Tag Archives: borough president melinda katz

Queens Library earns national awards while facing public scrutiny


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens Library

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Federal inquiries into the Queens Library and its CEO may be buzzing in the news, but the organization is making a case for why residents can still have a good read. 

The Library has received national recognitions recently for architecture and modern digital services.

The new $17.1 million Glen Oaks branch was named the 2013 Building of the Year by American-Architects.com, beating out structures from 50 other states because of its design and eco-friendly features.

The Queens Library, which services more than 866,000 active members, also received the American Library Association/Information Today, Inc. “Library of the Future” award for creating a customized interface and a management system so that Google tablets, which can be borrowed on library cards, are useful with or without Wi-Fi access.

The tablet’s interface is pre-loaded with helpful information on a range of topics, including children’s resources, immigration information, job search, language services and library courses. The award will be presented during the Library Association’s annual conference in June.

“Year after year, Queens Library is recognized nationally and globally as a leader in innovative library programs, services and spaces,” a spokesperson for the Library said. “The goal is always to find better ways to serve the community with lifelong learning opportunities from state-of-the-art libraries.”

Besides the honors, the Queens Library is gearing up to launch a new mobile app that will allow users to download free digital materials from their devices. The app will be available on both iOS and Android platforms. Also, the Library has been chosen as one of six organizations statewide to pilot online high school equivalency exams for adults.

Lately, complaints against the Library from elected officials have increased after new reports revealed President and CEO Thomas Galante’s nearly $392,000 salary, while many workers have been let go in recent years. Galante also spent nearly $140,000 to renovate his office, reports said.

FBI and Department of Investigation agents recently appeared at the Library to issue subpoenas for information, according to reports.

Library Board members The Courier contacted didn’t respond for comment.

“We have been requested to provide documents,” Library spokesperson Joanne King said. “Because of the inquiry, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on matters that are the subject of inquiry.”

The Library has hired an outside consultant, Hay Group, to study Galante’s salary and perks included, such as a reported $37,000 sports car and $2 million severance package.

Galante currently makes the most money of the city’s three library systems’ leaders, according to SeeThroughNY, which list how tax dollars are spent.

Anthony Marx, the current CEO of the New York Public Library (NYPL), which has branches in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, made $250,000 last year.

The previous CEO of the NYPL, Paul Le Clerc, made $711,114 in 2011. Linda Johnson, the CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library, made $250,000 in 2013 as well.

Borough President Melinda Katz recently penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, asking him to suspend the ability of the Library to spend any funds on renovations until the issues are resolved.

“The Queens Library system is a first-rate institution that provides invaluable educational and cultural opportunities for the residents of this borough,” Katz said in the letter. “However, there is a troubling lack of oversight and understanding of the allocation of taxpayer funding.”

 

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Queens World Film Festival celebrates opening night


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Action! The 4th Annual Queens World Film Festival has begun.

The festival, which brings international and local filmmakers to the borough to screen their works, celebrated its opening night on Tuesday at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Opening night featured three films from the United States and one from Kosovo, ranging from animation to short narratives.

FOR MORE OPENING NIGHT PHOTOS CLICK HERE

Borough President Melinda Katz, one of the night’s speakers, said that the festival was not only a great project for all the filmmakers and volunteers involved, but also for helping brand the borough of Queens.

“We are the most diverse place on the entire planet. We are extremely excited by this,” Katz said. “We are telling the international audience that we are here, we are strong. Diversity is the greatest asset that we can give the entire world here in the borough of Queens and this film festival proves it every day that we are having it.”

Organizers Katha and Don Cato, who were introduced by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, welcomed the audience and shared what they’ve done in the 365 days since last year’s festival. They then went on to describe what the next five days would bring for the borough.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for us and one we are very happy to share it with everyone,” Katha said.

Don encouraged the audience members to go see all the films over the next few days.

“What I want you to experience is the unique opportunity that all of these films have and let them just wash over you,” he said. “Let them inform you, experience them, open yourselves up to them and enjoy them for what they are.”

Before the first block of films was shown, the festival honored Carl Goodman, executive director of the Museum of the Moving Image, as one of the 2014 Spirit of Queens Honorees for his leadership.

“Something wonderful is happening here,” Goodman said. “New York City is becoming decentralized. Manhattan is a borough, Queens is a borough. They’re all boroughs and there’s no inner or outer. I like to think about it as Manhattan being the shining surface of the city and Queens being the substance.”

Independent filmmaker Hal Hartley was also recognized as a Spirit of Queens Honoree. Before accepting his award, the crowd got a taste of his eight minute short narrative from 1994 called “Opera No. 1.”

The night ended with a party at Studio Square just a couple blocks away from the museum.

Throughout the six-day festival, which goes until March 10, a total of 127 films including short and feature narratives, LGBT pieces, documentaries and animation will be divided into subject blocks and will be shown at venues such as The Secret Theatre and The Nesva Hotel in Long Island City, and P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights. During the festival there will be 16 films screened from Queens filmmakers.

The festival will also screen the world premiere of the director’s cut of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing” on Thursday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. at P.S. 69.

Films will also be given awards on the final night of the festival.

For a full schedule of the festival visit here. Tickets for the festival are $10 for regular admission and $6 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets visit here.

 

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BP Katz talks branding Queens at LIC Partnership breakfast


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Long Island City welcomed Borough President Melinda Katz with open arms—and coffee.

The Long Island City Partnership held a breakfast at the CUNY School of Law for Katz on Feb.27 to welcome her to the thriving western Queens community.

“She is no stranger to any of us in this room, nor to this community. She has been and really is Queens,” Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said as he introduced Katz. “For the next eight years, Borough President Katz is going to make sure there is a vision and the know-how to get that vision accomplished.”

During the breakfast, the borough president spoke about future plans for Long Island City and the overall borough — highlighting the importance of branding the area, cultural institutions, marketing and tourism.

“We’re nothing like the other boroughs, we are our own borough,” Katz said. “We may want to make the rest of the borough like Long Island City, maybe, but we’re not going to make it the new Brooklyn, we stand on our own.”

Katz said she is working with Van Bramer to come up with an overall plan for Long Island City, including bringing small start-up tech industries and improving the transportation system.

“Cultural institutions will brand this borough, not only the restaurants and the shopping,” she said. “Folks need to know that if they come to the City of New York and they have not visited the borough of Queens, they have not seen New York City.”

In her plan she also hopes to work with hotels in Manhattan in order for visitors to be given a script of different events happening in Queens. The borough president also plans on creating a cultural guide to give out during the 1964 World’s Fair 50-year commemoration.

“I am excited about the future here,” she said.

 

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Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios coming in May


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Astoria, get ready!

LIC Flea & Food and Kaufman Astoria Studios have announced they will be partnering up to bring the city’s first-ever backlot market called Astoria Flea & Food at Kaufman Astoria Studios. The new market, launching Sunday, May 4, will bring the community the best in food vendors, antiques, collectibles, art, crafts, fashion and much more.

“After a phenomenal first season in Long Island City we are thrilled to expand to Astoria,” said Joshua Schneps, Astoria Flea & Food president. “Kaufman Astoria Studios offers the perfect location and we look forward to creating a fun and vibrant destination for the community.”

Located in the studio’s outdoor lot, the first of its kind in New York City which opened in December on 36th Street between 34th and 35th avenues, Astoria Flea & Food will operate every Sunday for eight consecutive weekends.

“The Kaufman Astoria Studios neighborhood has grown into a wonderfully vibrant center for art, food and culture,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president at Kaufman Astoria. “Astoria Flea is a terrific addition to our community. We look forward to making our new backlot home to eight great Sundays filled with food, art and fashion.”

Visitors will also be able to pass through a brand new 40-foot high steel gated entrance, designed by David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group, located at 35th Avenue.

This market will act as an incubator to help promote and foster businesses, as well as be a fun and vibrant weekend spot for the entire family.

“This is extremely exciting news and another example that the borough is a fantastic place to live and do business,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation. “Kaufman Astoria Studios is a nationally recognized landmark that has hosted such classic TV shows as ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘The Cosby Show.’ It will provide the perfect scene for a flea market.”

Astoria Flea will work as a great setting for business owners to grow their businesses and gain prominence, even if they might not be ready to afford a storefront. The market will be within walking distance from the M, R, N and Q train lines.

“Astoria Flea & Food will offer a world-class shopping and culinary experience on the grounds of what has become a world-class film and television studios,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “Its unique setting and easily accessible location will be attractive to tourists and Queens residents alike.”

In addition, Astoria Flea will allow visitors to have an experience within one of the city’s most historic film and television studios, first built in 1920, which is currently home to shows such as “Orange is the New Black,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Alpha House” and “Sesame Street.”

“With this neighborhood growth comes a greater need for fostering artistic culture and strengthening our small business community,” said Councilmember Costa Constantinides. “The market will be a vibrant place for Astoria’s artists and chefs to showcase their work, and will also be a place for entrepreneurs throughout the city to gain visibility for their small businesses.”

Astoria Flea has partnered with The Queens Courier to promote every vendor of the market in the newspaper and online. In addition, BORO Magazine and the LIC Courier will also feature a monthly vendor guide focused on painters, sculptors, photographers and food.

“LIC Flea is a very successful part of the Long Island City community and its expansion to Kaufman Astoria Studios is a welcome addition to our neighborhood,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “Astoria Flea & Food will bring together the great food and artistic flair that put Astoria on the map and made it a destination for people all over the world.”

Vendors, from the small to the big, can apply to sell at the market at www.LICFlea.com. Updates will be available through the Facebook and Twitter accounts at Facebook.com/AstoriaFlea and @AstoriaFlea.

 

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Katz rebrands Queens as center of the city in speech


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Queens is the center of New York City, according to new Borough President Melinda Katz, and she wants people from the “outer-boroughs” to know that.

Katz gave a patriotic lecture on Tuesday, explaining her economic initiatives and rebranding Queens as the city’s prime tourist destination.

“Manhattan should be known for recommending Queens restaurants and shopping, and all the cultural events that we have to offer,” Katz said.

Katz vowed to restart predecessor Claire Shulman’s “War Room” to help solve overcrowding in school, and also voiced her support for universal pre-kindergarten.

“Space is needed, pre-k is needed,” she said. “We need to at least have our children start on equal footing and get the education they need.”

The Borough President pledged that her administration will help future small businesses owners to navigate the process of creating their companies, and she plans to use real estate development projects to spur job growth.

She wants to assist Long Island City become the next major tech hub so more entrepreneurs, especially those graduating from the forthcoming Cornell-Technion school, stay in Queens.

Katz additionally expressed her excitement for Governor Andrew Cuomo taking the lead to renovate the area airports.

“You come to the city of New York, we should have the top flight– excuse the pun– airports in the entire world,” she said.

Turning to the Rockaways, Katz voiced support for permanent ferry service and said she wants reconstruction on the boardwalk “done before 2017.”

She also reiterated in the speech that she will save the New York State Pavilion.

“The speech hit all the right notes,” said Rob MacKay of the Queens Economic Development Corporation. “I feel that Queens is ready to steal Brooklyn’s mojo.”

 

 

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Deadline to join or continue on Queens community boards approaches


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Civic-minded Queens residents looking to shape their neighborhoods have until this Friday to apply to join one of the borough’s 14 community boards.

Borough President Melinda Katz has extended the deadline for those applying to be a new or returning community board member to Feb. 7, due to a snowier-than-usual January.

Community boards, which have up to 50 sitting members, advise city agencies on zoning, land use and community issues. The eyes and ears of the neighborhoods also make city budget and state liquor licensing recommendations.

“They play a significant role in helping city government address the needs of its residents,” Katz said. “Service on a community board is a great way to contribute to the well-being and quality of life of your neighborhood.”

Board members, appointed by the borough president or nominated by their district’s councilmember, serve for two years. The new term begins April 1.

Applications are available here. For more information, call 718-286-2900.

For a list of Queens community boards, click here.

 

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Borough Board casts vote in first meeting of the year


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The Queens Borough Board approved the $1.5 million sale of a vacant Flushing lot Monday, during its first meeting of the year.

Board members unanimously voted to allow the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services to dispose of a 2,500-square-foot parcel in the heart of Flushing to an entity of the city’s Economic Development Corp.

The property at 135-15 40th Rd. will then be sold to developer Success 88, to be built into a six-story building with commercial and office space. It will also have a community facility, which includes a school for English learners.

“This is a very good project,” said Councilmember Peter Koo, who represents the area. “It will bring prosperity and jobs to the community.”

Then-Borough President Helen Marshall approved the city’s ULURP plans in October.

The $4.5 million project is expected to begin construction in 2015 and end in late 2016, officials said.

Voting members of Monday’s board included Borough President Melinda Katz, the borough’s City Council delegation and Community Board 7 Chair Gene Kelty.

“Even though it’s my first meeting as the borough president, it’s not everybody else’s first meeting,” Katz said. “You guys have been doing great work, and I look forward to continuing that.”

“I look forward to having a very active borough board,” Katz said. “It’s an exciting time for us.”

Developers of the long-delayed Flushing Commons project also updated the board on changes to its $850 million plan, including a parking strategy that would keep the lot’s 1,144 spaces during construction.

“This will have a softer impact on the community,” said Michael Meyer, president of F&T Group. “I think it’s a win-win-win. We’re excited we’re finally getting started.”

The two-phase upscale complex, when complete, will include a total of more than 600 residential units, 500,000 square feet of retail space, a 62,000-square-foot YMCA and a 1.5-acre space with a fountain plaza and amphitheater.

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