GJDC gets a new president after 40 years

By Sadef Ali Kully

The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation announced Hope Knight, former CEO of Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, will succeed Carlisle Towery, who served as president for the not-for-profit for the last 40 years.

Towery, who is retiring after more than four decades at the helm of GJDC, welcomed Knight’s appointment.

“I could not be more delighted to leave Greater Jamaica Development Corporation in the capable and dedicated hands of Hope Knight,” said Towery, who will continue on as a consultant for a few projects. “Jamaica is poised to reach even greater heights in the future, and everything about Hope’s experience and commitment gives us reason to believe she will help take us there.”

Downtown Jamaica has seen a dramatic upsurge in development activities, especially around the transportation hub where the subway, Long Island Railroad and the Air Train converge.

“We started when this area was deteriorating. The first 10 years were the worst,” said Towery, who is in his late 70s. “We had ‘white’ flight and blockbusting, but thanks to public investments there have been enormous changes. We started building back.”

Towery recalled public changes such as building a new subway, the consolidation of all the Queens civil courts, industrial retention, the Air Train and the opening of CUNY’s York College in Jamaica.

“It has been gratifying to see the progress and to have a successor who is so qualified is wonderful,” said Towery, who is planning to travel around the world during retirement.

Currently in downtown Jamaica, a new hotel project and mixed-income residential-commercial development are proceeding on sites assembled by GJDC. Recently, the Blumenfeld Development Group unveiled plans for major commercial development, with the return of the first major department store to the neighborhood in decades.

Knight, 50, has been the chief operating officer of Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, a nonprofit that facilitates the economic revitalization in Upper Manhattan through job creation, corporate alliances, strategic investments, and small business assistance. At the organization she spearheaded activities in leveraging public financing to drive private investment that led to the creation of hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs in its service area since 2003.

Before her position at Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Knight served as a vice president for Morgan Stanley in New York and in Tokyo. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business management from Marymount Manhattan College and went on to earn an MBA from the University of Chicago. She continues to serve on the boards of a number of corporate and nonprofit entities.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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