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City will restore Queens Zoo funding: Marshall

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Borough President Helen Marshall told an audience last Thursday that she has been assured the city would restore funds eliminated in the mayor’s preliminary 2005 budget that would keep the Queens Zoo in operation for the next fiscal year.

Marshall, speaking to dozens of concerned Queens residents at a meeting of her borough board at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, also said discretionary funds for the Department for the Aging would be put back into the final budget proposal put forth by Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“We look forward to working with the mayor to ensure that these critical services are continued in Queens,” said Marshall, who warned that the borough still faces tough economic times. “As I am sure many of you know, most of these (cuts) are on top of years and years of reductions or, in some cases, targeted to budgets that are at the same level of funding that was allocated during the 1980s.”

She added: “While budgets are decreasing, service demands are increasing.”

The borough president listened to testimony from all of Queens’ 14 community boards, including remarks from district managers and heads of governmental bodies. Marshall was joined at the meeting by Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing), Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Dennis Gallagher (R-Ridgewood) as well Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz.

The panel of elected officials and representatives of community boards listened as district managers spelled out the problems in their areas and requested funds to take care of everything from closing illegal dumping sites to bringing more police officers to borough precincts.

Marshall started off the meeting by reassuring those in attendance that the Queens Zoo was off the chopping block.

“In addition, we have been assured that our discretionary funds in the Department for the Aging as well as funding for the zoo will be fully restored,” she said.

The borough president then listened with other legislators to hear from the community board representatives about their concerns.

Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5 in Glendale, said his members were concerned about the inability of the city Department of Buildings to monitor developments in Queens. He and a majority of the other district managers at the meeting said more personnel were needed in the department’s borough office to ensure construction was done properly and prevent homes from being illegally altered.

“We have a huge backlog of complaints,” Giordano said of the Queens borough office. “I think the Buildings Department needs more inspectors.”

Marshall said she would also like to see additional staff come to the Queens Department of Buildings office but reminded the audience that the borough already has the highest number of paid building staff as compared with the other boroughs.

“The development (in Queens) is going on faster than we can keep up with,” Marshall said.

There was also a lengthy discussion on the state of Queens buses. Liu, chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, said he would be holding a hearing Feb. 24 at City Hall to examine the borough’s bus system and the impact of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s takeover of Queens private buses.

Bloomberg proposed his $45.7 billion budget last month that included a $2 billion deficit for fiscal year 2005, which begins in July. The response to the mayor’s budget has been less critical this year than last, due in large part to Bloomberg’s request that $400 rebate checks be sent out annually to property owners to help alleviate the financial burden from the 18.5 percent hike in the city’s property tax rate.

The tax rebate, however, was not mentioned by anyone at the meeting, which also included testimony from the presidents of Queensborough, York, Queens and LaGuardia colleges. A host of cultural and civic organizations also let the borough president and city council members know which projects they want funded for the upcoming fiscal year.

Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9 in Richmond Hill, said she and her board members want more police officers for the 102nd Precinct. She also requested funds for the beautification of the concrete mall along Atlantic Avenue.

“We hope today’s requests become tomorrow’s realities,” Carey said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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