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Mayor makes final speech in Queens on school gains

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and School's Chancelor Dennis Walcott pay a visit to Bard Early College HS in Long Island City. Photo by Bill Parry
TimesLedger Newspapers

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made what will likely be his final speech in Queens before leaving office Dec. 31.

He told a library full of students at Bard High School Early College Queens that they are some of the luckiest kids in the world. The central theme during the 20-minute address was that the public school system improved steadily during the 12-year Bloomberg administration.

“People lie and say they’re from New York City just to go to our public schools. It used to be the opposite was true,” he said.

The mayor added that Queens led all boroughs with 63 new school buildings out of the 81 new schools that opened during his three terms in office. Bard opened in 2008at LaGuardia Community College, at 30-20 Thomson St. in Long Island City.

The public high school has a unique program offering two years of college prep and 11th- and 12th-graders take early college courses and graduate with 60 credits from Bard College. The school has a graduation rate of 96.7 percent and graduates finish with a high school Regents diploma and an associate degree in arts from Bard at no cost to eligible students.

Nearly all transfer to a four-year college to complete a bachelor’s degree, according to Principal Valeri J. Thompson.

“The opportunities you have I never had,” Bloomberg said as many of the students nodded in agreement.

Omar Ferriera, 17, of Woodhaven, originally planned on studying liberal arts in college, but credits the school’s wide range of courses with opening his mind to other options.

“Now I love math and science,” said Ferriera, who will study physics at the University of Chicago in the fall.

Another student, Mamfatou Baldeh, of the Bronx, said, “When I started here, I just wanted to graduate college early. Now I’m thinking why rush, I’d rather be in school longer, there’s so much more to learn.”

And it is in Queens, the most diverse borough in the most diverse city, according to the mayor.

“Forty-eight percent of Queens residents are born outside the country,” Bloomberg said. “This is the melting pot of the world. If you want to succeed in the global economy, the place to learn about the world is right here in Queens.”

The picture gets brighter, the mayor said, when you consider the borough’s improved economy.

“The subways are better, new businesses take root in Queens with nearly 50,000 since ’02,” Bloomberg said. “And we’ve built housing. Right here in Long Island City there will be 5,000 new homes in Hunters Points South and more in Hallets Cove and Willets Point.”

In summing up, Bloomberg said, “The numbers say you’re going to have a bright future.”

The standing ovation sounded more like a pep rally as Bloomberg headed for the exit.

“It was awesome, true and down-to-earth. He made it clear that education has come a long way during his administration,” Baldeh said.

Ferriera agreed, saying, “I thought the speech was great, I learned a lot about Queens. I used to live in Brooklyn for a while — it’s nothing like Queens.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry be e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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