Goodbye Times Square, Hello Queens – Officials push to bring tourism to borough

Former Councilwoman and candidate for borough president Melinda Katz, left, Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik, and state Sen. Jose Peralta said they are supporting legislation that would funnel more funds into Queens to promote tourism. Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

Former Councilwoman and candidate for borough president Melinda Katz, left, Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik, and state Sen. Jose Peralta said they are supporting legislation that would funnel more funds into Queens to promote tourism. Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

 Move over, Manhattan – it’s Queens’ time to shine.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) and other officials announced at Borough Hall on Tuesday that they are pushing for an initiative to expand tourism outside of Manhattan, particularly to spots that Queens residents already know and love – but which tourists may never catch a glimpse of during their visits to the city because of a Manhattan-centric approach to advertising.

In an attempt to draw tourists from the incessantly flashing lights of Times Square to places across the borough, from the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to the Louis Armstrong Museum in Corona, Peralta unveiled a bill that would give each borough a portion of the state hotel occupancy tax it collects to promote local tourism.

“People who come to New York also want to go elsewhere besides Manhattan,” Peralta said at Tuesday’s event with Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik and borough president candidate and former Councilwoman Melinda Katz.

Peralta’s bill would provide each borough 4 percent of the state hotel occupancy tax revenue it collects, up to a maximum of $300,000. Using the funds, the borough president’s office would work with the Queens Economic Development Corporation and other borough leaders to spread the word about what the borough has to offer.

Saying “Queens represents what New York City is really about,” Peralta said the funds from the tax would help the borough land more tourists by being able to afford an upkeep of Queens tourism websites and advertising in the city’s airports – both of which are in the borough.

“If we make visitors aware of the hidden gems, the more likely they are to come back,” Peralta said.

Grodenchik noted that thousands of new hotel rooms have sprouted in Queens in recent years, particularly in the western neighborhoods, and said there could be more of an effort to keep them there instead of losing them to the borough across the river.

“The only view people should get of Queens shouldn’t be the Van Wyck Expressway,” he said.

Katz agreed.

“I look forward to folks coming to the city of New York and knowing if they haven’t come to Queens, they haven’t seen the real New York,” Katz said.

The borough president candidate added that the additional funds could help pay for ads in other boroughs for Queens – or directions to Queens sites from the airports or other major transportation hubs in the city.

“If you’re in a hotel in Manhattan, there could be a sign that promotes Queens, that gives information about buses to restaurants in Jackson Heights or to shops in Flushing,” Katz said.

By Anna Gustafson

Still quiet here.sas

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