Opinion: Good for Families, Good for Queens
You’ve probably noticed that the spotlight on Queens has been shining brighter these days.
MSN Money, Condé Nast Traveler, TimeOut New York and Streeteasy.com—they all agree that Queens is hot and on the move! In fact, Lonely Planet recently designated Queens the top destination for travelers to the United States. Let me be clear—they didn’t name New York City. They specifically crowned Queens.
And why wouldn’t they? Our neighborhoods are home to families that hail from over 120 countries and speak over 135 languages. And it’s the voices of these families that have been the focus of my first year, making sure their insights and needs are a part of government’s decision-making process.
Because of them, our litmus at Borough Hall is simply this: If it’s good for families, it’s good for Queens.
Queens offers a dynamic and attractive landscape for investment and job creation, which means better opportunities for families and visitors to live, work and play.
It’s an exciting time for Queens. Great neighborhoods, shopping, professional sports, booming new businesses and nightlife, arts and an incomparable array of cuisines from all over the world. Queens is a unique borough, unlike any other, and we are proud of what we have to offer.
We don’t have to claim to be the center of the universe, but we are without a doubt the intersection of the world.
We’ve made tourism a high priority of my administration because it is one of the strongest tools for growth. Together, we’re not only creating jobs, we’re building neighborhoods. And we’re doing that in a number of ways, especially since some of the city’s hottest projects are being built in Queens.
The potential is incredible—we have untapped prime real estate in Maspeth and in the Rockaways. Thriving transit and business hubs in downtown Jamaica and Long Island City. Skilled workforces across trades and from all over the globe. Diversified economic engines in Flushing and Jackson Heights. And forward-thinking public-private partnerships that produce projects like Astoria Cove.
In Long Island City of western Queens, we’re building the city’s leading tech ecosystem, encouraging access, innovation and entrepreneurship. Over 50 startups like Krate, Digital Natives and Shapeways 3D Printing have already hatched in Queens. And that’s just the beginning. By leveraging western Queens’ ample space for growth, its projected development, and its proximity to the Cornell NYC Tech campus, we will steer our borough into the competitive lane of the digital age.
In downtown Jamaica, we recently unveiled the Jamaica Now Action Plan, an aggressive and holistic 21-point plan to stimulate smart growth and improve livability in Jamaica, Queens. Everyone has long recognized Jamaica’s inherent potential for smart growth. It is one of the remaining prime commercial hubs that offer housing, amenities and transportation. Jamaica really has some of the most strategically positioned—while affordably priced—real estate left in the city.
So we shored up that will and now we finally have a way. The plan is a focused commitment backed up by real resources, and reflects the city’s strong commitment to revitalize Jamaica’s downtown core and make it even more attractive to investors, even more livable for existing residents and businesses.
To augment the plan, we announced an additional agreement with Mayor Bill de Blasio on including the downtown Jamaica corridor into phase 1 of the LinkNYC rollout, making capital improvements at the southern lawn of Rufus King Park, enhancing Brinkerhoff Mall for more public and programmatic use, and committing resources for marketing and branding to enhance tourism, especially to our treasured cultural institutions.
All this and much more is on the near horizon.
Government recognizes, however, that the quality of our infrastructure can either keep us competitive or stifle our growth. Significant investment at our airports is a critical priority for our city that affects all industries.
Take, for example, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, New York City’s gateways to the world. About 48,000 people are employed at both airports combined. To the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region, their economic activity contributes $53 billion every year by generating about 372,000 total jobs and $19 billion in annual wages and salaries.
Yet the investments in these gateways have fallen short. The Port Authority’s total capital investments in JFK to date has been a paltry $7 billion; in LaGuardia, $1.4 billion. These investments simply have not kept up with growth.
World-class airports are necessary to keep our great city globally competitive, and I applaud the governor and the Port Authority for investing additional billions of capital to redevelop LaGuardia’s central terminal and airport infrastructure.
As we move forward, the opportunity guised as a challenge for government is to keep Queens competitive as the most attractive option for families to not just move to, but more importantly to stay in.
And so we stand united and committed in our determination to keep this a borough of families, for families. Because we know that if it’s good for families, it’s good for Queens.
Melinda Katz is the Queens Borough President.