Queens’ Voice Sworn In
BY LUIS GRONDA
Voters chose Melinda Katz to act as the new voice for Queens on Nov. 5. Last week, Katz officially took over in that role.
The Forest Hills native was sworn in as the 19th Queens Borough President at a ceremony held at Queens College’s LeFrak Concert Hall on Jan. 9.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking before administering the oath to Katz, said he has worked with Melinda during all of her political career and he has seen her stand up for Queens many times in the past.
“She’s going to work hard everyday, she’s going to make this Borough proud and I can tell you, it’ll be my honor to work with her,” he said. “And when you need a strong voice going down to City Hall and standing up for Queens, I guarantee you that Melinda will be that voice.”
Katz emphatically discussed her plans as BP in a filled-to-capacity LeFrak Concert Hall.
According to Katz, her late father, David Katz, always said “you shouldn’t have to go over a bridge or under a tunnel to get everything you need” and she plans to heed that statement as Borough President.
“You should be able to get anything you need right here in this Borough, and we will make it happen together,” she said.
She pledged to reinstate an education “war room” at Queens Borough Hall that aims to get more leasing to build more schools in Queens and give young people a chance to get an education no matter where they live.
“We will guide and we will take note of the Dept. of Education and the School Construction Authority and figure out how to get leasing, how to build schools, how to make our school system fair,” Katz said.
She also spoke of bringing jobs to Queens. Katz said that while we can boost the Borough’s arts and culture, if you cannot find employment in Queens, you may decide to live and work somewhere else.
“Whether it’s the high-tech industry and small businesses that we want to start in Long Island City, whether it’s creating retail in Jamaica, whether it’s making sure in the Rockaways we get economic development and permanent ferry to make sure you can get in and out of the Rockaways,” she said, which drew a loud cheer from the audience in attendance.
Katz also pledged to create a storm relief task force at Borough Hall, to help areas like the Rockaways and Howard Beach that are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy more than one year later.
“You can come to Borough Hall and trade stories and figure out how we can make things happen faster, better, more efficiently and get people the money that they’re owed in this Borough,” she said.
A host of dignitaries attended Katz’s inauguration, including de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) and every member of the City Council and the State Assembly in the Queens delegation. Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry (D-Corona) served as the master of ceremonies.
Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), a staunch supporter of Katz’s campaign for BP, made a little quip during his speech.
“We’re here today, on this very stage, for another woman, of grace, I don’t want to say power because, you know, I’m the county leader,” he said, drawing much laughter from the audience. “[She has] tremendous experience for such a young woman.”
Stringer, who most recently served as Manhattan Borough President, also had complementary words for Katz during his remarks at the ceremony.
“She’s going to be an excellent Borough President, an office I know a little bit about,” Stringer said. “She’s going to understand how to build affordable housing, how to create and build neighborhoods.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan/Bronx) also congratulated Katz on becoming Queens BP.
“It’s a real pleasure to see her come and arrive at this moment,” she said, adding that the Borough will be well represented with her at the helm as BP.
Katz replaces Helen Marshall, who held the position from 2001 to 2013 and is the third consecutive woman to be elected the chief executive of the Borough.
Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center delivered the invocation at the ceremony and the Rev. Floyd Flake provided the benediction. A performance by the choir at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts preceded the Inauguration.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.