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Queens Chronicle

Katz touts experience, ability to reach accord

Ex-lawmaker running for boro prez

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Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:52 am, Thu Jun 27, 2013.

Now an attorney with a major firm, Melinda Katz has served in the City Council and state Assembly and was an aide to former Borough President Claire Shulman, overseeing all the community boards in Queens.

Put all that experience together, especially her eight years chairing the Council’s vital Land Use Committee, the Forest Hills Democrat says, add in her proven ability to bring disparate parties to the negotiating table and hammer out compromise, and you’ve got the perfect candidate for Queens borough president.

Katz describes that office, the one she is seeking against several Democratic rivals in this year’s primary, as “the culmination of the career I’ve had, and my family’s had, in Queens.”

If elected, she said during an interview late last week with the Queens Chronicle editorial board, she will focus on using the borough president’s authority, especially over land use and capital spending, to create jobs, improve the schools, establish new primary healthcare facilities with the ability to function in certain ways as hospitals do, and retain the trust of the people by always giving them a voice in decisions and being an advocate for all communities.

“One of the things the borough president can do is bring people together,” Katz said. “I think there’s a sense out there that I can deliver that. That’s been my forte in public service. My forte has always been to put people at the table.”

Her service at the borough, city and state levels of government, as well as her experience as an attorney representing nonprofit groups along with businesses, give her a unique position among the candidates to achieve compromise, she said.

For example, establishing the healthcare centers she envisions —in a borough where a number of hospitals have closed in recent years — is something that would require state approval, and as a former assemblywoman, she knows what it will take to get that. Katz said she wants private healthcare providers to build the centers, which would operate under emergency room rules — meaning anyone who walks in is treated regardless of insurance coverage — and have beds for one- or two-night stays.

“From my perspective, it’s an obligation to provide healthcare,” she said. “But from a financial perspective, it also saves the city money in the end.”

Katz said she would approach development as she did during her tenure as chairwoman of the Council’s Land Use Committee —during which, she said, she led the downzoning of 6,000 blocks across the city — approving projects where appropriate but protecting neighborhoods from overdevelopment.

A key to doing that, she said, is upzoning major commercial strips while downzoning side streets, as the city has done in neighborhoods across Queens in recent years.

“For every rezoning, whether it’s Willets Point, Hunters Point South, Forest Hills or Jamaica, we had a philosophy of trying to balance it out,” she said.

She added that she would not approve any project unless the additional infrastructure that’s necessary — especially transportation and schools — is in place.

Education is another key area Katz said she will focus on if elected. She vowed that her appointment to the Panel on Educational Policy will listen to the concerns of parents.

“I think there is not a parent in the City of New York who feels they have a say with the Board of Education,” Katz said, using the name for the former policy-making body that the PEP replaced under mayoral control. “My appointment will speak to parents.”

She said she would focus on upgrading amenities such as auditoriums, play yards and science labs — the kind of facilities administration critics say have been neglected as standardized testing has gotten all the attention.

And, she said, she would revive Shulman’s “war room,” in which the borough president’s staff tracked subjects like the number of school seats being added. Queens is well-known to have the most overcrowded schools of any borough, with many operating at well over 100 percent of their capacity.

On other issues, Katz:

• said she wants more economic development in the Rockaways, though the first thing is to provide the peninsula with better transportation options, because its residents are “prisoners” now;

• declined to discuss the proposal to revive the old Rockaway rail line, which runs to the peninsula, because that will take time and she wants to focus on more immediate transportation improvements;

• expressed skepticism about the rival plan to create a High Line-style park on the old rail right of way, mainly because of security concerns;

• said she would create a funding stream to properly maintain Flushing Meadows Corona Park;

• said she has “a real problem” with allowing a soccer stadium to be built there, as has been proposed, especially if it entails giving public land to wealthy businesses for $1; and

• said she backs adding full table gaming to the Resorts World casino in South Ozone Park.

During her time in the Assembly, Katz said, her proudest accomplishments were blocking a plan of former Mayor Giuliani’s to privatize city hospitals and extending the statute of limitations for young victims of sexual abuse to their 18th birthday plus five years.

She also said her love of Queens is evidenced by her raising her two children in the same house she grew up in, which her family has owned since 1953.

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  • TKNY360 posted at 2:13 pm on Wed, Jul 10, 2013.

    TKNY360 Posts: 1

    Ms. Katz is WRONG and clearly has NOT communicated with the parents of children who go to the public schools in Queens. I was a P.T.A. president of a controversial phased out school in D28, P.S. 30 from 2010-2011.
    “I think there is not a parent in the City of New York who feels they have a say with the Board of Education,” Katz said, using the name for the former policy-making body that the PEP replaced under mayoral control. “My appointment will speak to parents.”
    Our current Queens PEP appointee Dmytro Fedkowskyj not only came to our meetings at the school, but met with me personally and at length, to discuss the issues of our school community, and find out what he needed to know to give us the support that we needed. I have gone to several PEP meetings, he always fights for the parents and the children, not only is he well informed but quite passionate about his role. I have had the pleasure of meeting other advocates who are against the Mayoral control of the DOE and all would agree that Mr. Dmytro Fedkowskyj is consonantly reaching out, traveling, and answering our calls and offering solutions. For years we did not have the Tutoring services promised to us as a Title 1 school,no one had answers.My query to him resulted in a personal introduction to the point person in that area, and and a personal introduction to Dennis Walcott while at a PEP meeting. With Queens PEP Dmytro Fedkowskyj on our side we were heard. I have seen the man in action plenty, so I know this woman is clueless. I get emails, texts and can call at any time should I have an issue , or need help navigating this Mayoral DOE. I am insulted that she has dismissed all of the energy spent in fighting for our kids and the Teachers who serve them. For that , I WILL NOT VOTE For HER!!!!!

  • TKNY360 posted at 1:39 pm on Wed, Jul 10, 2013.

    TKNY360 Posts: 1

    M. Katz is wrong and insulting and clearly has NOT done her research. I, Tareeka Kelly was the P.T.A. President of P.S. 30 Q in 2010-2011. Our school was going through a controversial phase out. Dmytro Fedkowkji made a personal visit our school, and also met with me privately to find out what the needs of the school community were, and to what assistance he and his office could be!
    He has always answered my phone calls, and continues to be my #1 resource in navigating D28's Public school system. How dare she insult the hard work of him, and all the parents that have worked with him!!!!!!!!!!!

  • aliciahyndman posted at 2:08 pm on Mon, Jul 1, 2013.

    aliciahyndman Posts: 1

    I'm not sure who Ms. Katz has been speaking to, but our Queens PEP has really been in tune with the changes the DOE has made to District 29. Dmytro Fedkowskyj has always reached out to Southeast before, during, and after the DOE makes their recommendations/implementations to the district. Not only does he reach out via email, but he shows up to meetings throughout our neighborhood.

    I think he has an insurmountable task dealing with the 8 Mayor appointees to the PEP when this body votes.

    If Ms. Katz were to become our next Borough President I would very much like to see a "War Room" created

  • Courseboss posted at 5:59 pm on Fri, Jun 28, 2013.

    Courseboss Posts: 1

    Dear Ms. Katz:
    We could certainly use your help now. Long Island City HS is once again under seige by the Department of Ed, ready to take a community high school down, in order to co-locate its latest misguided waste of resources by placing a third school in our building. First let me be clear, we would welcome any new tech program, but there is absolutely no need for a second administration: a second principal, a second series of assistant principals and all of the other administrative uses of our tax dollars for a student body in 2014 of around 100 students. Menawhile to this, they have dropped our incoming 9th grade by close to 500 students, dropping a $3 million dollar budget hole on us, with maybe up to 30 teachers now in excess. And yes, last year, when the turnaround vote came, after the entire community from the boro president on down opposed the plan, the PEP voted to abandon, to be stopped only by the arbitrator.

    But please don't confuse the Mayor's majority which voted s a block in almost all cases with the independent voices of the Borough Reps such as our Queens member of the PEP Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who not only voted against each of the proposed turnaround closures but made himself available at each of the public hearing to speak and support the neighborhoods in their fight to prevent the Mayor from destroying their local schools. They were outvoted roughly 11 to 5 by the Mayor's 11 members of the PEP on each of the 22 closures. In Queens, Dmytro was at all the hearings and neighborhood rallies against the closures, siding with the communities.

    We need you as Borough President to support the independent voices and the neighborhood schools. We also need independent members of the PEP as Dmytro has shown himself to be, even if they are continually outvoted. Without such fighters like yourself and Dmytro, it is clear the Mayor will destroy public education for years to come, even though his term ends in December. Will you come out against all new co-locations added by this mayor after his term had ended. In our case, in spite of rebounding academically and in spite of a terrific report by the State on its visit this year, in spite of what appears to be maybe a 10% imporvement in graduation rate over last year and what may be ahead of the city average, with this new co-location pronouncement, we have been told that the Office of Portfolio has said it doesn't matter how well Long Island City does, they will put another school in there. It's as if the news headlines were to say, paraphrasing an old one: Chancellor to Long Island City HS, drop dead!
    Please understand the PEP is fully controlled by the Mayor, the Chancellor does only the Mayor's bidding. the entrie system is corrupt and undemocratic and needs to be ended. But in the meanwhile, Dmytro Fedkowskyj has been of great help in carrying the fight to them. They are the issue.

  • Michelle Noris posted at 4:34 pm on Fri, Jun 28, 2013.

    Michelle Noris Posts: 1

    This article implies that the problem with education is with the representative from the Borough President's office. That is not the case. Dmytro has been supportive Queens communities on important issues including Title 1 funding, overcrowding, school closings, special education reform and G&T seats. The problem is that the Mayor get 8 seats to the 5 seat appointments from the BPs. No matter what the BP rep does, the mayor's agenda is steam rolled through. Frankly the fact that she said "Board of Education" instead of "Department of Education" or DoE, tips you off to the fact that she hasn't been paying enouhgh attention to education. Ms. Katz will need to understand that issue if she is going to an effective supporter of education, or we will have our BP learning on the job. Ms. Katz, please brush up. Our kids will need you ready, if you get elected.

    Edited by staff.

  • SusanSh posted at 4:06 pm on Fri, Jun 28, 2013.

    SusanSh Posts: 2

    I meant to sign my name to the comments submitted 6/28/13 asking the Candidate to clarify what she meant by "speaking to parents." SusanSh is Susan Shiroma, a parent who serves on CEC 26 in northeast Queens. Helen Marshall picked a parent who speaks to parents and speaks up in defense of public schools in Queens. Candidates for Borough President should look to Dmytro Fedkowskyj for advice on public schools and parent engagement. He has served this borough well.

  • SusanSh posted at 3:47 pm on Fri, Jun 28, 2013.

    SusanSh Posts: 2

    If the reporter got this quote right, I think Melinda Katz needs to articulate what she means by "My appointment (to the Panel on Educational Policy) will speak to parents." I was confused by this comment.

    Dmytro Fedkowskyj is Helen Marshall's parent appointee to the PEP panel. He speaks to parents all the time AND more importantly, has a terrific track record of speaking up for the parents, children, teachers and schools of Queens.

    Dmytro is a community advocate first selected by the Parents of School District 24 to serve on the Community District Education Council (CDEC) in July 2004 and he also serves on Community Board 5. With Helen Marshall's office he established the Queens Task Force on Parental Involvement and holds regular meetings at Boro Hall to bring parent leaders and the community together to talk with government people about education issues.

    I have witnessed Dmytro in action at numerous NYC DOE meetings, including the PEP meetings over the past few years. As a Queens parent leader, I can state that Dmytro speaks to us and he speaks up for Queens. Dmytro listens to all sides before he makes a decision. The man is gracious, smart, quick, well-spoken and knows his education policy. He's a good listener and knows how to get things done. He has a working person's perspective on what it means to be involved in public education in Queens. I'm proud to have him representing the borough of Queens to the folks at Tweed and in the Mayor's office.

    Perhaps, the candidates for Borough President should look more closely at what Dmytro has done for all of us in Queens.


  • SangClaw posted at 1:41 pm on Fri, Jun 28, 2013.

    SangClaw Posts: 0

    [wink]. I would like to hear what this candidate's views are about the District Community Education Councils (DCEC). If elected, what would she do to strengthen the role of DCECs?