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Jamaica Development Boss Stepping Down After More Than 40 Years

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | November 10, 2014 4:56pm
 Carlisle Towery has served as the president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation since 1971.
Carlisle Towery has served as the president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation since 1971.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — Carlisle Towery, who has served as the president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation for more than 40 years, is set to retire next year, the group announced Monday.

Towery worked with seven mayors and eight governors and witnessed the collapse of the neighborhood in the 1970s, which decades earlier served as the commercial center of Queens.

He worked with his staff and a number of city and state agencies on bringing changes to Jamaica, helping turn the neighborhood back into a shopping district, with a slew of new projects, including new hotels and housing developments, coming to the area.

Among the recent projects that Greater Jamaica worked on is a 240-room, 26-story hotel and 580-unit residential development with 100,000 square feet of commercial space, scheduled to be built across the street from the AirTrain terminal.

There are also plans to bring the first department store to Jamaica in decades.

Towery said he has been encouraged by the fact that the current city administration shows a lot of interest in developing the area.

He noted that he never gave up on the neighborhood, which suffered numerous setbacks in the 1970s, losing dozens of businesses, including three department stores.

"Every day I woke up for 5 or 6 years, we lost another store," he said. 

Under his leadership, the organization advocated for building an underground extension of the subway to Archer Avenue. It also fought to bring the 50-acre York College campus to the neighborhood and build the AirTrain station in Downtown Jamaica.

As a result, in recent years, the neighborhood started to attract more private investors, the group said.

"It has been gratifying, both personally and professionally, to be instrumental in a broadly-supported, energetic public-private initiative of community leaders and government officials in revitalizing one of New York's most significant and promising downtowns," Towery said in a statement.

Towery, who was born in Alexander City, Ala., graduated from Auburn University, and earned a master's degree in architecture from Columbia University.

He also worked for the Regional Plan Association, before becoming the president of Greater Jamaica.

Towery, who will step down after the group selects his successor, said he had only two employees when he became Greater Jamaica's president.

Currently, the group operates with a $12 million annual budget and 50 employees.