City Council votes to make old Jamaica HS landmark

By Joe Anuta

The ornate building that housed the original Jamaica High School was officially given landmark status this week after a City Council vote.

The legislature voted Tuesday to approve the status for the building, which was completed in 1896 to serve the town of Jamaica, two years before Queens County was incorporated into New York City.

“Even as we build for the city of tomorrow, we cannot lose the iconic structures of the past,” said Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), whose district encompasses the block of Hillside Avenue between 162nd and 163rd streets, where the school is located. “I am incredibly thankful for the support of my Council colleagues in helping to preserve this one-of-a-kind school building that has served this area’s students for 117 years.”

Gennaro was referring to its initial use as the area’s high school until 1927, when the institution moved to a new building.

The Jamaica Learning Center, which houses the Queens Satellite High School for Opportunity, now calls the Dutch Revival-style building home.

“When residents of Jamaica, Queens, decided to build a school at the turn of the century, they wanted to make sure the building was big enough to accommodate the growing population of the community,” Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said. “Today, over 100 years later, the building is still serving the same purpose its original designers envisioned.”

In June, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the greenlight for landmark status, which will legally preserve the building’s architecture, including its arched windows and red and tan brick facade from being altered.

“The fact that such a distinguished architect was selected to produce a highly original, distinctive building underscored the prosperity and growth of Jamaica,” Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Tierney told Timesledger Newspapers after its June decision to preserve the school site. “It also shows how serious the town was about educating its children, even as it was on the verge of being absorbed into the City of New York.”

The Council has 120 days to review a decision by the commission to landmark a building and then must vote on it. A majority is required to pass the landmarking.

The school was designed by prominent Brooklyn architect William B. Tubby, according to Gennaro’s office.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

More from Around New York