Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s State of the Borough address, on Jan. 26, spoke of heavy investment and goals for education across Queens, affordable housing in Willets Point and public transportation.
In her first term, Katz allocated nearly $300 million, with more than a third going to schools and libraries, a third going to parks and another third to cultural institutions and health centers.
“So with all these investments, what we’ve actually been doing in Queens is setting a road map and building the infrastructure for the future of where we want the borough to be by the beginning of the next generation, by at least 2030,” Katz said during the address, in Astoria. “Queens is the borough of growth, and the borough of families, and with that we must make sure to have the infrastructure to support our families.”
Schools in Queens face capacity issues that other boroughs do not, Katz said. While most schools around the city are below capacity, those in Queens average about 108 percent beyond.
Elementary schools are at 116 percent capacity, while high schools average about 113 percent, with Francis Lewis High School overloaded at 200 percent capacity.
In the city budget, Queens receives the lowest amount of funding per student, Katz said. But her administration has been working to eliminate the need for trailer classrooms, many of which have been in use for decade, and only 124 remain in the borough. The city built 11 schools in her first term and expanded six existing schools to alleviate overcrowding and improve conditions in the classroom.
Up to 43 trailers were removed as a result of this effort, Katz said in last year’s address.
By 2030, Katz hopes to have a soccer stadium at Willets Point to fund 100 percent affordable housing units nearby on the 61-acre parcel up for development. Soon after, she hopes, Queens will host World Cup games.
She also envisions the Willets Point Long Island Rail Road station serving commuters as a transit hub for commuters travelling on the commuter line, the No. 7 train and the proposed AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport currently under environmental study.
In 12 years, Katz said, LIRR stations in Elmhurst and Long Island City will fully serve daily commuters and the former Lower Montauk branch will be reactivated as the Queens Rail to serve an 8.5-mile stretch of track from Jamaica, through Maspeth and into LIC.
Now in her second term, Katz was re-elected in the 2017 citywide elections.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by email at mhall