In Last Boro Address, Beep Touts Progress
From Big Investments To Saving Pgms.
In her last State of the Borough address, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall told hundreds of guests gathered in the Colden Auditorium of Queens College last Tuesday, Jan. 22, that since her election in 2002, almost half the borough has been rezoned, half the borough’s library branches have been renovated and more than $151 million in capital funds from her office have built and restored playgrounds, fields and parks across Queens.
Marshall stated that the faces of entire neighborhoods such as Long Island City and Jamaica have changed because of zoning, development and the borough’s heightened attraction for new apartment dwellers and businesses, including high teach firms.
The borough president was introduced by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who paid tribute to Marshall’s efforts related to education and love for her borough’s diversity.
Before her term expires at the end of 2013, Marshall—a former early childhood teacher—said that she will provide dollars to put science labs in every school that doesn’t have one and see the completion of major projects, including affordable housing for families and seniors, an expansion of the Queens Museum of Art and the first building addition to Queens Borough Hall in more than a half-century, a glass-enclosed landscaped community space.
The borough president, who has allocated more than $616 million in capital funds since becoming the county’s leader, said it was a great honor for her to be given the privilege of allocating the people’s dollars to shape the future of the borough.
Marshall dedicated her annual report to the late Dylan Smith, who helped save seven lives at the height of Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 2012 with neighbor Michael McDonnell, who was on hand for last Tuesday’s event. McDonnell paid tribute to Smith as “a precious soul” who was “willing to put his own life on the line immediately if it meant bringing other lives to safety.”
She also used dramatic and haunting photos of Sandy’s devastation and the ensuing relief and recovery efforts in Broad Channel, Howard Beach and the Rockaway peninsula. She called for 2013 to be a year of hope in which rebuilding would move forward in Sandy-devastated areas and gun violence would decline, thanks to efforts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and gun control laws and executive orders signed this month by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Barack Obama.
Marshall also looks forward to breaking ground for a new library on Central Avenue in Far Rockaway, a project for which she provided $21 million to build. In noting the importance of libraries in communities, the borough president said that the Children’s Discovery Center, located next to the central library in Jamaica, has attracted more than a half-million children since its opening 18 months ago. Marshall provided $16 million for the center.
She also pointed out that projects stalled when she came into office, like the pool and ice skating rink in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the Jamaica Arts Center, are now thriving, with the pool alone attracting more than 4,000 swimmers each week.
An audience of city officials, community and civic leaders and elected officials, including City Comptroller John Liu, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown and Borough Presidents Scott Stringer (Manhattan), Marty Markowitz (Brooklyn) and Ruben Diaz (Bronx) attended last Tuesday’s event, which included musical selections from the Louis Armstrong School Choir.
In addition to McDonnell and the late Smith, Marshall also cited three individuals as outstanding neighbors with strength, compassion and dedication: Mike Novak of Sunnyside, who woke up to the sounds of a woman screaming and then ran into the street to prevent the rape of a neighbor; Alison Cain, a high school teacher in Queens, who earned four swimming medals after receiving a double lung transplant and lifeguard Emily Harms, who last summer helped to save the life of an 11-yearold boy in a Glen Oaks pool.
Other highlights of Marshall’s address included:
• Zoning: Working with the Queens City Planning Director John Young and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, more than 6,300 blocks have been rezoned with another 1,000 on the agenda.
• Economic development: Millions of dollars invested in the Queens Plaza area by jetBlue, City Department of Health, CUNY Law School and others have transformed the entrance to the borough at Queens Plaza.
The State of New York has provided a grant of $150,000 to help develop strategies for waterfront revitalization that will support a new “Tech Zone” on the East River.
Marshall has allocated $3 million to ensure construction of the Atlantic Avenue Extension Gateway Park. The Jamaica Bank building will be transformed into new retail space.
• Education: Six new schools, with almost 28,000 seats, will open in September. Marshall will allocate more than $1.6 million to purchase Mobile Science labs for 30 schools.
• CUNY: Since becoming borough president, Marshall has allocated $63 million to CUNY institutions for projects, including renovation of Colden Auditorium.
• Libraries: Marshall has allocated $117 million in her tenure to Queens libraries, helping the system to embark on the largest building expansion and renovation program in its history.
Ground will be broken in 2013 for a new library on Central Avenue in Far Rockaway and an expansion of the East Elmhurst branch. With $23 million from the Borough President’s office, a new branch will also open in Elmhurst. Construction will also begin in 2013 on a new Hunters Point library on the East River and an expanded Kew Gardens Hills branch.
• Parks: Since becoming Borough President, Marshall has allocated $151 million for park improvements that include new baseball, soccer, volleyball and cricket fields across the borough. In 2013, plans will move forward for a new Environmental Center in Idlewild Park in southeast Queens, and a new facility for the Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston.
• Health: Several hospitals have added new beds and services with major expansions in emergency, cardiac and cancer Care. Marshall also provided $15 million in capital grants for medical equipment for diagnostic and treatment services.
• Public safety: The Fire Department, under the command of Borough Commander Chief Robert Maynes, responded to more than 100,000 calls for help in Queens in 2012 and EMS made more than 284,000 ambulance runs, under command of Chief Roger Ahee.
Marshall thanked both chiefs and their troops for their dedication and service and thanked Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, who was in attendance, for the outstanding job the department did in removing debris in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
• Housing: In 2013, with funding from Marshall’s office, construction will be completed on additional affordable housing for families and seniors, similar to the HANAC senior residence recently opened in Astoria. Also in 2013, ground will be broken on two developments in Jamaica, affordable housing for families, and, an intergenerational residence for grandparents who have custody of their grandchildren.
• Domestic violence: Six million dollars obtained from the Federal government will help to continue the fight against domestic violence.
• Culture/tourism: Since becoming Borough President, Marshall has allocated more than $107 million to cultural institutions that, among other projects, have helped to double the size of the Museum of the Moving Image, renovate the New York Hall of Science, create its pre-school Science playground, expand the Queens Theatre and build a Visitors” Center at P.S. 1 and the award-winning Queens Botanical Garden’s Visitor and Administration building.
In 2013, with $22 million from the borough president’s office, the Queens Museum of Art will complete its expansion project that will double its size. Ground will also be broken to renovate and expand the Sculpture Center in Long Island City and renovation of the Afrikan Poetry Theater in Jamaica will be completed.
• Historic preservation: The Borough President’s office has supported the landmarking of more than 30 sites and districts, saving them for future generations.
Working with the Historic House Trust, the Borough president’s office has invested almost $17 million to preserve the uniquely American experiences found in our borough’s historic sites. In 2013, ground will be broken for the Bowne House Visitors Center in Flushing.
• Diversity: The Queens General Assembly, created by Marshall, will work with the Queens library system to document its work, enabling others to replicate its community dialogues.
The Borough President’s Immigration Task Force recently published a new Immigrant Services Directory and its Speakers Bureau will make itself available to community groups throughout the borough.
The Borough President’s office will sponsor its 12th LGBT Pride celebration in 2013 at Borough Hall.
• Atrium: Construction will be completed on the Forum at Queens Borough Hall. Funded by Marshall, it will be the first addition to the county seat in more than half-acentury and provide much-needed space for community and civic events, and the Borough president’s annual Youth Conference.
• Seniors: Two innovative senior centers with expanded hours and additional transportation options opened in 2012. With support from the City Council and $31 million allocated by Marshall, hot meals and a full range of services at senior centers across the borough have been sustained. Marshall also provided $5 million to purchase vans to transport seniors and “Hot Shot’ vehicles to deliver hot meals to homebound seniors.
• Aviation: In 2013, Delta will complete construction on its expansion of Terminal 4. Meanwhile, jet- Blue is building an extension at Terminal 5 at JFK, and, in April, an RFP will be issued for construction of a new Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia.
The Port Authority, in the wake of Sandy, will replace and relocate its aged electrical system that supplies 70 percent of the airport’s power needs.
Marshall stated that in the future, “The FAA must involve communities affected by flight patterns and changes before—not after—they are put into effect.
• Environment: Marshall called for new energy and combined funding at the city, state and federal levels to protect our subways, tunnels and low-lying areas from floods and fires that leave death and destruction in their wake.