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5 Stories to Watch in Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona in 2017

By Katie Honan | December 30, 2016 3:37pm | Updated on January 3, 2017 8:50am
 Construction crews were finishing demolition of a strip of former auto body shops in Willets Point to prepare for its multi-billion dollar renovation.
Construction crews were finishing demolition of a strip of former auto body shops in Willets Point to prepare for its multi-billion dollar renovation.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

JACKSON HEIGHTS — From a multibillion dollar airport renovation that's affecting the neighborhood to new schools, 2017 will likely be a busy year for the neighborhoods in western Queens.

Take a look at some stories to keep an eye on next year:

1. Street Safety Improvements

The Department of Transportation is set to present updated plans for 111th Street in Corona after delays from the city — following debate over concerns about the planned addition of bike lanes.

It's not immediately clear when work will begin on 111th Street, but there will likely be some resolution and timeline early in the year. 

The thoroughfare has been designated a priority under the city's Vision Zero pedestrian safety initiative, as has Queens Boulevard, which has seen a number of improvements over 2016 and is slated to get continued updates through Rego Park and Forest Hills in 2017. 

2. LaGuardia Airport Construction Continues 

Reconstruction on the airport began this year — in what officials say will transform the beleaguered terminal from its current state to a modern facility. The construction has had rippling effects into the surrounding areas, exacerbating traffic on the Grand Central Parkway in combination with a roadway configuration project at the airport and other construction work. 

Airport reconstruction work moves forward into 2017, as well as Terminal B's reconstruction.

Everything is so far set to be completed by 2021, so the residual effects of construction, particularly in East Elmhurst, will likely be felt for a while.

3. Safer Parks

Officials from the 115th Precinct vowed to take back local parks from various gangs and crews that have used them as headquarters. Uniformed police officers began patrolling the parks last fall, and the work will continue through 2017, officials said. 

The park crimes were part of a mixed year in the precinct, which saw shooting incidents down 50 percent and transit crime down 34 percent, but car thefts up 24 percent. Rapes in the precinct were also up 18 percent according to year-end statistics through Dec. 25. 

In the 110th Precinct, which oversees the bustling Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, saw an 16 percent increase in car thefts and a 15 percent increase in rapes compared with 2015. Shootings were also up 20 percent, with six incidents in 2016 compared with five last year. 

4. Willets Point and Subsequent Development

The first strip of shops in Willets Point was razed this summer, and the city said demolition on other strips will continue through 2017. 

While the project is still in its early stages, demolition was the first major sign of change for the project. 

The area still needs major environmental remediation work before any construction can begin.

The goal is to create a mix of residential and commercial businesses the Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Sterling Equities and the Related Companies. 

5. New Schools and Extensions to Ease Overcrowding

With the most overcrowded schools in the city, school construction is always a major topic in Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst. 

A nearly 500-seat elementary school — P.S. 398Q — should open by 2019 at the site of the former White Castle regional office. The school will serve pre-K to fifth graders at 69-01 34th Ave. Demolition work was completed this year at the site and construction just beginning.

Trailers were demolished this year at Corona's P.S. 19 at 98-02 Roosevelt Ave, with construction continuing through 2017. The new school addition should open by 2019.

Also in 2019, a new universal pre-K center is set to open near the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.