By Naeisha Rose
The Jamaica Center Business Improvement District held its 39th annual meeting Thursday at The Harvest Room in Jamaica to discuss the future of the downtown area.
The goals of the JCBID include helping to beautify Downtown Jamaica, to support and promote its local businesses, and to keep the area clean, according to its President Michael Hirschhorn.
Highlights of the Nov. 8 meeting included the economic vitality of Downtown Jamaica, transportation and beautification efforts and business programs according to Hirschhorn at the event space, located at 90-40 160th St.
“Great things are definitely happening in Jamaica,” said Deputy Director Shurn Anderson of the Economic Development team from the Office of the Queens Borough President. “We have new businesses coming downtown, mixed-used development, affordable housing and approximately 50 new hotels on the horizon.”
One of the cornerstones to spur the economic vitality of Downtown Jamaica and Queens included the $13 billion redevelopment of John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“The goal is to redevelop JFK International Airport into a state-of-the-art airport,” Anderson said.
Last month Nicole Garcia, the Queens Borough Commissioner for the city’s Department of Transportation, met with stakeholders from the county and discussed renovating four million square feet of the airport which is expected to increase its capacity to 15 million in the early to mid-2020s.
Infrastructure, safety and mobility were also part of the agenda for Garcia at the BID meeting.
The DOT’s expense budget for 2019 is $1 billion and it has a five-year capital plan budget of $13.5 billion to maintain the Staten Island Ferry, 13,000 signal light intersections, 6,000 miles of roadways, one million street signs and 789 bridges, according to the commissioner.
“We have been able to pave more streets than in previous administrations and most of our work has been focused on major corridors in this community,” said Garcia.
Some initiatives included turning narrow two-way roads into one-way roads, moving the dollar van hub from Parsons Boulevard to Archer Avenue, and adding a community space and plants to beautify Parsons Boulevard, according to Garcia.
Queens had the fewest traffic fatalities in any borough throughout 2017, according to Garcia.
“Last year we lost 59 residents to traffic crashes,” said Garcia. “We still have more work to do.”
Daniel Kulka, a member of JCBID agreed. Throughout the meeting, he expressed his dismay with the city handing out too many permits to for-hire vehicle operators.
“They are either driving too aggressively or they are just driving slowly to kill time,” said Kulka. “Is there a way for them to be sidelined somewhere without clogging up traffic.”
For-hire vehicles are under the purview of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, which did not have representatives at the meeting. Garcia, however, will reach out to that department to relay his concerns.
One of the business programs mentioned at the meeting was a restaurant loan program for local restaurateurs who have experience operating three or fewer food joints, according to Greater Jamaica Development Corporation representatives Ian Wells and Vivi Acosta.
“We are looking for experienced restaurateurs… but someone who is not a big guy like Chipotle,” said Wells. “We want to encourage restaurants to relocate in Downtown Jamaica.”
Whitney Barrat, the newly appointed executive director of JCBID, said the future is bright for Downtown Jamaica.
“This is such an exciting time for Jamaica, with so many public and private partners investing in its future,” said Barrat. “In response, we are strengthening our programs, solidifying our collaborative relationships with our community partners, and developing new initiatives to support and advocate for Jamaica on behalf of our businesses and the community. Change is coming, but Jamaica is already a fantastic place. It’s great right now, and that’s what we’re here to shout about.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose