For Queens civic leaders, the annual budget dance brought more of the same at this year’s Borough Board budget hearing.
For the first time since assuming office, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz welcomed the borough to recommend various discretionary spending items to be considered in the city’s annual budget that is expected to top $70 billion. Representatives from more than 180 community groups along with district managers from the borough’s 14 community boards delivered their testimony in an 11-hour marathon.
Budgetary suggestions remained largely similar to those give in recent years, including investments to address issues like flooding, public safety and traffic concerns.
Community Board 4, for instance, requested that funding be set aside to improve sewage problems in the Corona and Jackson Heights area. The flooding issue has been a major talking point for the western Queens community, and stretched into Community Board 5 territory as well in the areas of Glendale, Maspeth and Ridgewood.
In the board’s testimony, CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said some of the board’s top budgetary priorities included securing funding for the 110th Precinct, addressing open space concerns and securing adequate children’s services. The district manager said his neck of the borough has grown in popularity over the years and the population spike was falling the backs of his neighbors.
“By far, the number-one issue that CB 4 faces on a day-to-day basis is the loss, or lack thereof of valuable and hard-to-find green space,” the board’s testimony read. “While we encourage and furthermore welcome the attention and tourism on a large scale, we cannot forget that local residents, both young and elderly should be entitled to an escape in the form of green space.
Gary Giordano, district manager for Community Board 5, which covers such neighborhoods as Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, and Ridgewood, said one of the board’s top priorities in the budget discussion has been making sure his local police precinct – the 104th – is adequately funded.
As for the Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Rego Park area, Community Board 6’s Frank Gulluscio said traffic concerns have been at the forefront of the discussion for years and he hoped the borough president would consider improving conditions for pedestrians along major roads like Woodhaven Boulevard would remain a priority.
Katz said she would be considering all of the input and presentations in order to issue a comprehensive report of the borough’s budgetary priorities to be released next month. The report, she said, would then be referred to during the citywide budget negotiations leading up to the adoption of the 2015 fiscal budget, which must be adopted before July 1.
“The Borough Board’s budget hearing allows us to get a great sense of what the top budgetary priorities should be for the borough,” Katz said in a statement. “Also, being able to take in all this information will help me and the members of our City Council delegation speak with one voice during the upcoming budget talks, which I believe is important if Queens is to get its fair share of the funding.”
By Phil Corso