2016-03-09 / Features

Deputy Mayor Delivers ‘State Of Our City’


(L. to r.); Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and state Senator Michael Gianaris. 
Photo Tony Barsamian (L. to r.); Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and state Senator Michael Gianaris. Photo Tony Barsamian Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen came to Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image to deliver a speech at the State of Our City.

She began by saying that Mayor de Blasio wants to use government to fight inequality and innovate for the future. Glen continued to say that the mayor believes the gap between wealth and poverty is most acute in housing and so has made his goal the building of 200,000 affordable apartments. She said that at the moment a fifth of that number, or 40,000, are being built. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), created during the first term of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1934 and problematic for much of its existence, has lately been making vital repairs, fixing leaky roofs and such, and installing high-speed Internet, she said, starting in Queensbridge. Getting the homeless, many of whom are military veterans, out of shelters and into apartments is a prime task, as is keeping them out of shelters in the first place.

(L. to r.); State Senator Michael Gianaris with Assistant Chief Diana L. Pizzuti, Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens. 
Photo Tony Barsamian (L. to r.); State Senator Michael Gianaris with Assistant Chief Diana L. Pizzuti, Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Queens. Photo Tony Barsamian She said the real stress for improvement begins in the so-called outer boroughs, particularly in Queens. The administration wants to be active in historically underserved neighborhoods to show them the way to acquire this century’s skills for this century’s economy. Young students should be supported, especially in technological education, which advertises employment opportunities for which the labor pool is all too often inadequately skilled and therefore unemployable.

“When things work well the picture can be thrilling,” she said, praising Queens College’s tech programs and students, 25 of whom she saw as city interns last summer, working in future-oriented jobs.

New York is not an easy place in which to start businesses, but work on altering outdated small business codes must proceed. She said that the effort has thus far produced millions of dollars in tax relief, and continued, “The Small Business Center in Jamaica is a place where start-up people can get information that will help them slash through the jungle growth of regulations.”

Glen also praised the innovations made in transportation. She asked rhetorically, “Who in the 1990s would have thought the day would come when fleets of bicycles would be available for 10 million rides per year?” That happened last year with Citi Bike and it should grow in the future, she said. These days, lots of people are thinking about the Brooklyn-Queens Connector and asking how it will look when and if it is in operation. She spoke well of it and saw it generating $25 billion for the economy in the next 35 years, assuming it comes into existence, as it is estimated it will in 2024. Ferries will be operating in all five boroughs much sooner, as they are expected to be next year, she said, and floating docks are being built in Staten Island right now. She pictured her daughters, not long from now, riding their bikes to the ferry and boarding a bus where the ferry ride ends.

She made a tour of three Queens neighborhoods, beginning with Far Rockaway, which is designated to receive $90 million for improvement of its downtown area. Water and sewerage infrastructure is especially in need of work. She showed an illustration of the Far Rockaway branch library that is to be built, calling it a beautiful dream that should soon come true.

Jamaica’s downtown is a thriving hub, she said, but also has economic problems and old infrastructure. An action plan containing 21 points for improvement was launched last April and after less than a year, 16 of them are being applied, she said. Also, it’s the place for Link NYC, which she called the fastest neighborhood Wi-Fi in the United States.

Then the topic switched to Long Island City. “It has everything,” she said, repeating the “Muppets, mufflers and muffins” jingle. There’s a lot of construction going on, with building plans that reflect local dynamism, she said.

Inevitably she referred to the Cornell Technion scientific campus being built on Roosevelt Island.

The question period brought out some sharp inquiries and even enlisted police precinct commanders and other brass of Patrol Borough Queens North gathered in the auditorium to assist in the replies. The Verve Hotel in Dutch Kills, which was turned into a homeless women’s shelter, on a temporary basis anyway, has been a behavioral problem that Captain Peter Fortune said might be alleviated by mixing the shelter’s security officers with peace officers.

To those who believe a subway extension between Queens and Brooklyn might be better than the proposed streetcar line, Glen said the investment for a subway would be far costlier and streetcars would be at least equally efficient for commuting.

Asked about 421-a, the tax relief plan that in exchange obligates developers to build affordable housing, she admitted it must be rethought in a way that would promote a healthier rental market. At present, land prices in the city favor construction of condominiums. Asked just what is affordable, she said any answer is complicated but added that she and the mayor are trying to change the option of affordable housing into a mandate. No other city in the country has as a permanently affordable housing rate as high as 25 percent, she said.

“We have a fundamentally different view of the city’s future,” she said of the current administration, again emphasizing the dynamic opportunities she sees in the boroughs outside Manhattan. She believes it reaches beyond the traditional assumption of Manhattan first, with all else following.

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