By Philip Newman
Job losses and other such indicators in Queens had begun edging toward a slowdown in the economy even before the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, an economic monitoring agency reported in its fall survey.
“The Sept. 11 attack is having a profound impact on Queens,” the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation said. “And just prior to Sept. 11, economic trends for New York City pointed toward recession.”
The number of passengers and air freight declined at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the first five months of this year with passengers at LaGuardia Airport also dropping significantly.
Evidence of the economic decline came along with the report that Queens led all New York City boroughs except Manhattan in personal income as the 20th century came to a close. The QCOEDC said Queens’ total personal income grew 5.6 percent in 1999 to $58.2 billion.
Although no figures were available on the magnitude of the economic hit Queens has sustained from the World Trade Center disaster, there were disquieting reports from small businesses even before airlines announced layoffs.
A typical such report came from a car service in Long Island City where business plunged by 150 percent in the first weeks following the disaster. The business, one of many such Queens-based services, had originally employed 40 to 50 persons in Long Island City, with a fleet of cars that took passengers to airports and to Wall Street firms, said Marie Nahikian, executive director of the economic development corporation.
New York City lost 110,000 jobs within the first 30 days after the attack, according to the report.
Yet, in the months before the attack, Queens residents were still seeing the benefits of economic growth, the survey said. Personal income for Queens residents grew by 4.9 percent in 2000 and the most recent available household income data emphasized the predominance of the middle class in Queens.
“Queens employment data is not yet available for 2001,” the QCEDC survey said. “However, a mixed picture emerges from citywide trends for the sectors of the economy that are largest in Queens,” the report said.
Hospitals are the biggest employer in Queens, followed by construction and airports.
“New York City health-care employment edged up slightly through the first seven months of this year after remaining flat in 2000,” the survey reported.
Citywide construction employment grew 6 percent for the same period, compared with 2000. On the other hand, manufacturing employment fell by 4.8 percent citywide through the first seven months of 2001. Citywide air transport employment, most of which is in Queens, picked up in the spring and summer months of 2001, after slow growth and a decline in passenger and freight traffic at the two airports.
The agency said numbers were still elusive on the job losses for those who work in the air transportation and air freight industry. Queens has 41,500 jobs in that sector. The QCEDC said the loss of every 1,000 air transport jobs in Queens takes with it 470 more jobs in travel agencies, restaurants, computer and data processing, trade and other industries.
“Taxi and limousine services and the hotel industry in Queens have already started to feel the effects of the sharp fall-off in air travel,” the survey said.
Turning to growth in Queens, the agency said that in a borough renowned for a population boom that surpassed 2 million for the first time, the population increase was led by the Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights area.
“Over 330,000 residents live in Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights, according to the 2000 Census,” the QCEDC said. “East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and North Corona grew 32.2 percent between 1990 and 2000, faster than all other Queens districts. Elmhurst, Corona and Corona Heights grew by 21.7 percent.”
“No other neighborhood in the nation offers the opportunity to see a World Series baseball game, buy Indian saris and exquisite gold jewelry at overseas prices, eat in a white tablecloth Italian restaurant and shop at the nation’s highest dollar-performing retail mall,” the agency said of the Elmhurst, Corona Jackson Heights area.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.