BY JAMES FARRELL
Queens is ready to take Albany by storm.
On May 8, borough leaders will host the inaugural Queens Day in Albany. Queens’ business leaders, vendors, cultural organizations and tourism groups will trek up to the New York capital to meet with state leaders with the aim of giving them a better understanding of what Queens is all about—its needs, cultures and future. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the Queens Chamber of Commerce are organizing the event.
The day will feature meet and greets with state legislators, samplings of Queens’ food and drink purveyors and Queens stakeholders advocating for the borough.
“The response and excitement for the inaugural Queens Day in our state capital has been simply overwhelming,” Katz said.
“This will be a unique opportunity for all Queens stakeholders to bring the best of the ‘borough of growth’ to a statewide stage. Collaborating participants of the very first Queens Day in Albany will be able to long remember it with pride.”
For Tom Grech, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the day provides an opportunity to show state leaders that Queens is home to many different cultures and is a growing tourist destination that is worthy of attention. The chamber hopes to showcase the borough’s many educational institutions, startups and improvements to airports.
“I think it’s great to have not only the Queens delegation see us up there and know that we’ve arrived, but also the rest of the New York State Assembly and Senate to know that we kind of believe it’s Queens’ turn in lots of respects,” Grech said.
Grech cited the example of the New York Islanders, who have been rumored to be considering a move to Queens after leaving Long Island for an ill-fated tenure in Brooklyn. He said that Queens Day would give Albany the opportunity to see that Queens is in the position to be considered for large developments.
“We have the space, we have the gumption, we have the leadership in place to, I think, make it a go,” Grech said.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) is excited to show off her borough to her Albany colleagues—particularly its food and diversity.
“We have 213 legislators,” she said. “I think they think of Queens as just another outer borough. It’s not. It’s a diverse community, obviously, where more than half the people were born somewhere else. I think my colleagues have to understand they come from over 100 countries and they speak 135 languages.”
She hopes that a better understanding of the borough could lead to more support on important policies—such as school aid, the state DREAM Act and better funding to hospitals.
“I think the long-term benefit is that they have a better understanding of what New York City is like and that’s why they should support some of our initiatives,” she said, adding that her own visits to places across the state have made her more aware of statewide needs.
Grech added that it was especially important to do something like this now, in order to highlight Queens’ growth.
“We have arrived and we’ve grown the chamber membership by 30 percent,” he said. “We represent now 90,000 Queens-based employees with over 1,125 members, and it’s time that people took notice and saw what we’re up to.”
And Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) echoed Stavisky’s excitement in a statement.
“I am thrilled that Queens Day is finally a reality in Albany, which is something that I advocated for alongside Congresswoman Grace Meng when we were both first elected to the Assembly,” he said. “This has been a long time coming, and it is very exciting that Queens Day is finally happening. We are a thriving, diverse borough and it’s an honor to bring the communities and culture of Queens to Albany.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.