|Address||67-42 Ingram St |
Forest Hills, New York , United States
|| August 19, 1965
Feb 16, 2013 11:47pm
|Info||Melinda comes from a family with a long history of civic involvement in New York City. Her father, the late Maestro David Katz, was a graduate of the Juilliard school of music, a music teacher at Jamaica High School, and the founder of the Queens Symphony Orchestra in 1953. Under Maestro Katz’ direction, the Queens Symphony Orchestra grew from an amateur orchestra, rehearsing in the high school, to a 100% professional organization by the early 1970s. He conducted it until his death in 1987. |
Melinda’s mother, the late Jeanne Katz, was a singer with the Dale Sisters and served in the USO during World War II. She was later was the first Executive Director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra and, in 1966, founded the Queens Council on the Arts; an umbrella organization with the purpose of fostering the development of the arts in the city of New York.
When Melinda was only three, her mother passed away, and her father raised her and three brothers by himself. Before her death, Maestro and Mrs. Katz created Long Lake Camp -- a summer camp in the Adirondacks focusing on arts, crafts, and performing arts for children. To this day, Melinda continues to live in the house in which she was raised in Forest Hills, Queens.
Melinda not only inherited her parent’s commitment to civic involvement but also their artistic talents. She grew up studying the piano, trumpet, clarinet and guitar and is now regularly invited to sing at various events throughout the City of New York.
Education – a strong foundation
Melinda is a product of the New York City public school system. After graduating from Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, Queens in 1983, she continued her academic achievement at the University of Massachusetts. She graduated summa cum laude from UMass in 1987 and was named a Commonwealth Scholar in response to her thesis on the effect that the burgeoning Aids crisis could potentially have on the small designer industry. She then successfully pursued a law degree at St. John’s School of Law from which she was graduated in 1990. During her legal education, she was not only an author for the Journal of Legal Commentary but also a legal intern with the Legal Aid Society, Civil Division, where she represented tenants who were forcibly evicted from their homes. Melinda then interned with the United States Attorney’s Organized Crime Unit of the Southern District of New York where, under the supervision of Assistant United States Attorney Daniel A. Nardello, her experiences ranged from dealing with the investigations and prosecution of federal criminal cases to dealing with their appeals. The cases on which she worked would end up including traditional and non-traditional organized crime, labor racketeering and narcotics. She then interned for United States District Court Judge Michael B. Mukasey. Judge Mukasey was well respected in the city and known for presiding over many high profile cases including the criminal prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, Omar Abdel Rahman and El Sayyid Nosair.
Work experience – handling complex legal matters
Upon graduation from Law School, Melinda was recruited by one of the top law firms in the country: Weil, Gotshal and Manges. Weil is one of the largest law firms in both New York and the nation with over 1,100 attorneys worldwide. Melinda began as an Associate in the Business and Securities Litigation Department and was responsible for many aspects of litigation for several cases. During her tenure at Weil, Melinda not only worked in the New York office on various litigations, from Breach of Contract actions to the Savings and Loan scandals of the 90’s, but also traveled to many states as the junior to mid level associate on several cases.
Assemblywoman Melinda Katz – first foray into public service
In 1994, Melinda’s desire to continue the Katz legacy of civic involvement in New York City was achieved. At the age of 28, she was elected to the New York State Assembly. While representing the 150,000 plus constituents of the 28th Assembly District, she authored 16 bills that are now laws, including significant health care initiatives.
In her time as an Assemblywoman, over the course of which she was the Chair of the Sub-Committee on Urban Health, Melinda wrote the law requiring HMO’s to provide women direct access to gynecological care without forcing them to first see a primary care physician. This law was the first of its kind in the United States and has been so well received that it has since been replicated by other states. In addition, it was introduced at the federal level by New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey.
As an Assemblywoman, Melinda authored the Kendall Law. This law specifically helps prosecutors in the handling of cases of long-term, repeated child abuse in which the abuse is so protracted and pervasive that the child cannot pinpoint the specific dates and times of the events. Melinda was also the author of the law which tolled the statue of limitations for sexual abuse of a child until the child reaches 18. In addition, she has co-sponsored several other bills that range from increasing the penalties for various forms of domestic abuse to providing additional support for working men and women. A significant part of the Melinda’s responsibility was to be involved with and to vote on the New York State Budget (which is over $110 billion today). In order to do this, she had to become familiar with reviewing the complex financing associated with running New York State. In 1995, Melinda was named by the New York Daily News as “one of the one hundred up-and-coming young leaders for the 21st Century.”
Non-elected public service
In 1998, Melinda ran for Congress and was narrowly defeated in the Democratic Primary to replace Chuck Schumer in the 29th District. Undeterred, Melinda continued her public service when she was recruited by the Queens Borough President, Claire Shulman, to serve as the Director of Community Boards. Melinda worked as a liaison for the community to the Borough President’s Office and represented the Borough President in many capacities. The office regularly conducted public hearings on the City’s budget, on zoning and land use matters, on municipal service delivery, and on many other major issues that were important to the public. In addition, she was able to help the Borough President propose sites for city facilities and create a strategic plan for the economic development of Queens.
City Councilwoman Melinda Katz – taking a leadership role
Melinda ran for the 29th District of the New York City Council in 2001: a district representing Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and parts of both South Elmhurst and Richmond Hills. Her Primary Election Day was September 11, 2001 and was postponed for some time due to the attack on our both our city and our country. She won the eventual Primary and followed by overwhelmingly winning the General Election in November.
Melinda became and still is the Chair of the Council’s Standing Committee on Land Use She is also currently a Member of the following committees: Education, Public Safety, Standards and Ethics, and Rules, Privileges and Elections. Melinda was also appointed by Speaker Miller and reappointed by Speaker Quinn to the Budget negotiations team. Under their leadership, these committees were charged with making tough decisions as to how to balance the city’s budget and how our limited dollars should be spent.
The prestigious Land Use Committee’s primary responsibilities include rezoning, special permits, school sitings, landmarking and authoring resolutions for the franchises of the City. In order to restore confidence in New York City after September 11th, Melinda focused on re-establishing the faith and strength of the real estate assets and thereby the foundation of New York’s economy and tax base. By focusing on smart growth and creating a consensus between unions and the business community, New York’s real estate has rebounded significantly. Over her tenure with the New York City Council, Melinda has been proud to be a part of the City Council’s current successes.
Over the last five and one half years, the Land Use Committee has acted on nearly 1,200 applications. The Committee approved these applications taking into consideration all aspects of land use. They have taken into consideration the premise that the community, through their local Community Board, should have a voice in the development of their neighborhoods, the importance of economic development to encourage of the revitalization of our city, and the need to create more affordable housing. More importantly, the City Council has worked to make sure that the communities we care so much about are protected and are kept the great, quality neighborhoods where so people want to live in our great city.
With these goals in mind, the Land Use Committee has approved down zonings all over the City including, but not limited to, the areas of Forest Hills / Rego Park, Middle Village / Glendale, Kew Gardens / Richmond Hill, Bellrose, Far Rockaway / Mott Haven, Cambria Heights, Kissena Park, City Island, Bay Ridge, Sheepshead Bay, Bensonhurst, Hollis Wood and, recently, numerous areas in Staten Island; areas that are far reaching and very important to determining how development will both proceed and be effective in that borough.
Where development was welcomed and needed, the Committee moved to recommend zoning which would create potential for development, growth and economic prosperity in the future. The areas rezoned for development were Hudson Yards, Williamsburg / Greenpoint, East Harlem, Highline / West Chelsea, Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Hudson Square, Park Slope and Downtown Brooklyn.
At the same time, the Committee made affordable housing a priority. By utilizing the Mayor’s allocation of funds, they were able to create these affordable housing opportunities for many New Yorkers. The Land Use Committee up-zoned many areas to create quality housing that every New Yorker can afford and has thus helped to chip away at one of the biggest issues facing our city. In addition, the City Council has approved UDAAP and urban renewal applications submitted by HPD. These applications will create thousands of units of new affordable housing that will include homes for the elderly, homes for the formerly homeless and homes for other special-needs populations.
Working with all of her colleagues, the Committee has affirmed the designation of two-dozen new landmarks in our City. As the Chair of the Committee, Melinda has also worked with her team to encourage the Landmarks Preservation Commission to allocate greater resources toward the effort to create new districts outside of Manhattan. In an effort to raise the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s awareness of potential landmarks in Queens, Councilwoman Katz, with Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, the Chair of the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Use, held a hearing at Queens Borough Hall to discuss these potential historic districts outside of Manhattan.
Under Councilwoman Katz’s sponsorship, the Committee passed important legislation that enables the Department of Buildings to enforce existing outdoor advertising laws. Currently, hundreds of billboards, which line our arterial highways and clutter our neighborhoods, are in place illegally. Local Law 31 of 2005 provides the structure provisions that the Department of Buildings requires in order to enforce the law. This law will remove the obstacles previously in place that have been stopping the takedown of illegal signs.
Most importantly, the Committee has always tried to do what is right for the City and to work out compromises with communities. This sometimes led to the approving, although not always popular, municipal facilities including a new office of emergency management facility, schools and fire/EMS locations. Thankfully, New York City continues to grow and evolve as we move further into the 21st Century. Councilwoman Katz, as Land Use Chair, has played a vital role in ensuring that New York City continues to be a vibrant, prosperous, and successful city well into the future.
Authorizing Resolution for cable franchises
The Committee has also acted on a number of resolutions that would authorize the franchises that are vital to our city and its businesses. These include franchises for telecommunications, public pay telephones, and coordinated street furniture which will bring $20 million a year in revenue for the city. Most recently, the Committee passed an authorizing resolution to allow the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to grant new franchises that will allow cable television service to become a competitive market citywide. Due to the technological advances and changes in the business model, i.e., “three play,” which consists of cable service, high-speed Internet and telephone service, there is now, for the first time, the possibility of direct competition within this field.
In the area of education, Melinda has been a strong fighter to ensure that our children are represented. She has fought and won several battles including creating much-needed school seats in her council district and opposing a citywide initiative that places new schools inside already existing schools. She has been an avid supporter of creating a citywide policy of combining locally zoned schools with the power to choose which school a child attends. She is also a vehement opponent of banning cell phones in the school system.
Our obligation to our children begins years before the first day of school. The creation of safe space in day care centers and all day pre-kindergarten programs are essential to our children’s future and capacity to learn. Melinda has authored and passed legislation in the City Council that requires higher standards of safety requirements for day care centers and forces a more detailed reporting requirement to parents regarding any violations that they may have been received.
Recently, there as been focus on the safety of our nightlife in the City of New York. There needs to be a balance between the clear importance of the tourism draw provided by the unique nightlife in the City of New York and the safety of our residents and guests.
Melinda has joined a task force created by Speaker Christine Quinn to discuss and implement legislation addressing these issues. Amongst several ideas that came out of that task force, two resolutions to the State were carried by Melinda. One was the resolution to raise the age of admittance into a bar from 16 to 18. The other was the resolution to require waiter and waitress service when a club has what is called “bottle service”.