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Jamaica bakery gets $1M for better rail access

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“This important project...

By Betsy Scheinbart

New York state will provide $1 million in transportation funds to improve rail access to the Interstate Brands Bread Bakery in Jamaica, where Wonder Bread is produced and hundreds are employed, Gov. George Pataki announced Friday.

“This important project will dramatically enhance the competitiveness of Interstate Brands, while also helping to create new jobs and retain more than 1,300 existing jobs here in Queens,” Pataki said.

Once the project is completed, the bakery intends to hire an additional 50 full-time employees and 100 additional jobs could be created over the next three to five years.

Rail service to the 200,000-square-foot bakery at 168-23 Douglas Ave. in Jamaica will be improved by restoring Long Island Rail Road tracks which are not currently in use, said Michael Fleischer, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

“The application was made by the bakery through the Industrial Access Program,” Fleischer said.

The DOT program provides grants and interest-free loans to assist in the creation and retention of jobs by improving transportation to industrial or agricultural businesses.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation accommodated the project by absorbing the DOT money, which can only be given to a non-profit organization, and then passing it on to the bakery, said Sam Samuels, a spokesman for the group.

“There was no financial benefit to the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation” Samuels said, “except that it made one of the largest employers in the area able to operate better.”

The project will enable the bakery, which also produces a variety of baked goods, to receive raw materials like flour more efficiently, reducing the need for out-of-state deliveries.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), said the DOT plan would enhance his congressional district.

“This project reaffirms that Jamaica is on the rebound as a major transportation hub as well as an economic engine for New York state,” Meeks said.

Queens Borough President Claire Shulman applauded the project, which she said is a good example of public agencies working with the private sector to improve the local economy.

“Interstate Bakeries is one of our most important commercial bakers in New York City,” Shulman said. “New York state was wise in utilizing the Industrial Access Program funds to enable Interstate to create rail access to their facility in Jamaica.”

Work on the design for the project is expected to begin shortly, while construction should start in the spring and be finished by the end of 2001.

Four silos, with the capacity to hold 800,000 pounds of flour, are planned for the area adjacent to the train tracks and two rail cars will hold an additional 400,000 pounds of flour.

With all this extra storage space, there will be more room inside the bakery for production, facilitating the creation of a third work-shift and increasing the number of jobs in Jamaica.

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

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