Ever the optimist during Tuesday’s State of the Borough address, Borough President Helen Marshall celebrated Queens. She reveled in newly-built parks, redevelopment and newly opened medical centers, touting them as a huge draw.
But she called Queens “a victim of its own success,” blaming thorny issues such as school overcrowding and a lack of hospital beds on the inability of the federal government to keep up with Queens’ changing face and draw immigration.
To help her borough understand this, Marshall said she’s partnering with the Department of City Planning to spread word on Queens’ changing demographic.
“Did you know, half of all Asian Americans who call New York City home live in Queens,… or that 57 percent of our population speaks a language other than English at home, or that the Hispanic population of Queens is more than 600,000?” Marshall asked.
She said flawed census data has caused the borough to miss out on its fair share of funding.
“Our county attracts new residents and immigrants every year—but not the federal aid needed to build local schools and hospitals to care for them.
”That in turn has brought on contentious issues such as school overcrowding in District 24.
“It’s no secret that many of our schools like P.S. 19 in Corona and P.S. 96 in Ozone Park are severely overcrowded, and District 24 continues to hold the dubious distinction of being the most overcrowded in the city, but we are making progress,” she said, remaining unflappably sunny as she did throughout the speech.
Marshall commended the School Construction Authority for its plan to build 10 new schools in the next six years including locations in Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgewood, Elmhurst and Corona.
She also struck a strong note for parks and libraries, celebrating the opening of a new playground at Juniper Valley Park that she and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley funded.
Marshall mentioned the Elmhurst Library, where demolition began this month to rebuild a facility double the size including a technology center.
“In Elmhurst, I allocated almost $23 million to build a state-of-the-art facility that promises to be one of the busiest libraries in the borough when it opens next year,” she said.
She commended new development in Long Island City where Jet Blue recently announced it would host its new headquarters and U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services opened a new office last week.
She also took on doubts about whether the long-planned convention center at Willits Point could coexist with the Governor’s proposed massive convention center at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park.
The redevelopment project at Willets Point includes a $3 billion investment to build a 400,000-square-foot convention center plus a hotel, housing and other amenities.
A developer for the project was slated to be announced in March, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently overshadowed the plan by announcing his own proposal for a $4 billion, 3.8-million-square foot venue he wants built at Aqueduct Racetrack.
“Let me be clear about the convention center at Willets Point,” Marshall said. “It is meant to complement the Javits Convention Center. And now it can complement the convention center at Aqueduct.”
By Jeremiah Dobruck
Forum Newsgroup Photo by Jeremiah Dobruck