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Port Authority to establish jazzy AirTrain ride to JFK

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey plan to fill the Jamaica, Howard Beach and Kennedy stations and line the streets and passageways there with banners reflecting Queens' rich history in jazz music as part of the beautification project for the link, said Robert Davidson, chief architect with the PA.

"Our theme is all about Queens and all about jazz," Davidson said at Monday's Borough Board Meeting in Queens Borough Hall. "The banners will establish the theme early on so the passengers can continue to embrace it as they board the AirTrain."

The AirTrain link opened in December as a connection between Kennedy Airport and Manhattan. It hooks up with subway, bus and Long Island Rail Road routes in downtown Jamaica and Howard Beach.

The $1.9 billion train has been seen as a tool for revitalization by Jamaica business leaders, but an expansion into a one-seat ride to Lower Manhattan is also being planned.

The jazz theme, capitalizing on the borough's history as home to many jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and others, will be carried out through several components and will be focused mainly on the Jamaica station, Davidson said.

Permanent steel banners featuring stylized pictures of performers above the words "Queens Jazz" will be hung in the passageway between the Long Island Rail Road and the AirTrain on light poles along 94th Avenue, where the Jamaica AirTrain station is located, and along the Van Wyck Expressway, where the train travels up to Jamaica, he said.

At the station itself, the 20-foot glass wall of the building will be topped with a ribbon of the names of the jazz greats along with the phrase, "Queens: Home to great jazz legends," Davidson said.

"This will be visible not only from within but in the vehicle zone outside as well," he said.

Inside the wall adjacent to the long escalator that carries passengers up to the AirTrain platforms will feature a painted mural of a piano keyboard, and information kiosks will have more details on the musicians from Queens and can highlight upcoming jazz events, Davidson said.

Street signs at key intersections along the service road of the Van Wyck may also be replaced with signs bearing an element of art reflecting the jazz theme.

"This will being our environmental graphic program together," Davidson said.

The Port Authority is also planning landscaping elements along the Van Wyck to beautify the route, including new plantings and a new mesh fence to replace the chain link one there now, said Elizabeth Kennedy of the PA. New lighting fixtures are also slated for installation, she said.

Borough President Helen Marshall and the board, made up of City Council members and community board leaders, were pleased with the plans, but some were concerned that it would not be properly maintained.

"The more attractive we make it, the better," Marshall said. "It is very important it's kept up."

Marshall also urged people to write to the city Art Commission with their views on the plans, since the commission must approve the plans for city property.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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