QUEENS — Jamaica, a long-overlooked neighborhood that is undergoing a rapid transformation, has won $10 million as part of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant competition that will further boost its economy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
Local nonprofit Greater Jamaica Development Corporation teamed up with York College to apply for the grant in June, and was selected by the state’s New York City Regional Economic Development Council from approximately 120 applicants, officials said.
"This DRI funding will allow us to continue to grow the Queens economy, create jobs and transform our transportation infrastructure," said Hope Knight, president of Greater Jamaica.
A slew of new apartment buildings, hotels and stores planned for the area are expected to change downtown Jamaica dramatically in the next couple of years. The neighborhood attracts developers because of its proximity to JFK Airport and its easy access to several major highways as well as express subway trains to Manhattan and the Long Island Rail Road.
"Jamaica, you have the transportation hub, you have the housing, you have the business, you have the cultural centers, you have the workforce, you have everything, you have every piece you can possibly need," said Cuomo during his announcement at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center in Downtown Jamaica. "You just need the investment to bring it together and to get it kickstarted."
Knight, who said she found out about the grant Wednesday morning, noted that "a planning process will be put in place to prioritize initiatives."
According to Cuomo’s office, the process will identify specific economic development, transportation, and housing projects, that the groups will work on.
One of the projects in the application focused on efforts "to figure out a workforce development program that would connect local residents to the jobs that will get created as a result of these hotels being developed," Knight said.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that the funding will build upon the Jamaica NOW Action Plan currently underway which also seeks to revitalize the area by developing vacant spaces and replacing them with new housing and retail stores, among other projects.
"Jamaica is on the rise … people want to come here, live here, play here, they want to spend their money here," Katz said. "As a gateway between New York City and Long Island Jamaica serves… as a crucial passageway and ... is poised to be this dynamic diverse great area."
The grant is part of a $100 million effort to improve city centers in various areas across the state, according to Cuomo's office. Plans for specific neighborhoods will be completed by early 2017, officials said.