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Leffler sees great things in Jamaica’s future

City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis), a graduate of Jamaica High School who is running for Queens borough president, predicted Jamaica would prosper with the completion of the AirTrain and other developments currently underway in the southeast Queens commercial hub.

Leffler said he was impressed by the plan for Jamaica Center’s future, which was presented in May by the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, headed by Carlisle Towery.

“I think Jamaica will a generation from now be quite different,” Leffler said in an interview with the TimesLedger last Thursday, adding that the plan to redevelop Jamaica Center “has the potential for creating a lot of jobs.”

The corporation’s two-year “vision for Jamaica Center” includes the construction of a hotel over the AirTrain station, rerouting traffic, creating new open spaces and developing the station area.

“I think it’s a good plan, certainly worth a lot of attention,” Leffler said of the corporation’s development vision.

Leffler is running for borough president against Democrat Carol Gresser, a former president of the Board of Education from Douglaston, City Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst) and City Councilman Alfonso Stabile (R-Ozone Park).

During last week’s interview, Leffler remarked on the progress of the AirTrain, a $1.9 billion light rail system which will provide an eight-minute ride from Jamaica to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“This work will create jobs and will create business opportunities and will ultimately have benefits all across the line for small business people, for culture and for redevelopment,” Leffler said of the AirTrain and Jamaica Center redevelopment plans.

The train’s free, on-airport loop and the connection to Howard Beach is expected to be operational by the end of 2002 and the passengers should be making the trip from Jamaica in 2003, according to the Port Authority.

The councilman said satellite businesses that serve the airport, such as cargo operations, might find Jamaica a logical place to have an office.

If a hotel were built, then other businesses could spring up, such as restaurants and cultural facilities, Leffler said.

A 15-screen movie theater and retail complex is currently under construction at One Jamaica Center, about 10 blocks from the future AirTrain station and is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2002.

Leffler has represented the 23rd Council District since 1978. The district covers several northeastern Queens neighborhoods and continues south into Hollis, with Jamaica Avenue as the southern border.

Leffler attended Jamaica High School and his father had owned a grocery store in Jamaica.

“The business that my father had at 147-12 95th Ave., an old warehouse that is now closed, that is now potentially valuable property,” Leffler said.

The councilman said places in Queens like Jamaica have not kept pace with the development of Manhattan, but now they have the chance to catch up.

“I think there really is a lot of opportunity for business in places like Jamaica that are no further from Manhattan than other areas of the New York metropolitan region which have done better economically over the last century,” Leffler said.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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