Donovan Richards Touts What’s “Being Built in Queens” in 2023 State of the Borough

By Alicia Venter

aventer@queensledger.com

 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards promoted Queens’ innovation, infrastructure and his office’s strategic funding through the past year in his “State of the Borough Address” on Friday, April 28.

Held at Claire Schulman Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Richards focused his speech on the improvements the borough has seen over the past year while providing a glimpse into plans his office has for the future, especially in the Rockaways and Jamaica.

“Years from now, when our kids and grandkids look back on this period of rebirth for New York City, they will know exactly where its renaissance began,” said Richards. “Because that future they will enjoy is being built before our eyes. The city they will inherit is one where equity rules the day, where diversity is embraced, where upward mobility isn’t contingent on your ZIP code. That, my friends, is what’s being built in Queens.”

Investing in Rockaway

Prior to borough president, Richards was a council member representing the Rockaways and parts of southeast Queens.

Self-describing himself as a “biased Rockaway boy,” Richards laid out a long-term plan for growth in the neighborhood, citing systemic issues that he has already addressed there. Since he became borough president, affordable housing developments at Arverne East, Edgemere Commons and Rockaway Village have been built, with residents able to move into the latter already.

In total, 5,000 affordable and supportive housing units have been opened in the three locations, including a number of units set aside for homeless and formerly homeless families.

Arverne East also features a 35-acre beachside nature preserve and 180,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. Using geothermal energy, Arverne East will be the first net-zero community in the city.

That’s what’s being built in Queens,” said Richards. “Communities on the front lines of clean energy, community empowerment and the correction of systemic injustice.”

Health and Hospitals recently opened a $30 million clinic in the Rockaways, a neighborhood that Richards shared has only one hotel for 125,000 people.

“It’s no accident that Far Rockaway families experience heart disease, diabetes and other conditions and higher rates than elsewhere in Queens,” he stated. “That is what systemic disinvestment looks like.”

Richards also called upon the MTA to expand the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) CityTicket — a program that makes the LIRR $5 in off peak hours compared to $12.50 —  to Rockaway as well as bring the Fair Fares program to the LIRR. Across Queens, CityTicket has been expanded. Richards claimed that Far Rockaway not having the same benefits “is what systemic racism looks like.”

The Rockaways will also boast “the crown jewel of the Queens Library system,” said Richards — a $33 million new Far Rockaway branch.

“The Rockaways serve as a blueprint for the rest of the city to follow when we talk about community development,” said Richards. “It’s a blueprint we’re utilizing across Queens.”

Changing Jamaica

Richards launched the Downtown Jamaica Improvement Council with council member Natasha Williams last spring, and called upon the Department of Transportation (DOT) to launch a Jamaica Neighborhood Planning Study to take a “holistic, community-led look at how to make Jamaica the premiere live, work and play neighborhood in the city.”

This is personal to Richards, as a Jamaica native, he shared, stating that giving back to the community is the one thing he wants to accomplish while in office.

“Jamaica is already a key business district and a critical transit hub, but we haven’t even scratched the surface of this community’s potential,” he said, citing a need for affordable housing, infrastructure investments, school seats and open space.

To date, the DOT has committed to investing $55 million to Jamaica street improvement projects, shared Richards.

Improving the Airports

Richards launched the Downtown Jamaica Improvement Council with council member Natasha Williams last spring, and called upon the Department of Transportation (DOT) to launch a Jamaica Neighborhood Planning Study to take a “holistic, community-led look at how to make Jamaica the premiere live, work and play neighborhood in the city.”

This is personal to Richards, as a Jamaica native, he shared, stating that giving back to the community is the one thing he wants to accomplish while in office.

“Jamaica is already a key business district and a critical transit hub, but we haven’t even scratched the surface of this community’s potential,” he said, citing a need for affordable housing, infrastructure investments, school seats and open space.

To date, the DOT has committed to investing $55 million to Jamaica street improvement projects, shared Richards.

Reimagining Creedmoor

The future of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus was raised by Richards in his address, noting the series of community workshops since February to begin the process of redeveloping the campus.

While it’s his office that will have final say, Richards is inviting the community to provide their input on what the 50 acre campus in Queens Village should be transformed into. It is currently being used as a  small inpatient, outpatient and residential service provider for mentally ill patients. Affordable housing is a leading option for the facility.

“We are making our own blueprint for what community development should look like moving forward,” he said. “At the end of the day, Creedmoor represents a transformative opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of Eastern Queens residents.”

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