2011-01-26 / Features

Marshall: ‘Past Investments Make Queens’ Future Bright’

BY JOHN TOSCANO


Borough President Helen Marshall delivered her State of the Borough address on January 25 from the Colden Auditorium at Queens College in Flushing. 
Photo Vinny DuPre Borough President Helen Marshall delivered her State of the Borough address on January 25 from the Colden Auditorium at Queens College in Flushing. Photo Vinny DuPre “From the shores of the East River to the Atlantic Ocean coastline, Queens is building, growing and getting greener,” Queens Borough President Helen Marshall declared proudly as she delivered her annual State of the Borough address on January 25 at Queens College.

As she begins her 10th year in office, she said, “I take great pride in what we have accomplished and look forward to completing projects and building new communities. We will do this with the help of our mayor, City Council and our new governor, Andrew Cuomo, a son of Queens who has laid out a bold new vision for our state and local governments.”

Marshall continued, “Unemployment in Queens is declining and our faith in the economic recovery is rising, and I look forward to completing projects and building new communities in my third term.”

Since becoming borough president, she said, “I have had the privilege of allocating more than $354 million to libraries, parks and cultural institutions and historic houses.

“This funding has prepared our borough well for a new generation of residents and immigrants looking for the American dream right here in Queens. Make no mistake about it, however, that dream can only be secured with a quality education.”

While noting that we have more overcrowded schools than any borough in the City of New York, she also pointed out that dramatic progress has been made in adding new school seats in the borough with new school buildings being added in Jackson Heights and in Jamaica.

“P.S. 280 has a new home in Jackson Heights and Gateway to Health Sciences is now on the campus of Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica,” she stated.

In addition, P.S. 13 in Elmhurst opened a new annex and P.S. 273 opened in Richmond Hill, adding 379 new seats to the educational system.

What she described as the jewel in new school construction, the Metropolitan Avenue Campus in Forest Hills has opened and will eventually have 2,000 students from grades six thru 12. This fall, she said, the system will add 1,800 seats with the opening of Maspeth High School and P.S. 277 in Jamaica.

Last month, Marshall said, she met with the new schools chancellor, Cathie Black, to tell her about the unique challenge that our schools face here in Queens, including: how to improve the high school graduation rate, increase art and physical education curricula, meet city and state standards and eliminate overcrowding.

Black is scheduled to address Marshall’s Parent Advisory Board shortly.

In higher education, Marshall said, Queens College continues to add programs in fields where the demand for jobs is growing, including neuroscience and graphic design.

The CUNY Law School is moving to Long Island City, where additional space will enable it to expand its award-winning legal clinics by next year.

LaGuardia Community College was selected as the first community college partner of the Goldman Sachs Small Business Initiative, a program which provides handson training to help small businesses to create jobs, she said.

Marshall said that although she is pleased about the opening of the Children’s Library Discovery Center in Jamaica last spring and the renovations at the Central Library in Flushing, she feels that Queens branches are shortchanged when it comes to funding.

“My office has proven that Queens libraries do not receive their fare share of funding,” she stated. “In fact, last year, each and every branch in Queens received $77,000 less than Brooklyn branches.”

She said the shortchanging added up to more than $11 million last fiscal year. Marshall is working with Councilmembers Leroy Comrie, Jimmy Van Bramer and the Queens delegation to draft and pass legislation to get Queens libraries their rightful, equal share, she stated.

“This is not a borough against borough war,” Marshall said, “this is a matter of fairness. “

Marshall said in her address that she has dramatically increased allocations by $4.6 million to help hospitals to purchase additional equipment, such as CT scans and cardiac imaging technology to cope with growing healthcare needs brought on by the closing of four hospitals in the borough as well as an aging population.

Over the past 18 months, the borough president said, 10 senior centers in the borough have closed, and there are other threats to seniors’ service on the horizon, as well, for frail, homebound seniors that would lengthen waits for home-delivered meals, transportation services and homecare.

Marshall promised, “We will continue to fight these cuts.”

Elsewhere on the seniors’ front, when Woodhaven seniors needed a new neighborhood home, her office provided funds to make the Woodhaven Volunteers’ Corps building A.D.A. compliant.

“As a result, Woodhaven seniors can come home this Wednesday, she said,” and as an added bonus, the rent paid by the center will save the Ambulance Corps, a winwin situation.”

Marshall thanked state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach), Assemblymember Mike Miller (D–Woodhaven) and Councilmembers Eric Ulrich (R–Ozone Park) and Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale) for helping to work out these changes.

Turning to crime, Marshall said that overall crime has decreased the same as citywide, but she noted a troubling 28 percent increase in murders in Southeast Queens.

“From the streets of Queens to the shopping centers of Tucson, violence, mostly at the point of a gun, has taken innocent lives,” she stated.

Marshall also touched on matters covered under the following titles:

HEALTH: New York Hospital Queens in Flushing opened a new wing with 80 beds, Elmhurst Hospital Center opened a renovated HIV clinic and 40 new beds were added at Queens Hospital Center. Ground was broken on a new Zucker Hillside Hospital at North Shore/LIJ and two new North Shore/LIJ ambulatory care centers opened in Whitestone and Flushing and Addabbo Family Centers opened on Sutphin Boulevard and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard in Jamaica.

FDNY: A new modified Response System started in October, results of which will be reported on at a future Borough Cabinet meeting. The borough president’s office provided $273,000 for purchase of a Mobile Training Vehicle, which will allow firefighters to train near their firehouses. EMTs and paramedics responded to more than 283,000 calls for help last year. Queens EMS Division won the 2010 EMS Week competition that evaluates speed and efficiency.

LIBRARIES: Design is underway for Hunters Point Library on East River; Kew Gardens branch will begin expansion this fall and construction has started on the East Elmhurst branch expansion. Plans are underway for new branches in Far Rockaway and Elmhurst. Last year, renovated branches opened in Ridgewood, Sunnyside, Arverne and Windsor Park.

CULTURE: Hall of Science in Corona plans to renovate its Great Hall. Marshall’s office provided $10 million for the expansion of Queens Theatre in the Park and $3 million for a new Visitors Center across from the Louis Armstrong House in Corona.

AVIATION: Delta Airlines broke ground at JFK on a $1.2 billion project to expand Terminal 4, creating a world class hub at one of the busiest airports in the world. A new control tower was unveiled and officially dedicated at LaGuardia Airport last week replacing the one built in 1964. A contract was awarded for long-awaited $21 million modernization of the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia. Marshall called for a federal mandate for use of quieter, stage four engines on all planes flying into LaGuardia.

PARKS: The boathouse in Flushing Meadows, a 1939 World’s Fair structure, will reopen this spring with assistance from a $5 million contribution from Marshall’s office. Renovated bandshell in Forest Park opened with funding from Marshall’s office and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D–Glendale).

New cricket fields are coming to Edison H.S. field, Baisley Park and to the Environmental Park Center. With support from Councilmembers Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Park) and Dan Halloran (R–Whitestone), Oakland Lake Ravine in Bayside will have new pathways around the lake. Marshall also provided $2 million for new soccer and two Little League fields at the College Point Sports Complex. Marshall also provided $4 million for a larger building at the Alley Pond Environmental Center in Bayside. Two enclosed tennis courts at Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica, provides a permanent winter home for the National Academy of Junior Tennis and Youth Development.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION: In the works are a new Visitors Center at Bowne House in Flushing; roof restorations at Rufus King Manor in Jamaica and the Lewis Latimer House in Flushing. A $3 million grant from Marshall’s office is funding the Queens County Farm Museum while advancing plans to enhance its ability to educate about the past. With a $1 million grant from Marshall’s office restoration of the facade at Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Corona will become a reality.

ZONING: Since taking office, Marshall’s Zoning Task Force has worked with the Queens Department of City Planning on 40 rezonings that covered more than 5,000 blocks throughout Queens. Last year, more than 800 blocks in Astoria, Rosedale, Auburndale, Oakland Gardens and Hollis Hills were rezoned. Sunnyside and Woodside are next, also Jamaica, which will get the largest re-zoning in the city’s history, covering more than 500 blocks in South Jamaica.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: On top of the $12 million Marshall has devoted to the Commercial Corridor Program, which strengthens commercial strips throughout the borough, the Queens Economic Leadership Council continues disseminating information on up-to-date resources for businesses. Marshall expects employment will pick up with local hiring for huge developments, such as the racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, expected to generate 2,000 jobs. Marshall is pushing for maximum use of Queens businesses and maximum hiring of Queens residents.

Marshall honored Queens residents Carol Hunt and Anthony Caminiti with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Hunt recently retired after 21 years as Executive Director of the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults. Caminiti, a longtime community leader in Corona, still serves at age 99 on the Parks and Recreation Committee of Community Board 4.

Also honored were Sam Resnick, of Bayside and Vincent Minecci of Queens Village, with awards from the Legion of Honor for their World War II service.

Marshall also gave thanks to Queens Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 32 for providing burials for 41 veterans who died homeless or indigent.

“What a huge act of kindness,” Marshall commented.

And noting that it sometimes takes a long time to say thank you, Marshall paid tribute to 95-year-old former Queens salesman George Vujnovich, who was awarded the Bronze Star just last year, 66 years after he orchestrated the large air rescue of American soldiers behind enemy lines during World War II.

Finally, Marshall lauded the borough’s 14 community boards, asking the members who were there to stand up for recognition and characterizing them as the best in the city.

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