Sunday, July 16, 2017

Will Governor Cuomo's 10 Million Dollar Investment Into Downtown Jamaica Help Long Time Local Residents?

Night Life and Real Estate Development About to Be Lit in Downtown Jamaica

By Kamau Austin

Governor Cuomo's announcement of investing 10 million dollars into what is being called "Downtown Jamaica," is interesting and does show some promise.  However, how much will this Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), help long time local residents especially in surrounding areas of like South Jamaica, St. Albans, Hollis, Richmond Hill, Queens Village, Laurelton, Rosedale, and similar nearby communities? To read about his plan click here

This is a concern a good number members expressed in a meeting about a month ago in Downtown Jamaica that I attended on the subject "Jamaica Avenue is Evolving..."  Also in talking to business owners in the area and residents on this news blog and on social media, many residents are concerned whether this investment will help bring revenue to their areas and advance the overall Southeast Queens community.

Many quite frankly are concerned that this investment and earlier ones are going to primarily help a new gentry class moving into the area and cause many working class and middle class people to be displaced.   I agree that Jamaica Avenue has a lot of potential with the colleges nearby offering good low cost high tech training courses, exceptional performing art centers, and promising shopping and dining enclaves.

However, central to this development is that opportunity has to be made available for long time residents and their families.  Queens and increasingly Greater Jamaica/Southeast Queens, are some of the most diverse areas in the world.  It would be nice if a broad brush of residents get a chance to benefit from all the development.    

Concerns Addressed at Jamaica is Evolving... Event 

What is hopeful to me is that Governor Cuomo and local politicians are spearheading some entrepreneurial opportunities which could help area residents.  Also the high tech and startup initiatives could be beneficial to local residents if they are given true opportunity to become business owners.

These are visionary ideas worth pursuing.  However, Downtown Brooklyn and Harlem, to a large extent had similar concepts in the Metrotech.  And local residents were displaced and priced out of the area.  We want to learn from the evolution of Brooklyn and make sure local residents benefit beyond getting some minimum wage jobs for the buttressed retail and restaurant sectors planned for the area.

Let's be diligent and activists to make sure our residents get access to good jobs, viable entrepreneurial and business opportunities.  These were the criteria for the investment below.

Jamaica was selected as the winning DRI community in the New York City region after the local regional Council weighed seven criteria in selecting downtown Jamaica, Queens as its nominee:

1. The targeted neighborhood should be compact and well-defined.

2. The downtown, or its center, should be of a size sufficient to support an active, year-round downtown and should have a sizeable existing or increasing population within easy reach for whom this would be the primary downtown.

3. The downtown should capitalize on prior, and catalyze future, private and public investment in the neighborhood and surrounding areas.

4. There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable.

5. The downtown must contain properties or characteristics that contribute or that could contribute, if enhanced, to the attractiveness and livability of the downtown, including the presence of developable mixed-use spaces, housing at different levels of affordability and type, commercial and retail main street businesses, including healthy and affordable food markets, walkability and bikeability, and public parks and gathering spaces.

6. The downtown should contain or articulate how it can create policies that enhance quality of life, including the use of local land banks, modern zoning codes, complete streets plans, or transit-oriented development; and

7. Local and community support must exist for revitalization of the downtown. There must be a commitment among local leaders and stakeholders to build and implement a strategic investment plan for the downtown.

For more information on the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and how to apply for its second round, go to:    

Read About the Actual Projects to Win the Investment click here

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