ongoing projects he has supported and initiated across Queens.

Northern Queens

For northern Queens, Richards spoke about the ongoing Willets Point Metropolitan Park project, which will transform the gritty industrial area into a bustling hub, including a new soccer stadium, public school and the city’s largest 100% affordable housing development in 40 years. 

Richards also spoke about his commitment to revitalizing Corona Plaza– a culinary hub ranked 48th on the New York Times’ 100 best places to eat in NYC. Richards said his Corona Plaza Task Force has worked for the past year to negotiate a deal for street vendors to return to the plaza under new regulations. 

Southeast Queens 

Richards announced that last year he launched a series of public workshops with Empire State Development to reimagine 50 acres of vacant land at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village. The draft plan was released in December, which includes 2,900 new housing units, with many to be designated for seniors and veterans. The draft also cites a plan to develop retail space, a community center and a school.

Richards said that a year ago he asked the city to create the Jamaica Neighborhood Plan. The plan launched and garnered interest from the public through workshops and community events. Recently the Dept. of City Planning released a draft zoning framework for Jamaica. It makes provision for affordable housing, better transit access and jobs. The plan also includes a $70 million allocation to reconstruct Jamaica Avenue. 

Other projects Richards has been working on in southeast Queens include a new nature preserve in the Rockaway Peninsula located at Arverne east and the announcement of the creation of 1,300 units of affordable housing in the area. 

Additionally, Richards discussed the Queens Bus Network Redesign project, which would add four new routes including a new express bus line between Laurelton and Manhattan. 

Western Queens

Richards focused on ongoing environmental projects in western Queens. He spoke about Renewable Ravenswood, a plan to transition the Ravenswood Generating Station in Long Island City from a fossil fuel powered plant to a green energy hub. Last month Richards announced a community centered planning study to determine how residents of the Queensbridge and Ravenswood Houses could benefit from the project. 

An additional green energy project in the works for western Queens includes the Champlain Hudson Power Express, which would carry hydropower and wind power from eastern Canada—and feed it directly in the New York City electricity market via Astoria. The station will transport clean energy to Queens via underground cables that will be fed onto Con Edison’s power grid.

Richards describes the project as “an international partnership that will help deliver a cleaner, more sustainable future for Queens.” Last fall Richards broke ground on the conversion station, set to open in 2026 in Astoria.