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State comptroller touts Queens’ economic successes

Queens is a bright spot in a state still reeling from the country’s economic recession, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli told a Queens College’s business forum breakfast last week.

“When I think of the borough of Queens, I see opportunity, I see a community working very hard,” DiNapoli said.

The keynote speaker at Friday’s breakfast, DiNapoli said Queens has suffered fewer job losses than the rest of the city, in part thanks to the borough’s two airports and immigrants, many of whom own small businesses.

“Neighborhoods with the highest concentration of immigrants have flourishing economies,” DiNapoli told the individuals sitting in the Student Union for the breakfast. “They’re opening businesses, they have that entrepreneurial spirit.”

The comptroller said his office recently issued a report on the role of immigrants in the city’s economy and found areas like Flushing, Corona and Jackson Heights have quickly growing economies that have been more resilient to the economic downturn because of the small businesses often owned by immigrants.

In the city’s neighborhoods with the highest concentration of immigrants, DiNapoli said the number of businesses grew by 14.8 percent between 2000 and 2007 — far faster than the rest of the city, which grew by 3.3 percent.

Elmhurst, Corona, Jackson Heights, Sunnyside and Woodside top the list of the city’s neighborhoods with the highest concentration of immigrants. Flushing, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens are also on DiNapoli’s list of the 10 neighborhoods with the highest concentration of immigrants.

DiNapoli also noted the total number of paid workers in these neighborhoods grew by an average of 8.2 percent between 2000 and 2007, while the paid workforce in the rest of the city increased by only about 0.9 percent.

“Queens is an opportunity borough,” said DiNapoli, a former state assemblyman from Great Neck.

The borough also has a greater number of homeowners than the rest of the city, the comptroller said.

“In Queens, 45 percent of residents are homeowners,” he said. “It’s just 28 percent in the rest of the city.”

DiNapoli noted the borough’s average salary of $40,000 is second best in the city, coming in just behind Manhattan.

While Queens is faring better than much of New York, the city as a whole is in a stronger position than the rest of the state, DiNapoli said. His office put out a report last week that projected the city would have a surplus of $3.3 billion for the current year and a balanced budget for fiscal year 2011, in part because Wall Street has rebounded faster than expected.

Despite these numbers, DiNapoli said it is important for state legislators to soon pass a budget so city officials can better anticipate the funds they will receive from Albany next year.

At the breakfast, Queens College President James Muyskens presented the college’s annual Business Forum Scholarship to Anita Sonawane, an economics major and incoming senior. Sonawane, who moved from India to Fresh Meadows with her parents in 2002, said she plans to use the $2,500 from the scholarship toward room and board when she interns this summer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

“In 2002, I never dreamed I’d be at the Federal Reserve,” Sonawane said. “The connections I’ve made while at Queens College have made this possible.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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