Armed with a new office created to oversee development in industrial areas like Jamaica, the city plans to make take a more active role in helping companies involved in construction, manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, waste management and wholesale trade.Over at J. Sussman, Inc., a speciality window frame producer on 180th Street that sends its products to churches and synagogues around the world, Vice President Steve Sussman likes what he sees so far."Any time the government tries to help businesses, we support that," he said last week.Seeking to fortify the city's economy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg formed the Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses in January. Jamaica, one of several areas that will gain more attention under the move, currently has two programs to assist its targeted sector. As an In-Place Industrial Park, a city designation, physical conditions in the area are monitored and maintenance completed when needed. Through its status as a state Empire Zone, tax credits and other incentives are provided to companies that increase employment or make capital improvements.The two programs are laid out in an overlapping patchwork of blocks along Jamaica Avenue between the Van Wyck Expressway and Hollis Avenue. The new office has deemed the borders of the In-Place Industrial Parks to be outdated, however, and will soon redraw them as new Industrial Business Zones. Tax credits will be given to companies that move to the new areas instead of out of the city, while additional financial incentives will be provided to developers who create more industrial space. The new office will work to explain the programs and to streamline the application processes, as well as bring together a myriad of city agencies to address issues such as illegal dumping on companies' properties and the ticketing of their delivery trucks. As the final component, the office will assess the specific needs of each of the city's 14 industrial areas, five of which are in the borough. In Queens, Jamaica will be slated for the study after West Maspeth, said Carl Hum, the industrial office's new director. The other areas are Long Island City, Kennedy Airport and Steinway."People are excited about this," he said. "People have been waiting for this." So far, Hum has toured Jamaica and addressed an area business group last month."I was impressed with him," Sussman said, noting that the new director had been responsive when asked to help city companies bid on government projects. "I think he has his heart in this."Hum said his initial impressions were that the Jamaica industrial zone, which contains 611 firms and 5,661 employees, needs additional help with street cleaning, maintenance, safety and parking. Any initiatives will complement the work of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., a non-profit formed in the late 1960s to spur economic growth.Greater Jamaica has worked to improve lighting in tunnels under the Long Island Rail Road tracks, clean up vacant lots for area companies and extend 180th Street, the site of a business improvement district."They're almost like a guardian angel for us," Sussman said. During a recent driving tour of the industrial area, two Greater Jamaica staffers said the group wanted the new industrial office to provide rent assistance to both existing and new companies. They also expressed hope that regulations would be enforced against waste transfer stations and auto junkyards in the area, which the group views as undesirable tenants because of their small workstaffs and unsightliness. Instead, they pointed to Elmhurst Dairy on Liberty Avenue and Wonderbread on 168th Street as models for growth, and to the wide sidewalks and clean properties on 180th Street as the potential appearance."We don't think it's unrealistic," said Richard Werber, director of business services at Greater Jamaica and one of the staffers giving the tour. "You have to have a vision that's it all going to look like this."Area business leaders acknowledged, however, that it is still too early to tell what impact the mayor's new office will have."We need to give it time," Sussman said.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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