QUEENS — It's Silicon Alley...on Jamaica Avenue.
Downtown Jamaica will soon get a tax-free zone for tech startups, which local officials hope will help put the neighborhood on the tech map and create much-needed jobs in the area.
It is one of five CUNY campuses in New York City — one in each borough — to be selected for the program. The other colleges are Bronx Community College in University Heights, the City College of New York in Harlem, Medgar Evers College in Prospect Lefferts Gardens and College of Staten Island.
The initiative, scheduled to launch in January 2014, will allow businesses to operate without paying state or local taxes for 10 years, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.
Local elected officials said the program will potentially attract numerous business to Jamaica, creating the second area with a high concentration of high-tech companies in Queens, after Long Island City.
“As downtown Jamaica continues to grow, having York College selected for the Start-Up NY Program will help to continue the revitalization we have seen take place this past decade,” said Councilman Leroy Comrie in a statement.
Jukay Hsu, the founder of Coalition for Queens, a tech advocacy group, said the program will be "great for the Queens tech community."
"There is a lot of talent around the borough and it's great that there are different places where people can create their companies," he said.
Businesses participating in the program won’t pay income tax. They also won't have to spend money on business, corporate, sales and property taxes.
In addition, their employees will pay no income taxes for the first five years, according to Cuomo's office. For the second five years, employees will pay no taxes on income up to $200,000.
“With new businesses and affordable housing units opening around York [College], creating this tax-free zone in the community will help entice tech entrepreneurs to Queens, bringing jobs in this developing industry with them,” Comrie noted.
Rob MacKay of the Queens Economic Development Corporation said that Jamaica, where there have been a number of new housing developments, hotels and restaurants in recent years, is a perfect location for the program.
“There is a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit in the area, and it’s much safer than before," MacKay said. "I predict the program will have positive, noticeable and long-term impact.”
The businesses will operate on campuses or land affiliated with colleges selected for the program. Colleges will also provide companies with research laboratories, development resources and experts in high-tech, according to Cuomo’s office.
“We are excited by this tremendous opportunity,” said Dr. Marcia Keizs, president of York College, in a statement. “We look forward to working with our partners to bring emerging or expanding businesses to downtown Jamaica, Queens.”
Similar tax-free zones will be created in other boroughs as well as throughout the state.
To learn more about the new program go here.