BY JON CRONIN
“The Queens economy is booming!” state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said during his recent economic snapshot of the borough at Queens Borough Hall.
DiNapoli said that he attributes this economic boom, in part, to the hardworking immigrants who make up 47 percent of the borough. The percentage of immigrants in Queens is only second to Miami-Dade county in southern Florida. He pointed out that immigrants in Queens made up 69 percent of the borough’s self-employed entrepreneurs.
“I think it’s important to point out that so many of our entrepreneurs are immigrants,” DiNapoli said during the unveiling of the borough’s economic snapshot at Queens Borough Hall on May 18.
“We have to echo reports like this all the way to Washington D.C.,” said Carlene Pinto, of the New York Immigration Coalition.
DiNapoli said that Queens’ two airports—LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports—brought in $69 billion in 2017.
“It is truly soaring,” he said, adding that Queens accounted for 96 percent of all air transportation and 58 percent of all transportation jobs in the city. “This is really a historic time for the borough, as it has more residents than ever and it has an employment rate that is at an all-time low.”
DiNapoli added that the borough’s unemployment rate fell from 8.6 percent in 2010 to four percent in 2017, which is lower than the citywide rate.
“Based on the numbers we’re seeing, the rate has fallen below four percent,” he said of this year’s economic outlook so far. “Queens added 110,500 private sector jobs between 2009 and 2017, 10 times more than were lost during the recession and more than twice as many as in the second-strongest expansion.”
He noted that two thirds of the jobs were in healthcare, leisure and hospitality, business services and retail.
DiNapoli pointed out that there is still room for improvement in the borough.
“Residents are dealing with school overcrowding, a consequence of the desirability of living in the borough,” he said, noting that housing prices rise as desirability goes up. “It’s not an issue unique to Queens, but we’re certainly seeing it here.”
Although the borough is providing a wealth of transportation jobs, DiNapoli pointed out that its residents have long commute times on public transit, “especially in Southeast Queens.” And Queens Borough President Melinda Katz noted that borough leaders are currently highlighting the need for better infrastructure.
“We are now only second to Manhattan in bringing tourists to the city of New York,” she said. “We did over a billion dollars in tax revenue over a year ago just because of our tourist industry, and I think that’s extremely important to get out there because that means we need more money for our streets and our schools.”
Katz also announced that, in a few weeks, her office will showcase its Long Island City strategic plan, which will include developers, community and workforce development strategies.
Tom Grech, the president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, noted the need for better infrastructure.
“Queens Center Mall had 27 million visitors last year,” he said. “Just think of the tremble effect those visitors cause.”
Grech said that he is often asked how the 190 different cultures of Queens get along.
“It’s because we’re too busy buying and selling to each other to argue,” he tells them.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) recalled Flushing in the 1970s and noted the improvement to the borough over the years.
“The streets were abandoned,” she said. “Nobody came out after dark. Stores were boarded up. It was like a ghost town, and now not only is there not enough room for cars, but there’s not enough room for pedestrians. It’s amazing.”
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at jcronin@firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 125.