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Downtown Jamaica could be included in a tax exemption program that stands to give an economic boost to the area around York College.

Governor Andrew Cuomo created and passed a program that installed tax-free zones in designated area around SUNY campuses. When State Senator Malcolm Smith caught wind of the new venture, he proposed getting Queens in on the action.

“A university or school can be the center for economic development for a neighborhood,” he said. “York College is the center of southeast Queens.”

The program, Start-Up NY, aims to bring revenue to communities in need by giving unprecedented exemptions from sales, property, state and corporate taxes for 10 years. It also includes exemptions from state personal income taxes for employees in newly created jobs.

If Smith’s proposal is passed, York College could apply to sponsor a tax-free zone around it. Among the criteria for a neighborhood to gain the special status, it has to have the highest poverty rate out of all college neighborhoods in the borough. The York College community has a roughly 20 percent poverty rate, slightly higher than any other college community in Queens.

The initiative is designed with an eye to attracting businesses that can enhance employment opportunities for students and graduates. Retail outlets and real estate firms will not be eligible to participate, while fiber optics companies and other high tech ventures are sought.

“These are very powerful incentives,” Smith said. “If properly applied, they could be transformative for York and economically regenerative for Jamaica.”

Smith has engaged in talks with Dr. Marcia Keizs, president of York College, to execute this economic vision. The legislator said he has “no doubt” Cuomo will approve the proposal.

“There is a strong community presence and involvement in the program,” he said, “because that’s what’s going to make it exceptional and transparent.”

 

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