Helen Marshall’s 12th and final State of the Borough speech on Tuesday was part year in review, part hopes for the future, and part looking back at her last dozen years at Borough Hall.
She started by comparing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing recovery effort with another experience when she first took office a dozen years ago.
“When I became borough president in 2002 the 9/11 attacks had shaken our city and our nation,” Marshall said in a speech given at Queens College. “It too was a time of recovery. But we’ve come far since then.”
She said while the holidays were muted by Sandy, followed only a few weeks later by the shootings in Newtown, Conn., that 2013 can be a year of hope, in part due to gun laws coming out of Albany in the wake of the massacre, coupled with another record year for the NYPD.
Marshall said her office has invested $616 million in capital projects serving culture, recreation and the arts, and that careful planning and rezoning have both protected residential areas and spurred economic development in places such as Long Island City and Jamaica.
She said Willets Point West, a massive entertainment and retail project slated near Citi Field, is but another sign of things to come.
She also boasted of the success of the racino at Aqueduct Race Track, which she said provided 3,000 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for he state.
Marshall expressed confidence that her office’s financial support of local schools, libraries and Queens-based CUNY initiatives have set the future tone for education.
The three-term borough president dedicated her speech to Dylan Smith, a 23-year-old Rockaway resident who along with neighbor Mike McDonnell was credited with rescuing seven people from the flood and fires from Hurricane Sandy.
Smith died in a surfing accident in Puerto Rico only a few weeks later. McDonnell was present at the speech, as were Smith’s parents, Mary and Tim Smith.
McDonnell referred to his young neighbor as “a guardian angel in a wetsuit” in describing how he strung together a makeshift safety line out of extension chords, wire, rope and other items, while Smith, an experienced surfer and trained lifeguard, carried it over rising floodwaters to secure it and aid in the rescues.
Marshall announced that her office was making a $10,000 donation in Smith’s memory to the Swim Strong Foundation, which promotes healthy lifestyles for children in the Rockaways.
Marshall was introduced by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan). Prior to the borough president’s speech, Quinn praised her former mentor and colleague, whom she first met when Quinn was working as a staffer for former Councilman Tom Duane.
She especially cited Marshall’s commitment to children and their education.
Marshall closed by thanking her husband, Donald, her children Aggie and Donnie and her entire family for their support during her public career.
“Now, let us all use this year of hope to resolve that through sheer determination and good old Queens grit that we will build a better and safer future for our families and communities,” she said.