City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Far Rockaway, Laurelton) officially declared his candidacy to run for Queens Borough President Wednesday in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park near the Unisphere and was surrounded by family and supporters as he laid out his vision for the World’s Borough.
As a councilman, he has chaired the committees on Environmental Protection, Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises and on Public Safety over the last six years, which he has referred to as key to shaping Queens when it comes to new and green infrastructure, affordable housing and criminal justice reform.
“I’m the first African-American to chair the Environmental Protection committee,” said Richards. “From affordable housing, to unfair tax structures, to bringing jobs and not killing them, infrastructure and public safety, [my] record simply speaks for itself.”
In 2013, Richards had assumed office in City Council District 31, which represents an enclave of neighborhoods in Far Rockaway, Cambria Heights, Laurelton, South Ozone Park, Springfield Gardens, Jamaica, and Rosedale and had fought to bring $2.2 billion throughout 55 infrastructure projects in Queens as chair on the Committee of Environmental Protection after several areas in his region were hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“When I was elected to the City Council, my district was devastated,” said Richards. “There is no one in this race who can talk about bringing a community back after the destruction of a storm like Hurricane Sandy, nor the investments for what I call the forgotten communities of Queens.”
As a zoning chair, Richards had brought $300 million for Downtown Far Rockaway for affordable units, more open green space for his constituents and a reconstructed state-of-the-art Far Rockaway Library, according to the councilman. He also played a role to bring back manufacturing jobs to Queens from Bartlett Dairy Factory to Springfield Gardens.
Currently, the councilman is the Public Safety chair and he has used his role to take 300 guns off the street through the gun buyback program and prevented the NYPD from cooperating with ICE to deport 3,000 immigrants.
“As the son of an immigrant,” said Richards, who is Jamaican-American “as someone whose father just became an immigrant this year, it was critical that we are a sanctuary city, not just sanctuary city in words.”
In December, Richards hope is to break ground on the long-awaited 116th Precinct, which would cover his district in Queens and breakaway from the 105th Precinct that also covers Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans)’s district.
As borough president, he wants to bring more affordable housing units that are reflective of the income of those seeking reasonably priced homes, he wants to reform that tax code to give a break to the middle and working class, and make sure those who are in the upper class are paying their fair share and responsibly bring jobs to Queens with community support as opposed to backroom deals like the Amazon initiative, according to Richards.
“We have a long way to go still,” said the councilman who had his wife Tameeka Richards and his 3-year-old Donovan Richards III by his side. “As borough president, I’ll put the office to work for Queens residents. The city’s unfair property tax burden and affordable housing crisis has families, seniors and Millenials feeling the squeeze in our borough while the economy is growing.”
The candidate wants to have more diverse community boards that have a strengthened voice when it comes to zoning initiatives by having several regional zone planners that will update the 700 members in Queens about potential development projects.
Richards wants more investment in transportation in eastern Queens to connect people to jobs and the borough’s cultural center and wants an office at Borough Hall to serve immigrant initiatives.
In his corner was former Borough President Claire Shulman, 93.
“I’m here to endorse him and to tell the people of Queens can do the job and take Queens into the future,” said Shulman. “To all my neighbors and friends, to everybody in the borough take a good look at this guy, Donovan Richards.”
Rosedale resident David Pecoraro is sad to possibly lose his councilman but is rooting for him as Queens Borough President.
“I’m sorry to see him go as a council member, but that is inevitable with term limits,” said Pecoraro. “Now it is time for the entire borough of Queens to see what we’ve seen in the last two terms.”
Pecoraro is proud of the initiatives that the councilman has undertaken like the revitalization of the Rockaways, the 116th Precinct, the Far Rockaway Library reconstruction, more streetlights near Brookville Park and the gun buyback program.
“He has gotten the big things and the little things done,” said Pec. “It is time for someone from southeast Queens to represent us and the borough, he is truly Queens for all.”