BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Melinda Katz recently dropped by the PRESS of Southeast Queens to discuss some of her accomplishments during her three and a half years as Queens borough president as well as on what she intends to focus if she wins re-election this fall.
Katz said that while parts of the borough are flourishing, others still need some extra attention.
“We have areas of the borough that are growing organically—like Long Island City—and then there’s some that need help,” said Katz.
Katz said that one of the neighborhoods where she has seen the most positive change is in Jamaica, which she said had been stagnant for years.
Through a $150 million investment, the Jamaica Now Plan has been able to begin redeveloping infrastructure in Southeast Queens, she said. Additionally, billions of dollars have been invested in sewers and pipes to combat Jamaica’s longstanding problems with flooding. Katz said that she is also proud of the initiatives to aid the Rockaways.
“The Rockaways is a beach community that is far from the main land, so the investment really needs to be thought out and in a methodical way,” said Katz.
While the Rockaways are now part of the five-borough ferry service, Katz said that she wants to see more development in the region and the addition of a chain store—such as Fairway Market—that could provide jobs.
Katz added that she intends to work toward the creation of more new jobs across the borough.
“People came to Queens to raise their kids,” Katz said. “We always say, ‘If it’s good for families, it’s good for Queens,’ so we need to also be focusing on creating jobs here, so people can work where they live and not have to travel across the city for work.”
Transportation is another of the borough’s most-pressing issues, Katz said, adding that the Main Street 7 train subway station is the most in need of upgrades, considering that it is the third-most-utilized in the city.
With drastic population growth in Flushing and initiatives to expand the sidewalks on Main Street, Katz said that her administration is also looking to upgrade the region’s infrastructure.
Katz said that another issue on which she’d focus during a second term would be the borough’s tourist attractions.
One of the sites in most desperate need of attention, Katz said, is the New York State Pavilion. Through a $16 million upgrade, Katz plans to light up the pavilion and fix its staircase, so that workers can gain access to fix and clean the towers. Additionally, the pavilion’s theater would be painted and cemented.
“Fixing the pavilion means more investment into the borough,” said Katz. “As we make money, more money should be invested in our schools, streets, paving residential areas, getting neighborhoods out from under water, building senior centers and much more. From my perspective, it’s all about the family structure and how to get there. We have to guide the growth—we can’t have the growth without the guidance.”
Katz noted that Queens has long been considered the world’s most diverse county and that relations among various cultures in the borough could be a model for the rest of the nation. During community board and civic meetings, Katz said that she sees women wearing head coverings sitting next to people wearing yarmulkes or crosses on neck chains.
“To me, it works,” said Katz. “I think, at the end of the day, there are going to be those factions who are difficult and never going to accept change, but I find that, here, you don’t have a choice. There are people living next door who have a totally different background than you.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.