Tag Archives: greater jamaica development corporation

Greater Jamaica Development Corporation gets new president

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo courtesy of George Arzt Communications, Inc.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) announced Thursday that it named Hope Knight, previously the chief operating officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ), as its new president.

“Hope has the background and experience to best project the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation’s mission,” GJDC Board Chairman Peter Kulka said. “She has proven herself extensively in her work at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and she is widely respected throughout circles dedicated to expanding economic development and opportunity in emerging urban communities.”

Knight, 50, has helped UMEZ create hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs in its service area since 2003. She has served as vice president for Morgan Stanley in New York and in Tokyo. She serves on the boards of several corporate and nonprofits including the Carver Bank Community Development Corporation, Grameen American and Morgan Stanley New Markets, and she is the chair of the board of trustees of Marymount Manhattan College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in business management. She also earned a master’s of business administration degree from the University of Chicago.

“I am excited at the prospect of joining the superb team at Greater Jamaica to build on the work they have done to lead the restoration of Downtown Jamaica to its historic central role in the economic vitality of Jamaica, Queens and beyond,” Knight said. “I have large shoes to fill following Carlisle Towery’s four decades of commitment to Jamaica. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and build on the progress to which he has contributed so much.”

“I could not be more delighted to leave Greater Jamaica Development Corporation in the capable and dedicated hands of Hope Knight,” former GJDC President Carlisle Towery said. “Jamaica is poised to reach even greater heights in the future, and everything about Hope’s experience and commitment gives us reason to believe she will help take us there.”

Knight said she looks forward to meeting with Jamaica’s elected officials, Borough President Melinda Katz, state Sen. Joseph Addabbo, as well as community leaders, heads of cultural organizations and officials from economic development and transportation agencies that are important to Jamaica’s progress.


City accepting proposals to develop NYPD parking garage in downtown Jamaica

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark 

Even more development is coming to Jamaica—this time on the site of a police department parking garage.

Not long after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to focus on creating more housing with his State of the City address, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) officially announced a request for proposals to develop hundreds of market rate and affordable units out of an NYPD parking garage in downtown Jamaica.

The 59,500-square-foot site at 93rd Avenue and 169th Street could also include ground-floor retail, according to the EDC, which set an April 30 deadline for developers to submit plans for the lot. Of course the project is consistent with de Blasio’s goal to build and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units in 10 years.

The two-story garage is currently used by cops, and will have to be entirely demolished to construct the new project, according to the EDC. But it’s a price the city is willing to pay for more housing.

“The 168th Street garage site holds powerful potential to serve the Jamaica neighborhood with affordable housing and other amenities, while building upon the area’s strengths as a commercial, cultural and transit hub,” said EDC President Kyle Kimball.

Police vehicles will have to be “accommodated” in order to redevelop the site, the EDC said.

Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

The development could create 400 construction jobs and 80 permanent jobs, the EDC said, and would add another project to the dizzying amount of construction coming to Jamaica near the downtown spurred by under-utilized lots, cheap land prices, high traffic and access to a massive transportation hub.

This includes Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) giving its twin parking lots near 90th Avenue and 168th Street to Blumenfeld Development Group for a jumbo mixed-use residential and commercial project, with more than 265,000 square feet of space.

The GJDC is also working on a $225 million, 29-story residential and commercial tower across from the AirTrain and LIRR station on Sutphin Boulevard.

Not far away on Sutphin Boulevard, Able Management Group is constructing a 210-key hotel, and nearby York College has 3.5 acres of on-campus land that could be home to new companies that want to move into the area to partner with the institution through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-break program.

TCX Development’s seven-story luxury rental building on Hillside Avenue is nearing completion, and some major properties have also hit the market or were recently sold, including a $22 million sale of a huge garage and commercial strip at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave. There are already plans to develop the property into a housing and retail mix, according to a published report.

Also, the Jamaica Colosseum Mall, which was formerly a Macy’s department store, also hit the market for an astounding $45 million.

And finally, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development recently announced that it is accepting plans from developers for 17 vacant city-owned sites in Jamaica to create more affordable housing.


Man of the Year: Carlisle Towery

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp.

Many people say Jamaica wouldn’t be the up-and-coming community it is today without Carlisle Towery.

Over the course of four decades, Towery has watched over Jamaica as the head of the not-for-profit Greater Jamaica Development Corp. (GJDC) and guided its regrowth as an emerging neighborhood.

He witnessed the initial economic decline throughout Jamaica as department stores and anchor stores shut their doors and left for brighter pastures in malls across Long Island and elsewhere as his organization planted the seeds of the future by working to attract various public and private projects to the neighborhood.

In the process he formed important business relationships, which helped to eventually bring back retailers and investors. Now developers around the city have been eyeing Jamaica as the next frontier for opportunity, and massive projects that will spur economic growth are already planned.

After setting the table for Jamaica’s revival, Towery plans to watch the completion of his work from the outside. He recently announced his retirement from the position where he has spent half of his life.

For his many accomplishments that have helped to improve the Jamaica community from all angles, The Courier has selected Towery as its Man of the Year.

“His most extraordinary contributions to Jamaica have been unparalleled in terms of his achievement, persistence, and creating an environment for business to grow,” said Victoria Schneps, publisher of The Courier. “He has focused his life’s work on all aspects of the Jamaica community, and has made it better for his having been there.”

Towery, born and raised in Alabama, received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Auburn University and then moved to New York City to study urban planning at Columbia University in 1961 after earning a full scholarship.

He later went on to use his planning skills, including an assignment as chief urban designer of the Regional Plan Association, a Manhattan-based organization that focuses on improving urban growth across the New York metropolitan region.


While at the RPA he began working on a plan to transform Jamaica and repair the business community it started to lose. He presented the plan to the members of a chamber of commerce that represented Jamaica and impressed its board members.

At the time, the organization was working on establishing a not-for-profit, which would later become the GJDC, to bring economic growth back to a neighborhood that had suffered mightily from the urban decay of the early 1970s. The GJDC was formed and its new leaders picked Towery to be its first president in 1971.

“He is very bright and knowledgeable, conscientious, an excellent speaker and an expert planner,” said Vincent Albanese, a founder of the GJDC and current board member. “We were very impressed with his background, his expertise, and we were fortunate that [the RPA was] prepared to make him available to us.”

When Towery took the role of president of the GJDC he knew that he would be presented with a major challenge in the coming years.

Jamaica was heading into an era he later called the “disinvestment decade,” as downtown Jamaica’s anchoring department store giants, Macy’s, Gertz and Mays were all about to leave the area.

Towery fought to keep the stores, which he knew were the lifeblood of the community, but they all ended up exiting, starting with Macy’s in 1978. And as the bigger retailers left, so did smaller ones. Some banks and The Long Island Daily Press also closed around this time.

Jamaica had gone quickly from one of the city’s major commercial centers — a hub for Long Island shoppers who arrived at the Long Island Rail Road station — to a shell of its former self.

Its row of movie theaters, including the once-majestic Loews Valencia, shut their doors. The Valencia would later be resurrected and renovated as a church.

Towery oversaw city, state and federal partnerships over the next four decades that resulted in a revitalization of the neighborhood into one of the borough’s hottest development areas.

From 1978 to 1996, private investment in Jamaica totaled just $17 million, compared with the $364 million that has been invested in the last three years, according to the GJDC.

“He has had tremendous accomplishments,” Albanese said. “Jamaica was not growing, not serving the best interest of the business or residential communities. There was a tremendous need for a person of his caliber.”

Towery credits a number of strong public initiatives in Jamaica in the past few decades that led to the rebuilding of the downtown. He persistently advocated what he calls “pre-developments” through seven mayors and eight governors, dating back to John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller, and the federal government to attract more private investment.

This includes removing the Jamaica Avenue El and extending the subway to Parsons Boulevard, which started the creation of the transportation hub in the downtown area, and moving York College into the neighborhood instead of alternative sites.

Towery says York College’s move to Jamaica was the greatest development for the neighborhood while he was head of the GJDC because of the jobs it creates and the college’s ability to interact with the community in many ways.

“We worked our tails off to get York College here,” he said in a recent interview.

Today the college, part of the City University, is the only site in the borough selected to be part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY initiative, a much-heralded economic development initiative that will encourage businesses to partner with the school and move to Jamaica, either to a location on the campus or in the surrounding area, in exchange for wide-ranging tax breaks.

York College is now in negotiations with many businesses looking to partner with the school in exchange for being exempt from corporate, sales or property taxes for 10 years. The new businesses would move to a property near the school or build on a portion of 3.5 acres of vacant, government-owned land on campus. The college is slowly becoming the hub for business, opportunity and community that Towery envisioned it could.

York College - Campus and students.

The GJDC also supported building the new regional Jamaica headquarters for the U.S. Social Security Administration and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which are two federal agencies that brought jobs into the neighborhood.

The not-for-profit also advocated for the construction of the AirTrain rail line from John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2003, which further expanded Jamaica’s transportation hub to new heights.

That transportation hub, which is now comprised of various subway lines, an LIRR station, numerous bus lines and the AirTrain, has become a magnet for development.

After a 368-block rezoning was completed in downtown Jamaica in 2007 near the transit hub to allow more developments with commercial and residential uses, more and more developers have been planning large-scale projects there.

Some local initiatives and projects that have helped shape Jamaica were original ideas the GJDC started under Towery’s leadership, such as the creation of the first business improvement district in the downtown area to focus on the growth of local stores and companies and the first green market in New York City.

“Carlisle has been extremely successful in attracting government resources to the downtown, and has been a leader in urban revitalization and ahead of lots of other people with ideas of how to make things go better in downtowns,” said Andrew Manshel, the GJDC’s executive vice president. “He has integrated arts and culture in economic development way before that got to be a standard practice.”

In 2014, the GJDC was proud to announce the development of a $225 million mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower at the building it owns on 93-01 Sutphin Blvd. just north of the LIRR and AirTrain station. The project led numerous community leaders and politicians to proclaim the return of Jamaica, because it followed the 2013 announcement of a 210-room, 24-story hotel on the south side of the LIRR complex at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd., a plot of land that is partly owned by the GJDC.

Jamaica also saw some sales last year that showed developers were highly interested in purchasing land in the area and building commercial centers or residential properties. A 90,000-square-foot building and parking garage at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave., which has 719,736 square feet of buildable space, was sold for $22 million in October. Additionally, a development site at 147-07 to 147-37 94th Ave., which has 420,000 buildable square feet, was listed for $24 million.

Going forward, Towery believes that Jamaica is in need of more housing developments, since most of the GJDC’s projects and partnerships have been unrelated to housing. New housing in the area should be 50 percent market rate, 30 percent moderate income and 20 percent low income for Jamaica, he said in a published interview.

Towery also said in that interview that his replacement should be a visionary who should pursue productive partnerships.

Towery plans to retire with his wife to their home in Maine. But because he’ll always be interested in what Jamaica will become in the future, he hopes to keep a close eye on the neighborhood as it completes its transformation.



Large downtown Jamaica development site listing for $24M

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of CPEX   

A huge development site a block away from the downtown Jamaica transportation hub is selling for $24 million.

The 35,000-square-foot site, which comprises a few lots from 147-07 to 147-37 on 94th Avenue, allows up to 420,000 buildable square feet, according to real estate firm CPEX, which is marketing the site.

World Wide Food Products, a longtime seafood company, has been at the property since 1975, according to DNAinfo.

Downtown Jamaica has been the talk of much major development recently. Last year, officials announced construction of a 210-room, 24-story hotel nearby the LIRR and AirTrain station at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd.

Earlier this year, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a nonprofit that has been working to transform the neighborhood, announced the development of a $225 mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower on the site it owns at 93-01 Sutphin Blvd.

In October, a 90,000-square-foot building and parking garage at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave. traded hands for $22 million. It has 719,736 square feet of buildable space.

Also, nearby York College, which is located across from the building and parking garage, hopes to help usher in development and new businesses as a START-UP NY site, and is offering new businesses about 3.5 acres of land on-campus.


Jamaica of the future imagined by residents

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Imagine Jamaica with more affordable housing, better transportation and more, higher-paying localized jobs.

That was the vision put forward for the neighborhood when more than 100 residents and community advocates attended the city-run Jamaica Planning Initiative meeting this past weekend.

“We’ve been talking to ourselves for too long in this community,” said Borough President Melinda Katz. “We care about the future and are so excited for this plan going forward.”

With so much change having hit the neighborhood already, the city came up with the idea of meeting with local residents to find out what they want in the future. The Jamaica Planning Initiative was a community workshop that broke up residents in attendance into four small groups: 1) transportation, public space and urban design, 2) housing and commercial development, 3) Jamaica identity, branding and marketing and 4) Jamaica jobs. Residents chose the issue that they felt was most pertinent.

They focused on the study area east of the Van Wyck Expressway to Farmers Boulevard and north of Linden Boulevard to Union Turnpike.

Topics discussed were plans for more affordable housing units, finding safer ways for pedestrians to cross streets, creating a localized job market for residents in the community, upgrading small business opportunities and bringing better transportation to the neighborhood.

One issue that was brought up by residents was the concern for more affordable housing.

“We need affordable places for people to live that don’t make much money,” one resident said in a focus group. “That is where the money should be invested.”

At this point, the city agencies working on the project, which include the DOT, Regional Plan Association, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the NYC Small Business Service among local elects, were looking for community feedback so they can move along to the next phase, which is the Jamaica Action Plan. It is the final step before actual implementation.

“The Jamaica Action Plan will incorporate your crucial feedback on topics of focus and opportunity,” said Cali Williams, vice president of the NYC EDC. “Based on today’s charrette sessions, the city will release a set of realistic projects and programs to improve and enliven the experience of Jamaica.”

The workshop turned out to be a major success for all parties.

Regarding the next step, which is the implantation process, the projects will be identified as short-, medium- and long-term proposals. Some of the short-term projects will begin “right away,” according to the EDC, and they and local elects are looking for the continued support of the neighborhood.

“Queens is the diamond of all boroughs,” Congressman Gregory Meeks said. “But we can’t have the greatness we are unless everybody participates in the building of our community.”


GJDC president reflects on Jamaica’s transformation

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

File photos

When F. Carlisle Towery first took the helm as president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) in 1971, he knew a major challenge was coming.

The area was heading into the “disinvestment decade,” and downtown Jamaica’s anchoring department store giants were fleeing the area.

Towery and the GJDC fought to keep the chains, but Macy’s departed in 1978 after its lease expired to build a bigger store in a mall. Gertz exited the area in 1981 after its lease expired and Mays, which owned its building, closed its doors a few years later as well.

“We had some real serious economic trauma, because those are anchors and when they leave, lots of small stores follow,” Towery said. “Back then downtowns were going out of style and everyone was moving to malls. I’ve often said Jamaica was mall-ed.”

Now, Jamaica has transformed into one of the most attractive options for developers in New York. The downtown is buzzing with private development — and Towery is finally retiring after 43 years.

F. Carlisle Towery

F. Carlisle Towery

“I’m very comfortable and pleased,” Towery said. “It’s a great thing to look back at all these partnerships and gratitude. And more importantly I’m not leaving where I’ve got nostalgia to consume. I’m looking forward as the table is set.”

From 1978 to 1996, private investment in Jamaica totaled just $17 million. Compare that with the $364 million that has been invested in the last three years, and it’s clear how just far the neighborhood has come since 1971.

Back then, not only the stores, but also The Long Island Daily Press closed, and two banks headquartered in the area also moved to Long Island, Towery said.

Towery credits a number of strong public initiatives in Jamaica in the past few decades with leading to the rebuilding of the downtown.

Over the years, the GJDC persistently advocated what he calls “pre-developments” through seven mayors and eight governors, dating back to John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller, and the federal government to attract more private investment.

This includes removing the Jamaica Avenue El and extending the subway to Parsons Boulevard, which created the transportation hub of the current downtown, and moving York College into the neighborhood instead of alternative sites.

The GJDC supported building the new regional headquarters for the U.S. Social Security Administration and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, two federal entities that brought jobs into Jamaica, and creating the business improvement districts in the downtown to focus on the growth of local stores and companies.

The nonprofit also advocated for the AirTrain from John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2003, which further expanded Jamaica’s transportation hub.

Towery believes that what Jamaica is missing is more housing developments, as the GJDC worked for decades to make the area more attractive through non-housing initiates.

And because of the rapid growth of the AirTrain, which had 4.3 million riders from Jamaica last year compared to 1.1 million a decade ago, he said Jamaica should build more hotels, too.

That’s where he expects developers to focus with new projects, and he plans to “stay tuned” to the future.



F. Carlisle Towery retires after leading Jamaica revitalization

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

F. Carlisle Towery

F. Carlisle Towery, who oversaw the economic revitalization of Jamaica as the president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation for more than 40 years, announced his retirement Monday.

Towery, a trained architect and urban planner, was appointed to the position in 1971 by local business leaders after Jamaica was singled out as a neighborhood of importance due to its extensive transportation hub. At that time, economic decline had blighted much of the area.

Since then, Towery has worked with seven mayors and eight governors, dating back to John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller, to improve the neighborhood’s economy.

During his tenure, the Jamaica Avenue El was replaced by an underground subway, the AirTrain service was introduced, the Jamaica Arts Center was created and downtown Jamaica underwent enormous revitalization – to name just a few of his achievements.

From 1978 to 1996, private investment in Jamaica totaled just $17 million, compared with the $364 million that has been invested in the last three years,  according to a statement released by the Greater Jamaica Development Corp.

Numerous apartment complexes, hotels and mixed-income housing projects are currently under construction in the neighborhood.

A search is now underway for Towery’s replacement.


New $32M housing complex opens in downtown Jamaica

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of The Bluestone Organization

A 101-apartment complex has officially opened in downtown Jamaica.

Developer The Bluestone Organization and representatives from various city agencies held a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the nine-story twin Norman Towers at 90-14 161st St.

The $32.2 million buildings consist of seven studios, 72 one-bedroom units and 21 two-bedroom units. There is also one two-bedroom apartment for a superintendent.

New office space in the towers will serve as Bluestone’s headquarters, and there are 51 parking spaces for tenants.

There is an additional 5,773 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and 4,063 square feet of retail space in the towers as well.

“Downtown Jamaica is back and on its way up,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “We welcome Norman Towers, a model development — mixed-income affordable housing, a new restaurant in a beautifully designed building. Norman Towers will utilize Jamaica’s attributes and bring new jobs. It will contribute to livability here.”


Twenty percent of the building caters to low-income residents. Three apartments are for tenants earning up to 40 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or no more than $33,200 annually for a family of four. Seventeen apartments serve households earning up to 50 percent AMI, or no more than $41,500 annually for a family of four.

The buildings feature a cogeneration system that uses a natural gas-fueled engine to generate electricity. There are also roof gardens and every apartment has Energy Star appliances and lighting.


3.5 acres of on-campus land at York College will be home to new companies

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo and map courtesy of York College

Parts of Jamaica may look forlorn with many properties vacant or in need of repair, but its shopping district and its richness in transportation options could turn it into the next big thing for development.

Businesses from around the state and outside New York are vying to enter the neighborhood through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-free program at York College, which school officials are touting as a potential catalyst for a development explosion in downtown Jamaica.

York representatives told The Courier that they are in negotiations with many businesses looking to partner with the school in exchange for no corporate, sales or property taxes for 10 years, and move to a property near the school or build on a portion of 3.5 acres of vacant, government-owned land on campus.

The vacant property, called Site 9, was identified in a plan that school administrators submitted to the governor’s office in July. The site is bounded by Guy Brewer Boulevard, Liberty Avenue, 165th Street and South Road. A parking lot and green space at the Brewer Boulevard side of the block are not part of the development site.

That plan was submitted by CUNY to the state Commissioner for Economic Development and was recently approved.

The plan details the types of businesses York is hoping to attract, based on the school’s academic and research programs.

Although school representatives said they weren’t allowed to discuss the specific businesses that they are considering, those fields include pharmaceutical, medical device research and manufacturing, water resource management and purification, logistics, aviation, wireless technology, solar power companies and food science research and manufacturing.

School administrators said the partnering businesses will benefit not only students but also the neighborhood, which should see increased employment as a diversifying local business landscape becomes a magnet to attract other firms to the area.

“[The program] is moving in the right direction and we are quite excited,” said Earl Simons, director of government and community relations at York. “It provides potential opportunities for our students in terms of internships as well as important opportunities for the surrounding community.”

S- York Map 2

Near York College, the downtown Jamaica area hosts a comprehensive transportation hub. The AirTrain transports passengers to John F. Kennedy Airport in about 10 minutes, while the LIRR takes thousands of people to Manhattan daily in about 20 minutes. There are about 49 bus lines running through and around the area, and the E, J, Z and F subway lines are nearby.

There have been several recent moves to leverage this resource.

A 368-block rezoning was completed in downtown Jamaica in 2007 to allow more developments with commercial and residential uses.

And earlier this year, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a nonprofit that has been working to transform the neighborhood, announced the development of a $225 mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower at the building it owns on 93-01 Sutphin Blvd. at Archer Avenue, just north of the LIRR/AirTrain complex.

Rendering courtesy Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

93-43 Sutphin Blvd. rendering courtesy of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

That followed the 2013 announcement of a 210-room, 24-story hotel on the south side of the LIRR complex at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd., a plot of land that is partly owned by the nonprofit.

The Development Corp is collaborating with York to help bring businesses to downtown Jamaica through the tax-free zone program, school officials said.

Businesses looking to set up shop in the tax-free zone need to appeal to several selection committees as well as school and state officials. While no immediate announcement of incoming companies is expected, York is confident in the program’s ability to be the push downtown Jamaica needs.

“It’s another tool to really spur development and economic opportunities and job creation,” Simons said. “It can only enhance all of the efforts that are taking place here.”



Jamaica residents, culture featured as ‘unsung greats’

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The development of downtown Jamaica is no longer limited to new buildings and facilities. A website dedicated to revealing community art and neighborhood loyalty is making a buzz.

Queens Royalty, the site launched earlier this year, came from “a desire to counteract some of the negative perception of downtown Jamaica,” said Felicia Tunnah, executive director at the Jamaica Center BID, the group that sponsored the project.

“The idea is to celebrate the history but also celebrate the people who are here now and who are doing great things,” she said.

The Jamaica-centric site features residents, the “unsung greats,” and their stories, as well as photos of both local celebrities and community members. It also focuses attention on iconic buildings throughout the neighborhood, such as the landmarked Jamaica High School.

“They are our neighbors and loved ones, who always push forward and reach back. They are our elders and youth, who have experienced history and beckon the future,” the website’s description says.

Brian Tate, creator and producer, wanted a heavy emphasis on the area’s youth.

“Sometimes, the young people are seen as a problem. So I wanted to start there,” he said. “The youth aren’t a problem. They’re the future.”

Queens Royalty commissioned four acclaimed photographers – Barron Claiborne, Delphine Diaw Diallo, Russell Frederick, and Jamel Shabazz – to capture a mix of local artists, entrepreneurs, students, and families.

Tate said he wanted to make these people “a part of the story, to shape what the story is and how that story is told.”

“I think there’s a lot of love among the people in Jamaica,” he said. “It’s just having a vehicle for them to express that. It’s promoting a place from the inside out.”

To make the vision a reality, Tate and the BID partnered with Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, NYC Small Business Services, the Economic Development Corporation, Borough President Helen Marshall, the 165th Street Mall and Sutphin Boulevard BID.

Tunnah said the website is “a place for people to share their own stories and really just to continue the dialogue and celebrate what’s happening here.”

Visit www.queensroyalty.org to discover more and submit a story of your own.





New hotel adds to downtown Jamaica development

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of GJDC

Downtown Jamaica development is continuing to climb – 24 stories up– with a new, 210-room hotel.

The hotel will be built at 93-43 Sutphin Boulevard, across the street from the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station, the E and J subway lines and the John F. Kennedy International Airport AirTrain.

The $35 million project is another addition in the efforts to develop downtown Jamaica.

“No other neighborhood in New York offers the convenience of a wide array of commercial and retail outlets, combined with subways, the Long Island Rail Road, buses and the AirTrain providing quick and easy access to [the] airport just a 10-minute ride away,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC).

GJDC owns a portion of the site with the financial support of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Another portion is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The MTA’s Finance Committee and the full board both approved of the hotel proposal last week.

The hotel, complete with a full-service restaurant and ground floor retail space, will be built and managed by Able Management Group, a Long Island-based developer. Able Hotels has agreed to pay $4.5 million to purchase the entire property.

“The location is well-suited for a hotel,” said Viral Patel, Able Hotels CEO. “We look forward to successful completion of the project and becoming part of the downtown Jamaica business community.”
Patel also said the group is “excited about this project and furthering the vision set forth for downtown Jamaica by GJDC.”

Legal steps will be taken to finalize the contract with Able Hotel, said a GJDC spokesperson. If all goes well, construction is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2014.



Sheraton coming to Jamaica

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Andrew Levenbaum, P.E.

Downtown Jamaica development is under way with the official announcement of a Four Points Sheraton hotel headed to the area.

After the economic downturn of a few years ago, development and investment interest is at long last picking back up, said Laurel Brown, executive director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District (BID).

“There is a lot of untapped potential down here. We’re seeing people latch onto that,” she said. “Having Sheraton invest in Jamaica just underscores exactly what we’re saying.”

The 150-room hotel is expected to go up on 94th Avenue near 147th Street, one block away from JFK International Airport’s AirTrain and the Long Island Railroad transportation hub. Groundbreaking is projected for later this year or early 2014, according to Andrew Levenbaum, P.E., the architect for the project.

Community leaders hope that the addition of a well-known name such as Sheraton will bring fliers as well as a more diverse crowd to the area.

Simone Price, executive director of the Sutphin Boulevard BID, said it also had the potential to elevate interest for other businesses to plant roots in Jamaica.

“People always want to see someone else come into the district first,” she said. The Sheraton “will be a great launching pad.”

Price added the hotel will give southeast Queens its first meeting and event space as well as job opportunities.

The BIDs and the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) are still in talks with various businesses in hopes of getting them to lease space in the area, Brown said.

CityRib, a new Manhattan-based barbecue eatery, is slated to open in the neighborhood as well. Brown said the high-end restaurant will give residents and visitors a different option in a community dominated by fast-food chains.



Jamaica Farmers Market is back

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Johann Hamilton


Jamaica Avenue will be a getting a lot greener this summer with the return of the Jamaica Farmers Market.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation and Down To Earth Markets (DTE) is hosting the market, which is in its 39th year. It currently features four vendors: Alex’s Tomato Farm, John D. Madura Farms, Gajeski Produce and Migliorelli Farms. Each will be at the market every weekend.

Miriam Haas founded DTE as Community Markets in 1991. The name changed in 2012 to reflect an emphasis on producing food from the Earth. DTE also runs about 20 other markets throughout the city, including the Queens Botanical Garden Farmers’ Market and a Sunday market in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“The Jamaica Market is great because it exists in an area where there aren’t many options for good, fresh produce,” said Ashley Robinson, market host and manager of DTE. “It’s nice to see regulars, and it’s an important service for the community.”

Among the dozens of goods available at the market, there will be oregano, tomatoes, garlic, spinach, parsley and more. Each vendor will bring its own homegrown selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, spices and other products. The market has received positive feedback from Jamaica residents so far.

“It’s a good thing for this area because all that’s around here is mostly fast food places,” said Linda Jeffreys. “Now over the summer I don’t have to get in my car to get fresh veggies. I can just walk over here.”

The Jamaica Farmers Market opens at 8:30 a.m. every Friday and Saturday and goes until 4 p.m. It is located on 160th Street and Jamaica Avenue, and will take place from June 21 to November 23.



Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning offers space to cultural institutions

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning

The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) is opening its doors to the city, inviting other cultural organizations and working artists to use any of its many available performance spaces.

“We began to realize that we had untapped resources that weren’t being utilized,” said JCAL’s Executive Director Carl Fields. “A lot of folks go into Manhattan [or] Brooklyn to find suitable rehearsal space. Now they’ll be able to find something closer to home.”

Fields added that cultural organizations such as JCAL get funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs, but have seen cuts over the past couple of years. With the new space initiative, JCAL will charge cheaper prices than the standard rates for rehearsal and performance sites, in the hope of boosting the center’s own revenue.

The Jamaica YMCA recently signed on to use some JCAL space for its new youth program, the Y Roads Initiative. JCAL’s space initiative should be in full swing by the summer.

“The availability of JCAL for use by a wide range of arts groups is of terrific benefit to Jamaica,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “Cultural activity [is] a key element in the revitalization of Downtown Jamaica.”

Fields said that JCAL has a responsibility to cater to the artistic community of southeast Queens. The center hopes that others will use the rehearsal space, perfect their craft and give performances for the community to enjoy.

Four dance studios and two theaters along with music rooms are available.

“We think we have enough to meet the demand for space,” Fields said. “One thing primarily is it’s going to give an option that’s first class, safe and closer to home.”

JCAL has already had informal talks with “a number of people” who have indicated they would like to come and use the space, according to Fields. The site will be open until 9 p.m. every night, but hours are subject to change depending on need.



New department store coming to Jamaica

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of GJDC

Some 35 years ago, if you lived in Brooklyn or Queens and wanted to shop, Jamaica was the place to go. The retail hub has since declined, with those department stores still standing all closed. The neighborhood is looking to make a comeback with a new department store and other development.

“This will build up the economy of the whole region,” said Fred Winters, spokesperson for the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC). “Other stores want to be close to the department store. This is a very big deal.”

The site of the store is bordered by 90th Street, 169th Street, Jamaica Avenue and Merrick Boulevard. A 160,000-square-foot retail space will dominate one side of the street, with a 500-car garage on the other side. Construction is expected to start in about two years.

Blumenfeld Development Group (BDG), a leading retail developer in the metropolitan area, is taking on the project in cooperation with GJDC. Other sites built by BDG include Manhattan’s East River Plaza and The Arches in Deer Park on Long Island.

“To build the space with a department store in mind is a very big deal,” Winters said. “There aren’t many sites in Jamaica that are appropriate for a department store anymore.”

“It symbolizes the way greater Jamaica and all the other civic groups have helped Jamaica really turn a corner economically,” he added.