Op-Ed: The power of the position

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BY CLAIRE SHULMAN

Why the borough president, I am asked.

The 1989 Charter has the council voting on both land use and budgets, so what do you do to warrant the existence of the office?

I will tell you.

I can best describe it by telling you what we did before and after the 1989 Charter revision.

My staff and I were determined to make a difference in Queens.

Before 1989 we had to negotiate for money; after 1989 the borough president got five percent of the enhancements in the expense budget and five percent of the capital budget. Queens got 33 percent of the five percent capital money, which enabled us not only to build, but to influence the construction of the following institutions:

  • Queens Museum of Art
  • New York Hall of Science
  • Queens Hospital Center
  • Flushing Town Hall
  • Family Court
  • Civil Court
  • Queens Theatre
  • Queens Zoo
  • Roy Wilkins Park and Recreation Center
  •  Creedmoor Educational Company
  •  Flushing Library
  • P.S.1
  • Townsend Harris High School
  • SE552, $100 million sewer project to relieve flooding in SE Queens
  • American Museum of the Moving Image
  • Flushing Meadows swimming pool and ice skating rink
  • BP and the mayor’s office get Fort Totten from the feds

These are just a few things we accomplished which makes the borough president’s office one of the best bargains in New York City.

We helped to enliven the cultural life of Queens, thereby creating a harmony in a very diverse population. We were involved in so much, none of which was mentioned or prohibited in the Charter.

For example we spent five years saving non-eviction conversion co-ops, thousands of units that helped cooperators, renters and neighborhoods survive.

There are many people currently running for this office because they want to continue the effort.

This is a big city and one cannot know everything, so local government, the planning boards, the council and the BP’s office are our good government.

Together we help deliver services through the Borough Cabinet where it is needed and deal with land use issues and budgets through the Borough Board.

If borough presidents didn’t exist it is my opinion that Manhattan would walk away with all the resources that currently cover major projects in Queens.

I will continue to advocate for the office of borough president and the relative autonomy of our great borough.

Don’t fool yourself — if you are elected by a county of two million people, that’s power and everyone listens!

Claire Shulman was the first female borough president, serving from 1986 until 2002.

 

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