With snowstorm after snowstorm blanketing Jamaica Avenue it was easy to forget what the street that we walk down almost every day looks like. Sort of like walking around a familiar house in the dark- you know it by heart.
But now that the snow has melted a new and almost unfamiliar light is being shed on Woodhaven’s main commercial and transportation venue. And what’s showing isn’t pretty.
What is becoming painfully clear is that Jamaica Avenue is a bit of a mess. Bird droppings coat the corners and streets around our two elevated train platforms. Litter baskets overflow with garbage tossed by residents who do not want to hold it in their homes for the next Sanitation Department pick-up. Trash is tossed to the streets by those who frequent stores that do a brisk take-out food business.
We’re now also beginning to see the economic hurt that many other neighborhoods have been experiencing for the last few years. This is translating into empty storefronts and sidewalks not being shoveled of snow before it becomes a thick and impenetrable slab of ice.
Why are things different now? What can be done to change this recent slide?
These are tough questions to answer but one thing is certain. In about a year we will have a newly refurbished and repainted elevated train structure. If businesses and their representatives do not take a different approach to how they administer the business district we can no longer point the finger of blame at the state for having our subway system be the eyesore of Woodhaven.
Like the new problems that now affect Jamaica Avenue, we have to come up with new and ambitious plans to bring the district into the twenty-first century. We have to proactively attract new and vibrant businesses that all of our residents would be happy to shop at.
We need to rethink the concept of having one man with a Rubbermaid trash-can on wheels cleaning more than 25 blocks with a broom. We need to have well thought-out promotional days and a medium to actually deliver this information to our residents.
And we need to open channels of communication with the building owners about rents that would support a dynamic and diverse shopping environment.
This may be one of our last best chances to get this right. I implore Jamaica Avenue’s business owners to get together and grab this opportunity. To put on their thinking caps and come up with a new and comprehensive plan. They have nothing to lose but business.
Vance B. Barbour