50 Ideas for a Stronger, More Equitable Queens


The Center for an Urban Future (CUF) and the Thomas & Jeanne Elmezzi Private Foundation have released a major new report outlining strategies to create a stronger and more equitable Queens. The report, titled “50 Ideas for a Stronger and More Equitable Queens,” compiles policy recommendations from 50 local leaders aimed at improving access to affordable housing, quality health care, and well-paying jobs, while bolstering neighborhoods across the borough.

The report, funded by a small grant from the Long Island City-based Elmezzi Foundation, was jointly released with them as they support various programs, primarily in Queens.

Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of CUF, highlighted the organization’s mission to produce thorough, data-driven research that identifies actionable solutions to bolster New York City’s economy and create pathways to the middle class. 

“We wanted to drill down to a more local level,” Bowles said. “This report focuses on Queens, we know it’s the city’s borough of opportunity, it’s probably the most important launchpad to the middle class in New York. But there’s a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of things still needed to capitalize on the borough’s many opportunities to address a lot of a lot of challenges, and to ensure that more of the Queens residents are able to get ahead.”

The report is a follow-up to CUF’s 2022 publication, which offered 150 ideas for city-wide equity. This time, CUF gathered insights from 50 community leaders, including advocates, entrepreneurs, artists, health experts, and educators, asking each to propose a single actionable idea for strengthening Queens. The suggestions range from economic development to affordable housing and cultural promotion.

“We believe that 50 Ideas for a Stronger and More Equitable Queens highlights the many strengths and untapped opportunities in this borough and offers some unique ideas for long term growth and sustainability benefitting residents that call this borough home,” said Pooja Joshi, Executive Director of The Thomas and Jeanne Elmezzi Private Foundation. “The Foundation’s approach has been to directly understand and tap into the needs of the community in order to have a wide breadth of impact. We believe that any solutions unearthed as well as piloted in Queens present far reaching implications not only for the borough but for the City and beyond.”

Contributors to the report include a diverse array of community leaders, educators, entrepreneurs, artists, faith leaders, nonprofit executives, and public health experts. Notable contributors include Kenneth Adams, President of LaGuardia Community College; Frank H. Wu, President of Queens College; Dennis Walcott, President and CEO of Queens Public Library; and Theo Oshiro, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. Their ideas provide a comprehensive roadmap for addressing key challenges in Queens.

One notable idea comes from Seth Bornstein, Executive Director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), who proposed the creation of a community foundation for Queens. Currently, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island have their own community foundations that provide funding and grants to local nonprofits.

‘I think that the borough could definitely benefit from having a local foundation, something that is investing in the needs of the borough, and in nonprofits across the borough,” Bowles said.

Reverend Patrick O’Connor, lead pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, advocated for the development of affordable housing specifically for public servants and nonprofit workers. His proposal emphasizes collaboration between the borough president and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to address this issue.

Another innovative idea comes from Yanki Tshering, founder and executive director of Accompany Capital. Tshering recommended hosting “Celebrate Queens” events to draw attention to the borough’s unique businesses and cultural venues. She cited a successful local event as a model, which brought thousands of visitors to local eateries and showcased the area’s diverse culinary offerings. 

Additional suggestions include extending ferry service to Willets Point and LaGuardia Airport, proposed by Tina Lee of Cooper Investors Inc., and establishing new 24-hour communities to attract young professionals, suggested by Melva M. Miller, former CEO of ABNY.

“We know not all 50 ideas will be adopted, but even a handful could make a significant difference in creating a stronger, more equitable Queens,” Bowles said.

Other significant recommendations include instituting an arts and culture tax on new developments to fund local arts organizations, proposed by Sally Tallant of Queens Museum, and facilitating the development of affordable housing on unused land owned by religious institutions, suggested by Ben Thomases of Queens Community House. These visionary ideas aim to create a more vibrant, inclusive, and prosperous future for Queens.

Bowles expressed optimism about the report’s reception among city officials and agencies. 

“We’ve already shared the report with various government offices, including the borough president, city council members, and city agencies,” Bowles said. “Our goal is to spark a conversation and inspire action to implement some of these ideas.”

CUF plans to continue advocating for these proposals through meetings and public forums in the coming months. 

For more information and to read the full report, visit CUF’s website at nycfuture.org. 

“If New York City is going to succeed in creating a more equitable economy, Queens will need to play a starring role. Getting there will require bold new policies and investments that capitalize on the borough’s many opportunities and ensure that more of its residents are able to participate in its growing prosperity. This report provides 50 bold, innovative ideas to create a stronger, more equitable borough – from Flushing to Far Rockaway, Long Island City to Laurelton, and everywhere in between,” Bowles said. 

The CUF and the Elmezzi Foundation recently released “50 Ideas for a Stronger and More Equitable Queens,” compiling policy recommendations from local leaders. 

The report, funded by Elmezzi, suggests initiatives like hosting events to boost local businesses, providing affordable housing for public servants, and expanding ferry service to LaGuardia Airport. 

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