Tag Archives: jamaica

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.”


Private investigator, father and son indicted for tampering with witnesses in gun possession case

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo


A father and a son, along with a private investigator, have been indicted on charges of soliciting, intimidating and tampering with witnesses in a gun possession case in Jamaica.

Frederick Freeman, 27, of Miller Avenue in Brooklyn, along with his father Frederick Hutcherson, 47, of Beach 27th Street in Far Rockaway, and private investigator Charles Gallman, 52, of Metropolitan Avenue in the Bronx, are charged with 13 counts of bribing a witness, third- and fourth-degree tampering with a witness, third-degree intimidating a victim or witness, fourth-degree criminal solicitation and fifth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, they each face up to seven years in prison.

Freeman is currently awaiting trial for weapons possession after a confrontation at the Jamaica, Queens, apartment of his girlfriend’s brother, Rashown Williams, on Jan. 30, 2013. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the charges in the case, Freeman, Hutcherson and Gallman conspired between Feb. 1, 2015, and April 1, 2015, to bribe and intimidate witnesses due to testify at Freeman’s gun case.

The three defendants allegedly attempted to instill the fear in Williams and his family that they might be physically injured if they testified. It is also alleged that the defendants offered to confer benefits on the potential witnesses if they altered their testimony or refused to appear in court.

“Prospective witnesses must be protected from outside interference that might affect their testimony,” said Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “This office will not tolerate the intimidation of, or tampering with, witnesses and is committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who engage in such conduct.”


Brooklyn man busted for illegally renting out stolen rental cars in Jamaica

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Wikimedia Commons. Inset courtesy of Port Authority Police Department

Port Authority Police slammed the brakes on a Brooklyn man’s alleged scheme to illegally rent out cars he allegedly stole from a lot at John F. Kennedy Airport.

According to Port Authority Police, Dorien L. Holmes, 23, of East 98th Street allegedly removed at least three vehicles — a Ford Focus, a Hyundai Elantra and a Ford Mustang — from the Avis Car Rental lot at JFK Airport and other locations.

After stealing the cars, authorities said, Holmes allegedly posted advertisements on Craigslist offering to rent the vehicles, which he claimed to own, to drivers for $350 a week or up to $1,000 per month. An ad for the Hyundai Elantra claimed that the vehicle came with insurance and E-ZPass.

Holmes was taken into custody by the Port Authority detectives on Tuesday night after he was spotted driving the Ford Mustang at the corner of 123rd Avenue and 144th Street in Jamaica. Citing information obtained during the investigation, a law enforcement source said the suspect was known to frequent the area where he was arrested.

The Mustang and the other two vehicles in question were seized as a result of the investigation.

As of Thursday morning, Holmes was awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of grand larceny, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, criminal possession of stolen property and driving with a suspended license.


Jamaica arts organizations to receive $115K in funding

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning

The Jamaica arts scene is receiving a boost from Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who has allocated $115,000 in discretionary funding to local arts organizations that provide theater, music and dance programs for the community.

Miller, who chose 14 arts organizations to disperse the funds to, said it was not an easy decision.

“The decision-making process is never an easy one, given the shortage of available funding, but I look to organizations who have consistently provided vibrant, flourishing programming, as well as newer organizations who have shown their commitment to making a significant contribution to the arts in our area,” Miller said.

The Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) is among one of the recipients and they will receive $15,000 for their student workshops. The Caribbean American Repertory Theatre will also receive $5,000 to provide free tickets to students for their performances at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, which is owned by JCAL.

“On behalf of the board and staff, everyone at JCAL is thrilled about Councilman Miller’s unwavering support through the years,” said Cathy Hung, executive director for JCAL. “The fund will support JCAL’s comprehensive array of in-school, after-school, and Saturday Arts Center Workshops that supplement academic learning and provide young people with opportunities to explore and refine their artistic talents.”

Jazz Knights, will receive $5,000 to provide free jazz concerts and jazz education in the community.

Two theater companies, Afrikan Poetry Theatre and Black Spectrum Theatre Company, were granted $7,500 and $30,000 respectively. Afrikan Poetry Theatre will allocate its money toward operating expenses for after-school programs. Black Spectrum Theatre Company, which produces the St. Albans Jazz Festival, will use the money to train children and adults in theater production and acting, producing films and plays on issues affecting the Jamaica community and more.

A Better Jamaica Inc. will provide family-friendly movies in district parks with a $5,000 grant they received from the councilman while Dancing Classrooms, which received $5,000, will provide ballroom dance instruction to fifth- through eighth-graders through its 10-week CORE program.

“I am proud to continue supporting and promoting southeast Queens’ long history of significant arts and cultural contributions,” Miller said. “The evidence is clear that exposure to arts enhances the value of one’s education, and by funding programs that primarily educate our youth, who are tomorrow’s leaders, I am doing my small part to shape the future of our great neighborhoods.”


Cops save choking toddler in Jamaica

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

A family was saved from tragedy in Jamaica Sunday when two police officers from the 103rd Precinct rushed to the aid of a choking toddler.

Police Officers Scott Nieri and Gobin Raghunath were reportedly flagged down near 148th Street and Liberty Avenue by a panicked father holding his 18-month-old son, who was not breathing because he had a piece of an apple lodged down his throat.

The two officers then turned the baby face down and began performing the Heimlich maneuver, while requesting EMS to come to their location, police said.

After various efforts to clear the baby’s airway, the officers began performing CPR and after a few minutes of chest compressions the apple was cleared from the child’s throat and he started to cry, according to the NYPD.

The boy was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and later released with no signs of any injuries.


Jamaica site with big development potential sells after bidding war 

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Ariel Property Advisors

With $153 million of public funds designated to revitalize every aspect of Jamaica, more and more developers are looking for land in the area, and it’s even getting a little feisty.

The site at 143-18 Liberty Ave., which previously was an auto-dealer, sold after just four months on the market, but not before a bidding war between two buyers that ultimately lead the price of the lot to rise higher than most other sites in the area.

“Based on the impressive amount of interest we received for 143-18 Liberty Avenue, it’s clear that developers are eager to capitalize on the economic initiatives that are underway in the area,” said Daniel Wechsler, vice president at Ariel Property Advisors, which handled the transaction in the budding neighborhood.

The property sold for $1,937,500, according to Ariel, but has yet to hit public records. Floral Park-based Namra Inc. bought the property in 2008 for $1.06 million, city records show.

The roughly 8,530-square-foot site is zoned primarily for residential and offers 25,602 of buildable square feet for a residential development.

That translates to nearly a $76 per buildable square foot sale. Similar properties in Jamaica trade between $32 to $77 per buildable square foot, according to Wechsler, making this site one of the most valuable in the last six months.

Wechsler couldn’t speak to the new owner’s plans for the site, but if they aim to capitalize on their investment through building out the maximum allowed on the site that means a huge residential building could be coming to the lot at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Pinegrove Street near the Van Wyck Expressway. Construction plans have yet to be filed with the Department of Buildings.

Wechsler, Michael A. Tortorici and Jesse Deutch represented the seller.


Restoration work to enhance Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of The Nature Conservancy


The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is getting a makeover.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the National Park Service (NPS) and Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) are collaborating on a project to improve the ecological health of habitats at the refuge and enhance visitor experience.

The project will include reducing invasive plants and restoring native plant communities, including flood and salt-tolerant plants. These conditions will create better habitats for migratory birds and improve the area’s ability to recover from floods. The organizations will also enlist volunteers to re-plant the site and monitor butterflies and pollinators.

“The JBRPC is proud to be working with The Nature Conservancy on this key restoration project that advances our goal to expand public access, increase recreational and educational opportunities, and preserve and restore natural areas, including wetland and wildlife habitat in Jamaica Bay,” said Tom Secunda, chairman of the  Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.

TNC and NPS will call for volunteers to help plant more than 20,000 trees and shrubs within the next few years. The work is expected to begin in the fall of 2015 and continue through 2017. The baseline biological monitoring, including surveys of birds, soils, vegetation and insects, is currently taking place.

“This project will have implications beyond Jamaica Bay by demonstrating how land management strategies on coastal parklands and natural areas can enhance their resilience to climate change,”  said Emily Nobel Maxwell, director of The Nature Conservancy’s New York City Program. “With more frequent flooding, sea level rise and severe storms predicted for New York City, this work has potential applications for the City’s 520 miles of coastline and beyond.”

The Jamaica Bay Refuge Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 330 species of birds and other wildlife. It attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year. The site, part of the 11 park sites that make up the Gateway National Recreation Area, is also home to an array of native reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, more than 60 species of butterflies and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the Northeast.

“The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge provides a home to many of New York City’s animal and plant-life that deserve to live in a secure environment that is free of invasive species and resilient to future storm surge flooding,” Councilman Donovan Richards said. “With our continuously growing city, we need to ensure that our marshes and wildlife sanctuaries remain protected and maintained to mitigate the harmful effects on native species.”

People who are interested in volunteering for re-planting and monitoring the wildlife can sign up here.


Queens Museum lit orange for gun violence awareness following vigil

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

The “World’s Borough” came together Monday night to honor the nine lives lost in last week’s South Carolina church shooting, and show the rest of the nation that a diverse community can unite as one.

Elected officials, local community and religious leaders, and families of victims of gun violence gathered in front of the Queens Museum during a candlelight vigil remembering the victims of gun violence throughout the borough, and paying tribute to the nine people shot and killed at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17.

“We are the borough of Queens, we are 130 languages spoken in our school system, we hail from over 120 countries and you know what? We take the greatest pride in that diversity. We are proud and we stand together to say that gun violence, especially racist terrorist gun violence, will not be tolerated and we will stand together to send that message,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said.

Monday night also marked the first of nine nights that the front exterior of the Queens Museum will be illuminated in orange, the official color of Gun Violence Awareness Month. Through June 30, an average of about 168,000 motorists per day will be able to see the museum as they drive by on the Grand Central Parkway.


“I hope the orange glow of the museum’s façade this evening will remember each of the passing motorists of our collective responsibilities,” said Laura Raicovich, executive director of the Queens Museum.

Those present during the interfaith vigil included local religious leaders who each voiced the importance of coming together to fight for the end of gun violence. Pastor Richard Hogan of the Divine Deliverance Ministry in Jamaica and father of Laseam Hogan, who was killed in 2010 at the age of 27, also led the group in a prayer.

“We come here to launch a movement. We’ve been moving but we need a movement, a movement against gun violence. This is not a movement of just some folk but it has to be a movement of all folk,” said Rev. Dr. Alfonso Wyatt of the Greater Allen A.M.E Cathedral of New York in Jamaica. “We are all impacted. Bullets do not respect age, [do] not respect denomination, faith, tradition, socio-economic background. We have to come together.”

At the end of the night, family members of victims of gun violence read out names of their lost friends, husbands, sons, daughters and other loved ones.

“We commit to continue to be the trailblazers in the borough of Queens and make sure that as the Queens division of the crisis management system, we will show the world how people from different races, people from different ideologies, people from different nationalities, people from different beliefs, and walks and everything that you can think of can come together and change the culture of violence and stop the epidemic of violence from spreading and killing our children and destroying our families,” said Erica Ford, CEO and founder of LIFE Camp Inc., a group founded in 2002 with the mission of teaching violence prevention in schools.


Robbers beat up man inside Jamaica basement

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Three men are wanted for allegedly roughing up and robbing a 24-year-old man in the basement of a Jamaica apartment building Wednesday afternoon.

According to authorities, the suspects — described as black males between 20 and 25 years of age — entered the structure at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 172nd Street at 2:45 p.m. on June 17.

Reportedly, the crooks approached the victim in the basement and displayed firearms. Police said the perpetrators then used the weapons to repeatedly strike the victim before taking his keys and fleeing the scene.

Officers from the 103rd Precinct responded to the incident. The victim sustained minor injuries.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.


Blacks and Hispanics in Queens struggling to become homeowners: report

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre. Charts courtesy StreetEasy.

Queens is the most diverse county in the country — not including some Alaskan Islands with tiny populations.

The borough is so proud of this fact that politicians usually begin speeches with it, businesses highlight it in pitches and everyday residents rave about the various ethnic foods that could be found around the “World’s Borough.”

But as diverse as it is, when it comes to homeownership, the borough looks similar to the rest of the city and country, as blacks and Hispanics struggle with the process of getting a conventional mortgage, according to a new study by real estate website StreetEasy. Only 8.8 percent of conventional mortgage applicants in Queens are from Hispanic residents, while blacks account for just 4.6 percent.

“Queens is one of the more diverse populations in the city. You can see that in the racial composition,” said Alan Lightfeldt, StreetEasy data scientist. “But it’s interesting to see the mortgage applications, because it really falls off. I think that really highlights the disparity of access to the process especially in the first phase.”


StreetEasy crunched the numbers for homeownership, mortgage application rates, and denial rates for blacks, Hispanics, Asians and whites in the five boroughs in 2013 through the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and the American Community Survey.

When it comes to denial rates of conventional loans from Queens residents, blacks and Hispanics lead the way again. Under 5 percent of mortgage applications in the borough were from blacks,  and 31.6 percent of those loan applications were denied. And 29.5 percent of conventional home loan applications from Hispanics were denied.

Interesting to note, Asians have the most mortgage applications for conventional loans in Queens with 41.6 percent, and a denial rating of just 19.6 percent. Lightfeldt said while the data doesn’t show if blacks and Hispanics are being discriminated against, the fact that Asians are able to get loans reflects that banks aren’t focused on minority status but are being strict with qualifications. This may be especially true, because financial institutions are wary of creating another housing bubble.

“I think that is another point to make why this isn’t an outright discrimination,” Lightfeldt said. “Your ability to pay back a loan and credit is what banks point to and because blacks and Hispanics struggle in that area it becomes very difficult for them to become homeowners.”

However, because they have low credit or low income rates, blacks and Hispanics in Queens are taking advantage of Federal Housing Administration loans more than the other races, especially blacks with a leading 36.3 percent of the borough’s FHA loan applications.

Also, although it’s hard for blacks to get conventional mortgages today, a large number of blacks in Queens still do own homes, mostly in the southeast region of the borough. In fact, 47.4 percent of blacks in Queens own a home, which is higher than the city (26.5) and national averages (41.9).