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NYS Comptroller


Press Releases

December 13, 2013
Contact: Press Office
(518) 474-4015

DiNapoli: Queens Rebounds From Recession, Economic Growth Expected to Continue

Queens County has rebounded strongly from the Great Recession over the past two years with employment now at a record level of nearly 500,000 private sector jobs, according to an economic snapshot of Queens released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Queens is a classic New York success story that is well-positioned for the future,” DiNapoli said. “Superstorm Sandy impacted thousands of Queens residents, but the borough is on the recovery path. With a strong economy, a fast growing and diverse population, and several large projects on the horizon, Queens is booming. ”

In 2012, private sector employment in Queens reached 486,160 jobs, the highest level on record. Queens has the highest level of employment among the boroughs outside of Manhattan and accounted for 15.1 percent of all private sector jobs in the city. Though the recession hit Queens hard, from 2010-2012 employment in the private sector grew by 6.6 percent, a faster rate than any other borough. Health care and social assistance is the largest employment sector in Queens, followed by transportation and warehousing and retail trade.

The population of Queens grew by 20 percent over the past three decades, faster than the citywide growth rate of 17 percent, reaching 2.3 million in 2012. Queens is the most diverse large county in the nation with no single dominant ethnic group. Immigrants from more than 120 countries contribute to the borough’s diversity and constitute 48 percent of its residents.

The aviation industry is a major part of the Queens economy. John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports contribute more than $40 billion in regional economic impact. Passenger traffic has increased at both airports, with JFK handling 49.3 million passengers in 2012 (55 percent higher than in 2003), a reflection of increased tourism to New York City. Redevelopment and modernization projects are underway at both airports as Delta opened a new terminal at JFK in May 2013 and is investing in renovations at LaGuardia.

Film and television production have continued to grow in the borough.  Silvercup Studios is now the biggest studio space in the city with 410,000 square feet of space and 19 soundstages. Kaufman Astoria Studios, which dates from the early years of film, now boasts seven soundstages as well as the city’s only outdoor movie set. 

Queens had 44,070 business establishments in 2011, an increase of 4,650 since 2003. Small businesses predominate in the borough. In 2011, more than two-thirds of businesses in the borough had fewer than five employees and more than 80 percent had fewer than ten employees.  The retail sector accounted for the highest number of businesses (7,269) in Queens in 2011.

Unemployment is lower in Queens than in the rest of the city. In 2012, the unemployment rate in the borough averaged 8.3 percent, compared to 9.2 percent citywide. In the first eight months of 2013, the unemployment rate in Queens dropped to an average of 7.8 percent. 
Ethnic and cultural diversity are a hallmark of Queens. From the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations in Jackson Heights to the Chinese and Korean neighborhoods of Flushing, Queens is a mosaic of cultures. Art museums such as MOMA PS1, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Queens Museum (which recently completed a $65 million renovation) draw patrons from across the city. The Queens Theatre and the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which is undergoing a $25 million renovation to rebuild its Great Hall and add exhibition areas, will continue to be popular destinations. 

Major economic development is underway across the borough:

  • Queensboro Plaza is the site of the new headquarters of JetBlue Airlines, bringing more than 1,000 employees to the area.
  • The Queens Borough President’s office is developing a proposed tech zone along the East River in Queens that will be close to the new Cornell NYC Tech campus to be constructed on Roosevelt Island.
  • Flushing Commons, an $850 million project that includes commercial space, housing and public space, is expected to be completed by 2014.
  • A three-phase plan has been proposed to redevelop 109 acres on both sides of Citi Field, including Willets Point, over the next two decades.
  • QueensWay, similar to Manhattan’s High Line, has been proposed for a 3.5 mile former Long Island Rail Road Line in Rego Park, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park.

Superstorm Sandy had a major impact on Queens. In South Queens, 53,000 homes were damaged or destroyed; in Breezy Point 150 homes were damaged or destroyed by fire. More than 2,000 businesses and nonprofits employing nearly 15,000 people were affected by the storm.  Public transit was severely disrupted and recovery and reconstruction efforts are expected to continue for several years. The Mayor’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency calls for the study of mitigation efforts to protect the borough from future storms. 

To read the report, please click here.

To read the report in Spanish, click here.

To read the report in French, click here.

To read the report in Chinese, click here.

To read the report in Greek, click here

New York City Comptroller John C. Liu

“Comptroller DiNapoli has assembled a strong report on the economic health of my home borough.  New Yorkers endured immeasurable hardship as a result of the Great Recession, and our ongoing economic recovery is a slow and arduous process. The quicker rebound in Queens is a direct result of the strength of the borough’s diverse economic base, from its small businesses to immigrant entrepreneurs with ties to the global economy.”

Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall

“I commend Comptroller DiNapoli and his staff for putting together such a comprehensive and well researched report on the state of the economy in Queens. Despite the setbacks we endured due to the recent Great Recession and the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, the report shows Queens has bounced back strongly with hugely impressive job growth. Much of the credit for this growth goes to the borough’s many amenities, which help to convince both businesses and residents to put down roots here. We are also well-positioned for future progress in the tech zone, with several major economic development projects either under construction or in the planning stages. As the report shows, the outlook for the Queens economy is as bright is the sun. During my 12 years as Borough President I am proud to have done my part to promote economic development and improve the quality of life in our wonderful borough.”
Queens Borough President-elect Melinda Katz

“These numbers show that Queens has weathered the worst of the storm. With nearly half a million Queens workers fueling growth and innovation in the private sector, our borough has moved past the Great Recession that gripped the entire country in recent years. As Borough President, I will build on the successful work of state leaders like Comptroller DiNapoli to ensure we continue creating jobs and growing the economy for all New Yorkers.”

New York State Senator José Peralta

“Comptroller DiNapoli’s Economic Snapshot perfectly captures our borough’s remarkable growth and limitless potential, while recognizing the magnitude of the challenges that still lie ahead.  We must rebuild and revitalize the bones of our aging infrastructure in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and finally get serious about solving our school overcrowding crisis, but our future is incredibly bright.”

New York State Assembly Member Aravella Simotas

"The Comptroller's report is a vivid illustration of Queens as a richly diverse community built by small businesses, with a long history of civic leadership and engagement. Families, entrepreneurs, and innovators continue to flock to our borough, fueling our economy and enhancing the quality of life at the same time. I will continue to support and advocate for policies at the state and local level which empower business owners and promote further growth and development in Queens."

New York City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

“A look around the communities of Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside and Astoria show what Comptroller DiNapoli’s excellent report illustrates – that the economy of Queens is back on track.  I commend Comptroller DiNapoli on putting together an economic snapshot of our borough that shows the resiliency of our diverse borough in the wake of both the Great Recession and Superstorm Sandy.” 

New York City Council Member Mark Weprin

“I’d like to thank Comptroller DiNapoli for putting together this report on Queens.  The residents of this borough are resilient.  As many of our communities are still suffering from the effects of Superstorm Sandy, the borough continues to be a desirable destination with good schools, safe neighborhoods, and a growing business economy.”

New York City Council Member Karen Koslowitz

“I would like to thank Comptroller DiNapoli for this dynamic report that clearly outlines how Queens can overcome any obstacle, such as a recession or super storm, and still prosper. As chair of the Economic Development Committee in the Council, I work hard to ensure Queens receives recognition for being an important piece in the city’s economic growth. I am proud of the success of our two major airports, which continue to serve as a gateway to New York City for so many, and am confident that the new projects in Willets Point and the surrounding area will bring positive advancement in the development of our borough.”

New York City Council Member-elect Costa Constantinides

"It is no surprise to me that Queens is growing in population, economic opportunity, infrastructure, and diversity. Our residents, homeowners, and small-business owners are the backbone of Queens' strength. The 22nd District is in lock-step with the borough's growth as we see more families, institutions, and businesses moving into the area. Thank you NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for your leadership and for all of the work you do to support Western Queens families during the economic recovery."
Stuart Match Suna, President of Silvercup Studios

“Queens is known as Hollywood East in the film and television industry, and production has been an important economic driver for the borough. Silvercup has long been part of the Long Island City community and is proud to help this vital industry, which brings many quality jobs to Queens, as it continues to grow. We commend Comptroller DiNapoli for taking the initiative to develop this report and for his ongoing support of the film and television industry in New York.”

Jack Friedman, Executive Director, Queens Chamber of Commerce

"Comptroller DiNapoli's report confirms what we in Queens have seen with our own eyes. Queens has recovered stronger, better and bigger from our recent recession. With employment levels at all-time highs, unemployment lower than the regional average and a strong overall economy, Queens is well-positioned for future growth and the many public and private developments that are underway emphasize that point."

Seth Bornstein, Executive Director, Queens Economic Development Corporation

“First of all, I’d like to thank Comptroller DiNapoli for this extensive, detailed and extremely helpful report. It is a treasure trove of important information about Queens. And speaking of the world’s most diverse borough, I’m proud that the study confirms the strength of our economy. Superstorm Sandy was devastating, but we have rebounded quite well, setting a record for private sector jobs. The aviation, film, retail, real estate and hospitality industries are booming in Queens, and we hope to have a tremendous summer as we hold various celebrations throughout the borough to mark the 75th and 50th anniversaries of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs.”

Elizabeth Lusskin, President, Long Island City Partnership

“We applaud the Comptroller for producing what should be a catalytic report.  Through it we see clearly how valuable Queens is as an economic engine not only for the entire city, but also for the many and diverse sectors and communities that call Queens their home. At once, Queens provides both a stable economic base and a soft landing place for a constant influx of new people, new talent and new energy that keep New York economically and culturally strong. We are proud that so many of the projects and industries highlighted in the report are part of the thriving Long Island City landscape.”

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