Jamaica Applebee's Serving Up Forums About Neighborhood's Revitalization

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on March 11, 2014 11:33am 

 Residents participate in a discussion during a Community Conversations event at Applebee's in Jamaica.
Residents participate in a discussion during a Community Conversations event at Applebee's in Jamaica.
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Isa Abdur-Rahman

QUEENS — The Applebee’s restaurant in Jamaica wants to feed more than your stomach — it is also seeking to stimulate your mind.

The restaurant recently started a biweekly series of community discussions on topics ranging from home ownership to arts and culture in the neighborhood, organizers said.

“Everybody is welcome,” said Isa Abdur-Rahman, a local activist and community development lawyer, who helped create the series with Applebee’s and moderates the events.

Abdur-Rahman said there is no admission fee for the events, which take place very other Tuesday, and no purchase is required, although he said he hopes that residents would support the restaurant that opened in 2010.

Until last year, it was the only sit-down restaurant in downtown Jamaica.

Zane Tankel, CEO of Apple-Metro, said in a statement that in addition to serving food, the restaurant's "mission is to serve community."

"The Community Conversations Series partnership exemplifies our connection with the community and extends our offerings to serve as a meeting place and resource for the community at large," Tankel added.

“Beyond just offering food, they offer a place that the neighborhood didn’t really have before they came,” Abdur-Rahman said.

During the events, residents can network and discuss the ideas with a group of experts, organizers said.

During the next discussion, “The Entrepreneur Within You” scheduled for March 11, participants will learn about various developments in the community as well as incentives, such as the new Start-Up NY program that aims to attracts tech startups to York College.

“The time is right for entrepreneurs that are looking to start a business in the area,” Abdur-Rahman said.

Residents will also have a chance to discuss topics such as the role of the church in the neighborhood, a disconnect between local seniors and young people as well as arts and culture in Jamaica, an event during which a number of artists will perform, including poets and a live band from York College.

“Arts and culture is a very big component of revitalizing the area,” said Abdur-Rahman, adding that the goal is to promote “Jamaica as a cultural destination.”

He also said that all the topics chosen for the series are “instrumental to the effort" of reenergizing Jamaica.

Events are currently planned through May, but if they become popular, the organizers said they will continue the series.

“Ultimately the vision that we have is that those Tuesday nights will become known for Community Conversations,” he said.

To check the schedule of Community Conversations, go here. Networking starts at 5 p.m. followed by a discussion from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Applebee's is located at 161-21 Jamaica Ave.

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