Speaking to a standing room-only audience last Friday at LaGuardia Community College, Katz touted the borough’s famous diversity, noting that Queens residents come from 190 countries and speak more than 200 languages.
Since 2010, the borough has welcomed more than 145,000 new immigrants, she said.
But as hate crimes continue to terrorize the nation, and the federal government pushes policies that harm immigrants, Katz said Queens is better because of its diversity and unity.
“We are thriving because we work to make room for everyone at the table,” she said. “It may not always be convenient, in fact it takes effort. And it requires Queens tough.
“At our core, we value decency and have respect for basic human dignity,” Katz added. “Because the true measure of our borough, our society, is how we treat the most vulnerable among us.”
The borough president blasted the public charge proposal, chiding it as “vicious and immoral.” She said it imposes on families impossible choices like legal residency or food on the table, or health care versus a home for the family.
She noted that 68,000 kids in Queens lived in mixed-status households. The public charge proposal would force them to go “either deeper into the shadows or deeper into poverty,” she said.
Katz highlighted the “Know Your Rights” weeks and resource fairs she has hosted to provide information and services to those in need.
“Here in Queens, we’ve got to have each other’s backs,” she said.
On the upcoming 2020 Census, Katz said she fulfilled a pledge she made last year to create a “Queens Complete County Committee.” The bipartisan and diverse group now has more than 70 members reaching out to their respective communities about the importance of having an accurate count.
The borough president also blasted the proposed citizenship question that is now being decided in federal courts. She called it unnecessary, discriminatory and designed to “skew the count,” adding that she hopes the lawsuit against the question wins.
If the question does appear on the survey, Katz pledged to abstain.
“I will refuse to answer that question,” she said. “Sure, you can call it a boycott.”
Katz, one of several candidates running for Queens district attorney, spoke about crime and criminal justice reform. She reiterated her support for closing Rikers Island and overhauling the city’s jails system.
But she also criticized the city’s plan to modernize community-based jails for the “absence of community input” and engagement. She called on the city to start anew, and urged officials to treat the community as partners to reform.
“I am deeply disturbed by the lack of opportunity thereof for the proposal to erect a 1.9 million-square-foot facility on 82nd Avenue,” she said. “And that’s from a supporter of closing Rikers.”
Reflecting on her stewardship of the borough, Katz highlighted the $21 million spent on upgrading technology in every public school in Queens.
She also mentioned $46 million for improvements at 23 library branches, $105 million in parks upgrades and hundreds of affordable housing units coming online.
But Queens schools are also “feeling the squeeze” from overcrowding. According to the borough president, Queens schools are at 106 percent capacity, compared to just 85 percent for Brooklyn and Manhattan schools.
While the borough ranks first in overcrowding, it ranks last in funding, she said.
“If we’re serious about giving our kids better lives than we dreamed of having for ourselves,” she said, “we cannot afford to be shortchanged.”
She devoted time in her speech to address the growth of technology in Long Island City, the need for more public transit in eastern Queens and the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Elmhurst Park. Notably, she did not mention Amazon’s HQ2 planned for the waterfront.
Concluding her hour-long address, Katz said more work needs to be done to have fairness, inclusion, equal opportunity and shared prosperity. While the work will be tough, she pledged to help “fulfill the promise of Queens.”
“Even when we fight, I always fight for you,” she said, “and I am always on your side.”