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Downtown Jamaica needs more parking: Biz leader

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His message echoed the themes of a report currently being aired on Queens Public Television's Channel 34, a show which features interviews with Towery and other Jamaica leaders. Towery, the president of the non-profit Greater Jamaica Development Corp., began working on the area's improvement during the early 1970s, a time when the last of the major banks moved their headquarters and the department stores relocated to new suburban malls, sending Jamaica's once- thriving shopping scene to the grave. But while Towery initially had nightmares about the area's prospects, hard work by his group and others has helped paved the way for a renaissance. "We're now at a point where we think things are pretty promising," Towery said at the meeting, held at Flushing's Union Plaza Care Center for a dozen committee members of the Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella organization of neighborhood groups across the borough. The mission of Greater Jamaica is to "prime the pump" for private investment, Towery said, noting that among other projects, the group had taken over the operation of a number of city parking garages in the area. He said the organization would like to construct two new garages near the AirTrain station at the intersection of Jamaica Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard in order to encourage growth around the transportation hub, stop price gouging at privately owned lots and get cars belonging to government employees off the streets. While Towery said he appreciated the workers' contributions to the area's growth, "Jamaica streets are now a parking lot for government employees," he said. Greater Jamaica has also worked to create affordable housing in the area, Towery said, but more needs to be done to relieve the residential crunch felt in the area and elsewhere in Queens. He said the city's decision on how to redevelop the old Family Court building on Parsons Boulevard is expected by the end of the month and should include affordable housing. Towery's group is currently building a tower with 179 units on 162nd Street off Jamaica Avenue. "We would like to do two more of those scale apartments," he said. Hindering further growth of downtown Jamaica is the need to rezone many of its sections, an initiative that has not yet come to fruition, Towery said. "The rezoning has been discussed with us for six, seven, eight years," he said, vowing to keep pressuring the city to get the job done. Towery, developer Joseph Mattone Sr. of the Mattone Group, state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans), U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans), Rev. Floyd Flake of Jamaica's Greater Allen Cathedral and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) were featured in a television segment about Jamaica's redevelopment taped by publisher and editor Thomas Crater Jr. for the "Queens in the News" program on QPTV Channel 34. On the program, they spoke about a residential and commercial project undertaken by Flake's church and the plan for a hotel and commercial building, anchored by a Metropolitan Transit Authority office for the AirTrain terminal. "We're going to make sure that we're going to build our office building, we're going to build a hotel, we're going to have fine restaurants, fine stores and we're going to return Jamaica to the promise it once had," Meeks said during the program. The show will next air at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25. Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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