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Boro president focuses on police issues

In a speech that lasted just under an hour at York College, Marshall talked in very broad terms about the state of health care, law enforcement and economic development in Queens. Some of Marshall's most specific recommendations centered on police work.In response to a string of at least 12 brutal attacks in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, one of which was fatal - and the release of a City Council report naming the park as one of the city's most dangerous - Marshall called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to build a proposed new police academy in the park."A police presence is long overdue in Flushing Meadows Park," Marshall said. "The city continues to refuse to put a precinct there, so build the new academy there. It would give use the protection we desperately need."Bloomberg announced plans for the construction of a new police academy in his State of the City address last week, apparently causing Marshall to shift her focus away from advocating for the creation of a precinct in Flushing Meadows park.Marshall also mentioned the police shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed bridegroom who died in a hail of 50 bullets in Jamaica on Nov. 25. In a line that received loud applause, Marshall said new police officers should be required to live in New York City. "Policing is a tough profession that requires split-second decisions," Marshall said. "As such, I believe these life and death decisions are best made by officers who have grown up around diversity."In an oversight that was noted by guests following the speech, Marshall failed to mentioned the Fire Department or EMS.Economic development in Queens occupied a good deal of Marshall's speech. She noted that plans to revitalize the borough's three main commercial areas - Flushing, Long Island City and Jamaica - had advanced in 2006 and would continue to move forward this year."Our transportation and commercial hubs are uniformly marked by construction sites, machinery and scaffolding," Marshall said. "These are signs of progress and growth."Marshall said plans to transform the 55-acre Willets Point area into a "vibrant enclave" are progressing and include a job retention and business relocation program. The redevelopment of the RKO Keith site, referred to as the "Gateway to Flushing," is also taking shape, Marshall said.And Muss Development is preparing the former Con Ed site on the Flushing River for the Flushing Town Square Project, which will include 800,000 square feet of retail space and parking.In Long Island City, Marshall pointed to plans to transform Queens Plaza into another "gateway" and the planned expansion of Silvercup Studios, as two notable projects.In Jamaica, the former Dutch Reformed Church will open as a new performing arts center in the fall, while work has begun to improve the area around the AirTrain terminal and Jamaica LIRR station, Marshall said. In discussing health care in Queens, Marshall pointed to the fact that Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica and St. John's Hospital in Elmhurst had emerged from bankruptcy in 2006. The year also saw the state's Berger Commission recommend that St. John's Hospital in the Rockaways and Parkway Hospital in Forest Hills shut down. Marshall said she will not tolerate the loss of any hospitals beds and noted that Parkway is "negotiating with a major health system to continue its mission to provide health care to the residents of Forest Hills.""As I speak to you today, 1,400 residents are lying in hospital beds outside the borough," Marshall said. "It is not acceptable for us to be told 'go to Manhattan.'"While the reaction to Marshall's speech was generally positive, one guest said he would wait to see if the ambitious proposals were implemented."Talking and doing are two different things," said Bobby Powell, a resident of the Jamaica area.Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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