BY LUIS GRONDA
It has been a very eventful first four months for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
The Borough President has gotten involved with several issues that have come up during her first 100 days as Queens BP.
Among the issues in the Borough she has found include reviving the New York State Pavilion and the troubles regarding the Queens Library.
Katz has made rebuilding the pavilion one of her focuses during the early part of her time as BP.
Back in February, she hosted a tour of the facility, calling for the decaying structure to be repaired. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the site’s construction, as well as the 1964-65 World’s Fair, and that has led to renewed discussion about the structure’s future.
Katz said it is important to repair it because it is a significant structure to the Borough and its design has made it one of the most well-known structures in Queens.
“From the time I was a kid, people have been saying that it should be restored,” she said.
Another reason for its importance, according to Katz, is that it is crucial to the “branding” of Queens, as she is trying to promote the Borough as “The World’s Borough” and encourage more people to spend time in Queens when they come to New York City.
The investigation into the Queens Library system has been another issue at the forefront in the Borough during her first four months.
Reports surfaced that the Library’s president, Thomas Galante, has come under fire for spending $140,000 on office renovations, including a private smoking deck at his Jamaica office, as well as his $391,994 annual salary. There have also been reports of Galante taking a high-paying consulting gig in addition to his work as Library president.
The City Council held an oversight hearing where they drilled Galante concerning that and reporters sat down with Galante to grill him as well.
Katz has called on Galante to take a leave of absence while investigations of the Library are ongoing. Comptroller Scott Stringer currently has an audit ongoing of all of the City’s library systems, including the Queens Library.
Late last month, the board of trustees voted to let Galante stay as President while investigations continued. Katz said she is disappointed in that decision and still believes he should vacate that position for the time being.
“I thought it was a no-brainer that the institution comes first,” Katz said.
She helped draft a Queens Library reform bill, created by State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona), that would bring more oversight to the Library. State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) also created a bill, adopting some measures proposed by the other bill, but also limiting outside employment for Queens Library executives.
Katz said that the Gianaris/Aubry bill is a good bill that addresses the issues facing the Library, including bringing more transparency and oversight to the library, and aims to restore the public’s trust in what is a top class institution, she said.
“I wanted to bring a structure to the system that people could have faith in,” she added.
Among the initiatives she plans to work on in the future, Katz said, includes improving senior housing in the Borough. She said it is important to address that because seniors are still in need of housing and giving them a place to live will benefit others who work and cannot be there to take care of the elderly all the time.
“It’s the economic thing to do,” Katz said. “We need people to go out and work.”
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.