Traffic Fixed, But Visual Appeal Is Lost
By VERONICA LEWIN
A development project intended to stimulate the economy of downtown Jamaica – as well as bring aesthetic appeal – may be facing budget cuts that would preserve the function but abandon its artistic form.
The Greater Jamaica Development Corp., which has been acting for more than 40 years as the key architect of growth, zoning changes and remediation of Downtown Jamaica, was hoping to receive $15.9 million of City funding for the Atlantic Avenue extension project – a key part of a massive urban renewal project around the new AirTrain station.
Under the plan, the community surrounding Atlantic Avenue would be transformed into a mixed-use business district around the Jamaica Station and AirTrain complex, bringing commercial space, several parks, residential units, and retail to the area. The complete project design also includes several parks and visual improvements to the one-way pair of 94th and 95th Avenues.
When the possibility of a $10 million funding cut came to the attention of GJDC earlier this year, the organization reached out to then-Economic Development Corp. Executive Vice President Madelyn Wils, asking for the funds to remain. Wils responded to GJDC President Carlisle Towery that the City was unable to return the project to its $15.9 million plan due to the economy, though the EDC agreed to work with GJDC to change the scope of the project to fit a potential change in budget.
Wils said the agency was working towards ensuring savings leftover from the Sutphin Underpass construction project, also managed by GJDC, would be used to preserve as much of GJDC’s original plan of the Atlantic Avenue extension project as possible.
That has not happened.
After months of unsuccessful attempts to definitively secure the $10 million, GJDC reached out to Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) to ask for his help to prevent the money from being cut from the project. In a letter dated Aug. 11, GJDC Chairman Lamont Bailey said making improvements to the one-way pair, roadways and the landscape are key developments for the area surrounding the AirTrain and Jamaica Station.
If the capital budget is cut, the organization has three alternatives to its original $16 million plan. The first, at $10.2 million, would keep Gateway Park and other neighborhood parks, but leave the one-way pair on 94th and 95th Avenues without aesthetic improvement; another alternative costing $7.7 million would leave Gateway Park as the lone space of green in the project; the last would remove Gateway Park, but would only cost the City $5.7 million.
A spokeswoman for the EDC declined to comment until the budget for the Atlantic Avenue Extension project is finalized.
“We would be very disappointed if this budget cut happens, as would the many stakeholders in the area who anticipate the improvements which the project will provide,” Bailey’s letter states.
Reach Reporter Veronica Lewin at email@example.com or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123.