Tag Archives: Helen Marshall

Helen Marshall delivers State of the Borough


| brennison@queenscourier.com

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During Helen Marshall’s annual address on the state of Queens, the borough president exalted the borough’s successful projects — past, present and future.

“I am so glad that we have gathered here today to celebrate our progress and set the course for the year ahead,” said Marshall to open her 11th State of the Borough address.

Marshall was introduced to the hundreds of elected officials, community leaders and residents on-hand at Queens College’s Colden Center by Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“We are so incredibly lucky to have Helen as our Queens borough president,” Quinn said. “This is a woman who dedicated her life to this city, life to this borough and we are all better for it.”

Since entering office, Marshall has allocated over half a billion dollars to improving the borough more than 2.2 million New Yorkers call home.

“I have worked hard to put our borough on a firm footing for future generations,” Marshall said during the speech at her alma mater.

Among the successfully completed projects the borough president touched on were the Aqueduct Racino — which received some of the loudest cheers during the 90-minute speech — new and renovated parks in Jamaica, Middle Village, Sunnyside and Elmhurst, four new schools opening and preventing Peninsula Hospital from closing.

When mentioning the planned largest convention center in America on the site of Aqueduct, Marshall made clear that it was in complement to the Willets Point center, not in place of it.

Though Marshall extolled the positives throughout the borough, she recognized there are still battles to be fought.

As the most ethnically diverse county in the nation — “As I always say, visit Queens and see the world,” she said — thousands of new residents from around the globe are making the borough home each year.

“Queens is a victim of its own success,” she said. “Our county attracts new residents and immigrants every year — but not the federal aid needed to build local schools and hospitals to care for them. And then to add insult to injury, we will lose existing aid and representation in Washington because we were undercounted in the census.”

The influx of new residents also leads to overcrowded schools, something the borough president is continuing to work on.

Marshall, who is in her third year of her third term, extolled the burgeoning borough’s plenitude of projects that have broken ground in the past year or are shovel ready, including: Willets Point, Hunters Point, Hallets Point, the new JetBlue headquarters in Long Island City, an expansion of Mount Sinai Queens, and the Cornell applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island.

“We want to learn from yesterday, have hope for today and build a better future for our children,” Marshall said to conclude her address.

Some other highlights of the speech included:
• Saving senior centers from closure, along with the opening of new centers.
• The continued development of L.I.C, downtown Flushing and downtown Jamaica.
• Securing the continued funding of the State Foreclosure Prevention Services Program
• The renovation and planned renovation of the Jamaica, Elmhurst, Hunters Point and Kew Gardens libraries.
• Preserving historical Queens with money allocated to restore the Poppenhusen Institute, Kingland Homestead, Rufus King Manor, Latimer House, Louis Armstrong House and Bowne House.

Spa architect carries on, despite BP’s rejection


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Some College Point locals are closer to relaxing, as plans for a spa in their neighborhood have been rejected by the borough president.

After weeks of contemplation, BP Helen Marshall threw out the proposal to construct a luxury spa at the corner of 31st Avenue and the Whitestone Expressway.

According to Marshall’s office, the Beep opposed the idea because of a probable increase in “vehicular trips” to and from the site. Parking is also an issue – street parking is prohibited in the building’s vicinity, and the potential lot is not large enough to hold the expected number of automobiles. Officials also allege that the current parking lot blueprints could create situations where vehicles must wait to enter and exit the premises.

Architect and engineer H. Irving Sigman, who submitted the request for the spa’s building permit, is hopeful that the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) will rule in favor of the spa. Since the borough president announced her decision, Sigman hired a parking consultant to amend and restructure the lot’s layout.

Anticipated to create two-and-a-half times more tax revenue than currently generated in College Point, the spa was to be installed in a previously-existing structure. It would potentially have various amenities, including a rooftop pool, a yoga studio, a beauty salon and food store.

In October, Community Board 7 voted overwhelmingly against the project, with 25 members against and only five in favor, leaving Marshall to review the situation. The Board cited several reasons for disapproval, including construction of the rooftop pool, the structure’s need for an enhanced foundation and the builder’s lack of experience.

Regardless of Marshall’s ruling, the BSA is responsible for making the final decision.

Flushing YMCA hosts Community Service Awards Dinner


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Mike DiBartolomeo

The Flushing YMCA hosted its 11th annual Community Service Awards Dinner to benefit the youth and teens of the local communities at the Kum Gang San Restaurant. The “Special Award for Distinguished Public Leadership” went to Borough President Helen Marshall, and the “YMCA Community Service Award” was presented to Paul Ho, senior VP, Flushing Bank.

Queens Civic Congress Defends Creedmoor


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Queens Civic Congress (QCC), the umbrella coalition for more than 100 Queens civic organizations, congratulates Community Board 13 on its vote to oppose construction of two multi-story apartment buildings on the Creedmoor campus, adjacent to several low-density Bellrose neighborhoods.

QCC supports services for seniors and indeed supported development of low rise, low-density senior housing elsewhere on the Creedmoor site.  We are opposed to out-of-scale, non-contextual development that negatively affects built-out neighborhoods like Bellerose.  ICCC’s proposal, which seeks to effectively change the existing  zone to a higher density residential one, is clearly out of character with the nearby low density housing and just as clearly negatively affects its nearby neighbors – with nine-story buildings less than 50 feet from many one-family, one-story homes.

Without any public notice or hearing, the state sold the property to ICCC for far less than market value – an action that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating.

Queens residents should be especially wary of how ICCC acquired the Creedmoor property, which is state owned land. Creedmoor is not the only state-owned land in Queens.

The MTA – desperate for funds – owns train yards and bus depots across Queens.  In the past, developers have eyed both the Sunnyside Yards and the Jamaica Yards for high-density housing.

Now ICCC’s plan goes to Borough President Marshall for a hearing and her advisory opinion. 

QCC calls on Marshall to turn down ICCC’s plan and instead support the Creedmoor Master Plan, which calls for responsible development that will better serve Queens and the Bellerose community.

And we call on the Board of Standards and Appeals to reject this development, which will jeopardize a thriving community.

 

Patricia Dolan

President

Queens Civic Congress

 

 

 

 

Elmhurst Library set to double in size


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

After many chapters in its current construction, Elmhurst Library’s story will finally have a new setting.

The library, located at 86-01 Grand Avenue, will be closed effective November 7 and is moving to a temporary facility, located at 85-08 51st Avenue, while a new edifice is built on the existing site.

The original library has stood on Grand Avenue since 1906. Immediately following its initial construction, the building was deemed too small to adequately service the community. The edifice tripled in size during an expansion in 1930, and extensive renovations were also performed in 1965 and 1980.
The modern library, which will cost roughly $27.8 million, is expected to open in 2013. It will feature four levels and will be double the size of the current building.
“A library is one of the greatest resources for people of all ages in any community,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, who allocated approximately $23 million in capital funds for the new library. “Here at the Elmhurst Library, thousands of visitors comb its treasure trove of literary, musical, artistic and reference material. Now, it has become a victim of its own success and needs to expand in a new building double the size of the old one.”

Among the facility’s premier attractions will be a Cyber Center with 32 computers, a new Adult Learner Center, an interior reading atrium and front and rear community gardens. There will also be separate reading areas for adults, teens and children.

The modern structure will look towards the future while keeping a respectful eye towards the past by installing “memory features” throughout the building, which are designed to preserve the library’s legacy in the neighborhood. Original bricks will be used in the new façade, and the Children’s Room fireplace will be reinstalled during construction. There will also be a “1906 Memory Wall,” consisting of historical photos of the library and the Elmhurst community.

“Elmhurst is a thriving neighborhood that needs a state-of-the-art library to support education, job growth and intellectual development,” said Thomas Galante, president and CEO of Queens Library. “The current library lends a million books and DVDs a year, which is more than double the volume per square foot of Flushing Library, and Flushing is the busiest library in New York State. The new Queens Library at Elmhurst will be a community hub for generations to come, with its gardens and a wealth of resources.”

Investigate clean up of Newtown Creek


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Congressmember Carolyn Maloney

Indifference to filth and pollution for over a century has mutated Newtown Creek into more of a beast than a beauty.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, contaminants were spewed into Newtown Creek by more than 50 refineries that called the waterway home, including sawmills, lumber and coal yards, fertilizer and glue factories, petrochemical plants and oil refineries. The creek was also used by commercial vessels to transport oil, chemicals, fuel and other raw materials. During World War II, the channel was one of the busiest ports in the nation, and factories continue to operate on its banks to this day.

Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velázquez, Borough President Helen Marshall and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan joined EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck on a boat tour of the Newtown Creek cleanup project on October 11. During the tour, the Queens leaders were taken to the key areas of pollution in the creek.

“For far too long, Newtown Creek has been a disgrace: a toxic dumping ground since the mid-1800s, a blight on our waterways, and the scene of perhaps the largest oil spill of all time – three times the size of the Exxon Valdez,” said Maloney, referencing the Greenpoint oil spill.

In addition to the damage done by industrial pollution, the city began dumping raw sewage into the water in 1856.

As a result of its history, which includes multiple spills, Newtown Creek is among the most polluted waterways in America.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that the channel was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act, and since that time, several government-sponsored cleanups have occurred.

Newtown Creek, whose waters wash the shores of both Queens and Brooklyn, was designated a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in September of last year.

The Superfund Program was established by Congress to locate, investigate and cleanup the most hazardous sites across the country. It also provides the EPA with the authority to coerce responsible parties to account for the damage they have done, either by cleaning up the site themselves or by reimbursing the government for all costs associated with the restoration.

This past July, following a year-long examination, the EPA entered into a consent order with six potentially responsible parties to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study of the creek’s cleanup. Field work for the investigation, which will determine the nature of the pollutants, evaluate any risks to human life or the environment and assess prospective cleanup methods, is scheduled to begin within the next month.

“Restoring the health of both sides of Newtown Creek will give residents of Queens and Brooklyn improved access to the waterfront and make our neighborhoods healthier places to live,” said Maloney.

The EPA will be holding a public information session at LaGuardia Community College, located at 31-10 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City, on Thursday, October 27 from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. to discuss the project.

The investigation could take as long seven years to complete, and the removal of contaminants from Newtown Creek could last an additional 10 years. A preliminary estimate by the EPA approximates the cleanup costs between $300 and $400 million.

The EPA has reported that potentially responsible parties include premier oil companies BP America, Exxon Mobil and Texaco, as well as the City of New York. These, as well as other responsible parties, will be paying for the remedial investigation and feasibility study for the near future.

During initial tests performed by the EPA, harmful contaminants such as pesticides, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which easily evaporate into the air, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been detected in Newtown Creek.

“The more we find out about this polluted waterway, which affects two boroughs, the more we see the need to move the feasibility study along and remediation, in the form of a massive cleanup, to begin,” said Marshall.

Discover Queens Restaurant Week Returns


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Discover Queens Restaurant Week

“Maybe in the near future, we will be celebrating Discover Queens restaurant month,” said Borough President Helen Marshall speaking about the past successes of Discover Queens Restaurant Week now in its eighth year. Beginning on September 19 through the 22nd and September 26 through the 29th, close to 100 restaurants from around the borough will participate in specially prepared menus at reasonable prices with the intention of showing off what Queens eateries have to offer. Many of those restaurants participated at the kick-off event in front of Queensborough Hall where passers-by and local employees got a taste of things to come.

“We look forward to restaurant week every year,” said Les Barnes, owner of London Lennies in Rego Park who was serving up hot New England clam chowder to a long line of patrons. “It’s an opportunity for our customers and Queens residents to taste the great cuisine of the borough.”

Most of the growing list of participating restaurants will adhere to a three-course prix fixe menu for $25 like Pop Diner in Elmhurst who took first place at the Queens Economic Development Corporations (QEDC) A Taste of the World event for their plantain wrapped seasoned ground beef earlier this year.

“We will have a new, extensive menu,” said Angel Almonte, general manager. “We are hoping we will see a lot of business in the coming weeks.”

Other dishes served in front of Queensborough Hall included empanadas from El Coyote restaurant in Jackson Heights, penne a la vodka from Uncle Peter’s in Jackson Heights, sliced steak and Sambuca shrimp from Austin’s Steakhouse in Kew Gardens and Asian delicacies from Jade in Flushing. Seth Bornstein, executive director of the QEDC, hopes that this year will be even more successful than last year’s record setting number of participating restaurants.

“The Discover Queens Restaurant Week is the most delicious bargain in New York City,” said Bornstein. “There truly is something for every palate.”

Discover Queens Restaurant Week is sponsored by TD Bank, JetBlue Airlines, The Queens Courier, Restaurant Depot, Il Bacco Ristorante Italiano and Trattoria Thirty Five. For a full list of participating restaurants, visit www.discoverqueens.info.