During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens.
The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks.
The mayor’s preliminary budget, which was released on Jan. 12, proposes a $102.7 billion financial plan. This is a slight increase compared to the fiscal year 2023 adopted budget, which was $101.1 billion, according to Richards.
“As we continue this budget process, my office will continue to analyze the rest of the FY 2024 preliminary budget, including the testimony submitted by those unable to join us,” Richards said. “The last fiscal years have presented challenges to the city and New Yorkers from all walks of life. In addition, the national economy has not recovered from the pandemic, however, we will continue working to deliver results to the residents of Queens. I’m optimistic that we are on our way to an economic recovery here in Queens. Like in every hardship, we will continue to support each other. I look forward to continuing to work with our partners to secure a responsible, equitable, and just budget.”
During the first half of the meeting, each district manager from community boards 1 through 14 presented their top priorities. There were commonalities between the boards regarding flooding and investments in infrastructure.
Florence Koulouris of Community Board 1 noted a section of the Astoria community experiencing major sewer line issues, excessive flood waters, slip and fall conditions, and damages.
“The area requires immediate full pipeline reconstruction. This will consist of a combined sewer system. Once the reconstruction occurs, the community will require a full street reconstruction of 32nd Street from Ditmars Boulevard corner to the end on 32nd Street to make the project successful,” Koulouris said. “Residents have suffered and had to remediate from water damage for far too long. We must act now to stop the hardship and damage to our neighborhood.”
After Astoria Houses were adversely affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Koulouris said that there has always been an existing condition of the high tide rising over the seawall, causing flooding and damages to the property.
“The salt water has severely damaged the seawall and railing, which were in dire need of repair. The seawall itself needs to be redesigned and reconstructed to prevent further damage to Astoria Houses, after a $75 million investment made by FEMA,” Koulouris said.
In his testimony, Frank Gulluscio, of Community Board 6, said the “infrastructure is choking” due to rising groundwater levels, climate change, sewers, drainage and people dying,” which is a boroughwide issue.
“This is not just a hot topic, but a new fact of life,” Gulluscio said. “I ask all of you, where are the plans? Where are the solutions? Take all of our frustrations in this borough and help us … We need real solutions and not the responses I’ve seen in the register of our budget request.”
Other community boards made similar requests, mainly asking for infrastructure investments to streets, parks, schools, transit and more.
Reconstruction of the roads and sewer work connecting the communities of Whitestone and College Point in Community Board 7 is a pressing need, according to Mary O’Neill, who spoke on behalf of CB 7 District Manager Marilyn McAndrews.
According to O’Neill, 20th Avenue from the Whitestone Expressway Service Road to College Point Boulevard and 127th Street from 14th to 23rd Avenue has extensive flooding problems. O’Neill also said the construction of Willets Point Phase 2 has been neglected by the city for too long and needs a total reconstruction to include sidewalks, road beds, sewers and street lighting.
“Over the years, legitimate businesses have paid real estate, sewer and water taxes without getting the desperately needed capital reconstruction. They have extensive flooding problems, and a non-existent road bed is full of craters, making it impossible for drivers to navigate the area,” O’Neill said.
She also added that Ulmer Street from the Whitestone Expressway Service Road to 25th Avenue, which is the main access road into College Point, is also in need of reconstruction, as drivers lose control of their vehicles.
This is an issue that Community Board 11 District Manager Joe Marziliano echoed regarding the reconstruction of 223rd Street between 37th and 41st avenues in Bayside. According to Marziliano, the board has been advocating for the reconstruction of the road for the past 20 years.
“It is impossible to drive on this stretch of road without damaging your car, unraised manholes, and sunken roadways,” Marziliano said. “An on-site inspection was conducted in the fall of 2021 by myself, along with the borough president’s special director of climate change and flood mitigation, after the most recent superstorm. Now is the time for action.”
During the remainder of the hearing, Richards heard testimonies from other boards regarding quality-of-life issues, sanitation, crime, traffic studies, hospital expansions, library upgrades, outdoor green space and more. Representatives from local hospitals, CUNY institutions, local organizations and more also testified during the two-day public hearing.
Those seeking city funding are encouraged to visit queensbp.org/budget to find the applications for FY24 discretionary capital funding and FY24 discretionary expense funding that Richards will allocate.