Katz calls for new zoning areas for basement apartments

Melinda Katz briefed the media before her State of the Borough address.
TimesLedger Newspapers
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Two days before she was to give her first State of the Borough address Thursday, Melinda Katz said Queens needs more schools, more affordable housing and more quality jobs, among other priorities, while calling on the city to consider creating new zoning districts for basement apartments.

“Illegal conversions lack safety,” Katz said at a news briefing in Borough Hall Tuesday. “The problem is that we have no more housing and we need to live, and we need to make these converted spaces safe.”

She said Queens has a 46 percent of foreign-born population, and in this growing borough, “we can’t build fast enough, although this is a good problem to have as long as we can catch up.”

The borough president will ask the city Department of Buildings to look at the possibility of legalizing more basement apartments, “creating new areas for conversions.”

As for public transportation, Katz said she will push to restore the ferry service from the Rockaways put into place to carry residents from Beach 108th Street to the Brooklyn Army Terminal and downtown Manhattan after Superstorm Sandy flooded the A train tracks in 2012.

Ferries were docked last fall because funding for the route to continue did not make it into this year’s city budget.

“The ferry has to come back,” she said. “I do believe nothing is temporary, but the ferry unfortunately was.”

Katz did not chose sides, however, between those in the borough who support the reactivation of the Rockaway Beach LIRR line and those who want the construction of a High Line-style park known as the Queensway on the abandoned tracks.

“Let’s see how it plays out,” she said.

The borough president also called on the Department of Education to establish bigger high schools in Queens, as well as to expand its Gifted and Talented program.

“There is no doubt we need more schools,” Katz said.

Other priorities, she noted, include getting more seats for pre-kindergarten in community-base organizations and better services for veterans, including help with job placement and healthcare.

“Full day pre-K is urgent in the borough,” she said.

Katz asked the community-based organizations to find locations in churches, synagogues, mosques, and youth centers, among others, and “remove trailers” These structures host temporary classrooms because of school overcrowding.

In addition, the borough president pointed out it was necessary to help small businesses and she called on the city “not to balance its budget by getting them fees and tickets.”

She acknowledged parking is also a big problem, specially in neighborhoods with commercial strips, like Jackson Heights. “I don’t have a magic wand for that,” she said.

And her dream, she noted, is to have a fully restored New York State Pavilion, the venue where the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair was celebrated this year.

“My dream is to redo the outside and ... to make sure the theater is usable for outdoor events,” she said. “And we will make sure it remains an icon of the World’s Fair.”

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Rick D from (formerly of Bellerose) says:
Hey, Ms. Katz...

You wanna know why there's so much overcrowding in the schools? Because of the illegal basement apartments. And you want to legalize them, and make formerly one-family homes into two family homes?

A pox on you!
Jan. 22, 2015, 7:27 am
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
A big load of CRAP. Overcrowding is due to poor zoning issues that allow multiple units on parcels where 1 family homes sat and illegal apartments (making them legal still causes this issue).

You cannot have it both ways. You want less crowding start changing the zoning and stop cramming so many people into areas that are not able to handle it.

Overcrowded schools, overcrowded subways, parking issues, strain on resources (electric, water, etc).

Commons sense, something that Katz obviously does not have.
Jan. 22, 2015, 11:24 am
anon from queens says:
Stop taking more people into this country then our problem will be solved!! I'm so sick of being a minority in my own hometown!! Where is my government welfare?
Jan. 22, 2015, 4:14 pm
anon from queens says:
1 million visas a year is way too much! ! Plus 5 million illegals that we take in per year is way way way too much!! Half the legal immigrants come to live in nyc and the other half go to California. The 5 million illegals kind of spread out up here and in the southern states. ...we have too many foreigners in this country especially in this city if you ask me!! Stop catering to them and then they won't come!!
Jan. 22, 2015, 4:18 pm
Jo G from fresh meadows says:
basements should never be leaglized for all of the reasons stated. build more legal apartment buildings that are more affordable.
Jan. 22, 2015, 4:46 pm
al from rh says:
and stop supporting the cult of Scientology by welcoming their deceitful "anti-drug" group into your office.
Jan. 22, 2015, 7:40 pm
Joe from Bayside Hills says:
While BP Katz in her State of the Borough address purports to champion the single family row houses of Maspeth and Ridgewood the Times Ledger reports that she favors the legalization of basement apartments. see
Which is it?
She also makes no mention of protecting the single family home neighborhoods of Queens. These single family home areas are unique to NYC and must be preserved. Not only for the preservation of these unique neighborhoods but for the safety and well being of our citizenry the BP has an obligation to her constituents and should be insisting on strict enforcement of the building regulations and not seeking to loosen them.
Jan. 24, 2015, 11:07 am
BFWQ from Flushing says:
Like that used car salesman Paul Vallone, she's only in office to push the REBNY agenda. They financed her election, she'll do what they want.
Jan. 24, 2015, 4:58 pm
Urban Mole from Flushing says:
Liberalism is a mental disorder.

All illegals flock to this boro because NYC HAS SANCTUARY STATUS. there fore no questions ask if you are a felon for breaching the southern border or any other crime. Now there's the cause for overcrowding and all the other ills that exist in this town.
Jan. 24, 2015, 10:40 pm
Snub You from Bayside says:
Hey Melinda,
Nice job. I think you should make your neighborhood (Forest Hills) the pilot study. Let me know how that works out you come re-election time. You and Mayor Di-Bozo better get your resumes ready.
Jan. 25, 2015, 1:06 am

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