By Patrick Donachie
Surrounded by elected officials and community leaders, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that downtown Jamaica would be the beneficiary of a $10 million allocation from the state government for neighborhood revitalization.
The governor, flanked by Borough President Melinda Katz, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica), state Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica) and state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Hollis), said the funding would go toward making Jamaica “shine.”
“Queens has all sorts of assets, but Queens needs a partner,” Cuomo said during his remarks at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center. “You have every piece you could need, you just need the funds, the start-up capital.”
The Downtown Revitalization Initiative, originally announced in Cuomo’s State of the State address, was a competitive process with the winning municipalities receiving funds to generate new opportunities. According to the governor’s office, $300,000 of the funds will go to private sector experts and a local planning committee that will draft a plan for specific programs and projects to be funded.
Hope Knight, the president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, said she had learned the news that downtown Jamaica received the funding earlier that morning. Knight said the process of how the funds will be allocated was preliminary, but she mentioned a workforce development program as a possibility, so area residents could be trained and get jobs in the growing number of hotel construction projects in the area.
Katz welcomed Cuomo home, as his father Mario had grown up in Jamaica and he grew up in Hollis Hills, a short distance away. Katz said with Jamaica on the rise, the funding would greatly benefit the surrounding community.
“We have all the pieces in place, and it’s like a catapult to get where we need to be in terms of regional growth and prosperity,”she said during her remarks.
The Downtown Revitalization Initiative stipulated that the winning area, whatever it may be, must be of a sufficient size and have “recent or impending” job growth to help support the eventual revitalization projects funded by the $10 million allocation.
In total, 10 downtown areas will be receiving $10 million in funding, with Jamaica the city’s recipient. The state received 122 applications during the process.
Katz, Cuomo and Meeks all mentioned during their remarks that Jamaica had strong assets already in place, including a vibrant downtown, a transportation hub with the Long Island Rail Road and John F. Kennedy AirTrain stops, and a spate of new construction and development. The grant was part of a broader $100 million statewide effort to improve city centers.
State Sen. James Sanders (D-Rochdale Village) was in the audience and said community leaders and elected officials needed to be cautious about possible gentrification in the area, insisting that a certain amount of housing created in the neighborhood’s development must be truly affordable for local residents.
“We want to make sure the people who were here in the hard times are here in the good times,” he said.
The planning process for the allocation of the funds is expected to be completed in early 2017.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona