Biz group needs fed funds to improve Jamaica streets

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The business group could receive the $800,000 in federal funds to be awarded through the state Department of Transportation as early as this week after additional environmental studies are completed, said Peter Engelbrecht, director of planning, design and capital projects for Greater Jamaica.

"All we're waiting for now is the last piece of funding," he said. "We can get started pending the arrival of those funds."

The plan, dubbed the Pathways Infrastructure project, is aimed at improving pedestrian safety and aesthetics on the streets in downtown Jamaica, particularly from York College and the subway station at Parsons Boulevard and Archer Avenue up along Parsons and Sutphin boulevards, said Carlisle Towery, president of Greater Jamaica.

"Most of this is what you would call pedestrian safety and beautification measures," he said. "We hope it will distinguish the streets of Jamaica."

The project calls for new sidewalks, trees, fences, metal banners on new light fixtures, and some street repaving and sewer work, Engelbrecht said.

Greater Jamaica also plans to convert 159th Street, a demapped road that runs through York College, into a pedestrian mall to encourage the college community and employees at the Food and Drug Administration building on campus to walk up to Jamaica Avenue.

"It connects the FDA walkway to the subway through the Long Island Rail Road tunnel, which also gets improved," Towery said.

Other LIRR underpasses are slated for renovation, Engelbrecht said.

"We are redoing the underpass," he said. "It's dark and horrible now."

Signs will also be installed outside the Archer Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard subway station to direct people to the courthouses on Sutphin Boulevard and to other spots downtown, he said.

The plan includes provisions to restore the small chapel in Prospect Cemetery, which has been neglected for years, Engelbrecht said.

The project has been a Greater Jamaica priority for about 18 months, but funding problems have pushed the start date back. The plan was to receive capital funds from the city last year, but money was cut during budget negotiations, Towery said. Engelbrecht hopes to have the final portion of funding in place this week, he said.

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

Posted 7:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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