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New city office to handle Jamaica industrial issues

Jamaica is one of several areas that will gain more attention under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new Office of Industrial and Manufacturing Businesses, created last month. Jamaica currently has two programs to help such companies, with the area designated both an In-Place Industrial Park and Empire Zone. The Industrial Park program monitors physical conditions in the active industrial area and initiates maintenance, while the Empire Zone provides state tax credits and other incentives to companies that increase employment or make physical improvements. The two zones are laid out in an overlapping patchwork of blocks along Jamaica Avenue between the Van Wyck Expressway and Hollis Avenue.Through the mayor's new office, headed by Carl Hum, Industrial Business Zones will replace the In-Place Industrial Parks, which the city considers outdated. Industrial businesses will also get help with sanitation and employee training programs, while city tax incentives will be offered to draw in new companies. A key component will also be the coordination of the myriad of city agencies handling industrial issues, dealing with concerns such as parking tickets given to delivery trucks. One Jamaica company, Wonderbread, has received an average of $20,000 to $40,000 of parking tickets on its delivery trucks a month, driving up the cost of doing business in the borough."They seem to have done their homework in bringing all the agencies together," said Richard Werber, director of business services for Greater Jamaica Development Corp., a non-profit that promotes redevelopment in the area. Before the presentation on the new industrial program, representatives of Greater Jamaica gave an update on developments in the area and on the group's progress.Greater Jamaica Chairman David Kotheimer and President Carlisle Towery criticized Gov. George Pataki for moving state jobs from the area's Gert Plaza to downtown Manhattan and warned that the $2 billion in federal funds recently set aside for a one-seat ride between the city and Kennedy Airport should not be spent without considering the economic development planned for the area near the existing AirTrain terminal."Will Jamaica be exploited again as a transfer point or will it be developed as a corridor?" Towery asked the community leaders attending the meeting, about 100 guests in all. Greater Jamaica wants to see office towers and a hotel built around the terminal as well as information kiosks and decorations installed inside to draw riders into the community. So far, the sparse AirTrain station is "technology in the raw," Towery said.Also, a source familiar with Jamaica's redevelopment said the city will for the first time contribute funds to improve the physical appearance of the downtown area in an effort to attract private investment. Greater Jamaica previously drew up a $55 million project to do so, and has received $21 million from the state and federal governments. The city's Economic Development Corp. will finally chip in, the source said, thanks to pressure from City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) and Rev. Floyd Flake of Jamaica's Greater Allen Cathedral, who has endorsed Bloomberg for re-election. In recent years, the source said, the EDC has focused on developing downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, areas it considers "spillover" from Manhattan, at the expense of Jamaica. After several years of delays, Jamaica is still waiting for a rezoning to spur growth, the source said, but noted that the City Planning Department had been told to focus on the Far West Side of Manhattan, the site of a proposed New York Jets football stadium.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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