BY JORDAN GIBBONS
With the Jamaica Now Neighborhood Action Plan in its early stages, the 40-year institution of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation is undergoing its first change in leadership, as Carlisle Towery passes his role as the guiding force to Hope Knight.
Knight was introduced to the community on May 1 at CityRib in Downtown Jamaica in front of a room filled with the neighborhood’s civic and elected leaders.
Towery credited GJDC’s search committee with choosing his successor due to her familiar geographic lineage to his own.
“Her father is from Alabama and superior people are from Alabama,” Towery joked with the nod to his home state.
On a more serious note, Towery welcomed her into the community and spoke about the bright future planned for Jamaica.
“This special place called Jamaica is ripe to be taken to the next level and that’s what Hope aspires to do and what we want to support her in doing,” Towery said. “We have a bunch of new opportunities to bring this community to the forefront.”
Knight is bringing her extensive planning experience to Jamaica after being the CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone since 2003.
She helped build up the Harlem community with small businesses and sit down restaurants and she said she plans to use those same tactics on Jamaica Avenue.
“There is a significant unmet retail demand and those were the first initiatives that we undertook in Upper Manhattan to try to bring some large retail to the community as well as helping to build some small businesses,” Knight said. “You have to get some folks who will be early pioneers to invest and the others will come.”
She added that the smaller retail spaces in Jamaica Avenue provide good opportunities for those early pioneers, because it gets the ball rolling with lower risk for potential property owners.
“I think the small restaurants are good to get the whole wave started because they’re lower capital investment and sort of lower risk,” she said. “But bringing something that the community is really seeking creates an environment for other restaurants to come, while rents are still relatively inexpensive.”
Knight said that even in her off time, she dedicates her time to building up underserved communities through organization such as Green America.
“That’s really my passion, figuring out how to get access to capital,” she said. “And growing communities to be strong and durable.”
While her experience has shown she is successful at revitalizing areas, she said she is looking forward to getting input from members of the community on what they want and need.
“There’s been so much tremendous work that’s been done and I look forward to building upon that,” Knight said. “I look forward to getting to meet all of you, hearing what you have to say and understanding what your priorities are for the community.”
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, email@example.com or @jgibbons2.