BIOGRAPHY OF QUEENS BOROUGH PRESIDENT HELEN M. MARSHALL
Helen Marshall was re-elected to a third term as Queens Borough President in November 2009. She was elected to her first term as Borough President in November 2001 with 68 percent of the vote.
She is the 18th Borough President of Queens, the first African American and the second woman to hold the post of highest-ranking elected official in a county with a population of more than 2.2 million residents.
Since becoming Queens Borough President, Ms. Marshall has allocated more than $166 million to the Department of Parks and Recreation to build and improve parks and playgrounds. Ms. Marshall, a lifelong advocate for public libraries, was a founder of the Langston Hughes Library in Corona. Since becoming Borough President, she has allocated more than $132 million for expansions, additions and new libraries and technological improvements. In Far Rockaway alone, she fully funded the building of a new branch with an allocation of more than $23 million. She is especially proud of the Children’s Discovery Center at the main library on Merrick Boulevard. The center, which the borough president provided $16 million to create, has served more than a half-million children since opening in 2011. Marshall was a recipient in 2005 of the statewide Daniel Casey Library Award and the Center for an Urban Future reported in 2013 that over the past decade, Marshall steered more money toward library projects in Queens than the other four borough presidents combined. She has also funded cultural programs and institutions with more than $117 million from her discretionary capital budget.
The Borough President’s “War Room” meetings with elected and school officials helped to ensure the addition of more than 90,000 new school seats during her tenure. She also invested more than $63 million for the enhancement of CUNY institutions in Queens.
Borough President Marshall also fully-funded the Forum at Borough Hall, a new addition to the building dedicated to the people of Queens. The forum will serve as a centrally-located, transit-friendly space for community groups, city agencies and the public.
In addition to her support for youth programs, Marshall has protected programs and services for senior citizens. She was successful in restoring millions of dollars in funding for services for seniors and fought to save a hot meals program that delivers meals to the homebound.
She also created the Queens General Assembly, which fosters understanding and cross-cultural exchanges among the many ethnic groups found in Queens.
The Borough President founded the Immigration Task Force and, established a Task Force on Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence, which she expanded to include child maltreatment and elder abuse. She has also welcomed the LGBT community with her co-sponsorship of the annual Pride Celebration at Borough Hall, a celebration that was first held during her tenure as Borough President.
Ms. Marshall’s Zoning Task Force played an instrumental role in the rezoning of thousands of blocks that account for almost half of the borough. She has also supported the Commercial Corridors program, which improves commercial strips with landscaping and increased lighting.
Prior to becoming Borough President, Marshall represented the 21st District in the City Council for ten years, beginning in 1991, when she secured 91 percent of the vote. She was the founding chair of the Higher Education committee and fought against the privatization of remedial programs at CUNY. She also served as a member of the Housing & Buildings, Environmental Protection and Women’s Issues committees, and co-chaired the Council’s Black and Latino Caucus. While a member of the Council, she supported the expansions and upgrades of every library in her district, restored funding to rebuild a free children’s clinic in Corona, led the fight to prevent the sale of the Elmhurst Hospital Center and the Queens Hospital Center and provided funding for two new senior centers and for vans to transport seniors. She was also the prime sponsor of legislation to reduce senior citizens’ contributions to Medicare Part B.
Prior to her election to the City Council, Marshall, a native New Yorker, served five terms, beginning in 1982, in the New York State Assembly, where she chaired the Rules Committee.
Early in her career, Marshall was an early childhood teacher for eight years. She left the teaching profession in 1969 to become the first director of the Langston Hughes Library, a post she held for five years.
Before becoming an elected official, Marshall was a community activist in her neighborhood of East Elmhurst, advocating for youth programs, libraries, job training programs and economic development. She was a parent activist in the public school system for 15 years and a member of Community Board 3 for 13 years. She was also a founded of the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation and was director of the ELMCOR Testing and Placement program for eight years. The ELMCOR program was responsible for the placement of hundreds of residents in meaningful employment positions. In 2013, she was honored by ELMCOR for her service to the people of Queens. The tribute included a personal message from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a former East Elmhurst resident who thanked Marshall for her contributions to that community.
Marshall is a graduate of the city’s public school system and holds a Bachelor’s in Education degree from Queens College. She has also taken graduate courses at the Bank Street College and Long Island University. She is a recipient of the President’s Medal from Hunter College, LaGuardia Community College and St. John’s University. She has also been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Science from the College of Aeronautics.
She has been married to Donald Marshall for more than 60 years and has two children, Donald Jr. and Agnes Marie. Ms. Marshall is also the proud grandmother of Chandler and Chasen, the children of Donald and Charlena.