Today’s news:

Borough Hall atrium plans moving ahead

Borough President Helen Marshall is moving ahead with plans to build a $21.3 million glass atrium in the rear courtyard of Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.

Marshall will host a pre−bid conference at Borough Hall Feb. 13 to discuss possible plans for the atrium, which spokesman Dan Andrews said would “provide a venue for some of the public events that we have here and would be available to the other agencies here in the building.”

City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) criticized Marshall’s plans for Borough Hall.

“It’s probably not a good idea to do it now, and I don’t even know if it’s a good idea to do it when fiscal times are good,” Avella said. “We are wasting taxpayer dollars left and right. Is it worth using taxpayer dollars to do this?”

Other agencies in Borough Hall, including the county clerk and the Departments of Buildings, Transportation, City Planning and Consumer Affairs, would have access to the new, enclosed glass structure.

“Community boards could possibly hold meetings here or in the event an organization was interested in conducting a concert or a performance in the spring or summer, we could accommodate those interests and at the same time raise revenue that would be used during this time,” Andrews said.

The capital project would be paid for by tax dollars, and approximately $13 million was allocated for the atrium in fiscal year 2007, a little more than $7 million in 2008 and $1.3 million in 2009. The total cost of the project is slated to be approximately $21.3 million, Andrews said.

There is currently no set date for the beginning of construction. The project would take about a year to build.

“This would provide a much more friendly environment for couples who line up in all kinds of weather to get married,” Andrews said. “Many of the women come in full bridal gowns and they have been forced to stand in the snow and the rain.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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