Op-ed: 2022 will be remembered as the year Queens’ economy got back on track

Tom Grech

Each December many of us take time to reflect on the past 12 months and look ahead to the new year. While the past few years have been a trying time for our small business community, I believe that 2022 will be remembered as the year the Queens economy got back on track. This year, work was done to create thousands of units of affordable housing and jobs, which will help ensure a strong, equitable recovery throughout the five boroughs.

Here in Queens, where we are desperately in need of more affordable housing, we are fortunate to have had many important projects receive the green light from our elected officials. In September, Councilwoman Tiffany Caban announced her support of a 1,400-unit development in the Hallets Point area of Astoria. The project will be built with union labor and create hundreds of permanently affordable housing units.

This momentum continued when the City Council passed the historic plan for Innovation QNS in Councilwoman Julie Won’s district. This $2 billion project will create 3,190 housing units, with 1,436 being permanently affordable.

In November, Mayor Adams, along with Borough President Donovan Richards and Councilman Francisco Moya announced the plan to redevelop Willets Point into a mixed-use neighborhood with 2,500 new affordable homes –the largest 100% affordable, new construction housing project in New York City in 40 years. The redevelopment will also include a state-of-the-art soccer stadium, open space and a hotel. This project is expected to generate $6.1 billion in economic impact over the next 30 years, creating 1,550 permanent jobs and 14,200 construction jobs, transforming the area around Citi Field and the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center into the region’s premier destination for sports entertainment.

These projects are important for a number of reasons. They all create good-paying jobs for local residents and will catalyze economic activity that supports local small businesses. They also reflect that our elected officials, from across the political spectrum, have reached a consensus – we cannot begin to address the crisis of homelessness and affordability without building more housing. It’s an issue of supply and demand.

While housing and development is an important part of the equation, we cannot have an equitable recovery without supporting the growth of emerging industries throughout the five boroughs. There is no better way to do that than through tech incubators.

Incubators support a strong tech ecosystem, and growth in a sector that provides local residents with good-paying jobs. We can’t simply rely on attracting the world’s most prominent tech companies to Queens, we also need to be doing everything we can to help homegrown startups succeed.

The Queens Chamber and the Queens Tech Council recently opened two tech incubators – one in the Rockaways and one in Jamaica. Companies chosen for the incubators have access to complimentary office space, mentorship opportunities from existing Tech Council members, as well as other resources. We have plans to open three more next year – in Flushing, Forest Hills and Long Island City – ensuring that growth and opportunity reach every corner of our borough.

In addition, we are starting a Queens Angel Fund to attract investment dollars to be plowed back into our Queens-based start-ups, completing the circle of home-grown talent with world-class investment.

As we step into the New Year, we can do so with confidence that we laid the groundwork in 2022 for a strong, equitable recovery. By continuing to focus on development that creates jobs and housing, and fostering the growth of a strong tech ecosystem, we will strengthen our local economy and give our small business community a much-needed boost.

Tom Grech is president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.