How are things going in Queens? Queens Borough President Melinda Katz knows. She’ll be giving all the answers during her State of the Borough address on Friday, January 27, but she gave a sneak peak to media this week.
On Tuesday, January 24, Melinda Katz sat down with the press at Queens Borough Hall to provide a look at some of what’s to come during her State of the Borough (SOTB) address, which will be held at York College (94-45 Guy R. Brewer Boulevard) in Jamaica at 10 a.m. on Friday. Much of the SOTB address will revolve around this year’s motto of “Queens is a borough of growth and a borough of families.” Katz will focus on these subjects while comparing where Queens was, where it stands and her expectations and plans for the future.
Katz will discuss how Queens has grown in the last few years by looking at tourism and economic development numbers. She said that Queens generated $8.3 billion in tourism for 2016, making it the second biggest borough for growth, next to Manhattan. She said numbers like these show promise, as it will give the city and state more reason to supply the borough with funding for things like education, infrastructure, senior facilities and other necessities. The increase in tourism has led to an increase and upgrade to tourist facilities. She said 18 new hotels have opened in Queens over the last few years and another 30 are in the pipeline. With NYC’s airports located in Queens, the airline industry is the second largest industry for employment, next to healthcare. Major renovations to the airports have led to extreme growth from 24 to 28 million passengers, 103,000 to 129,000 jobs and up to $18 billion in economic activity at LaGuardia in the last five years. JFK saw an increase from $32 to $42 billion. Katz expects these numbers to grow further as renovations continue and she believes tourism will increase. She notes the many draws of Queens as a tourist destination, including its multicultural restaurants, galleries, Resorts World Casino, and of course, Rockaway. “It’s the most beautiful beach in the city of New York, and tourism numbers have increased in amazing amounts. People are coming back to see Rockaway,” Katz said.
Katz also touched upon Queens being a place for families. She notes that Queens has some of the best schools in the state, but they’re overcrowded, with schools being at about 120 percent capacity. She acknowledged that new schools and seats need to be added, but temporary solutions like trailers are not the answer. She has helped to reduce the number of educational trailers from 153 to 109 in the past few years. She has also helped bring schools up to date with technology. “By the end of this term, I will have bought Smartboards and laptops for every single elementary and middle school in the borough, including District 27 schools.
In addition to school improvements, Queens has saw improvements and additions to its parks. There have been 31 groundbreakings for parks and $57 million has gone toward improving 57 Queens parks over the past few years. In a time of uncertainty for immigrants on a national scale, Katz said she would continue to fight for immigrant families in the borough. “Forty-nine percent of Queens resident were born outside of the United States. They come to make Queens home. We welcome immigration to the borough,” she said. She’s fighting against hate crimes, providing immigrants with resources like legal assistance and is urging U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to re-open its Queens Field Office, which has been closed for two years.
Katz didn’t want to give too much away, as she will go into detail about the state of the borough and its future on Friday. To attend the SOTB address, go to www.queensbp.org.
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