Raising her arms and beaming at the crowd of supporters gathered in the Queens County Democratic Headquarters on Austin Street in Forest Hills Tuesday night, Borough President-elect Melinda Katz claimed victory over Republican candidate Tony Arcabascio and promised her upcoming tenure would focus on securing resources for a borough she argued is too often snubbed by City Hall.
“We deserve arts and culture in our schools,” said Katz, who landed 80.3 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results. “We deserve to have our parents able to live near us.”
A former city councilwoman and Assemblywoman from Forest Hills, Katz handily defeated Arcabascio, a businessman from Astoria, who received 17.1 percent of the vote. Everly Brown, who had run as a Democrat in September’s primary and ran in the general election on the Jobs and Education line secured about 2.6 percent of the vote.
Katz highlighted her family during her speech, saying her victory was the culmination of her parents’ careers. Katz’s father, David, was the founder and conductor of the Queens Symphony Orchestra and her mother, Jeanne, was the founder of the Queens Council for the Arts.
“They taught me this is a borough worth fighting for,” Katz said. “…I dedicate this evening to my parents.”
The Democrat also thanked her numerous volunteers and staff for running “a campaign that I’m extremely proud of.”
Saying it was a “long and mostly enjoyable campaign with many nights spent speaking to inform the people and the voters that we had what this borough needed to finally move in the right direction,” Arcabascio said he wishes “only the best for our borough and our city.”
“I hope that the new administration will listen to the people they represent and not exercise their own wills as they have in the past,” Arcabascio said. “I congratulate all the winners and hope and pray that they truly put the people and our borough of Queens first. Their success will be our success.”
As borough president, Katz said she plans to work with the diverse communities in Queens, as well as fight for funding that the borough needs for everything from transportation to education.
“We’re a borough of diversity and that’s an asset, not a flaw,” Katz said.
Borough President Helen Marshall attended Katz’s party Tuesday night and said she was “very, very proud of her.”
“She’s young and ready and full of enthusiasm,” Marshall said.
Michael Reich, the Queens Democratic Party’s executive secretary, also lauded the incoming borough president.
“The people of Queens County have spoken,” Reich said of Katz’s victory.
Born and raised in Forest Hills, Katz represented her home neighborhood, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and parts of Maspeth, South Elmhurst and Richmond Hill in the City Council from 2002 to 2009. There, she was chairwoman of the powerful Land Use Committee. Prior to serving on the Council, Katz was the director of community boards for then Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and represented Forest Hills, Rego Park, Middle Village, and Glendale in the state Assembly.
She lives with her partner, radio personality and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, and their two sons in the same Forest Hills house in which she grew up.
Much of Katz’s campaign hinged on the lack of resources stemming from City Hall for Queens, and Katz previously told The Forum that she plans to fight for funding for “arts and culture for our schools, after-school programs, our sewer system because there’s such flooding throughout the entire borough, [and] cleanup for Sandy.”
She has said that one of her first priorities upon taking office will be to address storm preparedness and support for individuals still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“The city seems to be ready for the summer crowd in the Rockaways, but there’s a real concern about the speed and effectiveness of permanent protection there,” she said in a previous interview. “Not protecting the Rockaways means the rest of the borough is in danger.”
By Anna Gustafson