Tag Archives: jamaica

BP Katz secures $32 million for Queens parks

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz announced Tuesday that she allocated $32 million of her Fiscal Year 2016 discretionary capital funds for construction, renovations and upgrades across 37 public parks in Queens.

Queens has a total of 7,273 acres of parkland within its border, covering more land mass than any other borough at over 10 percent. According to Katz, the capital investment intends to help enhance parks to be better enjoyed year-round by millions of children, seniors and families.

“Parks are the jewels of our neighborhoods,” Katz said. “Part of what defines Queens’ trademark quality of life – especially for the 2.3 million residents throughout our diverse communities – is the ample access to beautiful public parks and open space.”

The funds will be used for a wide variety of upgrades for parks across the borough, such as constructing dog runs and picnic areas, renovating pre-existing structures and planting greenery.

The preservation of the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows Corona Park received the most funding with a total of $3 million. Two additional projects were also funded in the same park, including a $2 million renovation of the asphalt field at the World’s Fair Playground and a $480,000 replacement of the aviary mesh and marsh bridge at the Queens Zoo.

Several other projects on the list will also receive more than 1 million dollars in funding, including $2 million to upgrade to existing benches and equipment in Jamaica’s Norelli Hargreaves Park, $1.5 million to upgrade the running track and athletic court at Baisley Pond Park in Jamaica, $1.5 million to renovate the baseball fields at Glen Oaks Playground and $1.3 million to construct a meditation garden and upgrade Rachel Carson Playground in Kissena Corridor Park of Flushing.


Jamaica man charged in check depositing scheme: DA

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via FlickrCreativeCommons/TaxCredits.net

A Jamaica man and a Long Island woman have been busted for a scam that included depositing fake checks and then withdrawing cash before the checks bounced, prosecutors announced.

Milton Robinson, 27, of 110th Avenue, and Shaquanaisa Morris, 24, of Freeport are both charged with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, fourth-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property in the scam.

“The man and woman charged in this scheme allegedly victimized not only the banks where the account was held, but also individuals, who are now on the hook for the cash essentially stolen from the bank. Even after the culprits have been prosecuted, the victims will face years of financial adversity and fallout from the alleged scam.” District Attorney Richard Brown said.

According to the charges, Morris shared a joint checking account at Citi Bank with the victim. That account averaged a daily balance of less than $10, but on July 30, 2014, two withdrawals were allegedly made for $986 from a Chase Bank ATM in Queens. Less than 15 minutes later, a $976 money order was purchased with Morris’ debit card from a check cashing business, prosecutors said, and that money order was then cashed about 25 minutes later at a different check cashing place.

Video surveillance allegedly shows Morris and Robinson using her debit card to make the cash withdrawals at an ATM, and shows Morris purchasing the money order.

The six checks deposited into the Citibank account were allegedly drawn from a non-existing account at a different bank.

The next day, according to the district attorney, Morris deposited a check at an ATM at 6:12 a.m. made out to her and drawn from the account of a second victim for $1,400. Video surveillance allegedly shows Morris, with Robinson, withdrawing $1,000 from a different ATM at 6:20 a.m. and at 6:24 a.m. making another cash withdrawal for $1,200. But the second victim said she did not write the check and does not know Morris or Robinson.

Morris was arraigned on Aug. 6 and released on her own own recognizance. Robinson was arraigned the following day and currently being held on $30,000 bail. If convicted, both defendants face up to seven years in prison.


New makeup studio in South Jamaica hopes to make customers feel like royalty

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Instagram/Vanitee_Suite

High school friends and longtime Jamaica residents Shanda Evans and Madegine Gauthier have created a makeup studio that embodies Marie Antoinette-era decor and the hustle of rapper Lil’ Kim.

Vanitee Suite, which opened on July 29 on 157-11 Rockaway Blvd., is a full-service makeup studio offering makeovers, facials, nail services, henna, eyebrow threading, eyelash extensions, teeth whitening and classes to teach customers the appropriate makeup to wear for job interviews.

“We just decided that we wanted to bring something different to our neighborhood and something with class that kind of represented woman of all walks of life, how to help them enhance their beauty outside and inside,” Gauthier said.

Gauthier, a nurse and fashion designer who owns a daycare in Jamaica was approached by Evans, a Geico claims examiner, to open the makeup studio in May. Though Gauthier said she already had several responsibilities, she could not pass up the opportunity to work with her friend.

Gauthier and Evans have their own line of lipsticks and lip glosses that they use called Vanitee Cosmetics and are also looking to provide classes to the community on a number of topics like back-to-school makeup tips for teenagers and business tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Prices range from $15 for lash extensions to $35 for acrylic nails and Gauthier says they keep prices “reasonable” for the middle-class neighborhood. Vanitee Suite also provides birthday specials and two-for-one specials to its customers, and a Ladies Night is scheduled every Friday for community members to meet the owners and six makeup artists at the studio.

The walls are painted mint green, Gauthier said, to evoke a sense of calm. The chairs, which are also mint green, are adorned with gold trim to make customers feel like “royalty.”

“We wanted to do something that is just a place where a woman could come and leave her problems at the door,” Gauthier said. “We want them to feel royal. We want them to feel like kings and queens when they are here. Just to get away from everyday life, everyday hustle and bustle.”

Gauthier said she and Evans hope to expand the makeup studio, turning the business into a franchise to allow makeup artists to run their own studios.

“We’re just happy to have the establishment within our own community and we hope to get as much community support as possible,” Gauthier said.


Laurelton man killed in Jamaica collision

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image via Google Maps

A 21-year-old man lost his life early Saturday morning when the car he was riding in crashed into another vehicle, according to police.

At about 2:15 a.m. police from the 105th Precinct responded to a call of a vehicle accident at the intersection of South Conduit Avenue and 177th Street in Jamaica, authorities said.

The officers found four injured people at the collision site.

According to police, a Land Rover was traveling eastbound on South Conduit Avenue when it collided with the driver side of a Nissan Rouge that was stopped at 177th Street. The first car then slid into a third vehicle which was parked and unoccupied; both cars sustained severe damage.

All victims were taken to Jamaica Hospital, according to cops. The driver of the Land Rover, a 20-year-old man, is listed in stable condition while his passenger, 21-year-old Lamont Smart Jr. of Laurelton, sustained severe injuries to his torso and was pronounced dead.

The driver of the second car, a 46-year-old man, and his 50-year-old female passenger are both listed in stable condition with minor injuries.

There have been no arrests and the investigation is ongoing.


Jamaica coach pleads guilty to producing, sharing child porn

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



A 43-year-old basketball coach from Jamaica pleaded guilty on Tuesday to taking and sharing pictures of young children involved in sexual acts, prosecutors announced.

Robert Walker, 43, of 164th Street pleaded guilty on Tuesday to first-degree disseminating indecent material to minors before Queens Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt, who said she will sentence the defendant to 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison. Walker will also be required to register as a sex offender.

According to the charges, on April 22, 2014, Walker communicated with a 15-year-old boy via OoVoo, a video chat and instant messaging software. Walker ordered the boy to strip naked, pose during a video link, and send him naked pictures.

An examination of the defendant’s electronic devices also revealed 27 images of children, some as young as 8, performing sexual acts with adult men.

In addition, Walker confessed to conducting workouts with teens under the age of 16, during which he would have them remove their clothes and he would take pictures of them. Three more victims, 14- and 15-year-olds who played on the basketball team Walker coached, were discovered during searches of the defendant’s Facebook and OoVoo accounts. The three had also been manipulated to strip naked and pose during video chats, and on one occasion, in person.

“The defendant has now admitted to taking advantage of his position as a non-affiliated basketball coach to instruct teenage boys to undress and send nude photographs of themselves to him for his sexual gratification,” District Attorney Richard A. Brown said. “The victims will undoubtedly be scarred for life as a result of this man’s manipulative actions.”


PHOTOS: Queens residents enjoy a fun ‘Night Out’ with New York’s Finest

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Promoting greater harmony between police and the people they serve, Tuesday’s National Night Out Against Crime brought thousands of Queens residents out to venues across the “World’s Borough” for family-friendly activities.

From Astoria to the Rockaway Peninsula, each Night Out event included free games and activities for children of all ages as well as refreshments, live music and other entertainment. Residents also had the opportunity to meet with the officers who serve their community and learn more about the NYPD’s various crime prevention programs.

Local elected officials, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, attended each gathering and presented proclamations to the precinct commanders. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who made the rounds at Night Out events across the city, stopped by the 113th Precinct’s Night Out in Springfield Gardens.

The National Night Out Against Crime, founded by the National Association of Town Watch, aims to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the communities. Millions of people across the U.S. and Canada were estimated to have participated in Night Out events Tuesday evening.


Alleged Queens gang members busted in undercover gun, drug sale operation

| ctumola@queenscourier.com


Eight purported street gang members from Queens have been charged after peddling guns and drugs during undercover buys, prosecutors announced.

“Illegal firearms that flood our streets pose a serious and deadly threat to public safety and the distribution of illegal drugs is a plague on our society. For those arrested, the message could not be clearer: law enforcement has no tolerance for those involved in the weapons and drug trade,” District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement Tuesday.

According to prosecutors, seven of those arrested were alleged members of the Trinitarios, “a violent New York-based Dominican street gang,” and the eighth defendant is a reputed member of MS-13, another “violent street gang primarily composed of Central Americans.”

The buys, which took place in Queens between November 2012 and June 2014, included a total of 14 guns, with ammunition in some cases, and cocaine, MDPV and marijuana, according to the district attorney’s office. During that time, the members were unknowingly selling to NYPD operatives.

In one case, Lucas Singh, 30, of College Point, allegedly sold an undercover agent a defaced cut-down rifle along with 50 rounds of ammunition on July 30, 2013, for $850. He is also accused of selling another undercover operative a defaced .357 magnum revolver and a .32-caliber semi-automatic Kel-Tec pistol with ammunition for $1,200 on June 4. A week later, Singh sold the same operative a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver, and a .380 semi-automatic Kel-Tec pistol with 12 rounds of ammunition for $1,200.

The remaining defendants were identified as Eddie Cruz, 28 and Clase Wellington, 26, both of Glendale; Marcello Esquival, 26, of Jackson Heights; Francisco Gil, 25, Carlos Rosario-Mejia, 30, and Reginald Rosa, 25, all of Jamaica; and Angel Sanchez, 23, of Woodhaven.

They are variously charged with criminal sale of a firearm, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a firearm, criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal sale of marijuana.


Jamaica Flux to transform public spaces

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of JCAL

Jamaica storefronts, sidewalks, parks and vacant lots will be transformed by 19 artists as part of “Jamaica Flux: Workspaces & Windows 2016,” a public art project organized and presented by the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL).

The project, which is curated by Heng Gil Han and Kalia Brooks across downtown Jamaica, was previously mounted in 2004, 2007 and 2010. Next year’s project focuses on emphasizing public engagement and contemporary art as a vehicle to examine and discuss solutions to critical issues in the community, according to a press release.

The 19 artists were chosen by a selection panel of nine people, including JCAL Executive Director Cathy Hung.

“[Jamaica Flux] could not have come at a better time, with the public sector focusing on downtown Jamaica revitalization and tourism,” Hung said. “Through this effort, Jamaica faces a number of critical challenges that can benefit from artists’ creative ways of thinking. It has been my priority since I resumed the role of executive director that JCAL provide artists with resources to use art as a vehicle to examine critical issues in the community and to combat negative public perception.”

The commissioned artists will visit the neighborhood to investigate the sites that will be home to their art and this research will be the basis for their public artwork. Artist will explore topics such as the urban conditions of Jamaica, public interaction and engagement, community empowerment, environmental concerns and wellness.

The project will serve several purposes including giving artists resources to produce experimental art in public spaces, aiding community members in combating negative public perceptions of southeast Queens through art, and acting as a forum to discuss meaningful community involvement.


Borough president secures millions for south Queens library renovations

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Library

Three public libraries in southern Queens will receive much-needed improvements through $9.5 million in funding that Queens Borough President Melinda Katz secured, it was announced on Monday morning.

Katz agreed to allocate $3.8 million to expand the Arverne branch in the Rockaways as well as another $3.5 million toward interior renovations at the Baisley Park location. The borough president will also provide $2.2 million for facade and multipurpose renovations at the St. Albans branch.

Each project, however, is in the design phase, and the start of actual work remains many months away, according to a Queens Library spokesperson. The expansion at Arverne “will begin in approximately 2.5 years” and construction will be completed “approximately four years from now.”

Queens Library will add more than 2,000 square feet at the Arverne location (312 Beach 54th St.) to create an expanded teen area and computer center as well as providing additional program space. The extension will be erected in a side yard on the site of a modular building the library has used since the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The project at Baisley Park (117-11 Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica) will be “a total interior renovation,” including revamped adult and children’s areas, a new teen and computer center and a new public space in the library’s interior atrium, according to the library. Construction is scheduled to take place “in approximately 18 months” and wrap up “2.5 years from now,” with the branch closed to the public for much of that period.

At St. Albans (191-05 Linden Blvd.), Queens Library will repair the exterior masonry and create a new entrance while also reconfiguring the circulation area, installing self checkout equipment, renovating the multipurpose room and upgrading technology. Construction will start “in about 18 months to two years,” depending on the completion of designs, and renovations will end “approximately three months from now.”

As with the Baisley Park branch, the St. Albans location will also be closed for a period during construction. Queens Library will create “interim service plans” to accommodate customers affected by the closures at each location.

Funding for the three projects make up more than two-thirds of the combined $14 million that Katz allocated to Queens Library for capital improvements. Other projects that the borough president is financially supporting include the installation of a second elevator at the Flushing library ($2.75 million), roof replacement at the Ozone Park branch ($800,000) and new security cameras at the Bay Terrace, Douglaston/Little Neck, East Flushing, Rosedale, South Ozone Park, Steinway and Woodhaven locations (a combined $618,000).

“The millions of families who rely on the Queens Library services deserve nothing less than a world-class system,” Katz said in a press release on Monday. “This capital allocation will help ensure the Queens Library branches remain up-to-date and better able to serve its educational purpose as a community hub of learning, literacy and culture.”

In thanking Katz for the allocation, Queens Library board of trustees Chairman Carl S. Koerner said the funding “will allow the library to substantially upgrade its infrastructure, providing a better environment for library customers.”


Jamaica residents rally for more affordable housing, inclusion in area development boom

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angela Matua

Jamaica residents gathered at the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York on Wednesday to demand that the city and developers capitalizing on the available space in the area “build it right.”

The rally, which began at the church and ended at a proposed mixed-use development on 168th Street, was meant to educate people about the current state of development in southeast Queens and provide a background on the rezoning that led to a construction boom.

“We are simply demanding that local electeds and city officials use their membership to assure that the coming development in this area prioritizes deeply affordable housing, to make sure that we have protections for existing tenants and to make sure that we have family sustaining union careers for local residents in this neighborhood,” said Andrew Wilkes, pastor of social justice and young adults for the church.

Minister Helen Broady spoke on the 2007 rezoning of 368 blocks in Jamaica and the recently announced Jamaica Now plan, a $153 million action plan that aims to create more than 3,000 units of housing, 500,000 square feet of commercial space and 800 new hotel rooms in the next five years.

A special inclusionary housing program incentivizes developers to build affordable housing around downtown Jamaica and Hillside Avenue, but only 20 percent of the units in the designated area are required to be affordable.

Broady argued that the 20 percent of affordable housing may not actually be affordable for  Jamaica residents. The area median income (AMI) in New York City is determined by taking the average of median income of all five boroughs and several suburban counties. Developers can rent out their units to people making the maximum income level allowed.

For a family of three looking to rent in Jamaica’s inclusionary zone, the maximum AMI is capped at $62,150, according to the Department of City Planning. In Community Board 12, which includes Jamaica, the AMI for a family of three is about $50,000.

“We are not here to say don’t develop, but to say build it right,” Broady said.

Jobs were also a topic of discussion Wednesday night, as 400 construction jobs and 80 permanent jobs are estimated to be generated through the 168th Street development. Broady said that though developers are required to hire locally, that requirement is not enforced. She also pointed out that a salary of $11.50 per hour, a “living wage” for construction workers mandated by the city for this project, would not allow local residents to afford rent.

Ricardo Louis, a southeast Queens resident for 20 years, said he should be included in any plans to build in his community.

“If you’re going to come to my neighborhood and build in my area, why can’t I be a part of it?” Louis said.

Members of the District Council 9 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades came to show their support as well as Andy Lane, a representative from Councilman I. Daneek Miller’s office who read a statement from the councilman.

“As chair of the civil service and labor committee, one that is dedicated to economic development and community, we are committed to responsible development. This includes continuing to host MWE forums that provide opportunities for local businesses, good jobs through project labor agreements and developers and creating careers, not just jobs,” according to Miller’s statement.


Jamaica man sentenced to 20 years in prison on abduction charges

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



A 35-year-old Queens man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for abducting a Harlem woman who died after a brutal beating by the man and his wife in December 2013.

Malik Wilkerson, of 116th Road in Jamaica, pleaded guilty on July 13 to second-degree kidnapping before Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard L. Buchter, who sentenced him to 20 years in prison on July 27. His wife, Devonee Wilkerson, pleaded guilty to the same charge on May 21, 2014, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison on June 5, 2014.

According to the charges, the victim, 38-year-old mother of three Sheryl Outerbridge, had been trying to leave an ongoing sexual relationship she had had for years with the Wilkersons. Outerbridge fled the couple’s apartment on the night of Dec. 2, 2013, only to be found the next day on the train station platform at Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue.

The couple forcibly removed her from the train station and took her back to their home, where they attacked her with a paint roller extension and a glass bottle, burned her with a lit cigarette and punched her repeatedly. Outerbridge died of her wounds the following day after being dropped off at a local Queens hospital.

“[Malik Wilkerson] has shown he is not fit for civilized society and will be locked behind bars—to protect the public and to punish him for this brutal crime,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement Tuesday, July 28.


New rendering released of hotel planned near AirTrain in Jamaica

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of GF55 Partners


Architecture firm GF55 Partners has released a new rendering of the Hilton Garden Inn, a hotel that will be built at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd. in Jamaica.

The hotel will be 125,000 square feet and 27 stories tall, and located right across the street from the AirTrain to JFK Airport. It will contain 225 guest rooms, as well as a restaurant, bars on the ground floor and roof, a gym, a pool and an outdoor terrace.

According to the firm, the goal in designing this structure was to set an example for future architecture in the area. The rectangular main tower floats above a glass 40-foot base that contains the lobby, bar, pool and public spaces. The fourth floor contains a green roof terrace.

David E. Gross AIA, the partner in charge for the architectural firm, said, “The special zoning requirement of this district mandates a strong base. This in turn gave us the opportunity to organize all the public spaces within this and float the hotel floors above it. The rooftop bar will be a special exciting gathering space for this area.”

The project will cost approximately $54 million and is scheduled to break ground in early 2016.


Russell Simmons returns to Queens for his Keep the Peace initiative

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

Russell Simmons, a Hollis native and entrepreneur who co-founded the music label Def Jam and created the fashion line Phat Farm, came back to southeast Queens on Thursday as part of his Keep the Peace initiative.

Through his prepaid credit card company know as Rush Card, Simmons gave $25,000 to LIFE Camp, a Jamaica-based nonprofit organization that prepares youth and adults to become leaders in their community. The grants are specifically for organizations that have developed unique and successful models for reducing violence in their neighborhoods.

LIFE Camp is one of six nonprofit community organizations nationally that will receive a grant through Simmons’ program. As part of his announcement, the hip-hop mogul hosted a basketball game at I.S. 72 in Jamaica between employees at LIFE Camp and the 113th Precinct, and a public group meditation.

“I’m here because basketball is the perfect place to teach this because in basketball all of you who play ball have been in the zone,” Simmons said. “Everything is moving in slow motion and you can see the rim. That has to do with being present. For thousands of years people have meditated. I meditate with my children every morning before I take them to school and I want to teach you to meditate. We quiet the mind so we can be successful in life.”

Simmons led the gymnasium at I.S. 72 filled with summer campers in a 7-minute meditation. After the meditation, LIFE Camp employees and members of the NYPD played an intense game of basketball in front of the young crowd. New York’s Finest beat LIFE Camp 53 to 47 but the chance to meet officers face to face was the most important part of the day, according to Jahaun Atkins, a former adviser for LIFE Camp who participated in the game.

“I think it’s bringing back a good synergy,” Atkins said. “It’s getting people who didn’t know each other to communicate and have fun. Nowadays we don’t know the police. Back in the day we used to know their names.”

Erica Ford, founder of LIFE Camp, said that her organization has helped curb violence by providing a presence in the streets. Employees, also called Peace Keepers, wear orange shirts and engage the community in conversation. Many of these employees have been formerly incarcerated.

“If we look at the contradictions that exist in our community today, we have young people who are hurt and angry, we have people who work with young people who are hurt and angry, we have older people who are paid to keep people safe who are hurt and angry,” Ford said. “If we don’t help people to give them tools to reduce their anger and to help bring compassion…to your job, then there is no safety in our streets, there is no transformation.”

According to Ford, the organization has been successful in keeping its target area, which is in Jamaica around Sutphin and Guy R. Brewer boulevards, violence- and gun-free for 217 days.


Companies tied to Jamaica development boom look to hire local contractors

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo courtesy of Angela Matua

Jamaica is in the midst of a development boom, and several developers and government agencies met on Friday with local contractors to show them how to get in on the ground floor.

The event, specifically for Minority, Women-owned and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (M/W/DBE) contractors, was held at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica.

The Bluestone Organization announced its partnership with the First Presbyterian Church regarding the construction of a 12-story, mixed-income rental building with 25,000 square feet of community facility space in the parking lot next to the house of worship. The church will receive space to hold programs.

According to Eric Bluestone, partner at The Bluestone Organization, the construction is slated to start in December 2016. Bluestone and the church organized this event to encourage local contractors to help develop their communities.

“This program was a discussion with [Pastor Patrick O’Connor] and myself about trying to develop a conduit of local [M/W/DBE] contractors and try to give them opportunities to get involved in the bidding process,” Bluestone said.

BRP Companies, a real estate firm that specializes in affordable, mixed-income and market-rate housing and commercial developments, is working on a 580-unit, mixed-use development at 93-01 Sutphin Boulevard called The Crossing. Construction is expected to begin shortly after final plans are set in December 2015.

According to Meredith Marshall, managing partner and co-founder of BRP Companies, the apartments will be evenly distributed between low-income and market-rate housing. The firm is also in talks with restaurants, gourmet grocery stores and cafes for its 115,000 square feet of retail space.

“We’re told it’s one of the largest mixed-income private developments in southeast Queens in a long time,” Marshall said. “It addresses the ills of what we think was poorly managed affordable housing.”

Paul Sawyer, director of the New York City Minority Business Development Agency business center, offered business and consulting assistance to minority businesses. The agency also helps contractors submit bids for construction projects, sitting down with business owners to explain each step in the bid process.

Bomi Kim, senior vice president and director of the New York City Economic Development Corporation‘s (NYC EDC) Minority, Women-owned, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, explained how business owners can receive job opportunities and financial help through the agency. NYC EDC offers a contractor training and technical assistance program, a Money Matters Workshop, and loans through its Kick-Start Loan Program.

P.J. Singh, owner of JSA NYC Construction, which operates in all five boroughs and has done work in Jamaica and South Ozone Park, came to the event to become a certified minority-owned business through NYC EDC.

“We learned a lot of good things,” Singh said. “A gentleman taught us how to get certified and maybe EDC can help us and provide us with a loan.”

Singh also said he may look into becoming a contractor for one of the projects presented at the meeting.

Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who was one of the sponsors of the event, said he is committed to helping foster the growth of Jamaica and southeast Queens.

“I’m so glad to see so many faces in this room,” Miller said. “We’ve had this conversation for so many years and that conversation is becoming a reality. We will continue to have a voice in our community, in the designs, in any final outcome.”


Jamaica getting its first Starbucks

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo via Flickr/Ivana Di Carlo

Jamaica residents looking to get their coffee fix will have a new option come 2016, as Starbucks opens its first store in the area.

The chain’s Jamaica store will be located at 89-02 Sutphin Blvd. and seeks to hire “opportunity youth,” people between the ages of 16 and 24 “who face systemic barriers to meaningful jobs,” according to the company.

The new location is a part of Starbucks’ 100,000 Opportunities Initiative and its goal is to hire 100,000 opportunity youth by 2018. The Jamaica store is one of five locations slated to open by 2016, with other locations across the country.

Starbucks will hire 20 to 25 employees from the local community and also plans to work with local women- and minority-owned contractors and businesses to design and develop the store. An on-site training space will also be created to teach employees customer service and retail skills.

“We have a long history of developing stores in diverse neighborhoods and we hope to do even more — together with the community — to bring great jobs, engage young people, and drive economic opportunity for all,” said Blair Taylor, chief community officer for Starbucks and chair of the Starbucks Foundation. “We want to be part of the solution in these communities and help create a sustainable future for those who may be looking for a second chance.”