The Honorable Melinda Katz, the 19th President of the Borough of Queens, was formally sworn-in to her new office during an inauguration ceremony held Thursday evening, January 9, in the LeFrak Concert Hall in the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in Flushing, Queens.
Administering the oath of office to Katz was the Mayor of the City of New York, the Honorable Bill de Blasio.
Katz took the oath on an Old Testament held by the Honorable Joseph Crowley, U.S. Representative from the 14th District of New York and chairman of the Queens County Democratic Organization. The copy of the Old Testament they used belonged to Katz’s late father, David, and had been given to him by Frank O’Connor, a former District Attorney of Queens County.
Katz’s partner, Curtis Sliwa; their sons, Carter and Hunter, and her brothers, Michael and Matthew, were also in attendance.
Among the dignitaries at the ceremony were two former Queens Borough Presidents; the Honorable Helen M. Marshall and the Honorable Claire Shulman, and the Queens County District Attorney, the Honorable Richard A. Brown. Also in attendance were the senior U.S. Senator from New York, the Honorable Charles Schumer; the Public Advocate, the Honorable Letitia James; the City Comptroller, the Honorable Scott M. Stringer, and the City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito. Members of the Queens delegations of the City Council, the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate were also in attendance. Community board chairpersons and district managers from across the borough were also represented.
In her inaugural address, Katz discussed what she hopes to accomplish during her term in office as chief executive of the most ethnically diverse county in America. Her key objectives include shaping Queens into a healthy, diverse and thriving hub for arts, culture, education, business, and creativity. She said she envisioned a borough where all residents had the opportunity to work and do everything they need to build their lives and raise their families “without having to cross over a bridge or go through a tunnel.”
A lifelong Queens resident who has spent her life giving back to the community, Katz stressed that she planned to encourage economic development across the entire borough, saying that all Queens residents deserved a chance to succeed and prosper, regardless of their neighborhood, ethnicity or family situation.
"We are the Bangladeshi small business owner on Hillside Avenue. We are the Ecuadorian mother who is balancing two jobs and raising two children. We are the senior couple from Laurelton trying to figure out how to keep our home on a fixed income. We are a newly married gay couple making a life in Jackson Heights and raising a family, and we are a fourth-generation Italian family tasked with keeping our traditions," said Ms. Katz as she vividly described the diversity of Queens.
Katz also pledged in her address to:
· Reinstate an education “war room” that will monitor school construction projects, track overcrowding, move to lease classroom space when necessary and ensure that arts, culture and science are included in the curricula of all Queens schools. The war room will also work with Mayor de Blasio to help fulfill his vision for universal pre-K.
· Fight to expand bus service and to make sure the Rockaway ferry service becomes permanent.
· Form a Storm Relief Task Force in Borough Hall that will make sure all of the areas of Queens impacted by Hurricane Sandy are rebuilt better and smarter than before.
· Improve health care by expanding access to preventative care, investing in primary and urgent health services and fighting to reopen the hospitals that have recently closed in Queens. Katz plans to push for more primary and urgent care centers to be opened in Queens to help serve the residents that have been shortchanged as a result of the hospital closures.
· Support Governor Cuomo’s plan to revitalize Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, while at the same time ensuring that the noise concerns of residents living near the airports are addressed.
The Master of Ceremonies for the inauguration was the Honorable Jeffrion Aubry, Member of the New York State Assembly from the 35th District.
Rabbi Gerald Skolnik of the Forest Hills Jewish Center delivered the invocation for the ceremony, while the benediction was delivered by the Honorable Rev. Floyd H. Flake, pastor of the Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens. The event included a scripture reading from Imam Ahmed Hamid, president of Nur-ul Islam and president of the Queens Council of Masjid. The national anthem was sung by Pastor Tracey Johnson of the Holiness Center Cathedral in St. Albans.
The ceremony included a performance by the choir of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, located in Astoria. The JROTC from Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows provided the color guard.
Rebroadcasts of the inauguration ceremony will be televised by QPTV at the following times:
- Wednesday, January 15, 2014, at 11:00 AM, Time Warner Channel 57; RCN Channel 85; Verizon FiOS
- Channel 37
- Thursday, January 16, 2014, at 1:00 PM, Time Warner Channel 57; RCN Channel 85; Verizon FiOS
- Channel 37
- Friday, January 17, 2014, at 12:00 PM, Time Warner Channel 56; RCN Channel 84; Verizon FiOS Channel 36
- Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 11:00 AM, Time Warner Channel 57; RCN Channel 85; Verizon FiOS Channel 37
- Sunday, January 19, 2014, at 6:30 PM, Time Warner Channel 79; RCN Channel 83; Verizon FiOS Channel 35