Carlisle Toweryhas devoted his professional life to urban planning and economic development. He has worked since 1971 for Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC), a non-profit organization that has been in the forefront of community development inNew York City, helping to orchestrate the revitalization of the central business district of Jamaica,Queens.Born in Alexander City, Alabama, Mr. Towery studied atAntiochCollege, earned a B.S. in Architecture fromAuburnUniversityand a M.S. in Architecture fromColumbiaUniversity’s Graduate School of Architecture and Planning. He served as an Instructor, then as an Associate Professor, atColumbiaUniversityGraduateSchool.
From 1969 through 1971, he was Chief Urban Designer for the prestigious Regional Plan Association, helping prepare planning and development analyses forNew York’sLowerHudsonValleyand forJamaicaCenter. He was a member of RPA’s design team which prepared Urban Design Manhattan, a pioneering effort.
A key element in RPA’s proposal to revitalizeJamaicaCenterwas the formation of a non-profit organization of local business and community leaders that would work with government officials to execute specific projects to halt economic decline and positionJamaicafor growth. This group of local leaders formed Greater Jamaica Development Corporation and engaged Mr. Towery as the organization’s first Executive Director; he subsequently was appointed President. GJDC’s founders include Joseph P. McMurray, then president of Queens College; David Starr, then Editor of the Long Island Press; Vincent M. Albanese, then President of The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce; Lawrence Cormier; and Lawrence Bailey, Esq. prominent local businessmen.
The projects that have revitalized Jamaica Center in which GJDC has, with many partners, been active and instrumental include: removing the Jamaica Avenue El and building the Archer Avenue subway line; the decision to locate CUNY’s York College in Jamaica and constructing its campus; building major new regional headquarters for the U.S. Social Security and U.S. Food and Drug Administrations; recycling vacated department store buildings for new uses; fostering creation of three local business improvement districts and a small business loan fund; developing parking facilities; establishing an art center and improving local cultural institutions; site selection and the decision to locate in Jamaica the Queens County Civil Court and Queens Family Court; fostering housing renovations; and development and operation of the City’s first farmer’s open air market, followed by the permanent Jamaica Market. GJDC participated in supporting development of the light rail system connecting downtown Jamaica to JFK Airport.
GJDC and Mr. Towery continue to plan and facilitate public and private projects and programs that advanceJamaicaCenter’s progress and strengthen it as one of the region’s major transportation, commercial, educational, cultural and government centers. It is currently administering, with NYC Economic Development Corporation, three major public infrastructure improvements around AirTrain at Jamaica Station.