Queens Borough President Melinda Katz shrugged off repeated questions today about her looking to run for mayor in 2021, and instead focused on the borough’s future at a press briefing for her annual State of the Borough speech on Friday morning.
QCP first reported last week that Katz was exploring and actively fundraising for the mayoral contest in 2021, but she declined to comment on her future plans at the briefing, and instead focussed on her job at hand – serving the residents of Queens.
In a conference room at Queens Borough Hall, Katz told reporters that every State of the Borough speech included themes relating to Queens, such as improving local neighborhoods and creating projects for the borough.
“This time we’re going to a very close look at what’s happened in the past year. The seeds that have been planted for our next generations,” she said.
Katz also highlighted projects and enhancements in the borough. She offered the example of the Jamaica NOW Neighborhood Action Plan, an initiative led by her office since 2014 to revitalize the downtown Jamaica community. At least $150 million has been spent to help the district.
Another project led by her office is a Vietnam veteran’s memorial in Elmhurst Park, the first-ever structure in Queens. The Borough President estimated the monument’s completion within a year.
To improve federal funding for the borough, Katz will announce on Friday a new group called the Queens Completion Count Committee.
“One of the problems New York City has is that we’re vastly undercounted when it comes to the census. The Census is what the federal government relies on to disseminate funds into different cities,” she said.
Undercounted cities, Katz explained, receive less money, so her office is creating the committee in partnership with civic groups to ensure the 2020 Census will include an accurate count of residents.
She responded to questions relating to transportation in Queens. She called Queens an example of a “transportation desert” with one-third of the borough covered by subways and two-thirds by buses.
“Transportation is a clearly a problem here. The MTA,” she said before sighing. “There are so many issues with the MTA.”
She provided examples of changes to improve transportation, such as the five-borough ferry, yet she also believed more work is needed to help constituents. Her office is in communication with the Department of Transportation as Queens does not have a detailed plan for bike lanes.
“I have consistently requested from DOT that they prepare a borough-wide plan so that the bike lanes actually go somewhere and lead to the different communities in this borough,” she said.
Katz provided updates to upgrades for the New York State Pavilion Project located in Flushing Meadows Park. Her office is awaited responses for a bid to upgrade the historic landmark such as stairs and towers.
“I’ve been told that, within a year and a half, it will be lit up,” she said.
The Queens Borough President will deliver her State of the Borough address at 10 a.m., this Friday Jan. 26 at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School in Astoria.