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NYC starting work on Jamaica, Queens rezoning plan

City officials want to build on plans to remake Jamaica’s streetscape — including proposals for more pedestrian access — into an expansion of jobs and business opportunities in the bustling Queens neighborhood.

The city Planning Department is looking at a possible rezoning of a 300-block area that takes in not just downtown Jamaica, but nearby York College, Rufus King Park, and the Jamaica rail hub, which links the subway, Long Island Rail Road, and Kennedy Airport AirTrain.

The study is to build on the Department of Transportation’s Jamaica NOW initiative, which has earmarked nearly $70 million for a number of street improvements — including a plan to convert Parsons Blvd. between Jamaica and Archer Aves. into a permanent pedestrian “gateway.”

The study plan was formally announced at an event in Jamaica by City Planning chief Dan Garodnick and a number of elected officials including City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and local Councilwoman Nantasha Williams.

“This is an opportunity to really, really get the work done finally to expand, beautify, maximize this amazing downtown core to bring the vibrancy that we know is prospective,” said Speaker Adams, whose district includes Jamaica.

Rezonings have long raised concerns about displacement and gentrification in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color like Jamaica. During former mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, rezonings in areas including East New York, Brooklyn in 2016 and Inwood in Manhattan in 2018 were met with fierce community resistance before they were enacted.

Rendering of proposed upgrades to Parsons Boulevard.

In the years since, some leaders in rezoned neighborhoods have said their worst fears about the plans have come to pass — including an uptick in real estate speculation that pressured vulnerable tenants.

It’s early days for Jamaica’s rezoning. A final City Council vote on the Jamaica plan isn’t likely until 2025, said a City Planning spokesperson. In the meantime public engagement on the Jamaica plan will continue with an open house this summer and public workshops in the fall.

“We look forward to really being strong partners in this more than just exercise, but really building Jamaica back better,” said Richards. “But that means ensuring that even as we do that, the people who’ve lived here, the people who’ve stayed here, can remain even as we invest in downtown Jamaica.”

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