Queens is a New York success story that its residents and political representatives should be proud of, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said as he presented “An Economic Snapshot of Queens” at Silvercup Studios last Friday.
The borough’s population growth outpaced the city overall, with a 20 percent increase over the past three decades, reaching 2.3 million in 2012. Immigrants hail from over 120 countries and account for 48 percent of the borough’s residents and no single group dominates the most diverse county in the nation, if not the world.
“It’s important to look at trends in the economy,” DiNapoli said, noting that Queens can serve as a “model of success” for flailing communities in upstate New York.
In Queens, neighborhoods with the most diversity boast the highest rates of economic growth.
State Sen. Toby Stavitsky (D-Flushing) called the report “a guide to succeed in business with trying,” and City Councilman-Elect Costa Constantinides said the report “reaffirms what we already know, that diversity is our greatest strength.”
The borough surged out of the economic recession, gaining over 30,000 jobs, two and a half times the number lost. In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, 44,070 businesses were open in Queens, a 12 percent increase since 2003. Most of these businesses are small, and two-thirds have fewer than five employees.
According to DiNapoli, the unemployment in Queens is lower than the rest of the city, at seven percent after the first eight months of 2013.
Queens residents should “never have to go over a bridge or under a tunnel to get a job,” Borough President-Elect, Melinda Katz said after praising DiNapoli and the borough’s representatives. She also put in a plug for permanent ferry service to the Rockaways.
Katz credited City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) for convincing JetBlue to set up its headquarters in Queens Plaza and Deputy Borough President-Elect Leroy Comrie for bringing hotels to the borough.
DiNapoli spoke about the airline industry, which has accounted for $42.4 billion in regional economic activity in 2012. As the nation’s sixth busiest airport, John F. Kennedy employs 35,000 people and accounts for $30.6 billion, while LaGuardia accounts for $11.5 billion.
However, DiNapoli pointed out that it is the responsibility of local representatives and community boards to protect residents’ quality of life from the impact of growth and expansion, such as airplane noise and overdevelopment.
Meanwhile, he lauded the upgrades to the borough’s cultural institutions, including $65 million to renovate the Queens Museum of Art.
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) spoke of her desire to “try and keep Queens on the map. No one arrives on a plane and does not go through Queens. It’s time they stopped in Queens and spent some time in Queens.”
“I can’t not mention the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy,” DiNapoli said. “I can certainly remember the poignant and heartbreaking images,” he said, including the fire in Breezy Point.
“We will have to contend with the impacts of climate change and develop smarter, especially in shoreline communities,” DiNapoli said.