By Patrick Donachie
A parking lot in the heart of downtown Jamaica currently in use by the NYPD will be converted into a new mixed-use apartment complex, with more than 350 units of affordable housing.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation said the new development at the corner of 168th Street and Archer Avenue was the first major initiative of the Jamaica NOW Action Plan, a $153 million initiative spearheaded by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYCEDC that was announced in 2015.
Omni New York LLC, a development corporation, submitted a proposal for development to NYCEDC after the corporation issued a request for proposals in February 2015. The NYCEDC said the project would create as many as 300 permanent jobs and 250 construction jobs.
“The selected proposal builds on southeast Queens’ strengths as a commercial and transit hub by delivering over 350 units of 100 percent affordable housing, hundreds of good-paying jobs, and community, recreational and retail space to downtown Jamaica,” NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer said. “The redevelopment of the 168th Street NYPD garage into a thriving mixed-use facility furthers Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York initiative to create more affordable housing options for New Yorkers.”
Some community residents, including Jean-Andre Sassine, were concerned about the potential sizable development slated for the lot. Sassine helped lead a protest at the site in August decrying the lack of affordable options for long-term Jamaica residents.
“My concern is all about the community,” he said in an interview this week. “We want to make sure there is affordable housing that the people can benefit from.”
He said Jamaica residents should take precedence for the jobs to be created in the development’s construction and said he was concerned that the affordable housing in the complex would not be truly affordable for Jamaica residents. The city qualifies affordability by utilizing the federal government’s Area Median Income, which takes the average of incomes from throughout the metropolitan area, from poor to affluent neighborhoods, to make a citywide standard of affordability.
“The median income in Jamaica is $35,000, it’s not $80,000 or $100,000,” Sassine said. “Affordable for $80,000 is not feasible for Jamaica.”
The NYCEDC said Omni would participate in HireNYC, which connects New Yorkers with workforce development services and job opportunities, as well as a 30 percent commitment to utilizing Minority and/or Women Business Enterprise firms and a commitment to 40 percent minority and women workforce participation.
Katz lauded the announcement as a sign that downtown Jamaica was due for continued growth.
“The selection of a developer to convert the 168th Street NYPD parking garage into a 100 percent affordable housing project is great news and shows that the Jamaica NOW Action Plan is well on its way to revitalizing downtown Jamaica,” she said.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona