Expanding economic opportunities in Queens

From forming newfound partnerships, investing in e-commerce and even finishing your college education, Queens business owners are adapting to new ways to seize economic opportunities.

Speaking to business owners at the Hyatt Regency JFK at Resorts World NYC, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams was the keynote speaker at the business resource event hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaks at the Hyatt Regency JFK at Resorts World NYC at a business resource event hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

In the city’s lone casino, it was fitting for Speaker Adams to call on former college students to essentially bet on themselves via the CUNY Reconnect Initiative, which aims to return nearly 700,000 students who have earned some college credits but no degree.

“I want you back,” Speaker Adams said. “My baby for now is CUNY Reconnect and I want you back.”

The New York City Council has called upon Mayor Eric Adams to invest $23 million to fund the initiative that was modeled after a statewide program in Tennessee that acts as a “last-dollar grant”, paying the remaining balance towards an associate or technical degree.

The Mayor’s Executive Plan did not include any funding for the initiative, but that could change before the end of the fiscal year later this month.

Nonetheless, Speaker Adams said the program would benefit thousands of minority women who had to leave school early, no matter what life circumstances got in the way of finishing their degree.

“We can help them increase their earning potential, boost their outcomes and strengthen our workforce,” Speaker Adams said. “This will also power our city’s economic recovery and help employers. We believe this initiative is a powerful solution for our city.”

She called for barriers to be broken, particularly for minority and women owned business entrepreneurs, including access to e-commerce and investments to online storefronts.

“These are all critical steps to support and expand economic opportunities across the city. And we will continue to advocate for these investments on a local level,” Speaker Adams said.

She also recognized Aleeia Abraham, founder of the BlaQue Resource Network (BRN), for her role in organizing a network of over 20,000 Black business owners, consumers and community members throughout the borough. Speaker Adams called the community-oriented collective an “essential part” of the community landscape in southeast Queens.

Abraham highlighted her network’s partnership with Queens Together, a network of borough restaurants and community groups, to tackle food insecurity and access during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We distributed anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 boxes of fresh produce every single week in our community,” Abraham said. “Our group grew from about 3000 members to 10,000 members, all because of partnerships.”

Speaker Adams also called for expanding city and state programs that provide technical support for small businesses, particularly legacy and longtime businesses that are considered “community staples”, as well as immigrant-run small businesses.

The City Council is calling for $1.5 million to help businesses launch online storefronts to meet the growing demands for the future economy, Adams said.

“Far too many barriers block businesses and entrepreneurs, particularly in communities of color, from the opportunities needed to thrive,” she said. “But one concrete step the city can take to immediately help underserved businesses is to facilitate access to e-commerce and make them more competitive and resilient in this digital age.”

Southeast Queens receives street upgrades, affordable housing opportunities

Evan Triantafilidis

evant@queensledger.com

Mayor Eric Adams and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams announced the completion of two quality of life projects in Southeast Queens, directly benefiting neighborhoods they both grew up around.

A $49.3 million water infrastructure project has brought six miles of new sewers and water mains to Rochdale, and an affordable housing project has launched to create 16 new, rehabilitated homes for ownership.

Despite the downfall of hail and frozen rain, Speaker Adams rejoiced, knowing far too long about the conditions of her community.

“This is a sunny day for us,” Speaker Adams said.

“Whether you live in South Jamaica, South Ozone Park or South Richmond Hill, residents for generations have often felt forgotten, overlooked and marginalized when it comes to investments from the city that can address long standing issues. Despite the best efforts from so many of our representatives, Southeast Queens, like too many other corners of our city, endured systematic disinvestment and neglect. We felt resigned to this fate as outer boroughs left behind to deal with disparity and inequity on our own for decades,” she said.

The street improvements and flood-alleviating measures include over one mile of new storm sewers, with an additional 2,265 feet of existing storm sewers being replaced. A total of 55 new catch basins were installed and 53 old ones were replaced.

The installation of three new underground chambers and the replacement of an old one increases the holding capacity of the local sewers. During construction, 9,235 feet of sanitary sewers were replaced, and 595 feet of new sewers were installed. Over three miles of water mains were replaced to improve water infrastructure reliability.

Mayor Adams called it a “powerful moment” for the Southeast Queens community.

“New catch basins, new curbs, new sidewalks, better roads,” Mayor Adams listed. “This is a total transformation.”

The Mayor said that broken promises from previous administrations led to broken drains and further flood damage to communities in Southeast Queens.

“Whenever there is rainfall, even a drizzle, this community traditionally would just cross their fingers and hope that they would not see a flood or have their property destroyed,” he said.
“We’re improving the quality of life and making this community more resilient in our fight against climate change.”

The Mayor also kicked off “Habitat Net Zero”, an affordable home ownership project that will create 16 “Green Homes” from 13 dilapidated homes previously owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

Along with Habitat for Humanity New York City and Westchester County, and through the city’s Department of Housing Preservation (HPD), the homes will be equipped with rooftop solar panels and heat-pump technology for heating and cooling, with the aim to keep homes at or near net-zero energy use.

To ensure long-term affordability, the land will be transferred to the Interboro Community Land Trust (CLT). HPD will enter a 40-year regulatory agreement with Interboro CLT, and the CLT will enter into 99-year, renewable ground leases with each homeowner.

In addition to funding from HPD’s Open Door program, funding for the project will be financed by the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation and with Reso A funds provided by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Speaker Adams and former Councilmember I. Daneek Miller. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Nonprofit Finance Fund are providing construction financing, and an Article XI tax exemption will help keep ongoing housing costs affordable.

“This is going to be affordable for generations to come,” Mayor Adams said.

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