2018-02-14 / Features

BP Talks Progress & Future Plans At QCC Breakfast

BY THOMAS COGAN

Borough President Melinda Katz held a special breakfast conference presented by the Queens Chamber of Commerce at Antun’s restaurant in Queens Village.

Mayra DiRico, the Cubanborn Chair of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, introduced Katz as a Queens-born woman who has love and concern “in her blood” for the place she calls “the World’s Borough.” The Borough President began by describing foreign-born persons coming to New York, considering the great diversity of Queens and how and where they might fit in. She said 48 percent of Queens residents come from outside the borough and many of them from outside the United States. For natives and immigrants, Queens is often the place for raising children.

Katz wants to make the borough better for all of them and believes that while in office she has taken significant steps toward improvement by getting rid of one-third of the trailers that pop up in schoolyards as temporary classrooms while actual ones are being built or proposed for construction. As time passes, such trailers can assume a dreary permanence. She said there are 18,000 school seats being created at the moment and their completion is a great thing to anticipate.

The Borough President discussed several areas progress is being made. She said that as borough president she has had dozens of meetings about the revitalization of downtown Jamaica, which she said is one of those places in Queens that visitors and tourists should see if they wish to get a glimpse of “the real New York.”

Katz had no hesitation to tell stories and anecdotes to bring home points about one place or another in Queens. One favorite, related at the breakfast, is about the time in the 1980s when she saw a building more than 50 stories high go up in low-rise Long Island City and heard then-Borough President Claire Shulman call the Citigroup Building and its construction a transformational event.

In the Rockaways, a five-borough ferry plan is taking shape, she said, adding that the predictability of its expansion is vital. She has been a member of Governor Cuomo’s redesign panel and said she can see the likelihood of a train-to-plane to LaGuardia Airport, probably involving the revival of the train line to Willets Point. The BP also wants expansion of the current train route to Kennedy Airport, to provide a link to Manhattan that will make it a one-seat ride. That prompted Larry Penner, a transportation activist, to ask how building an air train route to LaGuardia is feasible when it would involve a jammed 7 train and a similarly crowded Long Island Rail Road. In reply, Katz repeated her reference to reviving the train to Willets Point; but even without that, the train line to LaGuardia should go through somehow. Queens should “get its act together” and get it done, she said, and added that the plan for Willets Point itself has needed to be activated, since by now it’s a decade old. The 2008 plan called for housing, two-thirds of it affordable, while the remaining one-third would have been market rate to help finance it. Housing and schooling would be built on six acres of the 23 acres purchased there by the city. (See “Local Organizations Make Budget Requests Via Boro Board,” By Richard Gentilviso: “The new plan is for three 100 percent affordable buildings...” in this issue of the Gazette, p. ten.)

Asked about the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX, Katz said she is in favor of it, but that it has no determined route at this time. Once again, she preferred to call it the QBX, and added that she would like to see the Queens part built first in this historic venture.

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