BY CARLISLE TOWERY
With the passing of Vincent M. Albanese, Sr., an era is marked of exceptional public-private partnerships in economic development for the downtown and environs of Jamaica.
In the 1960s, Vincent’s long view of Jamaica’s needs and potential—and his commitment to public participation in addressing them—led to the formation of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation in 1967, of which Vincent was a founder, initial president, then board chairman, and for the last two decades its general counsel.
The results were a tailored local instrument of exceptional and unusual capacity. Vincent urged—with his courageous development expertise—joint efforts of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce; city, state and federal governments; and the Regional Plan Association to execute programs and projects that would transform the downtown area. Jamaica is now a multi-purpose modern metropolitan center of commerce, higher education, shopping, government services, increased housing opportunities, transportation and the arts—all enlarging the choices and the public’s access to resources in Southeast Queens.
Vincent’s leadership began as Jamaica was taking huge economic hits: the loss of all its department stores, the departure of five bank headquarters, a regional newspaper printing plant, along with dozens of smaller enterprises linked to these anchors. Economic distress, property abandonment, disinvestment, social depression and loss of public confidence characterized Downtown Jamaica until the mid-1980s.
Notable major projects which Vincent’s leadership prioritized included: selection of Jamaica for the location of a City University of New York campus on 50 acres of land acquired and cleared through city urban renewal actions, support for construction capital over several years, removal of the dilapidated Jamaica Avenue elevated transit line and—with major federal support—its replacement with three subway stations, the location and construction of the laboratory and headquarters of the Food and Drug Administration’s regional facility, the construction of a new building for the Social Security Administration, two new city and state courthouses for Queens County, three pioneering special assessment districts for improving key downtown commercial streets, a “capital access” revolving loan fund for local small businesses, the establishment of the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, including landmark designation and preservation of a city building for its operation, and the repurposing of four underutilized and deteriorating municipal lots to create “Jamaica First” public-parking facilities.
The Jamaica community is forever indebted to Vincent M. Albanese Sr..
Thank you, Vincent.
Carlisle Towery is the former president and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation.