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Culture group seeks $3M for Jamaica Ave. center

Tyra Emerson, executive director of Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, petitioned for the money...

By Betsy Scheinbart

Cultural Collaborative Jamaica is seeking $3 million in the next city capital budget to complete the first phase of a community center project in Jamaica Center.

Tyra Emerson, executive director of Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, petitioned for the money at a recent Queens budget hearing in Borough Hall.

“The facility would be transformed into a professionally staffed, not-for-profit performance and educational facility,” she said at the hearing.

A total of $2.5 million has already been collected for the projected $5 million project to renovate the former First Reformed Church, at Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street into a multipurpose community center.

The community center would be managed by Cultural Collaborative Jamaica, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, and the Black Spectrum Theatre.

“It would provide rental spaces for local artists and cultural organizations for rehearsals and presentations,” Emerson said, “and have other attractions and spaces to enhance the community’s cultural life and economic well-being.”

Emerson said the facility “would be accessible to a wide public audience, reflecting the diversity of ethnic and cultural communities in Queens.”

The first phase of renovation at the former church would take place on the first floor, where a 400-seat theater, a tourists’ welcome center, and offices would be housed. Bathrooms in the basement would also be constructed at that time.

She criticized Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s proposed budget cuts for the Department of Cultural Affairs, which she said “will drastically reduce the number of program offerings and could possibly shut down many of the smaller organizations in Cultural Collaborative Jamaica.”

Cultural Collaborative Jamaica is a non-profit group of 14 cultural, educational, and economic development agencies in Jamaica. The annual Jamaica Arts and Music Summer JAMS Festival is one of the programs the group helps sponsor.

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

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