Park Needs Police Presence
Stung by the realization that Flushing Meadows- Corona Park now has "what she called the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous park in the city," Queens Borough President Helen Marshall revealed yesterday that she has proposed to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly that a new Police Academy be built there to increase police presence and create a safer environment.
Delivering her annual State of the Borough address at the start of her sixth year in office, Marshall noted: "I reminded the Commissioner that there had been 44 crimes committed there last year, including nine brutal attacks and one murder and the new Police Academy should be built there, not in Manhattan [as Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated in his State of the City address last Wednesday].
"We must have a greater police presence in the park to discourage further crime there and make park visitors feel more safe, and the way to do it is to have more police trainees visible as they go back and forth to the academy."
Following Marshall's address, her spokesman, Dan Andrews, acknowledged that park advocates will probably oppose building a police academy in the park.
In a reference to the Sean Bell case now before a Queens grand jury, Marshall said new cops should come from New York City, where they are familiar with local neighborhoods, not from outside the city.
Marshall stated: "Tragically last November, a young man was shot by undercover police officers within hours of his planned wedding. While we wait for the determination of a grand jury, we must ensure that Sean Bell did not die in vain.
"Policing is a tough profession that requires split-second decisions. As such, I believe that these life and death decisions are best made by officers who have grown up surrounded by diversity."
In her wide-ranging address, Marshall spoke glowingly about the new Mets baseball stadium in Flushing, continuing efforts to get more affordable housing built in the borough, the transition of Willets Point into a "vibrant enclave", the need for a new branch library in the Queens West development in Hunters Point and continuing improvements to senior citizen facilities.
She also touched on various ongoing projects to improve the borough's schools, parks and infrastructure, and once again called for the Berger Commission to improve hospital services.
Marshall touched on the war in Iraq and asked the huge audience to take a moment to remember that Queens has lost 17 of its sons there.
"We pray for their families and we pray for the safe return of those still serving," she stated, including the 77th Regional Readiness Command Army Reserves regularly deployed from Fort Totten in Bayside.
Marshall had praise for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's effort to reach out to 120,000 lowincome households in the city, some in Queens, to assist in their receiving Earned Income Tax Credits. The heads of the households were eligible but never applied for the credits.
The borough president also announced that she was launching a property tax initiative to enroll some 87,000 borough property owners who have
not applied for property tax exemptions to which they might be entitled.
"Our calculations indicate that Queens residents might be paying more than $30 million in property taxes than necessary," she said. She urged homeowners in the audience to pick up an application in the lobby on the way out of the York College auditorium in Jamaica, fill it out and mail it in before the March 15 deadline.
Marshall also announced that her staff members are working with the mayor's office this year to create the first family justice center in Queens "to provide integrated legal and support services for domestic violence victims and their families".
Marshall's office is making a major effort to bring government closer to the people it serves. Toward this end, she added, with a grant from Con Edison, every community board in Queens will soon have a Web site with information about meetings, agendas, land use and budget issues that anyone with a computer can access.
Also in an effort to upgrade "the peoples house", as she called Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, Marshall unveiled plans for a major expansion of the building that will serve as a center of civic activity.
"It will provide a multipurpose space in the heart of Queens," she said. "This innovative project, to be known as the forum, will provide a 21st century venue for large public meetings, community performances, cultural and artistic exhibitions, public hearings and ethnic celebrations."
Marshall opened her address by citing the still new 2007 as a very exciting year, including the new Democrat-controlled Congress, with historic first ever woman speaker, "and better yet, a grandmother". At the state level, she said, Governor Eliot Spitzer had outlined an impressive agenda of reforms, while in the city," "We have a forwardthinking mayor who takes care of present problems but also plans for the future".
Major infrastructure and economic development projects are going forward in Long Island City, Flushing and Jamaica, Marshall said, but probably the "most spectacular" is CitiField, the new Met's stadium.
She said she has formed a CitiField Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Councilmember Leroy Comrie (D- Jamaica) and including Assemblymembers Jose Peralta (D- Corona), Jeffrion Aubry (D- East Elmhurst), state Senator John Sabini (D- Jackson Heights) and Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D- Corona). The committee's task is to insure equal participation in construction and employment opportunities for all businesses, women, minorities and the general population.
Besides rejecting the Berger Commission's recommendation to close the new Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills and urging that panel to adopt her proposed changes, Marshall noted that several Queens hospitals are going forward with major renovation and improvement projects.
On the education front, she said another 12,000 school seats are in design and construction. "When I leave office [in three years] every child in Queens will have a seat included in the plan."
At the conclusion of the address, Marshall honored two Queens residents with Queens Lifetime Achievement Awards. Cecil Watkins, a Korean War veteran and former long-time park administrator helped bring summer community basketball programs to children across the city and later founded ELMCOR, the Elmhurst youth and adult activity program. Lifetime Grace Nirenberg assisted seniors through the Self-Help Community Services Organization.
Three other people received Citizens of Distinction awards:
+Aida Barlolome, director of the Foundation for Filipino Artists, CB 2 member and a founding member of the Borough President's General Assembly;
+Ernest Curry, businessman, long-time schools advocate and Marshall's appointee on the School District 24 (Ridgewood/Glendale) Community Education Council, and
+Harbachan Singh, formerly at the United Nations, who formed the Sikh American Friendship Foundation and serves as Alumni Delegate to the Queens General Assembly.