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Photo by Naeisha Rose
Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia

Transportation and beautification in the Jamaica Center area topped the agenda during the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District’s (JCBID) annual meeting on Nov. 8.

The goals of the JCBID is helping beautify Downtown Jamaica, support and promote its businesses, and keep the area clean, according to its President Michael Hirschhorn. Highlights included the economic vitality of Downtown Jamaica, transportation and beautification efforts, and business programs.

“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 to Downtown, mixed-used development, affordable housing and approximately 50 new hotels on the horizon.”

One of the cornerstones to spurring 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,” said Anderson.

Last month, Nicole Garcia, the Queens borough commissioner for the city’s Department of Transportation was 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 on the main 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, changing 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 lowest traffic fatalities in any borough in 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 giving 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.”

Unfortunately, for Kulka, 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 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.”

There is currently $230.1 in unmet demand for full-service restaurants in Downtown Jamaica, according to Wells. GJDC wants to give out $50,000 to $150,000 loans with a three to five year repayment period to meet that need. Restaurateurs that want to also grow their current business by 40 percent can also apply for the loan at https://gjdc.org/restaurantloan/.

“This is such an exciting time for Jamaica, with so many public and private partners investing in its future. 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,” said Whitney Barrat, the newly appointed executive director of JCBID. “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.”

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