Reflections On The Early Days Of Jamaica

BY CARLISLE TOWERY

In reflecting on the half century of efforts in downtown Jamaica’s redevelopment I note with some satisfaction that “Change at Jamaica”, – once a common public complaint – is now usually a complimentary observation of progress.

This progress results in part from the role and record of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC), the private not for profit organization founded in 1967 by business, civic and rebuilding of its downtown. At GJDC’s formation, the downtown prospects- its very vitality- were being challenged by stresses from shopping center developments on Long Island, from government neglect and from uncertainties of rapid demographic change in Southeast Queens.

GJDC began its mission of pioneering in partnership securing support and leadership from public and private interests. The mission reflected an ambitious plan prepared by Regional Plan Association, which set out to break what was then generally considered an irreversible downtown cycle.

This approach to date has produced some 40 new projects and several programs focused on the downtown, including, the new Archer Avenue subway line with three stations, the removal of the downtown of the Jamaica Avenue El, the US Social Security Administrations large regional program center with some 2800 jobs to the area and many more all these years later.

An especially productive and long-lasting partnership with City government began under Mayor John Lindsey, who established two spacious offices of planning and development in Jamaica and use the key player in the decision to locate York College her. This was followed by strong leadership from Borough President Claire Shulman, who provided a range of major improvements in downtown and South Jamaica. The creative use of federal funds supported several successful initiatives.

So, Jamaica is back! And with the special attention and support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on track for impressive new development in hotels and housing led by GJDC need is exceptional board and talented staff.

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