Apr. 28, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards delivered his 2023 State of the Borough address Friday, April 28, at the Claire Shulman Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, during which he highlighted the borough’s accomplishments over the last year while also providing details into what he would like to see done in the future.
Among the accomplishments Richards highlighted during his address were the allocation of millions of dollars toward boosting the health care system in Queens, signing off on over 4,600 affordable housing units since becoming borough president and making historic investments toward building tangible and societal infrastructure. Additionally, Richards pushed for the establishment of universal free after school programming within the borough and called for a community-centric neighborhood plan in Jamaica.
According to Richards, the purpose of calling on the NYC Department of City Planning to launch a neighborhood planning study for Jamaica is to try and create a holistic community-led plan that would result in Jamaica becoming the city’s premiere live, work and play community.
“I’m proud of how we’ve put our money where our mouth is,” Richards said. “I’m talking more than $127 million in capital investment across Queens in just two years. That includes $22 million for our schools, $19 million for our cultural groups, $18 million for our hospitals, $16 million for our libraries, another $16 million for our parks and $10 million for our CUNY colleges.”
Richards emphasized the importance of his administration being able to invest over $127 million in capital funding towards schools, healthcare institutions, parks, libraries and more across the borough. He also announced that his administration has partnered with Vaughn College in supporting its Drone Pilot Pipeline. Starting next year, those taking part in the five-course program will have the final course and test paid for by Richards’ administration.
“With historic investments in healthcare, housing and infrastructure — both physical and societal — being made in every corner of Queens, the borough we are building together is one rooted in equity, justice and prosperity for all our families,” Richards said. “Queens has seen so much growth in the last few years, and we’re just getting started.”
When discussing healthcare, Richards voiced his support for the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) along with other health care workers in their push for fair pay and safe working conditions. He also celebrated the approval of a 32-year lease for a new NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health facility in Far Rockaway. He believes it will assist preventing healthcare inequity in the area.
In addition to championing the 4,600 affordable housing units he’s signed off, Richards highlighted the transformational potential of numerous projects across the borough that he is involved with. Richards also called for the full funding of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which would help ensure that the state’s rental assistance program is accessible for NYCHA families.
Richards took a lot of pride in highlighting the redevelopments of LaGuardia and JFK Airports and the local jobs it has also helped to create. However, he also called upon the city and state to better connect people to LaGuardia through methods like establishing a ferry service to the airport, possibly extending the N subway line and exploring Bus Rapid Transit. When highlighting transportation Richards also called for the expansion of the CityTicket commuter rail line program to Far Rockaway and for the Fair Fares half-price bus and subway fare discount program to expand to the LIRR.
In highlighting his administration’s accomplishments related to infrastructure, Richards championed the establishment of Operation Urban Sustainability, whose members recently released a report outlining holistic approaches toward environmental justice and flood prevention, among other topics. In addition to praising the success of voluntary curbside composting across Queens, he called for the program to become mandatory. Additionally, he called for the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite work on a sea gate project meant to help flood-proof communities.
Richards also praised the upcoming opening of the new 116th Precinct. He feels the new station house being built for the precinct will help to bring the community together with the police since it will also have a public plaza and community center.
In addition to calling for Diwali to be made a holiday in the Queens public school system in an effort to better educate students on South Asian culture, Richards also announced a partnership with the Queens Jewish Community Council to construct a Holocaust memorial at Borough Hall.
“I know what I want our legacy to be,” Richards said. “One of innovation, where there is no dream too big or idea too bold. One of industry, where there is no better borough to build, hire or start a business. One of investment, where there are no cracks to fall through. Only pathways to prosperity, no matter your race, religion or background. That is the legacy we are building in Queens every single day.”