Jamaica in Queens NY

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Jamaica is a neighborhood

Jamaica is a neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City. It was settled under Dutch rule in 1656 in New Netherland as Rusdorp.[1] Under British rule, it became the center of the Town of Jamaica. Jamaica was the county seat of Queens County from the formation of the county in 1683 until March 7, 1788, when the town was reorganized by the state government and the county seat was moved to Mineola (now part of Nassau County). When Queens was incorporated into the City of Greater New York in 1898, both the Town of Jamaica and the Village of Jamaica were dissolved, but the neighborhood of Jamaica regained its role as county seat. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 12.

Previously known for being one of the predominantly African American neighborhoods in the borough of Queens, Jamaica in recent years has been undergoing a sharp influx of other ethnicities. It has a substantial concentration of West Indian immigrants, Indians, Arabs, Russians, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans as well as many long-established African American families. A few East Asian families are also known to have recently put down roots in Jamaica.

The neighborhood of Jamaica is completely unrelated to the Caribbean nation of Jamaica (although Jamaican immigrants do live in the area); the name similarity is a coincidence. The English, who took it over in 1664, named the area "Jameco," for the Jameco (or Yamecah) Native Americans, who resided on the northern shores of Jamaica Bay, and whose name means "beaver" in Algonquian languages.

Jamaica is the location of several government buildings including Queens Civil Court and the civil branch of the Queens County Supreme Court. Jamaica Center, the area around Jamaica Avenue and 165th Street, is a major commercial center, as well as the home of the Central Library of the Queens Borough Public Library.

Some locals group adjoining neighborhoods into an unofficial Greater Jamaica, including St. Albans,Springfield Gardens, Queens Hollis,Laurelton, Queens Village, Howard Beach and Ozone Park. The New York Racing Association, based at Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park, lists its official address as Jamaica. (Central Jamaica once housed NYRA's Jamaica Racetrack, now the massive Rochdale Village housing development.)

Jamaica Demographics and neighborhoods

Jamaica is very large and expansive area with a wide array of diversity in its population. Although formerly predominantly African American, it is reported that 27.69% of the population is now Asian, 25.01% white, 24.34% other, and 22.14% black. While the corresponding figures represent a certain portion of Jamaica, official statistics differ by the area's numerous zip codes such as 11432, 11433, 11434, 11435, and 11436. The total population of Jamaica is estimated to be a bit over 90,000 with all neighborhoods taken into consideration.

Jamaica was not always as diverse as it is today. Throughout the 19th to early 20th centuries, Jamaica was mainly populated with whites as new Irish immigrants settled around the places known today as Downtown and Baisley Pond Park. However as the 60's rolled in, the modern term known as white flight had taken effect and middle-income African Americans started taking their place. After the 70's as housing prices began tumble, many hispanic and west Indian immigrants moved in. These ethnic groups tended to stay more towards the Jamaica Ave. and South Jamaica areas. Yet it wasn't until the late 1990's and early 2000's that immigration took its toll. Gentrification and decrease in crime attracted many families toward Jamaica's safe havens. Hillside Ave. is a complete reflection of this trend. Along 150th to 161st streets, much of the stores and restaurants are of South American and Caribbean culture. Heading further east is the rapidly growing East Indian community. Mainly spurred on by Jamaica Muslim Center, Bangladeshis have flocked to this area due to the easy transit access and the numerous Bengali stores and restaurants lining 167th and 168th streets. Neighborhood analysts have concluded that Bangladeshis are becoming the most rapidly growing group significantly in Jamaica Queens. Other areas where they are known to reside in are Merrick Blvd. and Sutphin Blvd. in South Jamaica. Yet heading down this same direction, you will find numerous churches, stores, salons, and hair-braiding shops thriving in the hip-hop and African-American cultures. A few Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are also known to have settled in the Jamaica area.

Economic history and development of Jamaica

For years the area of Jamaica had been under neglect for economic development. The 1960s and 1970s were times in which many big box retailers moved into suburban areas where business was more profitable. Such retailers included brand name stores, commercial strips and movie theaters that once thrived in Jamaica's busiest areas. Macy's and the Valencia theater were the last companies to move out in 1969. The 1980's brought in the crack epidemic which created even more hardship as well as crime. Prime real estate spaces were replaced by unsuccessful hair salons and 99 cents stores. Furthermore, existing zoning patterns and inadequete infrastructure did not anticipate any future development. However since then, the government reaction towards fighting crime as well as the recent decrease of the crime rate itself has provided a positive reaction to potential entrepreneurs who plan to invest in the area. The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) is a long-standing nonprofit organization that has done an excellent job in promoting development. They have acquired valuable real estate and sold them to national chains in order to expand neighborhood opportunities for advancement. As well they have completed underway proposals by allocating funds and providing loans to potential investors who have already established something in the area. One Jamaica Center is a mixed-use commercial complex that was built in 2002 housing Old Navy, Bally Total Fitness, Gap, and a 15-screen multiplex theater. Banking has also made a strong revival as Bank of America, Sterling National Bank, Washington Mutual, and Carver Federal Savings Bank have each created at least one branch along various major streets: Jamaica Avenue, Parsons Boulevard, Merrick Boulevard, and Sutphin Boulevard. A $75 million deal with Home Depot cleared the way for a new location at 168th St and Archer Ave. The most prominent piece of development has been the creation of the Sutphin Boulevard transit hub aka "Jamaica Station" which was fully completed in 2003. It includes the Sutphin Blvd. E,J, and Z subway subway station, LIRR, and the Airtrain JFK which provides a 5-7 minute direct ride from Jamaica to John F. Kennedy International Airport. The Airtrain station remains the central figure for ongoing economic progress. With the growing number of riders each day passing through this station, the city is providing some major changes to the surrounding blocks of this massive hub of transport.

Currently Jamaica has great potential to be a premier bussiness center in New York City following the examples of major redevelopment occurring in Long Island City, Flushing, and Downtown Brooklyn. In 2005, the New York City Department of City Planning drafted a plan that would rezone 368 blocks of Jamaica in order to stimulate new development, relieve the overwhelming traffic situation, and shift upscale amenities away from low-density residential neighborhoods. The plan includes up-zoning the immediate areas around Jamaica Station to accommodate passengers traveling through the area. To improve infrastructure the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has agreed to create more greenery and open spaces to allow pedestrians to enjoy the scenery. At the same time, the city has reserved the right to protect the suburban/residential charm of neighboring areas. Several blocks will be down-zoned to keep up with the existing neighborhood character. On September 10,2007 the City Council overwhelmingly approved the plan. Structures of up to 28 stories can be built around the main transit hub as well as residential buildings of up to 7 stories can be built on Hillside Ave. As of today, there are a few up and coming projects. The city economic development corporation has issued an RFP for redevelopment of a 45,000 sq. ft. abandoned garage located at 168th St. and 93rd Ave. Plans are underway to convert this space into retail and parking spots. "TechnoMart Queens" has been the first ever declared approved project. Located at Sutphin Blvd. and 94th Ave., Korean Based Prime Construction Corp., Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, and several other partners have signed a deal to create a 13-story Mega-mall. 9 floors will be dedicated towards wholesale electronics, 3 floors to retail space for shopping, and it is estimated to contain parking for up to 800 cars. Groundbreaking on this site will initiate in late 2008 and is slated for completion by mid-2011. The GJDC has announced in their newsletter that another site adjacent to the mall will be converted into a hotel for Airtrain passengers. Official groundbreaking information has not been released nor declared yet its completion is set for 2010.

Transportation in Jamaica

Jamaica Station is a central transfer point on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), which is headquartered in a building adjoining the station; all but one of the commuter railroad's lines (the Port Washington Branch) run through Jamaica.

The New York City Subway's IND Queens Boulevard Line (E F) terminates at 179th Street, at the foot of Jamaica Estates, a neighborhood of mansions east of Jamaica's central business district. The Archer Avenue Line, which opened in 1988, (E J Z) terminates at Jamaica Center–Parsons Boulevard. Jamaica Center is not just a transit hub; it is also the name of a business and government center that includes a federal office building, and a shopping mall and theater multiplex (One Jamaica Center), and is adjacent to various other businesses and agencies, such as the main forensic laboratory facility for the New York City Police Department.

Jamaica's bus network provides extensive service across eastern Queens, as well as to destinations as distant as Hicksville in Nassau County, Q44 serves to western Bronx, the Rockaways, and Midtown Manhattan. Nearly all bus lines serving Jamaica terminate there; most do so at the 165th Street Bus Terminal or the Jamaica Center subway station.

Jamaica, a large, sprawling neighborhood, is also home to John F. Kennedy International Airport—one of the busiest international airports in the United States and the world— public transportation passengers are connected to airline terminals by AirTrain JFK, which operates as both an airport terminal circulator and rail connection to central Jamaica at the integrated LIRR and bilevel subway station located at Sutphin Blvd and Archer Avenue.

Major streets include Archer Avenue, Hillside Avenue, Jamaica Avenue, Liberty Avenue, Merrick Boulevard, Parsons Boulevard, Guy R. Brewer Boulevard (formerly known as New York Boulevard), and Sutphin Boulevard, as well as the Van Wyck Expressway (I-678) and the Grand Central Parkway.

Neighboring areas are Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hills, Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Hollis, Queens Village, South Ozone Park, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, Laurelton, Rosedale, Brookville, Rochdale, Springfield Gardens, and South Flushing.

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