BY TRONE DOWD
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli visited the Queens Central Library on Wednesday to give constituents, prospective investors and elected officials an idea of the economic state of Jamaica.
DiNapoli said that he has made a habit of visiting neighborhoods all around the state to give them feedback on their financial standing in hopes that they will take that information and use it to further improve their economy. He says that he has visited neighborhoods in all five boroughs and was excited to finally visit Jamaica.
“Our goal today is to release an economic snapshot,” DiNapoli said. “When we put together these snapshots, we obviously tap into our community leaders and organizations that are involved with economic development and growth. Let’s take this information and get it back out there to the community for people to have a better sense of what’s happening in their own neighborhoods.”
During his analysis, DiNapoli called Jamaica a “growing and fast-paced community” with a growing economy.
“This area is home to one of the largest transportation networks in any neighborhood in New York City,” he said. “It’s a prime attraction for businesses and residents as well. The 250,000 residents of Jamaica make this the second most populated neighborhood in the city. Much of the neighborhood’s growth is driven by immigration.”
As the comptroller detailed, immigration over the last 30 years has grown substantially in Southeast Queens. In 1980, immigrants made up 18 percent of Jamaica residents. In 2014 however, immigrants represent 41 percent of the population. In terms of the makeup of that population, more than half of them are of Caribbean descent. Jamaica in fact, has the largest population of Jamaican-born immigrants in the entire city at 24,000.
In terms of jobs and economics, DiNapoli says that there has been a steady growth across the board. He says that Jamaica businesses are growing at a faster rate, roughly at 39 percent over the last 20 years, than the rest of the city’s 29 percent in the same time frame.
“The growth is driven by several major sectors, including social assistance, business services and hotels,” he said. He also mentioned the health care, retail, transportation and warehousing as other industries that have contributed to this growth.
Despite the growth seen in Jamaica, the comptroller acknowledged one of the biggest setbacks that have affected not just Jamaica but all of Southeast Queens.
“The recession hit this community hard,” he said referring to the massive wave of foreclosures that have hit mostly Black homeowners. “In many ways the community is still recovering from the mortgage crisis. It’s reflective in the fact that supportive housing still seems to be an issue. I know one of the community issues is to have more inspectors to address vacant homes. It is a part of the consequences of the mortgage crisis.”
But even with the troubled housing market and decrease in value of local homes, DiNapoli said that he is confident that Jamaica is heading in the right direction in bouncing back from those obstacles.
“Just last week, the Census Bureau released new data for household income and poverty. Our staff analysed that data and found that the median household income increased by 11 percent in 2015, twice as fast as the city overall.”
Amongst the Southeast Queens organizations that helped the Comptroller was the Queens Economic Development Corporation, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation and the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. Amongst those sitting in for the meeting were many Southeast Queens representatives including Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), Assembly members David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens), state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Borough President Melinda Katz.
Reach Trone Dowd at (718) 357-7400 x123, email@example.com or @theloniusly