Tag Archives: Helen Marshall

Former Redbird subway car-turned-Queens Tourism Center closing

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Updated 1:36 p.m.

The Queens Tourism Center is reaching the end of the line today.

The Kew Gardens facility, created out of a retrofitted Redbird subway car that previously ran on the 7 line, will shut its doors Friday afternoon due to lack of use.

According to a New York Post report on Friday, the closure was scheduled for Monday, but a spokesperson for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, however, informed The Courier that Friday “is the last day the Redbird will be open to visitors at its current site.”

Opened in 2005, the Queens Tourism Center was built through $500,000 in funds secured by then-Borough President Helen Marshall as a way of attracting visitors from across the globe to Queens.

The center operates four hours a day, five days a week. According to a source, it has drawn more than 15,000 visitors in the past five years, many of whom are Queens residents.

One possible reason for the light attendance could be its location, as it is on the eastern side of Borough Hall adjacent to the Queens Criminal Court, a long block away from the entrance to the Union Turnpike subway station.

“The decision” to close the center was “made recently upon review of the limited utility of the Redbird at its current site,” Katz’s spokesperson said. “In the past, it has had on average 12 visitors a day, the majority of whom were not tourists but rather Queens residents on jury duty.”

The Redbird was part of a fleet of R33 and R36 subway cars that first took to the tracks between 1959 and 1964. They were originally painted cream and blue for the 1964-65 World’s Fair and later in silver and blue.

During the 1980s, MTA New York City Transit painted the cars red in an effort to keep them graffiti-free. Commuters and train enthusiasts started calling them “Redbirds” for the cars’ bright color.

The MTA took the Redbirds permanently out of service in 2003 while modernizing its fleet. The Redbird on display in Kew Gardens is one of the last still above sea level; most of the others were sunk in the Atlantic Ocean for use as reefs to help propagate aquatic life.

It was not immediately known what would come of the Kew Gardens Redbird. For now, Katz’s spokesperson said, the Redbird will remain at its present location.


Queens Borough President Melinda Katz sworn in by Mayor de Blasio

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Mike DiBartolomeo

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was officially sworn into office Thursday in a star-studded political gathering.

“It’s an exciting time for me,” said Katz, in front of hundreds of supporters and a lengthy list of dignitaries. “I’m humbled and I’m honored to be the Queens Borough President.”

The 48-year-old Forest Hills mom of two was installed Jan. 9 by Mayor Bill de Blasio, with the help of Congressmember Joe Crowley.

“I have to tell you that Melinda brings so much to this job,” de Blasio said. “She has a real passion for the people she serves. She loves this borough. I can tell you that because I’ve seen her stand up for Queens many times.”

The mayor said the “exemplary” and diverse borough “epitomizes the American Dream.”

“Melinda Katz gets to be the person who brings all those beautiful strengths together and makes this borough work for the people,” de Blasio said.

The newly elected borough president, dedicating the night to her parents, took her oath of office with her hand upon her father’s copy of the Old Testament.

Crowley, citing Biblical figures, said he hoped for Katz “the wisdom of Moses, the leadership of Joshua and the valor and the strength of Esther.”

“She possesses many of those qualities and more,” Crowley said. “We’re going to have the opportunity to see her grow.”

The standing-room-only ceremony at Queens College’s Lefrak Concert Hall also featured U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Public Advocate Letitia James, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and dozens of Queens legislators.

Katz’s partner, Curtis Sliwa, and the couple’s two sons, Carter and Hunter, watched from the audience.

Katz, a former member of the City Council and state Assembly, was elected Nov. 5 to be the 19th borough president of Queens. She succeeds Helen Marshall, who held the seat since 2001.

Her plans for the borough include making the Rockaway ferry permanent and pushing for more primary and urgent care facilities.

“Let’s move it forward,” Katz said. “Let’s make it a place for families to have everything they need right here in the borough of Queens.”

“My only wish is I never let you down,” Katz said.



Boys & Girls Club dedicates center to Helen Marshall

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Katelyn Di Salvo


Helen Marshall’s 12 years as borough president were topped off on Friday when the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens dedicated a new learning center in her honor.

A ceremony was held to show off the Helen M. Marshall Learning Center, and attendees took a hard hat tour of the progress in the newly constructed clubhouse.

Boys & Girls Club Chairman-Emeritus Joseph Ferrara presented Marshall with a plaque that will hang in the new learning center. This is in recognition for all of Marshall’s support in the expansion of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens, including donating $4.75 million to the capital campaign.

At the ceremony, Marshall reminisced over her times in the Bronx House as a child, and believes that investing in The Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens is necessary for the children of the community.

“My experience in the Bronx House taught me to get along with others, and taught me wonderful things about life and happiness,” she said.

Carol Simon, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens, is excited about the new expansion, saying that they will be able to reach out to many more kids in the community.

The new learning center will include educational programs like homework help, tutoring, and the new iReady literacy and math programs.

“Basically, we’re enhancing the educational experience for young people,” Simon said. “We can’t just be a local gym and swim organization anymore, we need to work with the local schools and make sure our kids are doing better.”



Longtime Queens borough president aide to retire

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Dominick Totino Photography

The right-hand woman to the last two Queens borough presidents is retiring after 30 years in Borough Hall.

Alexandra Rosa, chief of staff to Borough Presidents Claire Shulman and Helen Marshall, will leave at year’s end. She plans to transition into the nonprofit sector.

“I feel that it’s time to move to the next stage of my life, and I’m happy to do that,” she said. “I’m grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to serve the borough of Queens.”

Rosa, 59, helped Marshall develop strategies for investing more than $650 million in capital budget items over a decade. She also played a key role in strengthening the public library system and expanding the borough’s cultural centers.

“So much of the borough has changed,” Rosa said. “We’ve gone through tremendous struggles. On the other hand, we’ve seen tremendous triumph.”

The top aide said Queens, like the rest of the city, was rocked by Sept.11, Superstorm Sandy, a recession and foreclosures.

But the borough came out swinging, with more senior housing, the renaissance of downtown Jamaica and new economic potential unleashed “through the power of zoning,” Rosa said, pointing to newly approved developments in Willets Point and western Queens.

On a smaller platform, the newly opened Children’s Library Discovery Center, a 14,000-square-foot hands-on science and technology-focused exhibit in Jamaica, was one of the most memorable for the outgoing aide.

“It’s something I was able to participate in from its earliest stage of an idea to opening and seeing children engage in exploring the exhibits that were there,” Rosa said. “That was a real beginning-to-end experience.”

Marshall is term-limited and will give up the seat she held since 2001 to Melinda Katz.

Earlier this month, Katz tapped Councilmember Leroy Comrie to be her deputy borough president and Jay Bond, a former longtime aide, as chief of staff.

Rosa said the new administration under Katz will take the borough to the next level and continue the path of progress.

“I’m going to miss working for some really great people. We’ve done some tremendous things together,” Rosa said. “Life is about change, and this is a new phase that I’m embracing.”



Star of Queens: Richard Khuzami, Community Board 1, chair, Parks and Culture Committee

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY  SERVICE:  Richard Khuzami has served on Community Board 1 for the past 11 years. He is currently Chair of the Parks and Culture Committee. He is also a member of Borough President Helen Marshall’s Queens General Assembly, and  has  served as a panelist for the awarding of grants for the Queens Council on the Arts.

BACKGROUND:  Khuzami is Lebanese-American, and while he was born in Bayside, he was raised in Rochester. His parents were both professional dancers, which led to his interest in music from the age of 10.

“I have kept this interest alive over the years, and today I specialize in the music of the Middle East, eastern Mediterranean and Northern Africa,” said Khuzami.

He also spent many years in the international shipping business in freight forwarding sales.

“This afforded me the opportunity to travel throughout the world for many years. I still love traveling to many cultures, but today I only have to go around Astoria, one of the most ethnically diverse municipalities in the world,” he said.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Khuzami enjoys having the privilege of working with many dedicated community board and General Assembly members, who donate so much of themselves to making their neighborhood and borough the best it can be.

“My favorite accomplishment is in helping to facilitate the conversion of Astoria Park’s diving pool from a mosquito infested eyesore to the potential of becoming one of the most important performance venues in the United States,” said Khuzami.  “Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s foresight has made this space a reality, and I look forward to working with our new councilmember, Costa Constantinides, to secure the funding to complete the second phase of the construction, creating an unparalleled venue for 2,500 patrons.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Probably my biggest challenge is to have patience and understanding to realize that everything, especially when dealing with the public sector, takes time. But with perseverance, progress can be made,” said Khuzami.

INSPIRATION:  “My father was a big proponent of public service, and taught us all to respect government and politics, and not shy away from making our opinions known or getting involved,” said Khuzami.  “As my free time increased, it was natural that I try and give back to a community I love, Astoria.”




Borough Board approves $1 sale of Willets Point

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

The project to build a shopping center next to Citi Field is on the move.

The Queens Borough Board voted on November 18 to allow the city’s Economic Development Council to sell the 23 acres of land for $1 to the Queens Development Group. The land is needed for the Willets Point project and would be cleaned up to make way for a 1.4 million-square-foot complex which will consist of a mall and housing units with commercial and retail space.

“After carefully reviewing the Willets Point proposal and taking my district’s needs into account, I am confident that this development will be a win for my constituents, a win for Willets Point, and a win for the great City of New York,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area and voted yes to the proposal.

All seven councilmembers on the board who were present during the meeting and Borough President Helen Marshall voted yes to the proposal. The only no vote came from Community Board 7’s Chair Eugene Kelty.

“The votes in favor of this proposal give us the unique opportunity to remove the blighted history of Willets Point and ensure it is a place for families to enjoy living and shopping for years to come,” said Ferreras.

The City Council approved the $3 million Willets Point project in October.



Community board OKs rezone for part of Union Turnpike

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of Richard Lobel

A split community board narrowly approved a proposal last week to rezone a portion of Union Turnpike.

The controversial rezoning plan would allow developer Sam Zirkiev build a four-story residential and retail structure at 158-15 Union Turnpike. It barely cleared Community Board 8 last Wednesday, with a nail-biting 17-14 vote.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Zirkiev said. “In the end, I’m happy with the outcome. Hopefully, it’ll get some more business and shopping in the area and more tax revenue. I’m hoping it’ll be an asset to the community.”

The now vacant land near Parsons Boulevard was once part of St. Joseph’s Hospital, which shuttered in 2004. Zirkiev bought the plot in October 2009, according to Zirkiev’s attorney, Richard Lobel.

A rezoning would allow Zirkiev to build a 68,850-square-foot building as tall as 40 feet, the attorney said. The developer’s plans include three floors for residential units, ground floor commercial use and roughly 80 underground parking spaces.

Under current zoning rules, developers can build a 10-story community facility building, shaped like a pyramid, within 70,500 square feet of the site. However, its height would be capped at 35 feet if residential units are planned, Lobel said.

Zirkiev reiterated his lack of interest in building the pyramid-like structure that would likely house medical offices — but he said he could, if rezoning plans are rejected.

Board member Kevin Forrestal said this was a “scare tactic” used to sway the board.

“We’re making more and more problems for ourselves, and we’re not addressing the infrastructure,” Forrestal said.

Attorney Richard Lobel shows Community Board 8 two renderings of proposed buildings. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

Many board members said rezoning is a better deal.

“That lot needs development. It’s been ugly for years and years and years,” said board member Martha Taylor. “There’s no green there. It is a brown lot. I think this is the best deal we can get.”

The community board’s advisory vote now goes to Borough President Helen Marshall for approval. It then needs to be passed by City Planning and the City Council.

Marshall, who has 30 days to make her determination, held a public hearing last Thursday. According to her spokesperson, she had not made a decision as of press time.




Helen Marshall: Looking back on three terms as borough president

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Dominick Totino Photography

Borough President Helen Marshall has always seen herself as a public servant.

Her chief of staff, Alexandra Rosa, said her boss has worked for every person she represents.

“She never forgets where she came from and the fact that it’s about people,” Rosa said. “Always about people.”

Marshall, the first African-American Queens Borough President, will exit office in December because of term limits. She leaves behind a legacy based on the ideas of cultural understanding and tolerance.

When she came into office in January 2002, the city was still recovering from the September 11 attacks. People and religions were being misunderstood in the wake of the terror. Marshall established the Queens General Assembly — a tribute to the United Nations, which she does not fail to mention began in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The General Assembly has promoted understanding, down to the significance behind a culture’s holidays.

Something like this is particularly important in the nation’s most diverse county, she said.

“There’s a feeling among all of the members [that] this is their country, too,” Marshall said. “And I mean that it’s a really nice feeling they have about everything. If they have a problem, they give us their problem, we tackle it.”

Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, who was deputy Borough President from 2002 to 2009, said Marshall’s timing on establishing the General Assembly, and the details it worked on, came when people needed it most.

“That was a magnificent thing to bring all the different ethnicities together to learn about the holidays and the food,” she said.

Marshall, like many in the borough, was not born in Queens. But she has still made it her home. She and her family moved here from the Bronx in 1957, first settling in Corona, and then East Elmhurst.

She became involved in the civil rights movement, Rosa said, and would speak to Malcolm X when the activist lived in Elmhurst shortly before his death in 1965.

The desire for better understanding has been a strong part of Marshall’s tenure, and remains an active one to this day. Marshall has hosted LGBT Pride Day every year since coming to office. It was one of the civil policies she saw the borough needed. Her most recent one coincidentally took place on June 26 — hours after the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act.

While she has been instrumental in bridging gaps in the borough, Marshall has also worked on areas Queens needs to promote productivity. In total, her office has given $676 million in capital investment to projects throughout the borough — with a focus on healthcare, libraries, parks and cultural institutions.


Five Queens hospitals have closed during Marshall’s tenure, something Koslowitz said was difficult for the borough president to see happen.

Before four of those hospitals closed, however, Marshall’s office released a report in 2006 that said Queens was already in a healthcare crisis. The report showed what areas were in the most need and laid out a plan to combat cutbacks.

Paola Miceli, her director of Health and Human Services, said Marshall’s office has worked with the existing Queens hospitals to ensure residents have the same access to care without overcrowding.

“Looking at 2006 and knowing we were already in a crisis and then having hospitals close after that certainly only exacerbated what we already thought,” Miceli said. “The good news is since that time, we’ve been able to come around. […] We’re not where we need to be, certainly by any means, but we’re in the process of getting there.”

The remaining Queens hospitals have also been active in expanding and dealing with the overflow of fewer hospitals.

“The existing institutions have stepped up to the plate,” Miceli said. “They have done incredible work to make themselves right sized.”

Over the last 12 years, Marshall’s office has allocated more than $20 million to Queens health centers. Part of the funds have gone toward expanding emergency rooms in order to accommodate the overflow from hospital closures.

She also worked with elected officials at the federal level, Miceli said, to fight Medicaid cuts. But Marshall also saw a borough-wide need for primary care offices where some had been lacking. Her office has helped establish or expand “urgi-centers” in neighborhoods throughout Queens where a primary care doctor might be in shortage, Miceli said.

These offices have the feel and speed of an emergency room, but are less costly for the government to reimburse.

“It’s better for the patient, certainly it’s a much more patient-friendly environment, especially for the children,” Miceli said. “We’ve had the opportunity to have the borough view that no one else has really had the opportunity to have. We can look from community to community to see what the gaps are, where the gaps are.”


Marshall has spent the last 30 years as an elected official, first in the Assembly, then City Council and finally Borough President.

She was the inaugural chair of the Council’s Higher Education Committee and stood up to proposed CUNY cuts by then-Mayor Rudolf Giuliani.

Long before that, however, she was an early childhood educator and an active PTA member. She carried her work as a teacher into her years of public service and into Borough Hall. Marshall was also the first executive director of the Langston Hughes Library.

“One of the things I have been working at for a long time is the schools,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that we had a seat for every child. We have so many children and we can’t let any of them go without an education. And so that’s a very big investment.”

A large part of that policy has been fighting for funding for libraries — and building new ones. An example Rosa drew upon is the new Far Rockaway branch of the Queens Public Library, an $18 million project completely funded by Marshall’s office.

While libraries offer a slew of educational programs for all ages, Rosa said Marshall believes them to be a center for growth in communities.

The library, which will replace the one currently on Mott Avenue, will be a boost as the area attempts to establish itself as a commercial strip, Rosa said.

“This is a real shot in the arm,” she said. “Especially along Mott Avenue, where we’re trying to do some economic development. We do this not only for the sake of the library, but also to supply some economic support to the community.”

Marshall’s fight for libraries has been recognized by the Centers for an Urban Future, which cited her work in its publication Branches for Opportunity.

“Queens has succeeded in large part because the libraries have been a priority of local elected officials, especially the borough president,” said the Centers for an Urban Future. “Over the last decade, Borough President Helen Marshall has steered more money toward library projects in her borough than the other four borough presidents combined.”

Rosa said Marshall fought for parks and cultural institutions with the same idea of community in mind.

Marshall credits her predecessor, former Borough President Claire Shulman, for laying the ground work of the cultural scene. Running with Shulman’s work, Marshall doubled the size of the Queens Museum of Art and the Museum of the Moving Image. She also restored funding to the Jamaica Performing Arts Center.


When Marshall came into office 11-and-a-half years ago, the landscape was quite different.

McMansions were popping up in quiet suburban areas. Hunters Point and Long Island City were still scattered with closed factories and had little economic life left. Shea Stadium was a mainstay and the AirTrain was headed down an unknown path.

But after years of rezoning and luring large projects to Queens, the borough is booming.

More than 40 neighborhoods have been rezoned since Marshall came into office, according to Irving Poy, director of Planning and Development under Marshall. This has preserved the character of suburban neighborhoods, while allowing other areas to thrive.

Downtowns such as those in Long Island City, Jamaica and Flushing have also grown since Marshall came into office. Poy said Marshall looked at these areas, already accessible by mass transit, and looked for opportunities for them to grow.

“I think the fruits and the planning of that rezoning are being seen today,” Poy said. “Each one of these neighborhoods at its own speed are developing new communities, new uses.”

While Marshall has wanted the borough to thrive, Poy said she makes sure every voice is heard in the rezoning process. Her staff attends every rezoning meeting, he said, and will relay any the concerns of any resident who might be impacted by a project to the proper agency.

“The borough president has included those things in her recommendations [so] that City Planning can go out there and reexamine it and consider what they are proposing,” he said. “And they’ve made adjustments, asking to reconsider. So those are the little things that go unnoticed, but if you live on that block, it makes a difference.”

A borough president is required by the City Charter to give a recommending vote in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) for projects affecting the borough.

Marshall has been supportive of development, her staff said, but also fair. She recently recommended that the U.S. Tennis Association go through with expansions to the National Tennis Center only it agrees to return parkland taken up in the project. Returning the 0.68 acres in the expansion was originally not included in the plan.

“Originally, they weren’t going to replace that parkland,” Poy said. “But hearing it from the community and just understanding it from her point of view, that was something that came into consideration — that there should be replacement of the park.”


Marshall’s staff has said she stays relatively humble in her role and views her work strictly as a public servant.

Rosa pointed out that when Marshall cites the success of a project, or a significant amount of funding, she speaks as a collective group.

“She considers herself first and foremost a public servant, and that’s the way she approaches allocating capital dollars,” she said. “When she talks funding a project, she never says ‘I funded this.’ It’s, ‘We funded this.’”

Dan Andrews, her chief of staff, said many people view the borough president’s role as nothing more than a ribbon cutter, not realizing how much the county leader puts into each and every project.

“Many reports don’t break down that funding, and there’s no indication that the lion’s share of a project came from the borough president,” he said.

In six months, there will be a new borough president — one of five candidates who are still in the race. Familiar with all the candidates, Marshall said there is little advice she can give to any of the would-be beeps.

“Knowing the people who are running,” she said, “I think some of them might already have some ideas of what they want to do, because you don’t just become the borough president. That means you’ve had some background and understanding in what makes this borough tick. You’ve just got to remain faithful to Queens.”



Queens gun buyback nets nearly 30 weapons

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

D’aja Robinson’s life was taken at the age of 14 by a stray bullet. Her Jamaica community responded by hosting a gun buyback event in an effort to get weapons off the street.

On Saturday, the NYPD, district attorney and borough president put on the event at the New Jerusalem Baptist Church. Residents who came and turned in a weapon — no questions asked — received a $200 bank card in return.

Twenty-nine weapons were recovered, including 17 revolvers, eight semi-automatics, one rifle and three others, including BB guns and starter guns, police said.

“It is a commendable endeavor that Borough President [Helen] Marshall, District Attorney [Richard] Brown and the NYPD coordinated the gun buyback program in memory of the late D’aja Robinson,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.

“Success will be ours the day we will no longer have to hold a gun buyback program.”



Rally to save after-school programs for more than 47,000 kids

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Come summer, 2,400 children in the borough will lose access to their mainstays outside of school.

Officials have told the Queens Community House at J.H.S. 190 and the Samuel Field Y at M.S. 158 that due to budget cuts, they must close their doors on July 1.

“The constant attacks on day care and after-school programs have to stop,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards. “Every time a new budget is proposed, the children are the first to suffer.”

Elected officials rallied together with parents, kids and the Campaign for Children on Wednesday, April 24 against $130 million in citywide cuts to after-school and child care programs proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The cuts are poised to affect more than 47,000 children total.

“Children are so important to us,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “The world is theirs. We want these centers to stay opened.”
Those gathered on the steps of Borough Hall urged Bloomberg to fully fund the programs in his Executive Budget, which is expected to come out this month. If the cuts are not reversed, thousands of children will lose access to the programs, which advocates say “provide critical educational opportunities.”

“I hope they get the mayor to stop from cutting our program because after-school really works,” said Jordon Taylor, 12, a student at P.S./I.S. 116 Q. “Without it I’ll just go home, do homework and it’ll just be boring.”

Cutting the programs will also mean parents have to find a safe place for their children while the mothers and fathers work.

“All working parents need a trustworthy place for their children,” said Marisol Pagan, a single mom who works full-time and relies on an after-school program at P.S. 50 for her first grader son. “Without after-school, where will my child go while I am at work? For families in need, these services help us stay out of poverty and reach our goals.”

“If we love our children, we should find programs for them,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “We should never propose to cut the programs that help educate children. We need to do more after-school, not less.”

Library expansion breaks ground in memory of Queens activist

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Their eyes looking to the skies in memory of a lost beloved leader, elected officials drove their golden shovels into the dirt to break ground on a long-anticipated library expansion project.

“It feels so good to be standing here today, knowing that construction is beginning,” said Queens Library President Thomas Galante at the Friday, April 19 ceremony.

The $10 million renovation project at the Kew Gardens Hills Library was a longtime pet project of Pat Dolan, a Queens activist who was struck and killed by a car last November. She was 72.

“Her memory lives on,” Galante said. “The library she loved so much is now officially located on Pat Dolan Way, and this [expansion] will be her legacy to the community. We will always know she is looking on.”

There will be an extra 3,000 square feet of space when the branch at 72-33 Pat Dolan Way reopens in 2015, officials said.

The library will also have twice as many computers, a bigger meeting room, an energy-saving roof and larger, separate spaces for adults, teens and children.

“This will be a fantastic library. It’s going to be a great place,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “Libraries are important because they’re full of knowledge. Little children, teenagers, seniors—they’re good for everyone to absorb knowledge.”

The branch closed for construction on February 22. A temporary library is open at 71-34 Main Street, library officials said. Nearby branches are also located in Hillcrest, Briarwood and Pomonok.





Candidates focus on development at Borough President forum

| tcullen@queenscourier.com


Questions regarding development at Willets Point, directed mainly at three of the six candidates, became a significant part of a recent forum for borough president.

Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Leroy Comrie, State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella, former Councilmember and Assemblymember Melinda Katz and former Deputy BP Barry Grodenchik took the stage at the Friday, April 12 meeting, co-hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce and St. John’s University.

Specific questions were directed at each candidate, with Comrie, Vallone and Peralta each addressing how, if elected, he would reshape the area known as the Iron Triangle.

Peralta harkened on making Queens a destination location – a policy of incumbent Helen Marshall. With the planned “Tech Campus” coming to Roosevelt Island, Peralta suggested pushing for a tech sector near Willets Point. But affordable housing and better infrastructure are the first step, he said.

Comrie, who chairs the Council’s Land Use Committee, said he’s open to re-exploring a convention center at Willets Point. He also mentioned a potential center at Aqueduct, where Governor Andrew Cuomo had originally proposed one.

“We really need a convention center for the borough,” Comrie said, adding better transportation options would need to be explored for south Queens if convention center talks resurged.

Vallone said Queens residents, in a recent poll, would like to see full-gaming in the borough at Resorts World Casino New York City.

The councilmember, however, is also open to a convention center or further retail shops at the site. But, he said, it would have to be the community’s call on what goes there.

There is about 4.5 million-square-feet of Willets Point the city plans on developing over the next few decades, once the projects on either side of Citi Field are completed.

The borough president’s role in Queens, better transportation and small business growth were also hot topics at the business-focused forum.

Traditionally, a Beep has been branded a “cheerleader” for Queens, but most felt it was more than that.

Grodenchik said he viewed the role as a leader and if elected, he wanted more to be “the quarterback of Queens.”

Katz, who chaired the Land Use Committee before Comrie, touted her record of working across the city and what it takes to be borough president.

“You should be able to create an economic vision for the borough of Queens,” she said. “I think it’s important to span that throughout the borough.”

State Senator Tony Avella said the borough president needed to also serve as a public advocate for the diverse neighborhoods, and the “mom and pop” small businesses who often get hit with city fines.



Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Wednesday: Clear. High of 41. Breezy. Winds from the West at 15 to 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy with a chance of snow after midnight. Low of 32. Winds from the NW at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Venus & Mona at the Chain Theatre

Venus & Mona are twins. Two young, strong, hard-edged women that are trapped on the roof of their mother’s double-wide mobile home. Their mother is at death’s door but the sisters can’t help but continue to wage war on one another.  Meanwhile a demon circles the doublewide waiting for one of the combatants to slip and fall in his clutches. Part fantasy/part cruel reality and inspired by the writing of American mythologist Joseph Campbell; Venus and Mona asks questions about the war we wage with ourselves and each other, and when and if we ever figure out when it’s time to grow up.  Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall asks city to spare senior and kids in budget cuts

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall is asking the city to restore millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts that will devastate programs serving children and seniors in the borough. Read more: New York Daily News

Bodegas fuming over Mike cig-display ban

Butt out, Mayor Bloomberg! The head of the 14,000-member Bodega Association of the United States vowed to launch a campaign to kill Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to ban the display of tobacco products in retail stores. Read more: New York Post

City closes Queens stables temporarily after six horses die over six months

A popular urban stable in Queens is being temporarily shuttered after city officials said an “alarming” number of horses died at the site, the Daily News has learned. Read more: New York Daily News

Lawmakers reach deal for NYPD inspector general

A newly proposed watchdog that would monitor the New York Police Department likely will set the stage for a showdown between city lawmakers, who have pushed for such oversight, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration says it is unnecessary. Read more: ABC New York/AP

‘Jeopardy!’ devotes entire category to Queens

If you live in a certain outer borough, you might have felt an extra sense of pride Tuesday night. Read more: CBS New York

‘Bowled’ over by $2M sale

A New York family scored a huge payday when this small bowl, which they bought at a garage sale for $3, turned out to be a 1,000-year old Chinese piece that sold for $2.2 million at Sotheby’s yesterday. The family bought the rare bowl at the secondhand sale in 2007, and kept it sitting on their mantle for years, the auction house said. Read more: New York Post

Barack Obama in Israel for first trip as president

President Barack Obama is opening his first trip to Israel since taking office. Read more: ABC New York/AP

Votes split on USTA expansion

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of USTA

The votes are in on the much-debated expansions to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and the results are mixed.

Half of the six voting Community Boards are in favor of the US Tennis Association (USTA) moving 0.68 acres out of its current property — so long as the organization meets certain conditions set by each board.

Board 6 voted 21-6 and Board 8 26-8 in favor on Wednesday, March 13; Communty Board 3 voted 33-1 against the next night. The six advisory decisions will now go to Borough President Helen Marshall, who has 60 days to decide on the expansions. Marshall’s decision then goes to the City Council and the City Planning Commission.

Marshall will hold a forum on the plan April 4 at Borough Hall. The Borough Board, led by Marshall, will vote on the plan April 8.

Two boards voted against the proposal last week, one of which could switch to yes if USTA meets nine regulations — similar to those set by other boards — including setting up a conservancy for the park. Community Board 7 voted yes, but with eight conditions, on March 11.

Each board has recommended USTA discount court prices for seniors and children, and invest in the park’s crumbling facilities.

“Community Board review was the first step in a multi-layered governmental review process that also includes the borough president, City Planning, City Council and State Legislature,” said Tennis Center Chief Operating Officer Danny Zausner. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue as we move through the different phases.”

Parkland advocates against the plan, however, say they’re going to continue informing residents of the downside of the plans. “I think the community boards’ vote will have no impact whatsoever on the BP’s vote or the City Council members,” said NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft. “They seem perfectly willing to give away additional parkland to this private business for concessions.”



Queens Library recognized as literary landmark

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

The Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center of the Queens Library will be nationally recognized on Saturday, February 9 as a Literary Landmark by United for Libraries, as the first public institution named for the famed poet/author of the Harlem Renaissance.

In her letter to Queens Library C.O.O Tom Galante, United for Libraries Executive Director Sally G. Reed said, “I am most pleased that you’ve applied for this designation for a man who had such significant impact on African-American literature and American literature generally.”

Hughes wrote over 860 poems in his lifetime, and was heralded as an author of short stories, plays, essays, anthologies and as a journalist from the 1920’s until his death in 1967.

Although Hughes lived in Harlem, the library was named in his honor in 1969 when it opened for public service.

Langston Hughes Community Library is home of the Langston Hughes, housing New York State’s largest public circulating collection of print and non-print material on the black experience.  This collection is now estimated at over 45,000 titles, including approximately 1,000 volumes of theses and dissertations on Black Literature.

The ceremony will be part of the 28th Annual Langston Hughes Celebration, with a plaque presentation by Rocco Staino, United for Libraries board member emeritus and director of the Empire State Center for the Book. Activities will continue with a screening of the biographical film “Hughes Dream Harlem” by Darralyn Hudson, a lecture by author Jamal Joseph with a special musical rendition of Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by the IMPACT Performing Ensemble.  The day continues with “The Jacob Lawrence Migration Series” by MOMA staff member Marcia Garcia, a lecture on Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance by historian Rashidah Ismaili Abu Bakr.

Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall will present six scholarships for African American Heritage Month scholarships, and the program will close with a musical performance, “Music from the Mind of the Trumpet” by Eddie Allen and Friends.