Jax Hts’ pre-recession economy grew three times that of city

Jax Hts’ pre-recession economy grew three times that of city
Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli painted a mostly positive portrait of Jackson Heights and its surrounding neighborhoods’ economy on a visit to the community last week, saying small businesses owned by immigrants bring in much money and the area has enormous potential growth.

“The economic future of northwestern Queens is a bright one,” DiNapoli said.

The comptroller’s “economic snapshot” of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and East Elmhurst was prompted by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).

Peralta joined DiNapoli, along with state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) and City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), at the unveiling of the findings at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, at 37-06 77th St.

The senator said DiNapoli’s analysis could help developers understand the community’s needs.

“It’s very important for our community to have this kind of document to move forward,” Peralta said.

DiNapoli’s portrait goes back more than 10 years, covering the neighborhoods both before and after the 2009 recession. He said immigrants from 71 countries live in the four neighborhoods, many of whom are small business owners. From 2000-09, the number of businesses grew by 18.1 percent, a percentage three times larger than the rest of the city, and most of these businesses employed less than 10 people.

“People from all over the world continue to come here to live, work and raise their families,” DiNapoli said.

The recession did have an effect on the neighborhoods, however. While private sector wages grew by 6 percent each year from 2004-08, they dropped by 1.5 percent from 2008-10.

The average rent also changed from taking up an average of more than 30 percent of residents’ income in 2002 to taking up an average of 43 percent to 48 percent of residents’ income in 2008.

He suggested the long-planned revitalization of Willets Point could bring opportunity much-needed by residents.

“Public and private investment is needed,” DiNapoli said.

DiNapoli said the area had remarkable draws, such as Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the Louis Armstrong Museum, but one problem was school overcrowding — 19 of the area’s 22 elementary schools are above capacity.

DenDekker said he hoped the report would spur development without hurting small businesses. He also suggested that leaders should find ways to help small businesses comply with regulations without just levying fines.

“We don’t want to upset the balance of losing our small businesses,” he said.

Dromm said he believed the economic growth in the area earlier this century is related to the immigrant population. He said he buys everything he needs from small businesses run by immigrants within a block of where he lives.

“I’m very proud of this neighborhood,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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