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Council OKs Jamaica rezoning

As anticipated, the City Council overwhelmingly approved the largest rezoning project of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, which many believe will pave the way for a revitalization of downtown Jamaica and create a new, thriving business district in a regional transit hub.
On Monday, September 10, the council voted 45 to 3, with all three dissensions coming from Queens councilmembers, to approve the 368-block rezoning project, which also includes down-zoning portions of that stretch to preserve the character of the neighborhood.
“The potential of Jamaica to become one of New York’s premier business and residential districts has been talked about for a long time, and today we’ve taken a giant step toward making it happen,” Bloomberg said.
The zoning changes in downtown Jamaica are expected to serve as a catalyst for private development projects, many of which are already in the planning stages and could exceed more than $1 billion in investments, as well as public improvements to the infrastructure surrounding the area.
In addition, the expected projects could bring 3 million square feet of office and retail space, 9,500 jobs, 5,200 housing units and a hotel located directly across from the AirTrain, which provides a direct link to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“I think it’s going to create job opportunities and bring a more diverse set of businesses, and hopefully get in more national retailers with larger facilities to display their products,” said City Councilmember Leroy Comrie, who represents a large portioned of the rezoned area.
One of the main advantages for redevelopment in the downtown area, is accessibility to transit with nine Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) lines, four subway lines, the AirTrain and 49 bus routes as well as close proximity to the Grand Central Parkway and Van Wyck Expressway.
In addition, millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements in the area have already received funding or are in the process of being funded including improving the LIRR underpass, redoing Station Plaza and adding new street lighting along Jamaica Avenue, Sutphin and Parsons Boulevard and 165th Street.
Meanwhile City Councilmember David Weprin, who represents neighborhoods in the northwest area in the rezoning map, was one of three councilmembers who voted against the Jamaica rezoning, although he supported the downtown portion of the plan. Along with Councilmembers James Gennaro and Tony Avella, Weprin said the city did not do enough to prevent overdevelopment from 179th through 191st Streets along Hillside Avenue.
“You are going to see a lot of unscrupulous developers harassing homeowners and small store owners in order to coerce them to sell,” Weprin said. “Their intention is to develop and build as high as they can in order to make the most money and the infrastructure in that area can’t [withstand] it.”

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