Despite Troubling Signs, BP Says Boro Strong
by Ernest Hernandez
Jan 14, 2009 | 2055 views | 0 0 comments | 75 75 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall delivered her seventh annual State of the Borough address on Tuesday in the Colden Center at Queens College, her alma mater.

Among those in attendance were local politicians, community leaders, business owners and military personnel. In her address, Marshall highlighted various issues such as the residential and business development in Willets Point and the Queens waterfront, as well as seniors, education, transportation, and public safety.

The struggling economy was a central theme in her address as Queens residents continue to face hardships from an ongoing recession.

"Wall Street has caused tremors on Main Street," said Marshall. "Our city's capital budget has been battered and stretched by credit crunches and losses by many of our financial institutions. Every family and every level of government is finding new ways to maximize opportunities."

However, Marshall remains optimistic that the prospect of an economic stimulus package from Washington will create more jobs and prevent a fare hike for mass transit users.

The borough president then presented the latest development plans for Willets Point and Hunters Point South along the East River saying that combined the projects will create 10,000 new housing units along with a convention center, retail space, community facilities and new schools.

Marshall also emphasized the city's commitment to reducing carbon emissions through new green neighborhoods, such as Willets Point and Long Island City, and fulfilling the mayor's PLANYC 2030 to reduce air pollution by 30 percent within the next two decades.

Approximately 5,500 new housing units along with a hotel, convention center, shops and a new school are slated for construction in Willets Point said Marshall, following the approval of a $3 billion plan to purchase more than 62 acres of land in that area.

When completed, the area is estimated to generate $1.3 billion in direct tax revenue while creating approximately 18,000 construction jobs and more than 5,300 permanent jobs.

In Long Island City, the demolition of the Queens Plaza garage will set the stage for a new $316 million development consisting of a 21-story environmentally green tower, which is estimated to create 1,400 construction jobs. The City Health Department plans to use the new office space.

Marshall also outlined the construction of 5,000 housing units in Hunters Point South for moderate- to middle-income families.

Issues pertaining to seniors remained high on Marshall's agenda as she cited a recent estimate that projects the number of seniors to outnumber school-aged children by 2030. She stressed the importance of protecting valuable senior services such as Meals-on-Wheels and Homecare as the elderly population continues to rise.

Marshall noted that community-based organizations dedicated to seniors recently lost their contracts. A new proposed agreement to take effect on February 2 would have Meals-on-Wheels serve frozen meals, rather than hot meals to seniors, according to the borough president. She reiterated her request to aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios Paoli to delay the new contract agreement.

In the area of education, Marshall highlighted the need for new schools to combat overcrowding. Six new schools opened this past September, with seven more to open this fall to accommodate 2,700 students. Among the new school's slated to open this year is the Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts in Astoria founded by singer and local native Tony Bennett. The crowd erupted into applause as Bennett made a surprise appearance on stage.

Marshall also discussed the allocation of $3.5 million to build seven new athletic fields and $1 million to refurbish school playgrounds across Queens.

She also announced the opening of new libraries across Queens with new branches slated for Rego Park, Jackson Heights, Queens West, and Far Rockaway.

The borough president also discussed allocating $14 million for new library space at LaGuardia Community College, a new science research lab at Queens College, and a state-of-the-art greenhouse and analysis equipment for York College.

As for mass transit, Marshall expressed the need for new bus routes and increased service along with reopening abandoned Long Island Railroad stations across Queens to ease train congestion. She also called for train stations to be accessible to the elderly and disabled.

Her opposition to East River tolls was evident during her address.

"I will continue to oppose any plan to toll East River Bridges," she said. "Too many of us here in Queens are victims of government's failure to provide mass transit options."

The topic soon changed to public safety with a troubling crime statistic showing a 65 percent increase in homicides in Queens South, despite an overall crime reduction of 4 percent last year.

"Despite reductions in the latest police class and pending budget cuts, we cannot accept the increase in murders from 43 to 71 lost lives," stated Marshall. "And last year, there were 311 gun shot victims in Queens - that's 26 percent more than in 2007."

She then discussed the newly built Queens Family Justice Center in Kew Gardens to help victims of sexual and physical abuse. The $5.4 million facility opened in July.

In her one-hour speech, Marshall covered topics such as job loss, creating new jobs and major issues among Queens residents. Those in attendance said that she was very passionate in her speech.

She finished her address with an optimistic tone of better days ahead.

"In one week, we will inaugurate a new president who has also inspired us with a message of change and a promise that help is on the way with millions of new jobs, improved health care, and an improved America," she said.

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