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City and Community Pushing to Develop 'Overlooked' Jamaica

 Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development speaks at an event at York College Tuesday morning.
Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development speaks at an event at York College Tuesday morning.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — The city and community leaders are working on ideas to make Jamaica, which has been "overlooked" over the past several decades, a neighborhood that is attractive to young people and business owners.

Representatives of the mayor’s office, Queens Borough President, various city and state agencies as well as community groups met on Tuesday at York College to come up with a plan to further develop the neighborhood, by attracting more businesses and new restaurants, building more housing and beautifying the area.

“We think this is Queens’ turn,” said Robert Yaro, president of Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit group that promotes the economic vitality of the New York metropolitan region. “We think Jamaica could be the next great place in the city … and it can become again what it was 40-50 years ago.”

Yaro also noted that Jamaica continues to serve as a transportation hub and commercial center of Southeast Queens, a home to about 600,000 people, the equivalent of a city the size of Boston.

Nevertheless, he said, the area “has been overlooked by city government for a very long time” after once being the commercial center of the borough.

“It’s the first time in probably 30 years that anybody at City Hall is paying attention to Jamaica,” he said.

Alicia Glen, New York City's deputy mayor for housing and economic development, said at the meeting that the current administration is very committed to developing the area.

“Jamaica has tremendous strengths,” she said. “Our challenge is now to work with you to take it to he next level and …  really enhance the strengths of Jamaica and to create an economic strategy that will help unlock the potential that’s already here.”

Various groups will be meeting throughout the summer to discuss issues such as housing, youth, community, education, small business, workforce development, public space, transportation and commercial development.

By the fall, they will come up with a series of recommendations, which will be presented to the de Blasio administration, City Council and various state agencies in order to be implemented, according to Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz, whose office is leading the efforts.

A number of new developments have already been planned for the area.

There are plans to bring a major department store to 168th Street, between 90th and Jamaica avenues.

New hotels and housing developments are also being built in the neighborhood.

“The challenge is to take the ideas we discuss today and translate them into concrete plans to build an even stronger Jamaica in the future,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a local non-profit group, that has worked for decades to bring new investments to the struggling area.