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Residents and Activists Rally For More Affordable Housing in Jamaica

 Numerous developments are planned for downtown Jamaica. 
Local Residents and Activists Rally For More Affordable Housing in Jamaica
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QUEENS — As new developments start to change Jamaica, locals rallied Tuesday for more affordable housing and policies that would protect the local community.

Roughly 150 residents, activists and faith leaders gathered at the Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York, a congregation led by former Rep. Rev. Floyd Flake. They later marched along Merrick Boulevard to a crumbling garage used by the NYPD at 168th Street and Archer Avenue, which the city plans to replace with a mixed-use building.

The project is one of several major developments planned for downtown Jamaica in the near future, after 368 blocks in the area had been rezoned in 2007 to allow developers to construct larger buildings. 

Following the economic meltdown, a number of projects were put on hold — until now.

“The city estimates that more than 3,000 units of new housing, 500,000 square feet of commercial space and 800 new hotel rooms will be built in this area in the coming years,” said Jamaica resident Minister Helen Broady of Greater Allen AME Cathedral, referring to the recently announced Jamaica Now, a $153 million action plan to revitalize the area.

“But who will benefit?,” she asked. 

Broady also said that while in other neighborhoods, such as East New York, the city wants to make 50 percent of all units built under the rezoning affordable, in downtown Jamaica developers building within a special inclusionary housing zone can receive incentives requiring them to make only 20 percent of the units affordable. 

Residents also worried that even if affordable units are built, they may still remain beyond the reach of the local population. 

According to the Department of City Planning affordable units within the inclusionary housing zone would be provided to families with income at or below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), which is $56,720 for a family of four.

But the rules won't apply to developments built outside the zone. 

Participants also demanded that developers hire workers from the community and pay them decent wages.

"If you are going to build in our community, you should make sure that it benefits our community," Broady said.

Darnel Lyles of Faith in New York, an organization representing more than 70 congregations around the city said that the group is not against new developments.

"We are in favor of progress and growth, but we want to make sure that if you do that it’s equitable for everyone,” he said.