The story of New York City is one of constant renewal, reinvestment and reinvention. Old neighborhoods that may have fallen on hard times, old industrial zones whose heydays are past, find new life with new investment and a fresh perspective on what is possible.
This is especially true in Queens. We are now looking at one such example, the latest among many throughout the borough, in Jamaica and the larger southeast Queens community. While cranes tower over areas closer to Manhattan like Long Island City, the rebirth of Jamaica is no less significant, if occasionally less splashy.
The Jamaica neighborhood has all the hallmarks of a dramatic revitalization. With one of the city’s busiest transit hubs in Jamaica Center, which sees nearly 71,000 weekday daily subways riders and just under 100,000 LIRR commuters, we possess the outer borough equivalent of Grand Central Station in our backyard. In total, some 435,000 commuters pass through Jamaica each and every day, according to the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC).
Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement of a $65 million renovation of Jamaica Center will not only improve the experience of current residents and workers in the community, it will allow for more trains between here and Brooklyn and Long Island, meaning more potential for new people moving in and businesses attracting new customers.
This is already happening. According to the GJDC, between 2008 and 2015, there was $412 million in investment in new development, from the Jamaica Performing Arts Center to the Queens Children’s Library Discovery Center to a major surge in residential and commercial building.
In fact, there are over 2,600 new residential units underway right now in Jamaica. The infusion of new investment has a multiplier effect: As new residents move in, more customers are patronizing our local businesses, which in turn have to hire more workers, spreading the economic benefits.
The local and state governments have caught on to this trend and are making the necessary infrastructure upgrades that will attract families and businesses to Jamaica and keep them here. The Sutphin Underpass will improve access to the Air Train Terminal and create 5,500 new square feet of retail space, according to the New York City Economic Development Corp (EDC).
The new Gateway Park provides much needed open space and the redesign of subway entrances around Sutphin Boulevard makes the area more pedestrian friendly, creating more of the most important economic driver in New York: foot traffic.
As an owner of 2.6 million square feet of residential space in Jamaica and the surrounding area, Zara Realty has witnessed this change and we are helping to continue driving it forward. While new construction certainly plays a key and beneficial role in the renaissance taking place in Jamaica, the modernization and rehabilitation of existing housing stock is crucial to ensuring that the entire community benefits from what is taking place.
Zara has been investing in Jamaica for over 30 years and it has never sold a building it purchased here. In fact, the company has specialized in identifying older buildings, often those which previous owners have under-maintained, and reinvesting in them for our tenants and for future residents of the neighborhoods that make our community so vibrant.
Throughout New York City, 62% of rental units were constructed before 1947, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and 70% were built before 1960. That means that as neighborhoods transform and reinvigorate, investing in existing housing is essential.
Whether it is new facades, new HVAC systems, and energy efficient windows and heating systems, new stairways and elevators, we have spent decades prioritizing improving existing buildings so that New York can maintain precious affordable housing.
The infrastructure is on the way; the new construction is rising all around and will soon transform Jamaica into New York’s latest neighborhood success story; our current housing supply is undergoing the crucial renewal that will make it the dependable, quality affordable housing for future generations of New Yorkers.
Zara Realty is a Jamaica, Queens-based property owner with more 2.6 million square feet of residential property in Jamaica and the surrounding communities. It was founded by immigrants in southeast Queens in 1982.