Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Borough President
Borough President Katz delivered the 2019 State of the Borough address on Friday at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
By Michael V. Cusenza
In her sixth and perhaps final State of the Borough address, Melinda Katz, who is running for Queens district attorney, discussed “fulfilling the promise” of The World’s Borough and highlighted its priorities, milestones, and continued growth on Friday at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
Some of Katz’s key points included:
Katz reported on the progress in establishing the first borough-wide memorial in honor of Queens residents who died in the Vietnam War. She noted that she secured the $2.8 million in funding needed to build the memorial and ground was broken for it on Nov. 29, 2018. When it opens later this year in Elmhurst Park, the memorial will bear the names of more than 350 Queens service members who either killed in action in the Vietnam War or are listed as missing. Another installed plaque at the site will recognize Vietnam War veterans from Queens who died or still suffer here at home due to effects of the war, such as exposure to Agent Orange.
“We know the sacrifices you made, the sacrifices your brothers made, the sacrifices your families made,” Katz said in addressing the veterans in attendance, who were asked to rise in order to be saluted with an ovation from the rest of the audience.
Katz also hailed the creation of the Queens Complete Count Committee, which will work on the task of ensuring Queens is accurately counted in the 2020 Census. She also criticized the plans for a citizenship question on the Census form, saying it’s unnecessary, discriminatory and designed to skew the count by deterring immigrants from responding to the Census questionnaire.
If the citizenship question ends up being included, Katz said she plans to conduct a personal protest against it by not answering it.
“I, Melinda Katz, as an American-born citizen, will boycott the citizenship question, because times like these compel courage by those with the privilege to do so. Because if we aren’t counted, we don’t count. And if any of us are rendered invisible, if any of us are not counted, we all lose.”
For years the borough president praised Queens schools for performing well despite being the most overcrowded in the city.
“While we rank first in overcrowding, we also rank last in funding,” she lamented on Friday.
Borough public schools are at 106 percent capacity, while schools in the other boroughs are operating below capacity.
“As a city, we must address these inequities,” Katz said. “Our families and neighborhoods are growing rapidly, outpacing the creation of seats at our schools; if we’re serious about giving our kids better lives than we dreamed of having for ourselves, we cannot afford to be shortchanged.”
Katz also used the State of the Borough to emphasize her support for closing Rikers Island.
“It is a moral imperative that we overhaul our city’s jails system to one that is safer, more efficient, more humane and less costly,” Katz continued. “And closing Rikers is an integral part of that.”
The borough president decried the lack of community input into the proposal to build a 1.9 million square-foot jail facility on 82nd Avenue in Kew Gardens.
“Any plan by the City—especially the siting and design of any new jails—must include meaningful community engagement and input,” she added.