Photos Courtesy of the Office of Borough Presient
By Michael V. Cusenza
Though still hobbled by a recent major knee injury, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz rallied on Friday morning at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria to deliver an impassioned State of the Borough address that at once highlighted that which the World’s Borough has accomplished, where it stands today, and the milestones ahead.
“Queens…where the significance of where we’re from is far outweighed by our determination and our dreams for where we want to go,” said Katz, who earned a second term at Borough Hall by cruising to victory in November.
Highlights of her fourth State of the Borough speech included:
Plans to convene a Queens Complete Count Committee that will be charged with strategizing and implementing ways to maximize the participation of Queens residents in the 2020 U.S. Census.
“Another Census undercount in New York is not an impossibility,” Katz offered. “But we have so much at stake here in Queens: federal resources for infrastructure, for health services and for our schools, representation by our local elected officials, and more.”
A breakdown of Katz’s funding allocations during her first term, totaling nearly $300 million for capital priorities throughout the borough: more than a third of the total went toward education, funding hundreds of schools across K-12, upgrades at all five CUNY institutions based in the borough, and major renovations and expansions at neighborhood libraries. Another third went toward 57 Queens parks. Millions more went to hospitals and health centers, housing projects, cultural institutions, and safety enhancements including upgrades to historic firehouses, Argus security cameras in the streets, and a new NYPD mobile command substation in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“So with all these investments, what we’ve actually been doing in Queens is setting a roadmap and building the infrastructure for the future, of where we want the borough to be by the beginning of the next generation, by at least 2030,” the borough president noted.
Urging for more parity in per pupil spending and a greater share of the City’s budget for borough schools, the most overcrowded yet also the most underfunded in the city. While most other boroughs are below capacity, Katz pointed out that Queens schools as a whole exceed capacity at 108 percent, with 116 percent capacity at its elementary schools and 113 percent capacity in its high schools. Queens, however, also receives the lowest amount of funding per pupil than every other borough.
“I’ll be working closely with the administration to get even more than the 18,632 seats already heading our way,” Katz pledged on Friday, “because as we look to where we will be and where we want to be by 2030, it’s clear we need more, and our families deserve more.”
The Western Queens Strategic Tech Plan, a study commissioned by Katz to create the city’s leading tech ecosystem and ultimately, more equitable job growth.
“By leveraging Western Queens’ ample space for growth and its projected development, and by working closely with great partners for our future like [the City economic Development Corporation], we are steering our borough into the competitive lane of the digital age,” she said.
Katz concluded by noting how the identity of her beloved home borough has changed since she embarked on her career in public service more than 20 years ago.
“Today, the narrative of Manhattan and Brooklyn as being the economic engines leading New York has changed. Queens has changed that narrative with our innovation, our ambition, our drive, our grit. And a little bit of our Queens attitude,” Katz added. “Together, we’ve all brought Queens so far. And so much more remains to be done. But with a shared vision – our vision – New York’s greatest potential, opportunities, and future are all here. And in 2030, when I’m 64, we’ll be able to look back fondly to today, and how, together, we built our tomorrow.”