Shulman Says Boro’s Past Successes Set Stage For Future Building
by john toscano
Declaring that "Queens is now an economic engine which helps power the greatest city in the world," Borough President Claire Shulman said in a speech at Queens Theater in the Park on Monday that the borough’s past successes had provided "the solid foundation we need to build for our future."
Among those past successes, she noted in her annual State of the Borough address before about 500 listeners were advances in eliminating school overcrowding in the borough.
The borough’s chief executive also trumpeted the near–completion of the new Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, "the borough’s first new hospital in 40 years," and the expenditure of" millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements and other major investments by government and the private sector" which had "put the borough on a firm foundation to build its future."
Shulman’s rosy picture of Queens healthy state, illustrated in part by a slide presentation, was echoed last week by state Comptroller H. Carl McCall. In a report on Queens’ economy conducted by his office, McCall said the borough’s salary level, employment rolls and overall economic health were second only to Manhattan. But in a dark note, McCall warned that Queens must deal with an aging population, increasing demand for schools and more people without health insurance.
In her speech, Shulman stated that continuing low unemployment and thriving commercial strips have helped to keep the borough as a "magnet" to attract large retail developments.
"Our unemployment rate continues to decline," she declared, "and for the fourth consecutive year was one of the lowest unemployment rates in the city."
Queens’ future economic health was also on United States Senator Charles Schumer’s mind recently. Citing space shortages for computer firm’s seeking space in Manhattan, Schumer proposed "help from Government to make parts of Brooklyn and Queens better wired for a new economy" and to be more attractive to labor–seeking dot–com and biotech firms.
Touching on education, the borough president pointed to the borough’s success in getting the central Board of Education to approve "a new capital (building) plan backed by real dollars."
The funding for the five–year plan was won when Queens’ member on the board, Terri Thomson, joined with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s board representative to approve a budget favorable to Queens. The budget provides for construction of 23 new schools over five years, adding 35,000 new seats for Queens students.
Shulman said she has set up a "war room" in her office in Borough Hall to monitor the progress on a monthly basis of every new school, addition or renovation.
But, she said, other changes are necessary to improve education in the borough, such as a longer school day, salary increases for teachers, and bonuses for those who take teaching jobs in the worst performing schools. She also called for summer school programs.
In her "Queens 2000" report, Shulman said that plans for the new Queens Hospital Center "keep getting bigger and better and now include a center for the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes along with Centers of Excellence for Women’s Health and Cancer Care."
Shulman said the skies over Queens have gotten quieter, too, thanks to LaGuardia Airport’s two shuttle operators, U.S. Airways and Delta Air, agreeing to bring in entire new fleets of quieter airplanes.
Another improvement in air safety for the borough will be achieved, she said, with the construction of a $24 million air traffic control tower at LaGuardia Airport.
Among the commercial improvements coming to the borough, Shulman said, are regional headquarters building for two federal departments—the Federal Aviation Administration and the Food and Drug Administration, both of which will open this year.
Projects on the drawing boards, she said, are the redevelopment of the Stern’s department store building at Queens and Woodhaven Boulevards in Elmhurst and expansion of the Queens Center Mall, also at that location. A new multiplex theater is also planned there.
Other areas of construction activity, she noted, are in Jamaica where a new Family Court Building is under construction, in Astoria where the Kaufman Astoria movie studios are being expanded, and in Long Island City where the Silvercup Studios are adding space.
Other major projects touched on by Shulman were the Woodhaven Boulevard Bridge in Glendale, which is nearing completion; the Queens Boulevard 63d Street subway connection in Long Island City, also 90 percent complete, and restoration of the Ederle Amphitheater in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, for which $25 million has been allocated.
Shulman also reported on the vast number of health care projects throughout the borough that are addressing residents’ medical needs. These are described in a separate story in today’s Medical pullout section.
This was Shulman’s 14th State of the Borough report. She will deliver her 15th and final report next January and then end her career as borough president at the end of 2001 because of term limits.
However, there are reports that Shulman plans to run for the City Council seat in the Bayside/Whitestone area which is being vacated by Councilmember Mike Abel, also because of term limits.