BY JEN KHEDAROO
During a joint meeting of the Queens Chamber of Commerce and the Queens Borough Cabinet at Antun’s in Queens Village, Borough President Melinda Katz spoke to a crowd of more than 300 people about a number of development plans aimed revitalizing Queens neighborhoods.
The Jamaica Now Action Plan is focused on bringing an economic boost to downtown Jamaica. And with a $153 million investment by the city and $10 million investment from the state, is in full gear.
“Jamaica is a neighborhood who folks around the city of New York for generations kept saying ‘we know what’s best for this neighborhood, we’ll figure it out,’ and I came into office and Mayor Bill de Blasio came into office, and we held 30 meetings and three public hearings,” Katz said.
“We worked with the administration, the stakeholders, the businesses, the homeowners, the community board and civic groups to figure out what downtown Jamaica truly needed in order to thrive,” she added.
Since starting the initiative, there’s been numerous affordable housing projects planned for the neighborhood. Additionally, 20 LinkNYC kiosks that offer services like free Wi-Fi were installed, and there have been upgrades to the broadband in the area.
“With all of the great things coming, Jamaica is an amazing place and we’re letting people know that everyday,” she added.
In addition to revitalizing King Manor Park, the streets in Jamaica will see $2.5 million in upgrades. Community leaders have also advocated for storefront improvement programs on Sutphin Boulevard, which Katz said is happening. Her plans also include getting the various cultural organizations “on the map,” so tourists can learn more about the diverse cultures represented in the borough.
“If you’re in Paris and you come to New York, you’d know that if you didn’t see downtown Jamaica and you didn’t see the borough of Queens, you didn’t really come to the city of New York,” she said.
The redevelopment of Willets Point was also on the borough president’s mind at the event. Last week, the mayor’s administration struck a deal with the developer that will include 1,100 apartments for low-and moderate-income residents.
“We have people in New York who are making a good living and yet they don’t have a place that they can afford to live,” Katz said. “That’s not affordable and that’s not what New York City and Queens should be about.”
The plan also includes a 450-seat K-5 grade school, as well as retail and open space along six acres near Willets Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. Katz will work with Councilman Francisco Moya on a task force over the next year to incorporate the community’s ideas and determine the future for the remaining 17 acres of city-owned land at the site.
At her State of the Borough address a few weeks prior, Katz envisioned a fully-developed Willets Point by 2030 that features “tens of thousands of units of 100 percent affordable housing funded by a new soccer stadium that will eventually host the 2034 World Cup.” Her vision for Willets Point also includes adding a transit hub that would connect passengers to the 7 train, LIRR and an AirTrain to LaGuardia.
“In a transit desert Queens, where two-thirds of the borough doesn’t have access to subways, you need to have a way to travel to the airport,” Katz said.