‘Borough Of Tolerance’
Helen Marshall delivered her 12th and final State of the Borough address at Queens College’s Kupferberg Center for the Arts. The January 22 event began on a rather melancholy note when Marshall dedicated her speech to Dylan Smith, the 23-year-old Belle Harbor resident who saved several people during the height of Hurricane Sandy. Tragically, Smith died last month in Puerto Rico in an accident while surfing.
“He was the good neighbor we all want in time of trouble; a lifeguard and angel of mercy, and recognized as a national hero,” said Marshall.
The young man’s parents, Linda and Tim, were present and received a standing ovation. This was followed by an announcement by Marshall who said that her office would provide a $10,000 grant in Smith’s name to the Swim Strong Foundation.
Marshall took a moment from her speech to show a video presentation of the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and the rebuilding that is still underway. Students of the Louis Armstrong M.S. performed several musical numbers, including “Lean on Me” and “What a Wonderful World”.
The address then turned to the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. With Marshall declaring that 2013 “must be a year of hope”, she praised local law enforcement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo for the work done in the name of slowing gun violence.
Marshall recalled that when she took office in 2002, the local economy was in bad shape with a third of all capital projects either reduced or eliminated. Since then, she has invested more than $616 million capital dollars towards economic recovery. Examples of these improvements include enhancements to Queens Plaza, which is now home to many corporate headquarters, including jetBlue and the city Department of Health. Elsewhere, in Hunters Point South, the area saw the construction of new sewers and streets, a five-acre waterfront park, a new school and 900 units of affordable housing.
Industrial areas like Willets Point in Flushing are in the process of being transformed into commercial and residential areas. And in the Rockaways, Resorts World Casino New York City has become the country’s most successful casino.
Marshall touched on improvements made to education during her tenure. Since 2002, the Borough President, working closely with the School Construction Authority, has helped open more than 60 new school buildings in Queens with more than 28,000 new seats. This September, an additional six schools will open, providing a total of 3,000 seats.
She also cited additional improvements made to overall crime and health care. On the latter issue Marshall stated, “We have to finally get this right because it’s been wrong for far too long.”
Improvements have also been made to CUNY as well as the Queens Library system, which has become the largest public library system in the nation.
Marshall also noted the aggressive fight for historical preservation, something that had been lacking in the borough for a long time. Projects supported by the Borough President’s office include the Bowne House Visitors Center in Flushing. In collaboration with the Historic House Trust, Marshall has invested almost $17 million in preservation funds for various points of historical interest throughout the borough.
Venues like the Queens Botanical Garden and the ice skating rink in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park have all been improved. The Queens Museum of Art is currently undergoing a project that will literally double its size thanks to $22 million in assistance from Marshall’s office.
“Queens is also a borough of tolerance,” said Marshall who cited the multicultural landscape of Queens as the most diverse in the country and perhaps the world. Marshall was responsible for creating the Queens General Assembly and the Immigration Task Force. Her office will also sponsor its 12th LGBT Pride celebration this year at Borough Hall.
Marshall praised officials of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, the NYPD, and EMS for their diligent work. “You see,” Marshall said, “We’re surrounded by strength, compassion and dedication.”
A final topic covered by Marshall included improvements to senior care as well as improvements to aviation, namely, the infastructures at LaGuardia and JFK International Airports.
The Borough President concluded her address by thanking Queens community boards and also saluted her staff for their dedication and hard work.
She thanked her husband Donald, her daughter, and her family.
“Now, let us all use this year of hope to resolve that through sheer determination and good old Queens grit we will build a better and safer future for our families and our communities.”