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Greater Jamaica insists AirTrain will help area

The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation gave an update to its members last week on several projects planned for development around the future AirTrain station and on how the Sept. 11 disaster affected the transportation industry.

Most of Greater Jamaica’s plans for downtown Jamaica are contingent upon the success of AirTrain, which is to connect the Sutphin Boulevard Long Island Rail Road and subway station with John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2003.

Carlisle Towery, president of Greater Jamaica, told the members not to be discouraged by the difficulties the airport has had following the Sept. 11 attack but to expect the airline industry and JFK to recover in the long run.

Cruz Russell, a planning director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is overseeing the AirTrain project, said work on AirTrain stopped in the weeks following the Twin Towers disaster. But it is back on track and likely will be completed on schedule. he said.

“The [transportation] industry itself will pick up the pace and get us back on schedule,” Russell said. “People are going to start flying again.”

City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans) introduced his friend and longtime colleague, Councilwoman Helen Marshall (D-East Elmhurst), the Democratic nominee for Queens borough president, to the Greater Jamaica members.

Marshall said she voted for the controversial AirTrain project in the City Council because Towery said it would help the development of downtown Jamaica. She quipped that Towery and Greater Jamaica better follow through on that promise.

Earlier this year, Greater Jamaica unveiled its “Vision for Jamaica Center,” a long-term plan including the construction of a hotel above the AirTrain terminal and improvement to parking facilities and streets in downtown Jamaica.

Towery said Greater Jamaica was focusing mainly on the area of the Sutphin Boulevard station because of the commercial possibilities posed by a rail link to JFK.

“AirTrain gives us some specific opportunities for development and our market niche now will be JFK,” Towery said.

One of the largest projects planned by Greater Jamaica at Sutphin Boulevard is a 10-story office building that could open for business at about the same time the AirTrain station becomes operational across the street.

Downtown Jamaica lacks quality private office space, Towery said, and the demand for such space is growing as the AirTrain station’s opening day draws closer.

“We have turned down many inquiries because we didn’t have class A office buildings,” Towery said.

Last month, Greater Jamaica chose LCOR to develop the 10-story building. LCOR, which specializes in large, public-private partnerships, recently built the new International Arrivals Terminal 4 at JFK.

The Jamaica office complex could cost as much as $100 million, said LCOR Senior Vice President David Sigman. Construction could begin this summer and conclude by the end of 2003, Sigman said.

Meanwhile, plans for new parking garages began to take shape last month after the non-profit Jamaica First Parking took over two city-owned garages and started to improve the lighting and signs in the facilities.

At the same time, Greater Jamaica is working on the Jamaica Pathways project, a plan to beautify Sutphin Boulevard from Jamaica Avenue to Hillside Avenue; portions of 160th Street in Jamaica Center; and 159th Street from the Archer Avenue subway south to York College and the federal Food and Drug Administration offices.

The $5.5 million project is mainly funded by the federal government and corresponds with a proposal to create a Business Improvement District on the same stretch of Sutphin Boulevard as the Jamaica Pathways project.

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

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