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Donovan Richards to Take Over as Queens Borough President Wednesday

Council Member Donovan Richards and Acting Borough President Sharon Lee (NYC Council – William Alatriste/ Office Queens Borough President)

Dec. 1, 2020 By Allie Griffin

Council Member Donovan Richards will assume the role of Queens Borough President Wednesday, taking the reins from Acting BP Sharon Lee.

Richards will vacate his seat on the City Council tomorrow and take over as Borough President. He can officially take office Wednesday since the NYC Board of Elections certified the November election results today — making his win official.

Richards will fill the seat held by Lee since Jan. 1. Lee was appointed by former Queens Borough President Melinda Katz when Katz left office to become Queens District Attorney.

Lee was expected to serve until March, at which time a successor would be determined via a special election. The special election, however, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement Tuesday, Lee said she was honored to have served as Queens Borough President, but her job is now done.

“Despite staying on much longer than expected, my commitment to serve the people of Queens as necessary is now fulfilled,” she said. “We have worked together toward a seamless transition, and the Borough of Families is now in great hands with incoming Borough President Donovan Richards.”

In turn, Richards thanked Lee for the work she had done as interim head.

“Over the last few months, Acting Borough President Sharon Lee has taken on the challenges of this pandemic head on and led Queens with grace through this difficult time,” Richards said in a statement.

“Since the election, she has worked hard to ensure a smooth transition and ensure that the Office of Borough President continues to deliver for Queens residents.”

Richards, who announced his transition team Monday, is expected to be officially sworn into office at a ceremony this weekend.

“I look forward to building on the foundation [Lee] has built to fight food insecurity and ensure that our institutions and residents have access to PPE,” Richards said. “I thank her again for the great work she has done over the last few months and wish her continued success in the future.”

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Larry Penner

Previous Queens Boro President Melinda Katz failed to advance the following Queens transportation projects. It will be interesting to see if he is any more successful than his predecessor in convincing City Hall, Albany, Washington and the MTA to provide funding to make any a reality over coming years.

The list of projects include the $258 million Phase 2 Woodhaven Blvd. Select Bus Service; $2.2 billion to construct Light Rail between Jamaica and Long Island City on the old Lower Montauk LIRR branch; restoration of LIRR service on the old Rockaway branch at $8 billion; Triboro X Subway Express (new subway line connecting the Bronx, Queens & Brooklyn) for $2 billion; Main Street Flushing Intermodal Bus Terminal $100 million; reopening the Woodhaven Blvd. Atlantic Branch LIRR Station $40 million; the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront Street Car Connector at a cost of $2.7 billion; $36 million for reopening the old Elmhurst LIRR station and millions for new ferry services from Bayside, Fort Totten, College Point and Flushing Marina.

Many neighborhoods are still looking for introduction of either Select Bus Service; Bus Rapid Transit; Limited Stop Bus to Subway or Express Bus Service to Manhattan. There is still the need to bring many of the 78 Queens subway and 21 LIRR stations back up to a state of good repair. Don’t forget the need for additional subway and LIRR stations to become fully compliant with the Americans for Disability Act by construction of elevators.

Will he be successful in convincing the MTA to program a share of billions in future Congestion Pricing revenues now scheduled to start in 2023 to support some of these projects? Will any of these projects be added into the $51 billion MTA 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan? What about including these projects in the MTA 2020 – 2040 Twenty Year Long Range Capital Plan?

(Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, NYC Transit bus and subway, Long Island and Metro North Rail Roads, MTA Bus and NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)
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