Op-Ed: Jamaica A Showcase For Housing Goals


Downtown Jamaica is a thriving retail, residential, civic, cultural, educational and regional government center. With its central location in Queens served by a regional transit hub with easy connection to Long Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn and JFK International Airport, Jamaica’s downtown has exceptional potential for becoming a showplace for Mayor de Blasio’s mixed-income affordable housing goals. New housing has already begun popping up all over the downtown: from the Dermot Group’s sleek MODA (346 mixed-income affordable units) to the recently opened Norman Towers by The Bluestone Organization (101 mixed-income units) and has over 550 units already in the pipeline.

These residential developments provide affordable housing to a range of household incomes.

Norman Towers is one of the new developments that displays the growth of Downtown Jamaica.

Interest from private developers has been increasing in Queens, with Flushing and Long Island City seeing significant investment over the last few years. Jamaica is poised to be the next area of focus. In 2007, 368 blocks in the downtown and surrounding environs were rezoned, allowing for an increase in density at transit nodes. Many of the rezoned sites in Jamaica, particularly around the robust transit hubs in the downtown, are attracting the attention of developers. These sites offer an attractive option for today’s urban population that wants to live in a place with easy access to jobs and sophisticated amenities.

The Jamaica LIRR/AirTrain station area serves over 200,000 passengers daily on the LIRR, the AirTrain to JFK, the E, J, Z and F subway lines and 49 bus lines. Penn Station in Manhattan is 18 minutes away. With the completion of the LIRR’s East Side Access project, a quick and easy connection to Grand Central Station will follow. Over $90 million in infrastructure projects are underway in the station area to compliment the anticipated development.

This includes the completed pedestrian arcade featuring the retail Shops at Station Plaza, located under the east side of the LIRR tracks underpass, outdoor plazas and street widening to occur on the north side of Archer Avenue just north of the tracks, and the extension of Atlantic Avenue from the Van Wyck to 95th Avenue into a new one-way pair on 94th and 95th Avenues to ease traffic flow.

The Queens Tribune’s upcoming conference features speakers both committed to and knowledgeable about mixed-income affordable housing in Downtown Jamaica and across the borough. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) will join Borough President Melinda Katz, GJDC Chairman Peter Kulka and HUD Director Teresa Bainton, and several active residential developers who will be discussing the issues and opportunities facing luxury and affordable housing development in Queens. Borough President Katz, previously the chair of the City Council’s land-use committee, was active in the rezoning of Jamaica and remains dedicated to seeing the area thrive.

Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) has long been involved in the redevelopment of the downtown, and its Chairman, Peter Kulka, is a long time local businessman and property owner. Teresa Bainton, HUD’s Director of the New York Multifamily Hub, has over 35 years of experience in multifamily housing and community development-related issues, program planning and management.

The Conference will be at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center (153rd Street and Jamaica Avenue) on Oct. 14 from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m.

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