Jamaica Odyssey celebrates area’s resurgence
By Courtney Dentch 12/12/2002
At its movie-themed gala last week, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation saluted two organizations that are working to add affordable housing and increased parking to downtown Jamaica.
Hundreds of community and business leaders attended the gala at the Jamaica Multiplex Cinema, which opened earlier this year, to celebrate the area’s accomplishments and the projects that are yet to come.
“You can see the progress constantly being made,” said Tazewell Smith, chairman of the GJDC. “From project to project Jamaica is being remade.”
The event, “2002: A Jamaica Odyssey,” was held Dec. 4 at the movie theater, and honored the Ciampa Organization, the developers behind the project to build 180 market-rate apartments in downtown Jamaica, and the Bank of New York, which helped finance the purchase of parking structures in the area, Smith said.
“We have all together and steadily positioned Jamaica for growth and prosperity,” said William Laria, the gala’s chairman. “These projects are another significant step towards Jamaica’s resurgence.”
Borough President Helen Marshall was also awarded a citation for her support of Jamaica’s development.
“Queens is a very, very important part of the city and Jamaica has been one of the most important areas in the borough almost from its inception,” Marshall said.
The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation was founded in 1967 with the goal of transforming downtown Jamaica into a regional sub-center for the New York City area. The organization supports projects that bring commerce, business, government services, and cultural and educational opportunities to the area’s residents.
The Jamaica Multiplex — the first cinema in downtown Jamaica in 30 years — opened in the Jamaica Center building at Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard in May and provided a fitting setting for the corporation’s gala. The GJDC had been a strong advocate for the theater and the other national retailers, such as the Gap, Old Navy and Walgreens, that filled the building, saying the commerce would help revitalize downtown Jamaica.
“This multiplex is one more very important milestone in Jamaica’s renaissance,” said Andrew Alper, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. “There’s an exciting and dynamic business district right here in Jamaica.”
The gala played up its location at the new movie theater with entertainers posing as actors John Travolta, Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg and using Oscar-themed decorations.
Upcoming projects to continue Jamaica’s renaissance include the Ciampa Organization’s plan to create 180 affordable residential units and the Bank of New York’s support of increased parking.
The Ciampa Organization is expected to break ground within the next few months on a $30 million development of two buildings between 161st and 162nd streets. The project, aimed at housing middle-income families, will bring the first market-rate apartments to downtown Jamaica in 40 years, said Dominick Ciampa.
“I’ve watched the Jamaica community change over time,” he said. “Today it’s seeing a major resurgence. My family and I firmly believe our project will be overwhelmingly successful and will further contribute to the Jamaica of tomorrow.”
On an adjacent site, the Bank of New York has agreed to help finance a new $11 million garage with available parking for 410 vehicles. The project is in conjunction with Jamaica First, a nonprofit group organized by GJDC to address the lack of affordable parking in the downtown area, said Lamont Bailey, head of Jamaica First. Construction on the garage was also expected to start in early 2003.
Increased access to parking, along with the retailers and cinema in the Jamaica Center and the affordable housing, is aimed at drawing more people from Queens and elsewhere to Jamaica Avenue, Marshall said.
“The whole Jamaica Avenue corridor has been a place for shopping where businesses have gathered and supported the community and the community supports them,” she said. “Queens has one of the highest per capita incomes. They need to be spending that money here in Queens.”